The 20 most-watched TED Talks to date

 

From education to brain function to inspiring messages to techno-possibilities, this list represents quite a breadth of topics.

  1. Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity (2006): 13,409,417 views
  2. Jill Bolte Taylor‘s stroke of insight (2008): 10,409,851
  3. Pranav Mistry on the thrilling potential of SixthSense (2009): 9,223,263
  4. David Gallo‘s underwater astonishments (2007): 7,879,541
  5. Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry demo SixthSense (2009): 7,467,580
  6. Tony Robbins asks Why we do what we do (2006): 6,879,488
  7. Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire action (2010): 6,050,294
  8. Steve Jobs on how to live before you die (2005): 5,444,022
  9. Hans Rosling shows the best stats you’ve ever seen (2006): 4,966,643
  10. Brene Brown talks about the power of vulnerability (2010): 4,763,038
  11. Daniel Pink on the surprising science of motivation (2009): 4,706,241
  12. Arthur Benjamin does mathemagic (2005): 4,658,425
  13. Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing your genius (2009): 4,538,037
  14. Dan Gilbert asks: Why are we happy? (2004): 4,269,082
  15. Stephen Hawking asks big questions about the universe (2008): 4,153,105
  16. Jeff Han demos his breakthrough multi-touchscreen (2006): 3,891,251
  17. Johnny Lee shows Wii Remote hacks for educators (2008): 3,869,417
  18. Keith Barry does brain magic (2004): 3,847,893
  19. Mary Roach 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm (2009): 3,810,630
  20. Vijay Kumar demos robots that fly like birds (2012): 3,535,340

Source TED BLOG

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New year, old time

Whether a new year or an old year, time remains nameless. Time, the massive entity looming in the fabric of the universe is formless, careless of how many years we spend on his back.

Time started with a bang, and one day it will end with a bang. The infinite void of nothingness shall once again rule what is beyond this tiny universe.

The mind-body problem, and yogurt [a must read]

By Jonah Lehrer | The Wall Street Journal 

One of the deepest mysteries of the human mind is that it doesn’t feel like part of the body. Our consciousness seems to exist in an immaterial realm, distinct from the meat on our bones. We feel like the ghost, not like the machine. This ancient paradox—it’s known as the mind-body problem—has long perplexed philosophers. It has also interested neuroscientists, who have traditionally argued that the three pounds of our brain are a sufficient explanation for the so-called soul. There is no mystery, just anatomy.

In recent years, however, a spate of research has put an interesting twist on this old conundrum. The problem is even more bewildering than we thought, for it’s not just the coiled cortex that gives rise to the mind—it’s the entire body. As the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio writes, “The mind is embodied, not just embrained.” The latest evidence comes from a new study of probiotic bacteria, the microorganisms typically found in yogurt and dairy products. While most investigations of probiotics have focused on their gastrointestinal benefits—the bacteria reduce the symptoms of diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome—this new research explored the effect of probiotics on the brain.

The experiment, led by Javier Bravo at University College Cork in Ireland, was straightforward. First, he fed normal lab mice a diet full of probiotics. Then, Mr. Bravo’s team tested for behavioral changes, which were significant: When probiotic-fed animals were put in stressful conditions, such as being dropped into a pool of water, they were less anxious and released less stress hormone.

How did the food induce these changes? The answer involves GABA, a neurotransmitter that reduces the activity of neurons. When Mr. Bravo looked at the brains of the mice, he found that those fed probiotics had more GABA receptors in areas associated with memory and the regulation of emotions. (This change mimics the effects of popular antianxiety medications in humans.)

Furthermore, when he severed the nerve connecting the gut and brain in a control group of mice, these neural changes disappeared. The probiotic diet no longer relieved the symptoms of stress.

Though it might seem odd that a cup of yogurt can influence behavior, the phenomenon has been repeatedly confirmed, at least in rodents. Earlier this year, Swedish scientists showed that the presence of gut bacteria shapes the development of the mouse brain, while French researchers found that treating human subjects with large doses of probiotics for 30 days reduced levels of “psychological distress.” There’s nothing metaphorical about “gut feelings,” for what happens in the gut really does influence what we feel.

Nor is it just the gastrointestinal tract that alters our minds. Mr. Damasio has shown that neurological patients who are unable to detect changes in their own bodies, like an increased heart rate or sweaty palms, are also unable to make effective decisions. When given a simple gambling task, they behave erratically and lose vast sums of money. Because they can’t experience the fleshy symptoms of fear, they never learn from their mistakes.

This research shows that the immateriality of mind is a deep illusion. Although we feel like a disembodied soul, many feelings and choices are actually shaped by the microbes in our gut and the palpitations of our heart. Nietzsche was right: “There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom.” This doesn’t mean, of course, that the mind-body problem has been solved. Though scientists have ransacked our matter and searched everywhere inside the skull, they still have no idea why we feel like a ghost. But it’s now abundantly clear that the mind is not separate from the body, hidden away in some ethereal province of thought. Rather, we emerge from the very same stuff that digests our lunch.

via online.wsj.com

Myths about our minds

By Andrew Luck-Baker | BBC

The human brain is the most complex entity in the known universe and despite the best endeavours of scientists, there are still many mysteries about the 1.5kg (3.3lb) crinkled blob between our ears. Here are just a few of the many myths about our brains and how they work.

PEOPLE USE ONLY 10% OF THEIR BRAINS

The brain scan put pay to the myth we only use one 10th of our brains.  I remember first hearing that we used just a 10th of our brains in the 1970s when I was at school. And how amazing, I thought, that there might be a way to unlock that whopping 90% of unused brain capacity. What would not be possible with all of my grey matter in action? It was nonsense back then, and technological leaps in brain scanning has now proved this for all to see. “Functional imaging has shown us that there are very few parts of the brain that can’t be activated by something,” says Prof Sophie Scott of the Institute of Cognitive Science at University College, London.

Even doing something simple, such as clenching your fist, uses much more than 10% of the brain. A functional brain scan reveals that a vast number of brain cells spring into action as they plan and initiate the contraction of muscles in your fingers and palm.

THE LEFT BRAIN VERSUS THE RIGHT BRAIN

Anatomically, the brain is divided into two halves – the left hemisphere and the right one. There is some division of labour between them.”There are really big differences between the left and the right sides of the brain,” says Prof Scott.”But that’s never what people actually mean when you hear the terms used out in a wider discourse. That’s very frustrating.From some self-improvement books and business management courses, you might think the two hemispheres are in effect two separate entities.The left is portrayed as the seat of logic and rationality. The right is described as the font of intuition and creativity. Therefore, if you are a logical person, you use your left brain more. If you are more touchy-feely and artistic, you are right-brained. According to the myth, we would all be more successful and fulfilled people if we learnt to tap the full potential of both hemispheres.

Prof Scott says individuals do differ in the way they think through problems and reflect on the world, but this has nothing to do with different balances of power between their hemispheres.”Some people have really good visual imagery. Some people have good auditory imagery. There is lots of variation out there in how we take information in and process it.”But boiling it down into a left brain ‘logical’ and right brain ‘creative’ approach does not follow from what we see in how the brain operates. Also it also suggests you could be using one hemisphere more than the other and that’s not really how it works.”The two sides communicate with each other and work together via a complex wodge of neural cabling known as the corpus callosum. The two sides of the brains are complementary and work in concert.

A FULL MOON INCREASES ABNORMAL BEHAVIOUR

A full moon has long been associated with things that go bump in the night. In folklore, a full moon is associated with insanity – hence the word lunacy – werewolves and all manner of unpleasant happenings.However, when psychologists and statisticians have looked into the matter, a lunar influence on the human brain and behaviour remains elusive. Overwhelmingly they have failed to discover a correlation between the timing of a full moon and events such as assaults, arrests, suicides, calls to crisis centres, psychiatric admissions, poisonings and vehicle accidents. Eric Chudler, who has compiled a long list of the research says: “Most of the data – and there have been many studies – find that there is not an association between the phase of the moon and any of those abnormal behaviours.” Many believers of the full moon myth work in law enforcement and health professions.

Police officers and hospital staff frequently witness horrific and upsetting events. Mr Chudler suggests that when these traumatic things happen, workers are much more likely to notice a full moon shining in the sky than they are to register more modest half or quarter moons. Consequently, they only make a connection with accidents or crimes when the moon is at its most obvious and symbolically significant.

LISTENING TO MOZART MAKES YOU MORE INTELLIGENT

Classical composer Amadeus Mozart is at the heart of an idea which blossomed in the 1990s. Mozart’s music was credited with special powers. People started to believe that playing the music of Mozart to young children would enhance their brain development and make them more intelligent. And unlike the other myths this one had a notion of truth about it. The neuro-nonsensical notion became known as the Mozart effect. And the IQ claims started with a science paper in the journal Nature in 1993. The research described an experiment in which Californian university students did a series of spatial reasoning tasks. The students who heard a Mozart piano piece before the testing began did a bit better than those who listened to relaxation tape music or silence. But the sonata-charged enhancement disappeared after about 15 minutes.

Within a couple of years, the media had snowballed this interesting observation into the concept that playing Mozart to young children made them brainier. Companies marketed and sold CDs of the musical genius’ works for this purpose. In the USA in 1998, the state of Georgia issued mothers of newborn babies with their own Mozart discs. Some people theorised that the musical structures of Mozart’s compositions had a special biological influence on the brain’s wiring. In subsequent studies, the truth turned out to be more mundane. It emerged that any piece of stimulating music just before a series of brain teasers makes you more alert and enthusiastic so you perform a little better.

via bbc.co.uk | health

Better Decision Making [life]

The average Brit makes 773,618 decisions in a lifetime but lives to regret as many as 143,262 of them, a study has found.

Deliberating for nine minutes on the average decision, that’s four hours of decision-making time a day over the course of 27 decisions.

The study of 2,000 indecisive Brits, by Nintendo Puzzler Mind Gym 3D, found that while some decisions were made in seconds, others left us dithering – like the 39% of us who deliberate over making a cup of tea.

Two thirds admit to changing their mind throughout the day and seven in ten turn to other people before making their final call. In fact, 55% would prefer it if others made their decisions for them.

So, why do we find it so difficult to make our minds up? The fear of making a ‘wrong’ decision leaves many of us in limbo, often for long periods of time struggling to move forward towards what could be a better future.

If your indecisiveness makes you change your mind constantly throughout the day, find out how to become great at decision making with these expert tips from life coach, Sophia Davis.

Weigh Up The Pros And Cons

“Look at the situation from all angles and make a decision based all on the facts. You will find that doing it this way gives you the highest chance of the best outcome on the basis of everyone and everything involved.”

Become Wise

“Remember that every decision will provide you with learning opportunities. Take from them what you need, and use them to your greatest advantage so that you grow spiritually and use it in your future.”

Put Aside The Fear

“Understand that there is no such thing as a wrong decision, only a decision that was right for you at the time. On that basis, it doesn’t matter what decision you make. If the decision doesn’t turn out how you wanted it to, you can always then make another decision.”

Look At The Worst Case Scenario
“Remember that even in a worst case scenario, situations can be rectified or managed if they have to be. Life is ever changing, nothing stays the same for long, so on that basis.
“What do you really have to lose. Decision making can be as dramatic or easy as you make it. So realise that without ‘wrong’ decisions, we would never have learnt to crawl as a baby, talk as a toddler, or be blessed with electricity, air travel or phone.”
Never Make A ‘Reactive’ Decision
”If the decision you are making is based on an emotional outburst or driven by emotions, it is likely to be a decision that does not necessarily support you. Try to hold of making any decisions until you are calm and thinking with a clear mind. Try to sit still with the decision you need to make and wait until the answer that feels right to you comes.”
via huffingtonpost.co.uk

10 Tools for a Healthy Brain [health]

As a neurologist who has treated memory problems for more than 30 years at the Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology, the question I hear every day is, “How can I keep my mind active and sharp?” Here are 10 ways that I recommend:

Engage in Mental Exercises.
The brain is an organ that needs exercise. It is a biological computer and, like a computer, needs to process new information regularly. You can exercise your brain each day with simple activities like reading new materials, solving crossword or Sudoku puzzles, playing stimulating games like chess or Scrabble, attending a lecture or taking an educational course.

Get Physical Exercise.
Along with your brain, the rest of your body needs exercise too. Exercise enhances brain function. When your heart rate increases, so does the flow of blood to your brain. Exercise also improves your mood and helps alleviate depression. It even helps produce new brain cells. And it doesn’t take much exercise. Start by walking 30 minutes daily. Take the stairs, not the elevator. If you like golfing, skip the golf cart and walk. Go out dancing or ride a bicycle. Just do an exercise you like at least three times per week.

Avoid Smoking, Recreational Drugs and Excess Alcohol.
Smoking cigarettes not only decreases your lifespan, but also markedly increases your risk of stroke. Multiple small strokes are a leading cause of dementia. Street drugs are often laced with impurities that can cause brain damage. Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause irreversible damage, which may seem imperceptible at first, but will eventually catch up with you.

Eat Healthy Foods.
Your brain has a critical need for oxygen, glucose and other nutrients, which it can’t store, so it is entirely dependent on what is in the blood. If your arteries are clogged with cholesterol from a poor diet, they can’t supply these essentials effectively. To optimize your diet, supplement it daily with foods rich in omega-3 such as fish, walnuts or fish oil capsules. Try to eat three meals per day but consume just enough calories to maintain your weight. Studies have also shown that eating a balanced breakfast improves brain functionality and enhances intellect.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep.
I’m frequently asked, “How much sleep is enough?” My answer is always, “As much as you need to wake up in the morning feeling refreshed.” That could be six, eight or 10 hours. When you are sleep deprived, you cannot function well mentally. Proper sleep also helps your memory. If you find your sleep frequently disrupted and your partner complains that you snore, see your doctor. You may have sleep apnea, a serious medical condition.

Get a Yearly Medical Exam.
Most people get a tune-up for their cars every year — but it’s surprising how many people don’t get an annual physical for themselves. A thorough exam will help prevent the onset of what could become larger health problems. Be sure that your exam includes routine blood tests that check your thyroid levels and, periodically, your vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels. Some dementia patients have B12 deficiency. When imbalances are discovered early, supplements can be used to help improve memory and overall energy levels. The same goes for thyroid and other blood issues — all are critical to healthy brain function.

Make a To-Do List.
Creating a “to-do” list first thing in the morning is a great way to organize your day at a time when your mind is clear and less prone to disruptions. The act of making a list helps your thinking process and keeps your mind sharp and focused. Plus, handling tasks one at time — and crossing them off your list — increases productivity, efficiency and a feeling of relief, all of which alleviate stress.

Enjoy Coffee, Tea and Chocolate in Moderation.
As a nation of caffeine-lovers it’s good news that studies show that coffee in moderation — a cup or two a day — may delay or give some protection from Alzheimer’s Disease. Although tea has less caffeine than coffee, it has more antioxidants which provide protection as well. As for chocolate, besides being a delicious treat, it contains caffeine and other chemicals that can help brain function. The darker the chocolate, the better.

Sex and the Brain.
Lots of people have sex “on the brain” but, technically speaking, sex is a form of exercise, which in and of itself, is good for you and your brain. Consensual, loving sex can result in relaxation for many, which is also healthy. There is even evidence that sex reduces stress hormones (that can impair brain function) and increases brain size.

Get Out and Socialize.
Being in the company of people, preferably those you like and enjoy, is a boost to your brain. Socializing, making new friends, and engaging in stimulating conversation — even one that results in friendly debate — gets your thinking processes flowing and keeps your mind active and fresh. The positive camaraderie of others is energizing and a stress reliever, both good for overall and brain health.

via huffingtonpost.com

What are we reading now [a good book]

A BOOK THAT YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Current’y we are reading ”Steve Jobs” a biography by Walter Isaacson which is in short the best thing we read in 2011. It’s beyond what we imagined, and Steve Jobs is such a visionary asshole [ you read that right, he is an asshole] beyond our expectations. It’s a wonderful book that we dare you to put down from your hand.

Here’s an extract from it 

” After Steve Jobs anointed Walter Isaacson as his authorized biographer in 2009, he took Mr. Isaacson to see the Mountain View, Calif., house in which he had lived as a boy. He pointed out its “clean design” and “awesome little features.” He praised the developer, Joseph Eichler, who built more than 11,000 homes in California subdivisions, for making an affordable product on a mass-market scale. And he showed Mr. Isaacson the stockade fence built 50 years earlier by his father, Paul Jobs”

“He loved doing things right,” Mr. Jobs said. “He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.”