Saturday, December 18, 2010

FEELING CHILLS IN RESPONSE TO MUSIC

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Most people feel chills and shivers in response to music that thrills them, but some people feel these chills often and others feel them hardly at all. People who are particularly open to new experiences are most likely to have chills in response to music, according to a study in the current Social Psychological and Personality Science (published by SAGE).

Researchers Emily Nusbaum and Paul Silvia of University of North Carolina at Greensboro asked students about how often they felt chills down their spine, got goose bumps, or felt like their hair was standing on end while listening to music. They also measured their experience with music, and five main dimensions of personality: extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. Of all these dimensions, only openness to experience was related to feeling chills. People high in openness are creative, curious about many things, have active imaginations and like to play with ideas, and they much more frequently feel chills in response to music.

Why might people high in openness to experience report feeling chills more often? Surprisingly, people high in openness didn't have chills because they tended to listen to different kinds of music. Instead, people with a lot of openness to experience were more likely to play a musical instrument themselves and they rated music as more important in their lives than people low in openness. Not surprisingly, people high in openness also spent more time listening to music.

"There are a lot of ways in which people are basically alike, but the experience of chills isn't one of them," said the authors. "Some people seem to have never experienced chills while listening to music—around 8% of people in our study—but other people experience chills basically every day. Findings like these are what the make the study of personality and music interesting—music is a human universal, but some people get a lot more out of it."

SAGE Publications

WARRING GREEKS FIND PEACE IN ANCIENT EGYPT

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Naukrtis, a Greek trade emporium on Egyptian soil, has long captured the imagination of archaeologists and historians. Not only is the presence of a Greek trading settlement in Egypt during the 7th and 6th century B.C.E. surprising, but the Greeks that lived there in harmony hailed from several Greek states which traditionally warred amongst themselves.

Dr. Alexander Fantalkin of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology is delving deeper into this unique piece of ancient history to come up with a new explanation for how Naukrtis developed, and how its inhabitants managed to operate on foreign soil and create a new sense of common identity.

The Greeks that inhabited Naukrtis, explains Dr. Fantalkin, may have come from warring city states at home, but they formed a trade settlement in Egypt under the protection of powerful Eastern empires. This link not only brought them together as a culture, but explains how they were allowed to operate in the midst of Egyptian territory. Dr. Fantalkin's theory was recently presented at the Cultural Contexts in Antiquity conference in Innsbruck, Austria, and will soon be published in the proceedings of the conference.

Naukrtis is remarkable for two main reasons, Dr. Fantalkin says. First, the Egyptian empire allowed Greeks to operate a lucrative trade emporium at the delta of the Nile, complete with special privileges. Second, the Greeks who lived there, though from different tribes, lived and worshipped together, pointing to the emergence of a national Greek identity. The city also acted as a symbiotic nexus for the interchange of Greek and Egyptian art and culture.

How this arrangement came to be has always puzzled researchers, Dr. Fantalkin notes, explaining his new theory about Naukrtis. In Eastern Greece, the Greeks were plagued by powerful Eastern empires such as Lydia, which was located in the central and western parts of current day Turkey. The Greeks were forced to operate under the Lydian regime, paying tribute to their overlords.

Despite this situation, the so-called Eastern Greeks continued to lead advances in material culture and intellectual achievements. They were also politically savvy, Dr. Fantalkin says, when it came to economics. At the time Naukrtis was created, Lydia had a formal alliance with the Egyptian empire. A select group of Greek businessmen used this connection to set up a trade emporium — they paid tribute to their Lydian benefactors and were guaranteed rights and freedoms as Greek representatives of the Lydian empire. Thus, they made the best of an oppressive regime.

Previous theories suggested that the Greek traders settled in Naukratis of their own free will, creating a brotherhood of merchants in the process, indifferent to interstate rivalries at home and bound firmly by a common interest in trade. In reality, Prof. Fantalkin speculates, they operated as formal representatives of the Lydian power.

"On one hand," he continues, "the Greeks were given new opportunities for trade. On the other, they owed taxes to the empire that ruled over them. This was not a free settlement of Greek merchants as was previously thought, but an organized move on behalf of a more formidable empire."

Naukratis, in his opinion, should be considered a unique and particularly important instance of "contact zones" in antiquity, in which Greek trade, although controlled by the Egyptians and mediated to a certain extant by the Lydians, both contributed to and profited from the imperial ambitions of others.

(Photo: TAU)

Tel Aviv University

NEGLECTED GREENHOUSE GAS DISCOVERED BY ATMOSPHERE CHEMISTS

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When doctors want their patients asleep during surgery they gently turn the gas tap. But Anaesthetic gasses have a global warming potential as high as a refrigerant that is on its way to be banned in the EU. Yet there is no obligation to report anaesthetic gasses along with other greenhouse gasses such as CO2, refrigerants and laughing gas.

One kilo of anaesthetic gas affects the climate as much as 1620 kilos of CO2. That has been shown by a recent study carried out by chemists from University of Copenhagen and NASA in collaboration with anaesthesiologists from the University of Michigan Medical School. The amount of gas needed for a single surgical procedure is not high, but in the US alone surgery related anaesthetics affected the climate as much as would one million cars.

Analyses of the anaesthetics were carried out by Ole John Nielsen. He is a Professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Copenhagen, and he's got an important message for doctors.

"We studied three different gasses in regular use for anaesthesia, and they're not equally harmful," explains Professor Nielsen.

All three are worse than CO2 but where the mildest ones Isoflurane and Sevoflurane have global warming potentials of 210 and 510 respectively, Desflurane the most harmful will cause 1620 times as much global warming as an equal amount of CO2, explains the professor.

"This ought to make anaesthesiologists sit up and take notice. If all three compounds have equal therapeutic worth, there is every reason to choose the one with the lowest global warming potential", says professor Ole John Nielsen.

The three anaesthetic gasses isofluran, desflurane and sevoflurane were studied at the Ford atmospheric laboratories in Michigan. Mads Andersen of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories collaborated on the analyses with his former PhD supervisor Ole John Nielsen. He relates how he got the idea for the study while his wife was giving birth.

"The anaesthesiologist told me, that the gas used is what we chemist know as a halogenated compound. That's the same family of compound as the Freon that was famously eating the ozone layer back in the eighties" says research scientist Mads Andersen.

Freon is a compound that Andersen knows well. It got his supervisor Professor Nielsen on the scientific map. With a global warming potential of a whopping 11.000 the refrigerant Freon has been banned all over the world since 1992. When the search was on for an alternative to the harmful substance Nielsen analysed just how much heat was retained by new compounds, and how long they would stay in the atmosphere. His methods went to prove, that the refrigerant HFC134a had a global warming potential of 1.300 and left the atmosphere in just 14 years to freons 50 to 100 years.

HFC-134a has spared the atmosphere a considerable climate effect. But it too is being prohibited all across the European Union. And unless therapeutic arguments speak for using all three, sevoflurane should be the only legal anaesthetic gas as shown by the study done by NASA, Ford and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen.

(Photo: University of Copenhagen)

University of Copenhagen

RESEARCHERS DISCOVER A WAY TO SIMULTANEOUSLY DESALINATE WATER, PRODUCE HYDROGEN AND TREAT WASTEWATER

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Fresh water and reusable energy. Humans are on a constant hunt for a sustainable supply of both. Water purification requires a lot of energy, while utility companies need large amounts of water for energy production. Their goal is to find a low-energy-required treatment technology. Researchers from the University of Colorado Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science may have discovered an answer.

Last year, a study published in Environmental Science & Technology incorporated desalination into microbial fuel cells, a new technology that can treat wastewater and produce electricity simultaneously. However, putting it into practical use proved to be challenging due to current fluctuation. Zhiyong (Jason) Ren and his team with the University of Colorado Denver discovered, after six months from the initial hypothesis to completion, that they could produce hydrogen gas, which is collectable and storable, thus making improvements in the technology. The study, titled Concurrent Desalination and Hydrogen Generation Using Microbial Electrolysis and Desalination Cells, was published in Environmental Science & Technology (DOI: 10.1021/es1022202) on December 1 and is funded by the Office of Naval Research.

“Ships and their crews need energy generated on-site as well as fresh drinking water,” said Ren. “Thus, the Navy is very interested in both low energy desalination and renewable energy production.”

A recent study by Logan group at Penn State University also demonstrated similar findings in that the energy contained in hydrogen gas not only can offset the energy used for the desalination process but has surplus that can be used for downstream processing.

Next steps for Ren and his team will include using real wastewater to test the efficiency as well as optimizing the reactor configuration to improve system performance.

“This discovery is a milestone for our new research group,” said Ren. “We are very excited about our findings and will continue working to improve the technology.”

(Photo: UC Denver)

University of Colorado Denver

SMOKING MAY THIN THE BRAIN

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Many brain imaging studies have reported that tobacco smoking is associated with large-scale and wide-spread structural brain abnormalities.

The cerebral cortex is a specific area of the brain responsible for many important higher-order functions, including language, information processing, and memory. Reduced cortical thickness has been associated with normal aging, reduced intelligence, and impaired cognition.

However, prior research had not described the impact of smoking upon cortical thickness.

A new study, published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry, now reports concerning findings about the impact of smoking.

Researchers compared cortical thickness in volunteers, both smokers and never-smokers, who were without medical or psychiatric illnesses.

Smokers exhibited cortical thinning in the left medial orbitofrontal cortex. In addition, their cortical thickness measures negatively correlated with the amount of cigarettes smoked per day and the magnitude of lifetime exposure to tobacco smoke. In other words, heavier smoking was associated with more pronounced thinning of cortical tissue.

The orbitofrontal cortex has frequently been implicated in drug addiction. The current findings suggest that smoking-related cortical thinning may increase the risk for addictions, including smoking.

"Since the brain region in which we found the smoking-associated thinning has been related to impulse control, reward processing and decision making, this might explain how nicotine addiction comes about," explained Dr. Simone Kühn. "In a follow-up study, we plan to explore the rehabilitative effects of quitting smoking on the brain."

"The current findings suggest that smoking may have a cumulative effect on the brain," noted John Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at Yale University. "This concerning finding highlights the importance of targeting young smokers for antismoking interventions."

For now, this study adds to a long and ever-growing list of reasons that smokers should consider quitting.

Elsevier

ENERGY USE IN THE MEDIA CLOUD

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The increased availability and access of broadband around the world has meant a rise in global demand for online media services and this could have implications for a society that is living within environmental limits. New research has analysed the potential future demand for downloaded data worldwide, such as social networking sites and on-demand TV programs, and the resulting energy requirements.

Academics at Bristol University's Department of Computer Science have looked at the provision of media services to consumers, focusing on energy use in the infrastructure. They measured the scale of the challenge facing Green IT, considered its feasibility, and what approaches to behaviour change could be adopted to reduce the scale of the challenge.

Assuming that the average westerner's media consumption moves fully online but does not rise substantially beyond current levels, and the global middle class reach western levels of consumption, the researchers estimate the overall demand to be 3,200 megabyte (MB) a day per person, totalling 2,570 exabytes per year by the world population in 2030.

The academics found, based on two independent sources of data, the current energy demand for bandwidth to be four watt-hours (Wh) per MB. They conclude that the average power required to support this activity would be 1,175 gigawatts at current levels of efficiency, and that a factor 60-performance improvement would be needed if infrastructure energy is to be provided by one per cent of renewable energy capacity in 2030. By looking at historical trends in energy efficiency, they observed that this would be reached around 2021 if these trends continue.

New applications were examined that might require bandwidth capacity beyond their estimate, such as high-definition online viewing and internet radio. The researchers also outlined behaviour change strategies that could be used to reduce the overall demand for bandwidth if historical performance improvements are not maintained. Example strategies suggested include techniques to reduce 'digital waste' – data downloaded but not actually viewed – and the 'persuasive' design of web pages to encourage people to opt for less data-intense options.

Dr Chris Preist, Reader in Sustainability and Computer Systems in the Department of Computer Science, said: "This research suggests that in a future which is increasingly environmentally constrained, there is still a good chance that broadband connectivity can be provided equitably to the majority of the world. This contrasts significantly with other aspects of western lifestyle, such as aviation, which could become increasingly the preserve of the wealthy."

Further work is required to expand this analysis to cover device and mobile network energy use, and the impacts of manufacturing on emissions, energy and resource use. Research is also needed to estimate the potential impact of the behaviour change strategies outlined on consumption, and to develop means to apply them.

(Photo: Bristol U.)

Bristol University

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