Science

  • “Forest bathing” keeps you healthy Paid Member

    Studies show that spending more time in natural settings—forests, parks, and places with trees—improves the immune system. According an article in the New York Times, this is due to both stress reduction and chemicals that plants emit to protect them from rotting and insects called phytoncides. Exposure to phytoncides appears to lower blood pressure, pulse rate, and cortisol (a stress hormone), among other things. Many of these studies are taking place in Japan, where the practice of visiting nature parks for therapeutic effect is called Shinrin-yoku. More »
  • Buddhist meditation boosts concentration skills Paid Member

    According to a recent study published in the July 2010 issue of Psychological Science Buddhist meditation can boost concentration skills. The study, conducted by psychologist Katherine A. MacLean, PhD, and associate researchers from the University of California, Davis, focused on a group of 60 participants with an average age of 49. The participants were sent on three-month retreats where they studied meditation techniques with Buddhist scholar and co-researcher Alan Wallace, PhD, of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. All the participants had been on meditation retreats before, but this time they were taught to concentrate and asked to complete concentration tests. From WebMD: More »
  • Dinosaurs in Thailand Paid Member

    On Monday the Science section of the New York Times published "Old Bones Yield a New Age of Dinosaurs in Thailand," an article that reveals Thailand’s rich prehistoric past. According to the Times, Thailand was “teeming” with dinosaurs starting around 200 million years ago. Now, during periods of heavy rain, giant dinosaur bones wash ashore in the remote region of Baan Na Kum. For many years, residents were unsure of what to do with the ancient bones. So where did the prehistoric bones end up? Some were kept in local Buddhist temples: For years, farmers did not know what they were or what to do with them. The superstitious buried them. Others brought them to Buddhist temples, where monks collected them alongside artifacts and other curios. More »
  • Are Tibetans superhuman? Paid Member

    How is it that Tibetans thrive at 13,000 feet, where those of us born closer to sea level get sick? Scientists now think that Tibetans have evolved while most of the rest of us have stood still: Recent research shows that Tibetans, who have lived isolated in these high altitudes for thousands of years, enjoy a genetic variation that keeps their hemoglobin levels in a normal range. A variation of EPAS1, a gene that is sometimes associated with increased athleticism, causes an enzymatic change in the way oxygen binds to blood and is transported around the body. Compared to lowland Chinese, Tibetans thrive in high altitude—they do not suffer from chronic altitude sickness and their children are born with normal weight. More »
  • The biology of mindfulness Paid Member

    In a new interview with The New Humanism's editor Rick Heller, Daniel Siegel (above) lays out the neurological fundamentals of smelling a rose, the mental architecture of a mirage—and of always wanting a new toy (just not the iPhone 4). He has taken a particular interest in understanding how past experience conditions our perceptions, and he describes himself to Heller this way: More »