Category Archives: Fun!

That Lovin’ Feeling

On Monday next week, the theme will be all about love. 

This feeling of love has been tied to more then just getting that butterfly sensation in your stomach. Love can now be described at a neurochemical level. Research  is explaining love thanks to a little chemical called dopamine.

Dopamine neurones account for less than 1% of the total neuronal population in the brain, but have great effect on its function (Mardeson, 2006). It is involved in the control of movement and the modivation for reward. Deficiency in this neurotransmitter is tied to such diseases as Parkinsons ( Mardeson, 2006).

Dopamine has also been found to be relevant to the social pairing of males and females in long and short term relationships (Curtis et al, 2006). I have friends who talk about how their relationships have changed from fun and amazing to boring and dull. It amazes me that such a transition could be due to a lack of dopamine stimulation. But fear not, this isn’t the outcome for every relationship. Discovery News has reported on a study done by Arthur Aron (a social neuroscientist at Stony Brook University in New York) and his colleagues who have found that people in long term relationships who are madly in love are not lying and that this feeling can last!

The study took 17 people who felt that they were in long term loving relationships. MRI brain-scans were done while they looked at photos of their lover and of strangers (who had similar features). Their scans were similar to those of  recently fallen in love people by having a high activity in the region of the brain which processes dopamine. There was also high activity in regions related to pair-bonding and attachment.Also when comparing scans of people in long term relationships who did not rate their feeling of love as highly as to those who do, had lower levels of activity in the dopamine processing portion of the brain. This little neurotransmitter has powerful affects on our emotions, feelings and relationships. Could a little boost in producing dopamine keep us all on clould 9?

So when you give a Valentine’s Day card this Monday, that feeling you get may not be so fleeting!

  • 1.Marsden, C. A. (2006). Dopamine: The rewarding years. British Journal of Pharmacology, 147(S1), S136-S144. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0706473
  • 2.Curtis, J. T., Liu, Y., Wang, Z., & Aragona, B. J. (2006). Dopamine and monogamy. Brain Research, 1126(1), 76-90. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2006.07.126

13th Zodiac Sign: Ophiuchus….?

“I will not settle for being a PISCES!! I’m so sad! I want to stay an ARIES!!”

“Eww I’m a Taurus!!! NOOOOOO!!!

          These were just a couple of the status updates that we saw all across the social web on January 14th, when news started to come out of the addition of a 13th zodiac sign. The new sign was called Ophiuchus. Now for some this may not matter, but for those people who avidly check their horoscope or even have a tattoo of their zodiac sign this was bad news because it initially meant a shift in zodiac signs for everyone.

So why do we have the new zodiac sign?

             According to the initial comments made by an astronomer by the name of Parke Kunkle from Minnesota, the Earth has been wobbling slightly on its axis due to the gravitational pulls from the Moon; thereby changing its position with relation to the Sun. According to him the change has been enough to change the dates of zodiac signs and has also made it necessary to add a 13th sign, Ophiuchus.

So is this really “new” news? Does this mean we have different horoscopes readings/signs?

        No, because according to popular astronomers such as Susan Miller as well as the more recent clarified statements made by Parke Kunkle stated that  none of this is actual new information, and according to them “astronomers have known this since 130 B.C”. Furthermore, this has no effect on our horoscope readings here in the West because Western astrologers use the Tropical zodiac where as Vedic astrologers, such as those based in India use the Sidereal zodiac. “The Tropical zodiac is based on the movement of the seasons where as the Sidereal zodiac is based on the actual positioning of the stars.” This is important because as the Earth shifts Vedic astrology changes along with it. So while this 13th sign might be important to Vedic astrologers, to us in the West nothing changes and our zodiac signs and dates stay intact.

              Hopefully this will clear up any concerns that you may have had about your sign. I also think this serves as a great reminder for all of us on the importance of always doing our research before we get caught up in all the media hoopla that surrounds us.

Science + Music = An Interesting Take on Learning

So midterms are coming up, and continuing along the same vein of this course here are a couple interesting examples of scientists and professors communicating their profession through song.

First up is a collection of songs entitled “Metabolic Melodies” written by Dr. Kevin Ahern, a biochemistry professor just across the border at Oregon State University. What really separates his examples apart from others floating around the web are the excellent production values. Rather than writing new melodies for his songs, he takes existing popular music tunes from artists like Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles and uses them to create quick, catchy study aids. By using familiar music the songs are more likely to get stuck in your head and thus are better able to retain the information. Also, although the listener at home will use it to supplement their studying, Dr. Ahern uses the songs in class and performs them live. As the videos on his website show, the performances are an excellent way to add energy to a lecture. Plus, instructing the students to sing along karaoke style to words displayed on an overhead seems to be a highly effective teaching technique. Unfortunately viewing them requires a YouTube account, so it is best to follow the links rather than embedding them here.

Here is a link to his full list of songs, as well as aforementioned videos. It’s worth it just to check out the names given to the various songs and which melodies he uses. My personal favourites are En-er-gy (to the tune of “Let It Be”) and The Tao of Hormones (to the tune of “The Sound of Silence”).

Finally here is a mainstay of science music, the venerable “The Elements” by Tom Lehrer. Written all the way back in 1959 it is popular enough that there is even an app for that. The Elements for iPad provides a nice animation along with the tune.

Here are both the song + animation and it’s Wikipedia entry for reference: