In my early days of teaching, the idea of the left-brain-/right-brain person was very popular.  Left brain dominant people are logical analytic, organized, rational.  Right-brained folks are creative, passionate, sexual, colorful, poetic, a bit irrational.

But current neuroscience seems to be saying we should get rid of that notion. In a post for Scientific Americanu by Scott Barry Kaufman, “The Real Neuroscience of Creativity.”  he writes that the left/right distinction is “not the right one when it comes to understanding how creativity is implemented in the brain.”

As someone who always turned out to be half and half on those L/R tests, I am pleased that the science now shows that creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain. Creativity is a process with multiple steps and multiple parts of the brain are involved in those steps.

The preparation, the incubation, that moment of illumination, verification are all steps that have been identified. The steps all need to interact and not usually in a clear linear fashion. We jump from right to left brain.

There are three large-scale brain ‘networks’ that seem to be critical for creativity.

1.  Executive Attention Network – recruited when a task requires that your attention be very focused like when you’re concentrating on a challenging lecture, or solving a problem.

2. The Imagination Network:  used when you are imagining “alternate perspectives and scenarios”.

3.  The Salience Network:  monitors both external events and internal stream of consciousness and “flexibly passes the baton to whatever information is most salient to solving the task at hand.”

The new takeaway on understanding creativity, according to neuroscientists, is recognizing that different patterns of thinking are important at different stages of the creative process.

I like that scientists are also studying seriously brain regions that are critical for daydreaming, imagining the future, remembering deeply personal memories, constructive internal reflection, meaning making, and social cognition.

As Kaufman concludes, “much more research is needed that investigates how the brain creates across different domains, species, and timescales.”




This faked photo often appears online with the story that Mars will appear as big and bright as a full moon on August 27.

Right off, let’s say that Mars will NOT be approaching Earth this week at some extraordinary closeness.  I think this must be an offshoot of the “supermoon” phenomena.

This hoax or just misinformation has been bouncing around the Net since the days when these kinds of memes were passed via emails. Here’s what you might see posted online on Facebook or other networks

On August 27 lift up your eyes and look up at the night sky because the planet Mars will pass just 34.65 million miles from the earth. To the naked eye it will look like two moons. The next time Mars will be so close to the Earth is in 2287. No one living on this earth has ever seen this and no one living now will ever see it again!

The closes we have to there being any truth to this goes back to August 27, 2003.  Mars, the red planet, did come within 35 million miles (or 56 million kilometers) of Earth and that was its nearest approach to us in almost 60,000 years. I remember looking up that night. My view was obscured but Mars appeared approximately 6 times larger and 85 times brighter in the sky than it ordinarily does.

This what is known to astronomers as a perihelic opposition. It is a rare occurrence, but Mars comes almost as near to us every 15 to 17 years. Mars’ appearance in August 2003 wouldn’t have looked much bigger to the eye than on its other close appearances.

If you want to mark your calendar for 2018 (I’ll queue up the blog post now), our view of Mars will be similar to the 2003.

But it won’t be until the year 2287 that Mars will come closer to Earth than it did back in 2003.

So is anything interesting happening this week in the sky?  EarthSky reports that first of all the moon will not be full on August 27, 2014 but just a thin crescent in the west after sunset. Mars will also not be at its brightest or its closest at all in 2014.

It’s still a good idea to look up in the sky at night and enjoy the Moon, the stars and the planets.


Mars will never appear as large as a full moon in Earth’s sky. But if it did, it might look like this NASA photo taken of it from the Hubble Space Telescope.



SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM The U.F.O.-logist George Van Tassel, in a photograph for Life magazine in 1962, outside the Integratron, where he hosted annual spacecraft summits.

Welcome to the Integratron” is a piece written by Jody Rosen on a location that is seen as a place of spiritual healing and musical sound baths in the Mojave desert in California. It was designed by an alien. Maybe.

Thousands of people visit the Integratron  because of  how the place sounds. Some consider it to be “an acoustically perfect” space, a “resonant tabernacle.”

This curvilinear dome is built from woods that act as natural amplifiers.

The “sound baths” occur while visitors lie on mats while and let the tones from striking quartz-crystal singing bowls wash over them in what is claimed is a kind of “sonic healing.”

It sounds new age – but aliens?

Giant Rock, Landers, California

Back in 1953, George Van Tassel, a former aviation engineer, claimed he was awakened by an alien. George was a good new age candidate. He moved to the desert to be near Giant Rock.

Giant Rock is a large freestanding boulder that covers 5,800 square feet  of ground and is seven stories high. Giant Rock is purported to be the largest free-standing boulder in the world. Native Americans of the Joshua Tree, California, area consider it to be sacred. In the 1950s it was a gathering point for UFO believers.

George would sit in the shadow of the rock for hours to commune with the spirits of American Indians. But the visitor he had on that August 1953 night was a Venusian, according to Van Tassel. He was captain of a Venusian scout ship. He looked, dressed and spoke English like anyone else.  George said his name was Solganda and he was 700 years old. He took George to his spacecraft. He told him that Earthlings were building too many buildings using steel and other metals and they were disrupting interplanetary “thought transfers.”

George built Intrgratron according to Solganda’s instructions. He held annual Spacecraft Conventions there that attracted UFO contactees and explorers in the fields of anti-gravity and primary energy research and weekly meditations in the rooms under the rock.

Although Van Tassel said Solganda also gave him the secret could help us build a device that would generate electrostatic energy to suspend the laws of gravity, extend human life and facilitate high-speed time travel, we have no evidence anything was done with the secret. That seems odd. Van Tassel died in 1978.



It was unusually cool for mid-August in Paradelle the past week with some 40 and 50 degree overnight temperatures. I’m not worried that autumn will arrive any earlier than the autumnal equinox for the Northern Hemisphere on September 22 at 10:29 P.M. EDT.

But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t already thinking about cooler weather. If you are a believer in weather lore, then you are already looking for signs of what autumn and even winter will be like in 2014-15. My earlier post on “Signs in Nature of the Winter to Come” has been one of the top articles on this site for the past month.

Here are a few weather indicators that you can take note of now to start your prognostications on the upcoming seasons, and my own observations in Paradelle:

Were ant hills high in July? Not around here.  Then winter will not be snowy.
Was the first week of August unusually warm? No. Maybe even a bit cool. Then the coming winter will not be snowy and seem a bit shorter.
For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall in winter. None so far.
If a cold August follows a hot July, it foretells a winter hard and dry. Still, a few weeks to go, but so far dry and “hard” (cold) seems to be the prediction.
I didn’t spot any bees’ nests, but if they are high in the trees, expect a hard winter.

Still to be observed this month and into early fall:

When leaves fall early, fall and Winter will be mild. When leaves fall late,winter will be severe.
Squirrels gathering nuts in a mad rush and having very bushy tails point to a tough winter to come.

Check on those farm crops: Were corn husks thick and tight? What about thick apple skins? Both mean a tough winter. And onion skins thick and tough, mean the coming winter will be cold and rough. (Produce from your supermarket shipped in from across the country won’t help in  predicting for your own area.) See the pattern? The crops are toughening up for winter. On the other hand, a sign of a rough winter is when berries and nuts are plentiful.

Early signs in my neighborhood so far point to a dry and “normal” winter.  I’ll check back in when we get into autumn.


You may have seen the film 21 Grams (2003). Buried within its non-linear stories of three characters in a past, present and future swirl was the titular reference to the weight of a soul.

The title refers to research by physician Dr. Duncan MacDougall that dates back to 1901. His goal was to measure the mass lost by a human when the soul departs the body at death. His experiment started with six patients who were near death.  The first subject lost three-quarters of an ounce which has since been popularized as “21 grams”.

He built a light frame bed with delicately balanced platform beam scales sensitive to two-tenths of an ounce in order to weigh the initial six patients all in the end stages of terminal illnesses. He measured before, during, and after the process of death, measuring any change in weight. Once all the weights were taken, he then eliminated all of the reasons that could explain a weight loss.

soul-weightHe said he performed four successful measurements and obtained an average weight loss at the moment of death of 15 grams. MacDougall wanted scientific proof of the existence of the immortal human soul and believed that by recording a loss of body weight at death, he would have shown the departure of the soul immediately following death.

Though his research attempted to follow the scientific method and MacDougall’s results were published in at least one peer-reviewed journal, it was not widely accepted as scientific fact.

Another MacDougall experiment measured dogs under the same conditions and the results were that he found no perceived change in mass, which he took to mean that the ‘soul’ had weight, and that dogs did not have ‘souls’.

His interpretation of the soul was not religious but more of a “life force.” But the term “soul” in many religious, philosophical, psychological, and mythological traditions is defined as incorporeal (not composed of matter; having no material existence). In religious and philosophical applications it is the immortal essence of a living thing.

Abrahamic religions teach that immortal souls belong only to human beings. I found that confusing as a young person when I read that Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas called the soul “anima.” Although I took that to mean animals, that term is defined as a current of air, wind, air, or breath, or as life or the soul. Sometimes it is connected to animus, meaning “mind.”  Aquinas wrote that all organisms have a soul, but only human souls are immortal.

Hinduism is a religion that teaches that all biological organisms have souls. Religions of animism teach that even non-biological entities, like rivers and mountains, also have souls.  Anima mundi is the concept of a “world soul.”

In 1907, The New York Times wrote about MacDougall’s research in a story titled “Soul has Weight, Physician Thinks” and his results were published that year in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research and in the medical journal American Medicine.

“If personal continuity after the event of bodily death is a fact, if the psychic functions continue to exist as a separate individually or personality after the death of brain and body, then such personality can only exit as a space occupying body, unless the relations between space objective and space notions in our consciousness, established in our consciousness by heredity and experience, are entirely wiped out at death and a new set of relations between space and consciousness suddenly established in the continuing personality. This would be an unimaginable breach in the continuity of nature.”

Those who believed then and believe now in the validity of the research probably are more concerned with the existence of a soul than its weight. The research gives comfort to the idea that some part of us survives the death of the body.

Last night’s full moon is one dubbed “supermoon” which is fun but unfortunately it coincides with the annual Perseid meteor shower. They peak around August 11-13 and that just-past-full supermoon’s light will overwhelm the shooting stars.

I’ll still look up tonight and the next few nights for the Perseids. They occur every August when Earth passes through the stream of cosmic dust and bits left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle.

If viewing conditions are optimal, you can see lots of meteors in the course of an hour. This year, maybe just a few of the brightest fireballs.

My best view was in the woods of Maine years ago with my very young sons. That experience as a kid makes “wonderful” really something that is full of wonder. Still works on me after a lot of years.


I start looking after sunset, when the moon is still low, or just before sunrise, when the moon has shifted over to the west.

Some people recommend that you stand in a “moonshadow” – a place where the moon is hidden from your sight. (Not required, but feel free to hum the Cat Stevens song while you watch.)

I’ll be too close to city lights for optimal viewing.

If you want to add some technology, you can check this year’s Perseid forecast from NASA or go online and watch the meteors online (at Slooh) starting at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday. They have a nice view from the Institute of Astrophysics in the Canary Islands. That sounds like a nice place to lie back on the beach and watch.

We will have more meteor opportunities with the Orionids in October or the Leonids in November. As much as I love our Moon, it won’t get as much in the way for those dates.


There has been a lot of popular media coverage of the “supermoons” the past few years.  That is not a scientific term, but one coined about thirty years ago. It is more on the side of astrologers than astronomers.

People know that the Moon affects tides. Many people suspect that it affects people and animals, although much of that falls into my “moon lore” category.

But it is great that media coverage pf the term has people looking up at the night sky.  Tonight’s Full Moon will appear about 14% larger than usual at a point in its journey across our sky.

A “supermoon” can be a New Moon or a Full Moon when it occurs at roughly the same time the moon is nearest Earth in its monthly orbit. That is properly called perigee, the term for the moon being at its closest point to Earth.

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