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Searching for Happiness? Neuroscience Research Has Great Song Suggestions

Liz L

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Not everyone has the same taste in music, so we have many genres to choose from, and the list keeps growing. We must admit, though, that some songs are universal, and whether you’re old or young, or even religious, some specific songs are bound to light up the moment and have you jamming to the beat.

Studies by several neuroscientists prove that ten songs can help boost productivity and even draw you out of depression. Who doesn’t need that after the tumultuous year of lockdowns, job losses, deaths, and just a stream of negativity? By the way, how remiss of us to forget the election, phew!!!

Still, Covid doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, so we might as well indulge in a pick me upper playlist, that according to the experts, works like a charm.

This ten-song playlist is ideal for the workplace, but you can listen to it anywhere when you need a mood lift. With winter drawing near, we all need it. But first, how did it come about?

To begin with, why point to this study on a business site rather than, say, Rolling Stone? The simple truth is that music and contentment are inextricably intertwined, and research demonstrates that happiness improves brain function. It won’t only help you get over the gloom if you cheer yourself up. It will also assist you in thinking more clearly and completing more tasks.

That’s why it’s so helpful that a music-loving Dutch neurologist rendered us all a courtesy and worked out what qualifies for the best mood-boosting music back in 2015. An odd source sparked the investigation: Alba, a British technology brand. They wanted to discover what produced a joyful song, so they contacted Dr. Jacob Jolij for an answer.

Jolij was eager to oblige, but he did point out the obvious: musical taste is subjective. What keeps your buddy dancing can send you fleeing the room with your hands over your ears. “Music appreciation is a very personal experience, heavily influenced by social circumstances and personal associations. In that regard, the concept of a “feel-good formula” is a little strange,” he commented.

You can, however, invite the public to send in samples of their favorite feel-good music and then evaluate the responses for patterns to see what traits commonly connect with songs that make people grin. That’s what Jolij did.

He discovered that the happiest songs are slightly quicker (approximately 140 to 150 beats/minute on average), composed in a primary key, and either describing pleasant events or total gibberish. Jolij integrated these criteria into an algorithm for the happiest music imaginable, then searched for existing hits that fit his blueprint.

Here are the top ten songs he identified to lighten up the tail end of what has been an all-around bleak 2020. (Alternatively, you may listen to the very same playlist on Pandora.)

1. Walking On Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves

2. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

3. Livin’ on a Prayer -Jon Bon Jovi

4. Girls Just Wonna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

5. I’m a Believer – The Monkees

6. Eye of the Tiger -Survivor

7. Uptown Girl – Billie Joel

8. Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys

9. Dancing Queen – Abba

10. Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

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Making a Farm Library Happen

Danielle S

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When libraries are created, the idea is to share single resources with lots of people. It helps folks avoid the hassle of having to buy the actual book or media, and instead they can borrow it for a time until done. Then, after that, someone can do the same. The same book, DVD, movie or similar can instead be used and consumed by multiple people versus just one owner who buys it from a store. A similar idea has been created for farming.

When the COVID pandemic arrived as a novel virus, it did far more than just make people directly sick. It also had a profound wake-up call effect on society as well. Food systems became disrupted in terms of supply, and then costs started to skyrocket. Most basic foods two years later have gone up in price at least 50 percent if not more. While a $4.50 gallon of milk might not seem like much, multiply that cost times 100 gallons a year, and it starts to add up for every item of food. So, instead of watching their paychecks erode for every item bought, many folks are now trying to start farming on their own, adding food stock to their kitchen from their own backyards or fields. This is where things get challenging, however. Land is at a premium.

Most farming needs a bit of space to make things happen. In fact, one potato plant needs a radius of about two feet. 10 potato plants make that 20 feet and so on. The amount of space available and the number of plants one can put in the ground becomes limited very quickly. To offset this problem in cities and urban areas, empty lots were allowed to be taken over by urban farming. Basically, collectives formed to use the empty land, with the owner’s permission, always understanding that when the owner wanted it back the farming would go away. As it turned out, urban farm plots became extremely popular.

Borrowing from a city library model, some proactive folks also started creating the ability to join an agriculture-based experiment, a library farm. Interestingly, the farm library idea wasn’t the result of the pandemic. It actually started in 2011, with a library manager realizing something more could be done with an empty lot behind the Northern Onandaga Public Library, or NOPL. Meg Backus, the manager at the time, got about 40 library members together and started utilizing the land for farming, as a library collective. The project was a lucky start; the land was originally part of an earlier farm, so the soil was workable and could grow food naturally already. And that spark started getting adults in the same community to go deeper into gardening and farming knowledge.

Of course, the amazing thing about the library farm is that it didn’t stop with the local farmers. It worked, it produced food, and then it began contributing more food to the local food pantries for the poor. The model became a societal ripple effect, both direct and indirect. Today, the Library Farm continues, and the idea has now spread to 27 additional Syracuse projects. The goal then is to help the idea spread further, ideally connected to libraries where possible. The Library Farm has redefined the concept of a grassroots revolution, but this one involves food, farming and community help. And the farm idea is still growing in 2022.

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Not Everyone is Happy About Nepal’s Tiger Boom

Danielle S

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For folks around the world who are big supporters of conservation, the news that Nepal has successfully doubled its tiger population with ongoing growth is a big victory in the face of development and constant stories of endangered species being on the edge of extinction. However, for those who live in Nepal, particularly near the sanctuaries the tigers know as home, it’s a bit of another story. What the outside world calls majestic beasts are in fact man-killers locally. As one local puts it, shock and awe face you staring down a tiger; it’s beautiful and the moment might be your last seconds alive.

The Terai region of Nepal is home to the largest number of tigers, essentially a national park that usually sees little in the way of human presence and traffic aside from anti-poaching patrols. Tiger protection units are in full force and highly sensitive to the immediate environment, protecting the animals that could easily attack one of them if they get too far off the beaten path.

For decades, tigers were hunted and poached. Local villagers wanted them eliminated to stop attacks and deaths by mankillers that developed a taste for human victims. Black market specialists and trappers went after the animals for their fur and parts in exchange for lucrative payments. Wildlife hunters wanted them for prizes and trophies. What was a commonplace presence when the British arrived in Nepal dwindled to a few hundred at best by the 20th century. Now, much of that endangerment has been eliminated with robust species growth, but the tigers themselves are becoming the newest problem.

In border areas where the tiger sanctuaries run up against populated rural areas, the local villages once again go through the night in fear of an attack. The area interface between the tigers, the food they hunt, and the presence of humans farming and hunting themselves has overlapped. Once again, tiger attacks are becoming chatter and commonplace. In the last year, 16 deaths have been attributed to tiger maulings, more than 150 percent the number compared to the previous five years.

The great majority of attacks were associated with humans going into the tigers’ known territories in the sanctuary park itself. For the villagers, it was business as usual, grazing cattle or looking for wood, fruit and fungi for food scavenging. However, some four-legged feline characters have been bold enough to push into village areas, showing up in the village proper zones and threatening animals and people. It can be sudden and without warning. One conservationist was attacked himself simply cutting down high grass near his house. The cost was a scarring of half the man’s face and an eye. Fortunately, he was able to beat off the tiger before it turned worse.

Current estimates put the 2022 tiger population worldwide at about 3,700 to 5,600 individuals alive. This is down from more than 100,000 creatures in the 1800s. Started in 1988, the current Nepalese conservation program has been part of a larger, 13-country effort to protect the animal and bring it back from the edge of extinction and just being seen in zoos. However, as mentioned above, every good deed has a cost. Now Nepal has to figure out how to keep the tiger numbers growing while also protecting the neighboring villagers as well. The matter is volatile; people have protested at government offices violently, resulting in armed suppression and the death of a protester shot by police in the chaos.

However, efforts are made to find a balance. Known man-eating tigers are hunted down, put into zoos or put down, to prevent an ongoing pattern of attacks by the same animal. It will take time, but like bears in the western U.S., people can find a way to live with nature in their backyard.

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A Massive NZ Effort in Rat Eradication Saves Endangered Birds

Danielle S

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Most times, thanks to development and people’s encroachment, endangered species tend to drop in numbers, requiring significant protection to stabilize. However, recently, that hasn’t been the case on the Wellington Miramar Peninsula. Instead, multiple bird species have been exploding in numbers, easily growing their presence into robust populations than can fend off the elements, disease, predators and competition. Overall, this gain in strength has been a 51 percent expansion of original species presence since their last measurement. In some cases, specific species of birds involved have increased their numbers up to 500 percent.

Much of previous risks and threats to the birds involved rodents. Rats as well as possums were notorious for killing birds, particularly the younger ones in nests, essentially culling the numbers and holding them back from any reasonable growth. However, significant efforts under the Predator Free 2050 program have been extremely effective in not only stopping the impact of the rodents but wiping them out from any viable presence as well. It wasn’t an easy battle, however.

The job of eliminating rodents from the Miramar peninsula involved over 11,000 rodent traps alone, as well as all the personnel, time and work involved to check, clear and reset the traps to do their job. Obviously, with any kind of threat, animals learn from experience and observation what could kill them, so the traps had to be altered as well to remain effective. In addition to the crew involved, some 3,000 volunteers and local residents took part in the effort as well. It was essentially an invasion of workers against the rodents and a persistence of eradication.

The rodent list wasn’t limited to the night creepers either. Every major rodent capable of harming the bird populations were targeted. As a result, weasels, stoats, and mustelids were caught up in the bio-dragnet as well. If one could think of a gang task force mission, this probably would have been called Operation Dead Rat or something similar and final.

Tracking and monitoring helped confirm the rat eradication efforts as well. Well over 300 cameras were used in different locations to confirm that the work was having an effect and that personnel were not just being duped by savvy hiding critters. The video work has also been effective in confirming the bird population growth as well. Instead of seeing rodent culprits, birds have been filling the gap left by the dead mammals and confirming their re-establishment now that their threat is gone.

Of course, cats might want to argue that they can help, but the project management has been advising homeowners to keep their cats indoors. Essentially, anything small on four legs is pretty much a target in the Mirimar Peninsula, without exception.

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US Army Launches Huge Floating Solar Power Plant in Fort Braggs

Jolie

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The Big Muddy Lake in North Carolina’s Fort Bragg is home to the US Army’s first-ever floating solar farm. It was unveiled recently. Floatovoltaics are becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and this is the initial floating solar arrangement deployed by the military.

This project is intended to increase renewable energy, cut carbon emissions, and provide a backup power supply for the neighboring training center in the event of a blackout. Power generated by the panels will sufficiently supply about 180 homes.

The largest floatovoltaics installation in the Southeast, the United States, is a huge triumph for technology, which has yet to make an impact in the United States. In the US, they only account for 2% of all solar installations each year, according to Duke Energy’s collaboration with Fort Bragg and Ameresco, a renewable energy firm.

As a rule, floating solar is more costly than its equivalents on land in the first stages. The panels are resting on a raft that is anchored to the floor of the water source. There are, however, advantages to using floatovoltaics. Solar panels have a tougher time generating the same level of electricity from the same quantity of sunlight at higher temperatures.

However, because water acts as a cooling agent, the panels can produce more power than those on land. Because of this, the efficiency of floating solar is improved, which more than makes up for the higher initial installation costs.

There are certain drawbacks to using solar power, such as the fact that it is land-intensive. One gigawatt of power from a solar farm may require 20 times as much land as a gigawatt of energy from a fossil fuel energy station. In the United States, several farmers, as well as conservationists, have already clashed over land use and the effect on desert environments, for instance, due to solar projects.

On the other hand, floatovoltaics may be able to circumvent some of these issues. Human-made waterways like reservoirs and canals are where you’re most likely to see them in the US. These are less difficult to construct and have a lower influence on delicate ecosystems than facilities erected in naturally occurring environments, such as deserts.

Floatovoltaics might create as much power as all of the world’s existing fossil fuel power plants, according to a new article in the journal Nature. The panels also help to prevent evaporation, which is especially significant in dry locations in which river levels are rapidly decreasing. Solar panels are also being used to line irrigation ditches in drought-stricken California.

A lot of this might help solar acquire a foothold in America. Despite this, solar accounts for only about three percent of the country’s total electricity generation. Nearly triple the power is generated by wind in the United States. Floating solar has created a name for itself outside of the United States, particularly in countries like Japan where land is scarce.

To accomplish global climate targets, massive expansion of renewable energy sources is required across the board. By 2035, the Biden administration hopes to have a grid powered entirely by sustainable energy, and by 2050, it hopes to have achieved net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases. That’s what’s needed internationally to meet the goals set out in the Paris climate agreement.

The US military is Among The Most Powerful Polluters Around

As one of the world’s largest polluters, the US military emits more greenhouse gas emissions each year than 140 countries combined. This is why the launch of Fort Bragg’s solar panel array is so vital. By the middle of this century, the United States Army plans to have zero net emissions.

The military has a stake in combating climate change, too. This disruption is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, according to the army’s climate plan. That includes the possibility of power failures. Battery power is also included in Fort Bragg’s new floatovoltaic formation in the event of a power outage, like in the case of a hurricane striking the area. By the year 2040, the military hopes to have “enough renewable energy generation and battery storage capacity to self-sustain its key missions” on all of its sites.

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The Re-Establishment of Osprey in Southern England

Jolie

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When it comes to animals and breeding, the general public expects that nature just takes its course by instinct, and breeding happens on the natural. However, for anyone who’s actually been involved with animal husbandry, getting animals to do their thing can sometimes be a serious challenge. And, as it turns out, ospreys are particularly troublesome in this regard when it comes to the locale of southern England.

While ospreys in general have been breeding for years (or they wouldn’t exist otherwise), southern England has been a deadzone for the bird’s propagation. Areas around Dorset have been experiencing dwindling populations for years as the birds either move or just plain die off without generational replacement. However, thanks to the work of conservationists in the area, a particular osprey nest has been quite active and is now underway, potentially producing hatchlings for the first time in 200 recorded years. Streamed via a webcam set up by the Poole Harbour Osprey nest program, the filming has given researchers and the public a firsthand look at what has been missing from the Dorset area for approximately two centuries, at least by any serious archiving standards.

Ospreys have had a rough time, which contributed to their decline in number overall. Both in England and Europe, the birds have been hunted and intentionally culled to get rid of them or use them for taxidermy. The nests were also hunted down and plundered as the eggs were considered a delicacy. It was only in 2017 that a serious biology program was instituted to help repopulate the southern England region with the osprey via reintroduction. The birds were originally sourced from as far north as Scotland.

The Scottish effort started earlier, in 1996, and has since produced a very vibrant population of ospreys in the northern coastlands, making for plenty of candidates to relocate southward. Now, for the conservationists involved, a nest with an egg in it and being incubated by the hen osprey is a huge achievement for all the efforts that went into relocating the birds. At least seven years of effort and tireless work has gotten the program to this point in achievement. And if everything goes according to plan, a hatching set should appear by May 2022 along with feeding activity.

Generally, ospreys are a coastal sea-faring bird, feeding off of fish in the waters as their primary food source. Poole Harbour fit the bill for a relocation program given its heavy fish population and being smack dab on the normal migration path for the ospreys as they move back and forth to Europe and return annually. With tracking, the researchers were able to determine the given breeding pair made it all the way down to Arica during their seasonal flying and then returned to England to begin their breeding cycle.

Time will tell if the hatchlings make it, but if they do, there’s a very good chance Pool Harbour will start to see more and more of the birds over the next decade as a result.

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