From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Monday, October 31, 2016

Felis silvestrus catus: Wanted dead and alive

Schrodinger's Cat   (Image by Christian Schrim)
When Mary Todd Lincoln was asked whether her husband had any hobbies, her immediate reply was “Cats!” 

Since this occurred way off-Broadway, she must have been referring to the president’s love of Felis silvestris catus.  Turns out that Lincoln was in good company:  Mark Twain and Florence Nightingale were also crazy for house cats.

Although these 19th-century luminaries preferred their cats alive, 20th-century physicist Erwin Schrodinger was less specific.  In fact, he wasn’t quite sure what state of being his cat was in.

Schrodinger’s famous paradox “presents a cat that may be simultaneously both alive and dead.”  This thought experiment presents a cat in a steel box, complete with radioactive material that may or may not trigger the release of a poisonous substance.  The mathematical equation that depicts this uncertainty expresses a “wave-particle duality” which explains how the cat may be dead and alive at the same time.


Copyright October 31, 2016 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Triple-F Fear

Goose Bumps, Fluff Response   (Photo by Ildar Sagdejev)
Back in science class, we all learned about double-f fear:  fight and flight.

Nowadays, triple-f fear is all the rage:  fluff, freeze and focus.  When a furry (hairy) animal encounters a threat, it tends to appear more fluffy.  This may be nature’s way of scaring off predators by making prey look larger.

The proverbial deer-in-the-headlights freeze response is another protective measure.  Motionless prey can more easily hide from hungry stalkers.

The third f, “focus,” can accompany either of the first two.  The heightened alertness that comes with fear can help a body to successfully employ survival techniques.


Copyright October 30, 2016 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Pinocchio's amygdala

Pinocchio    (by Carlo Chiostri)
Those who examined Pinocchio’s nose were focused upon the wrong body part.

It might have been far more enlightening to note the function of his amygdala.  For habitual truth tellers, the amygdala serves as a conscience.  For habitual liars, this watchdog part of the brain eventually becomes desensitized.  The line between fact and fiction is more easily crossed, and lying becomes all too common.

This desensitization was recently noted by a research team of neuroscientists from University College London.  Their results indicated that “lying actually gets easier with repeated fibs.”


Copyright October 30, 2016 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved