Openings

An asclepeion was a healing temple, sacred to the god Asclepius, in ancient Greece and Rome. Starting around 350 BC, the cult of Asclepius became increasingly popular. Pilgrims flocked to asclepieia to be healed, slept overnight, and reported their dreams to a priest the following day. He prescribed a cure, often a visit to the baths or a gymnasium.

Asclepeia provided carefully controlled spaces conducive to healing. In the Asclepieion of Epidaurus, three large marble boards preserved the names, case histories, complaints, and cures of about 70 patients. Some of the surgical cures listed, such as the opening of an abdominal abscess or the removal of traumatic foreign material, are realistic enough to have taken place with the patient in a dream-like state of induced sleep known as enkoimesis, similar to anesthesia, induced with the help of soporific substances such as opium.

Since snakes were sacred to Asclepius, they were often used in healing rituals. Non-venomous snakes were left to crawl on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept. Statues of Hygieia, the goddess of cleanliness, were covered by women’s hair and pieces of Babylonian clothing. According to inscriptions, the same sacrifices were offered at Paros.

Hippocrates is said to have received his medical training at an asclepieion on the isle of Kos. Prior to becoming the personal physician to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Galen treated and studied at the famed asclepieion at Pergamon.

Developing

Neural plasticity is the key to changes in intelligence. It occurs during short-term memory when a stimulus with a high frequency of activation causes improvement of a brain cell’s sensitivity to signals received from an associated cell. This change in neural connectivity allows information to be more easily processed, as the neural connection associated with that information becomes stronger.

It has been shown to play a large role in the development of the senses. For instance, blind patients have learned to “see” through tactile stimulation of their backs and tongues. The brain rewires the visual cortex to further process and interpret tactile stimulation in replacement of eyesight.

There are numerous behavioral factors that affect intellectual development. The key is neural plasticity, which is caused by experience-driven electrical activation of neurons. This experience-driven activation causes axons to sprout new branches and develop new presynaptic terminals. These new branches often lead to greater mental processing in different areas.

Those with a belief in fixed intelligence show less improvement on cognitive testing than people with a belief in neural plasticity, and a focus on performance goals and proving intelligence causes negative feedback and failure. Those who focus on flexible and expansive learning goals rebound well from occasional failure or feedback. By focusing on challenging tasks to expand intelligence instead of working to prove intelligence, neural plasticity allows greater intellectual capacity.

Synchronizing

A chronotype is an attribute of animals and human beings describing the time of the day their physical functions such as body temperature, cognitive faculties, eating and sleeping reach a certain level. This phenomenon refers to people as early birds or night owls, where morning people wake up early and are most alert in the first part of the day, and evening people are most alert in the late evening hours and prefer to go to bed late.

Humans are normally diurnal creatures that are active in the daytime. As with most other diurnal animals, human activity-rest patterns are endogenously controlled by circadian rhythms. Most people are neither evening nor morning types but lie somewhere in between. Estimates vary, but up to half are either morning or evening people. People who share a chronotype, morningness or eveningness, have similar activity pattern timing: sleep, appetite, exercise, study etc.

Normal variation in chronotypes encompasses sleep/wake cycles that are from about two hours earlier to about two hours later than average. Extremes outside of this range can cause a person difficulty in participating in normal work, school and social activities. If a person’s early bird or night owl tendencies are strong and intractable to the point of disallowing normal participation in society, the person is considered to have a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.

The Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire, or MEQ, is used to conduct research on this topic. A short version can be found online. Several other assessment tools have been developed such as the Composite Scale of Morningness, the Lark-Owl Chronotype Indicator, and the Munich Chronotype Questionnaire. Some of these are designed with particular situations in mind, such as shift work scheduling, travel fatigue and jet lag, athletic performance or best timing of medical procedures.

Scattering

Rayleigh scattering is the elastic scattering of light or other electromagnetic radiation by particles much smaller than the wavelength of the light. This effect in our atmosphere causes diffuse sky radiation, which is the reason for the blue color of the sky and the yellow tone of the sun itself.

A portion of the light coming from the sun scatters off molecules and other small particles in the atmosphere. It is this scattered light that gives the sky its brightness and its color. The resulting color, which appears like a pale blue, is actually is a weighted average of all the scattered colors, mainly blue and green.

The color of sunlight is intensified when the sun is near the horizon because the volume of air through which sunlight must pass is significantly greater. The Rayleigh scattering effect is therefore increased, removing virtually all blue light from the direct path to the observer. The remaining unscattered light is of a longer wavelength and therefore appears to be orange.

In locations with minimal light pollution, the moonlit night sky is also blue for the same reasons that the sky is blue during the day, as moonlight is reflected sunlight with a slightly lower color temperature due to the brownish color of the moon. The moonlit sky is usually not perceived as blue because at low light levels human vision occurs mainly from rod cells in the eye that do not produce any color perception.

Sustainment

The plant genus Tillandsia, a member of the Bromeliad family, is found in the deserts, forests and mountains of Central and South America, Mexico and the southern United States in North America. They display an incredible range of form and size, blooming in an impressive palette of extraordinary colors.

Tillandsia species are epiphytes, also called aerophytes or air plants. They normally grow without soil while attached to other plants. Epiphytes are not parasitic, depending on the host only for support. They nourish themselves totally, imbibing rain, dew and whatever nutrients are gathered from the air such as dust, decaying leaves and insect matter.

Although not normally cultivated for their flowers, some Tillandsia will bloom on a regular basis. In late fall-winter, the plants bloom with striking purple flowers. In addition, it is quite common for some species to take on a different leaf color, usually changing from green to red when about to flower.

Tillandsia is a primary ingredient in Allerplex, a standard process herbal supplement used to treat pollen allergies. The genus was named after the Swedish physician and botanist Dr. Elias Tillandz.

Novelty

Lithops is a genus of succulent plants native to southern Africa. They avoid being eaten by blending in with surrounding rocks. They are often known as pebble plants or living stones. The plants consist of one or more pairs of bulbous, almost fused leaves opposite to each other, with hardly any stem. The slit between the leaves produces flowers and new leaves.

The leaves are not green as in almost all higher plants, but various shades of cream, grey, and brown, patterned with darker windowed areas, dots, and red lines. The markings on the top surface disguise the plant in its surroundings. During winter a new leaf pair, or occasionally more than one, grows inside the existing fused leaf pair. In spring the old leaf pair parts to reveal the new leaves and the old leaves will then dry up.

Yellow or white flowers emerge from the fissure between the leaves after the new leaf pair has fully matured, one per leaf pair. Some species have flowers large enough to obscure the leaves. They open in the afternoon and close in the evening. In tropical climates, Lithops can be grown primarily in winter with a long summer dormancy.

Lithops are popular novelty house plants and many specialist succulent growers maintain collections. Seeds and plants are widely available in shops and over the Internet. They are relatively easy to grow if given sufficient sun and a suitable well drained-soil.

Vibrance

Murano glass is a famous product of the Venetian island of Murano. Located off the shore of Venice in Italy, Murano has been a commercial port as far back as the 7th century. By the 10th century, the city had become well-known for its glassmakers, who created unique Murano glass.

The process of making Murano glass is rather complex. Most Murano glass art is made using the lampworking technique. As the glass passes from a liquid to a solid state, there is an interval wherein the glass is soft before it hardens completely. This is when the material can be shaped.

The technique known as Millefiori begins with the layering of colored liquid glass, which is then stretched into long rods called canes. Two glassmakers each pull the glass as they walk in opposite directions. After cooling, the glass rod is sliced so that the pattern shows through each slice. Each slice of the millefiori Murano glass is called a murrine.

When cold, these canes are then sliced in cross-section, which reveals the layered pattern. Each layer of molten color is molded into a star, then cooled and layered again. When sliced, this type of murrine has the appearance of many flowers, thus mille (thousand) fiori (flowers).

Support

Rattan is the name for roughly 600 species of palms native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Australasia. They are not trees but are vine-like, scrambling through and over other vegetation. Unlike bamboo, rattan stems are solid. Most species need structural support and cannot stand on their own. Many rattans have spines which act as hooks to aid climbing over other plants, and to deter herbivores.

Rattans are extensively used for making furniture and baskets. When cut into sections, rattan can be used as wood to make furniture. Rattan accepts paints and stains like many other kinds of wood, is available in many colors, and can be worked into many styles. Moreover, the inner core can be separated and worked into wicker.

Along with birch and bamboo, rattan is a common material used for the handles in percussion mallets, especially mallets for keyboard percussion. The fruit of some rattans exudes a red resin called dragon’s blood. This resin was thought to have medicinal properties in antiquity and was also used as a dye for violins.

In early 2010, scientists in Italy announced that rattan would be used in a new process for the production of artificial bone. The wood is heated under intense pressure with calcium and carbon, and a phosphate solution is introduced. The process produces almost an exact replica of bone material. It has been tested in sheep and there had been no signs of rejection.

In forests where rattan grows, its economic value can help protect forest land by providing an alternative to loggers who forgo timber logging and harvest rattan canes instead. Rattan is easier to harvest, requires simpler tools and is much easier to transport. It also grows much faster than most tropical wood. This makes it a potential tool in forest maintenance since it provides a profitable crop that depends on rather than depletes trees.

Exaggeration

A supernormal stimulus is an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency, or any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus from which it evolved.

The Dutch ethologist and ornithologist Niko Tinbergen constructed an artificial stimulus consisting of a red knitting needle with three white bands painted around it. This elicited a stronger food-begging response among chicks than an accurate three-dimensional model of the Herring Gull’s white head and yellow bill with a red spot. Tinbergen and his students studied other variations of this effect, experimenting with dummy plaster eggs of various sizes and markings, finding that most birds preferred eggs with more exaggerated markings than their own, more saturated versions of their color, and a larger size than their own.

Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett argues that supernormal stimulation governs the behavior of humans as powerfully as that of animals. In her 2010 book, Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose, she examines the impact of supernormal stimuli on the diversion of impulses for nurturing, sexuality, romance, territoriality, defense, and the entertainment industry’s hijacking of our social instincts. In her earlier book, Waistland, she explains junk food as an exaggerated stimulus to cravings for salt, sugar, and fats and television as an exaggeration of social cues of laughter, smiling faces and attention-grabbing action.

An episode of the PBS science show NOVA showed an Australian beetle species whose males were sexually attracted to large and orange females, the larger and more orange the better. This became a problem when the males started to attempt to mate with certain beer bottles that were just the right color. The males were more attracted to the bottles than actual females.

Upspring

Southern Cricket Frogs are very common tiny frogs of shallow water, puddles, ditches and pond margins. As large as crickets, they range from 0.5 to 1.5 inch long. Their calls are slightly reminiscent of a cricket, but more like two small rocks being clicked together. They are very loud at close range.

They have a dark triangle between the eyes and 1 or 2 longitudinal dark stripes on back of the thighs, borderd by light stripes. The Southern Cricket frog can be found in a large variety of colors such as black, green or red.

Their main diet consists of mosquitoes. These frogs will sit quietly and wait for their prey. When their prey is close by, their tongue will dart forward and catch it just like the stereotypical frog.

An impressive characteristic of the Southern Cricket Frog is their ability to jump long distances, sometimes as far as 8 feet with each jump. A quick walk along the water’s edge will usually flush cricket frogs from cover. Most will stop jumping after a series of erratic leaps.