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Collective Consciousness – Invisible field – Animals following their collective instincts.

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Birds in flocks make turns as a collective. Ants build, supply, and defend their burrows. How does a group make better decisions than any one of its members? Welcome to the hive mind.

The queen of an ant colony is like the queen of England. She doesn’t really have any power (except in Canada). She doesn’t oversee the colony or give orders. She’s a part of the collective more than the organizer. An ant colony doesn’t have an organizer. Despite that, it works efficiently.

The colony doesn’t just pump out genetically pre-determined components. Many ants can switch to different roles during the course of their lives, depending on what the colony needs. Together, the colony has an intelligence, which single ants do not possess. Over the years, many different studies hae been done to explore this concept of collective intelligence.

Some study the mechanics of collective intelligence. For example, a Stanford researcher noticed that foraging ants would change their search patterns if they were given different-sized areas to search. Ants don’t see very well, so they weren’t able to see each other. Nor did any one ant ‘round up the others’. The most likely theory was that each ant had a number of different possible search patterns. If it ran into other ants too often, it would change to a wider-reaching search pattern. If it didn’t run into them often enough, it would switch to a more conservative one. The result was all the searching ants, as a collective, changing their individual search behaviors in the same way after roughly the same amount of time.

Ants are also incredible at collectively finding the shortest routes through complicated systems, using luck and pheromone trails. As ants move through the world, they leave behind pheromones. The ants that follow behind them use a combination of chance, and pheromone scent to plot out their own routes. The first forays are random, but over time the most efficient routes have the most bunched-together pheromones trails, until the most efficient trails are discovered.

So far, it seems like just animals following instincts which lead them to a successful outcome – which is natural to all animals. The useful behaviors stick around. It’s more than that, though. Collectively, a colony learns. Destroy it one day, and it will move and rebuild. Destroy it the next day, and it will do the same thing. Faster.

Collective intelligence is a possible hot concept. The behavior used by ants can be used by malware scanners, cleaning robots, and mapping programs. Design a machine to do a complicated thing, and it becomes a complicated problem if something goes wrong. Design it, and many of its fellows, to do simple things that, collectively, accomplish the same task, and things can go a lot more smoothly.

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http://www.energy-dimension.com/mystery-collective-intelligence/

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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in WISDOM

 

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Despite orgasm being a near-universal human phenomenon, we still don’t know all that much about it.

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Orgasms Unlock Altered Consciousness

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With a click and a whirr, I am pulled into the scanner. My head is strapped down and I have been draped with a blanket so that I may touch my nether regions – my clitoris in particular – with a certain degree of modesty. I am here neither for a medical procedure nor an adult movie. Rather, I am about to stimulate myself to orgasm while an MRI scanner tracks the blood flow in my brain.

My actions are helping Barry Komisaruk at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, and colleagues to tease apart the mechanisms underlying sexual arousal. In doing so, not only have they discovered that there is more than one route to orgasm, but they may also have revealed a novel type of consciousness – an understanding of which could lead to new treatments for pain.

Despite orgasm being a near-universal human phenomenon, we still don’t know all that much about it. “The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable,” says Julia Heiman, director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in Bloomington, Indiana.

It is estimated that one in four women in the US has had difficulty achieving orgasm in the past year, while between 5 and 10 per cent of women are anorgasmic – unable to achieve orgasm at all. But without precise data to explain what happens during this experience, there are few treatment options available for women who might want help.

Komisaruk is interested in the time course of orgasm, and particularly when an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC) becomes active. The PFC is situated at the front of the brain and is involved in aspects of consciousness, such as self-evaluation and considering something from another person’s perspective.

Komisaruk’s team recently found heightened activation in the PFC during female climax – something not seen in previous studies of the orgasm. Surprisingly, this was also the case in individuals who can achieve orgasm by thought alone. With fantasy and self-referential imagery often reported as being part of the sexual experience, Komisaruk and colleagues wondered if the PFC might be playing a key role in creating a physiological response from imagination alone. That is why I am here.

Komisaruk instructs me to tap my thumb with my finger for 3 minutes, then to simply imagine my finger tapping my thumb for the next 3 minutes as fMRI tracks where blood is flowing in my brain. Immediately after, I follow the same cycle with Kegel exercises – brief squeezes of the pelvic floor muscles – and then clitoral touches. I’m then asked to self-stimulate to orgasm, raising my free hand to indicate climax. Despite the unique situation, I am able to do so without too much trouble.

Over 30 areas of my brain are activated as I move from start to finish, including those involved in touch, memory, reward and even pain. As Komisaruk expected, the imagined clitoral touches and Kegel exercises activated the same brain areas as real ones, albeit with somewhat less blood flow. The PFC, however, showed more activation when touches and pelvic squeezes were imagined compared with those that were real. He suggests this heightened activation may reflect imagination or fantasy, or perhaps some cognitive process that helps manage so called “top-down” control – the direct regulation by the brain of physiological functions – of our own pleasure. The team presented their results at the Society for Neuroscience annual conference in San Diego in November 2010.

However, when Janniko Georgiadis at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and colleagues, performed similar experiments they found that the same brain region “switched off” during orgasm. Specifically, they saw significant deactivation in an area of the PFC called the left orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).

Altered state

Georgiadis argues that the OFC may be the basis of sexual control – and perhaps only by letting go, so to speak, can orgasm be achieved. He suggests this deactivation may be the most telling example of an “altered state of consciousness” and one not seen, as yet, during any other type of activity.

“I don’t think orgasm turns off consciousness but it changes it,” he says. “When you ask people how they perceive their orgasm, they describe a feeling of a loss of control.” Georgiadis suggests that perhaps orgasm offsets systems that usually dominate attention and behaviour. “I’m not sure if this altered state is necessary to achieve more pleasure or is just some side effect,” he says. It is possible that the inability to let go and reach this altered state may be what prohibits individuals with anorgasmia from reaching climax.

There may be a simple explanation for the discrepancies between Georgiadis’s and Komisaruk’s work – they may represent two different paths to orgasm, activated by different methods of induction. While participants in Komisaruk’s studies masturbated themselves to orgasm, those in Georgiadis’s were stimulated by their partners. “It is possible there is a difference between someone trying to mentalise sexual stimulation as opposed to receiving it from a partner,” says Georgiadis. Perhaps having a partner makes it easier to let go of that control and achieve orgasm. Alternatively, having a partner may make top-down control of sensation and pleasure less necessary to climax.

“This kind of research is incredibly useful,” says Heiman. “Orgasm is tied into the brain’s reward system and likely other important systems as well. There is much we can learn about the brain, about sensation, about how pleasure works and probably much more from this one physical response.”

Komisaruk agrees. He hopes to one day use neurofeedback to allow women with anorgasmia to view their brain activity in real time during genital stimulation. The hope is that this feedback may help them to manipulate their brain activity to bring it closer to that of an orgasmic pattern of activity. He also believes that further study of the orgasm – and the PFC’s role – will offer much needed insight into how we might use thought alone to control other physical sensations, such as pain. “There’s a lot of mystery in this one intense human experience that is just waiting to be figured out,” he says.

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By Kayt Sukel / Source: New Scientist

 

 

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Posted by on January 2, 2015 in 21 AND OLDER, WISDOM

 

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Orgasms Unlock Altered Consciousness – “There’s a lot of mystery in this one intense human experience”

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Orgasms Unlock Altered Consciousness

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With a click and a whirr, I am pulled into the scanner. My head is strapped down and I have been draped with a blanket so that I may touch my nether regions – my clitoris in particular – with a certain degree of modesty. I am here neither for a medical procedure nor an adult movie. Rather, I am about to stimulate myself to orgasm while an MRI scanner tracks the blood flow in my brain.

My actions are helping Barry Komisaruk at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, and colleagues to tease apart the mechanisms underlying sexual arousal. In doing so, not only have they discovered that there is more than one route to orgasm, but they may also have revealed a novel type of consciousness – an understanding of which could lead to new treatments for pain.

Despite orgasm being a near-universal human phenomenon, we still don’t know all that much about it. “The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable,” says Julia Heiman, director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in Bloomington, Indiana.

It is estimated that one in four women in the US has had difficulty achieving orgasm in the past year, while between 5 and 10 per cent of women are anorgasmic – unable to achieve orgasm at all. But without precise data to explain what happens during this experience, there are few treatment options available for women who might want help.

Komisaruk is interested in the time course of orgasm, and particularly when an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC) becomes active. The PFC is situated at the front of the brain and is involved in aspects of consciousness, such as self-evaluation and considering something from another person’s perspective.

Komisaruk’s team recently found heightened activation in the PFC during female climax – something not seen in previous studies of the orgasm. Surprisingly, this was also the case in individuals who can achieve orgasm by thought alone. With fantasy and self-referential imagery often reported as being part of the sexual experience, Komisaruk and colleagues wondered if the PFC might be playing a key role in creating a physiological response from imagination alone. That is why I am here.

Komisaruk instructs me to tap my thumb with my finger for 3 minutes, then to simply imagine my finger tapping my thumb for the next 3 minutes as fMRI tracks where blood is flowing in my brain. Immediately after, I follow the same cycle with Kegel exercises – brief squeezes of the pelvic floor muscles – and then clitoral touches. I’m then asked to self-stimulate to orgasm, raising my free hand to indicate climax. Despite the unique situation, I am able to do so without too much trouble.

Over 30 areas of my brain are activated as I move from start to finish, including those involved in touch, memory, reward and even pain. As Komisaruk expected, the imagined clitoral touches and Kegel exercises activated the same brain areas as real ones, albeit with somewhat less blood flow. The PFC, however, showed more activation when touches and pelvic squeezes were imagined compared with those that were real. He suggests this heightened activation may reflect imagination or fantasy, or perhaps some cognitive process that helps manage so called “top-down” control – the direct regulation by the brain of physiological functions – of our own pleasure. The team presented their results at the Society for Neuroscience annual conference in San Diego in November 2010.

However, when Janniko Georgiadis at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and colleagues, performed similar experiments they found that the same brain region “switched off” during orgasm. Specifically, they saw significant deactivation in an area of the PFC called the left orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).

Altered state

Georgiadis argues that the OFC may be the basis of sexual control – and perhaps only by letting go, so to speak, can orgasm be achieved. He suggests this deactivation may be the most telling example of an “altered state of consciousness” and one not seen, as yet, during any other type of activity.

“I don’t think orgasm turns off consciousness but it changes it,” he says. “When you ask people how they perceive their orgasm, they describe a feeling of a loss of control.” Georgiadis suggests that perhaps orgasm offsets systems that usually dominate attention and behaviour. “I’m not sure if this altered state is necessary to achieve more pleasure or is just some side effect,” he says. It is possible that the inability to let go and reach this altered state may be what prohibits individuals with anorgasmia from reaching climax.

There may be a simple explanation for the discrepancies between Georgiadis’s and Komisaruk’s work – they may represent two different paths to orgasm, activated by different methods of induction. While participants in Komisaruk’s studies masturbated themselves to orgasm, those in Georgiadis’s were stimulated by their partners. “It is possible there is a difference between someone trying to mentalise sexual stimulation as opposed to receiving it from a partner,” says Georgiadis. Perhaps having a partner makes it easier to let go of that control and achieve orgasm. Alternatively, having a partner may make top-down control of sensation and pleasure less necessary to climax.

“This kind of research is incredibly useful,” says Heiman. “Orgasm is tied into the brain’s reward system and likely other important systems as well. There is much we can learn about the brain, about sensation, about how pleasure works and probably much more from this one physical response.”

Komisaruk agrees. He hopes to one day use neurofeedback to allow women with anorgasmia to view their brain activity in real time during genital stimulation. The hope is that this feedback may help them to manipulate their brain activity to bring it closer to that of an orgasmic pattern of activity. He also believes that further study of the orgasm – and the PFC’s role – will offer much needed insight into how we might use thought alone to control other physical sensations, such as pain. “There’s a lot of mystery in this one intense human experience that is just waiting to be figured out,” he says.

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By Kayt Sukel / Source: New Scientist

 

 

 

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Posted by on September 4, 2014 in WISDOM

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The mystery of affirmations has to do with the fact that it improves your ability to notice an opportunity.

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self-talk200

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Several years ago, in the closing pages of my otherwise humorous book titled The Dilbert Future, I told a weird little tale of how I used a technique called affirmations in my attempts to achieve a number of unlikely goals.

Since then, I’ve received more questions on that topic than on anything else I’ve ever written. So I know this will pin the needle on the blog comments.

The idea behind affirmations is that you simply write down your goals 15 times a day and somehow, as if by magic, coincidences start to build until you achieve your objective against all odds.

An affirmation is a simple sentence such as “I Scott Adams will become a syndicated cartoonist.” (That’s one I actually used.)

Prior to my Dilbert success, I used affirmations on a string of hugely unlikely goals that all materialized in ways that seemed miraculous. Some of the successes you can explain away by assuming I’m hugely talented and incredibly sexy, and therefore it is no surprise that I accomplished my goals despite seemingly long odds. I won’t debate that interpretation because I like the way it sounds.

But some of my goals involved neither hard work nor skill of any kind. I succeeded with those too, against all odds. Those are harder to explain, at least for me, since the most common explanation is that they are a delusion. I found my experience with affirmations fascinating and puzzling, and so I wrote about it.

At this point, allow me to correct a mistake I made the first time that I described my experience with affirmations. If you only hear the objective facts, it sounds as if I believe in some sort of voodoo or magic. That’s not the case.

While I do think there is something wonderful and inexplicable about affirmations, I have no reason to conclude it is any more than a pleasant hallucination. But if it is a hallucination, it’s a totally cool one. When I have flying dreams, I know they aren’t real, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying the hell out of them. And so it might be the same with affirmations. Affirmations might be nothing more than a wonderful illusion that you can control your own luck.

Skeptics have suggested — and reasonably so — that this is a classic case of selective memory. Perhaps I tried affirmations a bunch of times and only remember the times it seemed to work. That’s exactly what I would assume if someone told me the stories I’ve told others. But working against this theory is the fact that affirmations leave a substantial paper trail. It would be hard to forget writing something 15 times a day for six months. And if it turns out that this is what happened to me, it’s fascinating still, because it says a lot about how the mind works.

My best guess about what really happens when you use affirmations is that several normal phenomena come together to create what seems abnormal. I’ll describe a few theories of what might be behind affirmations. Maybe there are more.

There’s a book called The Luck Factor, in which researcher Richard Wiseman describes studying people who considered themselves lucky, to see if they had any special powers along the lines of ESP. It turns out that they don’t.

But he did discover that people who expect luck have a more powerful ability to notice opportunities in their environment. Optimistic people’s field of perception is literally greater. And the best part is he discovered that when you train people to expect luck, their field of perception increases accordingly.

I think part of the mystery of affirmations has to do with the fact that it improves your ability to notice an opportunity. And when you do, it seems like a lucky coincidence. In my case, about half of my seemingly miraculous results with affirmations could be traced back to my noticing something important.

I’m not sure if optimism is what inspires a person to go through the effort of writing affirmations, or if the affirmations cause the optimism. But in either case you would expect that people who are writing affirmations would more readily notice opportunities than the average non-optimist.

I also wonder if affirmations are one way in which the subconscious (if such a thing exists) communicates with the rational part of your brain. Writing affirmations takes effort. Perhaps your subconscious only allows you to spend that much time on goals that it feels you have a chance of obtaining even if your rational mind does not. For example, my rational mind didn’t believe I could become a syndicated cartoonist with no experience and virtually no artistic ability. But maybe some other part of my brain knew it was a realistic goal.

Viewed in this light, if you can write a goal 15 times a day for months, there’s a good chance that some part of your brain views the goal as achievable even if your rational mind doesn’t see how.

Writing affirmations also helps you focus on your goal, moving them from wishful thinking to something in which you are willing to invest yourself. If you have ever managed people, you know that your staff’s level of commitment makes a huge difference to their success. Perhaps affirmations are a way to manage your own level of commitment. In effect, you are brainwashing yourself, and this might help you get through the tough patches that come with pursuing ambitious goals. When I started Dilbert, I didn’t take a day off for ten years. You only work that hard if you fully expect something good to come from it. I did.

My favorite explanation for the power of affirmations also has the least evidence to support it, i.e. none. The idea behind this explanation is that human brains don’t have the capacity to understand all the complexities of reality, and so our brains present us with highly simplified illusions that we treat as facts.

In this model, affirmations are a lever on some entirely natural chain of cause and affect, but not a chain that our brains are capable of comprehending. While this view is unlikely to be correct, it has the advantage of being totally cool to think about.

Since the publication of The Dilbert Future, I’ve received thousands of e-mails from people recounting their own experiences with affirmations. Most people seem to be amazed at how well they worked. I heard all kinds of stories of people changing careers, marrying the person of their dreams, making money, and starting businesses. I also heard stories from people who claimed affirmations didn’t work for them, but the failure stories were the minority. To be fair, the people who had success were more likely to get excited and write to me about it, so the most that I can conclude is that lots of people BELIEVE affirmations worked for them.

Your Questions about Affirmations

Since I know you are going to ask me a bundle of questions about affirmations, let me answer the ones I can anticipate:

1. If affirmations work, it’s probably because you are focusing on a goal. Therefore I doubt it matters exactly how you word the affirmation, or if it’s handwritten or typed, or if you keep them or throw them away, or if you stop for a few days and then continue. I won’t answer any other questions about technique because I’d be guessing.

2. I’ve never heard of a “monkey paw” affect where you achieve your goal but something horrible happens to you to balance it out.

3. I’m not doing any affirmations at the moment, mostly because I already have everything I want except a Nobel Prize. And even that wouldn’t change my life much. But I do visualize all of my goals and I always expect good luck, so I probably get the benefits of affirmations — even if those are only psychological — without the effort.

4. I don’t know how long you should try affirmations before concluding that they don’t work for you. But trying it for less than six months probably doesn’t give it a chance.

5. Affirmations have not worked every time for me. But the few times they did not work, I must say I wasn’t fully invested in the objective. For example, there are a few cases where if I had achieved an objective it would have caused a lifestyle change that wasn’t entirely positive.

I know from my experience describing this topic that fully half of you reading it just concluded that “the Dilbert guy believes in magic.” The truth is that I believe in cool things that haven’t yet been explained to my satisfaction.

So here’s a good test of your personality. If all of your friends told you that they win money on the slot machines whenever they stick their fingers in their own ears, would you try it? Or would you assume that since there is no obvious reason it could work, it’s not worth the effort?

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By Scott Adams, Creator of Dilbert

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Posted by on September 4, 2014 in WISDOM

 

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Animals following their collective instincts which lead them to a successful outcome.

 

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Birds in flocks make turns as a collective. Ants build, supply, and defend their burrows. How does a group make better decisions than any one of its members? Welcome to the hive mind.

The queen of an ant colony is like the queen of England. She doesn’t really have any power (except in Canada). She doesn’t oversee the colony or give orders. She’s a part of the collective more than the organizer. An ant colony doesn’t have an organizer. Despite that, it works efficiently.

The colony doesn’t just pump out genetically pre-determined components. Many ants can switch to different roles during the course of their lives, depending on what the colony needs. Together, the colony has an intelligence, which single ants do not possess. Over the years, many different studies hae been done to explore this concept of collective intelligence.

Some study the mechanics of collective intelligence. For example, a Stanford researcher noticed that foraging ants would change their search patterns if they were given different-sized areas to search. Ants don’t see very well, so they weren’t able to see each other. Nor did any one ant ‘round up the others’. The most likely theory was that each ant had a number of different possible search patterns. If it ran into other ants too often, it would change to a wider-reaching search pattern. If it didn’t run into them often enough, it would switch to a more conservative one. The result was all the searching ants, as a collective, changing their individual search behaviors in the same way after roughly the same amount of time.

Ants are also incredible at collectively finding the shortest routes through complicated systems, using luck and pheromone trails. As ants move through the world, they leave behind pheromones. The ants that follow behind them use a combination of chance, and pheromone scent to plot out their own routes. The first forays are random, but over time the most efficient routes have the most bunched-together pheromones trails, until the most efficient trails are discovered.

So far, it seems like just animals following instincts which lead them to a successful outcome – which is natural to all animals. The useful behaviors stick around. It’s more than that, though. Collectively, a colony learns. Destroy it one day, and it will move and rebuild. Destroy it the next day, and it will do the same thing. Faster.

Collective intelligence is a possible hot concept. The behavior used by ants can be used by malware scanners, cleaning robots, and mapping programs. Design a machine to do a complicated thing, and it becomes a complicated problem if something goes wrong. Design it, and many of its fellows, to do simple things that, collectively, accomplish the same task, and things can go a lot more smoothly.

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http://www.energy-dimension.com/mystery-collective-intelligence/

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Posted by on May 22, 2014 in WISDOM

 

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Forbidden Archaeology – Secret Discoveries of Early Man!

 

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The 7 edged star mystery in Volda, Western Norway

On Friday the 30th of november 2007, a concstruction worker discovered a 7 edged drilling hole on the base of a mountain during construction work on a new parking lot. So far, it appears that no one has seen a hole similar to the 7 edged star, or have been able to explain how it was made.

Various newspapers, both local and national, have been trying to find the solution, but none have succeeded.

Geologists, scientists and drilling engineers across the country have been contacted, but so far no one has come up with an answer to how this hole was made.

The hole was found by a constructionworker working on removing bits from the mountain in order to make room for a buildingproject. After digging a couple of metres into the mountain, chopping out large pieces of rock, he noticed a strange starshaped hole in two of the boulders.

The hole went further on down into through the ground, with a 20-30 degrees downward angle. Unfortunately the hole was covered with mud, and has not yet been recovered. But according to those who saw it, it too was in the shape of a 7 edged star.

Approximately 4 metres of the hole was dug out from the mountain. On top of the mountain was a layer of clay and dirt, which according to neighbours have never been touched.

The last time there was any construction activity in the area was back in the 50s, when part of the mountain was blown off to create parkingspaces. Either way, the hole was found several metres inside the edge of the area where earlier construction took place.

The inside of the hole is completely smooth, and it has a perfect 7 edged symmetric shape all the way through. The hole runs straight through the sedimentlayers, not parallel.

Many different theories have been presented on the origin of the hole. Some have suggested divine intervention, UFO`s, weathering mineral ores, hammerdrills and unbalanced drilling heads. But so far no one has been able to show reference to similar holes.

If you have any information on how a hole such as this may have been made, or if you have seen any similar rock holes, please make contact with reporter Kjell Arne Steinsvik/Møre Nytt (steinsvik@volda.org / phone: (+47)900 74 785)

 
All the newspapers have been looking for a solution:

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 Also view this powerful material as background

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oGqPc6poS4&feature=player_embedded

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in WISDOM

 

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The mystery of affirmations has to do with the fact that it improves your ability to notice an opportunity.

self-talk200

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Several years ago, in the closing pages of my otherwise humorous book titled The Dilbert Future, I told a weird little tale of how I used a technique called affirmations in my attempts to achieve a number of unlikely goals.

Since then, I’ve received more questions on that topic than on anything else I’ve ever written. So I know this will pin the needle on the blog comments.

The idea behind affirmations is that you simply write down your goals 15 times a day and somehow, as if by magic, coincidences start to build until you achieve your objective against all odds.

An affirmation is a simple sentence such as “I Scott Adams will become a syndicated cartoonist.” (That’s one I actually used.)

Prior to my Dilbert success, I used affirmations on a string of hugely unlikely goals that all materialized in ways that seemed miraculous. Some of the successes you can explain away by assuming I’m hugely talented and incredibly sexy, and therefore it is no surprise that I accomplished my goals despite seemingly long odds. I won’t debate that interpretation because I like the way it sounds.

But some of my goals involved neither hard work nor skill of any kind. I succeeded with those too, against all odds. Those are harder to explain, at least for me, since the most common explanation is that they are a delusion. I found my experience with affirmations fascinating and puzzling, and so I wrote about it.

At this point, allow me to correct a mistake I made the first time that I described my experience with affirmations. If you only hear the objective facts, it sounds as if I believe in some sort of voodoo or magic. That’s not the case.

While I do think there is something wonderful and inexplicable about affirmations, I have no reason to conclude it is any more than a pleasant hallucination. But if it is a hallucination, it’s a totally cool one. When I have flying dreams, I know they aren’t real, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying the hell out of them. And so it might be the same with affirmations. Affirmations might be nothing more than a wonderful illusion that you can control your own luck.

Skeptics have suggested — and reasonably so — that this is a classic case of selective memory. Perhaps I tried affirmations a bunch of times and only remember the times it seemed to work. That’s exactly what I would assume if someone told me the stories I’ve told others. But working against this theory is the fact that affirmations leave a substantial paper trail. It would be hard to forget writing something 15 times a day for six months. And if it turns out that this is what happened to me, it’s fascinating still, because it says a lot about how the mind works.

My best guess about what really happens when you use affirmations is that several normal phenomena come together to create what seems abnormal. I’ll describe a few theories of what might be behind affirmations. Maybe there are more.

There’s a book called The Luck Factor, in which researcher Richard Wiseman describes studying people who considered themselves lucky, to see if they had any special powers along the lines of ESP. It turns out that they don’t.

But he did discover that people who expect luck have a more powerful ability to notice opportunities in their environment. Optimistic people’s field of perception is literally greater. And the best part is he discovered that when you train people to expect luck, their field of perception increases accordingly.

I think part of the mystery of affirmations has to do with the fact that it improves your ability to notice an opportunity. And when you do, it seems like a lucky coincidence. In my case, about half of my seemingly miraculous results with affirmations could be traced back to my noticing something important.

I’m not sure if optimism is what inspires a person to go through the effort of writing affirmations, or if the affirmations cause the optimism. But in either case you would expect that people who are writing affirmations would more readily notice opportunities than the average non-optimist.

I also wonder if affirmations are one way in which the subconscious (if such a thing exists) communicates with the rational part of your brain. Writing affirmations takes effort. Perhaps your subconscious only allows you to spend that much time on goals that it feels you have a chance of obtaining even if your rational mind does not. For example, my rational mind didn’t believe I could become a syndicated cartoonist with no experience and virtually no artistic ability. But maybe some other part of my brain knew it was a realistic goal.

Viewed in this light, if you can write a goal 15 times a day for months, there’s a good chance that some part of your brain views the goal as achievable even if your rational mind doesn’t see how.

Writing affirmations also helps you focus on your goal, moving them from wishful thinking to something in which you are willing to invest yourself. If you have ever managed people, you know that your staff’s level of commitment makes a huge difference to their success. Perhaps affirmations are a way to manage your own level of commitment. In effect, you are brainwashing yourself, and this might help you get through the tough patches that come with pursuing ambitious goals. When I started Dilbert, I didn’t take a day off for ten years. You only work that hard if you fully expect something good to come from it. I did.

My favorite explanation for the power of affirmations also has the least evidence to support it, i.e. none. The idea behind this explanation is that human brains don’t have the capacity to understand all the complexities of reality, and so our brains present us with highly simplified illusions that we treat as facts.

In this model, affirmations are a lever on some entirely natural chain of cause and affect, but not a chain that our brains are capable of comprehending. While this view is unlikely to be correct, it has the advantage of being totally cool to think about.

Since the publication of The Dilbert Future, I’ve received thousands of e-mails from people recounting their own experiences with affirmations. Most people seem to be amazed at how well they worked. I heard all kinds of stories of people changing careers, marrying the person of their dreams, making money, and starting businesses. I also heard stories from people who claimed affirmations didn’t work for them, but the failure stories were the minority. To be fair, the people who had success were more likely to get excited and write to me about it, so the most that I can conclude is that lots of people BELIEVE affirmations worked for them.

Your Questions about Affirmations

Since I know you are going to ask me a bundle of questions about affirmations, let me answer the ones I can anticipate:

1. If affirmations work, it’s probably because you are focusing on a goal. Therefore I doubt it matters exactly how you word the affirmation, or if it’s handwritten or typed, or if you keep them or throw them away, or if you stop for a few days and then continue. I won’t answer any other questions about technique because I’d be guessing.

2. I’ve never heard of a “monkey paw” affect where you achieve your goal but something horrible happens to you to balance it out.

3. I’m not doing any affirmations at the moment, mostly because I already have everything I want except a Nobel Prize. And even that wouldn’t change my life much. But I do visualize all of my goals and I always expect good luck, so I probably get the benefits of affirmations — even if those are only psychological — without the effort.

4. I don’t know how long you should try affirmations before concluding that they don’t work for you. But trying it for less than six months probably doesn’t give it a chance.

5. Affirmations have not worked every time for me. But the few times they did not work, I must say I wasn’t fully invested in the objective. For example, there are a few cases where if I had achieved an objective it would have caused a lifestyle change that wasn’t entirely positive.

I know from my experience describing this topic that fully half of you reading it just concluded that “the Dilbert guy believes in magic.” The truth is that I believe in cool things that haven’t yet been explained to my satisfaction.

So here’s a good test of your personality. If all of your friends told you that they win money on the slot machines whenever they stick their fingers in their own ears, would you try it? Or would you assume that since there is no obvious reason it could work, it’s not worth the effort?

By Scott Adams, Creator of Dilbert

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2014 in WISDOM

 

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