GO WITH YOUR GUT
Most of us experience 'gut feelings' we can't explain, such as instantly loving - or hating - a new property when we're househunting or the snap judgements we make on meeting new people. Now researchers in England say these feelings - or intuitions - are real and we should take our hunches seriously.
According to the researchers, intuition is the result of the way our brains store, process and retrieve information on a subconscious level and so is a real psychological phenomenon which needs further study to help us harness its potential.
There are many recorded incidences where intuition prevented catastrophes and cases of remarkable recoveries when people followed their gut feelings. Yet, science has historically ridiculed the concept of intuition, putting it in the same box as parapsychology, phrenology and other 'pseudoscientific' practices.
Through analysis of a wide range of research papers examining the phenomenon, the researchers conclude that intuition is the brain drawing on past experiences and external cues to make a decision - but one that happens so fast the reaction is at a non-conscious level. All we're aware of is a general feeling that something is right or wrong.
Prof Hodgkinson, one of the researchers says, "People usually experience true intuition when they are under severe time pressure or in a situation of information overload or acute danger, where conscious analysis of the situation may be difficult or impossible."
He cites the recorded case of a Formula One driver who braked sharply when nearing a hairpin bend without knowing why and as a result avoided hitting a pile-up of cars on the track ahead, undoubtedly saving his life.
"The driver couldn't explain why he felt he should stop, but the urge was much stronger than his desire to win the race," explains Professor Hodgkinson. "The driver underwent forensic analysis by psychologists afterwards, where he was shown a video to mentally relive the event. In hindsight he realized that the crowd, which would have normally been cheering him on, wasn't looking at him coming up to the bend but was looking the other way in a static, frozen way. That was the cue. He didn't consciously process this, but he knew something was wrong and stopped in time."
Prof Hodgkinson believes that all intuitive experiences are based on the instantaneous evaluation of such internal and external cues - but does not speculate on whether intuitive decisions are necessarily the right ones.
"Humans clearly need both conscious and non-conscious thought processes, but it's likely that neither is intrinsically 'better' than the other," he says.
So the next time you have that gut feeling, follow it. Who knows what will happen?
FINDING THE FACES
Have you looked at the front of your car lately? Do you see a face? According to a group of German researchers, many of us do, in fact see a face when we look at our cars.
One-third of the subjects the researchers tested associated a human or animal face with at least 90 percent of the cars. All subjects marked eyes (headlights), a mouth (air intake/grille), and a nose in more than 50 percent of the cars. Overall, people also seemed to agree on which type of cars possess certain traits. The authors found that people liked cars that had a wide stance, a narrow windshield, and/or widely spaced, narrow headlights.
If people like these traits, does that mean that this is the type of car they would buy? The authors think this might not always be the case. Do we judge a car by our (perhaps stereotyped) impression of its owner, or do we choose a car based on its communication of desired characteristics? Do we feel that driving a car that looks arrogant and dominant might be of benefit in the daily "battles" on the road?
Have a look at the front of your car when next you drive it. Is it smiling? Is it angry looking? Does its 'face' have anything to do with why you bought it? In these terrible economic times, perhaps Detroit had better start rolling out the cars with the 'smiley faces'. It just might help!
||And now let's leave the present and take some archeological trips into the human past. Do you enjoy music? Recent research tells us that music has been a part of humanity for much longer than we thought.
THE MUSIC OF THE PAST
Although we can view Stone Age art on cave walls, we can't listen to the music that would have been played to accompany many of the pictures. Flutes made of bone are found In many cave sites that feature pre-historic art. Researchers have also found that the most acoustically resonant place in a cave -- where sounds linger or reverberate the most -- is also often the place where the pictures are densest.
And interestingly enough, archeologists have discovered that if the most resonant spot is found in a very narrow passageway where painting would be difficult, the resonant spot is often marked with red paint. It's almost as if the flute player said, "Stand here for best effect".
And in many caves with pre-historic pictures, if you 'follow the echo' of the music, you are led to the painted pictures. There is also the possibility that the musical echoes were used to help explore these very dark caves.
||And now a story about a search for the tomb of one of the world's most famous conquerors.
FINDING GENGHIS KHAN
According to legend, Genghis Khan lies buried somewhere beneath the dusty steppe of Northeastern Mongolia, in a place so secretive that anyone who made the mistake of encountering his funeral procession was executed on the spot.
Once he was below ground, his men brought in horses to trample evidence of his grave, and just to be absolutely sure he would never be found, they diverted a river to flow over their leader's final resting place.
What Khan and his followers couldn't have envisioned was that nearly 800 years after his death, scientists at the University of California in San are looking for his tomb using advanced visualization technologies whose origins can be traced back to the time of the Mongolian emperor himself.
Khan's grave is presumably in a region bordered by Mongolia's Onon River and the Khan Khentii mountains near his birthplace. Some experts believe his sons and other family members were later buried beside him. Directly following Khan's death in 1227, access to the area around his tomb was forbidden by the emperor's guards. When Mongolia was occupied by the Russians, they prohibited Mongolians from even talking about Genghis Khan because they felt it might lead to nationalist uprising.
The San Diego researchers are going to use a large display wall and satellite imagery to look for the impacts of this large-scale burial on the landscape. They also hope to recruit middle and high school students to help them search. Once the satellite photos have helped them narrow their search, the researchers plan to use techniques like ground penetrating radar, electromagnetic induction and magnetometry to produce non-destructive, non-invasive surveys.
Notably, these computer-based technologies are modern evolutions of moveable type and the printing press - innovations that historian Jack Weatherford argues were spread by the Mongols as they conquered parts of Europe (Chinese printing technologies predated Gutenberg's printing press by several hundred years). The head researcher, Dr. Albert Lin says he sees parallels his research and Genghis Kahn' own push to adapt to new technologies.
||"He took the best resources of entire world - whether weaponry or medicine -- and adopted those technologies into his own methodology. We're trying to implement that same adaptation to many disciplines into our own work. We're taking the great work that's already been done in archaeology and further developing it by using technologies from other disciplines -- computer vision, social networking, electrical engineering - while at the same time never forgetting the fundamentals of historical search."