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29 February 2008

All the Air and Water in the World

Data presented in the visual format makes it all the more impressive

Shown on the same scale as the Earth. LEFT: All the air in the atmosphere (5140 trillion tonnes of it) gathered into a ball at sea-level density. RIGHT: All the water in the world (1.4087 billion cubic kilometres of it) including sea water, ice, lakes, rivers, ground water, clouds, etc.

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21 February 2008

20 Fascinating Facts About the Natural Healing Power of Bananas

Here is a story that even a monkey would go ape about. A professor at CCNY for a physiological psych class told his class about bananas. He said the expression 'going bananas' is from the effects of bananas on the brain. When compared to an apple, it has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in potassium and is one of the best value foods around. No wonder monkeys are so happy all the time!

1. Energy Boost: Bananas contain three natural sugars - sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber. A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world's leading athletes. But energy isn't the only way a banana can help us keep fit. It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet.

2. Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.

3. PMS: Forget the pills - eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

4. Anemia: High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia.

5. Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

6. Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

7. Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.

8. Morning Sickness: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.

9. Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation.

10. Brain Power: 200 students at a Twickenham (Middlesex) school (England) were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break, and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.

11. Constipation: High in fiber, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

12. Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronicler cases. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.

13. Temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a 'cooling' fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. In Thailand, for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature.

14. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer tryptophan.

15. Quit Smoking: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. The B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

16. Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body's water balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be rebalanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack.

17. Strokes: According to research in The New England Journal of Medicine, eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!

18. Warts: Those keen on natural alternatives swear that if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape!

19. Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

20. Overweight at work? Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and chips. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods every two hours to keep levels steady.

BONUS: Shoe Polish - want a quick shine on your shoes? Take the inside of the banana skin, and rub directly on the shoe. Finish with dry cloth. Amazing fruit!

So, a banana really is a natural remedy for many ills. Perhaps it's time to change that well-known phrase so that we say, 'A banana a day keeps the doctor away!'


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18 February 2008

Orgasmic Childbirth: Video Evidence? (NSFW, Obviously and 18+)

Could this be what orgasmic childbirth all about?

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15 February 2008

The Thinking Blog Goes Mobile (And So Can You)

Remember a few years ago when camera phones and music phones first started hitting the market? Everyone thought they were the coolest things on the block, but it's actually harder to find a phone that doesn't have a camera today than one that does. Technology is quickly advancing and the public wants more out of their mobile phones. They want to stay connected in every way possible and text messages just won't suffice. They want to harness the power of the world wide web everywhere they go.

Mobile Web For Everyone

Wireless data appears to be the next major frontier for consumer-level cell phones, but not everyone is willing to pay the hefty data fees involved in rendering full web pages. When you visit Beyond the Rhetoric or The Thinking Blog, a series of dynamic elements are conjured up and images are loaded. Watch a YouTube video or two and you could be looking at quite an expensive cell phone bill.

At the same time, blog owners want their loyal readers to have access to their website everywhere they go, and a mobile-optimized version (WAP) is one way to do that. For those of you who aren't familiar, WAP sites carry much the same content as their full HTML counterparts, but they've been stripped of the fluff and heavy downloads. Images are kept to a minimum and the formatting has been designed to better suit the small screen of a cell phone.

I'm not a coder, so I have no idea where to begin when it comes to creating a mobile site. Thankfully, there is a service set up at Wirenode that does this for you, transforming any regular blog into one that is more accessible from a cell phone's WAP browser. Whether you've got a RAZR or an LG Voyager, there's a good chance your modern phone does WAP.

Wirenode Cuts the Wires

Wirenode specializes in creating mobile versions of blogs. As I mentioned earlier, these mobile sites trim the fat, so to speak, leaving readers with the core content. Yes, you lose some of the sidebar navigation and some of the flashy formatting you may have on your full site, but it opens your blog up to a whole new (mobile) audience.

After the mobile version of a blog is set up, Wirenode then allows you to enter into an admin area where you can safely edit the mobile site, adding more pages, images, and adjusting the content to suit your preferences. This appears to be a very straightforward and easy-to-understand process. If you can handle Wordpress, you should be able to handle this.

Better still, Wirenode also provides widgets for your blog. These widgets can inform your existing readers about the mobile version of your blog. These can be found under the Promotion tab in the admin area.

My main gripe is that the mobile sites are hosted at the domain, though I'd imagine it is possible to transport them over to your own servers too.

Read The Thinking Blog On Your Phone

To see what mobile blog reading is all about, be sure to check out the mobile version of The Thinking Blog on your cell phone. You can find it at Now you can access all these thought-provoking posts at the coffee shop, in the library, or when your significant other drags you to yet another boring opera.

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11 February 2008

The Cake Puzzle

Picture a typical round birthday cake. Now, let's say a friend of yours gave you a big knife and challenged you to cut the cake into 8 pieces - but with only 3 cuts! How would you go about solving this puzzle? Take a break now and think about it. Use pen and paper if it is hard to picture it in your mind. Ultimately though, you might need to use your mental imagery skills to come up with the answer to this puzzle. More specifically, your mental rotation skills - yeah, we didn't know we had one either! Answer to the puzzle after the jump.

Brain blogger Alvaro Fernandez from Sharp Brains is here to explain how this works and how to go about solving this puzzle:

First, you have to use your mental rotation and mental imagery skills to visualize potential answers for this puzzle. You can create a mental image of a cake and rotate it in your mind's eye. In doing so, you are using your visual cortex in the occipital lobes (the part of the cortex which is in the back of your head), your somatosensory cortex in your parietal lobes (in the superior part of your head), and then exercise your executive functions in your frontal lobes (right behind your forehead) when you evaluate your hypotheses and refine them until you find the answer.

The so-called "executive functions" are named that way because, like the director of an orchestra or the CEO of a corporation, they are critical to direct and manage the other parts of our brain as needed (as if they were different instruments in the sympony our mind can create).

Alvaro is a leading voice and thought-leader in the growing science-based brain fitness field.

If you still couldn't solve the puzzle, don't worry - here is the answer!

Enjoyed this little puzzle? You can find more brain teasers here.

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09 February 2008

Prostitution: Story of the Oldest Profession on Earth

"Prostitution presents a moral, social and economic problem that cannot be solved juridically" once famously commented Federica Montseny, the first ever female Spanish minister and a liberal anarchist. Indeed, since ancient times when females were held with a lower social regard than the males in the social hierarchy, till modern days when women rights are promulgated upon fervently - prostitution remains a relevant issue in society. With its scope encompassing social, moral and economic issues, it presents a dilemma to any government determined to fully comprehend this grey area.

NOTE: Article contains images that might Not be Safe For Work [NSFW].

It is fascinating that so little is known about the "oldest trade in the world" but prostitution has always been rampant and thriving. From the Aztecs time where Cihuacalli (House of Women) became a legalized place for prostitutes to provide sexual services for men; to the Babylonians' time where each woman had to reach, once in their lives, the sanctuary of Militta (Aphrodite or Nana/Anahita), have sex with a foreigner as a sign of hospitality for a symbolic price; and right down to the ancient Rome and Greece where slavery and sex ran alongside one another, prostitution has never ceased to thrive. Even with the abolishment of slavery, initiated by the 1926 Slavery Convention and adopted by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, prostitution which itself is an indirect form of slavery never get exterminated.

Roman hetaera, relief, around 2nd century—head is missing.

Customer and a prostitute illustrated on an ancient Greek wine cup.

Birth of Venus/Aphrodite, the classical Latin/Greek goddess of love, lust, and beauty.

French prostitutes being taken to the police station.

"The Procuress" by Dirck van Baburen.

Köçek troupe at a fair. Recruited from the ranks of colonized ethnic groups, köçeks were entertainers and sex workers in the Ottoman empire.

A political cartoon from 1787 jesting about the notion of taxation affecting prostitutes.

Ultimately though, the main reason why prostitution remains relevant till today is because sex has always been regarded as a highest form of pleasure for humans and thus explains peoples’ crave for it. Like any other types of transaction for pleasure purposes (eg. Purchasing of games etc), sex will remain an entity that is to be purchased if people continue to view it as something that can be bought and not sacred. It is sobering and lugubrious to know that sex is increasingly becoming something of a transaction as shown by the rise of the prostitution and pornographic industries; an act of bestial nature that desecrate the sanctity of the ultimate physical intimacy between fellow beings. Indeed, such is the scope and depth of its operations that complete eradication remains an idealistic notion.

Prostitutes in the Shimpuro Brothel in Yokohama.

1941 Las Vegas hotel sign.

The red-light district in Amsterdam.

A neighborhood where prostitution and other businesses in the sex industry flourish.

Prostitution Information Centre, in Amsterdam.

Further reading:

- Prostitution in New York City, 1830-1870
- A History of Prostitution, From Antiquity to the Present Day

By Jacob Toh. Submit your thoughts - click here!

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07 February 2008

Poodle Exercise with Humans

Is this the strangest exercise video ever made!? YouTube link. Wikipedia link.

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06 February 2008

11 Cool Concept Cars That Should Be Mass Produced

Concept cars came back - with a vengeance - after World War II when America entered a golden age of prosperity and rising expectations. Nothing said "New!" like the annual GM Motorama shows, where the public caught a glimpse of radical new designs and often bizarre trends like soaring tailfins, glass bubble-tops and chrome, well, everywhere! Today, concept cars are like fixtures of the automotive world, showcasing new ideas, designs and features, but most of them never make it to the street. What if they did?

Let's look at eleven of the most exciting modern day concept cars and, as we admire their lithe lines and futuristic features, dream a little...

11. Ford Airstream concept

Anyone old enough to remember Airstream trailers? This striking new Ford concept isn't anything like them, don't worry! A fixture of the 2007 auto show scene, the Airstream concept previews the crossover vehicle of the future. Look beneath the Airstream's awesome appearance and you'll find a new plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel cell called HySeries Drive that provides continuous electric power without the need for fossil fuels.

10. Toyota i-Real concept

The i-Real takes "personal transportation" to the next level while blurring the line between car and scooter. Not those Razor Scooters beloved by teens, I mean those electric rolling chairs beloved by oldsters. As the Baby Boom morphs into the Elderly Explosion, a vehicle like the I-Real could find itself in great demand. It looks cool, is controlled by joysticks and it's a Toyota - sounds like a sure winner!

9. Nissan NV200 concept

The Nissan NV200 concept is the neatest thing since sliced bread - it even features a unique pull-out storage module that slides out from the rear doors like a loaf of bread from a plastic bag. In effect, the NV200 turns storage inside out... or is that outside in? Any way - you say it, Nissan's designers have offered a new option that could be just the thing for certain niche professions. Pictured below, is a concept fit for ocean photographers.

8. Mazda Ryuga concept

It's not often that design and engineering complement each other without compromise, and the Mazda Ryuga concept is an exquisite expression of creative cooperation! With its flowing lines, gullwing (more like bat-wing) doors and retro-futuristic interior, the Ryuga is simply stunning any way you look at it. Are there any practical reasons for bringing the Ryuga from concept to concrete? Maybe not... but humanity's desire to make dreams come true has to be respected. Zoom zoom? Yes please!

7. Acura NSX Advanced Sports Car concept

The Acura NSX was Honda's interpretation of a Ferrari-esque supercar, and it sold in modest numbers from 1990 to 2005 without much in the way of appearance or engineering changes. That was then, this is now... the Acura NSX Advanced Sports Car Concept picks up where the old NSX left off - in fact, Honda's CEO announced the new NSX's development program within days of the previous model's last production day. Though only a concept car at the moment, the Acura NSX Advanced Sports Car Concept should hit the streets later this year. Features include a Formula One-inspired V10 motor and the SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) system currently used in the Acura RL. Here's hoping Honda follows through on their promises!

6. Toyota FT-HS Hybrid Sports Car concept

Hybrids... they're the queens of the green, clean fuel-sippin' scene. They're NOT mean drivin' machines, however, but all that may change if Toyota has anything to do with it - and they do. The FT-HS Hybrid Sports Car concept is not your grandmother's Prius though it's still powered by a hybrid motor. The difference is, the motor in the FT-HS can push the sleek 2-door coupe to 60 mph in 4 seconds flat! If the rumors are true, the FT-HS is the forthcoming replacement for the Toyota Supra.

5. Lexus LF-A concept

As hot as the Toyota concept cars may be, some of the ideas bubbling out of Lexus are even hotter! That's how it should be, since Lexus is Toyota's premier brand and has a lofty image to uphold. With the LF-A concept, that image is set to fly even higher. This concept is "on track" to be produced as a 2009 model and let's just hope the track has no obstacles. Is the LF-A going to be the next - or rather the first - Lexus supercar? A mid-engine layout with perfect weight distribution, rear-mounted radiators and a top speed of over 200 mph answers that question emphatically - YES!

4. McLaren M Eleven B concept

How do you improve upon the best? That was the question put to students of the Istituto Europeo di Design's Transport Design course, who were asked to design an updated version of McLaren's legendary supercar, the F1. Hailed as one of the finest iterations of the supercar class ten years ago, the F1 is still relatively unmatched in virtually every category. Students at the Turin, Italy based school were asked to design the next-gen McLaren supercar, using a mid-engine format, a 200 mph top speed and the ultimate in road-going performance. The winner of the competition was the M Eleven B. Will it be built? As long as there are those who demand the very best, the M Eleven B will find a market at any price.

3. Maybach Excelero concept

Maybach is Mercedes-Benz's icing on the automotive cake and the Excelero, of which only a single concept has been made, is the crèm de la crème. The Excelero certainly looks formidable, and it's got the power to back it up - though it's hard to imagine this car ever backing up! But I digress... a twin-turbo, 5.9 litre V12 engine puts out an awe-inspiring 700 hp. Can the tires take it? Who cares - if you're in the Excelero's target market, tires are not your concern.

2. Toyota Volta concept

Toyota seems intent on banishing the hybrid car's meek image for good - and the Volta hybrid sportscar concept is very, very good indeed! The Volta takes the basic hybrid engine blueprint and squeezes every bit of potential out of it. The result? A 435-mile cruising range and an, er, electric 0-60 mph time of 4 seconds flat! Most enticing, the Volta features a unique drive-by-wire control system that allows any of the three - yes, three - front seat occupants to assume control of the vehicle just by having said controls moved in front of them. Memo to Toyota... make the Volta, please!!

1. GMC Denali XT concept

Oil crisis, what oil crisis? If the radically styled GMC Denali XT concept could talk, that's what it would likely say - and it would find a lot of ears ready to listen! Should this beautiful brute actually make it into production, an entire fleet of Hummers, Excursions and Suburbans is going to look really old, really fast. Best of all, though the Denali XT concept looks like a fuel-hog, it really isn't - and that's notwithstanding the 326 horsepower, 4.9 litre V8 ensconced beneath its sculptured hood. Flex-fuel capability, direct fuel injection and GM's proven Active Fuel Management system delivers twice the fuel economy of a standard setup. The Denali XT concept is one mean, green machine!

These eleven exceptional concept cars prove beyond a doubt that the auto industry is thriving under the combined pressures of competition, regulation and market saturation. It takes a lot to get yourself noticed in this type of environment, and the world's creative designers, engineers and marketers know it - and are doing something about it. Hey, they've got my attention... and if they bring these classy concepts into mass production, they just might get my order!

Article by Steve Levenstein from Inventor Spot. Steve writes about weird and wonderful Japanese innovations on a regular basis and you can catch up on current & previous examples at his blog. Submit your thoughts - click here!

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