Why Dried Whiskey Under Microscope Looks Like #Art


“This image might look like a painting of an ocean scene at night, but it’s actually a close-up of Glenlivet 162.” – Ernie Button

Dried whiskey at the bottom of a glass produces stunning images that closely resemble fine art paintings, shows new research that also helps explain how the patterns form.

The effect results from both the chemical composition of whiskey as well as fluid dynamics. The presentation “Painting Pictures with Whiskey,” explaining the phenomenon, took place today during the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics Meeting, held in San Francisco.



Does The #EvilEye Exist?


(The following excerpt from Does The Evil Eye Exist? by Maria Baratta recently appeared on psychologytoday.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

There are moments in my work as a therapist when things like the notion of the “evil eye” warrant some thought. As a second generation Italian-American, I was familiar with the Italian version of the “evil eye,” the “mal’occhio” —someone wishing bad things happen to you as the result of envy, but always regarded such beliefs as goofy. So as a person trained to understand the human psyche, I thought I’d explore the phenomenon on my own. Does “the evil eye” actually exist and do amulets and rituals have extraordinary power?

In a documentary film entitled “Mal’occhio” (The Evil Eye) by Agata De Santis, the “evil eye,” was defined as an inadvertent look of envy that caused a person to get a headache or stomach ache and thus necessitating a counteroffensive ritual to “heal” the malady. Numerous scholars were interviewed and in conclusion, could not be definitive in dismissing such beliefs and rituals as ridiculous. From the psychological perspective, the phenomena needed some further consideration.

I began my exploration with my immediate source, my 92 year old Italian born father. It had been many years since we’d spoken about the notion of the evil eye and in bringing up the topic, we both laughed. For effect, I told him that I thought I might have the “mal’occhio,” since my stomach hadn’t been right lately. He smiled and said that I must have not eaten well and next time to watch what I ate. But then, just to be sure, he proceeded to place his hand on my head and say some ritualistic prayer that he had been taught almost a century ago in Italy in an attempt to do what a Tums couldn’t. It was a tender moment that led me to recall times in my childhood when, in the busy pace of life, some old relative took the time to see if you had the evil eye instead of getting you an aspirin. The “anti mal’occhio” ritual was always performed by some maternal/paternal older person with the confidence that after their words, you’d be fine. There is something to be said about how powerful both the attention and nurturing attendance to something as basic as a headache or stomach ailment can prove to be. It explains why such beliefs and rituals have survived the centuries. The nurturing nature of caring for and about someone with either a headache or stomach problems and the intentioned attempt to “cure” them of their pain by saying ritualistic prayers when they have found little relief in traditional medicine made sense from a psychological and survivalistic perspective. In the face of twenty-first century science, evolved generations later, there is something to be said about the the power of a “healing” ritual—the power of loving, caring attention. Love and attention when you’re not feeling well, like chicken soup, helps a lot.

Then there is the phenomenon of wearing an amulet to ward off the evil eye– a proactive attempt to avoid the evil eye altogether. For Italians it is a horn, a “cornetto” or a hunchbacked man. Such items must be given to you by someone, never purchased for yourself. It is precisely the fact that this item must be given to you and the subsequent power of a relationship between giver and receiver– the caring demonstrated by someone who bothers to give you something to ward off the evil eye, something “just in case,” that might explain the curative effect. What is extraordinary is the power of someone giving you something for “protection” that far exceeds the supernatural.

So, the jury is out regarding the “power” of an amulet or whether “the evil eye” exists, but wearing something that someone gave you for protection probably can’t hurt.


7 Reason Why You Should Embrace Your Dysfunctional #Family


(The following excerpt from 7 Reasons Why You Should Embrace Your Dysfunctional Family by Paul Hudson recently appeared on elitedaily.comTo view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

The holiday season is upon us and I bet half of you are dreading going home to see your families. I can’t blame you — I’m sure many of you have a miserable time.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that bad. Sure, your family may be entirely dysfunctional, but you can embrace that dysfunction and have the best winter ever!

Your family members may drive you bananas, but if they love you, they probably deserve another chance. Why?

1. Because it’s your family.

They may be nutty. They may not be the sharpest tools in the shed. They may be rude or even slightly inconsiderate. But nevertheless, it’s your family — and that does mean something.

I can understand wanting to keep the distance if the relationship is a dangerous one; sometimes those closest to us abuse us and take advantage. However, if your parents always loved you and did their best to take care of you, distancing yourself from them isn’t right.

More than that, you’re missing out on the opportunity to build a strong foundation to push off from in order excel in other areas of your life. You don’t need to go on living your life entirely alone.

That’s why we have families — because we need that extra support in order to make something great of ourselves.

No one is successful entirely on his or her own. And even those who appear to be so are usually deeply damaged.

2. If you can’t get rid of them, you may as well get used to having them around.

Sure, you could do your best to avoid them, but is spending time with them really that awful? I’m sure you could think of a couple of things you’d rather do, but when is there not something you’d rather be doing?

Right this very second, for example, I’d rather be lying on a beach, sipping on some frozen drink out of a pineapple, but instead I’m sitting half frozen in New York typing away.

If your family is going to remain a part of your life regardless of what you’d prefer, or think you’d prefer your life to be, at least make the most of it. Maybe get to know them a little better.

I know you think you know them because you grew up with them, but I have a feeling now that you’re older, you’d all be able to relate on a different, deeper level. You may even find that your siblings aren’t quite the pains in the ass they used to be.

3. There’s a good chance that they mean well, but just don’t excel at executing.

Parents usually have a difficult time relating to their children — especially if they grew up in a different country. The less they’re in tune with modern times, the more difficult it will be for them to express their love for you in a way that you understand.

A lot of the time our parents or grandparents mean well but end up making a mess of things. We get frustrated at them, even though we can’t really blame them for being a bit ignorant.

Maybe if we talked to them a bit more instead of giving them the cold shoulder, we’d find that they’re only trying to make us happy.

They may be failing, but they’re trying. It’s the thought that counts.

4. You may not be as easy to put up with as you think that you are.

I’m sure you think that you’re the most wonderful daughter, son, sister, brother, granddaughter, grandson… but are you really? You sure you aren’t just as much of a pain in the ass as they are? Maybe try looking at things from their perspective for a change.

We argue because we believe we’re right and everyone else is wrong. This is fine when we’re talking about facts and we can actually do a fact check. With family, though, we usually argue about things that are entirely a matter of opinion. You can’t win these sorts of arguments.

Our parents also have a way of letting their emotions and worry get the best of them. Often people find that the more their parents care about them, the more they give them a hard time. But imagine how you’d feel if the opposite were true.

What if your parents never hassled you about anything at all? What if they just didn’t care?

5. You can’t change people — so learn to accept them as is.

You may not be happy with whom they choose to be. You may not even especially like their choices. But they’re their choices to make, and you’re going to have to let them make it.

We all make our own choices in life — and that’s the way it ought to be since we’re the ones who have to live with them.

Sometimes we see our parents or siblings making poor decisions and feel a need to intervene — and you should intervene — but if after you approaching them and explaining to them why you believe that they are making a mistake, what more can you really do but allow them to live the life they want?

Getting angry at them or ignoring them only makes things worse. If their decisions are physically damaging, you may need to get a professional involved, but if their decisions are only a matter of opinion, you have to let them have their opinion.

The way they believe they should live life is probably the way they want to live their life.

And if it isn’t and they’re miserable, maybe they need to hit rock bottom to realize that.

6. Having good relationships can change your life for the better.

If you’re aiming to change the lives of your family in a positive way, then it may need to start with you simply being there for them. Listen instead of directing. Talk to them instead of storming off. Maybe if you patched up your relationship a bit first, you’d find that you’d get through to them better.

Or maybe you’d grow to learn that the decisions they’re making aren’t wrong after all. Sure, you’d live your life differently if you were in their shoes, but to each his own.

We may not understand why our parents enjoy doing the things they enjoy doing, or enjoy avoiding the things they enjoy avoiding, but those are their choices to make.

If you want them to be happier, try mending your relationship first and foremost. Interpersonal relationships tend to have the greatest impact on people’s lives.

7. Most of the time we don’t really bother to try and build good relationships — especially with our family members.

We usually either believe we know better than everyone else, or we can’t find the guts to be the first one admit that we might’ve been wrong.

It’s always best to be the one to initiate. It takes the pressure off the other person and in doing so, makes them much more likely to accept a truce.

If you aren’t fighting with your family but just don’t like the relationship you have, don’t be afraid to be the one to initiate more meaningful conversations.

Show them that you’re interested in their lives — past, present and future — and they’re likely to appreciate you more for it. At the end of the day, our family members are just like everybody else; they only want to know those they care about also care about them.


It’s Actual #Chemistry: How We Choose The People We Fall In #Love With


(The following excerpt from It’s Actual Chemistry: How We Choose The People We Fall In Love With recently appeared on elitedaily.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

I want to start out by saying that I draw a clear distinction between love and romantic love. Many will disagree, but thankfully I have science on my side.

Love itself is as close as human beings can come to being selfless. People will make sacrifices for love. They will make compromises. They feel connected with this other individual to the point that this individual becomes a part of them — in the psyche, quite literally.

Romantic love, on the other hand — what so many confuse for actual love — is little more than an obsession. Helen Fisher, an American anthropologist and human behavior researcher focusing primarily on romantic interpersonal relationships has over 30 years of experience on the subject — and I believe she’d agree with the distinction I’m making.

She certainly agrees with my believing that romantic love is an obsession. There’s a very interesting TED talk by her that, if you have time, I’d recommend watching.

Putting the differences between romantic love and love aside for the moment, I’d like to address that point in time when we fall in love.

What makes you fall in love? Sure, the person you are in love with is definitely the cause. But have you ever wondered how an outside force can have such an effect on you? Some believe that love is a tangible, ethereal substance and the substance linking one person to another is what makes loving a person possible.

Personally, I’ve stopped looking to fairy tales for advice a long time ago. I can’t accept that things simply “just happen,” as if by magic or by a process that is incomprehensible to the human mind. If things happen, there certainly must be underlying mechanics that facilitate that happening. Love is no exception.

There are many factors that go into the chemistry behind attraction and romantic love. A person’s physical appearance is certainly one — human beings like symmetry as well as specific ratios between facial features. Social status is most certainly another.

A person’s background, the way he or she was raised, and his or her level of intellect also all play key roles in deciding whom you could possibly fall in love with.

However, these are not the only factors. Chemistry itself — literally chemistry — plays an enormous role in deciding which person you could or could not fall in love with. There are four chemicals in your brain that play the largest roles in deciding compatibility: dopamine, estrogen, serotonin and testosterone.

Dopamine is what makes reward-based behavior feel so rewarding. It’s the reason drug users get addicted to drugs. Estrogen and testosterone — present in both men and women — are what give us that sexual appetite.

And serotonin helps regulate your moods as well as being the neurotransmitter that allows for obsessive thinking and behavior. Of course, there are several other chemicals in the body that seem to be in hyperdrive when we find ourselves in love, but these seem to play the largest roles.

The question now is: Do these chemicals have an effect on the type of person you can fall in love with, and if so, how? Truth be told, the amount of information that we have on this topic is abysmal. But there are plenty of people out there, like Helen Fisher, who are digging into the field and conducting research.

From the research Fisher herself has so far collected, it is now believed that there are four basic personality types that decide what type(s) of person(s) you could potentially fall for.

These types are classified according to the production levels of each of the four chemicals I previously mentioned. The types are as follows:

1. Builders: cautious individuals who tend to follow traditions and value persistence.

2. Directors: analytical personalities who enjoy making decisions and have a tendency to lean toward aggression.

3. Explorers: risk takers who are impulsive and creative.

4. Negotiators: intuitive, idealistic and compassionate individuals who are more selfless than the other three types.

What you should also keep in mind is that although these four types are rather distinct, where each individual falls won’t be so black and white.

Because these types are based on chemical levels in the body and the body’s ability to produce these chemicals, it’s safe to say that every person falls partially into several — if not all — of these four groups.

However, most will fall primarily into one or two. Which type you are is believed to decide the type of person you will be compatible with.

For example, those predominantly falling into the categories of builders and explorers tend to fall for others who predominantly fall into the very same group. Directors and negotiators, on the other hand, have a tendency to fall for each other instead of falling with individuals within the same type.

This is important to note because understanding why you feel the way you do, and why you choose the lovers you do, can not only help you understand yourself, but also help you understand the person you are looking for.

In a world where there are too many options and not enough time to sample, being efficient with learning who you are and aren’t compatible with could mean the difference between a happily ever after and a solitary future.

There is plenty of research into this topic and I urge that you look into it sooner than later. You can continue believing the fairy tales that you were raised on, but from my personal experience, life never mirrors what we were taught was the “correct” way to love.

Better understanding the chemicals, functions and reasonings at work when we fall in love will help us be better at loving. Romantic love is great, but because it relies on chemicals, it fluctuates and can even fade entirely.

Understand how romantic love works and how to differentiate it from love itself, and your chances of finding and keeping the person of your dreams increases two-fold.


It’s SO Not a Race to the Top #Education


It’s (Not) a Race to the Top

by Nick Romeo as featured in The Atlantic

What the Slow Food movement can teach the United States about education reform

In 1986, an Italian activist organized a rally to oppose the opening of a McDonald’s at the foot of Rome’s Spanish Steps. Protesters snacked on bowls of penne to show support for local culinary traditions and resistance to industrial food production. A McDonalds location did end up opening there, but the demonstration wasn’t futile: It helped launch the Slow Food movement, which now has spread to cities across the globe.

Slow Food often evokes the imagery of European luxury: lingering multicourse meals in quaint Tuscan towns, regionally specific dishes cooked by a charming third-generation chef, everything washed down with a delicious local wine. But the movement is not just an elite exercise in gastronomic hedonism; it’s also about promoting urban gardens, home-cooked meals, and farmers’ markets so that people of all economic means can enjoy Slow Food.

Slow Food suggests some intriguing ideas for reforming American education. Like food production, American education faces a matrix of connected problems. Teachers and pundits regularly complain about rampant standardized testing, excessive homework loads, the reflexive pursuit of prestige by students and parents, and declining performance on international tests.

Education reformers need a movement that treats these various problems as different symptoms of a single underlying pathology, and Slow Food is an instructive example. So what would a Slow School movement mean?

Slow Food represents a cluster of beliefs about what and how we should eat. These include supporting local and organic food, growing our own ingredients, savoring meals in communal settings, opposing the spread of industrial slaughterhouses and pesticide-drenched crops, and rejecting gratuitous chemical additives. But the movement doesn’t boil down to a single policy goal or life practice. Many interrelated problems plague our current system of growing and consuming food, and the movement takes a holistic approach to solving them.

It’s hyperbolic—and sort of creepy—to say that students are directly analogous to animals packed into crowded feedlots and pumped with hormones before their slaughter. But the analogy works on some levels: Just as factories aim to maximize profit, schools seek to boost test scores. In both cases, shortcuts are irresistible. Animals are injected with growth hormones, and students are taught quick tricks to answer test questions they don’t fully understand.

In her recent book, Building a Better Teacher, Elizabeth Green describes precisely this phenomenon. She writes about teachers who feel that pressure to produce high scores on state math tests undermines effective instruction. Cows fed corn instead of grass may grow more quickly, but their health suffers. Students taught quick mnemonic tricks may answer a multiple-choice question correctly, but that doesn’t mean they understand the math. Many companies track the cost of transforming raw materials into finished products (like corn to beef), and many school districts use a system borrowed from industrial economists to assess the cost of increasing student test scores. These industrial methods helped to create a perverse system defined by a single objective: to raise test scores.

But how teachers raise scores matters—not all methods of solving a problem are equally valid. Students allowed to struggle slowly with difficult problems ultimately do better on harder tests. In her book, Green describes Japan’s approach to education, which involves having elementary students spend entire class periods working slowly through a single problem rather than cranking through dozens of repetitions without understanding any profoundly. Slow School would emphasize process over results. Food raised in humane and ecologically responsible ways tends to taste better, but this isn’t the only reason to follow these practices. There’s something intrinsically valuable about increasing the quality of life for animals and protecting the environment. Students given the chance to slow down tend to perform better, but their experience also matters. And cramming specious shortcuts to prepare for tests that determine the salaries of teachers is not enjoyable.

We need to let students experience the pleasure and wonder of learning. Teachers can’t afford to ignore test results any more than farmers can profits, but it’s worth rewarding them for the process—not just the results. This means prying open classrooms and evaluating teachers throughout the process of instruction. Are they helping students enjoy the process of learning? Are they sufficiently focused on deeper comprehension? Are they discouraging the petty pursuit of prestige?

Letting cows wander around and munch on grass might be less efficient than injecting them with growth hormones and feeding them corn, but it’s part of a humane and ecologically sustainable system. The increased pleasure experienced by kids who are allowed to get distracted, take breaks, pursue digressions, and learn at natural rates is also worth a decrease in efficiency.

Slow School would move away from standardized tests and one-size-fits-all curricula. Slowing down allows teachers to modify content in a way that makes students more engaged and happier. And just as it’s more sustainable to buy food grown close to home, it’s also worthwhile to support neighborhood schools. Putting time and money into local school systems ultimately improves their quality and creates a positive feedback loop.

A Slow School movement would embrace many of the excellent ideas that school reformers have been proposing for decades: de-emphasizing standardized tests, focusing on student happiness, individualizing instruction, and halting the flight of students from their own neighborhood schools. But considering all of these changes as remedies for a single broader problem helps remind us that no single solution will be entirely effective. Slow Food is compelling because it provides a cluster of answers to a series of flaws. Slow School could do the same thing.