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Science
The Big Ideas in Science Explained

The Big Ideas in Science Explained

The Big Ideas in Science Explained

This BBC Science Focus Special Edition reveals the latest research in the fields of neuroscience, health, ancient life, physics and technology. IN THIS ISSUE… -What if the Big Bang wasn’t the beginning -How gene drives could eradicate disease -The truth about brain training games -The robots revealing how ancient life walked -The black hole that could prove Einstein wrong -Why scientists are growing Neanderthal brains

Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Publisher:
Immediate Media Company London Limited
Frequency:
One-off
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in this issue

1 min.
start small

Big ideas rarely pop into being fully formed, out of nowhere. More often than not, they’re gradually constructed, sometimes over very long periods of time. One small thought leads to another, connections are made, questions are posed and potential answers present themselves as an idea slowly begins to take shape. An idea that might change the way we see the world. For instance: an apple falls from a tree. It drops until it hits the ground. Why doesn’t it float away on the breeze? Perhaps there’s some sort of force that pulls the apple down towards Earth. It turns out there is, but after the apocryphal event that’s said to have inspired it, Sir Isaac Newton needed 20 years of thinking to formulate his theory of universal gravitation – a very…

21 min.
tune up your brain

Listen to the series Brain Power bbc.in/2Jr3cEZ 1. ATTENTION From broad beam to laser focused, it’s your flexible friend We’ve all experienced that irritating feeling of being distracted from the task at hand. But don’t be too hard on your butterfly mind: our brains have evolved, for good reason, to be distractible. We prize an ability to concentrate, but we need our attention to be flexible. If we focused too tightly we’d miss the creaking floorboard that signifies an intruder, or the whiff of smoke that announces fire. At tent ion has proven to be much more complicated, and weirder, than it seems. If you look closely at something – a photo of a landscape, say – you probably feel that you are noticing everything when, in fact, you’re taking in just a few…

1 min.
tune up your attention

◼ Make a chart of your life, divided into sections such as work, family, health and so on. Go over it regularly, considering whether anything needs attention in each area. If it does, mark that section until you have done it. Aim to keep the chart clear. By looking broadly at your life, you’ll be able to make sure that you’re not focusing on one area to the detriment of others. ◼ Read, watch or listen to something new every day. The unfamiliar subject matter will stimulate underused brain areas, making these brain cells easier to activate again in future, and helping to increase your overall attention. ◼ Take short breaks from tasks that need prolonged attention. When we’re doing the same thing for a long time, the brain interprets the continuous…

1 min.
tune up your learning

◼ Take notes and re-read them frequently. Repetition prevents information from being forgotten because it reignites and helps solidify the neural networks that hold memories. Try the Cornell note-taking method (lsc.cornell.edu/notes.html): 1. Record the information of a lecture as notes2. Devise exam-type questions based on your notes3. Answer your questions aloud, without consulting your notes4. Reflect on your notes and your answers5. Review your older notes regularly ◼ Revise for an exam in a room scented with something unusual then put a bit of this scent on your wrist before the exam and sniff it if you are stuck. This is particularly effective if the material has an emotional component: in a 2011 study at Utrecht University, volunteers watched an emotionally engaging film in a room smelling of cassis (a fruity smell…

1 min.
tune up your memory

Consuming lots of B vitamins (found in whole grains, seeds, nuts and beans) may help. These aid many brain functions, including neurotransmitter production. One study found that high doses of B vitamins halved the rate of brain shrinkage in people with mild memory problems. ◼ Use mnemonics such as rhymes (‘30 days has September’) and acronyms (‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’) – both tried-and-tested ways of making information more memorable. ◼ Construct a mental picture of a familiar location, such as your home, and place things that you want to recall in its rooms so that you can mentally stroll through and spot unfamiliar items – a bit like Sherlock’s ‘mind palace’. ◼ Write a to-do list each morning and consult it regularly throughout the day, to keep it fresh in…

1 min.
tune up your problem-solving

◼ Challenge yourself with increasingly complicated problems. Eventually your brain will learn to abandon the fixed-attention strategy it uses for simple problems, and start to look at problems from multiple points of view. ◼ If you’re stuck on a puzzle, shift attention elsewhere and come back to it later. This turns off the neural firing pattern that is locking the brain into an unsuccessful approach, and allows the brain to incubate the problem, casting around unconsciously for knowledge that might be useful. When you return to the puzzle, this new information is likely to be incorporated into the problem-solving attempt. ◼ Combine problem-solving with a low-level activity such as walking or jogging. This helps to reduce focused attention because you need to use some of your conscious resources on the activity you’re…