SCIENCE: The Chemistry of Addiction - a video by SciShow

Scientists say we are experiencing something of a Golden Age with regards to brain research. The human brain is arguably the most advanced piece of technology in the known universe, and better understanding it is the most exciting step towards better understanding who we are.

The Chemistry of Addiction is a well-presented video brought to us by SciShow – a channel that is quite addictive itself. This particular video about the human brain and brain chemistry offers great insight into why we behave the way we do.

The Chemistry of Addiction

I'm sure the above video is rewarding enough, but I provide a summary below just to reinforce my own understanding of The Chemistry of Addiction. I have also written similar articles such as I drink therefore I am and Web Addiction 2.0 if you're interested in brain chemistry, pharmacology and addiction in general.

The Chemistry of Addiction: A Summary

Learning what chemicals make us feel good (in terms of their affects on the human brain) has essentially lead us to inventing addiction. Eating, sex, gambling, smoking, drinking and even the Internet are all examples of behaviours that can become hugely addictive.

There are over 100 neurotransmitters in our brains that respond to new information by releasing chemicals. These are often in response to how we feel in particular situations. If a particular situation or behaviour is key to our survival (loosely speaking), our brain is likely to reinforce this by releasing 'feel good' chemicals or hormones so that we will repeat certain behaviours in the future.

Getting high on dopamine

Dopamine is the most powerful excitory neurotransmitter that is released whenever our brain believes that we should take strong note of our current behaviour in order to remember it. Eating, sexing and running away from danger are examples of dopamine-releasing situations. However, dopamine is also primarily what drives addiction.

Chasing 'artificial highs' via excessive substance use or excessive pornography viewing for example, may fool our brains into releasing excess amounts of dopamine; however, it will become desensitised over time as it continuously tries to restore balance. The result is that more of a particular substance or behaviour is required in order to feel the same effects recorded to memory from first use.

Why smoking is so addictive

Nicotine has the effect of releasing large amounts of dopamine in our brains. However, in order to leverage this effect, our brains also release a chemical (glutamate) which plays an important role in memory formation. This has the addictive effect of telling our brains to remember that smoking makes us 'feel good' and reinforces the habit.

The effect of alcohol on our brains

Alcohol interferes with the neurotransmitters that allow our bodies and brains to function as one. More alcohol results in slower communication between neurons, which is why we slur, crab-walk and often speak without thinking when we've had too much to drink.

There is a separate SciShow video dedicated to bath salts, which apparently contain an artificial stimulant that combines the effect of both cocaine and meth simultaneously! So think twice before you buy bath salts for your loved one this Christmas!

SciShow - The Chemistry of Addiction

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ART: Amazing wood chip artwork by Sergei Bobkov

“It’s not very interesting to do what others can. To create something out of nothing in a completely new way is far more inspiring” - Sergei Bobkov

Sergei Bobkov (55 this year) is an artist who possess a unique technique of creating amazingly lifelike animal sculptures out of Siberian cedar wood chips. Sergei focuses on wildlife creatures and studies their anatomy for months before starting work on his amazing animal sculptures.

Sergei Bobkov Artwork from Wood

Sergei says many people compare his artwork to taxidermy, because most of his artwork looks so much like the animals they replicate. Sergei, however, believes they are as different as light and dark. While taxidermy is all about death, his wood chip art symbolises life.

Sergei Bobkov wooden animal sculptures

Sergei Bobkov is a resident of Kozhany, Russia, where he has developed his very own technique that prevents wood chips from falling apart over time. After creating about 100-150 chips from 2-3 inch long cedar branches, Sergei soaks them in water for several days. Thereafter, Bobkov carves the wood chips into any shape he needs with surgical precision.

Sergei Bobkov Wood Chip Artwork

Sergei has been crafting his amazing wood chip animal sculptures for some time now, but admits that the work really is tedious. Just one of his incredible wooden animal sculptures takes around 6 months to complete. That's not to mentioned that he works at a rate of 10-12 hours a day with no days off. Now that's dedication.

More wood chip animal sculptures by Sergei Bobkov

- uncredited photos by Reuters via Daylife

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The Most Astounding Fact - Globular Cluster (image: hubblesite.org)

VIDEO: The most astounding fact about the Universe

If there is one thing we all want in life, it is to feel connected. We want to feel relevant. We want to feel like participants in the goings on of activities and events around us. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive...

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist and science communicator who is currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Neil deGrasse is also a research associate in the department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History.

Neil deGrasse Tyson has hosted the educational science television show called NOVA scienceNOW and has been a frequent guest on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Jeopardy!. In 2011 it was announced that Tyson will be hosting a new sequel to Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

During an interview with a TIME magazine journalist, Neil deGrasse Tyson was asked what the most astounding fact about the universe was. His response was so well put that a freelance videographer (MaxSchlick) has created a video using spectacular footage from NASA and various other sources.

The video clip “The Most Astounding Fact” is both emotionally moving and hugely insightful. Neil deGrasse Tyson has a knack for explaining cosmological events with such passion and simplicity.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: The Most Astounding Fact

As quoted from the video link, Neil goes on to say: "For me, that is the most profound revelation of 20th century astrophysics and I look forward to what the 21st century will bring us, given the frontiers that are now unfolding." One of my favourite quotations is from Neil deGrasse Tyson, which goes as follows:

"We are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically" ~ Neil Degrasse Tyson

If you are interested in cosmology, quantum physics and more about how our Universe works, here is some interesting reading:

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HAPPY FRIDAY: Getting naked in the name of Art

The human body contains every shape found in nature. Some of these shapes may be our internal squishy bits, but the human form has always been of fascination to the art world. Think of all those naked Greek sculptures depicting the human form in all its biological glory. It's also a great excuse to get people naked in the name of art.

The following naked pictures are credited to the IRP Group and illustrate just how many shapes can be achieved using cloned, nude humans. More of their work can be found at Visual Art by the Human Body.

Naked Human Art

Naked Human Art - Human Rose

Human Rose

Naked Human Art - Human Dandelion

Human Dandelion

Naked Human Art - Human Leaf

Human Leaf

Human Flower

Human Flower

Naked Human Art - Human Frond

Human Frond

Human Blossom

Human Blossom

Naked Human Art - Human Peppers

Human Peppers

Naked Human Art - Human Flowers

Human Flowers

Naked Human Art - Human Pollination

Human Pollination

Human Peacock

Human Peacock

It's quite easy to understand why the human body has been such a centerpiece throughout history and the art world after seeing these images. The video linked to below is another illustration of just how arty we can get with our bods.

Related Art: Human Shapes Video

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BRAIN JUICE: Interesting Facts About Salt and Water

Simple table salt has a great number of uses other than simply seasoning your food. The following list will give you 50 uses of and facts about salt, many of which you probably didn't realise. I can't verify that all of these are 100% true so best to take them with a pinch of salt.

1. Add salt to green salads to prevent wilting
2. Sprinkle salt on your shelves to keep ants away
3. Soak stained hankies in salt water before washing
4. Put a few grains of rice in your salt shaker for easier pouring
5. A tiny pinch of salt with egg whites makes them beat up fluffier
6. Rub salt on your pancake griddle and your flapjacks won't stick
7. Soak fish in salt water before descaling; the scales will come off easier
8. Soak wrinkled apples in a mildly salted water solution to perk them up
9. Test the freshness of eggs in a cup of salt water; fresh eggs sink; bad ones float.
10. Add a little salt to your boiling water when cooking eggs; a cracked egg will stay in its shell this way.

Soak your nuts in salt brine overnight and they will crack out of their shells whole. Just tap the end of the shell with a hammer to break it open easily

11. Use salt to clean your discoloured coffee pot
12. Use a mixture of salt and lemon juice to clean piano keys
13. Mix salt with turpentine to whiten your bathtub and toilet bowl
14. Soak toothbrushes in salt water before first use; they will last longer
15. Boil clothespins in salt water before using them. They will last longer
16. Clean your iron by rubbing some salt on the damp cloth on the ironing surface.
Interesting Facts About Salt17. Pour a mound of salt on an ink spot on your carpet; let the salt soak up the stain.
18. Add a little salt to the water in which your cut flowers will stand and they will last longer.
19. Clean brass, copper and pewter with paste made of salt and vinegar, thickened with flour.
20. Adding a little salt to water when cooking foods in a double boiler will make the food cook faster.

To fill plaster holes in your walls, use equal parts of salt and starch, with just enough water to make a stiff putty

21. Use salt for killing weeds in your lawn
22. Rinse a sore eye with a little salt water
23. A dash of salt enhances the taste of tea
24. Salt improves the taste of cooking apples
25. Eliminate excess suds with a sprinkle of salt
26. A dash of salt in warm milk makes a more relaxing beverage
27. Before using new glasses, soak them in warm salty water for awhile
28. Dry salt sprinkled on your toothbrush makes a good tooth polisher
29. Mildly salted water makes an effective mouthwash. Use it hot for a sore throat gargle.

Soak your clothes line in salt water to prevent your clothes from freezing to the line; likewise, use salt in your final rinse to prevent the clothes from freezing

30. Clean greasy pans with a paper towel and salt
31. Freshen sponges by soaking them in salt water
32. Milk stays fresh longer when a little salt is added
33. Sprinkle salt in your oven before scrubbing clean
34. Gelatin sets more quickly when a dash of salt is added
35. Add raw potatoes to stews and soups that are too salty
36. Fruits put in mildly salted water after peeling will not discolour
37. Rub wicker furniture with salt water to prevent it from yellowing
38. Soaked discolored glass in a salt and vinegar solution to remove stains
39. Soak enamel pans in salt water overnight and boil salt water in them next day to remove burned-on stains.

If a pie bubbles over in your oven, put a handful of salt on top of the spilled juice. The mess won't smell and will bake into a dry, light crust which will wipe off easily when the oven has cooled

40. Salty water boils faster
41. A dash of salt improves the taste of coffee
42. A pinch of salt improves the flavor of cocoa
43. Sprinkle salt in milk-scorched pans to remove odor
44. Salt and soda will sweeten the odor of your refrigerator
45. Cover wine-stained fabric with salt; rinse in cool water later
46. Sprinkle salt between bricks where you don't want grass to grow
47. Add a pinch of salt to whipping cream to make it whip more quickly
48. Mix 1 part salt to 4 parts alcohol to remove grease stains in clothing
49. Remove odors from sink drainpipes with a strong, hot solution of salt water.

Now you know everything there is to know about salt. They even made a movie about it ;)

Related Post: Cooking tips and household tricks

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