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MARTIANS: 3 Facts About Mars That Might Surprise You

MARTIANS: 3 Facts About Mars That Might Surprise You

Mars has always been an object of fascination. It is the planet that we Earthlings feel we are most likely to visit and colonize. It has many appealing features – it doesn’t have the choking atmosphere of Venus, and the other plants are completely unsuitable due to their structure or distance from the Sun. For a long time, astronomers were of the opinion that Mars was inhabited. The most recent evidence indicates otherwise, but the Red Planet continues to fascinate us. In this article, we will discuss three of the least-known but most interesting facts about Mars. By no means is this list exhaustive, but it should inspire you to learn more, just as Mars does.

1. Mars has incredibly dangerous weather

Most people know that Mars is a desolate planet composed of red deserts. Mars also has a very thin atmosphere — about one percent the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere. You might expect that this leads to weaker weather, but the opposite is true. The weather on Mars is actually much more dangerous than on Earth. Frequently, gigantic dust storms wrack the entire planet. These are extremely destructive and combine high winds and strong lighting strikes. If there was any life on Mars, then the storms would inflict enormous damage on it.

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2. Life is an open question

While no scientific evidence has yet been found of life in Mars, that does not mean life is not a possibility. We can certainly rule out any kind of developed civilization, but the recent discovery of liquid, flowing water on Mars during part of the year raises tantalizing questions. Could there be bacteria in or near that water? It is true that life is capable of surviving in extreme conditions, so it will take much more testing to to see if there really us life on Mars. On the one hand, the conditions make in virtually impossible for anything larger than microscopic organisms to survive. On the other hand, we have found microscopic life in the most extreme climates of Earth. One of the biggest concerns is contamination- microscopic life from Earth could hitch a ride on a probe or spacecraft to Mars, spreading foreign life on the Red Planet’s surface.

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3. A difficult journey

Getting to Mars is very hard. First of all, a manned mission to Mars would require an enormous amount of resources and support, which adds considerably to the difficulty of designing and planning a Mars trip. It takes anywhere from 150 days to 300 days to reach Mars under good conditions. That is a lot of food, water, and air. Some space agencies are attempting to research artificial hibernation as a way to cryogenically freeze astronauts so they need less resources, but this is theoretical. There is also stronger radiation in space outside of a planet’s magnetic sphere, such as the area between Mars and Earth. So a manned trip would need a lot of shielding. There is also little to no research about how a human or humans would fare on a mental level if they are cooped up in a tiny spaceship for nearly a year with no possibility of help. That’s not to mention the fact that while many space missions have tried to reach Mars with probes and unmanned craft, only NASA has succeeded in landing on Mars and not all of its deployments were successful. Even landing satellite communication technology or VSAT equipment has proved to be difficult. So landing humans safely would be a problem with significant risks.

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These three facts constitute cutting-edge scientific research about Mars and its environment. The bottom line is that while there is no advanced life on Mars, it still holds fascinating secrets and an irresistible attraction for humans. Landing a manned mission on Mars might seem far-fetched right now, but so was the Moon landing at one point. Even unmanned missions send back more and more data each time, so there is scientific value in exploring Mars, even if it is only remotely. While Mars has a certain romantic attraction, it is highly unlikely that anyone living today will have the chance to walk on Mars. That said, the Red Planet will remain one of the most important sources of inspiration for Earthlings who want to explore the universe as deeply and broadly as possible.

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Paisley Hansen

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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