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The Nasty Effects Of Radiation

The Nasty Effects Of Radiation

Usually when we think about radiation, we think about nuclear bombs. And this is a big cause of an intense radiation. The whole of the world could be covered in a blanket of radiation if a nuclear war were to occur. But the fact is that this is not the only radiation we can be exposed to.

There are naturally occurring substances on earth that have radiating effects — that is, they shed particles that are harmful to humans. Our own sun gives off radiation that can be harmful to us if we sit too long with our skin exposed to sunlight. However, nothing on earth is more intense than the radiation given off by a fission or fusion bomb.

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What really happens when you are exposed to radiation?

An intense dose of radiation of up to 50 rem (rem is the dosage of radiation akin to one rad of X or Gamma radiation) will cause minor changes in the blood. From 50 to 200, there is some illness and tissues breakdown, and your intestines boil inside you. A dose of 200 to 1,000 rem can kill you, and the higher the dose, the faster you die. No human alive can withstand a rem measurement of 1,000. This won’t be pretty for anyone. And if you do survive a high dose of radiation, your reproductive tract and other organs are changed so much so that your children will have problems in the form of nasty birth defects.

Where can I find radiation?

Some of the everyday things you can find radioactive isotopes in can even be found in your own kitchen! There’s a form of potassium found in bananas that is radioactive, but obviously not enough not harm you. Other sources include the aforementioned radiation from the sun and isotopes found in the soil right under your feet. Radium, uranium, or plutonium can be mined from the sediments in a wide variety of locations. No one country controls the world’s deposits of Uranium 235 or Deuterium gas, which allows the world to produce weapons of mass radiation.

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When the bombs drop

The only real case study we have for widespread radiation sickness is in Japan. This is from an array of events like the bombs dropped in World War II and the Fukushima industrial leak from a power plant. This leak is not like the events at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Instead, there is a continuous leak from the plant that is endangering the ocean’s plant and wildlife.

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    The fallout from a nuclear bomb is intense, and the effects of the radiation have been felt for generations after the events. Effects caused by the leak from the power plant will be felt long term as well. This is due to the fact that the leak continued for so long. Now, locals can’t eat many of the fish found near the area of the event. These fish may have more than two eyes or an extra fin by now, since fish reproduce rapidly.

    If a war did happen…

    In the event of a hypothetical nuclear war, certain steps could be taken to protect us from the radiation. Potassium Iodide can be taken to shield the body from the effects of radiation. Some organizations or countries have already given the pills to their people in the event of power plant failures or bombs. If you work in a nuclear power plant, you may be familiar with this substance as well as others that can treat or prevent the effects of radiation sickness.

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    The video game company Bethesda, along with others, created the Fallout video game series that places you in a post-apocalyptic world where bombs have already been dropped all around the world. Life goes on, but in an entirely different fashion. The keys to survival in reality may be hiding underground, but not all of us have the privilege of having underground bunkers and stores of food for a long nuclear winter. If one were to survive the initial blasts, you might find yourself fighting for survival like in the Fallout games — let’s hope this never happens.

    Featured photo credit: uıɐɾ ʞ ʇɐɯɐs via flickr.com

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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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