Have you ever tried to eat ten ice creams in a row? Too much of a good thing can make you sick. Excessive amount of vitamins creates an adverse reaction in the body. Too much sun is bad for your skin. If you eat too many strawberries, it’s bad for your stomach. It’s exactly the same with smart devices. They simplify our lives and provide us with data really quickly… all the while taking over our mind for exchange.
So, what’s the problem? Well, our brains like new input. Novelty is an important learning signal for the brain, because when an organism faces something the brain couldn’t foresee (something new!), it’s time to update brain’s model of the world. The brain has a trick to make sure learning new stuff works efficiently: novel input automatically leads to a pleasure sensation. This pleasure signal enhances learning and hence ensures that the novel aspect of the world is memorized. Smart devices offer plenty of novelty so they bring lots of pleasure, too. Each move of thumb on the smart device brings new input to the screen and hence causes small pleasure signals in your brain. The trouble is that in the brain pleasure always brings the risk of addiction.
Although smart devices bring us pleasure, too much of anything is not good for you. Photo credit: Hamza Butt / http://bit.ly/2t8l7DR
In the Department of Botany, there are two very sweet days every year. On those days, researchers and students drive to a meadow near Ahja River, bringing 250 kilograms of sugar with them, and spread it to the soil following a specific methodology. They have been doing it for 15 years already as part of one of the longest running plant experiments in Estonia, to study the effect of soil fertility on plant growth and biodiversity.
Every year, about 50 buckets (500 kg) of sugar is added to the meadow. Photo credit: Riin Tamme
15 Years and 8 Tons of Sugar
Just imagine – during the last 15 years nearly 8 tonnes of sugar have been added to the meadow. It might seem wasteful but the scientists of the Department of Botany have a good reason for using sugar in a plant experiment. Since sugar is a carbon compound it can be used to change soil fertility, and study its impact on plant diversity.
When plant diversity decreases – something that is happening right now worldwide – it damages the whole ecosystem: biochemical cycles, other living organisms and humans as well. In order to conserve or restore plant diversity, scientists have developed ways to study how environmental factors affect plant diversity. One of those research methods involves changing soil fertility by adding a source of carbon or fertilizer to the soil.
Posted in Estonia, Natural and exact sciences, Research
Tagged botany, carbon, diet, ecosystems, meadow, plant diversity, plant experiment, plants, soil fertility, sugar
Why do we shake hands with other people when we meet? What is the origin of the knowledge that you have to finish your plate? Why do we take off our shoes when entering a living room, although putting them back on and tying the laces is really tedious and wastes our precious time? What is the origin of all the deeply rooted gestures, bodily movements, and customs we follow every day?
Art Leete, Professor of Ethnology at the University of Tartu, explains that no one really knows where some customs have come from: “This is the beauty of culture. Only tentative opinions exist about influences. People don’t make decisions about changing their customs at meetings. These things have just developed to be the way they are.”
From Knights to Politeness
In the Medieval Period and even a little later, politeness was a quality that was attributed solely to knights, as they constituted the higher social class. Many customs that are essential to modern etiquette come from the everyday life of the knights. For example, shaking hands while greeting someone, as well as tipping one’s hat, are thought to be from these old times. Showing a hand without a weapon or raising the visor of one’s armor were signs that the person came in peace, without aggressive intentions.
In the Middle Ages, showing a hand without a weapon meant you did not come with aggressive intentions. Photo credit: Chris-Håvard Berge / Flickr Creative Commons