How Can We Feel When Someone Is Staring At Us?

November 14, 2015

You know that feeling you get when you’re being stared at? Out of the corner of your eye, even outside your field of vision, you can just tell someone is checking you out, sizing you up, or trying to make eye contact with you. Sometimes it almost feels like ESP, this ability to detect another person stare, because it often comes at the fringes of our awareness.


But far from being ESP, the perception originates from a system in the brain that’s devoted just to detecting where others are looking. This “gaze detection” system is especially sensitive to whether someone’s looking directly at you (for example, whether someone’s staring at you or at the clock just over your shoulder). Studies that record the activity of single brain cells find that particular cells fire when someone is staring right at you, but—amazingly—not when the observer’s gaze is averted just a few degrees to the left or right of you (then different cells fire instead).

This specialized machinery in the brain reveals just how important your gaze is when communicating with others. Where you look conveys how you feel and what your intentions are, what you like and what you don’t like, and directs attention to meaningful things in the environment. Further, making direct eye contact is the most frequent and perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we exchange with others; it’s central to intimacy, intimidation, and social influence. Learn more here.

Here’s how to get fit

November 2, 2015

Team Barlow

Motivation can be hard but we all know that exercise is important. For example …

So if you just need a quality program to get you started, here’s a discount to Team Barlow – exercise programs created by a dual Olympian and a professional trainer.

Simply head over to and use the discount code MRBARLOW to start hitting your exercise goals today.


October 31, 2015

I thought it was pretty cool when this blog got 10,000 hits. Then it got 100,000 hits and I was amazed.

And now it has crept over 2,000,000 hits – WOW!

And all that from little old me.

Thanks very much for visiting and I certainly hope you have learnt a bunch of interesting stuff, wherever in the world you may be.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

A big step towards designer humans

October 25, 2015

Gattaca is a movie that presents a vision of a future society where children are conceived through genetic manipulation to ensure they possess the very best characteristics of their parents.

Recently scientists developed a technology called CRISPR-Cas9 that allows DNA strands to be edited.

CRISPR allows scientists to edit genomes with unprecedented precision, efficiency, and flexibility. The past few years have seen a flurry of “firsts” with CRISPR, from creating monkeys with targeted mutations to preventing HIV infection in human cells.

The following clips give a glimpse into the technology we may use in a future where we, for better or worse, begin to engineer ourselves …

Learn more here or here.

Have We Detected Megastructures Built By Aliens Around A Distant Star?

October 16, 2015

It has been called the most bizarre star in our galaxy and some think it just might be home to high-tech aliens.

The unlikely suggestion that aliens live in this star system is being taken so seriously that a team of astrophysicists wants to train a radio telescope in its direction to determine if any signals could indicate advanced extraterrestrial life.

According to Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoctoral astrophysicist at Yale University, the most likely natural explanation is that light from the star is being blocked by a massive swarm of comets that has descended close to the solar mass.

Dr Wright at Penn State is about to publish an alternative explanation for the star’s light patterns. He says the patterns of light are also consistent with a “swarm of megastructures” orbiting the star, perhaps formed by enormous solar collectors.

Such energy collectors are dubbed Dyson structures, named after physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson, who suggested in 1960 that advanced civilisations would use such structures to collect massive amounts of solar energy.

A drawing of a Dyson Sphere

A drawing of a Dyson Sphere

What does that mean? It means we’re allowed to get a little bit excited! Not because aliens are a likely possibility, but because we’re in the middle of an awesome mystery the likes of which we haven’t seen before in the history of space exploration. Word is that SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute scientists are considering devoting their time to it, and hopefully more research teams will get involved too. I seriously cannot wait to see what they come up with.

Learn more here, here or here.

Water flows on Mars

September 29, 2015

Beginning in 2011, scientists using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)—the best camera looking down on Mars—found hundreds of streaks, about 5 meters wide, that appear seasonally on steep slopes. They show up during the warm season, grow hundreds of meters long, and then fade as winter approaches. For many years, the team made the obvious interpretation: the streaks meant that water was flowing. Salts were expected to be present in the water, because they lower the freezing point of water by tens of degrees, and they also make the water less likely to evaporate in Mars’s barely-there atmosphere. But until the researchers directly detected a signature for water in the streaks, or found evidence for salts precipitating out of the water, they were unwilling to declare the case solved.

Now, they have found evidence for those salts, using a different instrument on the MRO. And this suggests that water is flowing on Mars!

Salty water on Mars

Learn more, here, here, here, here, here, here or here.

Don’t sleep and you’ll catch a cold

September 2, 2015

Mums and sleep researchers alike have stressed the importance of solid shuteye for years, especially when it comes to fighting off the common cold. Their stance is a sensible one—skimping on sleep weakens the body’s natural defense system, leaving it more vulnerable to viruses. But the connection relied largely on self-reported, subjective surveys—until now. For the first time, a team of scientists reports that they have locked down the link experimentally, showing that sleep-deprived individuals are more than four times more likely to catch a cold than those who are well-rested.

Sleep boosts immunity

Learn more here.

Gamify your classroom

August 22, 2015

‘Blended’ and ‘flipped’ pedagogies are becoming more common features of classrooms as the technological revolution continues. While the appropriate use of technology in the learning environment can serve to motivate some students, significant problems surrounding student motivation and engagement can remain. As such the gamification of the learning process is increasing.

If you would like to gamify your classroom the following book give a basic overview for all teachers.

Gamifying the Classroom Cover

If you are a Science teacher you could start right away with a unit on Cells in year 8, or jump in the deep end and gamify the entire year 9 Science course using the following resources:

Yr8 Cells Gamified Cover

Yr9 SciGame Cover

Game on !!!

The physics behind this crazy basketball trick

July 18, 2015

Let’s play a little game called “What happens when you drop a basketball off the top of a 126.5-metre dam?” The answer’s pretty obvious: it’s going to fall, right? But what happens if you give it a little backspin before you let go? Well, that’s a whole different story, as you can see …

Learn more here.

Four perfect circles – really!

July 12, 2015

I really like optical illusions.

And this picture of four perfectly round circles is no exception. Our mind does like to play tricks on us!

Four circles


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