Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Opiate of the Masses & The Two Minute Mind

"It is therefore possible to manipulate the nervous system of asubject by pulsing images displayed on a nearby computer monitor orTV set. For the latter, the image pulsing may be imbedded in theprogram material, or it may be overlaid by modulating a videostream, either as an RF signal or as a video signal." -- US Patent and TradeOffice, Patent #6,506,148, 2/14/03

When television sets moved into homes across America in the 1950's, families were dazzled by the dawn of a new form of entertainment that would become one of the most popular past time activities in America. Entire generations have now grown up with it, watching on average 4 hours and 35 minutes a day. Some households have more Television sets than people.

What effect, if any, does Television have on us?

While there is considerable debate on the content of television programs, the focus here will be on the physiological and developmental effects of television on human beings. However, one recent story is worth mentioning regarding the Pavlovian conditioning of young children through Television and advertisement.

As the Associated Press reports, "Anything made by McDonald's tastes better, preschoolers said in astudy that powerfully demonstrates how advertising can trick thetaste buds of young children. Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches. The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald's foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test."

Parents have found television to be a convenient babysitter, while "Baby TV " has emerged as a form of "education" for very young children. Is this a good idea? Jane Healy, an educational psychologist, has warned parents on the negative effects of Television on their children's development.

Healy denounces the television as a good educator, while holding up the traditional and natural mode of human interaction between children and their parents as the absolute best way to aid in development. Healy writes in the American Academy of Pediatrics magazine, "Neuroscientists have shown that environmental experiences significantly shape the developing brain because of the plasticity of its neuronal connectivity.

Thus, repeated exposure to any stimulus in a child's environment may forcibly impact mental and emotional growth, either by setting up particular circuitry ("habits of mind") or by depriving the brain of other experiences.

While appropriate stimuli - close interaction with loving caregivers; an enriched, interactive, human language environment; engrossing hands-on play opportunities; and age-appropriate academic stimulation - enhance the brain's development, environments that encourage intellectual passivity and maladaptive behavior ( e.g., impulsivity, violence), or deprive the brain of important chances to participate actively insocial relationships, creative play, reflection and complex problem-solving may have deleterious and irrevocable consequences.

In addition, trying to plunge youngsters into academic learning, when they should be personally investigating the three-dimensional world, risks by passing important aspects of development.

"Healy comments on the negative effects of television,"Too much television - particularly at ages critical for language development and manipulative play - can impinge negatively on young minds in several different ways including the following:

  • Higher levels of television viewing correlate with lowered academic performance, especially reading scores. This may be because television substitutes for reading practice, partially because the compellingly visual nature of the stimulus blocks development of left- hemisphere language circuitry. A young brain manipulated by jazzy visual effects cannot divide attention to listen carefully to language.

Moreover, the "two-minute mind" easily becomes impatient with any material requiring depth of processing. "She continues, commenting on the fast paced nature of children's programming (modeled after advertising research designed to grab theattention of the brain involuntarily) which often includes rapid zooming, panning, and sudden noise. Such experiences, states Healy, "... deprive the child of practice in using his own brain independently, as in games, hobbies, social interaction, or just "fussing around."

An article from the UK Daily Mail reiterates Healy's comments onTV's effect on development."Toddlers should be banned from watching television because it can stunt their development, literacy experts warn.

Young children become 'mesmerised' by the screen but cannot understand what they are watching and even 'educational' shows such as Teletubbies may cripple their language skills.

Speech experts believe many children get little opportunity to develop their verbal skills by interacting with adults and siblings. Now a report for the National Literacy Trust has laid bare the apparent damage that watching television can inflict. It points to evidence that preschool children who watch shows aimed at a general audience have weaker language skills. "Speech lessons are now being given to toddlers in the UnitedKingdom ".... to arrest the shocking decline in children's communication skills.

"Television has been shown to literally "re-wire" the brains of children.

Attention Deficit Disorder - the diagnosis of which has been on a steady rise - has been linked to Television viewing at a young age.

Several studies have been done on the connection betweenTelevision and attention deficit, one of which was cited by the Associated Press. "Very young children who watch television face an increased risk of attention deficit problems by school age, a study has found, suggesting that TV might overstimulate and permanently "rewire" the developing brain." "'The newborn brain develops very rapidly during the first two to three years of life. It's really being wired' during that time, Christakis said. 'We know from studies of newborn rats that if you expose them to different levels of visual stimuli ... the architecture of the brain looks very different' depending on the amount of stimulation, he said.

"Researchers involved stated that the programs that the children involved in the study watched was not highly relevant, because it is the Television - the medium itself - that is the culprit.

The hypnotic effect of TV has been employed by doctors who have begun using it as an effective means of distracting children while administering vaccines. Because of the release of endorphins while watching Television, the pain of vaccination is dampened.

The BBCreports,"Researcher Dr Carlo Bellieni said watching television might simply divert attention but it was also possible that the pleasure it generated might stimulate the release of natural pain killing hormones called endorphins. He also warned the study underlined the potentially powerful effectof television - which might not be welcome in everyday life.

"The release of endorphins while watching Television is likely one of the main reasons that it becomes so addictive, and has earned the title of the " Opiate of the Masses.

"Staring blankly at the TV Brain waves, which normally operate in the Beta state while we are awake, are drastically reduced to a level similar to sleep while watching Television. Herbert Krugman conducted a study in 1969designed to discover the effect of TV on the human brain.

In ThePerfect Machine: TV and the Nuclear Age, Joyce Nelson describes the study. What Krugman found was that the left hemisphere of the brain, the analytical, critically thinking side of the brain is tuned out while watching TV. The right hemisphere, which is the emotional, non-critical side continues to function unaltered.

Krugman concluded his study by saying that, "...the mode of response to television is more or less constant and very different from the response to print."Krugman continues, "[Television is] a communication medium that effortlessly transmits huge quantities of information not thought about at the time of exposure."

Is television your opiate? Does it function as an extension of yourbrain - or even a replacement?

Turn it off and re-discover the world around you.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Revelation 6:8 The Beasts of the Earth

...And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, AND WITH THE BEASTS OF THE EARTH.

It is interesting that it was only very recently I was pondering the part about "the beasts of the earth," and today I see this article in the headlines:
Hungry bears plague US west after record drought
by Judith Crosson Sat Sep 15, 11:03 AM ET
DENVER, United States (AFP) - They hosed the black bear with water, threw things at it and yelled, but the stubborn animal refused to move from its perch in a tree above a quiet neighborhood in Boulder, Colorado.

Pushed from their homelands by a drought and pulled by the scent of human food, black bears across western US states are breaking into homes and tearing up garbage cans in a desperate search for nourishment ahead of hibernation.

Fires across the west also destroyed bear habitat, and the animals face the continuing peril of losing their living space to urban development.

The bear in the Boulder neighborhood finally came down from the tree and fled. The animal was lucky -- it wore an ear tag, meaning a previous run in with authorities.

Authorities would have killed the bear if they had caught it, said Tyler Baskfield, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

This year is on target for approaching the 2002 record of 404 bears killed or euthanized, Baskfield said. Colorado has a population of between 8,000 and 12,000 bears.

"We had a late freeze in June which killed the acorns and berry crop. We had a very dry mid-summer and grasses in the high country dried up. That pushed the bears down into the valleys where we have people," Baskfield said.

It is a similar story in much of the western United States.

"Just everybody is seeing bears everywhere. That's the unusual part of it -- in places where they haven't been seen before," said state of Idaho Fish and Game wildlife biologist Bret Stansberry.

"It's a fairly severe drought and that's essentially the root of the problem. There is very little natural food for them to eat. They're coming into orchards, getting into apple trees," Stansberry said.

Adult male black bears, which weigh between 68 and 160 kilos (150 and 350 pounds), usually eat for up to 20 hours a day just before hibernation in November.

State wildlife agencies are constantly urge residents to use bear-proof garbage cans and make sure no food is left outdoors, with mixed results.

Chris Healy, spokesman for the state of Nevada Department of Wildlife, said bears are posing increasing problems. "We had one up a tree today near the university," he said.

Any area that has trees and shrubs resembles a bear's natural habitat, and when the bear spots a human it usually flees up a tree, Healy said.

Nevada has a small population of black bears, mostly concentrated in the Lake Tahoe region near the California border.

"In Tahoe people are not taking care of their garbage. Once the bears start breaking into houses it's a danger to humans," Healy said.

Bear attacks on people are rare, although there was a fatal attack in July when a bear dragged an 11 year-old boy out of his tent during a camping trip in the state of Utah.

Bears are causing plenty of trouble in California, said the state's Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Jason Holley.

"They can blow the door off the hinges. This time of year we're having at least three break-ins a night around Lake Tahoe," Holley said.

Eating human food such as donuts, hamburgers, or ice cream fattens the bears up and allows them to have more cubs. "We're developing an alarming trend -- ten percent are not hibernating," Holley said.

Black bears in California have not faced competition from their natural rival, the larger grizzly bear, for nearly a century. The last known grizzly in California was shot dead in 1922. California however still has a grizzly bear on its state flag.

There are about 30,000 black bears in California today, up from 12,500 bears 12 years ago, Holley said.

In Montana, a non-profit group has come up with an original way to chase bears away from camping areas.

The Wind River Bear Institute trains Karelian dogs, a species from northern Europe, to use their scent to detect bears, program biologist Russ Talmo said. "The dogs are barking, we're yelling at the bears, we use noisemakers," Talmo said. The dogs, which resemble huskies, are nimble and can herd a bear away from the area, although the dogs are always close to humans.

Friday, September 14, 2007


I recently experienced some problems with feedburner delivering my blog posts (seems to be corrected now) but even so I am offering the feedblitz option to anyone who thinks their feedburner subscription isn't working either.

Simply copy the URL (WEB ADDRESS) for this blog, then go to and paste it into the SUBSCRIBE box at the bottom of their homepage, and follow instructions. It takes about 30 seconds or less and you are subscribed. Feedblitz is delivering my posts, and they do offer tech support.