Monday, September 28, 2015

Why do We Dream?


Research of Dreaming - Oneirology

The research of dreaming is known as oneirology and is a field of inquiry which tends to span neuroscience, psychology as well as literature. The reason why one tends to dream is a mystery. However, it has not stopped scientist from researching and coming up with some great hypothesis. Science has made tremendous progress in the understanding of `dreaming’ but tend to speculate on `why do we dream’. Many theories have been explored and while some of the scientists speculate that dreaming does not have any direct function, but is a consequence of other biological processes which tend to take place during sleep. Several who study sleep and dreams are of the belief that dreaming serves a primary purpose. And theories of dreaming cover scientific disciplines from psychiatry and psychology to neurobiology. Some of the theories recommend that dreaming is –
  • A form and component of memory processing which aids in the consolidation of learning and short term memory to long term memory storage
  • Extension of waking consciousness, reflecting the experiences of waking life
  • A means by which the minds tends to work through the difficult, complicated together with unsettled thoughts, emotions and experiences, in achieving psychological as well as emotional balance.
  • The brain responds to biochemical changes as well as electrical impulses which may occur at the time one sleeps
  • A form of consciousness which combines past, present and the future in processing information from the first two and prepare for the third.
  • A protective act by the brain in preparing itself to face threats, danger and the challenges.

Dreams Susceptible to Disturbance

Similar to sleep, dreams are susceptible to disturbances from problems with the mental and the physical health and there are various conditions which could affect dreams and that would make dreams quite disturbing and difficult. Anxiety and depression often go together with nightmares and the occurrence of nightmares could be a sign of the harshness of depression. According to research, with patients with Major Depressive Disorder, the presence of regular nightmares is connected with suicidal tendencies. Those with depression or anxiety are more likely to have stressful, frightening or disturbing dreams and at times in the form of recurring dreams.

Drugs & Alcohol Affect Dreaming

Drugs and alcohol could also affect dreaming where alcohol tends to disrupt the normal, healthy sleep cycle leading to disjointed sleep. Heavy consumption of alcohol too close to bedtime could alter and diminish time spent in Rapid Eye Movement - REM sleep. Studies indicate that alcohol dependency is connected to dreams with more negative emotional content. Marijuana also tends to disrupt and reduce REM sleep and with withdrawal from marijuana and cocaine, it is said to induce strange dreams according to studies. Certain sleep disorders could be supplemented by altering dreaming. Insomnia tends to heighten dream recall, leading to more stressful as well as disturbing dreams.Dreaming is an enduring universal aspect of being human and is something which we tend to do often. Evidence recommends that dreams could assist in daytime functions as well as performances especially when they tend to relate to creativity and in solving problems. Dreams provide some insight about what could trouble us, what could be occupying our mind, our thoughts and emotions and tend to shape use and show who we are.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa

Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa

The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa – `Mound of Shards’

The catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa which means `Mound of Shards’, a historical archaeological site is situated in Alexandria, Egypt and considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. The name comes from heaps of broken pottery in the area and archaeologists presume that they could have been left in ancient times by the relatives who visited the tomb with food and drink with them.

Those visiting the tombs were against the idea of taking the vessels back home and would shatter them, leaving them behind in piles. Archaeologists are of the belief that the Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa started in the second century AD and was utilised to confine the dead for the next 200 years.

This was an era in the history of the city of Alexandria when there was a mixture of various cultures and there was the ancient history of the great Egyptian kingdoms of thousands of years back. In 332 B.C. Alexandria the Great who had conquered the land, established the city and began the dynasty of Greek rulers who brought in their own culture to the metropolis. Eventually, in 31 B.C. the Romans gain control of the city and added their traditions.

Paris of Antiquity

All this made Alexandria which was the capital of Egypt by that time into what according to some was known as `The Paris of antiquity’. The elements of all three great cultures were combined by the people and though much of this seems to have disappeared from modern Alexandria, deep in Kom el Shoqafa catacombs, the intellectual blend of those times seems to be still apparent.The catacombs does not seem to be the only ones constructed in ancient Alexandria and such structures were part of a Necropolis – city of the dead which were perhaps constructed towards the western area of the town.

 Rest of the Necropolis, were probably destroyed over the centuries by new construction or earthquakes. Archaeologists presume that Kom el Shoqafa initially began as a tomb for a single wealthy family though expanded into a bigger burial site for reasons unknown. Probably the facility was ultimately run by a corporation which was maintained by members who could have paid regular dues.

Funeral Hall – `Triclinium’

In ancient times on the surface above the catacombs there was perhaps a large funerary chapel and from the remains of this structure is an 18 ft. wide, round shaft that descends into the underground structure. Running around the exterior of the shaft though separated by a wall is a spiral staircase having windows into the shaft enabling light coming in from the surface which illuminates the stairs.

It is probable that the shaft was used in lowering down the bodies of the deceased to the deeper levels through a rope and pulley system instead of being carried down the steps. There were seats caved into the stone where visitors could rest at the intersection of the uppermost undergrounds level and the stairs.

From here a small passage leads to the rotunda room that overlooks a round shaft and continues down to the lower level. Towards the left of the rotunda room is the funeral hall known as the `Triclinium’ and it is here that the relatives participate for annual ceremonial feast in honour of the dead.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Lost Tunnels Buried Deep Beneath the UK


Huge Network of 200 Years Old Tunnels – Beneath Liverpool Street

A huge network of about 200 year old tunnels lies below the Liverpool’s street with no information of its purpose of being there. From all the engineering projects that have been taken place in the industrial centre of Liverpool, like the world’s first steam powered passenger railway, the building of Williamson Tunnels in the early 19th century is the most mysterious.

Joseph Williamson, the patron of the tunnels, a tobacco merchant had been very secretive regarding its purpose and till date no one is sure for what purpose it had been used. Moreover, no one is aware of how many of these tunnels are scattered underfoot below the Edge Hill district of Liverpool in northwest England.

For centuries, the tunnels remained buried and were filled in after locals complained of smell which the caverns could have been used as underground landfills and stuffed with everything from household junk to human waste. An early member of the Friends of Williamson Tunnels – FoWT informed that lot of people had known about the tunnels but it was as far as it went and was left at that. But now they had decided to look for them.

Chambers With Unexpected Depth

In 2001, one summer, Coe together with small group of investigators broke into a suspected tunnel in the Paddington area of Edge Hill and with the help of a digger, make a small hole in the roof of what seemed to be an old cellar, which was the upper level of one of the systems of the tunnel. Coe and a few others carefully went in with the help of a harness.

The chambers seemed to be piled with rubbles so high that walking upright was impossible. However, the explorers were excited when they came across an opening, recalls Coe.There were three different sites in the area that provided access to various sections of the tunnels and excavating them was a difficult task. For the past 15 years, various volunteers dung up twice a week removing more than 120skips of waste material and revealed cellar systems which had been forgotten and some cases of multiple levels of tunnels, some having stone steps leading to deeper caverns.

 Besides these, there are also some debris filled passages splitting off in odd directions and it is not clear how far they are extended or where they eventually lead.One of the regular excavators, Tom Stapledone, a retired television engineer and shopkeeper explains how the early tests with metal rods lurched down in the coke like rubble had portrayed the unexpected depth of the chambers.

Series of Marking on Sandstone – Indicative of Quarrying

He informed that they put a 10ft rod in and did not hit the bottom. Thereafter they put a 15 ft. rod down and yet did not hit the bottom. A 20ft rod eventually hit the solid floor at 19 ft. down.The excavation work was not an easy task. Besides the manpower, the volunteers had to get special permission from the council in order to dig in any new direction and at times it was not granted for safety reasons Stapled on however, was keen on one blocked up tunnel which ran under a street.

 The team suspected that it could lead to other system of underground chambers which are yet to be discovered. As they progressed with their excavation, the volunteers systematically documented any artefact they found. They have so far uncovered ink wells which were once used by school children, bottles which held everything from beer to poison, ceramics from Liverpool’s Royal Infirmary, jam jars, oyster shells, chamber pots, animal bone and various clay pipes.

Besides these, they also found a tapestry of household bric-a-brac which relates the social history of Liverpool of the last two centuries which no other collection can tell.Those who had helped in the excavation of the tunnels have now developed a new and a more or less a more satisfying theory. Bridson informs that a series of markings in the sandstone which according to him could be indicative of quarrying.

Arches – 200 Years Old Continue to be Solid

There are also channels to drain rainwater away from the rock while the men worked, blocks of sandstone which could be known with various niched in the walls where the rigs were one probably installed to help the extraction of stone, used as a building material. Bridson is of the belief that prior to Williamson coming along; these pits in the ground seem to have existed already.

 However, it was Williamson’s idea to develop arches over them and seal them in. Properties could thereafter be built over the reclaimed land which would otherwise be practically valueless. Williamson was much ahead of his time in the case of land reclamation according to Bridson. The work could have quickened the development of the area which without the improvement would have remained unused for years.

Williamson moreover was enterprising in his design and by filling the trenches in would have taken much longer in the early1800s, due to the limitation of transport. Hence he used arches instead and as Bridson observed, he was doing it years before the great railway tunnels and bridges of England were built. He informs that the arches still stand 200 years on with practically no maintenance and apart from the ones that have been ruined; they continue to be solid as the day they were built. Hence Williamson must be aware of what he is doing.

HSC English Tutoring Online

Ecriture – French Word for Writing

Ecriture is referred to writing as a social formation and anarrangement of connected text. It is the French word for writing. Writing plays a very important role in the life of an individual which can be expressed both socially and politically. It is helpful in communicating effectively by expression of words and ideas which would make sense to the reader. At Ecriture, enrolment for small group classes for Year 9 and Year 10 English is offered, which is hosted by Dr Niven Kumar.

The study is focused in the preparation for students to move towards senior English studies wherein they will be taught by Dr Kumar on essay writing as well as creative writing skills together with strategies for effective analysis and interpretations of texts. Those interested in taking advantage of English tutor could get in touch and enrol at the earliest, since the seat are limited, comprising of only 5 students per class to provide individual attention to the student and feedback.Students could take the advantage of the provision of IB English tutor Sydney area and around Australia which are available in the option of a class as well as online.

Year 9 & Year 10 HSC English Tutoring Online Sessions

For additional information with regards to the details, viewers could download the brochure and obtain all the essential information. With the small class size, students tend to get the opportunity of coordinating through their prescribed school texts and obtain guidance with regards to structure as well as ideas, related toany school assessment assignments. For Year 9 and 10, ecriture offers HSC English tutoring online sessions as well as organises HSC English tutors in Sydney. Students could get in touch with them for more details and for enrolment purpose.

For NSW Higher School Certificate, English is one of the compulsory subjects wherein the portion is segregated into various levels. Standard and Advanced,each comprise of 2 units of study as well as Extension 1 and 2 with 1 unit each. Advanced is considered as a prerequisite for the study of Extension 1 and the two subjects are a prerequisite for Extension 2.

Australian students who have been residing there for 5 years or less, on reaching Year 12, are considered to be eligible for the ESL course which organizes 2 units of study. Should the student need a HSC English tutor in Sydney or any other area, they could get in touch with them for any help or support.

Their multimedia e-resources are considered to offer support for school English studies with an on flowing resource and hence students could check from time to time for updated information which could be helpful to them. List of face-to-face sessions are also made available and are listed at the site for the benefit of the viewer.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Cock Tail Party Problem

Cocktail-Party Problem – Brain Moulded to Track/Ignore Sound


Researchers studying the ill-famed `cocktail party problem’ found that the brain waves are moulded to enable the brain in tracking the sound it tends to be interested in, while at the same time ignore, competing sounds. This discovery could be helpful in aiding people with hearing issues or focusing on sounds linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD, autism and aging, according to reports by researchers in the March 6 journal Neuron.

The cocktail party effect is the ability to concentrate on one’s listening capabilities on a single talker amidst a dissonance of conversations as well as background sound. This specialized ability in listening could be due to the characteristics of the human speech production system, the auditory system or the high level of perceptual as well as language processing.

The cocktail party effect could be analysed as two connected though different problem. The main problem of interest is conventionally that of recognition on how humans tend to segregate speech sounds and the possibility to build a machine to perform the task. What may prompt the signs in unravelling one voice from other conversations and the noise in the background? Should the machine utilise the same signs for the task or could it utilise other acoustical evidence which human may not be efficient in detecting?

Human – Unable to Close Minds to Sounds

The reverse problem is the synthesis of indications which could be utilised in improving listeners’ capabilities of separating one voice from the other in interactive speech method. In user interface, presenting various digitized speech recordings at the same time could be needed.

This would provide browsing abilities while avoiding the block characteristic in speech communication due to the nature of audio. A new study has shown that human do not have the means of closing their minds to sounds and hence the brain tends to hear whatever reaches the ears of the person.

According to Charles Schroeder, senior author and a neuroscientist at Columbia University, has commented in a statement that `they have provided the first clear evidence that there may be brain locations in which there is exclusive representation of an attended speech segment with ignored conversations seemingly filtered out’

Brain Activity – Study of Epilepsy Patient

The researchers recorded the brain activity in the study of epilepsy patient who had gone through surgery as they listened to natural spoken sentences. They showed the patients two videos alongside, of people talking and informed them to pay attention to one of the speakers in order to find out how the brain ignored or focused on different sounds.

The brain’s auditory cortex that processes the incoming sound indications represented the brain activity of the speech being attended to as well as that which was ignored; however, the attended speech had stronger impact. Results showed that in greater level processing areas accountable for things like attention control and language, the attended speech only had an obvious, clear representation.

This representation turned out to be more refined as a sentence progressed, indicating as the cocktail-party conversation continues, the brain tends to focus more and more on those sentences only and ignore the rest. Schroeder informs that the earlier studies of the cocktail party problem utilised basic, unnatural sounds like beeps or brief phrases, while this study made use of natural speech.

Researchers had informed that the ability to study widespread patterns of brain activity in surgical epilepsy patients, offers link between work on a brain activity map in animals and exclusively human capabilities such as language and music.