From the BBC – Many animals can navigate by sensing the earth’s magnetic field. Not humans, though. But might we have evolved the sense but forgotten how to access it? 40 years ago a British zoologist thought he had demonstrated a homing ability in humans. But his results failed to replicate in America and the research was largely discredited. But new evidence suggests that our brains can in fact detect changes in the magnetic field and may even be able to use it to navigate. Jolyon Jenkins investigates, and talks to a Pacific traditional seafarer who has learned to navigate vast distances across the ocean with no instruments, and who describes how, when all else fails, he has been able to access what he calls “the magic”. Is the magic still there for all of us, just waiting to be rediscovered?
Very interesting radio show, particularly for any outdoor educators. It explores animal and human ability to sense direction and evidence of magnetic sensitivity in the brains of animals and whether it is present in humans. Our brain can sense magnetic fields but this is reduced by radio signals. Whether this sensitivity allows some people to sense north is not yet proven. But anecdotal evidence suggests that they are but only in times of physical stress, ie when the cognitive function is compromised by fatigue or stress. This could be interesting to people doing extreme sports, or undergoing rigorous activity needing a sense of direction ie lost on an expedition. It also confirms that when lost we walk in circles.
An interesting article using interactive maps showing how the landscape has changed over time. See here.
And two other good online map sites worth looking at are the UK Government Magic Maps, which can overlay all sorts of environment-related information and a National Library of Scotland site which lets you look at land with maps from two different times with a sort of spyglass effect.
Interesting programme suggests that our sense of identity and our memories are linked to a sense of place and connect the capacity to tell stories about ourselves at a physiological level through the hippocampus. If we learn to know where we are in space by using a map (as opposed to sat-nav) we have develop better of agency. We know where we are in life. The hippocampus is kept healthy by novelty and shrinks when we let our life become routine, or get too much screen time. Experiential learning (ie making mistakes and learning from them..) slows down alzheimers. Exploring and getting lost, keeps us healthy.
From the BBC Radio 4
Who uses paper maps to get around anymore? Smart phone apps have taken a lot of the stress out of navigation. But at what cost?
In a trip across London, Timandra Harkness teams ups with London cabby Robert Lorden to scrutinise a technology that we now take for granted. How is sat nav changing our brains? Does it affect the way we think?
London taxi drivers are excellent navigators, having to memorise thousands of street names and mentally visualise hundreds of journeys. This impressive cognitive map is evident on an MRI scan – an enlarged part of the brain called the hippocampus.
But for the rest of us, Timandra discovers, scientists are finding that an underactive hippocampus could have wider implications for our health and well-being – particularly in child development, mental health and dementia.
While taking turn-by-turn instructions from a GPS device, we could be losing a vital sixth sense that we do not, as yet, fully understand.
Contributors include Prof Hugo Spiers, director of the Spatial Cognition Laboratory at University College London; Maura O’Connor, author of Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World; Prof Veronique Bohbot, cognitive neuroscientist at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
Producer: Dom Byrne
A Greenpoint production for BBC Radio 4
A good article which gives a number of practical ways of perceiving the world that help you see the world in a way that leads in to drawing and painting.
Painting and drawing doesn’t copy the world on to a canvas. It makes you look at the world in a way that lets you create an image that can be called art.
It seems kind of obvious but, particularly if you are new to drawing and painting, you get trapped in thinking like a photocopier.
Why are we so imaginative? What possible use is there in passing through the looking-glass with Alice or supposing that the moon is inhabited by creatures with aerials growing out of their heads? These are some of the wilder flights of our imagination and not shared by everyone.
The trope of the isolated artist is all around us. From Anthony Burgess’ writing retreat in the English countryside to Dali’s hideaway in the north of Spain and more recently, the mansionof DJ and producer Deadmau5 near Toronto, artists have been seeking to get away from it all for centuries.
And in many cases, solitude is an effective strategy for sparking ideas. But how can creatives ensure that the stream of ideas keeps running? The process of entering and remaining in a creative state of mind can be elusive.
Conversations—the kinds that take place in real life, with human voices—could be the answer. That’s because the act of engaging in a vocal exchange of ideas is an entirely different mental exercise. Conversations force us to address thoughts and questions from a different mind, with a different set of beliefs and perceptions. In the process, it shines a light on ideas that we may not have considered or explored in significant ways.
But not just any chat will do. Conversations that question the foundation of ideas can lead to new and welcome ones.
Good news for those juggling time-pressures in today’s busy, modern life. According to ground breaking research commissioned by BBC Arts, even the briefest time spent on a creative pastime such as painting, pottery or playing the piano, has an impact on our wellbeing and emotions.
In the largest study of its kind, with almost 50,000 people taking part, the BBC Arts Great British Creativity Test – in partnership with UCL – explored for the first time how creative activities can help us manage our mood and boost wellbeing.
08.05.2019 – BBC Arts
“Geography is the key, the crucial accident of birth. A piece of protein could be a snail, a sea lion, or a systems analyst, but it had to start somewhere. This is not science; it is merely metaphor. And the landscape in which the protein “starts” shapes its end as surely as bowls shape water.“Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters
A post on a poetry blog about geography.