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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

Great stuff this week on the possible neurological origin of consciousness, bug-killing paint, free college classes and gorillas learning how to destroy poaching traps. Oh, and more squid sex.

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Rudd decided to study awe because not many people had, writes Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience , and because being out in nature gave her a break from the time-pressed life of being a grad student (art, music, nature and other people’s achievements tend to inspire awe in people; their own achievements inspire happiness). Participants in one of her tests were induced to feel pressed for time via a word scramble with time-oriented words and then shown a video designed to inspire awe (like waterfalls or astronauts in space) or happiness (like confetti and parades). Subjects who watched the awe videos subsequently felt time was more plentiful. 

Awe, it seems, gives us perspective, lets us see the big picture instead of the little nattering bits of it that so easily hijack our focus.

Awe therapy not only makes intuitive sense, but I have been told by friends that since I’ve been writing this column I’ve been happier: it’s become my job to seek out the awesome on a regular basis. So take a minute to look took at a website or two that makes time stop for just a second and get some free-and-easy therapy. 

Drawback: You might only feel like you have time to click after clicking. 

4. Nice hat

Even the tiniest bit of awesome can go a long way…for instance after you look at  these spiders with raindrops on their heads reflecting colors, plants and other bugs you’ll think about them off and on all day and be amazed all over again: not only are the images so bizarre they seem unreal but it’s the first time a spider has looked cute ( animated spiders notwithstanding). They look like living snow globes. The photos appeared on Wired UK’s Aperture column by Nate Lanxon and were taken by photographer Uda Dennie of Batam Island, Indonesia in his garden, which makes it an awesome double-whammy in that the images are fantastic and the fact that someone noticed spiders with raindrop hats is pretty arresting as well.

5. Go, go gorrila

If that was a little awesome this is a big awesome that might not just make you stop and be amazed - it might make you jump up and cheer. Young Rwandan gorillas have learned to find and dismantle the traps set by poachers, protecting their clan from the deadly snares.

The first instance of gorillas dismantling traps was witnessed by trackers from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center who search the forrest every day for traps, reports National Geographic News’ Ker Than. The traps are made by tying a noose to a branch and pulling it downward with the rope, holding it in place with a stick or rock so that when the prey moves the rock or brach, concealed with leaves, the trap will spring (it sounds like Homer’s rabbit trap only sadly more effective). They’re set for antelope but sometimes apes get caught in the snares; the bigger apes are often able to escape but smaller apes, who can’t, are simply left by the poachers to die.

Last week John Ndayambaje, a tracker saw a trap near the Kuryama gorilla clan and one of the silverbacks - Vubu - grunted, cautioning him to stay back. Soon two juvenile gorillas ran up and, as tourists watched, one broke the tree branch while the other dismantled the noose. They quickly moved on to destroy another trap that the tracker had missed. 

Just a week before the trap-destroying behavior was seen in these four-year olds, an infant gorilla had died of snare-related wounds. 

 
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