A quantum leap in scientific thought.

June 3rd, 2011

Some profound and exciting ideas were published this week in “Living in a Quantum World,” the cover story of Scientific American magazine’s June issue.

“According to standard physics textbooks, quantum mechanics is the theory of the microscopic world,” writes Vlatko Vedral, a professor and quantum physicist at the universities of Oxford and Singapore. And classical physics, in the same textbook view, “which comprises any theory that is not quantum, including Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity, handles the largest scales.”

But Vedral declares that scientific division of the world to be “a myth.”

He presents these fascinating discoveries and profound ideas, among others:

·      Until the past decade, experimentalists had not confirmed that quantum behavior persists on a macroscopic scale. Today, however, they routinely do. These effects are more pervasive than anyone ever suspected. They may operate in the cells of our body.

·      Quantum entanglement – which is particle behavior so strange that Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance” – may operate in the biological process of photosynthesis, the process whereby plants convert sunlight into chemical energy. While classical physics fails to explain the near-perfect efficiency of that process, experiments by groups at the universities of California-Berkeley and Toronto suggest that quantum mechanics does account for it.

·      While scientists don’t know if any instances of larger and more persistent entanglement exist in nature, the question is exciting enough to stimulate an emerging discipline: quantum biology.

·      Few physicists now think that classical physics will ever really make a comeback at any scale. If anything, the general belief is that if a deeper theory ever supersedes quantum physics, it will show the world to be even more counterintuitive than anything we have seen so far.

·      The fact that quantum mechanics applies on all scales forces us to confront the theory’s deepest mysteries. For instance, space and time are two of the most fundamental classical concepts, but according to quantum mechanics they are secondary. The entanglements are primary; they interconnect quantum systems without reference to space and time. Many physicists such as Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge, think that Einstein’s general theory of relativity must give way to a deeper theory in which space and time do not exist.

Mind-blowing stuff, right?! Well, Vedral agrees. In closing he says: The implications of macroscopic objects such as us being in quantum limbo is mind-blowing enough that we physicists are still in an entangled state of confusion and wonderment.

While many of these ideas are being explored for the purposes of developing quantum computers, I can’t help but think – especially within the emerging field of quantum biology – that there are implications here for future understanding of human consciousness and our own quantum effects on physical reality. I await further discoveries eagerly, sitting on the edge of my seemingly solid chair, as merely one quantum observer.

Related posts: Energy: The mystery with lots of clues.( 8/6/10); Reality check. (10/29/10)

Top-notch advice from some top CEOs.

May 27th, 2011

At college campuses across the country this month, business leaders shared commencement words of wisdom with the graduates of 2011. No matter where you are in your professional life, I think the advice of some, like sunscreen, can be applied liberally. From Bloomberg Businessweek, here are four quotes that I give Brain Food’s top honors.

Steven Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft
University of Southern California
May 13
“You get some success. You run into some walls. It’s how tenacious you are, how irrepressible, how ultimately optimistic and tenacious you are about it that will determine your success.”

 

Ellen Kullman, CEO, DuPont
Lehigh University
May 23
“Your career, if it is to be a successful one, will be a series of collaborations as a member of many different teams. And the secret to being a valued contributor to those teams will be your development as a lifelong learner.”

Biz Stone, Co-founder, Twitter
Babson College
May 14
“Opportunity can be manufactured. Yes, you can wait around for the right set of circumstances to fall into place and then leap into action, but you can also create those sets of circumstances on your own. In so doing, you manufacture your opportunities.”

James Rogers, CEO, Duke Energy
Northern Carolina State University
May 14
“The best graduation gift that I—or any of us—can give you is the copyright to your own story. Begin writing it today. Write it with passion and purpose. And write it without limits.”

 

 

Happy is cool.

May 20th, 2011

I was in the mood Saturday for a color change. So I headed to the beauty section at my neighborhood drugstore. As I compared shades of bright, berry-colored nail polishes, a young woman in her early 20s, who’d been shopping a few feet from me, struck up a conversation.

SHE:  Excuse me. Can I ask you a question?

ME:  Sure.

SHE:  I know this is kind of random, but which of these should I get? I can’t decide.

She held up two packages of decorative, glue-on fingernails. One set was embellished with a black-and-white zebra pattern; the other sparkled with a flecked coating of multi-colored glitter. Her own nails were adorned with a black-and-white houndstooth pattern.

SHE:  I already have these. (Indicating the houndstooth.)

ME:  Well…if you’re wearing a black-and-white design now, maybe the more colorful set would be a nice change. It’s spring, and glitter is….happy.

SHE:  Yeah! And happy is cool! Thanks.

I smiled as she walked away. She was right. Happy is cool. When we’re happy, we feel good. And it’s in our feeling good that we have more energy, more focus, more clarity, more power to create and achieve. And here’s something ultra cool: There is no limit to the energy of happiness. It’s the “jump for joy” and “skip in your step” kind of energy.

Now for the best news about your energy: You get to control it, because you get to choose the thoughts you think. Your energy — your power — is always in the present moment. So what can you think about, appreciate or enjoy that makes you feel good? What’s giving you your greatest competitive advantage?

 

Friday the 13th redux.

May 13th, 2011

Some people get freaked out by Friday the 13th. Not my sister, whose June 13th birthday has fallen more than once on a Friday. She considers it a lucky day. But, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C. as many as 21 million people are fearful of this day and an estimated $800 million is lost in business every Friday the 13th because people won’t fly or do business they would normally do.

There are superstitious people. They believe that if something bad is going to happen, it’s more likely to happen on a bad-luck day like Friday the 13th. And chances are, for them, it will. If you live in South America, it’s more likely that you your unlucky day will a Sunday the 7th.

A belief is anything you accept as truth. From my experiences, and those of my clients, and what I’ve learned about confirmation bias, beliefs tend to shape our experience. For example, if you believe a situation will frustrate you, then most likely it will. Or, if you believe a co-worker will make you unhappy, then probably s/he will.  And your frustration or unhappiness — or bad luck  — will  in turn reinforce your belief.

Beliefs, therefore, can be limiting.

I’d like to suggest that you take time occasionally to examine your beliefs. Beliefs you hold about yourself, your business, your job, your staff, your co-workers and your clients. Write them down.  Study them. Are any of your beliefs limiting you, perhaps? Keep in mind that just because you believe something doesn’t mean it’s true.

No one can change your beliefs for you. And beliefs can’t be forced upon you. But I’ve learned that we do have the ability to change our ideas about ourselves and our work situations that allows us to grow, develop and have fulfilling, successful professional lives.

Springing into action.

May 6th, 2011

Out of the shallow darkness of my keyed mailbox this week arrived the bright, promising message “Energize your life: a personalized plan to recharge everyday.”  It’s the headline that floats happily over a single yellow bloom on the cover of this month’s Real Simple magazine.

The issue’s “renewable energy plan” has a timeline filled with a variety of invigorating ideas for keeping a sharp, focused and creative mind. Here, from the experts, are a few of my favorites.

Even an early-morning person needs to charge up after waking. “It can take up to two hours to get the brain fully alert,” says Matthew Edlund, M.D., director of the Gulf Coast Sleep Institute, Sarasota, Fla., and author of “The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone is Not Enough.”

·      Start by standing in the sun and stretching. Edlund says exposure to light stimulates the brain to stop producing the melatonin hormone that induces sleepiness, and the first physical activity of the day raises the body temperature and increases blood flow to the brain.

·      A morning workout triggers feel-good endorphins and lower stress hormones, and the effects can last six to eight hours, according to Gregory Florez, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise in Salt Lake City. He says morning exercisers tend to have no mid-morning slumps and be sharper mentally than if they hadn’t exercised.

·      By doing a simple switch-up in your routine you can release a rush of neurotransmitters, like dopamine, that make you more alert. For example, if you’re right-handed, hold your toothbrush in your left hand instead.

Between 9 a.m. and noon are the magic hours of productivity and sharpness, says Lynn Hasher, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, because your body temperature and levels of the alertness-boosting hormone cortisol are on the rise.

·      According to Jim Loehr, Ed.D., cofounder of the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, working in 90-minute “sprints,” with a physical, emotional or mental break in between, “pays extraordinary dividends in terms of productivity, well-being and energy.”

·      If you work hunched over a keyboard, chances are your diaphragm is restricted and your breathing is shallow, which means your brain is getting less oxygen than you need to feel mentally alert and energetic. Margaret Chesney Ph.D., professor of medicine at U. of Calif., San Francisco, suggests you remind yourself to take a moment to relax your shoulders and breathe deeply whenever you check your watch or look at the clock.

·      To set off another blast of energizing dopamine, anticipate something pleasurable. Browse the Internet at lunchtime for weekend getaway spots, search for reviews of a movie you’d like to see, or just think about the hugs and kisses you’re going to get at home later.

“The mid-afternoon slump is actually a true physiological event,” says Edlund. It’s the time of day your core body temp plateaus and your cortisol level drops. You can lose energy, focus and motivation that make you feel only like napping. Here’s what you can do instead.

·      Get up and move. “Movement requires alertness and stimulates your whole brain,” Edlund says. And according to research from California State University at Long Beach, a 10-minute walk can increase your energy for up to two hours.

·      Have a protein snack. String cheese, yogurt, soy chips or peanuts will provide you sustained energy.

If you haven’t exercised already, an early-evening workout may help you sleep. A Northwestern University study showed that insomniacs who did about 40 minutes of moderate cardio between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. four times a week got an average of 75 more minutes of sleep a night.

As for a good night of restful sleep, allow yourself some time to relax and unwind before your head hits the pillow. Soak in a hot bath. Or, instead of watching a tense TV drama, opt for reading something calming. Lastly, experts say the ideal sleep environment is cool (65-70 degrees), dark and quiet.

It’s my hope you’ll remember always that your personal energy is abundant, renewable and, best of all, free.

On a personal closing note: Thanks again, Pinkie, for the gift subscription! If not for you, I might have missed these energizing ideas.