How Do I Remember Stuff and Why Do I Forget?

Memory is a tricky subject to discuss as there are still many things that we truly do not know about the subject. Much of how our brain works remains a mystery to scientists, but there is a little light that we can shed on the matter.

To get to the murky bottom of how we keep stuff in our heads and why some of that stuff leaks out from time to time, we’re going to have to indulge in a little bit of Neuroscience, as well as a touch of Psychology.
Our minds are truly wonderful creations, let’s hope that yours is good enough to remember the sheer mass of facts that you’re about to read!

brain-1845962_1920

Can you remember when you were born? No? Well then I guess your memory could stand to be improved a jot…

We’re just joking around with you! Your memory is (probably) absolutely fine and you (definitely) shouldn’t start worrying about all those childhood memories that are slowly, but surely, slipping through your fingers with each passing day. Just forget about it.

See what we did there?

Of course, for many people, it can be just as difficult forgetting something as it can be to remember something.


Before we dive into the things that we should forget and the things we should keep in our noggins, let’s dive into some memory basics.

Memories are stored in our brain. Duh. Imagine a thin, reedy gentleman, dressed in a three-piece suit, with a toothbrush moustache – if you’ve successfully conjured this image:

…then not only does your memory work, but you’re also fortunate enough to have seen Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method. Well done you.

Anyway, imagine that lovely Michael Fassbender is talking in a well researched German accent and saying this:

“Historically, teachers and practitioners have been apt to describing the memory in terms of files. The notion that we pack our neat little memories away into perfect little mental filing cabinets is easy to grasp but woefully undersells the power of the brain.


Imagine being a child once more and consider being unaware of some basic concepts.

brainy

Let’s say, for example, that you see your first dog. Your well-endowed Mother leans down and points at the creature. She explains that this thing is called a dog. Later on, whilst trekking back home with the shopping, through the frozen Bavarian tundra, you are both accosted by a wolf. As your Mother buries her trusty hatchet into it’s skull she points and explains that this is a wolf.

Here’s the question related to memory:

Will you remember the difference between the dog and the wolf? Or will you simply be horribly scarred for the rest of your childhood?”


Thanks, Carl Jung.

Oh…are you a little confused, that’s alright, we’ll help you out of this one.

Here’s what the you’d remember, as a young Bavarian lad who’s had quite the day out with his Mutter. We remember things differently over time. We have short term memory and long term memory. So, in the short-term, as a child you would remember that particularly cute dog you saw at the Christkindlmarkt, but only for a day at most. The incident with der Wolf would be much more likely to stay in your mind for a long time (perhaps even the rest of your life), thanks to the intense moment that the memory was formed in.

anxiety

However, thanks to the ingenious way our brains are formed, you will never forget what the general concept of a ‘dog’ or ‘wolf’ is and you will certainly be able to tell the difference and know which one likes a bone and which one likes a rusted blade splitting it’s furry dome.


Memory is a strange concept that we’re still yet to fully get to the bottom of. It’s mercurial nature has eluded the work of scientists for decades and is bound to confuse more for years to come.

How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

This is a question that has plagued children, teenagers and unruly students alike for decades – there is an answer and you’ll most likely know it already…

It’s rumoured that Margaret Thatcher spent the majority of her time in office sleeping only 4 hours a night, whereas Einstein was reported to have up to 10 hours a sleep every night. Most people could guess who made better decisions whilst they were on this Earth – but should we really be following in either of these people’s footsteps?

In order to successfully function as decent human beings, it’s imperative that we sleep regularly. But how long should we sleep for? Should it be during the night? Is taking naps OK? And is it healthy to go to sleep listening to Seinfeld repeats every night?

The history of sleep is a rich and textured one – we’ve not always slept in the same ways. However, over decades of research, an informal consensus has been reached – albeit one with some minor caveats. Unfortunately, the Technological Revolution has brought with it a myriad of distractions whose sole purpose, it seems, is to stop us from sleeping. 


“So how much sleep is enough, and is there such a thing as too much sleep?”

Most scientists recommend anywhere between 6-8 hours sleep for the average adult and around 9-11 for adolescents. Little nippers obviously need a great deal more, as they spend the nights growing – as well as resting.

In the wake of an ‘always-on’ globalised community, a worrying trend has now developed amongst adults and adolescents – suggesting that technology is keeping large swathes of the world’s populations awake at night – with thousands choosing to while away the night-time hours bingeing TV on popular streaming sites or idly scrolling through the News Feeds of their favourite Social Networks. Is this something that we should be worrying about? Do we need to be sleeping through the night and can we just get by on napping?

Although we are all of us made a little differently from one another, a few general rules can be applied to human beings’ relationship with sleep. Regardless of whether we are ‘night owls’ (preferring to stay up later and rise later) or ‘larks’ (rising much earlier and getting to bed comparatively earlier), we are all programmed to function on the same ‘circadian’ rhythm – this is the fancy name for the internal clock inside us that determines when we get tired.


“So as long as I get 8 hours sleep at some point, it doesn’t matter when I go to sleep?”

Nope. Not quite. You see, there are certain benefits to being awake during the day and asleep during the night. The more hours you spend in the lovely day light, the more serotonin your body is likely to produce. Serotonin is key for mental well being. Those who do not get the chance to produce enough serotonin run the risk of developing Seasonal Affective Disorder – a condition which can cause low mood or even depression.

Similarly, when the sun goes down, the body starts to produce another hormone that acts in almost opposite way to serotonin. Melotonin doesn’t make you sad, but it does make you feel sleepy – preparing your body for the imminent sleep that is soon to come. Work against this hormone and you may well stay up longer, but you also risk sending your ‘circadian rhythm’ into disarray.


“So I should just…sleep for 8 hours, seven days a week and try and get up in the morning?”

Yes! That’s pretty much it. The answer to getting a good night sleep is simple and, most probably, one that you already know.


If you were looking on this page for an excuse to stay in bed a bit longer, or stay up that extra hour later – we’re sorry to disappoint you – but you need to look elsewhere!

What Is Renewable Energy And Can I Eat It?

That’s really two questions – thankfully one is a lot easier to answer than the other…

There’s no such thing as a stupid question. There really isn’t, so we’ll attempt to answer yours for you now – in as fun a way as possible.
There are a lot of different kinds of renewable energies – so many in fact – that it would be quite impossible to explain all of them. So what we’ll do is simply mention a few and then address the whole ‘eating’ issue later.

renewable

In the old days, we used to get all our energy from oil and coal. There was so much of the black stuff, locked away in the ground, we thought it would last forever. When the Industrial Revolution hit the world, we all went a bit mad for fossil fuels – until things started to get a bit smoggy.

You see, although it was super fun blowing holes in mountains and smashing up the land for oil, it turns out that we were actually hurting the planet a little bit in the process. Unfortunately, it took us a little while to  come round to this. The Industrial Revolution was a bit of a crazy time, when captains of industry were being raised from the slums of the world and grabbing opportunities with their grubby mitts.

“Why were their mitts so grubby?” You ask?

Well, they were both literally and metaphorically grubby. The literal part came from the actual coal and oil that why were forever rubbing on their hands (because that’s how you test for good quality fossil fuels) and the metaphorical part from the underhand, cowardly tactics they used to make more money at the expense of the planet’s well being and people’s lives.

Back in the time of this Industrial boom, a lot of kids were used to do jobs that were dangerous and damaging to their health. If an indigenous tribe was sitting on a huge oil reserve, the businessmen would think nothing of pushing them off the land or just killing them.

Of course, things like this still happen today, but less so, thanks to lovely renewable energy!

renewable-energies

“Wait a second, are you saying that renewable energies are stopping murders?”

Yes! Absolutely. The use of renewable energies is actively stopping murders on a daily basis – however it’s not stopping the proliferation of child workers. That will always continue.

At some point after the Second World War and the Cold War had blown over (in the 60s or something) people started to question the  amount of harmful gases and fuels that we were using. Some scientists (supported by a contingency of people with long hair and drug habits) pointed out that we might actually run out of lovely black oil at some point, so maybe it would be a good idea to look into different ways of making energy.

This is what they came up with:

Wind Power

Discovered in the mid-70s, this is a great form of renewable energy as there’s always plenty of wind to spare! The only pain is how much they cost to install and some people think they look ugly.

Bio-Mass

Burning wood  is actually a renewable source of energy – as long as you take the time to grow the trees sustainably. You can buy it in a specially formulated shape from sites like Volcano Wood Fuels.

Hydro

The power of the ocean is awesome and scary – and it can be harnessed! Using off-shore, purpose built stations, we can take the kinetic power of the waves and transform into electricity.

There are loads of other ways of producing renewable energy, all as smart and clever as the next, but these are the easiest to understand. As an answer to your second question: No.

No, you cannot eat any of these.

Ever Wondered Why Grass Is Green?

It’s a valid question, if you’re under the age of 10, otherwise you should read on to get some education – quick smart.

It’s all connected to a well known (to most normal adults) chemical process that not only gives plants the ability to grow, but also gives us humans oxygen, so that we can breathe.

plants-growing

Before your question about why leaves are green are answered, it’s important to remember that – in the world of Science – everything exists for a reason.

The leaves of plants are not simply green because that’s the prettiest colour, the appear green because of the little bits and pieces that they are made from. You see, normal green plants can’t grow without the sunlight. They need the rays of the sun, like us humans need food and water, to galvanise the cells in their bodies into actions, so that they can grow taller and taller.

Sunlight comprises of loads of different light rays. You know rainbows, right? Well, when you see a rainbow, what you’re seeing is the light from the sun refracted into it’s constituent rays. Without the water (or something like a glass prism) there’s no way for us to see these rays. Plants, like this little green chap in the picture above, have found a way (over years of evolution) of channelling the energy from the sun through the photosynthetic pigments in the membranes of the sub-cellular organelles.

growing-plats

“What are all those long crazy words?” – I hear you say!

Well, if you were listening – you’d have heard he answer to the question that you were looking for in the first place!

The reason why grass is green is because of the ‘photosynthetic pigments in the membranes of the sub-cellular organelles’, these are otherwise known as ‘chloroplasts‘ and they’re what makes grass green.

Still confused? OK, then I’ll explain some more…

So the power of the sunlight smashes down into the chloroplasts (the thing that makes the leaves green, remember?), this rejigs the molecular anatomy of the plant, forcing atoms to shift around and a chemical process to take place. Here comes the real part!

photo-equation

Now if you don’t know Science that good yet (and maybe you struggle with words, just like I do from time to time) – I’ll try and explain this to you.

So the carbon dioxide exists in the air all around us. It’s the stuff that we breathe out, so it’s handy that the plant can use this as food for it’s chemical equation. The water is just plain old water that the plant gets from rain (or from a water can that we water it with). The arrow is the part where the sun comes in. It acts as the ‘catalyst’ – forcing the carbon dioxide and water to buddy up and get jiggy with it.

photosynthess-s3

Once the reaction has taken place, we’re left with lovely glucose (which the plant uses to grow with) and oxygen (which the plant emits into the atmosphere so that we can breathe!).