Hacking Mindfulness: Learning to Pay Attention to Your Own Attention, with Peter Baumann

Composer Peter Baumann examines the mind's overzealous thirst for information and how anyone can calm their attention.

Peter Baumann:  The most difficult we have today is our attention gets hijacked.  There is so much happening in our lives that we pay attention to and quite frankly, you know, the little devices that we carry around don’t help very much because our attention gets totally absorbed into that attraction from these little devices.  And we get a little bit of dopamine all the time when we get information, information is valuable instinctively.  So we want to know what’s happening and what’s going on.  That’s true for gossip and it’s true for why we watch the news.  But the problem is that our attention is so much absorbed in that that we rarely, if ever, pay attention to just being present.  And that is really what mindfulness and meditation is trying to balance out a little bit so that when the mind quiets and you actually are at home in your body that that distraction fades away and you actually get in touch with that underlying happiness that the Greeks call eudaimonia.

I think to begin with it would be really valuable to become aware of attention and how it automatically shifts from one to the other.  And it can happen at lightning speed.  If suddenly there would be a huge loud noise we would all wonder what is it and our attention is immediately hijacked.  And attention at its core was also a very important evolutionary adaptation because what happens with attention is it either goes to the highest opportunity or it goes to the highest threat that we perceive in our environment.  So suddenly there is something that we, you know, in the hunter-gatherer time something that was valuable to eat and then that’s where our attention goes.  Or there is something like a dark shadow moving and then that’s where our attention goes.  And it’s automatic.  And the reason that we have attention is to pay attention and then summon all of our resources to either take advantage of the opportunity or to avoid the threat.  That’s really the purpose of attention.  So we zone out everything else, we kind of blank everything and just focus on one thing that in that particular moment is of highest value or potentially the highest threat.

So attention is a wonderful capacity, you know.  For instance little infants, they don’t have attention.  They go all over the place.  They look all over the place.  And the brain eventually develops to pay attention to things that again are an opportunity or a threat.  Now we live in such a complex environment that our attention is hijacked all the time.  But the antidote is not necessarily only mindfulness.  You can get actually obsessed with mindfulness and am I paying attention.  So you’re trying to pay attention to paying attention.  And then you’re back to square one.  So I think that to understand the value of attention is number one and then to recognize there are times where it’s perfectly okay.  When car comes rushing at you, that’s where you want your attention, you know.  Or when you’re really giving a public speech, that’s where you want your attention.

It’s not always right to say I’m mindful, I’m mindful, I’m mindful.  You know, the brain works overtime to monitor whether you’re mindful or not.  And the way that I think is the perfect way out of it is to pay attention to your body’s sensation.  Because your body’s sensations will always signal if there is something that’s a potential threat or a potential benefit.  And to just pay attention to the body’s sensations it relaxes it.  But, you know, by all means for a few hours or so you don’t pay attention to paying attention, that’s perfectly fine, you know.  I think that we don’t want to add more difficulty and complexity to our lives.  I think that to come more at ease with the wandering attention and even observing as the attention is attracted here or there.  I think it’s all part and parcel of being at home with this shifting influences that we perceive every day.



Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton


 

 

Composer Peter Baumann examines the mind's overzealous thirst for information and how anyone can calm their attention. The key is to prevent the mind from being hijacked by stigma and instead hone your focus on the present now via mindfulness.

Volcanoes to power bitcoin mining in El Salvador

The first nation to make bitcoin legal tender will use geothermal energy to mine it.

Credit: Aaron Thomas via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

In June 2021, El Salvador became the first nation in the world to make bitcoin legal tender. Soon after, President Nayib Bukele instructed a state-owned power company to provide bitcoin mining facilities with cheap, clean energy — harnessed from the country's volcanoes.

The challenge: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a digital form of money and a payment system. Crypto has several advantages over physical dollars and cents — it's incredibly difficult to counterfeit, and transactions are more secure — but it also has a major downside.

Crypto transactions are recorded and new coins are added into circulation through a process called mining.

Crypto mining involves computers solving incredibly difficult mathematical puzzles. It is also incredibly energy-intensive — Cambridge University researchers estimate that bitcoin mining alone consumes more electricity every year than Argentina.

Most of that electricity is generated by carbon-emitting fossil fuels. As it stands, bitcoin mining produces an estimated 36.95 megatons of CO2 annually.

A world first: On June 9, El Salvador became the first nation to make bitcoin legal tender, meaning businesses have to accept it as payment and citizens can use it to pay taxes.

Less than a day later, Bukele tweeted that he'd instructed a state-owned geothermal electric company to put together a plan to provide bitcoin mining facilities with "very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable, 0 emissions energy."

Geothermal electricity is produced by capturing heat from the Earth itself. In El Salvador, that heat comes from volcanoes, and an estimated two-thirds of their energy potential is currently untapped.

Why it matters: El Salvador's decision to make bitcoin legal tender could be a win for both the crypto and the nation itself.

"(W)hat it does for bitcoin is further legitimizes its status as a potential reserve asset for sovereign and super sovereign entities," Greg King, CEO of crypto asset management firm Osprey Funds, told CBS News of the legislation.

Meanwhile, El Salvador is one of the poorest nations in North America, and bitcoin miners — the people who own and operate the computers doing the mining — receive bitcoins as a reward for their efforts.

"This is going to evolve fast!"
NAYIB BUKELE

If El Salvador begins operating bitcoin mining facilities powered by clean, cheap geothermal energy, it could become a global hub for mining — and receive a much-needed economic boost in the process.

The next steps: It remains to be seen whether Salvadorans will fully embrace bitcoin — which is notoriously volatile — or continue business-as-usual with the nation's other legal tender, the U.S. dollar.

Only time will tell if Bukele's plan for volcano-powered bitcoin mining facilities comes to fruition, too — but based on the speed of things so far, we won't have to wait long to find out.

Less than three hours after tweeting about the idea, Bukele followed up with another tweet claiming that the nation's geothermal energy company had already dug a new well and was designing a "mining hub" around it.

"This is going to evolve fast!" the president promised.

How Pfizer and BioNTech made history with their vaccine

How were mRNA vaccines developed? Pfizer's Dr Bill Gruber explains the science behind this record-breaking achievement and how it was developed without compromising safety.

Sponsored by Pfizer
  • Wondering how Pfizer and partner BioNTech developed a COVID-19 vaccine in record time without compromising safety? Dr Bill Gruber, SVP of Pfizer Vaccine Clinical Research and Development, explains the process from start to finish.
  • "I told my team, at first we were inspired by hope and now we're inspired by reality," Dr Gruber said. "If you bring critical science together, talented team members together, government, academia, industry, public health officials—you can achieve what was previously the unachievable."
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to prevent COVID-19 for use in individuals 12 years of age and older. The emergency use of this product is only authorized for the duration of the emergency declaration unless ended sooner. See Fact Sheet: cvdvaccine-us.com/recipients.

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Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
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Astronomers find more than 100,000 "stellar nurseries"

Every star we can see, including our sun, was born in one of these violent clouds.

Credit: NASA / ESA via Getty Images
Surprising Science

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

An international team of astronomers has conducted the biggest survey of stellar nurseries to date, charting more than 100,000 star-birthing regions across our corner of the universe.

Stellar nurseries: Outer space is filled with clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. In some of these nebulae, gravity will pull the dust and gas into clumps that eventually get so big, they collapse on themselves — and a star is born.

These star-birthing nebulae are known as stellar nurseries.

The challenge: Stars are a key part of the universe — they lead to the formation of planets and produce the elements needed to create life as we know it. A better understanding of stars, then, means a better understanding of the universe — but there's still a lot we don't know about star formation.

This is partly because it's hard to see what's going on in stellar nurseries — the clouds of dust obscure optical telescopes' view — and also because there are just so many of them that it's hard to know what the average nursery is like.

The survey: The astronomers conducted their survey of stellar nurseries using the massive ALMA telescope array in Chile. Because ALMA is a radio telescope, it captures the radio waves emanating from celestial objects, rather than the light.

"The new thing ... is that we can use ALMA to take pictures of many galaxies, and these pictures are as sharp and detailed as those taken by optical telescopes," Jiayi Sun, an Ohio State University (OSU) researcher, said in a press release.

"This just hasn't been possible before."

Over the course of the five-year survey, the group was able to chart more than 100,000 stellar nurseries across more than 90 nearby galaxies, expanding the amount of available data on the celestial objects tenfold, according to OSU researcher Adam Leroy.

New insights: The survey is already yielding new insights into stellar nurseries, including the fact that they appear to be more diverse than previously thought.

"For a long time, conventional wisdom among astronomers was that all stellar nurseries looked more or less the same," Sun said. "But with this survey we can see that this is really not the case."

"While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies," he continued, "just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world."

Astronomers have also learned from the survey that stellar nurseries aren't particularly efficient at producing stars and tend to live for only 10 to 30 million years, which isn't very long on a universal scale.

Looking ahead: Data from the survey is now publicly available, so expect to see other researchers using it to make their own observations about stellar nurseries in the future.

"We have an incredible dataset here that will continue to be useful," Leroy said. "This is really a new view of galaxies and we expect to be learning from it for years to come."

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