What is More Addictive: Cannabis or Coffee?

The answer is coffee. Coffee is drunk by around 80% of Americans. The large numbers call for extensive studies on the effect of this drug on the brain.

Caffeine is a stimulant. It has a similar molecular structure to adenosine, a chemical linked to us feeling tired. Caffeine binds to adenosine and stops it from working. Coffee does not wake you up but makes your body forget it is tired.

Taking that espresso in the morning makes your body increase the number of receptors to caffeine in the brain. This increase makes us dependent on that cup of coffee in the morning to reach normal functional levels. On the other hand, cannabis has minimal risk of long-term addiction.

Read more about cannabis.

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Can We Become Zombies After Death?


Leucochloridium paradoxum sp.
Leucochloridium paradoxum sp.

Yes, hypothetically we can be transformed into brain loving zombies. A scary answer to a scary question.However, before going out to buy a chainsaw to cut those zombies in half please be aware that a human zombie has never existed.
The rest of the animal kingdom isn’t so lucky. Different types of fungi, parasites, and pathogens have altered the life of other organisms and transformed them into zombies. One of the most graphic examples is Leucochloridium paradoxum, a tapeworm which has been observed to infect and take control of snails. After inserting itself into the snail’s body, the tapeworm slowly spreads and concentrates in its eye stalks making these look like tasty green caterpillars. In turn this makes the snail more eye-catching for hungry birds that are an intermediate host for this parasite. If that is not gory enough just wait for the zombie part.

The flatworm makes the snail do its bidding by exposing itself during daylight. By staying on the highest leaves pulsing the eye stalks making them look like tasty morsels ready for the picking by the hungry birds above.
This case is not unique. There are other species which are known to be zombified: ants, flies, crickets, and others. At the time of writing no fungus, parasite, bacteria, or virus has been found to infect and transform humans. Till then there is no need to get your zombie-proof chainsaw and sawn-off shotgun. •

Can humans live on other planets?


Well this is a vast question, yes they can. However, it is not all that simple. Start off with the fact that we don’t have the technology to access Earth-like planets we could live on. Over forty planets that could be habitable have already been found. 

Reaching the exoplanet might only be half the problem. Will the planet already be suitable for life? Or, will we need to terraform it, manipulate its environment, so we can mould it into our Mother Earth? Will we be wiped out by some unknown disease we have no resistance to—as happened to the aliens in War of the Worlds. Will we be able to adapt to the environment? What about building a colony outside our planet which will be completely independent of Earth? Eventually yes, on a planet with the right conditions, but let’s get there first.  

Send your questions to think@um.edu.mt and we’ll find out if it’s the truth or just a fib!

The left brain is logical, the right side is creative

In the 1960s, psychologists Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga performed experiments on patients who had the connections between the left and right side of the brain cut as an extreme treatment for epilepsy. They stimulated each side of the brain separately and asked patients to draw, arrange blocks, talk about their emotions, and so on. These simple experiments proved insightful but misguided.

From their experiments they concluded that the left hemisphere was logical, rational, and good with numbers (the scientist), the right hemisphere was creative, imaginative, and took in the big picture (the artist). This overly simplistic reasoning is drowning out the real beauty of our brain. The real deal is a lot more complex. Take speech. Classically, the left side of the brain is meant to handle it all. Right-handed people do mostly use the left side, but left-handed people tend to use the right side. Imaging studies of brains show that the brain lights up like a firefly using multiple areas for speech. Most complex actions need multiple brain areas.

Is Time Travel possible?

Theory says yes; practicality says no. Thanks to Einstein time travel is possible. The easiest way is travelling very close to the speed of light. Achieve 99.5% close to light speed means that in 5 years you travel 50 years. Goodbye friends and family you left behind. The harder way is creating a wormhole, a device that can bend space and time, looping it on itself to go into the future or past. The energy required would rival the energy of the stars. Sorry Sci-Fi fans.

Did Albert Einstein say we only use 10% of our brain?

Probably not.Brain2 It has been misattributed to Einstein to explain his great intelligence. The idea being that if only we used more, we would unlock the powers of our mind, become mathematical geniuses, perhaps even become telekinetic. Unfortunately, even when we think we are being lazy, like sleeping, our minds are quite busy.

Is all hope lost? Are we stuck with the intelligence we have? Probably a good education does not hurt and cognitive scientists have identified two methods that can push our brains further. The first involves focus. By concentrating on a single task, you can use more of your brain and tackle those complex mathematical formulae. The brain is usually very distracted.

The second strategy is optimisation. It involves letting your brain find the optimal solution by stopping to think and considering many alternatives before jumping on one answer.

Creativity can use a totally different ball game. Sometimes it is best to let your brain wander and simply consider all alternatives. Our brain is too complex for a few basic strategies to apply to all situations.