Give Into Your Random Thoughts

stones-random thoughts
According to scientists, we can be benefited by random thoughts and helps in our creative thinking. The secret lies in how ‘we respond to  it’. Random thoughts need to be embraced and exploited to see ‘who you are’ says  our guest author. Her post is below. Looking at the stones and pebbles by the stream or by the river side brings tranquility. Image credit: Pixabay

Most of us have had the experience when a random thought pops into our head. Maybe you’re discussing a work project, and suddenly you think of your friend who got engaged and how you have to buy a wedding gift.

These random thoughts can be triggered by certain words, but they can also come days later about something you were doing.

Some people see these random thoughts as unproductive or a waste of time and try to suppress them the second they pop up. However, there’s a scientific reason for these random thoughts to occur and reasons to embrace them.

Random thoughts can be used as a spontaneous idea trigger.  Such intrusive thoughts are  beneficial. You can try the above simple experiment by rolling some vegetables peas at random on your kitchen table. See the patterns it generates. It helps in generating new ideas. Video credit : Pixabay

Spontaneous Thinking Might Be Our Natural State

There’s a group of brain scientists who believe that our brain’s natural state is a state of random thoughts. This is not a new idea. Sigmund Freud analyzed random thoughts as a form of psychological treatment.

So, how are random thoughts a normal state of being?

Random thoughts come from a default network of neurons in the brain. It allows your mind to wander freely in the past and present. It reflects on things you’ve done and how you could imagine yourself in the future. This makes sense, too. Consider a person who, when lost in thought, thinks about something he did last week and maybe over analyzes it. Consider another person who’s looking forward to the vacation she’s about to take and is imagining all the activities she’s going to do while there.

It can also make sense given concentrating on tasks can be difficult for many people. Even if you are good at focusing on tasks in the present, consider how mentally taxing it is to maintain that focus. It takes a significant mental effort to focus on a task in the present whether it’s painting a wall or writing a report.

How Are Random Thoughts Beneficial?

Having random thoughts is a sign your brain is working normally. Scientists believe that these spontaneous ideas are likely due to our brains processing memories and preparing to store them. They can also be a sign of creative thinking.

As your brain processes memories for storage, it forms new neural connections to other related memories. Those new neural connections make it easier for your brain to retrieve the memory.

There are also scientists who believe that these spontaneous thoughts can provide insights into our deepest beliefs, preferences, and attitudes compared to deliberate thoughts.

These spontaneous thoughts shouldn’t be seen as nuisances that derail your train of thought. They should be embraced and exploited to understand who you are and how that random idea might help you solve your current problem.

Have you read ?

1. Brainstorming is everybody’s business – A practical guide to realize your streak of brilliance
2. On creative project ideas and bedtime stories – Nurturing creativity and cultivating it
3. The human brain helps us make intelligent decisions

Using Spontaneous Thoughts to Your Advantage

Being able to understand how these random thoughts fit into what you’re currently doing can make you a better problem solver and think more creatively. The ability to think out-of-the-box is highly beneficial for nearly every profession, even if you don’t have a “creative” job. Too often, we get caught up in thinking “that’s just the way we do things,” which hinders our ability to solve problems.

Some people practice Acem meditation to stimulate spontaneous thoughts in the brain. They see it as maintaining their default brain. Others tend to write down their random thoughts in a small journal or personalized notepad to analyze later. They believe these thoughts can be the key to unlocking a critical problem.

You can also use random thoughts to your advantage in social situations. When you have a constant flow of random thoughts, you never run out of things to talk about. Those random thoughts can help make you more memorable to that person, forging new social connections that can improve our mental wellbeing. Not everyone is welcoming to random thoughts however. Be mindful of personalities who may not be open to the random thinker. 

Next time you have a random thought, consider chasing that thought to see where it takes you. If you don’t have the time, write it down. These actions can help you better understand your brain. 

Swarm insights: Bees and ant colonies follow the principle of harmony

Bees on flowers
They say bees are miraculous creatures. All plants, animals and human beings owe to the bees. Without them we would be extinct. ‘They exist for a reason’ says Melisa our guest author. Her post is below. Image credit: Pixabay

Ants are incredibly hardworking and full of enthusiasm. They are ready for anything for the sake of their collectivities and are a model of an industry for lazy humanity. However, it is a quite one-sided view of the life of insects. Up to 40% of the animal units in their collective are not busy doing something useful. They give the impression of the working process being no principles at all.

Bees swarming at a Beekeeper or Apiarist’s box. A movable box or a honey comb is constructed so that the honey can be harvested without disturbing the entire bee colony. Notice the buzz sound of the honey bees. Video credit: Pixabay

A combined collectivity of scientists-entomologists from Arizona University and Oxford studied an unusual enough thing, unbelievable laziness, and egoism of ants.

Among a huge variety of social insects such as bees, ants or wasps the major part of the colonies lives in accordance with the principle far from hard working. Up to 40% of ants do not work for the lifetime or almost lifetime just wandering around.

Under the direction of Arizonian entomologist, Daniel Charbonneau researchers created an artificial environment for ants. It was easy to follow their movements and work. Every insect was marked with a color marker pen, which made it to where insects were easy to follow and no confusion could be made between them.

Researchers have studied 20 colonies of Temnothorax rugatulus kind of ants for several months and came to the startling conclusions. First of all, many of them do not really work. Secondly, there are truly many of such animal units and all the colony should feed them just because.

The main thing is that they exist for a reason. Taking away active and lazy ants, researchers could make sure that the hardworking ants were replaced with lazy ones at once. In other words, all these 40% of parasites is something like an employment office, ant colony labor power store, which is always ready, standby just having a rest most of the time-saving strength.

Besides that, ants spongers are a genetic capital of the kind. Thus, being lazy does not mean being useless. Calm yourself down thinking this way every time you feel like procrastinating and leaving it to someone else. We all are not spongers at this moment but a proud genetic capital and source of power for big achievements.

At long last, ants are 130 millions of years old and as long as they are still alive, there is something to learn from them.

There are space vehicles, people learned how to fight diseases, which got them frightened before. Despite the amazing achievements, there is still something to strive for. If to speak about bees, these insects have lots of skills and abilities.

There are more than a million of insects but bees and silkworms are useful for humanity. Beekeeping products are consumed as food, used in medicine and for cosmetics production. All the assets of the insects fancifully interweave between each other and as a result of concerted efforts, a required result comes out.

The principle of Harmony

Ants in harmony
Ants in harmony. Image credit: Pixabay

Bees are truly hard working. They work all the time gathering nectar from flowers where all the power of the plants is located. In order to gather one drop of nectar, the insect should spray a thousand of flowers with insecticide dust and overcome a lot of kilometers. Meanwhile, other bees make honey out of the nectar turning sucrose into simple carbohydrates, which are digested by a human body down to the ground.

Have you read?

1. Do ants have brains ? Yes collective intelligence
2. How ant swarms read symbolic information using collective intelligence
3. The symbiotic relationships of coral reefs- A model social network

If to choose one quality, it would probably be a self-organization. Every separate bee knows very well what and when it is to do something. Moreover, she is in worries in case of any obstacles appearing on her way.

Each separately taken insect is able to do any work within the community. This is why during its rather short lifetime, every bee does only that piece of work she is meant to do and the most important at the time. If there are reasons, which make changes to the normal rhythm of a family, such as bad weather or wrong actions by a beekeeper, she reacts immediately and stops gathering nectar. In such a case, an insect brings up young animal units preparing them for swarming.

A bee does not work for herself but due to neighbor principle. Until it is ready to be consumed, the bee is dead. She lives about 30 days in the summer while almost 2 months are needed for honey to be ready. If there is not enough food in the beehive, any bee would share, any bee would give away the final drop of honey and die just to save another. In case there is more than enough, no bee would eat more. Everything will be laid in store.

Bees follow the principle of harmony. Everything they do is admirable. All the insects deserved respect for the hive mind. They are also known for unique memory. After wintering, they buzz a beehive in order to memorize its location. They use different landmarks. Going to gather nectar, a bee is to memorize all the route just as well in order to get back home. A human is unable to memorize that much of details a bee with its tiny brain is.

Also, bees are very good at mathematics completing the most difficult tasks. Scientists found out that bees always find the shortest distance between the flowers at the smallest energy consumption. This task is highly important for Internet work, micro, at town transport network calculation and freight transportation routes. Computers solve these tasks making heavy calculations while it takes few moments only for bees.

The author, Melisa Marzett works for Getessayeditor. Find her profile below.

How ant swarms read symbolic information using collective intelligence

An ant from ant swarms
‘An ant on duty’ – Ants in ant swarms just switch tasks and no one tells them when and how to. There is no planning. This collective and adaptive social behavior has huge potential in energy efficient engineering and scientific applications. Adaptive robotics is one big area. I drew the above sketch. It is open for interpretation.

An individual ant may not be intelligent but a colony of ants is. A typical ant colony consists of millions of ants and they all move and act as one. In fact they become an intelligent super-organism all bundled into a ‘super one’.

Researchers say that such intelligence is an emergent property of collective intelligence. Intelligence itself involves the rational processing and perception of symbolic information. Human consciousness has extraordinary processing power. Simply put, our intelligence stems from accessing that internal and external information that emerges from this processing power. It is a great mystery.

Ant swarms and for that matter, almost all animals seem to access this external information collectively as one.

For example, ant swarms know when to keep the nests warm and do coordinated foraging for food without somebody telling them.

Ants leave a pheromone trail that other ants seem to pick it up and do specific tasks unquestioned like the above. Nevertheless, this does not explain everything. Clearly, there is no single leader ant among them.

Ants seem to pass this symbolic information from one ant to another interpreting them in such a way to produce remarkable behavioral patterns for the collective benefit of the entire ant colony.

Have you seen it? If yes, then please send your comments.

A single neuron in the human brain does something only when it connects to other neurons. In addition, all (80 Billion odd neurons) collectively do something to become – you and me.

This has a striking resemblance to ants and has what motivated Dr Deborah M. Gordon, who studies ants. Dr. Deborah is the assistant professor of biological sciences at Stanford University.

Dr Deborah says that ants have several duties and job descriptions.

Each ant on this planet has a job.

Among them, four of them are common, which are Patrolling, Foraging, Housekeeping and Midden (piling seeds for reuse). The foraging ants go where the Patrollers find food. Job roles are not assigned within the ant swarms, they can switch roles any time, and all this happens without a leader and a central plan.

An ant colony is analogous to how it works in the brain says Dr Deborah. A single neuron in the brain can do simple things but together, the brain thinks ‘ant swarms’. However, no single neuron has told the brain to think ‘ant swarms’.

When ants bump into each other, they pick up or access the symbolic information. Ants together know their territory and they know where it ends. When the territory shrinks, they encounter each other more and there is streaming information. Even when their territory expands, they seem to know it. A certain threshold of encounters bind them. So when their territory expands their encounters become less often. The increase and decrease of encounters seems to make those behavioral changes and path shifts in ant swarms.

Now, we will look at a couple of social behavior examples that Army ants exhibit using collective intelligence. Army ants read symbolic information as they pass them from one ant to another.

The name ‘Army ants’ is applied to over 200 species of ants and they are known for their aggressive foraging behavior which are called ‘raids’. They conduct these raids on the forest floors of tropical rain forests in South America and Asia.

Have you read?

Do ants have brains ? Yes collective intelligence
Symbiotic relationships of the coral reefs: A model social network for the future
Swarm theory practicality for social collaboration

Ant swarms have no central planning

Swarms of Army ants have two commendable characteristics. One is time keeping and the other one is navigation.

The Ant swarms maintain precise timing, which they display it during their nomadic and stationary phases. They maintain a strict 15 day period of nomadic behavior when their larvae are growing and followed by a 20-day stationary period during which the pupae develops.

The ant swarms navigational skills are exceptional and the way they navigate the thick forest floors of the tropical rain forest is a mystery.

During nomadic phase, the army ants conduct raids in a highly organized manner. The ants separate each raid by about approx. 123 degrees on the forest floor. This separation allows new prey to enter the previously raided area. This makes for a fresh bounty start again for the ants. How the ants precisely make such separation in a coordinated manner without central rules, is a mystery.

Another interesting feature is their eyesight. The ants have a very normal eyesight unlike other insects which have multifaceted compound eyes. They have a single facet compound eye, which makes for a very normal eyesight. Using this eyesight they remarkably navigate, finding their way in and out of the forest floor.

One reason could be that ant swarms behave like one and feel like one, wherein the thousands of individual single facet compound eyes act and move together as one. This coordinated act enables them to find their way through the forest floor.

In a similar finding, researchers from Princeton University have reported in a news article that army ants behaving like ant swarms use collective intelligence to build ‘living bridges’ using their own bodies.

If the ants detect congestion on the raiding trail, they would all assemble and build a bridge and disassemble or move away when there is free flow of movement, if you want to call it as ‘no traffic’.

The ants do this all the time to save energy and be more efficient. The ants use their own bodies to build the structure. They are maximizing their time and minimizing their effort and they do this on a daily basis.

The applications for such adaptive and complex behavior are far reaching in the areas of Robotics and Swarm intelligence.

Radhika Nagpal, who is a professor of computer science at Harvard University, says that this is much more fundamental in how complex systems are assemble and adapt in nature.

Such adaptive and self-organizing behavior with massive collective intelligence has huge potential for engineering applications for calculating cost-benefit ratios at a network level, says Radhika.

The ant swarms coordinate without any central rule. No manager or leader ant tells them what to do next. The ants just switch tasks basing on their perceived conditions. Such behavior also exists in birds flying in a flock and school of swimming fish as well. They just know when to turn in unison.

All said and done, ant swarms behavior confirms the existence of collective intelligence.


The symbiotic relationships of the Coral reefs – A model social network for the future


Coral reefs around the world are great tourist attractions. Nature provides some of its greatest lessons in some of its unlikeliest places.

The coral reefs are filled with immense bio-diversity with millions of distinct species of tiny organisms all living in harmony and teaching us the virtues of being altruistic, helping each other in difficult circumstances, to adapt and collaborate for mutual benefit and sustenance.

Back in the 1980’s a very popular television video series called ‘The undersea world of Jacques Cousteau’ was aired on television. The series was telecasted every Sunday. Some of us would know it. The legendary Jacques Cousteau, a filmmaker, explorer, and researcher, hosted it. Jacques had received several awards including the National Geographic special gold medal.

As a middle-schooler, I was biding time for my parents’ nod just to watch the television series. Watching an underwater film with explorers venturing the depths of the ocean was rare and a treat during that time. The videos presented an incredible view of the marine biodiversity of our planet and the content was excellent. It was educational, informative and at the same time awe-inspiring.

At that age, the term ‘Bio-diversity’ seemed alien to me and I hardly knew what it was. However, the pictures and memories are still vivid.

Now with knowledge, advancement and the internet, our awareness has only expanded. It was not just for the educational content, such videos at a very fundamental level helps us understand how the marine diversity of our planet influences it. It is intricately connected to the natural cycles of the earth and helps regulate our climatic conditions.

The clown fish is normally found in the Coral reefs
The clown fish is normally found in the Coral reefs. I used Sketchbook to draw the picture.

We all know that 2/3rds of the earth’s surface is covered with water. A vast number of marine organisms live in the ocean. Researchers are still not able to come to terms with their numbers. It is so complex that there are unexplored depths of the ocean. Some are obvious like the ‘fish’ and still there are others hidden at the edges of the ocean that perform marvelous jobs.

These marine organisms actually help in building new land and some even extend the shorelines (Like the Atoll) by just recycling waste.

We are talking about the humble Stony coral, which creates new land on the ocean through its own excretion. Although its use comes after its death, the tiny marine animal grows in vast colonies at the edge of the ocean.

A theoretical state called the ‘edge of chaos’ prevails at the edge of the ocean . A state neither too rigid nor too loose, enabling molecules to collaborate for new life to evolve. That is exactly what happened to the vast colonies of the Stony coral. They collaborated with other species and evolved.

During its course of life, the Stony coral builds a calcium-based exo-skeleton. This exo-skeleton is so strong and stable that it can remain pristine for hundreds of years even after its host organism; the Stony coral is long dead.

In effect, the Coral reef is a stable ground – building new lands at the edges of the ocean. Thus, millions of these calcium-based exo-skeletons joined to form a Coral reef.

We just need to take a step back and look at it from an inter-disciplinary point of view. These tiny organisms were actually building a scalable network, a dense structure for millions of other organisms to thrive and evolve. This remarkable structure happens at the edge of chaos and that too in ocean waters that are not rich in nutrients.

There are millions of distinct species, which live in these coral reefs around the world. The ‘Great barrier reef’ in Australia is the greatest and biggest organic bio-structure in the world.

‘The tiny organisms and plants that live on the Coral reefs actually recycle the nutrients’ says Steven Johnson in his book “where good ideas come from’. You can find the book here. Scientists have actually studied this seamless flow of energy within the Coral reefs Eco-system.

A symbiotic relationship exists between the Stony coral and the algae that thrive in these waters.

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The Human brain helps us to make intelligent decisions in everyday life social networks

pre-frontal cortex makes intelligent decisions

The Human brain helps us to unravel the complexity of the social networks.  It can spontaneously access information and help us make intelligent decisions and appropriate responses for acceptable social outcomes.

In a recent research paper published in  ‘Nature – Human behavior’ author Carolyn Parkinson of the University of California talks about how the brain seems to encode the messages we send when meeting familiar people and their position in the social network.  This may not seem like a breakthrough immediately but then the author says this has implications in the way of how we can use this information to understand an individual’s standing in the social network.

In addition, this research can help behavioral studies on how our knowledge of a person’s social standing in a social network can make changes in our attention, empathy, and trust on that person. The brain region where this information is recorded is the higher order pre-frontal cortex and there is a spontaneous access to it.

We interact with many individuals on a daily basis.  Keeping track of our acquaintances and our relationships with others is no mean task.  Sometimes our friends and relatives will have second degree and third degree relationships with their friends and relatives.  It becomes complex as we go on extending the chain.  Now in this complexity, tracking our own relationships and the extended relationships we have with others (not in a sense of self-interest) requires some degree of understanding the relationships.

The question is can the brain in its natural state help us?

Yes, says the research conducted by Carolyn Parkinson of University of California.  Thanks to the Mo Costandi of Scientific American to bring this information to light.

FMRI on 21 MBA Students

Parkinson and her colleagues from Dartmouth College surveyed 275 first year MBA students.  In the survey, the questions where directed specifically towards their social habits.  It included how they preferred mingling with the crowd and with whom they preferred to hang around with and visit their homes.  Their preference in attending social events and so on.

They measured the responses in three different ways.  The first one looked at the ‘degrees of separation‘ from one another.  The second one looked at ‘their closeness to well-connected individuals’ in the social network” and the third ‘the extent of their closeness with aloof individuals’.

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