The state of lucid dreaming

Strange But True: A sort of secondary consciousness
BY BILL SONES AND RICH SONES, PH.D. Published: January 4, 2011
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Q: How might you be awake and asleep at the same time?

A: By waking up in your dreams, which is how researchers describe “lucid dreaming,” in which the dreamer becomes aware it's only a dream even as the dream unfolds, New Scientist magazine says. It appears that lucid dreamers' brains are in a penumbral state between waking and sleeping, affording opportunities for the study of consciousness. Perhaps confronting our demons in lucid dreams could help us overcome phobias; further, practicing a motor task in a dream, such as dancing or playing an instrument, may hone skills for the waking world. The lucid dream amounts to a sort of secondary consciousness — not only aware of events but aware that we are aware — a quality thought to be unique to people, journalist Jessica Hamzelou says. Ursula Voss at the University of Frankfurt in Germany trained a group of students to signal while asleep and dreaming, by moving their eyes in a pre-agreed pattern, measurable with an electro-oculograph. After weeks of reality checking, Hamzelou herself finally had her first lucid dream.

Q: How many digits of pi can you remember from high school math?

A: Retired Japanese engineer Akira Haraguchi set a world record in 2006 by memorizing and reciting 100,000 digits of pi, which expresses the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, or 3.14159, says Clifford Pickover in “The Math Book.” Perhaps ancient people observed that for every revolution of a cartwheel, a cart moves forward about three times the diameter of the wheel. The famous symbol for pi probably stemmed from the first letter of the Greek word for “periphery.” Pi's digits never end, nor has anyone detected an orderly pattern in their arrangement.

Q: Why are people such “water sponges?”

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