Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. But DON’T PANIC. Physics is on it. And if you’ve ever wondered which part of physics covers which part of space, fret no more. Here is an awesome map that lays it all out.
Dominic Walliman, “youtuber, science writer and physicist,” has created a wonderful infographic that shows the many branches of physics and how they all come together. He has accompanied it with a brief but informative video that gives a chronological overview of each branch and explains the matters (and energies) it is concerned with.
You may learn, for example, that Condensed Matter Physics describes the quantum physics of many atoms together in solids and liquids and is where technologies like computers and lasers come from. You may also learn that Quantum Field Theory is the closest we’ve gotten to bridging the gap between quantum physics and the Special Theory of Relativity but Quantum Field Theory has not yet found a way to include gravity (!) in it. (That feels like a pretty big gap.)
Credit: Dominic Walliman / Full resolution image here.
Walliman made the map to help people who may feel lost in physics like he once was.
“When you are learning a new subject, I think the single most useful thing is a good mind map that lays out all the subject areas so you know where the information you are learning fits in. I can remember so many times, sitting in a lecture, having no idea what the prof was talking about and how it related to other subjects.
I think this is often the case when I’m explaining physics to other people. I know physics really well (one would hope so after doing it for such a long time), so I thought I would make a map of all of physics as it is now. This is all the stuff we know about physics – and a few things we know we don’t know.”
While the map of physics sure seems daunting as is, it actually only covers scientific fields that describe about 5% of the universe. With dark energy and dark matter making up the other 95%, there are many new branches of physics we can be expecting in the future.
It’s a matter of some debate exactly how many neurons we have in our brains, though it’s somewhere in the millions, billions, or trillions. You’d think with all the possible connections in there, we’d have enough storage available to remember everything we ever experience. Alas, it’s not so. Sure, you remember all those song lyrics, but where are your keys? For many, though, it’s much more than a nuisance — for sufferers of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other memory-stealing conditions, the past crumbles way, making life increasingly difficult. For some time, scientists have been wondering if it would be possible to implant a device in the human brain that could improve its biological storage capacity. Now, scientists from USC have actually done it. Team member Dong Song presented their research this month at a Society of Neuroscience conference in Washington, D.C., according to New Scientist.
Song calls the device a “memory prosthesis.” The Parylene C — a biocompatible USP class VI polymer — neural probe sports an electrode array for detecting and ultimately reproducing electrical firing patterns in the hippocampus.
What an earlier version of the prosthesis, for rats, looks like (USC)
How the rat prosthesis worked (USC)
USC implanted their device in the brains of 20 volunteers who were already having electrodes implanted in their brains for the treatment of epilepsy.
The subjects were given a memory test in which they had to pick out odd, blobby shapes they’d been shown between 5 and 75 seconds earlier. The idea was to track the use of short-term and working — the type of recall you need to accomplish tasks — memory.
The implants recorded neuronal activity in each subject’s hippocampus during the test, allowing researchers to discern the electrical stimulation patterns associated with the memory tasks.
Finally, the subjects took another memory test during which the implants reproduced the firing patterns seen earlier in the hopes of enhancing subjects’ memorization abilities.
The improvement they achieved in subjects’ scores was startling: Short-term memory improved by 15% and working memory by roughly 25%.
While further testing is necessary, this memory prosthesis technology could represent a breakthrough for patients with memory disorders. For these people, a 15% or 20% improvement in the ability to remember could be slow the progress of their conditions, potentially helping them hold on to their precious memories.
Soccer maestro Cristiano Ronaldo‘s 2017 pay of $93 million makes him the world’s highest-paid athlete, according to Forbes magazine.The money that comes in from salary and endorsements make NBA great LeBron James second on that list with $86.2 million, while the $80 million earned by Lionel Messi, another soccer legend, rounds out the top three. But none of these amazing athletes can compare to the earning ability of the highest-paid athlete of all times – a Roman charioteer by the name of Gaius Appuleius Diocles, who got paid $15 billion in his lifetime.
Historian Peter T. Struck says that Diocles, a Lusitanian Spaniard who lived from 104 to 146 AD, earned 35,863,120 Roman sesterces in his lifetime – a figure that would amount to the $15 billion in today’s money. The number is inscribed on a monument in Rome, erected for Diocles by his fans at the end of a 24-year career.
The most famous races took place at Circus Maximus, a sports arena in Rome. Drivers generally came from lower social classes and affiliated with teams. The colors of the team jerseys – Reds, Blues, Whites and Greens – made it easier for fans to keep up with and root for their favorites. For the large majority of his chariot-racing life, Gaius Appuleius Diocles was a Red.
Races began when the emperor dropped his napkin and ended seven breathless laps later. Those who didn’t get maimed or killed and finished in the top three took home prizes.
As a charioteer, Diocles was known for a strong final dash, says Struck. His wardrobe would have consisted of a leather helmet, protector for the chest, shin guards, a jersey and a whip. He’d also carry a curved knife to use on opponents or if he got tangled up in the reins as a result of a fall.
From 4,257 four-horse races in which he competed in, Diocles won 1,462. He also placed in an another 1,438 races (mostly second place)
If you’re in the mood for some chariot racing, here’s the classic clip from the 1959 film Ben Hur:
And here’s a clip from the most recent Ben Hur movie version from 2016:
Remember NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft and its amazing pictures of Pluto back in 2015? Its next photo target is an intriguing icy, small world — or it may be a binary orbiting pair of objects, or two stuck together — in the Kuiper Belt, four billion miles away, out near the edge or solar system. New Horizons will photograph whatever it/they is on New Year’s Day 2019. NASA wants us to be excited about this mission, and they feel the object’s current name, (486958) 2014 MU69, lacks a certain pizazz. So they’re going to let the public name it.
Kuiper Belt (NASA)
But slow down, Readie McReaderson. No doubt to avoid the chaos surrounding the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) name game for a research vessel they eventually dubbed — yawn — “RRS Sir David Attenborough,” NASA’s just letting us pick the world a new nickname to replace the current one, “MU69.” Cagey.
If you’d like to get involved, here’s the link you need. The SETI institute is hosting the contest. You have until 3 pm EST/noon PST on December 1, 2017 to submit a name — NASA and the New Horizons team will “review the top vote-getters and announce their selection in early January.”
The three most popular submissions as of this writing are:
- Mjönir — AKA, Thor’s hammer
- Z’ha’dum — a fictional planet in the Babylon 5 universe.
- 3-way tie between peanut, almond, and cashew — since MU69 is a small, nut-shaped object(s). (Not listed: “macadamia.”)
Actually, if MU69 turns out to be binary, the dicotyledonous peanut would be kind of brilliant. (ARIARI)
SETI is updating the tally hourly, and SETI has posted background on the names under consideration.
Even though the contest may eventually devolve into comedy, NASA’s pride in New Horizon’s accomplishments is understandable. As its principle investigator Alan Stern says, “New Horizons has always been about pure exploration, shedding light on new worlds like we’ve never seen before. Our close encounter with MU69 adds another chapter to this mission’s remarkable story.”
New Horizons (NASA)
SETI’s got a few members on the New Horizons team, and one of them, Mark Showalter, is spearheading the MU69 naming contest. He was previously in charge of the Our Pluto project in which the public suggested names for prominent features on Pluto and its moon Charon. “Some of the best names for features on Pluto were nominated by members of the public during the Our Pluto campaign,” says Showalter. “I am always amazed by the creativity and imagination of the public.” (The man could have a second career in diplomacy.)
Whatever happens, these naming contest are an effective way to engage people in research that is, after all, genuinely fascinating. As Big Think’s Laurie Vasquez wrote last year about NERC’s campaign, “By welcoming the public into the project, they become part of the project, plain and simple. Yes, it can be silly, as Boaty McBoatface has demonstrated, but it’s also allowed NERC’s project to spread farther than they could have hoped.”
Voters in California may get to decide whether teachers’ salaries should match those of state legislators at the expense of a hike in the sales tax.
California Trust for Public Schools, an educational fundraising organization, will be collecting signatures for a new initiative measure called The Teacher Fair Pay Act that aims to amend the text of the Education Code and the Revenue and Taxation Code. If successful, Californians will get to vote on the pay raise in November 2018.
The proposal is to establish the California Achievement Trust Fund to supplement existing state and local funding. The money in the new fund will only be available to the State Department of Education for the purpose of ensuring that teachers’ salaries are competitive with the private sector and similar public sector professionals.
The exact text reads that, “In no case shall a full-time teacher […] be paid less than a non-leadership member of the California State Legislature.”
In order to pay for the increase in salaries, the organization is proposing a new sales tax on all retailers at the rate of two percent of the gross receipts.
To back the proposal, California Trust for Public Schools cites some worrying trends. Over the next ten years 100,000 California teachers are expected to retire, yet new teachers leave the profession at a rate six times greater than other public employees while the number of college graduates preparing to become teachers has plummeted by seventy six percent over the last decade.
Young people have fewer and fewer incentives to become teachers, but effective teachers are the single most important factor in children’s education.
The latest report from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) shows that while U.S. teachers out-earn their international colleagues with starting salaries of about $42,500 compared to under $31,000, U.S. teachers make less than 60 cents on every dollar made by others with their education level, which is the biggest gap of any OECD country. The report also found that U.S. teachers work longer hours, nearly 270 more hours of teaching than the international average.
Marc Litchman, the founder of California Trust for Public Schools, said for Education Week:
“‘If we want the best and the brightest teachers in our classrooms, we have to pay competitive salaries. Adjusted for inflation, a teacher should make $125,000 today to make what they did in 1960,’ and added that teacher salaries lag 17 percent behind salaries in the private sector and comparable public sector professions.”
Litchman also points out that “unlike legislators, being a teacher requires a college education, an advanced degree, and ongoing professional training, and, unlike legislators, teachers often work in dangerous, challenging, and substandard conditions in schools that can be poorly maintained and woefully underfunded.”
Proponents of the measure will need to collect 365,880 signatures in 180 days to get it on the ballot. Then it will be up to the voters to decide whether to make it active starting January 1, 2020.
Surprise! Scientists Discover the Human Brain Has a Lymphatic System.
At the dawn of the 19th century, when Paolo Mascagni hired Clementi Susini to help him make wax models of the human lymphatic system including the brain, he probably had no idea he was setting himself up for centuries of ridicule. In a 2003 piece about 18th-century science in The Lancet, his “mistake” was condescendingly explained: “Mascagni was probably so impressed with the lymphatic system that he saw lymph vessels even where they did not exist — in the brain.” That sentiment reflects what scientists have long believed. And then lymphatic vessels were foundin the dura mater, the membrane covering the brain, of mice by a team from University of Virginia in 2015. The researchers noted, “The discovery of the central-nervous-system lymphatic system may call for a reassessment of basic assumptions in neuroimmunology.” Ah, sweet vindication, 300 years later.
Mascagni’s wax brain model (THE LANCET)
The human lymphatic system transports lymph, a fluid in which our cells bathe and that carries away waste, toxins, and other cellular debris. Lymph is also an important element in our immune systems, containing white blood cells for fighting infection, and the lymphatic system delivers them to the 600-700 lymph nodes around the body, and to organs, to fight off infections.
The human brain’s lymphatic vessels were discovered by a team led by NIH neurologist and radiologist Daniel Reich, who specializes in multiple sclerosis. Since patients’ immune systems seemed somehow to be involved in inflammatory brain disease, and central nervous system cells produce waste like other cells do, he wondered why the brain wouldn’t have a lymphatic system that could account for both things. How was that waste being washed away anyway?
When a study was published in 2015 announcing the discovery of “a macroscopic waste clearance system that utilizes a unique system of perivascular channels, formed by astroglial cells, to promote efficient elimination of soluble proteins and metabolites from the central nervous system,” it seemed like he might have the beginning of an answer. Since it was also found that the system transported lipids, glucose, lipids, neurotransmitters, and amino acids, it was dubbed a “glymphatic system.” However, since “the central nervous system (CNS) completely lacks conventional lymphatic vessels,” exactly how the system worked was not yet understood.
Mindful of the dura mater lymphatic vessels in mice, Reich’s team developed an MRI method for imaging the brains of humans and marmosets that could identify lymphatic vessels — carefully differentiated from similar-looking blood vessels — in their dura mater. (They believe their findings would also be verifiable with autopsy tissue.)
(REICH, ET AL.)
The marmosets and human volunteers were injected with gadolinium, a dye-like fluid that normal blood vessels can’t hold — it leaks out of them. On the other hand, lymph vessels cansuccessfully contain gadolinium. Once the gadolinium reached the dura mater, it became relatively easy to separate out the lymphatic vessels from the blood vessels: They were the ones that showed up on the MRIs as bright white areas containing gadolinium. As a double-check, they injected another dye that blood vessels can hold onto, and found that it never found its way out of them and into the suspected lymphatic vessels.
(REICH, ET AL.)
Now that we know the brain has lymphatic vessels, it becomes, as Reich’s team states, “possible to study how the brain removes waste products and circulates white blood cells, and to examine whether this process is impaired in aging or disease,” and that the discovery, after all this time, of lymphatic vessels in the dura mater of humans “holds promise for better understanding the normal physiology of lymphatic drainage from the central nervous system and potential aberrations in neurological diseases.”
Coming out can be hard. There is no easy path.
That’s why celebrating National Coming Out Day is so special. It’s important for all of us to share our strength with those who may be thinking about taking a big step forward. Take a look at some tips in our video and infographic below. Please forward or share this with someone who needs this today.
Creative thinking has long fascinated us. In the Middle Ages, creativity was believed to have a divine source, appearing only in people with an open line of communication with God. It wasn’t until the Renaissance that creatives were given credit for their work. Modern studies have shown that this kind of thinking is simply something the normal human mind is capable of, though there aresome studies that suggests that we’re actually becoming less creative than we used to be. In any event, everybody seems to want to enhance creative thinking, and the psychologists behind the new study were interested in seeing what role music could play since there’s been a fair amount of research into music’s impact on the brain.
A study just published in PLOS One suggests that happy music can be the key that unlocks divergent thinking, the kind of thinking that results in creative solutions and ideas. Psychologists studied 155 people in their late teens and 20s and found a clear correlation between how they thought and what they were listening to.
- Convergent thinking — This type of thinking, as its name suggests, involves putting together a set of choices to assess their relative value and select the best option. It’s a way of concentrating on something where you already have the information you need and simply need to arrive at the best conclusion.
- Divergent thinking — This type of thinking goes wide in search of new possibilities. The mind opens up, or diverges, from the basic task, free to dream up completely new ideas or develop a fresh synthesis of, or angle on, existing ones.
To demonstrate why we’d want to enhance divergent thinking, the study’s authors cite an example: The problem not having enough resources to repair high-tech incubators in developing countries with high neonatal death rates. Convergent thinking, or digging deeper, might involve improving the technology to make the incubators more reliable, or train more local people to repair them. Divergent thinking might lead to the designing of new incubators based on car parts with which locals are already familiar.
The researchers had their subjects attempt to solve a series of puzzles that required one of the two types of thinking to solve.
There were three types of tests for convergent thinking:
- Idea selection task — in which subjects were asked to select the three most creative objects from 10 kitchen inventions they were shown.
- Remote associates task — in which subjects were asked ten times to come up with a fourth word after hearing a seemingly unrelated three-word combination.
- Creative insight task — in which participants were presented with two physical puzzles. The first posed the “two-string” problem in which two strings hanging from the ceiling need to be tied together, even though they’re spaced too far apart to be grabbed at the same time. (The solution is to swing one like a pendulum to bring its end closer to the other.). The other was the “Duncker candle problem,” in which a candle must be stuck to a wall and lit without dripping wax on the floor using only matches and box of thumbtacks. (Tack the box to the wall, put the candle in the box, and light it with a match.)
For divergent thinking, subjects were given an Alternate Uses Task that instructed them to find many uses as they could for a common household brick.
As subjects worked, pieces of classical music were played in the background. Each was selected for its emotional effect as determined by previous study.
First off, none of the music had any discernible effect on the performance of convergent tasks. Divergent thinking, though, was another story altogether.
Using a an Overall Divergent Thinking scale (ODT), where high scores are better, subjects listening to happy music had a rating of 93.87. Working in silence? A paltry ODT rating of 76. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for the win.
The research didn’t get into why this happens, though its authors suggest that divergent thinking may provide the only way out of a sticky problem, “When getting stuck in a rut, it can be helpful to, instead of digging deeper, dig elsewhere.”
Smartphone addiction creates many problems: car accidents, poor educational performance, insomnia, relationship issues, anxiety, and depression.2 As with any technology—as with anything, really—too much is too much. Inattentiveness is a chronic problem. Yet the benefits to technology are also undeniable, which is why medical app makers are using this medium to fight back.
Smartphones may help provoke depression and anxiety, but new research from top Australian institutes explores apps that are helping users reduce the symptoms and even combat the roots of these disorders. Researchers chose eighteen randomized controlled trials, fourteen of which were published in the last two years, which cover 3,414 men and women between the ages of 18-59. Participants suffered from depression, insomnia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and other related disorders.
In this meta-analysis the researchers discovered these apps have a moderate positive effect over inactive controls and a small positive effect over active control conditions. In terms of apps themselves, cognitive training apps proved more efficient than apps focused on mental health.
When combined with traditional methods such psychotherapy and pharmaceuticals, this new wave of apps could become standard protocol in an integrative approach to battling depression, anxiety, and related disorders. Regardless of each app’s specific focus, researchers conclude “smartphone devices are a promising self-management tool for depression.”
Here are some of the apps showing promise:
Project: EVO. This app is designed to improve symptoms of inattention, executive function, and working memory. The company is testing others to help address Alzheimer’s disease, brain injury, and autism. Research from earlier this year showed that the app might help children with cognitive impairments, including sensory processing disorder. Another study found that the video game interface might treat underlying causes of depression and not only just manage the symptoms.
Moodhacker. Moodhacker’s interactive platform encourages healthy habits, targeting sleeping patterns, nutrition, exercise, and social support. By tracking patterns and moods it aims to help users better understand the flow of their day and make better decisions. A studyof 300 employees found that it helped promote work productivity, reduced absence from work, and lowered workplace distress, when compared to other depression-related websites.
MONARCA. This bipolar disorder app tracks user’s activity, moods, sleep patterns, medication adherence, stress levels, and alcohol consumption, as well as noticing triggers and early warning signs. It then shares the data with clinicians. Of course, there are dangers with self-assessments, but one study of 78 participants found that MONARCA users showed fewer manic symptoms after six months when compared to a group using a placebo app.
Headspace. This mindfulness meditation app has dominated the meditation market since its launch. It takes advantage of years of research on the benefits of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy programs, especially when it comes to reducing anxiety and depression. I also appreciate co-founder Andy Puddicombe’s thoughtful guidance and welcoming voice.
myCompass. This Australian intervention app helps you create a personalized program targeting feelings and behaviors that lead to depression and anxiety. One study of 135 participants found that this app might help astronauts deal with depression in space. If it helps people deal with hurtling through space at ungodly speeds, just think of us with our feet on the ground.
PTSD Coach. One of the great advancements in understanding psychology has been the recognition of post-traumatic stress disorder. This app, designed by the National Center for PTSD, allows you to track your symptoms, provides tools for handing stress when it arises, and links to immediate, human help. While scientific studies for this app are scant, research by the US Department of Veteran Affairs found that nine out of ten users find it beneficial.
Derek is the author of Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health. Based in Los Angeles, he is working on a new book about spiritual consumerism. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
The Great Pyramid in Egypt is the last of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. The tomb for Pharaoh Khufu — “Cheops” in Greek — sits on the Giza plateau about 3 kilometers southwest of Egypt’s capitol Cairo, and it’s huge: nearly 147 meters high and 230.4 meters on each side (it’s now slightly smaller due to erosion). Built of roughly 2.3 million limestone and rose granite stones from hundreds of kilometers away, it’s long posed a couple of vexing and fascinating mysteries: How did the ancient Egyptians manage to get all of these stones to Giza, and how did they build such a monumental object? All sorts of exotic ideas have been floated, including assistance from aliens visiting earth. Now, as the result of an amazing find in a cave 606 kilometers away, we have an answer in the form of 4,600-year-old, bound papyrus scrolls, the oldest papyri ever found. They’re the journal of one of the managers who helped build the great pyramid. It’s the only eye-witness account of building the Great Pyramid that’s ever been found.
It was written by a man named Merer, who reported to “the noble Ankh-haf,” Khufu’s half-brother. It describes, among other things, a stop of his 200-man crew in the Tura, or Maaasara, limestone quarries on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Suez, and filling up their boat for the 13-17 km trip back up the river to Giza. Since this type of limestone was used for the pyramid’s outer casing, the journal is believed to document work on the tomb during the final year of Khufu’s life, around 2560 BCE.
In 1823, British explorer John Gardner Wilkinson first described the caves in Wadi al-Jarf on the eastern coast of the Red Sea: “Near the ruins is a small knoll containing eighteen excavated chambers, beside, perhaps, many others, the entrance of which are no longer visible.” He described them as being “well cut and vary from about 80 to 24 feet, by 5; their height may be from 6 to 8 feet.” Two French pilots also noted presence of the 30 caves in the mid-1950s, but it wasn’t until Pierre Tallet interviewed one of the pilots that he was able to pinpoint the caves’ location during a 2011 dig. Two years later, the papyri were discovered. Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass called it “the greatest discovery in Egypt in the 21st century.”
Prior to the work of Tallet and others, the ancient Egyptians weren’t thought to be seafarers, but abandoned ports unearthed along the Gulf of Suez and the Read Sea tell a different story.
In the Egyptian resort town Ayn Soukhna, along the west coast of the Suez, Egyptian heirogplyhs were first found on cliff walls in 1997. “I love rock inscriptions,” Tallet told Smithsonian, “they give you a page of history without excavating.” He read one to the Smithsonian: “In year one of the king, they sent a troop of 3,000 men to fetch copper, turquoise and all the good products of the desert.”
That would be the Sinai desert across the Red Sea, and Wadi al-Jarf is only 56 km away from two of a group of ports. Tallet has uncovered the remains of an 182-meter, L-shaped jetty there, along with 130 anchors. He believes it, like Ayn Soukhna, were part of a series of ports, supply hubs, bringing needed materials into Egypt. The caves were apparently built for boat storage, as they have been elsewhere around the edges of ancient Egypt. It appears Wadi al-Jarf was only in use a short while, during the building of the pyramid — it likely supplied the project with Sinai copper, the hardest metal of is time, for cutting stones.
The second part of the Great Pyramid mystery — who built it? — may have been solved in the 1980s by Mark Lehner, who uncovered a residential area capable of housing some 20,000 people just meters from the pyramids. Prior to that find, there was scant evidence of the massive population of workers that would have been required for building the tomb. Studying the “cattle-to-pig” ratio revealed the diversity of the population that lived there,: Beef was the food of the elite; pigs of the working person, and Lerhner discovered “the ratio of cattle to pig for the entire site stands at 6:1, and for certain areas 16:1,” a plausible distribution for the construction team.
Lehner visited Wadi al-Jarf and concurs with Tallet about its meaning: “The power and purity of the site is so Khufu,” he told Smithsonian. “The scale and ambition and sophistication of it — the size of these galleries cut out of rock like the Amtrak train garages, these huge hammers made out of hard black diorite they found, the scale of the harbor, the clear and orderly writing of the hieroglyphs of the papyri, which are like Excel spreadsheets of the ancient world—all of it has the clarity, power and sophistication of the pyramids, all the characteristics of Khufu and the early fourth dynasty.” He believes the pyramid stones were transported by boat from ports like Wadi al-Jarf and Ayn Soukhna via canals to the construction site in Giza, the ancient Egyptians having been master builders of such waterways for the purposes of irrigation.
One could argue that people’s smartphones are an extension of themselves—these devices hold so much of ourselves from reminders for important occasions to phone numbers that if we didn’t have them, part of our minds would become inaccessible, like a focused form of amnesia. So, what happens when you take someone’s smartphone away? Erin Blakemore from the Smithsonianwrites on a study that answers just this question.
Researchers from the University of Missouri wanted to know how people performed when their iPhones were taken away from them. So, they found 41 students–quite a small sample–that owned iPhones through a survey on “media usage.” These participants were then put in a cubicle (with their iPhones in tow) to solve a series of word search puzzles. Researcher monitored their anxiety levels, heart rate, and blood pressure during this first part.
The researchers then announced that the participants’ iPhones were causing Bluetooth interference with the blood pressure cuffs, so they had to move their phones. The smartphones were placed nearby, within earshot of the participants. While the participants continued to work on the word search puzzles, the researchers called their phones, during which time they noted the participants’ anxiety levels, heart rates, and blood pressures. There was a “significant increase” in all three and a decline in puzzle performance.
Russell Clayton, a graduate student at the university’s School of Journalism and lead author of the study, said in the paper:
“Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks. Additionally, the results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state.”
This may help explain why we become so distraught when our smartphones become lost or accidentally left behind when we go to work—a part of us feels like it’s missing. Some have been even reported feeling “phantom vibrations” while away from their phones.
Read more at the Smithsonian
Fitness headlines promise staggering physical results: a firmer butt, ripped abs, bulging biceps. Nutritional breakthroughs are similar clickbait, with attention-grabbing, if often inauthentic—what, really, is a “superfood?”—means of achieving better health. Strangely, one topic usually escaping discussion has been shown, time and again, to make us healthier, smarter, and more empathic animals: reading.
Reading, of course, requires patience, diligence, and determination. Scanning headlines and retweeting quips is not going to make much cognitive difference. If anything, such sweet nothings are dangerous, the literary equivalent of sugar addiction. Information gathering in under 140 characters is lazy. The benefits of contemplation through narrative offer another story.
The benefits are plenty, which is especially important in a distracted, smartphone age in which one-quarter of American children don’t learn to read. This not only endangers them socially and intellectually, but cognitively handicaps them for life. One 2009 study of 72 children ages eight to ten discovered that reading creates new white matter in the brain, which improves system-wide communication.
White matter carries information between regions of grey matter, where any information is processed. Not only does reading increase white matter, it helps information be processed more efficiently.
Reading in one language has enormous benefits. Add a foreign language and not only do communication skills improve—you can talk to more people in wider circles—but the regions of your brain involved in spatial navigation and learning new informationincrease in size. Learning a new language also improves your overall memory.
In one of the most fascinating aspects of neuroscience, language affects regions of your brain involving actions you’re reading about. For example, when you read “soap” and “lavender,” the parts of your brain implicated in scent are activated. Those regions remain silent when you read “chair.” What if I wrote “leather chair?” Your sensory cortex just fired.
Continuing from the opening paragraph, let’s discuss squats in your quest for a firmer butt. Picture the biomechanics required for a squat. Your motor cortex has been activated. Athletes have long envisioned their movements—Serena Williams’s serve; Conor McGregor’s kicks; Usain Bolt’s bursts of speed—to achieve better proficiency while actually moving. That’s because their brains are practicing. That is, they’re practicing through visualization techniques.
Hard glutes are one thing. Novel reading is a great way to practice being human. Rather than sprints and punches, how about something more primitive and necessary in a society, like empathy? As you dive deeper into Rabbit Angstrom’s follies or Jason Taylor coming of age, you not only feel their pain and joy. You actually experience it.
In one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.
This has profound implications for how we interact with others. When encountering a 13-year-old boy misbehaving, you most likely won’t think, “Well, David Mitchell wrote about such a situation, and so I should behave like this,” but you might have integrated some of the lessons about young boys figuring life out and display a more nuanced understanding in how you react.
Perhaps you’ll even reconsider trolling someone online regarding their political opinion, remembering that no matter how crass and inhumane a sentiment appears on screen, an actual human is sitting behind the keyboard pecking out their thoughts. I’m not arguing against engaging, but for the love of anything closely resembling humanity, argue intelligently.
Because reading does in fact make us more intelligent. Research shows that reading not only helps with fluid intelligence, but with reading comprehension and emotional intelligence as well. You make smarter decisions about yourself and those around you.
All of these benefits require actually reading, which leads to the formation of a philosophy rather than the regurgitation of an agenda, so prevalent in reposts and online trolling. Recognizing the intentions of another human also plays a role in constructing an ideology. Novels are especially well-suited for this task. A 2011 studypublished in the Annual Review of Psychology found overlap in brain regions used to comprehend stories and networks dedicated to interactions with others.
Novels consume time and attention. While the benefits are worthwhile, even shorter bursts of prose exhibit profound neurological effects. Poetry elicits strong emotional responses in readers and, as one study shows, listeners. Heart rates, facial expressions, and “movement of their skin and arm hairs” were measured while participants listened to poetry. Forty percent ended up displaying visible goose bumps, as they would while listening to music or watching movies. As for their craniums:
Their neurological responses, however, seemed to be unique to poetry: Scans taken during the study showed that listening to the poems activated parts of participants’ brains that, as other studies have shown, are not activated when listening to music or watching films.
These responses mostly occurred near the conclusion of a stanza and especially near the end of the poem. This fits in well with our inherent need for narrative: in the absence of a conclusion our brain automatically creates one, which, of course, leads to plenty of heartbreak and suffering when our speculations prove to be false. Instead we should turn to more poetry:
There is something fundamental to the poetic form that implies, creates, and instills pleasure.
Whether an Amiri Baraka verse or a Margaret Atwood trilogy, attention matters. Research at Stanford showed a neurological difference between reading for pleasure and focused reading, as if for a test. Blood flows to different neural areas depending on how reading is conducted. The researchers hope this might offer clues1for advancing cognitive training methods.
I have vivid memories of my relationship with reading: trying to write my first book (Scary Monster Stories) at age five; creating a mock newspaper after the Bernard Goetz subway shooting when I was nine, my mother scolding me for “thinking about such things”; sitting in the basement of my home in the Jersey suburbs one weekend morning, determined to read the entirety of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I did.
Reading is like any skill. You have to practice it, regularly and constantly.3 While I never finished (or really much started) Scary Monster Stories, I have written nine books and read thousands more along the way. Though it’s hard to tell if reading has made me smarter or a better person, I like to imagine that it has.
What I do know is that life would seem a bit less meaningful if we didn’t share stories with one another. While many mediums for transmitting narratives across space and time exist, I’ve found none as pleasurable as cracking open a new book and getting lost in a story. Something profound is always discovered along the way.
Derek is the author of Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health. Based in Los Angeles he is working on a new book about spiritual consumerism. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
Take advantage of student interest in the tournaments by adapting your classroom activities to the activity taking place on the basketball court. Basketball can be incorporated into almost every area of the curriculum — from physics to poetry, from math to music!
A brief description of each activity appears below. Click any headline for a complete teaching resource. See additional lesson plan resources at the end of this article.
Figure the Winner
Students use math to predict the winners of the NCAA basketball tournaments. (Grade 9-12)
Basketball for Better Verse
Students write poems about basketball. (Grade 3-5, 6-8, 9-12)
The Team at Home
Students locate an NCAA basketball tournament team on a map, research the relationship of the team’s name and mascot to the location of the college, and cheer the team to victory! (Grade 6-8, 9-12)
You’ve Got Game!
Students create new games that conform to specific, pre-set conditions. (Grade 3-5, 6-8, 9-12)
Students add the values of musical notes to win a chance to shoot a basketball. (Grade 3-5, 6-8)
The NCAA Basketball site offers articles, schedules, scores, and other resources about both the men’s and women’s teams.
This site provides physical education lesson plans, including several basketball-related lessons.
Younger students learn how to mathematically calculate field-goal and free-throw percentages.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
Pew Research Center “Code-Dependent: Pros and cons of the algorithm age”
As businesses and governments leverage algorithms to make use of massive amounts of data, Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a large-scale canvassing of technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners, and government leaders to consider what’s next for algorithms – 38% of experts predicted that the positive impacts of algorithms will outweigh negatives for individuals and society in general, while 37% said negatives will outweigh positives; and 25% said the overall impact of algorithms will be about 50-50, positive-negative.
The Verge “New Google Brain research brings the ‘zoom and enhance’ trope to reality”
New research from Google Brain could use a pair of neural networks to process a 8 pixel x 8 pixel image and generate an approximation of the original – the first network is a “conditioning network,” which maps the pixels of the low-resolution picture to a similar high-resolution one that gets used as a rough skeleton of how the face or room should look, while the second is a “prior network” that analyzes the pixelated image and tries to add details based on existing images with similar pixel locations. See also Engadget.
Books and Publishing
Slate “Is my novel offensive?”
Sensitivity readers may help writers develop more diverse characters in fiction, navigating the complexities of representation and avoiding the prospect of backlash, by leveraging this new part of the editorial process.
KidScreen “Scholastic: Kids are seeking out more diverse stories”
Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report finds that more children and their parents are interested in reading stories about different races, cultures and faiths, though access to these books are still scarce – kids are seeking out stories that portray characters that are “differently-abled” (13%), “culturally or ethnically diverse” (11%), and “who break stereotypes” (11%).
Cities and Government
The New York Times “First amendment support climbing among high school students”
A Knight Foundation survey of nearly 12,000 students finds that support among American high school students for the First Amendment is stronger today than it has been in the last 12 years – 91% of high school students say they believe that individuals should be allowed to express unpopular opinions, but only 45% support that right when the speech in question is offensive to others and made in public.
Governing “Millennials let their grandparents decide local elections”
A Portland State University study tallied voter turnout in the most recent mayoral elections in the 30 largest cities and found that residents 65 years and older were a median of seven times more likely to vote than those ages 18 to 34 – this lowered youth participation in local elections could be due to young people moving more frequently, renting in higher numbers, or viewing local races as less competitive and consequential.
The Economist “Millennials across the rich world are failing to vote”
Voter turnout across the rich world has been declining and has fallen fastest among the young, with the gap in turnout between young and old in many places resembling the racial gap in the American South in the early 1960s, when state governments routinely suppressed the black vote – if voting habits are formed early, this low turnout could have significant consequences, even weakening the perceived legitimacy of elected governments.
The Atlantic “Red state, blue city”
Still more about the growing divide between cities and states, with cities turning to local ordinances as their best hope on issues ranging from gun control to the minimum wage to transgender rights, while state legislatures work to limit cities’ regulation efforts.
The Guardian “Statisticians fear Trump White House will manipulate figures to fit narrative”
In a series of interviews with the Guardian, statisticians who had recently left high-level positions at federal statistical agencies expressed worry that the administration may stop collecting and publishing data on politicized subjects such as abortion, racial inequality, and poverty.
The Daily Dot “Increased ICE raids across the U.S. spark protests in New York, Los Angeles, Texas”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in six states sparked protests – despite the increased reporting of the raids, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security told the Washington Post that the confirmed raids were part of “routine” immigration enforcement.
The Conversation “Immigration and crime: What does the research say?”
An interesting compilation of research related to immigration’s effect on crime – generally, immigration-crime research over the past 20 years has found no backing for the immigration-crime connection, with the literature demonstrating that immigrants commit fewer crimes on average than native-born Americans, and cities and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have lower rates of crime and violence when all other factors are equal. See also The Daily Dot.
Wired “The secret to a happy, healthy city? Places for people to protest”
Recent protests highlight an important element of successful cities – open public spaces and streets where people gather naturally to socialize and, in a politicized time, to protest.
The Daily Dot “23 states have laws that harm or exclude the trans community”
In 2016, there were nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills introduced in more than 20 states and 23 states have laws that actively harm, limit, or exclude the trans community specifically, including limiting access to an ID that matches their gender identity, employment discrimination, denials of service or harassment, housing discrimination, and limits on family.
The Daily Dot “Parents can do one thing to lower trans kids’ depression: Support them”
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that with supportive families – those families that referred to children by the correct pronouns and supported wearing clothing that aligned with their gender identity – trans kids were no more likely to suffer from depression than cisgender kids in their age group.
CityLab “Why did Americans stop moving?”
The mobility of Americans has reached record lows, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census – with just 11.2% of Americans moving between 2015 and 2016, almost half the 20.2% rate in 1948, and just 6.9% of Americans making shorter moves within the same county, down from 13.6% in 1948.
The New York Times “A secret of many urban 20-somethings: Their parents help with the rent”
According to surveys that track young people through their first decade of adulthood, nearly 40% of 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds receive some financial assistance from their parents for living expenses, with an average amount of $3,000 a year – a stark reminder that social and economic mobility continues even past college and economic advantages continue well into the opening chapters of adulthood.
The New York Times “More women in their 60s and 70s are having ‘way too much fun’ to retire”
According to two new analyses of census, earnings, and retirement data that provide the most comprehensive look yet at women’s career paths, women’s working lives are changing with more women working in their 20s and 30s when they had previously been home with children, delaying family breaks until their late 30s or early 40s, returning to the labor force far more frequently after having children, and becoming significantly more likely to work into their 60s and even 70s, often full time.
Pew Research Center “20 metro areas are home to six-in-ten unauthorized immigrants in U.S.”
New Pew Research Center analysis of government data estimates that most of the United States’ 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants live in just 20 major metropolitan areas, with the largest populations in New York, Los Angeles and Houston. See also CityLab.
ArsTechnica “Amazon tells Super Bowl viewers to look for Prime Air drone delivery “soon””
The last of Amazon’s three Super Bowl commercials featured an Amazon delivery drone, described to viewers as a “Prime Air” delivery – though at the bottom of the screen Amazon offered a fine-print disclaimer: “Prime Air is not available in some states (or any really). Yet.” See also GeekWire.
Vocativ “Drone journalism school takes flight with three-day courses”
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit journalism school, will launch a drone journalism school later this year to help students learn how to fly a DJI drone, navigate state and federal regulations, understand legal and privacy issues, and ethical use of a camera-mounted flying robot – the three day course will be available in four separate locations: University of Georgia, Syracuse University, University of Wisconsin, and University of Oregon.
ReCode “Trump’s freeze on new regulation means that we won’t get drone delivery anytime soon”
U.S. President Trump’s executive order requiring two federal regulations to be rescinded for every new one passed could prove problematic for expanding drone usage – in 2014 the National Transportation Safety Board classified drones as aircraft, which means drones need to abide by FAA regulations in order to fly, and the FAA will have a hard time killing existing rules to make room for new ones.
Scientific American “Robo-bees could aid insects with pollination duties”
Researchers from Japan believe that mini drones sporting horsehair coated in a sticky gel could support declining bee populations by transporting pollen from plant to plant. See also Gizmodo, New Scientist, and The Verge.
The Guardian “Sex doesn’t sell any more, activism does. And don’t the big brands know it”
Companies are now attempting to outdo each other with major acts of generosity, as long as they can make sure their customers know about it – while these brands are showcasing social responsibility, ultimately they are likely most concerned with customer growth and loyalty.
Wired “The next big blue-collar job is coding”
Programming and coding could be the next blue-collar jobs if the focus could shift from expensive four-year computer science degrees to more coding at the vocational level in high school or community college to create competent programmers that could tackle a wealth of opportunities that will be available in the coming years.
Des Moines Register “‘Sanctuary schools’ could be coming to Des Moines”
Des Moines Public Schools will act as “sanctuaries” for undocumented students, barring staff from asking about their immigration status and funneling federal inquiries through the superintendent’s office and district attorney, but stopping short of blocking the district from working with immigration officials.
The New York Times “Yale will drop John Calhoun’s name from building”
After protests, Yale president Peter Salovey announced that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun to honor Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale – the decision was a reversal of the university’s previous decision to maintain the name.
ReCode “Twitter says it’s going to start pushing more abusive tweets out of sight”
Twitter unveiled three new updates to address abusive tweets – new efforts to keep banned users from rejoining the service via new accounts; an optional “safe search” feature that removes tweets with inappropriate words, phrases, or images from search results; and an algorithm-powered feature to hide inappropriate responses to tweets so they don’t appear in user conversations. See also Advertising Age, CNET, and GeekWire.
Engadget “Facebook says it can’t police all posts for racism”
In the course of a German lawsuit over misuse of photos in fake news, a lawyer for Facebook said it wasn’t possible for Facebook to watch for racist language in every post since there are “billions” of posts every day and it would require a “wonder machine” to catch every possible instance of abuse. See also Advertising Age and Consumerist.
Nieman Lab “As a presidential election looms in France, Google and Facebook team up with news outlets to factcheck”
In the lead up to elections in France, Google will partner with media outlets including Agence France-Presse, BuzzFeed News, and Le Monde on a countrywide factchecking initiative calling CrossCheck, which will also see Facebook working with news organizations to reduce the amount of misinformation and hoax stories from appearing on its platform. See also TechCrunch, The Verge, and Vocativ.
CNET “Facebook will help you find food and shelter in emergencies”
Facebook added a Community Help feature to the Safety Check crisis response tool, referring users to a page where they can find help or provide for those in need following a natural disaster or other catastrophe and allowing them to search posts by location and categories, which include food, water, shelter, transportation, baby supplies, and equipment. See also Consumerist, The Drum, Engadget, GeekWire, Mash
The Verge “The Met has released more than 375,000 images that you can use for free”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has made high-resolution scans of its entire collection of art in the public domain — more than 375,000 images — available to the public under Creative Commons Zero, allowing the public to use the images in any way they see fit. See also CNET, Mashable, and TechCrunch.
Journalism and News
The Guardian “Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as ‘unreliable’ source”
Wikipedia, which rarely puts in place a blanket ban on publications, has placed a ban on the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group “generally unreliable” with a “reputation for poor fact checking and sensationalism.” See also The Drum and Nieman Lab.
Bloomberg “New York Times offers free Spotify service to boost subscribers”
The New York Times is working with Spotify to give new digital subscribers free access to the music-streaming service, part of the newspaper’s growing strategy to reach younger readers through new partnerships. See also CNET, Consumerist, Engadg
Digiday “News publisher Attn is crowdsourcing Facebook Live coverage”
Two-year-old news site Attn: is using Facebook Live to cover protest events, using content recorded by pre-selected protesters already planning to attend events and working with a producer from Attn’s Facebook Live team managing the camera feeds for each live stream remotely.
Nieman Lab “With “Burst Your Bubble,” The Guardian pushes readers beyond their political news boundaries”
The Guardian has launched a Burst Your Bubble column that lists “five conservative articles worth reading to expand your thinking each week.”
Mashable “D.C. police demand Facebook hand over data on Trump protesters”
The D.C. police department subpoenaed Facebook for information about the social data for several protesters arrested while demonstrating against the inauguration of President Donald Trump. See also Engadget.
The Verge “Republicans are reportedly using a self-destructing message app to avoid leaks”
News analysis site Axios reports that Trump administration members and other Republicans are using the encrypted, self-destructing messaging app Confide in the wake of hacks and leaks, including of the Democratic National Committee.
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
Racked “Abercrombie’s new store doesn’t look (or smell) like the Abercrombie you know”
Abercrombie & Fitch’s new concept store features fitting rooms designed as two small rooms within a larger suite so that friends can try on clothing and show each other privately, along with light and music controls, a phone charging station, spaces for seasonal capsule collections, a fragrance “apothecary,” multiple checkout counters, and the option to pick up online orders and place online orders while in the store.
CNET “YouTube takes on Facebook Live with mobile live streaming”
YouTube will soon introduce a mobile live streaming feature, available first to YouTube channels with more than 10,000 subscribers. See also The Drum.
Advertising Age “A&E networks becomes latest TV brand to create shows for Snapchat”
A&E Networks has struck a deal with Snapchat to develop shows that involve talent and brands from its networks like History, Lifetime, and FYI, including a reality show called Second Chance that will be the first reality series being developed for Snapchat that is not based on an existing TV brand or franchise.
TechCrunch “BBC jumps into Snapchat Shows with Planet Earth II; Snap expands Snapcodes”
Snapchat announced a new deal with the UK’s BBC Worldwide to produce a six-episode Snapchat Show for North America based on the popular Planet Earth II documentary series.
The Verge “Prince’s discography reportedly set to hit more streaming services this weekend”
Part of Prince’s music catalog, which had previously been excluded from streaming services, will become available on services like Spotify, Apple Music, and others – Warner Music, which owns the licensing rights to all of Prince’s recordings released before 1996, has made the content available. See also ArsTechnica, The Daily Dot, Mashable, and TechCrunch.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Mashable “Google brings virtual reality directly to your web browser”
Google announced that it would use WebVR to make virtual reality more widely available in the Chrome browser, allowing VR experiences to be hosted on websites so that users can use Daydream-ready phones and a Daydream View headset to browse to a VR experience, select the VR option, and put the phone into the headset.
Business Insider “Facebook is closing hundreds of its Oculus VR pop-ups in Best Buys after some stores went days without a single demo”
Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus virtual reality demo stations at Best Buy locations – many Best Buy employees noted that the Oculus pop-ups could go days without giving a single demonstration. See also MIT Technology Review.
Check out this website for some alternatives to those BORING powerpoints you have been producing (feel free to share with those teachers that are putting you to sleep as well!
An Ohio State organic chemistry class erupted like a volatile reaction when a student made an impossible toss from the mezzanine, guaranteeing everyone in attendance a perfect score on their first quiz.
The student, Vinny Forte (not Benny, as the tweet above suggests), became a back-to-school hero and possibly (definitely not) the next quarterback of the football team with the amazing throw. Seriously, the odds of sinking this shot are only slightly better than finding two electrons in an atom with the same quantum numbers. It just doesn’t happen.
“Technically, he didn’t. The actual promise was that there would be no quiz, expecting that the shot would miss. Instead, he decided that we still had to take it, but it was based on participation.
Source: Was in the lower floor of that class. The hype and applause that followed was unreal.”
In all seriousness, good luck in organic chemistry.