How Street Smart Are You?

We’ve all heard the stories, the kid who couldn’t quite cut it in school but still found a way to beat the odds and become a success. Started from the bottom…well, you know the rest. Being “book smart” and excelling in the classroom is important, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Many successful people like Jay-Z, Mark Zuckerberg and even Katy Perry have reached their goals by making the most of the skills they have learned outside of the classroom, or what we commonly refer to as “street smarts”.

When we think of being “street smart” the assumption is that this pertains to someone who has learned how to adapt and survive in a tough neighborhood or has taken the code of the streets and applied it to the business world. Street smarts is actually a measure of one’s resilience, adaptability, resourcefulness, critical thinking and problem solving skills. All of which are key skills for the 21st century.

There are no rules that say you can only be book smart or street smart and not both. Street smarts also has nothing to do with the crime rate in your city and your ability to avoid danger. It is a measure of your ability to problem solve when presented with an unforeseen obstacle. Many jobs of the future will no longer come with instructions or training, computers will take care of most of the routine work. Jobs of the future will be based on one’s ability to react in the moment, think critically and solve problems that computers can’t. Street smarts have less to do with how well you know the streets, and more to do with adapting to change, overcoming obstacles and solving problems with limited resources.

Take the quiz below to test your street smarts and see if you’re ready to take on the world!

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From Clicks to Cash: How Much Money Can You Make on YouTube?


Traditionally, stars are born on television or in the movies, but in more recent years, YouTube has been behind the making of many celebrities. These “YouTubers” have loyal followings and millions of subscribers. A glance at any of PewDiePie‘s (the top YouTuber in the world) videos will show that millions of people are watching his videos. This begs the question, do YouTube stars gain profit from their videos? If so, how?

The answer lies in a mathematical algorithm that varies from YouTuber to YouTuber. Every 1,000 views garners a custom amount known as an RPM (rate per mille). The RPM is based on a variety of factors including the number of subscribers, views, and even the time of year. Even the most popular YouTube star can have an RPM of $10, which translates to a unit rate of one cent per view.


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Smosh, are some of the biggest YouTube stars in the world. After YouTube’s cut, they earned an estimated $448k-$6 Million from their nearly 28 million subscribers and 4.6 billion views. The comedy duo consisting of YouTube veterans Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, became well-known for their parody videos of games and pop culture. Rumor has it, they have plans  to air their own comedy show on television. (via BusinessInsider)



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Let’s Get Viral: How to Make a Vine Sensation

Vine has made it easier to upload videos to their network. This opens up more options to put something out there on your Vine account with video special effects. Now it’s your turn to get out there. 

King Bach. Nash Grier. Zach King. Curtis Lepore. Jerry Purpdrank. Okan Yargici. All of these people are rising to fame because of six second videos they put together with their smartphone. They are Vine superstars! The short videos on Vine are looped over 1.5 billion times every day — it’s a powerful tool to get your work seen. It is also a very competitive community. With over 40 million users, if you want people to notice your video, it has to stand out.


Vine has some pretty extreme limitations for a video sharing application: You have to get your message across in 6 seconds or less; the video has to work well as a loop; and it isn’t easy to edit the footage outside of the few edits you can make within the app. These limitations have led people to create videos with a lot of special effects that aren’t that far from what the pioneering filmmakers were creating in the late 1800s. Eadweard Muybridge was the first to take still photos and put them into motion. With his series of photos of animals in motion, he proved that animals, like the horse, lift all four legs off the ground at one time, while they are running. This was a magical discovery for people, and proved to the world that things were not exactly as they seemed.


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Georges Méliès took early film a step further by making things disappear and playing with the audience’s perception of reality.


Le Voyage dans la lune


Recently, Vine has made it easier to upload videos to their network that weren’t only shot within their app. This opens up more options to put something more flashy out there on your Vine account with video special effect software like After Effects.
Now it’s your turn to get your own viral Vine loop out there. If you’ve ever wanted to make a Dragonball Z video, a surreal comedy, or something that makes people ask “How’d you do that?” Then try your hand at the lesson below.


The Science of Daredevil: 5 Scientific Explanations for Daredevil’s Abilities

While he can no longer see, the radioactive exposure heightens his remaining senses beyond normal human ability and gives him a type of radar or sonar which acts as his vision. There is another theory that the toxic waste didn’t enhance his senses at all, and his abilities are just a natural response to the loss of one of his 5 key senses.  

The Man Without Fear:

Daredevil is a comic book superhero created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett for Marvel comics.  He first appeared in 1964.  Living in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, Matt Murdock is blinded by a radioactive substance that falls from an oncoming vehicle. While he can no longer see, the radioactive exposure heightens his remaining senses beyond normal human ability and gives him a type of radar or sonar which acts as his vision. There is another theory that the toxic waste didn’t enhance his senses at all, and his abilities are just a natural response to the loss of one of his 5 key senses.  He fights crime in the streets, seemingly fearless in the face of his visual limits. He’s a master martial artist, trained from his youth, and is a genius lawyer to boot. Here are 5 very real scientific explanations for Daredevil’s not so super-human powers.

1. Blindness Hacks your Visual Cortex:

Daredevil’s powers and abilities include a radar sense, similar to echolocation and sonar, and sensitive touch, hearing, and balance. You are born with a Visual Cortex – the part of your brain that processes all of the visual information you take in.  If you are born blind, or become blind, your brain’s visual cortex will actually rewire itself to make use of the visual processing center in different ways – otherwise known as cross-modal neuroplasticity.  This means that the brain uses the other senses more efficiently, increasing their performance. This rewiring can also lead to acquiring synesthesia – where input from one sense triggers another sense automatically – like hearing a color, or tasting a sound.

2. Radar Sense:  

Daredevil’s “radar” has been very inconsistent over the years within the comic, with many different renditions and qualities being noted. Sometimes he sees extreme details and other times he sees basic outlines and shapes. Sometimes its linked to his sense of hearing like a form of echolocation.  In Daredevil #167 it is described like that of a bat.  It says “he emits probing, high frequency waves.” Waves which break against any solid object and breaking send back signals only audible to Daredevil.  From these signals, his brain forms silhouette images of everything around him.  In this manner he “sees” in every direction.

3. Human Echolocation is Real:

Human echolocation has been known and formally studied since at least the 1950s.  It is the ability of humans to detect objects in their environment by sensing echoes from those objects. By actively creating sounds – for example, by tapping their canes, lightly stomping their foot, snapping their fingers, or making clicking noises with their mouths – people trained to orient by echolocation can interpret the sound waves reflected by nearby objects, accurately identifying their location and size. This ability is used by some blind people for acoustic wayfinding, or navigating within their environment using auditory rather than visual cues. It is similar in principle to active sonar and to animal echolocation, which is employed by bats, dolphins and toothed whales to find prey.

4. Our Perception of Reality:

We might assume how we perceive the world through our eyes and ears and other senses is the only objective reality, but that’s not really true.  Your senses actually limit your perception of reality.  Our eyes can detect only a tiny sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Our ears have a very finite set of frequencies it can pick up, and our sense of smell is extremely limited compared to other animals, like dogs, for example.  So perhaps by removing one sense, the other senses get center stage in our brains, enabling them to acquire more input, and ultimately sense reality differently than others.

5. Realities of Radioactive Substances:

Matt Murdock lost his vision because of an accident involving a radioactive substance.  A radioactive substance is unstable and produces dangerous kinds of radiation. It is unstable because the strong nuclear force that holds the nucleus of the atom together is not balanced with the electric force that wants to push it apart.  Radioactive substances actual effect on humans are much more dire than that proposed in the Marvel Universe.  The degree of damage to the human body depends on the amount of radiation absorbed by the body, the type of radiation, the route of exposure and the length of time a person is exposed.  Exposure to very large doses of radiation may cause death within a few days or months. Exposure to lower doses of radiation may lead to an increased risk of cancer, cataracts or decreased fertility.  Regardless of the effects of radiation and the magical effects of radioactive substances in fictional stories, the brain is a master at adapting to sensory changes.  Being blind doesn’t mean you are truly unable to “see” your surroundings.

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The Science of The Charlie Charlie Challenge

Naturally, these hard-to-balance objects have a tendency to roll around because the center of gravity is so difficult to access.


Invoking Charlie:

“Charlie Charlie, can you play?”   Take two pencils, balance one on top of the other, making an X or cross, over the top of a paper with four quadrants labeled “yes” and “no.”  Try to summon the supernatural entity, Charlie, and then ask him questions.  The pencil on top will eventually move and touch down into one of the quadrants!  Did it just move on its own?  Did you just summon a demon named Charlie?  The Charlie Charlie Challenge, not too dissimilar in nature to the infamous “Ouija” Board game, intends to get you and your friends in touch with the spirit world.  In this case, a demon named Charlie, apparently, and the goal is to see if he will play, and then answer “yes” and “no” questions.

So what about this game is so popular, and so convincing to so many that something supernatural is at play?   It is based on shaky science and methodology at best.  Good luck even getting one pencil to balance on top of the other.  I tried and failed many times!  Once you do actually accomplish playing the game the way it’s intended, here are some of the real scientific factors at play.

1. Gravity:

So what causes the pencil to move and even spin on its own? Only one of the most powerful forces on Earth: gravity. The “center of gravity” is a point where an object’s mass is concentrated.  In order to balance one object on top of another, the topmost object’s center of gravity must be positioned precisely over the supporting object. In the case of the Charlie Charlie Challenge, players balance two pencils on top of one another. Naturally, these hard-to-balance objects have a tendency to roll around because the center of gravity is so difficult to access.  If the edges were flatter or smoother, it might be easier, but then the long thin objects wouldn’t move around quite as much.


2. Magical Thinking:

“Magical thinking,” is the attribution of causal relationships between actions and events which cannot be justified by reason and observation.  In clinical psychology, magical thinking can cause a patient to experience fear of performing certain acts or having certain thoughts because of an assumed correlation between doing so and threatening calamities. Magical thinking may lead people to believe that their thoughts by themselves can bring about effects in the world or that thinking something corresponds with doing it.  It is a type of causal reasoning or causal fallacy that looks for meaningful relationships of coincidences between acts and events.


3. Power of Suggestion:

A 2012 study published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science found that people often employ a “response expectancy” in certain situations. In other words, by anticipating that something will occur, a person’s thoughts and behaviors will help bring that anticipated outcome about. In the case of this spirit-summoning game, it could be that players expect a certain result and their actions during the game – like breathing directly and subtly on the object – help bring it about.


4. Ideomotor Effect:

Aside from the Charlie Charlie Challenges’ seemingly mystical effect on pencils, other forms of “divination” include the Ouija board, turning tables, pendulums and dowsing rods.  Many of the supernatural qualities of these activities has been scientifically explained through something known as the “ideomotor effect,”  The ideomotor effect was first described in the 19th century by the English doctor and physiologist William Carpenter. It suggests that it’s the involuntary muscular movements of the people using the objects that causes them to move, not spiritual or demonic intervention.


5. The Excitement of the Unknown:

When we get really scared, our heart beats a little faster, we breathe a bit more intensely, perspire more and get butterflies in the pit of our stomachs. It is not uncommon for people to want to push themselves just to see just how much fear they can tolerate. There is a great sense of satisfaction when we can prove to ourselves we actually can handle more anxiety than we ever imagined we could.  There’s also a hormonal component when it comes to fear and enjoyment. The hormonal reaction we get when we are exposed to a threat or crisis can motivate this love of being scared. The moment we feel threatened, we feel increasingly more strong and powerful physically, and more intuitive emotionally. This charge to our physical and mental state is called an “adrenaline rush,” and as humans we are drawn to this type of feeling.  Participating in activities like the Charlie Charlie Challenge is a sure fire way to guarantee some chills, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Dystopia in Pop Culture: Fiction or the Future?

The most frightening fictional dystopias are recognizable extensions of our current world. 

Dystopias have become a staple of popular entertainment, and despite predictions to the contrary, they show no sign of tapering off. Yet most of us have only the vaguest sense of what a dystopia is.

For starters, a dystopia is the opposite of a utopia. A utopia is a pretty old concept; Thomas More created the term in 1516 to describe a perfect society. “Dystopia” is a more recent term, dating to the 19th century: it comes from the Greek ”dys” meaning “bad” and “topia” meaning “place”. While a utopia is an ideal civilization, where everyone has their needs met, a dystopia is a society that is essentially harmful. The central arc of dystopic fiction almost always puts the hero in conflict with the government or the group of people in charge.

The most frightening fictional dystopias are recognizable extensions of our current world. These worlds answer “What If” questions about the future with the most pessimistic of responses.
What if the earth runs out of oil?

What if we stop having as many children?

What if the government used reality TV as a form of propoganda?

What if there was no law and order?

What if we lived in a military run state?

Dystopian fiction imagines the worst-case scenarios for our future. However paranoid these imaginings may seem, they also expose important truths about our current reality.


The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by Sneakers.fr, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.


The Theories Behind Time Travel

Great Scott! How many gigawatts does it take to write a story with time travel and parallel universes? It doesn’t take that much electricity, but it does take a lot of planning, researching and creativity.

H.G. Wells, Isaac Asminov, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut — they’ve all written famous science fiction books that focus on time travel. Wells’ Time Machine dates back to 1895, before Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and before the ideas behind black holes and wormholes existed.

Traveling in time to alter our destinies has been a pop culture fascination for a long time. Many superheroes have experienced time travel in different ways. Superman could go back in time by flying around the world quickly enough to reverse Earth’s rotation. Similarly, The Flash could travel fast enough to go back in time. Even the mutant, Wolverine, traveled back in time in X-Men: Days of Future Past to change the fate the world.

The plot lines involved in time travel and jumping through alternate realities are not easy to follow and are even more difficult to write. This lesson takes a look back in time at how some science-fiction stories have rules and a structure to the way time and alternate universes function within their fictional world and how you can create your own narrative structure to write your own tight story involving parallel universes and time travel.


10 Steps to Make Summer School Not Suck

Summer is here, but you still find yourself in school. Maybe you didn’t pass a class that is required for graduation. Or maybe you want to take a class because your schedule during the school year is full. Whatever the reason is for taking a summer school class, sitting in a classroom for two hours every day for a few weeks isn’t your idea of fun. However, it doesn’t have to be so bad. Here are ten steps to make summer school not suck.

1. Have a friend sign up

Having a friend sign up makes summer school more bearable. Your friend is going to be by your side and make things easier. You can also do homework and study for tests together.

2. Ask for breaks

During the normal school day, your classes don’t last much longer than 70-80 minutes. However, summer school classes tend to be longer — most last about two hours. If you’re having trouble sitting for that long, ask the teacher for at least one break. This gives you time to get up and move around, since it’s not good to be sitting down for so long.

3. Ask if the class can go outside

Summer is usually more laid back than during the school year so ask if the teacher will take you outside. What better way to learn Shakespeare or science or whatever the subject than outside under a tree.

4. Engage yourself in the learning

Doing homework and studying for tests is hard enough during the regular school year. Think about how hard it is during the summer. You spend two hours in class, but then have homework to do, a research paper to write, or a test to study for. Do the homework and study every night so you don’t get behind.

5. Be respectful to the teacher

Your summer school teacher may be someone you don’t know, who doesn’t want to be there any more than you do. After all, summer is a time for him or her to be away from school as well. But teachers sometimes work part-time jobs in the summer to help pay bills or to earn extra money. Respecting and getting along with the teacher goes a long way and makes class more fun.

6. Get your sleep

While summer is the time for you to stay up late watching movies or hanging out with friends, you still need your sleep. You can’t sleep in class, or you won’t do well. Going to bed at a decent time will help lead to your success.

7. Take care of yourself

If you got up late and hurried to class or didn’t feel like eating breakfast, ask if bringing a snack or, at least, a bottle of water is allowed. Eating and drinking helps us stay awake when we’re bored. If you get dehydrated, you get sleepy and have trouble paying attention in class.

8. Be on time

During the school year, you are expected to be on time. If you’re late, you get a tardy and too many tardies add up to you not earning your credit for summer school. You certainly don’t want to lose the credit if you have almost made it to the end of summer school.

9. Stay positive

No matter how bad summer school really is, remember to stay positive. Doing some of things suggested above will help with that. Ask your teacher and see what he will allow you to do.

10. Remember why you are there

No matter the reason as to why you are there in summer school, the important things to remember are to do well, respect the teacher and his rules, and earn your credit. You don’t want to waste your summer.