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The Science of The Force

The Force
What is The Force in the Star Wars universe? Could we as humans, here on planet earth, ever dream of having such power at our fingertips? To answer that we need to look at what The Force is, and how the rules that define it compare to what is known about the world we live in.

“Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” Obi-Wan Kenobi

In Star Wars, The Force is an energy field that connects all living things in the galaxy. The power of The Force can be used by individuals who are sensitive to it, a power that is tapped through the midi-chlorians.

Midi-chlorians are microscopic, intelligent lifeforms that live within the cells of all living beings in the Star Wars Universe. The Force spoke through the midi-chlorians, allowing certain beings to use the Force if they were sensitive enough to its powers.

The two main practitioners of The Force are the Jedi and the Sith. Usage of the Force grants a number of useful powers, such as the ability to sense impending attacks; to push and lift physical objects; influence the thoughts of others, known as the “Jedi mind trick”; and even see the future or maintain one’s consciousness after death. Dark side users strong with the Force could summon lightning from their fingertips. Jedi taught younglings that the Force could be used for many purposes, including protection, persuasion, wisdom, the manipulation of matter and the performance of great physical feats.
Earth Forces
So, that being said, how does this compare with the laws of physics in our world? The closest thing we have to an energy field that is all around us, is the electromagnetic force.  It is one of the four known fundamental forces and is a type of physical interaction that occurs between electrically charged particles.

The electromagnetic force is the one responsible for practically all the phenomena one encounters in daily life above the nuclear scale, with the exception of gravity. Roughly speaking, all the forces involved in interactions between atoms can be explained by the electromagnetic force acting on the electrically charged atomic nuclei and electrons inside and around the atoms, together with how these particles carry momentum by their movement.

If elevated levels of electromagnetism were directed at certain areas of the brain, this can affect people mentally.  If you direct magnetic fields at different parts of the brain you get all sorts of responses.  They can be used to pacify a subject, make someone hallucinate, can even be used to alter someone’s sense of morality.

Eventually we’ll be able to photograph a dream…it is well within the lines of physics, to photograph a dream.

Science Fiction? Or just Science?
According to physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku, aspects of the force are being developed today.  We can now begin to decipher the outlines of thinking via the electroencephalogram (EEG) and the MRI, which gives us living pictures of thoughts ricocheting like a ping pong ball inside the brain.  We now have computers that can read these thoughts.  In Japan, we even have a device that allows you to see what you are seeing on a small scale – like seeing a memory on a computer screen.  Eventually we’ll be able to photograph a dream, for example.  According to Dr Kaku, it is well within the lines of physics, to photograph a dream.

We can’t exactly use electromagnetism to move people’s bodies at our will, but we know certain parts of the brain are connected to certain parts of the body, and we’ll be able to energize them, perhaps, with electromagnetic radiation.  So we’ll be able to actually manipulate arms and legs of a person, simply by using electromagnetic radiation beamed into the brain.  This technology is very primitive at the present time, but we’re getting there very fast.

If electromagnetic forces are the key to unlocking our own Force like abilities within the rules of physics on earth, then we need something to be able to direct or utilize that force whenever we desire.  There is already an example in nature of a creature that is able to process or read electromagnetism all around it – sharks and other cartilaginous fish.

Sharks have the Ampullae of Lorenzini, electroreceptors that form a network of jelly-filled pores in their nose. This organ allows them to detect the electromagnetic fields of the objects around them.  They can sense great disturbances, like a ship with a large magnetic field, or small ones like a fish they’d like to eat that’s nearby.  Perhaps if we had some biological enhancement, like the Ampullae of Lorenizini, or if midi-chlorians somehow became a real thing, we’d be able to read and understand, maybe even use the electromagnetic forces around us.

What is known about our physical world is fascinating, and the forces that are all around are fantastical in their own right. With understanding, and when taken to the next level through technology and research, our world could be closer to the science fictional world of Star Wars.

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How Does the Black Panther Party Compare to the KKK and ISIS? Students can settle the debate once and for all.

 

Is it fair to compare the Black Panthers to a hate or terrorist movement? Let’s look at how they really compare to the KKK and the world’s most known terrorist group, ISIS.

 

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The public reaction to Beyoncé’s Formation video and Super Bowl performance was, well, maybe it’s best to let Saturday Night Live demonstrate it. Among the controversial images are a child not being shot by police, a police car sinking into a storm surge in New Orleans, and, at the Superbowl, a black power salute while wearing black berets, a nod to the Black Panther Party (BPP).

Support for the Black Panthers has stirred a lot of debate, not all of it measured. Newscaster Tomi Lahren referred to the Black Panthers as similar to the KKK. A city councilor for the city of Toronto has asked the Canadian government to investigate Beyoncé for possible terrorist links.

Pundits and police unions have made similar claims, calling the Black Panthers a hate movement. Is it fair to compare the Black Panthers to a hate or terrorist movement? Let’s look at how they really compare to the KKK and the world’s most known terrorist group, ISIS.

 

Origins

  • The Black Panther Party was founded as an organization in Oakland in 1966 that advocated resisting police brutality with deadly force. They soon embraced revolutionary Black Nationalist, Maoist, and women’s liberation politics, performing activism and providing social programs to uplift African-Americans.
  • The KKK was founded in 1865 by a former Confederate officer to attack freed slaves, Northerners, and federal government employees. Due to a federal crackdown, it remained small until around 1917, when it rapidly grew to include millions, including many politicians.
  • ISIS was founded as a Jordanian terror cell in 1999, dedicated to establishing a single fundamentalist government ruling the entire world. In 2003, it gained prominence through participation in the Iraqi insurgency and later gained real territory as a result of the chaos of the Syrian civil war.

 

Crimes

  • The Black Panther Party committed at least seven homicides, roughly two dozen assaults, and several counts of jury intimidation. Most victims were police or members of the BPP itself.
  • The KKK’s violence is difficult to estimate. About 3,500 African-Americans were lynched during the years of KKK activity. Anywhere between 1000 and 50,000 people were also killed in anti-black riots. However, the KKK may not have committed all of these. Most estimates fall between a minimum of 2,000 homicides and a maximum of 50,000. Tens of thousands more were tortured or had their homes destroyed.
  • The official count of ISIS’ victims is around 10,000 dead, but due to the chaos of the region, this number could be much higher.

 

Size and Representation

  • The Black Panther Party had a peak membership of 2,000 in 1969, thus including roughly 1 in every 11,000 African-Americans.
  • In 1925 the KKK had a peak membership of five million, thus including roughly 1 in every 20 white Protestants in the United States.
  • By the Pentagon’s estimate, ISIS had a peak membership of 50,000 in early 2015, thus including roughly 1 in every 600 Sunni Muslims in Syria and Iraq.

In this lesson, students will look at different document sets, comparing the three organizations on issues such as community service, violence, ideology, aims, the reactions of society, and the roles of women.

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Stronger, Faster, Better: Is There A Limit to Achievement?

 

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One hundred years ago, certain athletic feats were deemed impossible. Run a mile in less than four minutes? Sprint 100 meters in less than 10 seconds? You’d have to be crazy to think either of those feats were feasible. What about clearing a bar eight feet in the air or swimming across the entire Atlantic Ocean? No chance.

However, many athletes have since surpassed all of those feats. Many runners have broken the four-minute and 10-second marks, the high jump world record is more than eight feet, and multiple “iron-men” have swum across the ocean.

Many of these previously unthinkable achievements have been made possible by the changing physiques of athletes. Compared to a modern Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, athletes from past decades would look like runts.

The same is true in team sports, where men like LeBron James, Cam Newton, and Bryce Harper are redefining what an athlete should look like. As the NFL’s own Website says, the average player has changed “from ‘everyman’ to ‘superman.’” The median weight of an NFL guard now stands at more than 310 pounds, and those players are expected to nimbly move their feet and protect the quarterbacks behind them.

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However, despite the growth of most athletes, the optimum size to compete in other sports has caused those athletes to decrease in size. The average gymnast, for example, has shrunk from 5’3″ to just 4’9″ over the past 30 years.

Either way, whether they’re getting bigger or smaller, athletes have continually approached the sizes that will allow them to best master their disciplines. Along with other factors like advancing technology, specialized training techniques, and increased mental strength, athlete size has helped pushed the envelope of the types of feats fans can reasonably expect.

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So what will the world’s best athletes look like in 30 years? How about in 100 years? If their physiques continue to change at this rate, those athletes will bear little resemblance to the ones we watch today.

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Learning from The Greatest: Muhammad Ali and Athlete Activism

 

We Remember His Words More Than His Punches

In many of the obituaries written after Muhammad Ali’s death on June 3, very little was said about his most famous boxing matches. Dozens of magazines, newspapers, and Websites that usually feature very little sports content nonetheless published tributes to Ali. That’s because Ali was much more than a boxer, much more than just an athlete.

After rising to prominence as an 18-year-old Olympic gold medalist, Ali fought in some of the most important boxing matches in history, including “The Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier and “The Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman. Ali won 56 professional matches and captured the heavyweight championship three times, during a time period when boxing was still one of the most popular American sports.

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But his actions outside the ring allowed Ali to transcend sports. Ali stood up for African-American rights during the turbulent 1960s. He changed his given name from Cassius Clay, calling it a “slave name.” He also befriended Malcolm X and made frequent statements about black equality.

 

A Boxer Who Refuses To Fight?

Ali’s most important political stand, though, was his refusal to fight in the controversial Vietnam War. As a converted Muslim, Ali claimed that his religion forbade him from fighting in the war. However, the United States government found him guilty of evading his military duty and sentenced him to time in prison. As a result, Ali was stripped of his boxing titles and was unable to fight for the next three years. Because of his willingness to stand up for his beliefs, Ali likely lost several of the most successful years of his career.

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Later on in his life, after the Supreme Court had voted unanimously that Ali had been wrongfully convicted, Ali continued to stand up for his political beliefs. He also became an inspiration to millions of people. After Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, he continued to appear publicly and perform missionary work. Even at the end of his life, when he could barely speak, he showed courage in the face of his debilitating illness.

 

Courting Controversy

However, that’s not to say that Ali steered clear of controversy. On the contrary, he welcomed turmoil and conflict many times in his life. For instance, many people criticized his unwillingness to fight in Vietnam, calling him a “draft dodger.” Ali responded by saying, “I’m not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger.” Critics also disagreed with Ali’s cockiness and tendency to insult opponents. Some civil rights activists accused Ali of preventing racial progress, pointing out that Ali often made segregationist comments.

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Even those who disagreed with Ali would have to admit that the man who many called “The Greatest” changed the way Americans viewed sports. Athletes were no longer expected to keep quiet in the face of political issues.

 

Can Anyone Compare to Him?

Since Ali, no American athlete has had a bigger impact outside of sports. But many have followed his lead in small ways. Recently, Aaron Rodgers condemned religious intolerance, and LeBron James and many other NBA players have spoken out against police brutality.

LeBron James

But it’s probably safe to say that no athlete will ever have a bigger impact on society than Ali did. Even if we could combine the best traits of multiple athletes, the result still might not reach Ali’s stature. But it’s still interesting to imagine doing just that. What would the ideal modern athlete activist look like?

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The Future is Here Pt. 1 of 3: Virtual Reality, The Beginning or the End of Society as We Know It?

 

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“Whoa!” That was the famous word Keanu Reeves said when he discovered the alternate reality of The Matrix back in 1999. Of course, as we learned in the movie, Keanu was stuck in a false reality. His senses were tricked into believing he was on Earth, when in reality an alien planet was living off his body and sending false signals to his brain through some creepy cord connected to his head. It was an apocalyptic, futuristic take on virtual reality, a concept that has been featured in many science fiction films.

The origins of virtual reality date back to 1968 when Ivan Sutherland created a wearable headset  to simulate being in a wireframe polygon room at the University of Utah. Starting in 1966, Thomas Furness spent over two decades at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base developing the virtual reality environments for pilots to train in. In the 1990s, movies like Lawnmower Man and Disclosure, made Virtual Reality look like it was about to enter the mainstream. By the mid-1990s gaming companies Sega, Atari and Nintendo had all invested heavily in Virtual Reality focused games, but the Virtual Reality hype quickly fizzled when all of their prototypes failed. Nintendo managed to get two of its products in the marketplace, the Power Glove and Virtual Boy, but they had awful sales and caused a virtual reality bust.

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The possibilities of virtual reality have only reemerged recently with Oculus Rift, a VR headset company that Facebook bought for $2 billion in 2014. LucasFilms is currently marketing Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a Google Cardboard virtual reality experience called Jakku Spy and even the New York Times is embracing it. But what is it? How does it ‘trick’ our brains? How can it be used for social good? In this lesson make your own VR headset and get in on the ground floor in figuring out how VR can change the world.

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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!

Mash-Up

Mashup Math: Learn How to Become a Remix DJ Using Algebra

Turn on the radio or surf YouTube for music, and you’re bound to run into a remix of a song you already know. Remixes of songs can change the music or beat or insert new verses by rappers (often to try to get a song more airplay — Nicki Minaj doesn’t get a quarter million for a verse for no reason!). Sometimes a DJ might combine two different songs to make a new work, sometimes called a “mash-up.” DJs like Girl Talk or DJ Earworm have become popular taking anywhere between two and twenty-five different songs and mashing them together into new ones.

The secret behind beat-matching is knowing the math.

What you might not know, though, is that remixing is a process that requires careful mathematical calculations. Every song has its own tempo, or speed, and usually songs that might sound like they share a tempo are still slightly different.  Beats per minute or BPM tells us  exactly how fast or slow a song is. If you try to put an element of one song on top of an element of another one — mixing and matching beats, rap verses, or melodies — you’ll find that songs with different BPMs won’t match, and what you’ll hear is a total mess.

Although some software will automatically “beat match” different songs, slowing down or speeding up two songs so that they have the same BPM, the secret behind beat-matching is knowing the math. What computer programs now do automatically, DJs once had to do themselves, slowing down or speeding up one song to match the tempo of another. By understanding how this math works, you’ll be one step closer to really knowing how popular remixes really work. What songs would sound better faster or slower? How much would you need to speed them up or slow them down to get the effect you’re looking for? These creative decisions would be impossible without the mathematical knowledge to back it up.

Pro-Palestinian protesters take part in a demonstration against the violence in the Gaza strip, in Lyon

The Science Of Protest: How Our Brains Are Wired To Fight For Our Rights

(Credit: Reuters/Robert Pratta/AP/Charlie Riedel)

The recent tragic events surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and the NYPD officers have struck a chord in a us all. However, today’s millennial generation of young people have taken to the streets more so than any other generation in recent history to express their feelings. Motivations, people’s beliefs, identity and emotions are key in generating a person’s willingness to protest. With or without social media, people who are deeply angry about an unjust situation, or who feel strongly connected with a particular issue, will always take to the streets.

Protest is defined as a form of collective action and as participation in a social movement. What is it that drives young people to protest? Why are young people prepared to sacrifice a comfortable and carefree lifestyle, or sometimes even their very lives for a common cause? The research team at NuSkool has found some scientific reasons why we fight for our rights that may have more to do with brain science than we realize. Science can’t always explain what’s in our hearts, but it can help us understand what motivates one of the greatest youth movements in history.
We are the risk takers and the rule breakers
Science has proven that teens and college students are really ‘bout that life. Scientists have used brain scanning methods to study the changes that occur in the teen brain. Recent discoveries have shown that teenagers have well-developed emotions and feelings and are more willing to do dangerous things an adult would avoid, this is due to the brain’s prefrontal cortex.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for weighing risk and consequences in the teen brain. When experiencing an emotionally-charged situation like a tragedy in the community like Ferguson, the brain is handicapped in its ability to gauge risk and consider the consequences. In most situations, teens can evaluate risks just like adults. But in emotionally heightened real-life scenarios, this rational part of the brain gets overridden by the reward center. Racism, oppression and injustices in the community are definitely triggers for this kind of reaction. Our brains have a reward center, involving the nucleus accumbens, which lights up with dopamine whenever we find something exciting, interesting or meaningful. In a study comparing the brains of teens to adults, scientists found that teens need extreme situations in order to get excited.
We are natural born followers
News flash: peer pressure is actually a thing. Oxytocin receptors in a young brain makes teens highly responsive to the opinions of their peers. Studies find that the brain’s receptors for oxytocin has a strong influence on social bonding and affects our emotional and behavioral responses to social encouragement or peer pressure. When our peers become angry or emotional over a situation, this activates our own brain’s prefrontal areas in response to emotional and social stimuli. During this time, we also have heightened awareness toward the opinions of our friends, so much so that we imagine that our behavior is the focus of everyone else’s concern and attention.

According to a study, which examined brain scans of teens using fMRI data, the presence of friends activated certain regions of the brain that were not activated when they were alone that increased their willingness to take part in antisocial behavior. Being in the presence of friends also doubled risk-taking among young people in their 20’s, increased it by fifty percent among teens, but had no effect on adults, a pattern that was identical among both males and females. So the moral of the story is…choose your friends wisely.
We are a living, breathing social network
One of the strongest emotions in a teen’s life that pulls someone into joining a gang, a sports team or joining a social cause is the need to be a part of something bigger than oneself…joining a movement.

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Research suggests that people who experience both personal and group oppression are the most strongly motivated to take to the streets. Being part of something bigger than yourself is very important to today’s generation. Any events that harm that group by definition harm the individual, and they find themselves experiencing emotions on behalf of the group. The more people feel that group’s interests or values are threatened, the angrier they are and the more they are prepared to take part in protests to express their anger. Collective anger moves people to challenge the authorities and subdue other emotions such as shame, despair and obedience. Participating in protests strengthens the collective power of that group, and feelings of unity and support empowers people to stand together against the authorities. However, taking action doesn’t always mean people expect that group-related problems can be solved by their united efforts. Protesters find a way to overcome their defeated hopes to eventually protest again and raise consciousness to create solidarity. Is it science?… eh, maybe not. Is it real?…you bet. Does it change the world?… absolutely.

Before you decide to join a protest and put yourself at risk to fight for a cause, ask yourself the following questions:

Who or what caused the event?
How does the event influence my goals?
Do I have control and power over the consequences of the event?
Who can I call for help if I’m in danger or if I get arrested?

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The Science of Why Elders React to (and Love) GTA V

Grand Theft Auto V is the fifth installment of a popular video game franchise, where players assume the roles of crooks and criminals, advancing their careers and performing illegal activities.  Some of the press surrounding the game has been quite critical, which is understandable given the subject matter, especially when you consider young impressionable minds playing it.  The React Channel filmmakers on YouTube saw an opportunity to explore the nature of play with GTA V, especially with a group of people who may have a strong aversion to this kind of entertainment.

When asked what their opinions were of this notoriously naughty video game, a selection of elderly individuals were quick to negatively judge it, saying they have heard of it and thought it was a bad influence and game overall.  When given the opportunity to play the game for a half an hour, some were curious and eager, while others didn’t have any interest at all.  While playing the game, there were observable, telltale signs that these elderly individuals were actually enjoying themselves! Whether they were actively aware of it or not, there was a noticeable motivation to play, to try out actions in the game (most very violent) and the end result was a recognition from most of them that this was essentially an amusing experience that they might want to try again.

Was this a case of people judging a book by its cover?  Is there a cognitive bias at play?  What were the psychological reasons these elderly individuals had a positive, fun experience playing GTA V?  The elderly generation didn’t grow up playing video games, so they don’t understand them as well as the younger generations.  This may result in negative or suspicious feelings about them.  The same thing happened with new technology that arrived in the 1940s – the television.  Some thought it would ruin kids’ brains if they just stared at a screen all day.  Also, the media loves to push huge generalizations about games and gamers, because it provides tangible reasons for unreasonable, violent behavior.  These superficial reasons to dislike video games in general can be considered a cognitive bias.

A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input.   An individual’s construction of social reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behaviour in the social world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.  That is why when asked what they think about these kinds of games, the responses are largely similarly negative without any firsthand experience.

Here are some observations from the video.  The players clearly had the drive to figure out how to get their character to perform the required actions.  Beyond the morally reprehensible behavior, actually functioning in the game the right way was a priority for the players.  Some people were so closed minded that they openly criticized it the whole time. Some of them stopped at stop signs and waited for lights to change even though there are no “real” rules at play in this universe.  Some are completely open to exploring and are excited to be in the environment – and even discover some secret gems about the game that traditional players might overlook.  Nearly all of them got excited to find the ammunition.  It would seem that materialism and freedom are alluring qualities to just about anyone.  There were some real surprises here, mainly the desire across the board to shoot innocent civilians in the game.  The players understood its just a game, but really wanted to shoot em up!

Many people view games as a safe form of release.  A safe way to experience stress, and to generally, just play.   Perhaps that comes from the stress hormones released during game play – cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline).  Playing the game creates a heightened sense of stress and this can actually be an enjoyable experience, especially for those who have never had that kind of “safe stress” experience before.   Why is it fun to play games?  Recent research has found that gaming can be an ideal platform for people to try on different hats and take on a characteristic they would like to have. Giving players the chance to adopt a new identity during the game and acting through that new identity – be it a different gender, hero, villain – can make them feel better about themselves and less negative.

What Grand Theft Auto games provide can be thought of as the essence of play.  What is play if it isn’t breaking reality’s boundaries, taking on a role, experiencing the feelings, emotions, problem solving with a different set of circumstances from our own usual day to day life?  Play in its purest form creates a sense of release through experimentation.  GTA can provide that.  For the elderly people who may not actively take the time to participate in these kinds of activities, it can be a real thrill.