Did Football Kill Junior Seau? Concussions, The Brain, and Degenerative Brain Disease

Results of an autopsy have revealed that Junior Seau, the NFL linebacker who committed suicide last May, suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated blows to the head. In this lesson, Seau’s death is used to introduce a discussion of the brain, the structure of brain cells, the way that head injuries cause damage to these cells, and how successive injuries lead to progressive degeneration of brain tissue in the form of CTE.

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The Science of Why We Love Bad Lip Reading Videos

Bad Lip Reading 
Bad Lip Reading is a hilarious YouTube channel that produces videos with false dialogue dubbed over popular movies, television, sports, and news segments.  They make us crack up because the dialogue they use has the most random, ridiculous plot lines, but when you look at the characters, their mouths move pretty much close enough so that you could believe it’s what they’re actually saying. The experience of seeing and hearing these videos, and believing them, compared to what we know about the source material, makes us chortle heartily.

Verbal Communication
Thinkprogress recently published an article about this topic, and we are also excited about the science behind why we love these videos. Our brains translate the sounds and visuals we take in, via our senses, into what we call verbal communication. Language recognition is different, depending on what language you speak or are fluent in. Our brains often make up for a lack of perfect pronunciation, or something misheard, by filling in the gaps, and using logic to conclude what the intended message was. Verbal communication is something called multimodal, using two or more senses to interpret information.

McGurk Effect
A really good way to see this process in action is by seeing the McGurk Effect.  You can see it in the video below by AsapSCIENCE. In it, the man repeats “bar, bar, bar.” When paired with an image of a man clearly mouthing a “bar” sound, that’s what you hear. But when an image of the man clearly mouthing a “far” sound is shown instead, what you hear changes to “far, far, far.” The key is, the sound never changes.  If you close your eyes, it goes back to “bar.” So, your brain concludes what the sound must be, based on what your eyes are perceiving through lip reading. But, it’s also tricking you, because the sound never changes even though the visual does.

Creating Logic by Believing What We See and Hear
Our brains indeed learn better when combining visual and auditory information, and it’s used to this sensory experience every day of our lives.  So, when we see something that doesn’t quite make sense, our natural processes fill in the gaps in the attempt to create logical meaning. With the Bad Lip Reading videos, what’s happening is your brain wants the visual and the auditory signals to match up, because that’s what we would normally predict, and it wants to use all the information available.  But the visuals aren’t crisp enough to completely disagree with the audio. The images don’t quite match what we’re hearing, but our brains just go with it. The creators of these videos aren’t using random words either. They are matching words that are close to the way the subjects’ mouths are moving to make the original words.

Origins of the Bad Lip Reader
In an interview with the Washington Post in 2011, the anonymous figure behind Bad Lip Reading said that he started by trying to lip-read a video of a talk radio host mouthing words to himself. “My brain kept coming up with completely random, strange interpretations. They were mainly random word combinations like “Bacon Hobbit” and “Moose potion, poke me” — things like that. So I grabbed my microphone and recorded these phrases into the computer, and when I played that back in sync with the video, it really looked like the guy was saying it,” he said. One of the reasons lip reading is so hard to do, for anyone attempting it, like the hard of hearing,  is that so much of sound production occurs inside our mouths. One lip movement may correspond to a number of sounds, posing a serious challenge. The Bad Lip Reading creator  is actually a decently good lip reader, he’s finding really well-matching words, just the wrong ones.

Priming and Activating in Communication
Yet, even despite the inherent ridiculousness of the sentences, the video has a sort of logic. This is because of the way we pick which words we’re going to use next.  Priming is what we do when engaged in conversation, preparing to hear a set of words that match with the content of the discussion. If the topic at the moment is hair, we’re likely to keep talking about hair, so we “activate” words related to hair and make them easier to produce. So, the creators of these videos are not only manipulating the way our brains process language, but also the way we communicate, and our natural tendencies to predict, assume, prime, and interpret. Bingo! I mean, Peephole! Ugh, what I’m saying is, Bravo!

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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 Science of Why We Love Bad Lip Reading Videos

Bad Lip Reading 
Bad Lip Reading is a hilarious YouTube channel that produces videos with false dialogue dubbed over popular movies, television, sports, and news segments.  They make us crack up because the dialogue they use has the most random, ridiculous plot lines, but when you look at the characters, their mouths move pretty much close enough so that you could believe it’s what they’re actually saying. The experience of seeing and hearing these videos, and believing them, compared to what we know about the source material, makes us chortle heartily.

Verbal Communication
Thinkprogress recently published an article about this topic, and we are also excited about the science behind why we love these videos. Our brains translate the sounds and visuals we take in, via our senses, into what we call verbal communication. Language recognition is different, depending on what language you speak or are fluent in. Our brains often make up for a lack of perfect pronunciation, or something misheard, by filling in the gaps, and using logic to conclude what the intended message was. Verbal communication is something called multimodal, using two or more senses to interpret information.

McGurk Effect
A really good way to see this process in action is by seeing the McGurk Effect.  You can see it in the video below by AsapSCIENCE. In it, the man repeats “bar, bar, bar.” When paired with an image of a man clearly mouthing a “bar” sound, that’s what you hear. But when an image of the man clearly mouthing a “far” sound is shown instead, what you hear changes to “far, far, far.” The key is, the sound never changes.  If you close your eyes, it goes back to “bar.” So, your brain concludes what the sound must be, based on what your eyes are perceiving through lip reading. But, it’s also tricking you, because the sound never changes even though the visual does.

Creating Logic by Believing What We See and Hear
Our brains indeed learn better when combining visual and auditory information, and it’s used to this sensory experience every day of our lives.  So, when we see something that doesn’t quite make sense, our natural processes fill in the gaps in the attempt to create logical meaning. With the Bad Lip Reading videos, what’s happening is your brain wants the visual and the auditory signals to match up, because that’s what we would normally predict, and it wants to use all the information available.  But the visuals aren’t crisp enough to completely disagree with the audio. The images don’t quite match what we’re hearing, but our brains just go with it. The creators of these videos aren’t using random words either. They are matching words that are close to the way the subjects’ mouths are moving to make the original words.

Origins of the Bad Lip Reader
In an interview with the Washington Post in 2011, the anonymous figure behind Bad Lip Reading said that he started by trying to lip-read a video of a talk radio host mouthing words to himself. “My brain kept coming up with completely random, strange interpretations. They were mainly random word combinations like “Bacon Hobbit” and “Moose potion, poke me” — things like that. So I grabbed my microphone and recorded these phrases into the computer, and when I played that back in sync with the video, it really looked like the guy was saying it,” he said. One of the reasons lip reading is so hard to do, for anyone attempting it, like the hard of hearing,  is that so much of sound production occurs inside our mouths. One lip movement may correspond to a number of sounds, posing a serious challenge. The Bad Lip Reading creator  is actually a decently good lip reader, he’s finding really well-matching words, just the wrong ones.

Priming and Activating in Communication
Yet, even despite the inherent ridiculousness of the sentences, the video has a sort of logic. This is because of the way we pick which words we’re going to use next.  Priming is what we do when engaged in conversation, preparing to hear a set of words that match with the content of the discussion. If the topic at the moment is hair, we’re likely to keep talking about hair, so we “activate” words related to hair and make them easier to produce. So, the creators of these videos are not only manipulating the way our brains process language, but also the way we communicate, and our natural tendencies to predict, assume, prime, and interpret. Bingo! I mean, Peephole! Ugh, what I’m saying is, Bravo!

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Sneaker-nomics: Supply-and-Demand Economics in the Basketball Footwear Industry

 

Steph Curry: Great Season, Corny Shoes

Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry had a terrific season, but some would argue that his signature sneaker did not. In a recent article on the site Slate entitled “Why Does the World’s Best Basketball Player Wear Such Corny Sneakers?”, John Swansburg argues that Curry’s Under Armour sneaker, the Curry Two, has “almost no cultural cachet.” Swansburg says that Curry’s sneaker appeals to basketball players but has “not gained traction on the street, in the mall, or on the feet of cultural influencers.” The author specifically mentions that Drake partners with Nike and Kanye West designs for Adidas, but no similar celebrity would be seen wearing the Curry Two.

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I Wanna Be, I Wanna Be Like Mike!

Ever since the start of Nike’s Air Jordan brand — and the famous “Jumpman” logo that has become synonymous with it — the world’s biggest sneaker companies and best basketball players have marketed their footwear to both athletes and sneaker-heads. According to Forbes, even though Michael Jordan has been retired since 2003, his sneaker brand still earns him over $100 million every year.

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What IS Steph Up To?

More recent players have taken Jordan’s lead. On a recent edition of the Slate sports podcast Hang Up and Listen (sneaker conversation from 18:00-35:20 mark), host Josh Levin said, “Throughout the modern history of the NBA, having a signature shoe has been the pathway to broader cultural relevance, starting with Jordan up through LeBron and now with Steph. And the question is, ‘Is Steph Curry carving out a different pathway here…or does he want to have a similar path…in creating this shoe that people want to wear off the court?’”

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Will Curry 2.5 Save The Day?

Curry and Under Armour have not yet tapped into the full potential of the sneaker market. The good news is that the Curry 2.5 will reportedly debut in May. Will it be less corny than the Curry Two? Sneaker-heads can’t wait to find out.

Skating and Angular Momentum

A lesson on angular momentum using figure skating and skateboarding to help students visualize this scientific concept.

Bullying Amongst Giants: A Critical Analysis of the Miami Dolphins’ Bullying Incident

In this lesson, students will discuss the recent controversy surrounding the Miami Dolphins’ locker room conflict between teammates Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.

◦Students will determine, based on their own assessment of the situation, if bullying took place and what contributing factors played a role in the situation.

◦Students will critique the media reports and come to their own conclusions based on their critical analysis of the reported events.

◦Students will carry out the basics of research and data collection, draw conclusions, and summarize and form an argument based on facts and supporting details.