The Science Of Bioshock: Plasmids and Genetic Augmentation

 

405381-bioshock-xbox-360-screenshot-everyone-else-in-rapture-couldn

 

Scientifically, the concepts behind the fiction are real.

Bioshock is a very popular, and terrifying video game franchise released by 2K Games and Irrational Games. The main storyline follows Jack, who finds himself in this hostile environment and figures out how to survive along the way. Jack learns about how to augment his DNA through the injection of various plasmids.  He would not survive without the abilities they provided – including shooting electricity, immolating objects, and telekinesis.  Though these augmentations are not yet a reality today, scientifically, the concepts behind the fiction are real. Plasmids, stem cells, and genetic modification all have real world applications.

 

Welcome_to_Rapture

 

In this first person adventure game set in an underwater city called Rapture, the city’s founder, Andrew Ryan, had created a utopia where scientific progress made changing our biology a reality.  The city was an experiment, with its people as its test subjects, harnessing God-like powers and wielding them carelessly with the idea that Man and Man’s progress creates his own destiny. Positively, it gave humans supernatural abilities.  Negatively, these abilities created monstrous and other horrific effects on humans.

 

bioshock_plasmid_wallpaper_by_aeroman13-d3a6ndv

 

The potential to change genetic makeup would become more possible.

Certain natural phenomena, and biotech advances enable the augmentation of DNA, including plasmids, viruses, transposons, and the introduction of synthetic DNA.

Plasmids are small loops of DNA found within bacteria that grant different traits and genetic advantages from organism to organism.

Viruses are expert genetic hackers that exist to replicate. They enter cells and control the cells’ DNA, making viruses an extremely useful tool in genetic research.

Transposons are short lengths of DNA that are able to move from one location in a genome to another.  Many transposons carry antibiotic resistance genes and other advantageous traits, spreading these traits throughout a population.

Synthetic DNA constructs can be introduced into human cells, existing independently from the rest of the genome—a human artificial chromosome (HAC).  The potential to change genetic makeup would become more possible.

There are a lot of potential benefits to DNA augmentation methods, fighting diseases and resistant bacteria to name a few.  Some themes that are at play within the Bioshock world include how to proceed when faced with choices to enhance and protect ourselves.  If given the ability to simply augment your genetic makeup to heal oneself, or gain powers, at the possible cost of unforeseen negative effects, what would you do?

TOPSHOT-US-POLICE-SHOOTING-POLITICS

The Science of Why Cops Shoot: A NuSkool Special Report

TOPSHOT-US-POLICE-SHOOTING-POLITICS

Racial injustice and shooting violence are nothing new, this is not even the first time we’ve addressed these topics on NuSkool. However, the questions are becoming harder to answer. How do we respond when a young person asks, “Why are the police shooting us?”. It would be simple to write off all of the recent police involved shootings as the good guys getting the bad guys, but those lines have blurred. Nor can we paint everything with the brush of racism and bias.

We attempted to get to the root of the problem by conducting a scientific investigation into why police are deciding to take lethal action in so many scenarios that seem like they could’ve been handled without loss of life. One major takeaway to consider, deeper than any racial bias – subconscious or otherwise, is the human body’s most basic and biological response to danger, fear and self-preservation. Police officers, criminals and innocent victims, all react to fear as either fight or flight, and sometimes to their detriment.

Here are the highlights of what we found after digging through dozens of research articles, scientific studies, police training videos, and testimonies from police and neuroscience experts.


Police Officers are Trained to Shoot First

Police officers are being told that they are justified in shooting first, based on the findings of a study on reaction time in live shooter situations. Shooting a suspect first and taking preemptive action is considered ‘reasonable’, according to a study on shooting reaction time. In this study, conducted by J. Pete Blair at Texas State University and published by Police Quarterly, it was found that a suspect without a gun revealed or a gun to their side can fire a shot quicker than a well-trained officer can react and shoot, even with the officer’s gun aimed at the suspect ready to fire.

In the experiment, officers had their gun up and on target from the start and were instructed to “attempt to shoot first” as soon as they “perceived” a move to shoot them. The research team then analyzed video recordings of 159 of the shooting exchanges, frame-by-frame. The reaction-time results showed that the suspects on average were able to fire from their side in just 0.38 seconds. Officers fired back in an average of 0.39 seconds after the suspect’s movement began.

gunscience03

The researchers concluded that “many of the elements that occur in real-life shootings” would no doubt add significant time to the average officer’s reaction time. “The process of perceiving the suspect’s movement, interpreting the action, deciding on a response, and executing the response for the officer generally took longer than it took the suspect to shoot a gun, even though the officer already had his gun aimed at the suspect.” If you take this study and apply it to real life-or-death situations, racial prejudice, fear, stress, fatigue can all further affect an officer’s reaction time, thus causing the officer to preemptively react even earlier or slower than they normally would.

charlotte protest GettyImages-456962530

This study conducted by Blair, who also happens to train thousands of Law Enforcement, is used to help clear officers in cases when police use deadly force. This study is used as the ‘reasonableness’ standard by examining the ability of police officers to respond to armed suspects. New officer trainings also stress the importance of being alert for and responding to early indicators of imminent threats, such as nervous or suspicious movements and other potential early warning signs of potential violent attack, rather than waiting for immediate threats such as a gun being pointed directly at them. Police trainer and scientist, Bill Lewinski of the Force Institute, believes it is “lunacy” that there are still departments that insist by policy that officers cannot legitimately shoot first to defend themselves unless an offender is actually pointing a weapon at them.


Police Officers Shoot Black Targets Faster than White Targets

Investigators in the Stereotyping and Prejudice Research Laboratory at the University of Chicago have been working to develop and refine a first-person-shooter video game, which presents a series of images of black and white men—some armed, some unarmed— in realistic backgrounds such as parks or city streets. The player’s goal is to shoot any and all armed targets but not to shoot unarmed targets. Half of the targets are black, and half are white. The game was to investigate whether shooting a potentially hostile suspect can be influenced by the person’s race.

Screen Shot 2016-10-01 at 2.16.14 AM

The results were upsetting and, quite frankly, tough to swallow. The study found that local police officers, national police officers and even community participants showed significant bias in their reaction times, and the groups were all faster to shoot an armed black target than an armed white target, and uniformly faster to press the “Don’t shoot” button for an unarmed white target and slower to press “Don’t shoot” relative to an unarmed black target.
Community participants were faster to press “Shoot” in response to an armed target if that target was black rather than white, whereas they were faster to press “Don’t shoot” in response to an unarmed target if that target was white rather than black.

Armed target Page-57

The community participants were also more likely to mistakenly shoot an unarmed target if he was black rather than white. This finding alone is reason enough as to why we don’t need armed citizens walking the streets. Overall, they were slower and more likely to make mistakes in response to targets that deviated from racial stereotypes, such as unarmed blacks and armed whites.


Fear Causes Police Officers to Experience Memory Loss and Sensory Distortion

Crazy things happen to the body in a state of fear, most of us respond in one of three ways, fight, flight or freeze. You would hope that trained professionals are able to deal with fear differently, but nothing can truly prepare you for a life-threatening situation.

Fear is the body’s way of telling itself that his or her life is in danger and immediate action is required, chemical changes alert only the parts of the body you need to survive the situation. Blood flow is enhanced to the large muscles, it is diverted away from other areas of the body. The brain receives less blood and has reduced the need and ability to think or reason. The ability to distinguish time, colors and distance are all diminished and your body reverts to ‘auto-pilot’, acting on learned habits, training and instincts without thinking. Without proper training, which is in the range of performing the act 3,000 to 5,000 times, the body will likely rely on instincts in a crisis.

Police officers experience Perceptual Distortion, a number of perceptual changes as a result of fear. This can affect not only the outcome of the crisis, but their ability to recall key details as part of the investigation of a fatal shooting incident.

72 police officers who had been involved in a shooting were surveyed and the following results were found:

Diminished Sound: 88% did not hear sounds such as gunfire, shouting, or sirens, or the sounds had “an unusual distant, muffled quality.”

Tunnel Vision: 82% reported that their “vision became intensely focused on the perceived threat” and they lost their peripheral vision.

Automatic Pilot: 78% reported responding “automatically to the perceived threat, giving little or no conscious thought” to their actions.

Heightened Visual Clarity: 65% reported being able to “see some details or actions with unusually vivid clarity or detail.”

Slow Motion Time: 63% reported that “events seemed to be taking place in slow motion and seemed to take longer to happen than they really did.”

Memory Loss for Parts of the Event: 61% reported that, after the event, there were parts of it that they could not remember.

Memory Loss for Actions: 60% reported that, after the event, they could not remember some of their own actions. 33% in another study of 90 cases studied found police officers could not accurately recall the number of shots fired in shootings. officers were much more likely to underestimate the number of shots fired than to overestimate that number.

terence-crutcher-betty-shelby-e1474306809546

Screen Shot 2016-10-01 at 1.49.06 AM

During the events leading up to a shooting, the officer must process a variety of data, some of it important while much of it will be chaos. Responding to a perceived threat requires cognitive processing and decision making. There are three categories for human reaction: simple, choice, and recognition.

Simple response: involves only one signal and one response. It often appears in the form of a stand-off between police and an armed suspect; police wait until the suspect makes a single threatening gesture such as pointing a firearm before firing.

Choice response: is when the officer has to process multiple signals, each of which may require multiple responses. An officer may, for example, have to decide whether to fire his pistol, use his Taser, Pepper spray, or engage the suspect in hand-to-hand combat based on the person’s actions and other environmental factors such as innocent bystanders.

Recognition response: an officer must process multiple signals but with only one response; this is the typical shoot/don’t shoot scenario, where there are many signals to process but the decision comes down to whether or not to pull the trigger and fire at the suspect.


The Force Institute uses Science to Clear Police Officers of Wrongdoing in Shooting Cases

The Force Science, run by Executive Director Bill Lewinski, PhD. — a specialist in police psychology — has spent the last decade training police officers and conducting unique scientific lethal-force experiments to help clear officers from being charged criminally after a fatal shooting incident.

Bill Lewinski 920x920

One experiment tried to explain how shooting a suspect in the back can actually happen unintentionally at no fault of the officer. Lewinski says. “The officer may make a decision to shoot when the suspect is facing him and threatening deadly force, but before the officer’s gunfire reaches the suspect, he has turned to run and unavoidably is hit in the back. This movement can happen in 14/100 of a second and is so fast that many times the officer doesn’t even realize the suspect has turned and is mystified by where the bullets end up hitting.” These findings were later credited with preventing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by the suspect’s family and kept the case from being brought to trial.

Lewinski also attempts to use physiology and brain science to explain how “extra” shots can be fired by officers after a threatening suspect is neutralized. This experiment explains that once the brain receives the stimulus message to stop shooting in a high-stress situation, a typical officer will still squeeze off two to three additional rounds before the message to stop transmits from his brain to his trigger finger. “In just one second an officer can shoot a semi-automatic pistol four times,” Lewinski claims. “It’s not a case of malicious overreaction. It’s a law of physiology.”

Bill Lewinski NYT 02POLICE-JP5-master1050

The Force Institute presents their findings on behalf of officers under legal scrutiny after a shooting, Lewinski has explained his unique findings to internal affairs and homicide investigators, medical examiners, prosecutors, grand juries, judges, civil rights lawyers, civilian review boards, criminal- and civil-court jurors, and others who are responsible for assessing officers’ judgment in street conflicts. His documented work has kept a number of officers from going to prison or being found liable in civil lawsuits.


Shooting a Gun Helps Officers Perform at their Best

Shooting a gun restores power and focus back to the officer. Just as blood flow to the brain is lost as a result of fear, blood flow is regained after a dopamine injection from firing a gun, restoring thinking and reasoning capacities.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. We feel dopamine releases as engagement, excitement, creativity, and desire. The dopamine chemical is released when we win in sports, do well on a task, achieve a goal or even collect coins in a video game. Drugs create artificial releases of dopamine, creating the urge for the body to seek out more and more doses of the dopamine release. Motivation and addiction both come from the body’s internal desire to continually seek out dopamine releases. The act of shooting a gun and hitting a target both release a significant amount of dopamine into the bloodstream.

brain dopamine download

The best dopamine release is when the reward follows the stimulus by roughly 100-200 milliseconds. Firing an automatic weapon is instantly gratifying and ideal for dopamine rewards since an assault weapon can fire a round every 100 milliseconds. This means firing automatic weaponry can resemble addictive behavior and dopamine abuse.

Contrary to what we learned about fear depleting the body of key senses, the act of firing a gun and getting a rush of dopamine actually restores key brain functions and improves awareness. This helps the brain perform when we we take risks and helps us survive that behavior. Dopamine increases attention, information flow, and pattern recognition in the brain. It also improves heart rate, blood pressure and muscle firing in the body. Dopamine serves as an important skill-booster and can counterbalance the detrimental affects of fear.

Tetris

The Tetris Effect: Re-Wire Your Mind

Tetris

The Tetris Effect:

When the game Tetris was released, it was insanely popular and became an instant classic.  Even the creator of the game himself has said he had trouble finishing the game’s programming because he couldn’t stop playing it during testing!  From the start, the game produced an unforeseen effect on the players’ minds when played very heavily – one that was confusing, somewhat alarming, and ultimately fascinating.

Also known as The Tetris Syndrome, The Tetris Effect occurs when people spend so much time doing a particular activity or pattern of behavior that it inhabits their thoughts, mental images, and dreams.  With Tetris, the players would see the little tetris block formations, or tetronimos, falling and fitting into rows when they weren’t playing anymore.  With other games and activities requiring repetitive behaviors, other similar visual experiences associated with the activity take place.  It is related to something becoming a habit but with real cognitive changes occurring in the brain.

Memory Science:

In psychology, memory is the process through which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved.  There are different types of memory including “declarative memory,” which requires conscious recall.  In other words, some active mental process must occur to recall the information.

Conversely there is “procedural memory,” which is not based on conscious recall but on implicit learning.  Implicit learning takes places when a behavior is learned from repetitive practice.  So procedural memory works when you automatically know how to physically do something without any conscious effort – like tying your shoe, riding a bike, or reading.  Motor skills are developed this way as well as behaviors and patterns of thoughts associated with The Tetris Effect.

Real Studies:

In 2000, a scientist, Robert Stickgold and his colleagues at the Harvard Medical School proposed that Tetris imagery is a separate form of memory likely related to procedural memory.  This is from their research in which they showed that people with anterograde amnesia, unable to form new declarative memories, reported dreaming of falling shapes after playing Tetris during the day despite not being able to remember playing the game at all.

A study conducted by Lynn Okagaki and Peter Frensch in 1994 showed that participants who played Tetris for twelve 30-minute sessions (with no previous experience of the game) did much better than a control group in a spatial skills test.  The result of the experiment was that the game had positive effects on spatial skills abilities including mental rotation, spatial perception, and spatial visualization.

The experience of seeing falling tetris blocks in your mind hours after playing the game can be somewhat alarming, and you might think, “Did I just fry my brain!?”  Playing the game Tetris is very enjoyable for most players, and the somewhat alarming effect of visualizing the game when you aren’t playing it might even have benefits like those described in the studies above.  Overall, it’s a very unique observable scientific phenomenon associated with a popular video game, which is pretty cool.

TOPSHOT-US-POLICE-SHOOTING-POLITICS

The Science of Why Cops Shoot: A NuSkool Special Report

TOPSHOT-US-POLICE-SHOOTING-POLITICS

Racial injustice and shooting violence are nothing new, this is not even the first time we’ve addressed these topics on NuSkool. However, the questions are becoming harder to answer. How do we respond when a young person asks, “Why are the police shooting us?”. It would be simple to write off all of the recent police involved shootings as the good guys getting the bad guys, but those lines have blurred. Nor can we paint everything with the brush of racism and bias.

We attempted to get to the root of the problem by conducting a scientific investigation into why police are deciding to take lethal action in so many scenarios that seem like they could’ve been handled without loss of life. One major takeaway to consider, deeper than any racial bias – subconscious or otherwise, is the human body’s most basic and biological response to danger, fear and self-preservation. Police officers, criminals and innocent victims, all react to fear as either fight or flight, and sometimes to their detriment.

Here are the highlights of what we found after digging through dozens of research articles, scientific studies, police training videos, and testimonies from police and neuroscience experts.


Police Officers are Trained to Shoot First

Police officers are being told that they are justified in shooting first, based on the findings of a study on reaction time in live shooter situations. Shooting a suspect first and taking preemptive action is considered ‘reasonable’, according to a study on shooting reaction time. In this study, conducted by J. Pete Blair at Texas State University and published by Police Quarterly, it was found that a suspect without a gun revealed or a gun to their side can fire a shot quicker than a well-trained officer can react and shoot, even with the officer’s gun aimed at the suspect ready to fire.

In the experiment, officers had their gun up and on target from the start and were instructed to “attempt to shoot first” as soon as they “perceived” a move to shoot them. The research team then analyzed video recordings of 159 of the shooting exchanges, frame-by-frame. The reaction-time results showed that the suspects on average were able to fire from their side in just 0.38 seconds. Officers fired back in an average of 0.39 seconds after the suspect’s movement began.

gunscience03

The researchers concluded that “many of the elements that occur in real-life shootings” would no doubt add significant time to the average officer’s reaction time. “The process of perceiving the suspect’s movement, interpreting the action, deciding on a response, and executing the response for the officer generally took longer than it took the suspect to shoot a gun, even though the officer already had his gun aimed at the suspect.” If you take this study and apply it to real life-or-death situations, racial prejudice, fear, stress, fatigue can all further affect an officer’s reaction time, thus causing the officer to preemptively react even earlier or slower than they normally would.

charlotte protest GettyImages-456962530

This study conducted by Blair, who also happens to train thousands of Law Enforcement, is used to help clear officers in cases when police use deadly force. This study is used as the ‘reasonableness’ standard by examining the ability of police officers to respond to armed suspects. New officer trainings also stress the importance of being alert for and responding to early indicators of imminent threats, such as nervous or suspicious movements and other potential early warning signs of potential violent attack, rather than waiting for immediate threats such as a gun being pointed directly at them. Police trainer and scientist, Bill Lewinski of the Force Institute, believes it is “lunacy” that there are still departments that insist by policy that officers cannot legitimately shoot first to defend themselves unless an offender is actually pointing a weapon at them.


Police Officers Shoot Black Targets Faster than White Targets

Investigators in the Stereotyping and Prejudice Research Laboratory at the University of Chicago have been working to develop and refine a first-person-shooter video game, which presents a series of images of black and white men—some armed, some unarmed— in realistic backgrounds such as parks or city streets. The player’s goal is to shoot any and all armed targets but not to shoot unarmed targets. Half of the targets are black, and half are white. The game was to investigate whether shooting a potentially hostile suspect can be influenced by the person’s race.

Screen Shot 2016-10-01 at 2.16.14 AM

The results were upsetting and, quite frankly, tough to swallow. The study found that local police officers, national police officers and even community participants showed significant bias in their reaction times, and the groups were all faster to shoot an armed black target than an armed white target, and uniformly faster to press the “Don’t shoot” button for an unarmed white target and slower to press “Don’t shoot” relative to an unarmed black target.
Community participants were faster to press “Shoot” in response to an armed target if that target was black rather than white, whereas they were faster to press “Don’t shoot” in response to an unarmed target if that target was white rather than black.

Armed target Page-57

The community participants were also more likely to mistakenly shoot an unarmed target if he was black rather than white. This finding alone is reason enough as to why we don’t need armed citizens walking the streets. Overall, they were slower and more likely to make mistakes in response to targets that deviated from racial stereotypes, such as unarmed blacks and armed whites.


Fear Causes Police Officers to Experience Memory Loss and Sensory Distortion

Crazy things happen to the body in a state of fear, most of us respond in one of three ways, fight, flight or freeze. You would hope that trained professionals are able to deal with fear differently, but nothing can truly prepare you for a life-threatening situation.

Fear is the body’s way of telling itself that his or her life is in danger and immediate action is required, chemical changes alert only the parts of the body you need to survive the situation. Blood flow is enhanced to the large muscles, it is diverted away from other areas of the body. The brain receives less blood and has reduced the need and ability to think or reason. The ability to distinguish time, colors and distance are all diminished and your body reverts to ‘auto-pilot’, acting on learned habits, training and instincts without thinking. Without proper training, which is in the range of performing the act 3,000 to 5,000 times, the body will likely rely on instincts in a crisis.

Police officers experience Perceptual Distortion, a number of perceptual changes as a result of fear. This can affect not only the outcome of the crisis, but their ability to recall key details as part of the investigation of a fatal shooting incident.

72 police officers who had been involved in a shooting were surveyed and the following results were found:

Diminished Sound: 88% did not hear sounds such as gunfire, shouting, or sirens, or the sounds had “an unusual distant, muffled quality.”

Tunnel Vision: 82% reported that their “vision became intensely focused on the perceived threat” and they lost their peripheral vision.

Automatic Pilot: 78% reported responding “automatically to the perceived threat, giving little or no conscious thought” to their actions.

Heightened Visual Clarity: 65% reported being able to “see some details or actions with unusually vivid clarity or detail.”

Slow Motion Time: 63% reported that “events seemed to be taking place in slow motion and seemed to take longer to happen than they really did.”

Memory Loss for Parts of the Event: 61% reported that, after the event, there were parts of it that they could not remember.

Memory Loss for Actions: 60% reported that, after the event, they could not remember some of their own actions. 33% in another study of 90 cases studied found police officers could not accurately recall the number of shots fired in shootings. officers were much more likely to underestimate the number of shots fired than to overestimate that number.

terence-crutcher-betty-shelby-e1474306809546

Screen Shot 2016-10-01 at 1.49.06 AM

During the events leading up to a shooting, the officer must process a variety of data, some of it important while much of it will be chaos. Responding to a perceived threat requires cognitive processing and decision making. There are three categories for human reaction: simple, choice, and recognition.

Simple response: involves only one signal and one response. It often appears in the form of a stand-off between police and an armed suspect; police wait until the suspect makes a single threatening gesture such as pointing a firearm before firing.

Choice response: is when the officer has to process multiple signals, each of which may require multiple responses. An officer may, for example, have to decide whether to fire his pistol, use his Taser, Pepper spray, or engage the suspect in hand-to-hand combat based on the person’s actions and other environmental factors such as innocent bystanders.

Recognition response: an officer must process multiple signals but with only one response; this is the typical shoot/don’t shoot scenario, where there are many signals to process but the decision comes down to whether or not to pull the trigger and fire at the suspect.


The Force Institute uses Science to Clear Police Officers of Wrongdoing in Shooting Cases

The Force Science, run by Executive Director Bill Lewinski, PhD. — a specialist in police psychology — has spent the last decade training police officers and conducting unique scientific lethal-force experiments to help clear officers from being charged criminally after a fatal shooting incident.

Bill Lewinski 920x920

One experiment tried to explain how shooting a suspect in the back can actually happen unintentionally at no fault of the officer. Lewinski says. “The officer may make a decision to shoot when the suspect is facing him and threatening deadly force, but before the officer’s gunfire reaches the suspect, he has turned to run and unavoidably is hit in the back. This movement can happen in 14/100 of a second and is so fast that many times the officer doesn’t even realize the suspect has turned and is mystified by where the bullets end up hitting.” These findings were later credited with preventing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by the suspect’s family and kept the case from being brought to trial.

Lewinski also attempts to use physiology and brain science to explain how “extra” shots can be fired by officers after a threatening suspect is neutralized. This experiment explains that once the brain receives the stimulus message to stop shooting in a high-stress situation, a typical officer will still squeeze off two to three additional rounds before the message to stop transmits from his brain to his trigger finger. “In just one second an officer can shoot a semi-automatic pistol four times,” Lewinski claims. “It’s not a case of malicious overreaction. It’s a law of physiology.”

Bill Lewinski NYT 02POLICE-JP5-master1050

The Force Institute presents their findings on behalf of officers under legal scrutiny after a shooting, Lewinski has explained his unique findings to internal affairs and homicide investigators, medical examiners, prosecutors, grand juries, judges, civil rights lawyers, civilian review boards, criminal- and civil-court jurors, and others who are responsible for assessing officers’ judgment in street conflicts. His documented work has kept a number of officers from going to prison or being found liable in civil lawsuits.


Shooting a Gun Helps Officers Perform at their Best

Shooting a gun restores power and focus back to the officer. Just as blood flow to the brain is lost as a result of fear, blood flow is regained after a dopamine injection from firing a gun, restoring thinking and reasoning capacities.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. We feel dopamine releases as engagement, excitement, creativity, and desire. The dopamine chemical is released when we win in sports, do well on a task, achieve a goal or even collect coins in a video game. Drugs create artificial releases of dopamine, creating the urge for the body to seek out more and more doses of the dopamine release. Motivation and addiction both come from the body’s internal desire to continually seek out dopamine releases. The act of shooting a gun and hitting a target both release a significant amount of dopamine into the bloodstream.

brain dopamine download

The best dopamine release is when the reward follows the stimulus by roughly 100-200 milliseconds. Firing an automatic weapon is instantly gratifying and ideal for dopamine rewards since an assault weapon can fire a round every 100 milliseconds. This means firing automatic weaponry can resemble addictive behavior and dopamine abuse.

Contrary to what we learned about fear depleting the body of key senses, the act of firing a gun and getting a rush of dopamine actually restores key brain functions and improves awareness. This helps the brain perform when we we take risks and helps us survive that behavior. Dopamine increases attention, information flow, and pattern recognition in the brain. It also improves heart rate, blood pressure and muscle firing in the body. Dopamine serves as an important skill-booster and can counterbalance the detrimental affects of fear.

Tetris

The Tetris Effect: Re-Wire Your Mind

The Tetris Effect:

When the game Tetris was released, it was insanely popular and became an instant classic.  Even the creator of the game himself has said he had trouble finishing the game’s programming because he couldn’t stop playing it during testing!  From the start, the game produced an unforeseen effect on the players’ minds when played very heavily – one that was confusing, somewhat alarming, and ultimately fascinating.

Also known as The Tetris Syndrome, The Tetris Effect occurs when people spend so much time doing a particular activity or pattern of behavior that it inhabits their thoughts, mental images, and dreams.  With Tetris, the players would see the little tetris block formations, or tetronimos, falling and fitting into rows when they weren’t playing anymore.  With other games and activities requiring repetitive behaviors, other similar visual experiences associated with the activity take place.  It is related to something becoming a habit but with real cognitive changes occurring in the brain.

Memory Science:

In psychology, memory is the process through which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved.  There are different types of memory including “declarative memory,” which requires conscious recall.  In other words, some active mental process must occur to recall the information.

Conversely there is “procedural memory,” which is not based on conscious recall but on implicit learning.  Implicit learning takes places when a behavior is learned from repetitive practice.  So procedural memory works when you automatically know how to physically do something without any conscious effort – like tying your shoe, riding a bike, or reading.  Motor skills are developed this way as well as behaviors and patterns of thoughts associated with The Tetris Effect.

Real Studies:

In 2000, a scientist, Robert Stickgold and his colleagues at the Harvard Medical School proposed that Tetris imagery is a separate form of memory likely related to procedural memory.  This is from their research in which they showed that people with anterograde amnesia, unable to form new declarative memories, reported dreaming of falling shapes after playing Tetris during the day despite not being able to remember playing the game at all.

A study conducted by Lynn Okagaki and Peter Frensch in 1994 showed that participants who played Tetris for twelve 30-minute sessions (with no previous experience of the game) did much better than a control group in a spatial skills test.  The result of the experiment was that the game had positive effects on spatial skills abilities including mental rotation, spatial perception, and spatial visualization.

The experience of seeing falling tetris blocks in your mind hours after playing the game can be somewhat alarming, and you might think, “Did I just fry my brain!?”  Playing the game Tetris is very enjoyable for most players, and the somewhat alarming effect of visualizing the game when you aren’t playing it might even have benefits like those described in the studies above.  Overall, it’s a very unique observable scientific phenomenon associated with a popular video game, which is pretty cool.

RLL Lesson thumbnail

NuSkool Travels the Country to Find Brilliant Students with a Passion for Real Life Learning

Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 12.34.06 PM

This is a story about four brilliant young people taking their love of learning into their own hands. If all you know about your students is what you see in the classroom, then you don’t know them at all.
Arath, is a 15-year-old high school student from Chicago whose interest in building and engineering piqued from childhood. From the days of taking apart toy cars as a kid, he now builds bikes for people on demand. He learned the art of building different bikes on his own, and has dreams of becoming an engineer in the future. The money he earns from building bikes is used to support his two younger siblings.
Isaac, a 10 year old programmer, has a passion for building in Minecraft, Scratch, Mario Maker and has a love for game design. He does this on his own as a form of playing. What is surprising about Isaac is he has Autism but is highly functioning and he’s not going to let that get in the way of doing what he loves.
Spirit, well, there is truly no better word to describe this amazing young woman. She beams with energy and maturity. She has committed herself to a life of dance and you see that devotion and commitment in everything she does. She is a shining example of hard work, dedication and preparation to us all.
Georgia, not only has a love for animals but a love for bringing life into this world. Watch her amazing story as she balances life between school and farm duties where she is learning the role of pig husbandry.

This is real life learning…

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3D Printing! When Do We Start Printing Body Parts?

Some people think 3D printing is taking away jobs by automating the manufacturing industry. Others think it’s a revolution in engineering. In this lesson, we’ll look at some of the reasons for the hype surrounding 3D printing, focusing on health and wellness.

Surprisingly, 3D printers have been in development since the 1980s. Charles Hull was the first person to patent the technology in 1986. Throughout the late 80s and the 90s, many companies focused on building 3D printers to be used for industrial design, to create prototypes. Because these printers were very expensive, only large corporations could afford to use them. In the mid-2000s there was a divide in the 3D printer industry. Though there were still innovations being made for the high-priced printers, there was a movement towards making 3D printers more affordable for the home or office. In 2009, the first commercial 3D printers were created by RepRap and MakerBot. By 2012, there were many 3D printer prototypes being funded on Kickstarter. Today a 3D printer can be purchased for around $1,000, but you don’t even need to own a printer to create a 3D object. You can send a file to a company like Shapeways or 3DHub to have it printed and shipped to you at a relatively low cost.

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3D printing is an industry that’s developing extremely rapidly. The way 3D printers work is similar to a standard inkjet printer, but instead of ink, they use a different material and apply it in layers. Usually a photopolymer resin is used, which can be melted and resolidified with ultraviolet light. The photopolymer is spread out and is built into a 3D object by printing many layers on top of each other. This process is called additive manufacturing, because it involves building layers of material (as opposed to subtractive manufacturing, which is like sculpting – cutting away pieces of material). It’s a simple way to make a solid plastic object without much heat in a precise manner.

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This lesson will look at some of the things that are currently being made with 3D printers. Students can make their own informed decision on 3D printing’s positive and negative impacts. They can also design their own 3D printed innovations and envision what the future holds for 3D printing.

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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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Watch Two Girls Launch a Weather Balloon into the Stratosphere

Space! You can reach it!

Two Seattle girls, aged 10 and 8, decided it would be fun to plan the construction and launch of a weather balloon into space.  They achieved their goal, took a video of the whole process and launch, and have even impressed NASA.

Designed to Rise:

They learned how to create a design for their spacecraft from the web and created a design using materials bought and some from home.  Trial and error changed the design from using PVC pipes to old arrow shafts to keep it light weight.  Overall, the design of the craft resembled a triangle, or pyramid.  They planned for the craft’s landing and even added styrofoam balls in the event of a water landing.  The standard weather balloon they used for the ascent was filled with Helium, and the whole spacecraft was strategically launched from a specific point where they would be most likely to recover the craft upon its return to earth’s surface.

Pop Goes the Weather Balloon:

As the weather balloon traveled further from the Earth’s surface, the air pressure around the balloon decreased drastically. As the air got thinner, the balloon’s casing got tighter. This is due to the gas expanding within the balloon. The expanding gas caused the balloon to reach full capacity and it popped.  This is how weather balloons work, and these girls planned for its popping to initiate the spacecraft’s return to earth.

The girls collected data during the launch.  The Balloon ascended at a very constant rate – an average speed of 35 kilometers/hour. There was a peak speed recorded, of 110 kilometers/hour as the craft left whats called the Tropopause, right before entering the Stratosphere.  They noticed a temperature drop as it got higher up, but then it changed at got higher as the craft left the Troposphere and got into the Stratosphere.

The Earth’s Atmospheric Layers:

The atmosphere is divided into five layers. It is thickest near the surface and thins out with height until it eventually merges with space. The troposphere is the first layer above the surface and contains half of the Earth’s atmosphere. Weather occurs in this layer. Many jet aircrafts fly in the stratosphere because it is very stable. Also, the ozone layer absorbs harmful rays from the Sun. Meteors or rock fragments burn up in the mesosphere. The thermosphere is a layer with auroras. It is also where the space shuttle orbits. The atmosphere merges into space in the extremely thin exosphere. This is the upper limit of our atmosphere.

The girls’ spacecraft’s weather balloon popped at 78,000 feet, or about 15 miles into the atmosphere, which puts into the Stratosphere.

This picture above is the girl’s notes following their successful mission – inspiring! – from GeekWire

The Higher Up, the Lower the Pressure:

Atmospheric pressure is the pressure exerted by the weight of air in the atmosphere of Earth.  In most circumstances atmospheric pressure is measured by the hydrostatic pressure caused by the weight of air above the measurement point. On a given plane, low-pressure areas have less atmospheric mass above their location, whereas high-pressure areas have more atmospheric mass above their location. Likewise, as elevation increases, there is less overlying atmospheric mass, so that atmospheric pressure decreases with increasing elevation.

These girls took all of these factors into consideration when planning their weather balloon spacecraft.  It’s amazing what careful planning, passion, and ingenuity can do, even at a young age.

The girls – Rebecca and Kimberly Yeung – photo by GeekWire

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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?

 

matrix_slide_01-36ss-virtual-reality-100413967-orig_thumb800

“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.

NES-Power-Glove
Virtual-Boy-wController

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.