The Evolution of a Global Pandemic

In this lesson, students play the game Pandemic 2 to develop a deeper understanding of how evolution is the addition or manipulation of traits through genes. Students also learn about how some genes are adaptive, non-adaptive, and maladaptive.

Lego Laws of Motion

This lesson uses Lego animation to walk students through Newton’s laws of motion.

Biodiversity and Ecosystems with Bill Nye

Students explore biodiversity and identify the importance of biodiversity in maintaining ecosystems by watching and discussing an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Battle of the Consoles Part 1

In this lesson, students learn hardware specification terms and collaborate to identify the specifications of different video game consoles. Students then compare the specifications to determine which system they believe is the best.

The Lorax Ecology

Students deepen their understanding of ecological concepts and the effect of human environmental interaction by examining how ecological issues are presented in the movie The Lorax.

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

The recent tragic events surrounding the deaths of Freddie Gray, 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.

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?

daredevil

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

 

daredevil-netflix-series-previews

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

 

 

The Man Without Fear:

daredevil

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

 

1. Blindness Hacks your Visual Cortex:

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

 

2. Radar Sense:  

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

 

3. Human Echolocation is Real:

echolocation-in-action

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

 

4. Our Perception of Reality:

cross-modal-plasticity

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

5. Realities of Radioactive Substances:

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 12.12.04 AM

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 12.11.24 AM

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

ff_001 thumbnail

CGI Can’t: Physics Fails In Film

Computer-generated imagery (CGI) is in more movies than you might think. Whether it’s enhancing a background, adding fog to breath, or even drawing Iron Man’s suit when he’s just standing around, it’s often invisible. If it’s done right, we barely even notice it.

But if it’s done wrong, it stands out. There are a lot of ways CGI can go wrong, but we’re going to focus on one thing: physics fails. In a physics fail, the CGI object is either way too light or way too heavy. When it interacts with real objects, the CGI does not have the right amount of weight or momentum. When a physics fail happens, it makes the audience painfully aware of how fake a movie is.

For example, nothing about this tank turret throw from Fantastic Four makes any sense whatsoever. How could a 500 lb rock monster anchor down several tons of steel? Why does the steel shatter? How come the impact doesn’t cause the nearby sand to scatter? Why does the blast fire out equally in all directions?

Sure, the Thing doesn’t exist, but for the space of 2 hours the movie is asking us to believe he could exist in a world like our own. Every time the CGI breaks the laws of physics, we get slapped in the face by reality.

Fantastic Four had comically bad CGI, but it’s far from the only movie with physics fails. Sometimes a physics fail happens for the sake of the plot, like with this incredibly lightweight helicopter because the effects team just didn’t bother to calculate for weight limitations.

Sometimes a physics fail is just the result when a fake object and a real object interact, like when the director forgets that a desk should wobble or tip when an elf jumps onto it.

So, how can directors make CGI better?
Well first, if they fail at physics, learn better physics.
Secondly, remember your audience is smarter than you think they are. Even a 12 year old can tell the difference between which scenes were shot on location and which action sequences were shot on a soundstage in Hollywood.
And lastly, keep it real. Be more creative and find ways to make the effects using real life elements, robotics, animatronics, puppets and other creative arts that brought Hollywood magic to life in the first place.