Using Wikipedia Effectively: Researching Superstars and Other Topics

In this lesson, students will use Wikipedia as a research tool from a critical perspective: they will review the contents of Wikipedia entries on their favorite musicians; they will access and verify information supporting the Wikipedia entry; and they will think about the benefits, drawbacks and additional resources of online research tools.

Analyzing Transcendentalism in Contemporary Popular Culture

In this lesson, students develop an understanding of the nineteenth-century literary and philosophical movement of transcendentalism by identifying and applying the precepts of the movement to contemporary popular culture, which they will follow with a research, analysis, and presentation project of their own examples of transcendentalism in popular culture today.

“Old Skool” Video Game Design

Students will compare an old school video game to geometric transformations, and then design their own video game graphic using reflections, translations, and rotations.

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

 

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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

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10 Steps to Make Summer School Not Suck

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

1. Have a friend sign up

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

2. Ask for breaks

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

3. Ask if the class can go outside

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

4. Engage yourself in the learning

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

5. Be respectful to the teacher

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

6. Get your sleep

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

7. Take care of yourself

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

8. Be on time

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

9. Stay positive

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

10. Remember why you are there

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

sleeping

10 Steps to Make Summer School Not Suck

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

1. Have a friend sign up

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

2. Ask for breaks

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

3. Ask if the class can go outside

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

4. Engage yourself in the learning

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

5. Be respectful to the teacher

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

6. Get your sleep

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

7. Take care of yourself

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

8. Be on time

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

9. Stay positive

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

10. Remember why you are there

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

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Brain Science of The Paranormal: We Attempt to Explain the Unexplained

 

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever experienced anything you would call supernatural? Many factors come into play to create the conditions for ghostly experiences, and some of it can be explained by science and how our brain reacts to our environment.  We’ll let you be the judge when you experience anything strange yourself. Was it real? Was it because you had just watched a scary movie? Or is it your brain playing tricks on you?

 

Magnetic fields

In some haunted locations, researchers have measured magnetic fields that are stronger than normal or which exhibit unusual fluctuations. These may be localized phenomena that stem from electronic equipment or geological formations, or they may be part of the Earth’s magnetic field. Some paranormal investigators think the presence of strange magnetic fields as proof of a supernatural presence — the ghosts create the field. Others suggest that these fields can interact with the human brain, causing hallucinations, dizziness or other neurological symptoms.

Studies have shown that when scientists direct non-invasive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) at the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), our ability to evaluate the intentions of others, including moral judgements, is impaired. Other experiments have shown speech can be impaired by directed magnetism on the brain. This illustrates that with enough magnetic stimulation, changes in the brain’s functions do occur.

 

Infrasound

Several experiments have demonstrated that low-frequency sound waves, known as infrasound, can cause phenomena that people typically associate with ghosts. This includes feelings of nervousness and discomfort as well as a sense of a presence in the room. The sound waves may also vibrate the human eye, causing people to see things that are not there. How many times have you been scared by the flickering scenes in the Paranormal Activity series? Imagine if that happened to you in real life?

Usually, these waves have frequencies of less than 20 Hz, so they are too low-pitched for people to actually perceive. Rather than noticing the sound itself, people notice its effects. Our senses are affected by these low frequency waves, and our brain receives the signal to react. Sensory information may engage wide and diverse areas of the brain: via direct connections with the limbic system, for example, an odor can trigger intense emotions and then circuits that store memories give meaning to what we see and hear.

 

Ghost Stories

A large portion of hauntings are explained as demons inhabiting a home or a person. Such is the case in the Paranormal Activity films. Demonic possession is hypothesized as when your entire being is overtaken by an evil spirit.  Not all spirits are evil, though, as is the case with many of the spirits inhabiting the halls of Hogwarts.

In the Ghostbusters films, the team uses scientific tools to identify, attack, and contain spiritual entities including poltergeist activities, flying spirits and orbs.  Ancient gods who have descended upon New York City are usually the cause of these paranormal activities in these films.  Here’s hoping the ladies of the new Ghostbusters reboot will have more advanced Ghost zapping technology to wield.

In The Shining, the main character Jack Torrance is influenced by supernatural forces in the Overlook Hotel, asking him to commit violent crimes.  This story is perhaps the most haunting, because there are no hints of demonic possession, or of gods or demigods being present as a cause for Jack’s descent into madness. This movie has been ranked as one of the scariest of all time, increasing the audience’s pulse rate by a whopping 28.21%. In the story, he is a recovering alcoholic who encounters spirits of people who met very unfortunate ends in the Overlook Hotel. Is it Jack’s mental state creating this inner turmoil, or the suggestion of ghosts? His son Jack actually has a fictional psychic ability to detect ghosts, so this latent ability may come from Jack’s genetics.

 

Demonic Possession or Schizophrenia?

While demonic possession is a fictional condition, it was considered a real threat before modern medicine. Now, we see that the symptoms of schizophrenia largely resemble those described as being “possessed” – hallucinations, hearing voices, disorganized or catatonic behavior, odd emotional responsis.  We have seen the way the brain behaves in schizophrenic patients, and it is largely the fault of poor signaling of an important neurotransmitter called glutamate. The entire brain is affected.

Some people feel a presence around them often enough that it is something they must learn to live with. The feeling is particularly common in patients suffering from neurological or psychiatric disorders, who report a presence they can feel but can’t see, just like a ghost or a guardian angel.

 

Robot Phantom Hand is Coming for You

In an attempt to understand why some people have ongoing paranormal experiences, scientists in Switzerland developed an illusion to make healthy people feel a ghostly presence. The results of the simulation were astonishing, revealing that the experience is due to mismatched sensory and motor information that confuses the brain. (Science Alert)

The team from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne designed a set-up involving two robots – one that sits in front of the participant, and one that sits behind them. Each participant was asked to place their hand inside a device and then move their hand around.

Their hand movements were transmitted to the robot sitting behind them, which prompted it to put its hand on the participant’s back, mimicking their movements in real-time. This made the participant feel like they were touching their own back, but because the robot was so in-sync with their movements, their brain was able to adapt to the feeling.

Next, the team added a short delay between the participant’s hand movements and the robot’s touch – and this is where things got interesting. After three minutes of delayed touching, several participants felt that there was someone behind them, and others counted up to four ‘ghosts’ in the room. Even though the robot was standing behind them, the volunteers were aware of its presence, and still reported the distinct feeling.

“For some, the feeling was even so strong that they asked to stop the experiment,” said Giulio Rognini, robotic scientist and one of the team, in a press release.  The results suggest that when the robot’s touch was out-of-sync with the participant’s hands movements, the brain couldn’t identify the signals as belonging to the participant’s body, but rather as someone else.

The signals of the sensations of touch are a part of the somatosensory system. Processing primarily occurs in the primary somatosensory area in the parietal lobe of the cerebral cortex: information is sent from the receptors via sensory nerves, through tracts in the spinal cord and finally into the brain.

Scientists are taking these findings to help those who experience hallucinations and schizophrenia, but it doesn’t exactly explain people’s experiences when they have a brain without any disorders. Where does that leave people who have a paranormal experience, but yet can’t explain it with science? I guess we’re on our own with that one.  Alone, all by ourselves, perhaps in an old abandoned house, perhaps around 3:00 AM, wrestling with our own fears of the unknown.

A Discussion about Female Empowerment and Pop Culture

This lesson’s objective is to have students discuss women’s empowerment in 21st century pop culture.

Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna are only a few examples of icons that represent female empowerment in pop culture. Their tracks are not only fun to listen to, but also send a message of female empowerment. Females in the entertainment industry have made great strides, however many feminist groups argue that some female artists dress too provocatively in their music videos and even do a disservice to the female population. However, others believe many of them reflect positive examples of female independence and accomplishment in a male dominated industry.