Video Games: Health Boon or Bust?

Row Of Video Games

I, like most other people my age, like to play video games. I can easily lose myself for hours on end in virtual worlds. I’m not alone either; games such as Minecraft are played by millions of people of all ages all around the world. In fact, from 2016 to 2020, it is estimated that gamers collectively spent a total of more than 68 million years playing Minecraft — and that’s just a single video game out of tens of thousands played each year. While that might sound like an unimaginable amount of time to spend playing a video game, it’s not at all surprising to me. Minecraft is especially fun to me because of all the creativity that I can use to build amazing structures and environments. I even get to interact with friends online, so I can spend time in these incredible places building palaces and surreal structures with my close friends. Sometimes I even get to make new friends this way. Despite the benefits I’ve found playing video games, many people still think that video games are bad for you for numerous reasons. So, the question is: what does the research reveal? Are video games good or bad for us? 

 

Depression, Anxiety and other Psychological Issues

One of the major worries that people have concerning video games is that they can cause depression and anxiety. Numerous studies actually show this to be true. For example, an opinion piece from the Georgia State Signal points out that, 

A comprehensive study from the Journal of Health Psychology shows that gaming disorders are linked to greater levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, social problems and many other psychological-social problems.

On the other hand, Webmd cites other sources which show that video games actually distract and help people deal with depression, anxiety, or PTSD.

Video games can act as distractions from pain and psychological trauma. Video games can also help 

Woman And Virtual Reality

people who are dealing with mental disorders like anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There is research supporting both arguments, so it really comes down to the individual gamer and their particular circumstances. 

 

Video Games and Violence

The argument for individual circumstances and personality is also the central factor behind the connection between video games and violence.  I’m sure there are even many readers of this article who think that video games cause violence. Video games such as Grand Theft Auto are often accused of being too violent, affecting the player’s brain in ways that lead to violent behavior in real life. Studies have shown that this is not the case. Apa.org, points out that

Recent research has shown that as video games have become more popular, children in the United States and Europe are having fewer behavior problems, are less violent and score better on standardized tests. Violent video games have not created the generation of problem youth so often feared.

With this in mind, many will wonder: what about all of the people who got in trouble and blamed video game violence as the source of their behavior? Well, it’s more about the personality of the player rather than the game. Harvard Health says that,

Two psychologists, Dr. Patrick Markey of Villanova University and Dr. Charlotte Markey of Rutgers University, have presented evidence that some children may become more aggressive as a result of watching and playing violent video games, but that most are not affected. After reviewing the research, they concluded that the combination of three personality traits might be most likely to make an individual act and think aggressively after playing a violent video game. The three traits they identified were high neuroticism (prone to anger and depression, highly emotional, and easily upset), disagreeableness (cold, indifferent to other people), and low levels of conscientiousness (prone to acting without thinking, failing to deliver on promises, breaking rules).

Just like with loneliness and depression, games themselves are never the sole cause of problems. For example, I have personally played many violent video games, and I’m certainly not a violent person. While it might be true that violent video games can make an already violent person more violent, it does not appear to be the case that video games specifically cause violence. 

 

Playing Video GamesBottom Line: Video Games are Good for You

If video games aren’t bad for you, then are they good for you? Well, in fact, yes! Video games can benefit players in a multitude of ways, including and not limited to improvement in:

  • memory
  • spatial visualization
  • mood
  • social skills
  • perception
  • physical fitness
  • decision making
  • youthfulness
  • problem solving skills
  • curiosity

As a specific example, studies have shown that fast paced games can help you make quick decisions

Fast-paced video games like Need For Speed or Call of Duty require you to stay on your toes and make decisions quickly. These energizing action games can also improve your ability to make game-time decisions in real life.

In terms of benefit to motor function, Psychologicalscience.org says that:

Playing action-based video games may boost players’ ability to coordinate incoming visual information with their motor control, a skill critical to many real-world behaviors including driving, new research shows. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

For improvements to general psychology, Webmd explains that:

When you fail in a game or in other situations, it can be frustrating. Video games help people learn how to cope with failure and keep trying. This is an important tool for children to learn and use as they get older.

For stress relief, Verywellmind.com says that:

Really, any game that you truly enjoy can be a stress reliever. Virtually any game that you find to be truly fun can be beneficial by providing an escape from daily stress, a break from patterns of rumination, or a way to build positive feelings.

For improvements to intelligence, Webmd says that:

Video games often make you think. When you play video games, almost every part of your brain is working to help you achieve higher-level thinking. Depending on the complexity of the game, you may have to think, strategize, and analyze quickly. Playing video games works with deeper parts of your brain that improve development and critical thinking skills.

And finally for sociability, Levelskip.com says that:

Most gamers (over 70%) play video games with one or more of their friends. Gamers who play video games with friends may play either cooperatively (where two or more players work together to achieve the goal of the game)

 

The Best Video Games for You to Play

If all games are good, what are the best games? Well, I might be biased, of course, but the famous Minecraft is an amazing game to play. It can teach you how to be creative with your buildings. There are all sorts of blocks and different colors to build with. From idtech.com, they explain:

Minecraft is educational because it enhances creativity, problem-solving, self-direction, collaboration, and other life skills.

Other first person shooter games, such as Call of Duty, are also good games to play. Even though they can show blood, it makes children quickly move around so that they can get fast reflexes, as there are always enemy combatants working against you. Polygon.com says that

A growing body of research indicates that playing first-person action games, particularly shooters, improves brain function such as cognitive abilities and learning skills — changes that have real-life applications, reports Scientific American Mind.

If those games don’t interest you, there are thousands of others to choose from. CheckPoint offers numerous video gaming titles for you to try, and even splits them up by what aspect of health they are best for. Some of my personal favorites include:

  • Bound
  • Florence
  • Destiny 2
  • Hollow Knight
  • Persona 5
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Video Games and Disabled Players

Something else to consider is how video games provide an amazing outlet for disabled players to be themselves and live a life liberated from the difficulties they face in the real world. People with disabilities are usually treated very badly and are sometimes even seen as outcasts. In video games, they don’t have to be outcasts anymore! Since no one can see them, they can be themselves without worrying about being judged, allowing them to have as much fun as other players while they are playing! Disabled players actually make up a large part of the gaming community. According to Polygon.com

…20 percent of gamers have some form of disability — not including the eight percent of men who are colorblind or the 14 percent of adults who have a low reading age, and also not including the many temporary impairments, such as broken arms, sleeping babies or bumpy public transport, that most people face at one point or another… 

It is vital that disabled players are afforded numerous outlets of accessibility in games so that they continue playing the games they love and improving their health while they’re at it!

 

In Conclusion

Video games are able to help with real life functions of the human body and mind. Best of all, they invite all types of players, even those who are normally unable to participate in activities that are normally considered beneficial, like sports. Whether or not video games are good for you, we can all agree that they are fun, at the very least. So, pick up your favorite game, and go have some fun! In the meantime, I’ll be playing Minecraft. 

See you online!

Application vs. Memorization

The next generation of the human race is currently enrolled in a 7-hours-per-day, 5-days-a-week program: school. In a single year, students spend about 1,200 hours in school alone. Since students spend much of their time in this educational program, schools need to make sure they are teaching most effectively during this period of time. The normal schooling methods used since 1837, way back when traditional schooling was first thought of, has always favored the use of memorization over application, but this has led to systematic harm of many futures for nearly 180 years. The methods of teaching need to take a turn towards application and understanding if the futures of young minds is in our best interest.

To truly understand this change, you must understand what the starting point, memorization, truly is. Memorization is the process that one follows to preserve knowledge to later on recall it. Memorization plays a large role in modern and past techniques of learning. The use of memorization in classes ranges from memorizing formulas to memorizing the parts of a cell. Although it’s sometimes easy to remember small bits, it’s also very common to forget them. According to an article related to memory, medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD, one reason humans forget is motivated forgetting. This means if a student isn’t given a true reason to know something besides “It will be on the test,” they won’t see why they need to remember something for the future. For example, if one P.E. teacher tells their student to remember the bicep muscles in the arms because they are important, the student won’t know why it’s important. That “Why” component is their motivation to remember.

As there are two sides to this change, we also need to understand application. Application/Understanding is split into multiple parts: Explain, Interpret, Apply, and Have Perspective. Explain means students should be able to explain each step in their solutions and why that step was there. Interpret means students should be able to interpret others’ solutions as well. Apply means students not only memorize the formulas and figurative language techniques, but they can use them in their solutions and writings. Lastly, Have Perspective means students can weigh in or give their opinion on a topic or problem related to the lesson. This explanation of application/understanding is hefty, but in simple terms, it means students have that “Why?” factor they were missing in memorization. They have that motivation to learn with application/understanding.

Although both skills, memorization and application, are important in student development, which of the two is truly more important in the future? When students grow up, their jobs won’t be to label the parts of a cell (memorization); their jobs will be to explore and innovate for the future using the knowledge they already know (application). For many adults, while in school, they weren’t given the opportunity to be creative with their knowledge. If children are able to start applying themselves at an early age, the change to adulthood will be a smoother transition. In addition to this, application allows students to make connections to the real world. Memorization will allow students to know the theme of a story, but application takes it one step further; instead of only identifying the theme, the student will be able to use the theme in their own lives to better themselves. The future needs those who can create and enhance over those who can identify and label.

For a while now, I have been talking about many hypothetical futures, so this time, let’s see where exactly application is necessary over memorization. The first and most explicit example is driving. There are two portions to earning your license: a written and actual driving test. The written portion is the memorization side. For the written test, you have to memorize signs, distances, rules, etc. For the actual driving test, the proctor grades the driver on how well they follow the rules and drive in general. Now I have a question for you: Would you feel more safe driving next to someone who knows the rules but hasn’t actually driven, or would you feel more safe driving next to someone who knows the rules and can follow them safely? Drivers who can apply their knowledge and skills are better off on the road than those who only know the rules. This is why there is an application side to earning a license.

Application is already being used in public schools as higher-level thinking technique, but they haven’t highlighted this section enough. Many class assessments and standardized tests choose word problems as higher-level thinking questions. From an article written by John Marsh, an education counselor,

Solving math word problem[s] [are] challenging task[s]: it teaches students to use logic and creative thinking which is combined in executing the task.

Students are able to understand much more by using logic and creativity in real-world scenarios than they ever could by simply memorizing knowledge. This is because word problems force students to use creativity, accept challenges, use logical analysis, and prepare them for the upcoming years. School Districts need to minimize the role of memorization and vastly increase the roles of understanding and applying while testing their students. Alternating assessments is the first step into a much deeper and meaningful future.

The adaptation to applicative learning is a step-by-step process which will take some time and effort from both students and educators. The change necessary is not only on assessments, but the ways of teaching as well. Teachers need to start explaining and providing reasons for each lesson so students begin to slowly replicate these actions. This is important because if students can start understanding what they are doing and why they are doing it from a young age, their minds will be more open to learning. The second technical change would be from the students’ perspective. Students will be asked to explain why each step is there so they understand and do not just memorize. The third change is obviously how assessments are graded and what the students are tested on. Currently, memorization plays a large role in assessments. With applicative learning, students will be tested on real-life situations that relate to the lesson. For levels one and two, the students will be asked to explain and interpret. For levels three and four, however, the students will be asked to apply their knowledge to word problems. The whole test will be modified for realistic situations. For example, instead of asking the students to find the area of a square, the student will be asked to find the area of a garden. These minuscule adaptations will leave their positive mark on each student.

A few schools have already begun the transformation to applicative learning, but one stands way ahead. Elon Musk — yes, that Elon Musk — has built a school, Ad Astra, for highly gifted children. This school is much different than any school you have ever seen. Ad Astra has taken application over memorization to a whole new level. At this school, there are no grades; this may seem bizarre, but Elon’s focus is on the students’ development. According to Business Insider, Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X Prize Foundation, toured the school and was approving of its ethos.

One element that is persistent in that small school of 31 kids is the conversation about ethics and morals, a conversation manifested by debating real-world scenarios that our kids may one day face,

said Peter. Ad Astra zeroes in on real-world scenarios every day. Elon himself explained the main struggle with current education: students are being asked to memorize information without knowing why those pieces are important. Elon and Ad Astra have reached new heights in applicative learning, but if public schools take it step-by-step, their students will benefit immensely. 

Change is a word that brings fear to those who do not have an open mind. The methods of teaching for the past 180 years have gone on far too long; change is a necessity. The young minds are our future, and our future is our interest. Thus, students need to be taught in a way that encourages creativity, logical analysis, and accepting challenges. The young minds of today will soon be the minds of tomorrow, but right now they need applicative learning much more than memorization.

Gamification: Improving the Workplace by Having Fun

The workplace is an ever-changing environment. It is constantly evolving based on new technology, new findings, and new ethical pathways. One way the workplace continues evolving is with the new use of gamification. And, no I don’t mean the use of gamma rays inside an office. We are talking about games. Yes, you heard it correctly–normal video games that all teenagers play are being used to enhance the workplace!

Let’s first delve into what gamification is. Gamification is the use of game elements inside non-game settings or platforms. For example, playing games at work. Gamification involves gaming with a different purpose than recreation, somewhere where a game is not typically played. This can mean either to use more traditional games, like scavenger hunts, or use new technology like VR. The nature of playing games in your office may seem unrealistic, but companies have already started doing it. Google has implemented a travel expense game which focuses on the employees who travel a lot. The game helps them keep track of their travel expenses every time they travel, while also having fun. A new study by four BYU information systems professors found newly-formed work teams experienced a 20 percent increase in productivity on subsequent tasks after playing video games together for just 45 minutes. These 45 minutes could be the time offices implement as their gamification time. Another place where gamification is really making a difference is in school education. Gamification in schools and offices have almost the same objective, except in schools, the games are targeted at a younger audience.

Incorporating games into offices is not an easy task. A lot of issues arise, like what if people get too competitive or what if they get distracted? There have to be games which create a balance of recreation and education. The purpose of these games is to basically educate the workers. According to an article by author Dave Nevogt,

One of the biggest problems with gamification is that it incentivizes winning over other objectives… Working in a corporate environment has traditionally been a relationship of exchanging time and effort for money — and this naturally leads to a lack of motivation in the long term, especially for millennials who want to be engaged in meaningful work.

These issues have to be prioritized if gamification in the workplace can be a realistic market.

NASA Goddard Engineer Tom Grubb uses VR/AR

As you probably already know, new consoles and games are always coming out, like the Xbox and PlayStation. However, there is a much deeper future than just the normal consoles. That future is the world of VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality). VR is already making a strong push into the gaming industry, especially with new headsets like Sony’s and Oculus’. VR is groundbreaking, but AR is where things get especially exciting. AR is a different type of interactive experience than VR. AR takes computerized graphics and places them in the real environment. One of the first games we saw including AR was Pokemon GO, which displayed an image of different Pokemon fighting in the environment through your device. Another example of AR we don’t notice everyday is in football. All the yellow lines and scoreboards on the field are all possible with AR. Now, you may be wondering what all of this has to do with an office. But, these new tech games are the ones that are going to be used in the workplace. New technologies have a tendency of providing people with fun through novelty, especially young adults just getting started in their adult lives. More excitement in a game makes for a more fun experience, which makes for a more productive game and person. The ultimate goal is to help employees work harder by having fun.

As you can see, games can be used for other purposes than just for teenagers playing around. Games give a sense of entertainment and recreation, which helps a person become more engaged. This concept, which has been used for generations, is now just being used with more technology. If gamification in the workplace can be implemented in all offices, every employee can work and have fun!

Quantum Cryptography: The Locks and Keys of the Future

Companies around the world are always searching for new and better ways to protect their data. For this reason, encrypting code is very crucial for business to be successful. They must encrypt their data and source code in such a way so that no unauthorized person is able to access their data. Today, it is easier than ever for hackers to acquire valuable data since most of the companies around the world store their data in the cloud. While the cloud makes it cheaper and easier for companies to store their data, it also makes it easier for that information to end up in the wrong hands. To avoid this vulnerability, companies use a “key” which can decode the encryption protecting their code. Although encryption is safe, when put up against truly experienced or keen hackers, this key can be stolen or eventually deduced. One very innovative way to protect code and get around the current vulnerabilities involved with regular encryption is by using quantum cryptography. 

Quantum cryptography, also known as quantum encryption, is a new way to send keys for encryption at a quantum level. The more specific type of quantum cryptography we are talking about is quantum key distribution. Quantum key distribution works by having the quantum key encode and send the information needed to decode a message via light particles. Sending a message through light particles makes it virtually impossible for hackers to attain the encrypted data or the decryption key.

Sending information using light particles isn’t an easy task, but allow me to explain how it works. Let us say, for example, a key is being sent between two people using quantum cryptography. This key can be transferred using a stream of photons in one direction. Each of these photon particles can be represented as a number for data, either a 0 or a 1. While on their journey, these photons are vibrating in a certain matter which can be in any 360 degree direction, but to simplify quantum cryptography, we use four states: UP/DOWN, LEFT/RIGHT, UPLEFT/RIGHTDOWN and UPRIGHT/LEFTDOWN. The angle at which the particle vibrates is known as the polarization of the light particle. We then use a polarizer to send messages with these photons. A polarizer is basically a filter that permits certain photons to pass through it with the same vibration as before and lets others pass through in a changed state of the vibration. With this polarizer, a person can assign each photon a particular direction using numbers for the data. The photons containing the information then get sent out to the other person receiving the message. The receiver then uses a special type of decryption machine to figure out each direction of each photon. This will allow the person to then access the data and information without anyone else obtaining it since the photons are sent directly from person to person at the speed of light.

If quantum cryptography becomes a commercial product for business, it can transform the concept of security to a whole new level. Before explaining how quantum cryptography can work for other businesses, we have to understand how businesses currently protect their information. Historically, most companies used to set up warehouses where all their data would be stored in servers, which is a term called “in-house.” However, now, most start up businesses use the cloud to store their information as it is much cheaper and easier to manage. The bigger companies use a hybrid system as they store some information in the cloud and store some information in-house. This is more beneficial as it isn’t too costly, and the secure information gets protected in the warehouse. The problem with the cloud is that it is easier for that information to be stolen. With quantum cryptography, that is no longer a problem.

Quantum cryptography can be used to protect valuable information in the cloud at a vastly new level of security and dependability. The same message using light particles can be used to send information through the cloud or to protect a company’s source code. The message will be broken down into photons of light and delivered between two parties, so no one else is able to view it. This message can take the form of information for customers, employees, or whoever else the company wants to send it to. Information kept in the cloud is managed by third party companies like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, to name a few. This quantum cryptography solution can be used by these companies to make their clouds safer for other businesses to use.

This quantum cryptography solution to modern encryption vulnerability isn’t just a myth; there have already been tests and experiments on the idea of quantum cryptography. The first quantum transaction took place in 2004, when researchers in Vienna used entangled photons to transfer a 3,000-Euro deposit into their bank account. Quantum cryptography has already been experimented with, but it hasn’t been used to send data through the cloud yet.  According to quantum cryptographer Artur Ekert, a professor at the University of Oxford and director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore,

There is still a way to go before it becomes a standard commercial proposition, but we are getting there faster than I expected.

It is very possible for this technology to become a commercial product to be used by all companies, but there’s still a significant amount of research and work to do before this becomes a widespread reality. 

Quantum cryptography could serve as a wonder for all businesses using the cloud. It protects their data in such a way which makes it almost impossible for someone to steal information they are not authorized to access.. Those who don’t own a business may not care about protecting businesses’ data, but most people work as employees for companies, which means that their job security also depends on the expansion of this technology.  Quantum cryptography/encryption benefits the businesses most, but it also benefits the employees working for these companies by ensuring that their jobs are not lost due to negligence with valuable information. 

It may only be a short time before companies start storing information on light particles, but for the time being, the cloud is our best option. I’m excited for a new day and age when even our clouds can be locked and protected!

Internet Trolls: Why They Prosper From Your Grief

Internet trolls are a force to be reckoned with.

Have you ever played an online video game? Entered a chat room? Posted a topic? Wrote a blog? Of course you have. And maybe you have even been trolled in the process… but what is trolling and how have you been affected?

The internet troll is a unique individual, at times making quick appearances, other times invading our cyber lives in overwhelming fashion. They are best described as individuals who regularly exhibit the three characteristics of the Dark Triad:

  • Narcissism – pride and egotism with a lack of empathy.
  • Machiavellianism – deceiving and using others for self gain; immoral individuals.
  • Psychopathy – exhibiting remorselessness and again a lack of empathy.

Related ArticleA Note on the Top 1%: Psychopaths or Superhumans?

Internet trolls are not only described by those characteristics, but also proven to share a correlation with them! In a new study, titled “Trolls Just Want to Have Fun” (genius), it was found that:

trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, using both enjoyment ratings and identity scores.

But why would anyone troll your blog about cute animals doing cute things? Your blog is silly and I hate you and your cute things are disgusting that’s why! Sorry about that, my inner troll popped up unexpectedly.

But seriously, they thrive off of personal work and emotion. Something you put a great deal of work and time into is the ideal target.

Even in a chat room where a serious debate has ensued, a troll will inevitably charge in to divert the focus of the debate or simply mock any and every intellectual point made. Their actions and words spark an emotional connection and provoke a passionate, heartfelt response. This is precisely the point when a troll reigns victorious.

Related ArticleNOT Another 9-11 Article (rolls eyes*)

Did you just achieve a new rank in a game? Did someone follow up that achievement with a statement to anger you? You read:  “Newb.” or “LOL props scrub,” and with that all your hard work and sense of achievement wanes into a form of senseless rage. But why would someone want to anger you? Why is it that someone is getting pleasure out of your misery?

The answer lies in the conclusion of the study:

[Internet] trolling appears to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism.

Sadists. All of them. This result bolsters the idea that a their behavior is actually representative of an even greater evil, the Dark Tetrad. This malevolent nexus of annoying includes the Dark Triad with the addition of sadism – gaining pleasure from others’ misery.

Interestingly enough, you may have trolled someone yourself, out of boredom if not for any other reason. Maybe you’ve said someone’s profile picture is ugly or created a fake story, telling others the story is the gospel truth… does “spreading gossip” ring any bells? Does that make everyone a little sadistic, narcissistic, psychopathic, and Machiavellian? Is the world just an endless stream of Rick Rolls? Are we all internet trolls at heart?

Related ArticleYou Might be a Psychopath; Psychological Catch 22

Being trolled? Just breathe… they want you to respond in a heated manner. Ignore the comment, delete it, or simply move on to a different topic. To reply to them is to fuel them! LOL… here’s a graph depicting the reality of the dark tetrad around the world.

Cheers!

internet troll personality

Mean Personality Score.
http://www.motherjones.com

 

 

Research:

Science Direct: They just want to have fun

Science Direct: Dark Triad

Wikipedia: Dark Tetrad

Popular Science: Why We’re Shutting Off Our Comments

15 Infuriatingly Hilarious Quotes

 

Wondergressive: You Might be a Psychopath; Psychological Catch 22

Wondergressive: A Note on the Top 1%: Psychopaths or Superhumans?

Wondergressive: NOT Another 9-11 Article (rolls eyes*)

Is Religion Good For Your Brain?

When you think of religion does your body get invigorated? Do you feel your soul flutter? Does your brain reach a higher state of functioning? In answer to the last question, Jeffrey Anderson, assistant professor of nueroradiology at the University of Utah states that,

We think we have the tools now to do a study of brain activity during the really profound and deep types of emotional and social interactions associated with religion, and we’re really excited to try and understand more.

religion science god

Religion constantly falls under the close scrutiny of science.

Anderson and other researchers are launching a new study that will examine exactly how religion and spiritual rituals impact the human brain. The study will consist of participants between the age of 20 and 30 who are currently active in their faith. An MRI scan will be performed while the participants are surrounded by faith oriented activities, such as listening to spiritual music, listening to proclamations from their religion, and acting out religious rituals associated with their particular faith. Very interesting indeed, but it will take some time before the results of the study are posted. If you believe your self to be a prime candidate for the study, and of course as long as you are in the immediate area of the University of Utah, you can apply to be a participant on the Religious Brain Project website.

Related ArticleMorals or More Rails (to guide us)

The study does beg another set of questions however: can religion and belief be measured by science? Or rather, should science be used to gauge religion? Is it morally correct to accept religion over science, or vice versa? Essentially we arrive at a very pertinent question: should religion be completely replaced by science within the school system as a more viable teaching strategy?

Bill Nye (yes, the science guy) and Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis, supporting the side of religion and creationism) squared off in a debate last night about religion which addressed these issues directly. The overarching question of the debate was : Is creation a viable model of human origins in today’s modern scientific era? Both sides had their own opinions as well as evidence to back up their claims.

religion creation science

Which Religion is right? Which book do your prefer? sciencebasedlife.wordpress.com

In the debate, Ken Ham defends religion by stating that science should be split into two separate categories. The first would pertain to observational science (a science based on models). This category involves what we experience now and how the world works today. The second category involves historical science (a type of theoretical science of origin) which is used to define our origins and makes sense of the world around us from a historical perspective. He stresses the importance of separating the two to help with the confusion that children are being exposed to. He gives the example that by only teaching evolution, which to most starts with a random beginning for no reason other than “it happened,” we limit children to thinking that science is just as random. This randomness can crate incredible confusion when making conclusions about existential quandaries children are trying to work through. Ken Ham asserts that instead, children should be taught religion and to embrace the idea of God because it empowers them to think they are indeed special, as they are made in the image of God.

Related ArticleIn 1610 God Was a Binary, Fractal, Self-Replicating Algorithm

Bill Nye on the other hand focuses on accepted scientific evidence to disprove Ham’s assertions regarding religious truth. For example, he refers to the different layers in stone and snow that have been compressed to form ice which would take far longer than the amount of time Creationism allows for. He talks about the allotted four thousand years since the Great Flood and the improbability of the amount of species we see today to exist with the limited time that Creationists claim elapsed since then. He stresses the idea that we need to depend on natural law and orders, not religious or divine laws, to predict practical and accurate future theories and laws. He asserts that the basis of scientific education must be information derived through the scientific process, such as evolution, in order for children and future scientists to make reasonable scientific predictions in the future. In essence, he is claiming that one must understand and accept theories like evolution which have been supported with scientific evidence in order to understand why a fish can come to walk on land, why there are over 8.7 million different species on Earth, why layers in rocks and trees and ice exist, and so on.  He stresses that by allowing religion and Creationism to thrive in academic settings we are impeding the scientific literacy of future generations and essentially stifling the United States in future scientific breakthroughs.

Related Article: Watching Evolution Occur

The debate finished with questions and rebuttals, but the underlying theme of the debate, I fear, was lost. Instead of trying to prove why one or the other is wrong in the school system, it turned into a contest of ego and the denouncing of each others ideals.

religion science stats

Some surprising statistics about religion and science. blog.faithlife.com

I wonder, why not accept both ideas? Why not teach every child in every classroom the idea of science, and then, on your own time, teach your children your worship, your religion, and your belief. Allow for both religion and science to be taught in their own settings (in schools and at home/place of worship respectively) and allow for the child to then choose which idea they support and believe. What is with this unyielding hatred between the two schools of thought? What ever happened to being free and allowing for choice? Most importantly though: can’t we all just get along?

In the end, much of the issue is largely based on opinion, some opinions stemming from facts, others stemming from observed information. One thing is for certain, all this debate and speculation on religion is definitely causing your brain to function at an elevated level. Maybe you’ve been unintentionally participating in Anderson’s experiment this whole time!

To feed your own opinions further, or for the sake of debate itself, check out the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate on Creationism vs. science in the video below!

Cheers!


Sources:

Religious Brain Project

Deseret News: What’s the effect of religion on the brain? U. launches new study

University of Utah

Youtube: Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham

Youtube: Bill Nye: Creationism Is Not Appropriate for Children

Youtube: Ken Ham Responds to Bill Nye “the Humanist Guy”

Answers in Genesis – Creationism

Wikipedia: Genesis flood narrative

Backreaction: Models and Theories

Models, Theories, and Laws

How many species on Earth? 8.7 million

 

Wondergressive: Watching Evolution Occur

Wondergessive: Morals or More Rails (to guide us)

Wondergressive: In 1610 God Was a Binary, Fractal, Self-Replicating Algorithm

Chimpanzee Intelligence: Photographic Memory, Communication, and Altruism

chimpanzee intelligence researcher

Chimpanzee intelligence is shedding light on our own intelligence. http://www.economist.com

A recent study on chimpanzee intelligence has revealed that chimpanzees use and dynamically modify intentional hand gestures to communicate, cooperate, and achieve specific goals. The study is part of a larger research project on chimpanzee intelligence led by Dr. Charles Menzel of Georgia State University.

Related Article: The Profound Intelligence and Intuition of Elephants

chimpanzee intelligence lexigrams

These symbols, called lexigrams, are what Chimpanzees use to communicate.

The participants in the study consisted of two chimps named Panzee (19 year old female) and Sherman (31 year old male), along with a researcher from Menzel’s team. Both chimps were raised by human parents and have been involved in research projects involving language learning, memory, and numerical understanding at some point in their lives. Lexigrams, abstract symbols that represent words (similar to Chinese characters) are a regular part of the chimpanzees’ lives, and are regularly used to communicate with humans.

The study required that the chimpanzees cooperate with one another, along with a human researcher, to find food. The food was hidden at various distances and locations relative to the starting point of the chimpanzees. Instead of the chimps trying to find the food though, their task was to tell the researcher where to look. The researcher in the experiment had no idea where the food was hidden.

Related Article: A Group of Prominent Scientists Agree; Animals are just as Conscious as Us

To accomplish the task the researcher pointed at potential target locations and acted according to the chimpanzees’ feedback. This type of role reversal creates an intriguing scenario. According to Dr. Menzel,

The design of the experiment with the chimpanzee-as-director created new ways to study the primate. It allows the chimpanzees to communicate information in the manner of their choosing, but also requires them to initiate and to persist in communication.

chimpanzee intelligence hand gesture

Hand gestures like this one are used to communicate. http://www.nytimes.com

Essentially, this study on chimpanzee intelligence is a classic game of “hot-and-cold.” Panzee and Sherman used non-indicative hand gestures at a more rapid rate when the researcher was closer to the food. In the end, Panzee was able to find more food than Sherman because she elaborated her gestures relative to the researcher’s pointing. This is a landmark study in the field of chimpanzee intelligence as it is the first time chimpanzees have been shown to exhibit such flexibility with regards to communication and gestures. Dr. Menzel explains that,

Because of the openness of this paradigm, the findings illustrate the high level of intentionality chimpanzees are capable of, including their use of directional gestures. This study adds to our understanding of how well chimpanzees can remember and communicate about their environment.

The study is certainly amazing, but it’s not surprising. Chimpanzee intelligence is well documented.  They share many human behaviors and modes of reasoning. In some cases, chimpanzees have even been shown to markedly outsmart us.

Chimpanzees are exceptional at language acquisition and comprehension relative to other animals. Like Panzee and Sherman, many chimps have successfully been taught to use lexigrams as a form of communication, as well as sign language. A great example of exceptional chimpanzee intelligence is Washoe, a chimpanzee who learned 151 American Sign Language signs over the course of 51 months. A double blind test confirmed that Washoe did in fact learn, understand, and spontaneously use over 350 signs by the end of her life.

Related Article: Birds Recognize and Mourn Their Dead

Chimpanzee intelligence face

A male chimpanzee trolling his girlfriend, I assume. http://www.medindia.net

Chimpanzee intelligence varies greatly, just like human intelligence. While Washoe learned to communicate with us, other chimpanzees just can’t seem to grasp what we consider language. Another chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky was thought to have learned sign language, but later tests revealed that his signs were merely trained responses. He did not actually understand what the sign meant relative to himself and the world at large.

Chimpanzees excel in their ability to remember. In fact, chimpanzees have a far greater memory than even the most powerful human minds on the planet. A 30 year study at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute revealed that chimpanzees can learn and remember the shape and value of the numbers 1 through 9.

Ayumu, a highly intelligent chimp, has the remarkable ability to use his aptitude for numbers to very easily accomplish a task that is seemingly impossible for humans. In the task, the numbers 1 through 9 are flashed onto a computer screen for less than a quarter of a second before disappearing. Ayumu is able to remember and correctly choose the areas where the numbers once were in ascending order. He can perform this incredible feat in mere seconds and can do it over, and over again, seemingly without any mental strain.  This could potentially represent a photographic memory.

Ben Pridmore, a world memory champion, failed the same test on most attempts. 

Other examples of chimpanzee intelligence include laughing for many of the same reasons humans do (including being tickled), creating and executing complex social hierarchies, making tools, strategizing during hunts, and using deception and manipulation to gain rank in society or attain rewards.  Additionally, they have been shown to spontaneously plan for future events.

Related Article: Sensitive Plant Can Move, Learn and Remember

Chimpanzee intelligence goes even further in some cases as chimps have frequently been shown to act altruistically, sacrificing themselves for the greater good or engaging in helpful activity even when it is clear no reward will be won.

To top it all off, most of the time chimpanzees just want to have fun. Researchers have noted that chimpanzees often solve puzzles just for the thrill of it. I wonder how loyal of an ally a chimpanzee would be in an inter-species game of Risk…

chimpanzee intelligence chess

A chimpanzee imparting some age old wisdom to a little girl over a game of chess. tylertretsven.wordpress.com

Sources:

http://www.sci-news.com/biology/science-chimpanzees-use-hand-gestures-communicate-01700.html

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140116/ncomms4088/full/ncomms4088.html

http://www.iowaprimatelearning.org/science/history_of_ape_language/interactive_lexigram/

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/165/3894/664

http://books.google.com/books?id=R1byaqvqVKUC&pg=PA27#v=onepage&q&f=false

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-10-31

http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/kids/weird-wacky-kids/funny-videos-kids/chimp-memory-kids/

http://discovermagazine.com/2003/apr/featlaugh#.Ut9e6RDnbIU

http://www.indiana.edu/~origins/teach/A105/lectures/A105L12.html

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0008901

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19278627

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9889999/Chimps-solve-puzzles-for-the-thrill-of-it-researchers-find.html

 

Will Facebook Face the Same Doomed Fate as Myspace?

myspace facebook popularity

Forget Facebook! Don’t you miss getting blasted with your friend’s music as you browse their site?
http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/three-reasons-why-myspace-is-doomed/

Have you ever considered what might be the next trend to die? Which aspect of your daily social life will just fade away? Just as disco, AIMplanking (which seems to have slowed down in popularity), and Myspace.com have all but dissipated, now Facebook is likely doomed to face a similar fate. As the new age of internet-goers show a disinterest in Facebook-ing, it is becoming apparent that other trends and newer social media tools will take its place in the near future. What am I even talking about you say?

Related: Facebook: Glorifying and Depressing

A recent report on Facebook popularity from Istrategylabs has yielded some interesting results. It is clear from the graph below that young people simply aren’t interested in Facebook staling anymore.

But what can we attribute to the decline in young Facebook users? Actually, a couple different events have occurred over the years that may lead us to an answer. In fact, as you scan over the chart to your left, you may realize what exactly has happened: Facebook has become completely accessible to everyone.

Originally, Facebook was meant to be a hub for college people to keep in touch, to find someone during or after college in hopes of changing their relationship status, to include yourself and others in events, to help keep up with best friends’ lives even after they left the safe confines of the dorm room. All this slowly morphed into much, much more: people now rely on Facebook for chatting, for daily inspiration, or for simply killing time. The age groups grew, the visitors and participants became younger/older, and everyone that knew how to use a computer slowly became a Facebook-er.

So what? Is everyone not entitled to freedom of speech and entertainment? That’s just it though. When you or someone you know joined Facebook they were probably still in college or had just finished college. Now they may be a parent of a child, and that child finds them (unfortunately) very uncool. They don’t get their parents’ lame humor and wish to be alone and unbothered when they are online. In comes the (still cool regardless what the child thinks) parent: ensuring their child is OK by befriending them on Facebook. They comment on life updates and statuses posted by their child, and restrict usage when their child gets out of line. And why not? That is what parents do. Their child is their responsibility and they will do anything to protect their child. As always though, children try to combat this by looking to other forms of entertainment, something the parents do not use, something that is only beginning to trend and takes time to adapt to. And so with younger generations Facebook is slowly becoming uncool because of its accessibility and ease of use.

Related: The Draw of Cell Phones

If you notice, even the media is to blame for Facebook’s decrease in popularity. You would be hard pressed not to find a twitter link nowadays that you can send your opinion to during news broadcasts. Not to mention the recent IPO (initial public offering) of Twitter, which was a huge success and to date has already surpassed the Facebook stock by 4 points. This shows that there is currently more of a vested interest in Twitter and its rising popularity, even in the stock market. With results like that, investors are all but begging for SnapChat to become a new stock on the stock market, which, like Twitter, is experiencing a rise in popularity and future potential among younger media users.

Did I mention Facebook owns Instagram? At least if Facebook dies, Instagram can be the next wave of income for Mark Zuckerberg. It’s almost as if he is trying to let us know what to trend next…

What should you take from all this? Will the king of social media be knocked off his horse? Or is this just another example of too many things at once distracting us from giving our full attention to any single entertainment vessel? If you consider all that the internet allows access to, all the different forms of entertainment that is readily available today: Wondergressive (of course), Twitter, Pintrest, Vine, Snapchat, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, Reddit, etc.; Facebook simply gets lost in the long list of ways to occupy ourselves on the internet. So many, many, many distractions, and I will leave you with just one more! Below is a graph from investment banker Piper Jaffray depicting the popularity of social media sites among teens. Cheers!

facebook graph

Facebook down, Twitter down a little, Instagram up! Other… Wondergressive!
http://www.piperjaffray.com/2col.aspx?id=287&releaseid=1863548

 

 

Research:

Wikipedia: AOL Instant Messenger

The 65 Best Planking Pictures From Around The World

MYspace.com

Istrategylabs.com

CNN Money: Twitter IPO Soars!

Google Finance: Stock

Google Finance: Twitter Stock

The Next IPO after Twitter?

NY TIMES: Buys Instagram for $1 Billion

Piper Jaffray

IMDB: The Social Network

 

Wondergressive: Oculus Rift and Omni Treadmill, Gaming of the Future!

Wondergressive: The Draw of Cell Phones

Wondergressive: Social Media: Glorifying and Depressing

Conductive Metal Ink Used on Flexible Electronics and Paper

 

metal ink picture

Make your own Lightbright with metal ink.

Scientists are reporting the creation of a new nanomaterial which comes in the form of a conductive metal ink. The ink is used to draw functioning electric circuits on flexible electronics that are beginning to be released. This metal ink can even be used to draw pictures or designs on normal, everyday materials like printer paper.

The ink is actually made of tinier than microscopic nano-sheets of copper, which is an incredible conductor. The scientists guide self-assembling copper nanocrystals into forming relatively large (emphasis on the ‘relatively’) sheets of copper. They then take these sheets of copper, coat them with silver nanoparticles, liquefy the mix, and put the metal ink solution into a pen.

Related Article: No More Red: Charge Your Phone Battery With Wi-Fi

metal ink flexible electronics

Flexible electronics allow you to finger catapult motherboards at your enemies. http://www.cmst.be/

The reason the scientists created this metal ink was to find a novel and cheap way to create an electric circuit on another flexible material. The combination is known as a flexible electronic. Although flexible electronics have been around for some time, they are extremely expensive due to the traditional time consuming and expensive methods of embedding flexible materials with electric circuits. The metal ink changes all that.

By implementing the metal ink, roll up tablets, fold up cell phones, and clothing weaved with electric circuits all become affordable. In fact, as long as you have your hand dandy conductive-metal-ink-pen, your whole world becomes a potential electric playground.

Related Article: Electronic Brain Implants Increase Intelligence

Just to prove how awesome the metal ink is the scientists drew lines, wrote words, and even made pictures of flowers on normal printer paper using the metal ink pen. They then put small LED lights in the ink, attached a battery to the nanomaterial masterpiece, and viola, the lights lit up.

metal ink shirt

Metal ink will make shirts like this the norm! http://www.threadless.com

What’s more, the scientists tested the flexibility and integrity of the ink by folding the aforementioned paper 1,000 times. They even went so far as crumpling the paper, likely in a fit of scientific ecstasy. Even after all this paper man-handling, the metal ink maintained 80-90% of its initial conductivity.

Just imagine, everyone may one day own a simple pen with the power to alter, add to, and eventually when the ink is widespread, make disappear any electric circuit they see. Hey buddy, that’s a really cool shirt, let me make it shine!

Related Article: Stanford Creates Highly Sensitive, Self-Healing Plastic Skin

If you are interested in some flexible electronics of your own while we wait for this magical metal ink to be released make sure to check out LG’s new phone, the G Flex. Not only is the phone more comfortable due to being vertically flexible, it is also coated in a self healing material. See all those scratches and nicks in your iPhone? The G Flex can literally heal all that superficial damage, retaining a like-new look and feel. Check out the phone’s healing ability in the video below.


Sources:

http://www.ndt-ed.org/GeneralResources/IACS/IACS.htm

http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2014/acs-presspac-january-8-2014/metal-ink-could-ease-the-way-toward-flexible-electronic-books-displays.html

http://www.lg.com/us/mobile-phones/innovations

http://news.yahoo.com/watch-lgs-flexible-phone-heal-itself-knife-scratch-122202804.html

Speaking to Babies in ‘Parentese’ Yields Surprising Results

A recent study which examined twenty-six babies has found surprising results regarding the way babies learn and use new vocabulary when spoken to in ‘parentese.’ Scientists outfitted 1-year-olds with clothes containing audio recorders. They recorded every bit of sound happening around the children for eight hours a day and four days straight. This came to 4,075 30-second intervals of recorded speech for each child.

After examining each and every 30-second clip of sound with a nifty piece of software called LENA (“language environment analysis”), and waiting a whole year the scientists were ready to share the shocking news. Speaking to a baby in baby talk, or more specifically, ‘parentese,’ is more important than just saying as many words as possible when it comes to language development.

Related Article: Read for Pleasure to Significantly Boost Intelligence

Although new parents commonly receive the advice to say as many words to a baby as possible in order to encourage its language growth, this isn’t the most ideal advice. When the babies were two years old the scientists asked the parents of the 26 children to fill out a questionnaire asking how many words their children knew. The evidence is quite clear:

2-year olds in families who spoke the most baby talk [parentese] in a one-on-one social context knew 433 words, on average, compared with the 169 words recognized by 2-year olds in families who used the least babytalk in one-on-one situations. The relationship between baby talk [parentese] and language development persisted across socioeconomic status and despite there only being 26 families in the study.

parentese man

Parentese is so easy anyone can do it! vimeo.com

While baby talk is nonsensical noise, parentese is like a dialect of normal speech. While speaking in parentese you still use normal words, the difference is that you use a high pitch voice and stretch out the vowels. An example of parentese picking up a baby and saying, “who’s my li-i-ttle baybee? Are you my littlee baybee? Yes, yoooou are!” You’re not saying “ooga booga,” you’re just being animated.

Related Article: Why Humans Have the Unique Ability to Learn New Words

The research also revealed that one-on-one conversations, especially in parentese, are extremely important.  Patricia Kuhl, co-author of the study and co-director of UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences confirms this point by explaining that,

what our analysis shows is that the prevalence of baby talk in one-on-one conversations with children is linked to better language development, both concurrent and future.

The reason parentese works so well is because of how well it engages babies.  Parentese allows a parent to keep their child’s attention by speaking in a slow happy voice, while still using actual words. Most importantly, especially in the case of a one-on-one conversation, parentese encourages a response and the consequent attempt at language formation. It is this constant attempt at verbal speech in the form of babbling that leads to the most rapid language learning in infants. As Kuhl concludes,

It’s not just talk, talk, talk at the child. It’s more important to work toward interaction and engagement around language. You want to engage the infant and get the baby to babble back. The more you get that serve and volley going, the more language advances.

Additional recent studies in the same vein as the one above have found that engaging in non-verbal language and learning multiple languages at the same time are also solid methods for improving vocabulary and language development in infants.

Related Article: Epigenetics and Altering Your DNA

If you are planning on taking parentese classes and implementing some of these techniques in an attempt to boost your child’s vocabulary, remember to read to them. Reading to and with children is possibly the single biggest factor in language development. Not to mention, it teaches them to love and enjoy literature.

 

Sources:

http://www.washington.edu/news/2014/01/06/babbling-babies-responding-to-one-on-one-baby-talk-master-more-words/

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2013/september/toddler-language-gap-091213.html

http://www.pbs.org/parents/child-development/baby-and-toddler/baby-talk-speaking-parentese/

http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2013/06/24/giving-children-non-verbal-clues-about-words-boosts-vocabularies

http://www.cal.org/resources/digest/earlychild.html

https://wondergressive.com/read-for-pleasure-to-significantly-boost-intelligence/