Strange Holiday Traditions by Keerthi Selvam

Celebrating Mari Lwyd in Wales.

With Christmas just around the corner (well, sort of), most of us are getting into the holiday season. However, millions of people celebrate their own holiday traditions, ranging from a KFC-Day in Japan and a day to burn trash on the streets in Guatemala. As you may learn in this article, not all holiday traditions are centered around jolly old men.

  1. Noche de Rabanos, Mexico

Literally translating to “Night of the Radishes”, this festival is Mexico’s version of America’s pumpkin carving tradition. Noche de Rabanos began with merchants carving designs on radishes in hopes of attracting customers to their shops. The townspeople loved it- they would use the radishes as Christmas centerpieces. In 1897, the mayor of the city declared December 23rd as the Night of the Radishes, and it has stuck ever since.

  1. The Yule Cat, Iceland

Though cats are usually viewed as cute and docile, the Yule Cat (or Jólakötturinn) is anything but. This giant kitty eats all the children who misbehave. As per Icelandic tradition, children who behave well will receive new clothes for Christmas, but those who don’t must face the wrath of the murderous Yule Cat. This particular feline is larger than a house, and is rumored to peer into the windows of houses to search for socks. If the Yule Cat is unable to find new clothes, it will simply devour the child who couldn’t earn their socks.

  1. Krampus, Austria

This Austrian tradition has a similar concept to the aforementioned Yule Cat. It involves jolly old Saint Nicholas’ not so friendly assistant, known as the Krampus. His name originates from the German word krampen, which means claw. The Krampus has a demented face, knotted fur, and two goat horns poking out of his head. This hideous creature is known for lugging around a sack. The children who misbehave are shoved into the bag and brought back to his lair, where they are presumably eaten. The luckier ones are simply beaten with dead branches and are left at that.

  1. Mari Lwyd, Wales

Ever head of caroling with dead horses? In Wales, one may find a horse skull on a stick waiting for them outside their house. This figure is decorated with bells and ribbons, and a white cloth is draped over the person carrying it to give a ghostly appearance to the peculiar figure. This “horse” even has a name- Mari Lwyd. Typically, once Mari Lwyd appears on your doorstep, she will challenge you to a rhyming battle. Only after you compete in the poetry battle are you allowed to earn food and drink.

  1. El Caganer, Spain

Forget Elf on the Shelf. Spain’s take on the well-known tradition involves small figurines with their pulled down pants around their ankles. This seemingly obscure practice dates back to the 18th century, when, in Catalonia, caganers represented good harvest and fortune. The traditional caganer is a squatting peasant with a red hat, but newer versions involve famous figures like Barack Obama, Pope Francis, and Albert Einstein.

Works Cited

Billock, Jennifer. “The Origin of Krampus, Europe’s Evil Twist on Santa.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 4 Dec. 2015, www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/krampus-could-come-you-holiday-season-

The Untold Truth About E-Cigarettes: Vaping Epidemic

By Sarah El-Bashir & Sophia Livelsberger

Pharmacy Technology II

Overview

Many believe that vaping is safer than using regular cigarettes, since their initial purpose was to get smokers off of tobacco.  A 2015 poll conducted by the Community Anti-Drug Organization showed that 66% of teen vapors believe that the flavoring is the only ingredient in their e-cigarette, while 13.7% don’t even know what they are inhaling! This is mainly due to the companies not being required to report the ingredients used to create these addicting products. However, the lack of knowledge the users have about vaping and its use being considerably new on a larger scale resulting in less research, has many teens believing the products are safe. The current deaths linked to vaping is growing exponentially daily, resulting in lawsuits and certain products being banned. The question remains: Are e-cigarettes really the safer alternative?

What are E-Cigarettes?

 Modern e-cigarettes were officially invented in 2003 by a Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik, as a safer alternative to regular cigarettes. Although, the tobacco companies have been producing nicotine aerosols, an addictive spray, ever since 1963. Vaping is considered to be a type of e-cigarette with an aerosol. These aerosols were meant to transfer the cigarette users off of the tobacco products. However, with e-cigarettes still containing nicotine, many cigarette users claim that e-cigarettes only got them more addicted, especially with the variety of flavors that they can come in. Just a few to mention are bubblegum, fruit flavors, ice cream flavors, cotton candy, and more. This presents a new problem: teen usage. CNBC reported that more than 1 in 4 high schoolers have recently vaped. This brings the percentage to 27.5%. 

E-cigarettes can be a variety of appearances; some appear to be a replica of cigarettes, some look like flash drives, some are a bulky rectangular object, and others are now embedded into Vaprwear clothing to help teens secretly vape. So if you see a teen sucking on the end of their hoodie string, chances are that they may be vaping. Parents and teachers should be weary of the names e-cigarettes can go by such as e-cigs, e-hookahs, vapes, vape pens, tanks systems, or mods. 

What’s in E-Cigarettes?

Vaping contains more chemicals than cigarettes. Common chemicals that are found in E-Cigarettes is vitamin E acetate, nicotine, heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead, also diacetyl which has been linked to lung disease. Would you want to ingest these chemicals? Nicotine affects the frontal cortex in a negative way by causing adolescents growing mind to not be able to learn or focus. Nicotine also affects the heart by increasing the blood pressure, heart rate, flow of blood to the heart, and narrowing the arteries in the heart. 

One pod or 200 puffs in an E-Cigarette is equal to a whole pack of cigarettes. Some E-Cigarettes can contain as much as three times the amount of nicotine that is found in a single box of cigarettes. E-cigarettes are said that they are supposed to contain CBD, a chemical derived from the non psychoactive part of cannabis, but many tests have shown THC from the company cutting costs and not getting the product tested. In September,Tyler Huffhines, a Winsconsin man, was convicted for selling fake THC pods inside his home and then exporting them out to customers. He sold thousands of vaping cartridges, and distributed more than 10,000 grams of THC to the public. Huffhines products claimed to have 5 milligrams of THC in each cartridge but others claim it was much more. 

Symptoms That Occur From Using E-Cigarettes 

E-Cigarettes can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and cough. Other symptoms that can show up due to vaping is increased salivation, stomach cramps, diarrhea, headaches, confusion and sometimes agitation. Serious side effects include coma, seizures, slowed heart, and even respiratory failure. Respiratory systems include difficulty breathing, asthma, and symptoms of bronchitis. Many people who came to the hospital with a vape related illness were noted to have a rare form of pneumonia, fluid or fat deposits in the lungs. 

Deaths Linked To E-Cigarette Use 

As of October 27th, E-Cigarettes have claimed the lives of 34 people and that number continues to grow everyday. The use of E-Cigarettes has now led to approximately to 1,479 cases to be reported in the United States. Many people that ended up the hospital have had a history vaping THC. 80% of cases are occurring in people younger than 35 years old. The CDC warns that minors and pregnant women should stay clear of E-Cigarettes. As of October 27th the deaths have occurred in 24 states: Alabama, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, Utah, Pennsylvania, Texas, US Virgin Island, Montana, Tennessee, Connecticut, and New York. 

E-Cigarette Cases

  E-Cigarettes have the history of being known to explode and catch on fire. In January of 2019 a texas native was vaping in his car when his E-Cigarette exploded and caused it to tear the carotid artery which ended up killing him. Doctors claimed that he died from a cerebral infarction and herniation after the debris from the E-Cigarette destroyed the left carotid artery. Another case was a teenager in Utah that had his E-Cigarette device explode in his mouth and this caused his jaw to break and most of his teeth to be knocked out. This caused the doctors to wire his jaw shut for 6 weeks to give it time to heal. These were not the only cases since there have been 195 cases of separate E-Cigarette fires and explosion accidents in the US between 2009 and 2016. On October 9th, a 17 year old kid died in Bronx, New York due to vaping related illnesses. He is the youngest person to die due to vape illnesses. About one third of vaping related illnesses have occurred among people age 21 or under. 

Study shows cancer in mice that were exposed to E-Cigarette Vapor

New conducting research done at New York University have recently shown that E-Cigarettes cause mice to get lung cancer and bladder cancer. This leads New York University researchers to believe that E-Cigarettes can also be damaging to humans. The researchers at NYU also found that within the 40 mice that were exposed with E-Cigarette vapor with nicotine in it for 54 weeks, 22.5% developed lung cancer and 57.5% developed precancerous lesions in the bladder. The amount of smoke that the mice were exposed to during the 54 weeks would be equivalent to 3-6 years of vaping in humans. 

Ship Building New Port and Texas A & M 

New Port and Texas A & M block E-Cigarette devices on property. John Sharp, the system chancellor, announced the ban on October 3rd. The ban is meant for facility and property such as building, outside space, laboratory, parking lots and garages. Thirteen states already have statewide bans on E-Cigarettes. The ship building in new port has banned E-Cigarettes. The ship building company is no longer going to be allowed to use, possess, or store E-Cigarettes and vaping devices. This comes after a higher amount of E-Cigarette use has been shown inside and outside of the shipyard. 

The Response

All this research being done has resulted in action being taken all around the world. In India, Brazil, and Thailand, vaping has been banned. If you are caught just selling e-cigarettes in India, you can receive 1 year in jail in addition to a fine of 100,000 rupees (equivalent to $1,400). If you are caught on a second offense, they may receive up to 3 years and a 500,000 rupee fine.

The United States is not taking as drastic measures, but there has been a ban on selling flavored e-cigarettes. Many places are prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes where smoking regular cigarettes are also banned. Many states are following New York as an example to ban certain flavors of e-cigarettes in the attempt to lower the teen users rates. Small e-cigarette businesses are being seen to have the biggest impact from all this, as some are worried that these bans will make them go out of business. And from all these bans occurring, some people are trying to sue Juul. Juul has been accepting the bans placed on their products, and the CEO, Kevin Burns, stepped down as of last month.

For those who use e-cigarettes thinking that they get them off of smoking, many have reported that the amount of nicotine e-cigarettes have has actually done the opposite and have gotten them more addicted. For people who are looking for an alternative to cigarettes, it is better to use the smoking cessation products found in drug stores. These consist of nicotine gum, lozenges, and patches.

To help people trying to get off of e-cigarettes, there is a confidential hotline, 1-800-622-HELP, or people can visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website.

 

Diversion – True Crimes of the Hair Care Industry

By Ms. Hiltner

I have gone down the rabbit hole into the world of counterfeit beauty products. You read that right, counterfeit beauty products are a real thing. Diversion is what occurs when you purchase salon-quality products from an unauthorized dealer. Any reputable stylist is going to recommend products to keep your hair looking fabulous long after you’ve left their chair. Are they trying to upcharge you? Increase their sales? Circulate specific product? We’ve all thought it, which is why we wave off their recommendations. Target and Amazon carry the same products, right? And they’re more affordable. But what are those few saved dollars really costing you? Consider these factors:

Brand Integrity – the only way to guarantee your bottle of Redken is authentic is to purchase it from a salon. Stores like Ulta get around this by having one licensed stylist working the floor.

Brand Purity – diverted products are more likely to contain high levels of bacteria. Dilution often occurs, making the product not work as it should or putting you at risk of allergens.

 Money – remember, your stylist is the expert and knows what products will work best with your cut, style, and pH of your hair. Using anything else and they can’t guarantee their work.

So how are these products making onto store shelves? Shouldn’t it be illegal? Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s the breach in the distribution process that’s illegal. Somewhere along the path of distribution center to authorized dealer, product is getting diverted. Sometimes it’s after the product reaches the dealer – think back alley deals and under the table exchanges. How do we stop the cycle?

Recognize the signs of counterfeit or diverted products:

  • Labels or stickers over barcodes printed on bottles
  • Damaged or dented product
  • Outdated packaging or expired sell by dates

When in doubt, you can reach out to the parent company; they will have records of batch numbers and can verify your purchase.

Consumer awareness is the best solution to stopping diversion.

McCormick, L. W. (2019). Retailers gloss over diversions of professional hair careproducts. ConsumerAffairs. Retrieved from: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2008/04/diversions.htmlOsborne, S. (2019, September). Personal interview.
Radocchia, S. (2018, October 23). Hair product diversion is dirty business. Here’s whatit will take to clean up the supply chain. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/samantharadocchia/2018/10/23/hair-product-diversion-is-dirty-business-heres-what-it-will-take-to-clean-up-the-supply-chain/#59f439425ff6

 

The Periodic Table Upended

By Ms. Roberts

The periodic table of elements has served the field of chemistry well for 150 years, but there are other options out there. Some scientists are now pushing its limits.

Devised in 1869 by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, the periodic chart is a 2-dimensional array of chemical elements ordered by atomic number and arranged 18 across by orbitals. It is considered one of the most important achievements in modern science. The schema of patterns and trends enables scientists to predict elemental properties, reactivities, and even new elements. The position of an element in the table can reveal a lot of things about it, such as whether it’s metal or not or if it’s abundant on earth or not. This original form has remained largely unchanged for the past 150 years, except for the addition of new elements that have been discovered, although generations of chemists have made attempts to improve it or just make it more fun.

Recently, in the May issue of Nature Chemistry, a group of  chemists and psychologists at British universities proposed turning the periodic table on its head. They asserted that rotating it 180 degrees about a horizontal axis would make it more like a traditional graph so that values increase from bottom to top. Most of the properties would then increase from bottom to top, including atomic number, atomic mass, atomic radius, maximum oxidation state and reactivity. Despite the inversion, each element still has all of the same neighbors that it had before, only now the chart shows the elements proceeding upwards as they gathered atomic weight and complexity. This new form might be easier for chemistry students to interpret and understand.

On another note, have you ever read The Periodic Table by Primo Levi? Published in Italy in 1975, it’s a collection of 21 autobiographical stories that each use a chemical element as a starting point, covering everything from Levi’s childhood and education and his work as a professional chemist to his life in and after Auschwitz. It was in fact chemistry that helped him survive the Holocaust. Because he was a trained chemist, he was deemed valuable enough to be slave labor for a German rubber factory.  It became a critical and commercial success when the first American version was published in 1984, and in 2006, The Periodic Table was listed by London’s Royal Institution as among the best science books ever written.

Where Exactly is the Cloud?

By Ms. Frances Roberts

“People think that data is in the cloud, but it’s not,” said Jayne Stowell, who oversees construction of Google’s undersea cable projects.  “It’s in the ocean.”

It kind of boggles the mind when you really think about the Internet. Do you even know what it is? While most of us experience the Internet through Wi-Fi and phone data plans, those systems eventually link up with physical cables that swiftly carry information across continents and even oceans.

The Internet is made up of tiny bits of code – called data – that move around the world, traveling along wires that are as thick as a strand of hair and long enough to stretch across the ocean floor. And, these bits of code move amazingly fast. The data is somehow able to zip from New York to Sydney or from Hong Kong to London in less time than it took you to read this paragraph!

A great deal of cable has already been laid to connect the continents and support our insatiable demand for information, communication and entertainment. In fact, 750,000 miles of it. In the modern era, it was the telecommunications companies that first took on the task of laying out most of the cable, but in the last ten years, American technology giants have started taking over.  In the beginning, they created a consortium to pool their resources and build – and then own – the subsea cables. Think of it as building a freeway for them all to use. Google has backed at least 14 cables globally, and Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft have invested in others. These content providers now own or lease more than half of the subsea bandwidth.

A more recent option is for a company to take on an subsea cable project alone, and Google recently announced its newest one that will connect the United States to Chile, which is where the company’s largest data center is located. Google has invested $290 million in its Chilean data center to help develop its capacity in artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as to deliver cloud applications like Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, and Waze.

This undersea cable project will be no easy task. Although a 456-foot ship named Durable is set to deliver the cable to sea, the cable will first need to be assembled inside a large factory in Newington, New Hampshire.  The factory is owned by SubCom and is filled with specialized machinery that is used to maintain tension in the wire and encase it in protective skin. The cable will have plastic, steel and tar added to help it withstand unpredictable ocean environments, and when finished, it’ll end up the size of a thick garden hose. It takes a year of planning to chart the cable route so as to avoid underwater hazards, but the cables themselves will still have to withstand heavy currents, rock slides, earthquakes and interference from fishing trawlers. Google estimates the cable will last up to 25 years.

When the cable is ready to be installed, it will take about a month to carefully load it onto the Durable before the ship hits the open sea. Building and laying the infrastructure of our digital world is a labor-intensive job. The Durable will have to carry enough supplies to last at least 60 days at sea at a time with the 80 crew members switching off 12-hour shifts. The work is slow and plodding with the ship moving about six miles per hour, as the cables are pulled from the giant basins out through openings at the back of the ship. In areas closer to shore where there would be a higher risk of damage, an underwater plow is used to bury the cable in the sea floor.

After the Latin American project is completed, Google then plans to start on another undersea cable project called Durant, named after the first Nobel Peace Prize winner and Red Cross founder Henry Durant. The cable will stretch from Virginia Beach in the U.S. to the French Atlantic coast and will enable major expansions in their global cloud infrastructure. This cable is needed to help assure connectivity between its many other data centers around the world, including the Netherlands, Montreal, Finland and Los Angeles. Google currently has 13 data centers around the world and 8 more under construction. By building the massive subsea cable themselves, Google will then own the connectivity between its data centers and won’t have to share the bandwidth for the life of the nearly 4000-mile cable.

Durant will be expensive, to say the least. These subsea cable projects can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for not only the cost of the cable itself, but also for the specialized surface facilities needed at both ends of the cable. Google has hired TE SubCom, an industry pioneer in undersea communications technology, to design, manufacture and lay the cable for Durant. This project will add network capacity across the Atlantic, supporting one of the busiest routes on the Internet, as well as the growth of Google Cloud. The Durant cable is expected to be completed in late 2020.

The demand for subsea cables will only increase as more businesses rely on cloud computing services. Also, new technologies, such as powerful artificial intelligence and driverless cars, will also require such fast data speeds. New areas around the globe are gaining access to the Internet, and the United Nations has now reported for the first time that more than half the global population is online. All that growth and its accompanying data will require more and more subsea cables to be built. It’s truly a modern day phenomenon to imagine these many freeways under the sea.

 

SOURCES

Graham, K. (2018, July 18). Google building its own subsea cable from Virginia to France. Retrieved from http://www.digitaljournal.com/internet/google-building-its-own-subsea-cable-from-virginia-to-france/article/527402

Satariano, A. (2019, March 11). How the Internet travels across oceans. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/03/10/technology/internet-calbes-oceans.html

Stowell, J. (n.d.). Delivering increased connectivity with our first private trans-Atlantic subsea cable. Retrieved from https://www.blog.google/products/google-cloud/delivering-increased-connectivity-with-our-first-private-transatlantic-subsea-cable/

Age of the Chicken

The age of man.  How will we be remembered?  Sometime in the future, long after we are gone, researchers at the University of Leicester predict our rotisserie chicken bones will be all that is left behind to mark our existence on the geological timescale.  How exactly did they calculate this to be our defining moment?  The current epoch, the Anthropocene, began in the 1950s, which the researchers argue is when man started to have a lasting impact on the planet. They then investigated what they felt would be the biggest indicator of our time on the planet through the lens of largest change (evolution) and most remains (fossils).

Previous fossil records began in the Cambrian period (roughly 550 million years ago) when organisms developed hard shells, and ever since then each new epoch and era was marked by a key species indicating a change had occurred (try to visualize the model with the trilobites, dinosaurs, and ice age mammals from your early earth science classes). Currently there are 21 billion chickens in existence worldwide, with roughly 3 times that being consumed annually. With this scale it’s easy to see why these researchers are ready to call this the Age of the Chicken – nothing else exists to this quantity. Add in the traditional landfill model, and the normally brittle bones of the chicken are not subject to decay, preserving them nicely for future generations.

Another reason the scientists argue that chickens may be a good marker for our generation is due to the changes we have done to the species through domestication.  There was a large push starting in the 1940’s for meatier birds which lead to massive breeding efforts. In addition, there is a current push for designer birds (chickens are becoming increasingly popular pets) which have led to many different cross-breeds. This has created a huge change in the bone structure, genetics, and skeleton of the modern-day chicken.

Knapton, S. (2018, December 12). Age of the chicken: why the Anthropocene will be geologically egg-                  ceptional. The Telegraph. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Copyrighted Works Will Enter the Public Domain for the First Time in More Than 20 Years

When the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, a lot more happened than simply fireworks and staying up late. Along with the dropping of balloons came the release of all copyrighted works first published in the United States in 1923. The public domain has been frozen in time these last 20 years, and suddenly we’ve had an epic thaw.  This release on what is informally known as “Public Domain Day” is set to have a huge impact on our culture and creativity.

So, why has there been a bizarre 20 years since the copyright expired on works published in 1922 and the expiration of works published in 1923?

You can blame Mickey Mouse. At the urging of Disney and others, Congress passed in 1998 the Sony Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which added 20 years to the standard copyright term of 75 years. Thus, this recent release of copyrighted work from 1923 is the first release in 20 years, and the first of its kind in the digital age since the last release in 1998, a time which predates Google.

What this means is that the Internet Archive, Google Books and HathiTrust will now make tens of thousands of books digitally available from 1923, with more to follow. They and others will also add new content to newspapers, magazines, movies and other materials. Going forward now, every January 1st will reveal long-overlooked works from the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, World War II and beyond. The newly released works will potentially change our understanding of these years.

Sample works from 1923 that have now been released?

  • “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost
  • “The Vanishing American” in Ladies Home Journal by Zane Grey (one of the first literary critiques of the treatment of Native Americans)
  • The World Crisis by Winston Churchill
  • A Handbook of Cookery for a Small House by Jessie Conrad (a peek into the life of author Joseph Conrad via his wife’s recipe collection)
  • The Chip Woman’s Fortune by Willis Richardson (the first drama by an African-American author produced on Broadway

 

SOURCES

Fleishman, G. (2019, January). For the first time in more than 20 years, copyrighted works will enter the public domain. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/first-time-20-years-copyrighted-works-enter-public-domain-180971016/

Holmes, H. (2018, December 31). 2019 will gift us with a huge release of copyrighted works entering the public domain. Retrieved from https://observer.com/2018/12/2019-copyright-works-entering-public-domain/

2018 MacArthur Genius Grants

What do a painter, an economist, a pastor, a planetary scientist and a dancer have in common? They are all among the recipients of this year’s 25 “genius grants” awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Each winner will receive $625,000 over a five year period. The Chicago-based foundation has awarded these grants each year since 1981 to help further the pursuits of people who have shown creativity and outstanding talent, such as:

Dominique Morisseau,40, playwright

Morisseau is a NYC-based playwright who has taken the theater world by storm with her Detroit-set plays which examine “the intersection of choice and circumstance in works that portray individuals and communities grappling with economic and social change.”

Okwui Okpokwasili, 46, choreographer and performer

Okpokwasili is a NYC-based choreographer whose multidisciplinary pieces “draw viewers into the interior lives of women of color.

Lisa Parks, 51, media scholar

Parks is a media scholar at MIT studying the impact of information technologies as they spread across the globe.

Livia S. Eberlin, 32, analytical chemist

Eberlin is an analytical chemist at the University of Texas who uses mass spectrometry to “differentiate more quickly and accurately diseased from healthy tissues during surgery.”

Deborah Estrin, 58, computer scientist

Estrin is a computer science professor at Cornell Tech who is working to put the “small data” gathered in our digital lives to use in improving, for example, personal health management.

Amy Finklestein, 44, health economist

Finklestein is a MIT health economist doing novel research to show “hidden complexities” in health care and to suggest future fixes.

Gregg Gonsalves, 54, epidemiologist and global health advocate

“Working at the intersection of human rights and public health research and practice to address inequities in global health.”

Clifford Brangwynne, 40, biophysical engineer

Brangwynne is a Princeton biophysical engineer who studies cellular compartmentalization. His work has the potential “to shed light on biochemical malfunctions that can lead to disease.”

Allan Sly, 36, mathematician

Sly is a Princeton mathematician “applying probability theory to resolve long-standing problems in statistical physics and computer science.”

Sarah T. Stewart, 45, planetary scientist

Stewart is a planetary scientist at the University of California at Davis “advancing new theories of how celestial collusions give birth to planets and their natural satellites, such as the Earth and Moon.”

William J. Barber II, 55, pastor

A pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, NC, Barber has led “Moral Monday” marches outside the state capitol to advocate for causes including LGBTQ rights and voter enfranchisement.

Titus Kaphar, 42, painter

Kaphar is an “artist whose paintings, sculptures and installations explore the intersection of art, history, and civic agency.”

Sources:
Johnson, S. (2018, October 4). Here are 2018’s MacArthur ‘genius grant’ winners, including an Illinois legal schoar. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/ct-ent-macarthur-genius-grant-winners-1005-story.html
The Washington Post (2018, October 4). 2018 MacArthur Foundation ‘genius grant’ winners. Retrieved from https://washingtonpost.com/business/technology/2018-macarthur-foundation-genius-grant-winners

Be Prepared – More Work is Coming!

You picture yourself holding that shiny acceptance letter to the college of your choice.  You think to yourself – the hard part is now over!  But the harsh reality is, your hard work is only just beginning.  Donalyn Miller, keynote speaker at the 2017 Virginia Association of School Librarians Conference, dropped a heavy statistic on her audience.  One of the top reasons students do not graduate on time (or at all) is due to the increased workload colleges expect students to keep pace with.  On average, students are required to read 300 – 800 pages A WEEK, for their coursework.  When is the last time you have read that much per month?  Unfortunately for many of us, it has been a while. Our reading stamina is severely lacking.  So what can be done?

  • Uh, Read. Read everything you come across – road signs, the back of the cereal box, the newspaper (do people still get those?)
  • Reconnect with a good book. If you are not enjoying what you’re reading, odds are your book is going to collect dust on your nightstand.  Find something better.
  • Find a better reading spot. If you’re comfy, you will be more likely to read for longer.  May we suggest the amazing pods in the back of the library?
  • Limit distractions. This seems like a no-brainer, but if reading isn’t your preferred go-to activity it won’t take much to lose your focus.  Put the phone away (or turn off notifications), turn off the television, and read!
  • Build good habits. Just like anything you’ve ever had to learn it takes practice and setting yourself up for success.

Share with us below all the amazing things you are reading (Mrs. Hiltner is keeping tabs on her Twitter @MrsHiltnerReads).  Our anticipated Book Birthday in your Research Library is November 12th!  We can’t wait!

THE LINK BETWEEN NEUROSCIENCE & MAKING AND MAKERSPACES

Makerspaces have been taking on a new and important role in schools and community libraries throughout the country and now there is neuroscience that supports these efforts. So, what is the brain science of making and makerspaces?

#1: THE BRAIN THINKS YOUR HANDS ARE VERY IMPORTANT

The cortical homunculus is how your brain perceives your body, and it turns out it has a distorted view of itself. If you mapped body parts to the areas of your brain that control them, you’d find that the sensations and movements of your hand are controlled by a larger part of your brain than most other parts, such as your arms or legs. The brain has an outsized view of your hands with its fine motor capabilities. It’s not surprising then that anytime students can use their hands the experience becomes more engaging.

#2: PRACTICE & REPETITION CREATES A PHYSICAL CHANGE IN THE BRAIN

There are vast networks of neurons in our brains that number in the billions. They communicate through a mixture of chemical and electrical signals, and we add new connections to these networks when we learn something new. When a new connection is activated, it means that the neurons can trigger signals that become stronger and faster. It basically means that a new skill becomes easier to master the more you practice it. On the flip side, though, if you stop using these connections, the weaker they get and ultimately they can become eliminated entirely.

#3: UNSTRUCTURED PLAY AND TINKERING WORKS THE EXECUTIVE FUNCTION SKILLS

The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain that is responsible for executive function. It’s the last part of the brain to finish developing and extends into the early 20s for most people. For young people, having time for unstructured play is important because it allows them the chance to practice making decisions, trying things out, making plans, and other forms of executive function. Therefore, time spent in a makerspace is an opportunity for self-directed exploration and tinkering.

#4: IT IS NEUROLOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO LEARN DEEPLY ABOUT SOMETHING YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT

The hippocampus is the part of the brain that directs the formation of long-term memories. It’s part of a larger set of structures known as the limbic system, which is the emotional system. This connection is important because it ties together learning and memory formation as emotional events. So, making is important because it’s fun, and because of this, learning is inevitable.

#5: HIGH LEVELS OF STRESS AND FEAR STAND IN THE WAY OF LEARNING

These images are of your amygdala, which is the part of the brain that deals with fear and intense negative emotions. Although low to moderate levels of activity can enhance your focus and attention and help you perform better, high levels will do the opposite. High levels of activity in the amygdala will reroute the connections in your brain, making you lose executive function and go straight into reactive mode, literally acting without thinking. These high levels will also impede your making any new memory connections in your brain associated with learning.

One of the key moments in the makerspace experience is coming up against failure and not falling back on a strong threat response. It’s realizing that experimentation and mistakes are just part of the process. Students can learn to anticipate and tolerate failures and then learn from them as they move forward in their quest to reach their goals.  A makerspace – with its natural environment of design, test, feedback, and revision – encourages students to develop a growth mindset, whereby failures are just learning experiences on the road to success.

Sources:
McQuinn, C. (2018, September 25). The brain science of making. Retrieved from https://slj.com/?detailStory=brain-science-of-making
Images are available and free to use from Creative Commons.