Cracking Code, and Subsequently, Life Itself

Learning JavaScript is stretching my brain and teaching me some awesome life lessons.

By Julia Arciga

Art by Charlotte Southall

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a chemist. Then I found out I was really, really bad at all things STEM.

No, it’s completely true. I scraped through pre-calc on some kind of miracle. Physics was so intriguing to me, but I would always get those pesky equations wrong—no matter how hard I tried. But my apparent non-affinity for all things science never really stopped me from trying: I once enrolled in a free open course from Yale on Quantum Physics (bad idea, in hindsight). I was a part of my high school’s Science Olympiad club, and got 7th place in competition. I was never a scientific success, but I was just so happy to be surrounded by things that I knew nothing about that I didn’t really care if I embarrassed myself.

I got my start in coding in a completely unusual way: through supermodel Karlie Kloss.

Once upon a time, I also wanted to be a professional model (also a bad idea for me, in hindsight). Karlie Kloss was one of my idols—and she’s still such a muse of mine to this day, although my supermodel dreams are far behind me. I caught wind that she was picking up coding, and I thought that was super interesting: some glamorous fashion goddess was flaunting her geeky side. Mix that with companies like Google and Snapchat moving into my neighborhood of Venice Beach and my dad working on code around the house, and it wasn’t long before I decided to sign up for Codecademyjust to give it a shot. Continue reading “Cracking Code, and Subsequently, Life Itself”

Batten Down the Hatches: The Rise of the Cephalopod

Tell us your secrets, you squirmy inkfish!

By Shelby Traynor

Illustration by Alex Hanson

Off the coast of Norway and Greenland lies the memory of the hopefully-fictional Kraken, a Giant Squid capable of snapping a galleon sailing ship in two. The storybook sea monster takes up the ocean, its tentacles reaching for unassuming sailors and its heart set on destruction. If the Kraken had been real—if it had existed today, alongside its brethren of very-real Giant Squid—eager scientists would call it a cephalopod.

The oceans are a cephalopod’s stomping ground—squid, octopus, and cuttlefish can be found in the waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern, and Arctic oceans. They’re feisty and adaptable, adorable and terrifying, and according to a study published last week in Current Biology, our squishy, tentacled friends are thriving. Continue reading “Batten Down the Hatches: The Rise of the Cephalopod”

Hotwiring Haute Couture: Tech in Your Wardrobe and on The Runway

Wearable technology is likely to be a key element in the way we remember the fashion of the ‘10s.

By Julia Arciga

Feature image: The Dior Eyes virtual reality headset, courtesy of Dazed 

The trends of fashion eras—the ‘20s, ‘50s, ‘60s—are reflective of the society and zeitgeist of their respective moments in history. What will the kids of the year 2070 define our fashion era as? What are our society’s defining details? Wearable technology is likely to be a key element in the way we remember the fashion of the ‘10s.

Technology is involved and integrated in our lives at almost every level and in almost every aspect. Fashion is no different. What are some examples of this? Light-up sneakers. Fitbits. Apple Watches. Those rings that vibrate and light up when you get a text message. There are even entire websites devoted to wearable technology. Having your tech with you is no longer enough—having it on your body is the hot new thing. One part of it is the practicality: Fitbits monitor steps and motivate people to get up and moving. Apple Watches and those cool tech rings allow the wearer to know what’s happening on their smartphone without having to look at it. Continue reading “Hotwiring Haute Couture: Tech in Your Wardrobe and on The Runway”

The Probable Volcano Problem of the Ptolemaic Kingdom

The timing of volcanic eruptions—and the fallout from said eruptions—coincided with the unrest in the Ptolemaic Kingdom.

teBy Shelby Traynor

Collage by Alex Hanson

The fall of the Ptolemaic Kingdom in 30 BC was nothing if not dramatic: there was unrest and uprising in Egypt, the death of Queen Cleopatra VII, and the surge of the Roman Empire. According to researchers addressing the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in April, volcanic eruptions probably had a hand in the fall of the Ptolemaic dynasty as well. That’s right, volcanoes.

A team of volcanologists and historians, including Joseph Manning of Yale and Francis Ludlow of Trinity College Dublin, got together to compare notes. When they studied historical accounts alongside data from ice cores in Greenland and Antarctica (samples acting as chemical roadmaps to the past), they found the timing of eruptions—and the fallout from said eruptions—coincided with the unrest in the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Continue reading “The Probable Volcano Problem of the Ptolemaic Kingdom”

Iron and Vibranium: Science of the Avengers

Melody and Alex hash out the science behind their favorite Avengers, Iron Man and Captain America, respectively.

The Marvel universe is heating up with Captain America: Civil War coming to screens on May 6. While it is undeniably going to be distressing to see my favorite band of superheroes become divided, I also can’t wait to see them battle it out while wearing 3D glasses and shoving popcorn in my face. In the spirit of true nerddom that accompanies all Marvel premeire weekends, Melody and I hashed out the science behind our favorite Avengers, Iron Man and Captain America, respectively. -Alex Continue reading “Iron and Vibranium: Science of the Avengers”

Testing for the Freedom Quotient

What if you could numerically measure the amount of free will you have?

By Melody Xu

Illustration by Charlotte Southall

The concept of F.Q., or freedom quotient, originated from a 2015 article by popular philosopher Stephen Cave in his article “The Free-Will Scale.” Like any other quotient test (ex. intelligence quotient or emotional quotient), the freedom quotient would ideally work as some sort of standardized test that people could take. In this case, the construct that is being measured is simply the amount of free will that someone possesses.

There are, of course, many definitions of free will. Speaking of free will at a dinner table with a handful of philosophers is most certainly going to be a different kind of free will discussion than you would have in a court case with a prosecutor. To make things simple, we’re going to stick with one definition that is outlined in Cave’s article. He suggests three major components that should be used: the ability to generate various options, the ability to rationally choose between them, and the ability to follow through with that decision. These three qualities most certainly do not have clear-cut, black and white lines drawn between them but certainly do an effective job of giving an outline of what the general consensus of free will is when used in the context of popular culture. Continue reading “Testing for the Freedom Quotient”

Editor’s Letter 4/20/16

Send in your contributions to the HERpothesis Golden Record project!

GIF by Alex Hanson, using photos of and from the Voyager Golden Record

Golden Record images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Hi there!

For this month’s editor’s letter I want to issue a kind of call-to-action for a new HERpothesis project: the HERpothesis Golden Record. We’re making it, and I want you, you creative, smart, ambitious HERpothesis reader, to get involved.

This project is inspired by the Voyager Golden Record, a phonograph and collection of images in a time capsule that was sent out on both of the Voyager spacecraft. Since 1977 two copies of the record have traveled with Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, acting as a sort of message in a bottle for any alien species that may find them one day. The records contain several audio recordings and pictures that are meant to give an impression of life on Earth: our lives, our architecture, animals, plants, music, math, and even a recording of human brain waves. Continue reading “Editor’s Letter 4/20/16”

LSD, the Brain, and Aldous Huxley

Now we know a lot more about what was going on in Aldous Huxley’s brain sixty-one years ago.

By Shelby Traynor 

Image via Imperial/Beckley Foundation

It’s Christmas Eve, 1955, and renowned writer and intellectual Aldous Huxley is on LSD. He reports his findings in his book The Doors of Perception:

“Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe.”

Since LSD was synthesized in 1938, the world hasn’t exactly been deprived of first person accounts of its effects (see: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by the Beatles, or this subreddit).  

However up until April 11, 2016 the world was deprived of something pretty major: modern scans of the brain high on LSD. Continue reading “LSD, the Brain, and Aldous Huxley”

Flame Test

There is something to be enjoyed and learned from every class—even if it isn’t going to be on the test.

Words and art by Alex Hanson

I crossed paths with my worst academic nemesis, fourth period Honors Chemistry, in my sophomore year of high school. While much of my distaste of the subject was due to a teacher whose vibes didn’t mesh with mine, as well as my severe inability to visualize the concepts that I was supposed to understand, I did find one class experiment to be particularly redeeming. Continue reading “Flame Test”

Solar Storms and Jupiter’s Dancing Lights

Chandra was able to observe key changes in Jupiter’s X-ray auroras when a coronal mass ejection hit Jupiter.

By Shelby Traynor

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UCL/W.Dunn et al, Optical: NASA/STScI

In case you thought Jupiter couldn’t get any cooler, a paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research has laid out evidence that solar storms are causing Jupiter’s auroras (think the Northern Lights, the Southern Lights, or that scene from Brother Bear) to brighten by almost eight times their usual brilliance.

The interaction was spotted by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, a telescope orbiting above the Earth to look for X-ray emissions in that big, old universe of ours.

Since Jupiter’s auroras are actually X-ray auroras, they can’t be spotted by the typical telescope (or by the human eye, if any of you were hoping to plan future vacations there). Chandra was able to observe key changes in Jupiter’s X-ray auroras when a particularly wicked solar storm, or coronal mass ejection (CME), hit Jupiter. Continue reading “Solar Storms and Jupiter’s Dancing Lights”