Spatial Sounds and Pikachus: An Augmented Reality Appreciation Post

“Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.” – Poet Mattie Stepanek

By Melody Xu

Collage by Alex Hanson

The world has been taken by storm by Pokemon Go. If you don’t know what Pokemon Go is (you must be living under a rock), you’re missing out! Definitely go check out the App store and download it because your life will never be the same again. If you’re one of the millions of players already enjoying the game (please stop, you’re the reason the servers are crashing), good for you!

Regardless of whether or not you’ve already caught them all, Pokemon Go serves as a fantastic example of a game that implements augmented reality, or AR for short. By definition, any technology that inserts “digital interfaces into the real world” (according to the Salem Encyclopedia of Science) is an example of augmented reality.

People often group augmented reality together with virtual reality, but there is a stark difference between the two. While virtual reality attempts to create, in essence, a separate reality apart from real life, augmented reality aims to add (or augment, hence the name) the real world. While the fundamental concepts for augmented reality have been around since the early days, the actual term itself didn’t appear until the 1990s. Creators who utilize AR are unique in that they use the technology to enhance what users experience, rather than creating a whole new world for them. Continue reading “Spatial Sounds and Pikachus: An Augmented Reality Appreciation Post”

The Devil’s Violin

He would give up everything, destroy his own precious violin and forsake music forever, rather than have to give up the feelings and emotions that the Devil’s music had invoked in him.

By Melody Xu

Illustration by Alli Lorraine

There’s a story that my violin teacher used to tell me.

It’s about a composition officially known as the Violin Sonata in G minor by the talented Italian composer Giuseppe Tartini. A brilliant piece, split into four movements, it’s known for its complexity in sound and difficulty in playing, but it is not those qualities that made it stand out to me. Instead, it’s the story behind it. Apart from its official title, it’s also known amongst musicians as the Devil’s Trill.  

Allegedly, Tartini has made a deal with the Devil, his soul in exchange for servitude. One of those nights, he had commanded the Devil to play his violin and the sounds that had escaped from the musical instrument had left him enchanted, enthralled, enlightened. He was so captivated by the unworldly sonata that the Devil performed for him that Tartini immediately tried to capture what he had heard into a composition of his own. Although it ended up being his favorite and best sonata, Tartini later admitted that what he had composed paled in comparison to what he had listened to. He wrote that if he had been forced, he would give up everything, destroy his own precious violin and forsake music forever, rather than have to give up the feelings and emotions that the Devil’s music had invoked in him. Continue reading “The Devil’s Violin”

Dark Matter: The Jess Mariano of the Universe

We know more about what dark matter isn’t than what dark matter is.

By Shelby Traynor

Collage by Alex Hanson, using an image of the Coma Cluster 

A mile underground, in a converted mine somewhere in South Dakota, scientists have been trying to detect an elusive substance that makes up around 27 per cent of all the mass and energy in the observable universe: dark matter.

For twenty months, from October 2014 to May 2016, the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment was trying to detect dark matter. But at last week’s International Dark Matter Conference (a name I call immediate dibs on in case I start a girl band), Professor of Physics at Brown University Rick Gaitskell said: “What we have observed is consistent with background alone.”

The LUX experiment had failed. Dark matter remains as mysterious as Jess Mariano in season two of Gilmore Girls. Continue reading “Dark Matter: The Jess Mariano of the Universe”

Jupiter’s Big Day

NASA received a three-second beep to reassure them that the spacecraft had made it into orbit in one piece. Juno project manager Rick Nybakken told the room: “We just did the hardest thing NASA’s ever done.”

by Shelby Traynor

Image credit: NASA/JPL

In Ancient Roman mythology, Jupiter claimed domain over the sky and the thunder. He cloaked himself in cloud to hide his mischief— but his wife, Juno, could see past it all. It’s no accident that NASA named a spacecraft after her (though they did give the craft a backronym in an attempt to cover their sentimental tracks), or that she has been zipping through space at almost 19 miles per second for the past five years, her sights set on Jupiter and it’s mysteries.

Juno snuck its way into Jupiter’s orbit on July 4th. At 11:18 PM Eastern Time the main engine started firing, slowing the spacecraft enough so it could fall into the planet’s orbit. At 11:53 PM, those engines were shut off. Almost four hundred million miles away, NASA received a three-second beep to reassure them that the spacecraft had made it into orbit in one piece. Juno project manager Rick Nybakken told the room: “We just did the hardest thing NASA’s ever done.” Continue reading “Jupiter’s Big Day”

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”

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”

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”