Iron and Vibranium: Science of the Avengers

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

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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”

Extended Consciousness in the World of Tomorrow

Are we still human when our minds are cloned so many times over, fragmented into downloaded files, and uploaded consciousness?

Words and Illustration by Alex Hanson

When we die, what happens to our memories? Where do our personalities and experiences go? Don Hertzfeldt (you might recognize his out-of-this-world Simpsons couch gag or his short “It’s Such a Beautiful Day”) explores one futuristic, somewhat dystopian possibility in his short film “World of Tomorrow” (which is on Netflix and I HIGHLY recommend watching). “World of Tomorrow,” which is nominated for an Oscar and has already received awards from Sundance and South by Southwest, is a two dimensional animated short about Emily Prime, a young girl, and her adult third generation clone (let’s call her Emily Three). Emily Three brings Emily Prime to the future to share her personal experiences in a dystopian world where no new humans are born. Instead, every living person is a clone of someone who lived many years ago, injected with the memories of their prime and all the clones in line before them. Emily Three struggles with her low emotional capacity in a world where consciousness and body no longer develop together. Instead, consciousness is transferred between clones, or can be downloaded from a person once they die. For some elderly, their consciousness is transferred into a bodiless box, where they exist alone in darkness for an undetermined number of years. Continue reading “Extended Consciousness in the World of Tomorrow”

Ex Machina’s Artificial Intelligence: What Does It Say About Humanity?

There is no #YOLO in the AI world.

By Julia Arciga

Illustration by Annika Hanson

Ex Machina does something that is rarely achieved well in today’s sci-fi film realm. It blends science with philosophy to bring the viewer to a breaking-point question: What really makes a human human, and can it be truly replicated through Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Que internal existential crisis about what defines humanity

One of the big plot points of the movie is a little something called the Turing Test created by Alan Turing (yes, the same Alan Turing from The Imitation Game). Basically, the Turing Test is a sort of pass-fail for AI—if the AI can pass as a human in conversation, then it’s “en route to true intelligence.” In the movie, the brilliant and scary Nathan— the CEO of a Google-esque company and the creator of the AI— wants to take the Turing Test a step further, and test whether his AI displays a convincing enough human-like cognizance to supercede the fact that the AI is known to be artificial. Continue reading “Ex Machina’s Artificial Intelligence: What Does It Say About Humanity?”

Neurological File Cabinets

Sherlock is able to use all of his memory processes to his highest benefit, but sciences have a lot yet to learn what really happens when the brain forms a memory.

By Sydney Rappis

Art by Alex Hanson

BBC’s TV series Sherlock takes a modern twist on the classic sleuth tale. The title character, an antisocial drug addict with psychotic tendencies played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is undoubtedly one of the most clever protagonist on television today—rivaled only by other Holmes-inspired characters. One of the biggest reasons to watch the show, other than to see Cumberbatch work his magic, is to see how Sherlock will use his above average intelligence to solve any crime. He seems almost hero-esque in his abilities, but in the episode “The Hound of the Baskervilles” Dr. John Watson introduces the concept of a mind palace. Sherlock is able to solve the unsolvable crime not only because he is observant, but also because of his helpful ability to remember almost everything. Watson explains that Sherlock uses a memory technique where you think up an imaginary place and you stick all the information you want to remember in it, that way you won’t forget anything. All you have to do is “find your way back to it.” It can be any sort of place, so naturally supercilious Sherlock uses a mind palace. In theory though, it could be anything from a street, a closet (as another character later jokes) or a filing cabinet.

Looking closer at the function of memory is important. It doesn’t matter if you’re a detective, a student, or someone trying to remember names at a party: It’s a fact that a good memory will only help you in life. But why do we remember certain events over others? Why do people remember things differently? How can we only remember certain details, sometimes not even in the right order? Since the brain is just a hodgepodge of mystery for most scientists, it’s difficult to really answer any of those questions. Still, examining how the memory processes in the brain actually function is quite important, so here’s what we think happens: Continue reading “Neurological File Cabinets”

The Scully Effect

In the face of alien-human hybrids, paranormal activity, and unimaginable monsters, Scully was able to provide the scientific evidence and logical proof.

By Lily Bellinghausen

Art by Alex Hanson

The cult classic sci-fi show of the 90s, The X-Files, was unlike anything on television before its time. The writing, the crackling chemistry between the characters, the dark, thrilling mystery and dangerous edge of it all transformed the way television was made and viewed. It pushed limits. It was modern. It was eerie but beautiful. Even after fourteen years off the air, its fandom is still growing because of its intangible pull and and iconic characters. With nine seasons, two movies, and an upcoming revival, we hope that the truth is out there. Continue reading “The Scully Effect”

Dimensions of “The Sympathetic Imagination”

For all we know, they could’ve just landed here on this blue-green planet that we call “home.”

Words and Photographs by Katie Smythe

Katie photographed Diana Thater’s “The Sympathetic Imagination” exhibit at LACMA for The Los Angeles Times High School Insider in December 2015. Here, she dives into one aspect of the exhibit in particular and shares what inspired her to photograph it.

I decided to focus on my favorite piece from this exhibit— a vacant room containing only giant, odd colored planets projected onto a blank wall. When I walked into this room I felt small, unimportant. It immediately evoked emotion, which is why it was my favorite part of the exhibit. It gave me that familiar feeling in my stomach, that knot that continues to tighten as you realize that you’re not sure if anything in your life is real, if you mean anything within the entirety of our expansive universe. When I took the pictures above, I wanted to make sure they evoked the same emotions I felt when I walked into that room. I included a silhouette of a family with the large beige-orange moon in the background to create an atmosphere of unknown. No one knows who these people are, we can’t see their faces— only the shapes of their black shadow bodies. Do they know who they are? For all we know, they could’ve just landed here on this blue-green planet that we call “home.”

My other favorite part of the exhibit was the room that held the TVs with fluorescently colored planet-like objects inside of them. This is the first thing you see when you enter the exhibit. The first thing that makes you question the meaning of it all. With the “Sympathetic Imagination” I don’t think Thater’s goal was to necessarily make us feel anything at all, but rather see what we are blind to a lot of the time. To inspire us to take the chance to look around at the people and places that surround us every day. Too many of us live on the surface, simply skimming the top layer of existence. Too afraid to delve beneath the known, to discover what’s beneath the mundane, beneath the routine we’re all so constantly sucked into. I think that Thater wanted us to see this. I’d like to think that’s why she titled it “The Sympathetic Imagination.” It exaggerates the entire theme of the collection. It heightens the idea of the fake, synthetic, materialistic lifestyle that consumes the entire human race.