11 STEAM Snapchat Accounts to Follow

Your Snapchat feeds are about to get STEAM-y (STEAM: that’s STEM, plus art).

By Erin Winick and Alex Hanson Continue reading “11 STEAM Snapchat Accounts to Follow”

Editor’s Letter 6/20/2016

HERpothesis is looking for a social media assistant!

Image credit: Summer solstice 2013, taken by Adriana Ortiz

Hi all!

I hope this finds you doing well and enjoying the fabulous coincidence of a strawberry moon and a summer solstice tonight!

To continue with the flavor of tonight’s moon, I’ve got a sweet little HERpothesis update for you. Here’s the deal: I’m looking for a social media assistant for HERpothesis. Right now HERpothesis’s editorial/administrative/social media teams consist of, well, just me. And I would love some help with our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. This would include finding relevant pages to follow and connect with on each platform, pitching ways to expand our social media content, and keeping an eye out for awesome ladies in STEAM that might make great HERpothesis contributors. The commitment would be a few hours total per week, ideally split up into a little bit of work each day. This position would be great for someone in high school or a college underclassman, with an interest in media and/or STEAM fields. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, shoot me an email at herpothesis@gmail.com. Be sure to include a little bit about yourself, why you’re interested, and ask any questions you may have about the position, HERpothesis, me, who Rey’s parents are, the meaning of life, etc. (I can’t guarantee to know the answer to the meaning of life but I can provide you with plentiful theories about Rey’s lineage.)

Beyond that, keep an eye out for our upcoming HERpothesis Golden Record project, to be released in time for aliens to find it before they invade Earth, hopefully.

Have a great night, and be sure to watch the sunset.

Best,

Alex Hanson

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”

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”

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”

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”

Editor’s Letter 3/20/2016

Talking about the news-pothesis surrounding Marvel, A Wrinkle in Time, Emily Rice, and SciChic.

EIC Alex Hanson dishes out the news-pothesis, or, things going on in the world of HERpothesis. Continue reading “Editor’s Letter 3/20/2016”

A Brief Tour of a Synesthetic History

Synesthesia, like many other puzzles, should always be examined through an interdisciplinary lens.

 

By Melody Xu

Art by Alex Hanson

When people hear the term synesthesia, the image of an individual who sees the number “3” in maroon or thinks that “purple” tastes salty usually appears. However, the term serves as a term for sensation interconnections that are even more complicated— violin music will lightly stroke against a person’s cheeks, the days of the week are carts on a ferris wheel. So what exactly is synesthesia?

Synesthesia, as explained by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the production of a sense impression relating to one’s sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body”. Deriving from the Greek term “to perceive together”, the phenomenon of synesthesia can come in many different shapes and sizes; some may be able to smell pain, others may taste shapes, some might be able to do both and even more. While there are countless types of synesthesia, without any two cases being exactly the same, there are some common types of synesthesia that occur within the human population, especially grapheme-color synesthesia, which is when a person may see individual letters and numbers in different colors.

Synesthesia, like many other puzzles, should always be examined through an interdisciplinary lens. For instance, synesthesia can also be seen as a gateway for creativity. When a novel’s narrator says that they see the rainbow when they hear the deep, soothing voice of their favorite singer, or when a painting’s harsh oil strokes clearly evoke a feeling of anger— these are all examples of creativity at its finest. Taking a deeper look reveals that these are connecting experiences primarily focused on one sense with another sense, which certainly can be considered an attempt to replicate the experiences that come with synesthesia. Whether the platform for examining synesthesia comes in the form of literature, music, art, or neuroscience, it’s an experience that has been the focus of human intrigue for all of history.

For scientists especially, synesthesia presents an interesting issue. Studies have been conducted that confirm that the phenomenon is in fact biological, happening automatically and without having any learning process behind it. It is neurologically distinct from hallucinations and is unlike metaphors, but the estimation for how many people have synesthesia (from 1 in 200 people to 1 in 20,000) and the causes of synesthesia has been a prevalent problem in the scientific community. The issue of the huge disparity between the estimation of people with synesthesia in the population is so prevalent in part because of the fear of judgement that people who have synesthesia have. The fact that the term itself is a blanket term for so many different variations of the phenomenon also has an impact on the wide range of values.

Modern technology and tools, including brain-imaging and molecular genetics tools, have allowed to scientists to look at the future of examining this phenomenon, along with the organization of the brain and the way we perceive and recognize the world around us, with promise. However, this was not always the case. Long having been dismissed of having neurological basis, synesthesia had been misunderstood by people for a large part of human history. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the world was swept up in a flurry of excitement over examining this phenomenon, but it also experienced a harsh dip in interest in the middle of the twentieth century. One of the incredible scientists responsible for the establishment of synesthesia as a major research area was Simon Baron-Cohen, a prominent psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist. In the 1970s he led a team who first found evidence that synesthetes have consistent experiences over periods of time, as well as established a method of measuring synesthesia through neuroimaging techniques. (Here is some info on Baron-Cohen’s book on the project.)

Despite all of these major steps forward in synesthesia research, the actual cause for synesthesia remains shrouded in mystery. Some theories claim that all newborns are born with synesthesia, with the division of sensory blocks appearing as the individual and brain mature. Other theories involve the opening of previously closed channels of communication after being exposed to “the light of consciousness,” hence why people who are under the influence of certain drugs and have these passageways coming into awareness can experience a sense of induced synesthesia. Regardless of what theory you choose to believe in, the study of synesthesia allows cognitive scientists a truly unique chance to learn about how perception is formed in our brains.

Lemonade, Paprika, and Virtual Reality: An Interview with Priscilla Wong

I spoke with DreamWorks Animation visual development artist Priscilla Wong about the role of technology in her work, her predictions for virtual reality’s role in her field, independent distribution, and being a woman a creative field.

Interview by Alex Hanson

All art courtesy of Priscilla Wong

Priscilla Wong is a visual development artist for DreamWorks Animation. She is a master of transcending mediums, from digital art to painting to creating fantasy creatures made of cloth and other textured materials. I spoke with her about the role of technology in her work, her predictions for virtual reality’s role in her field, independent distribution, and being a woman a creative field. All the art featured is courtesy of Priscilla, and you can find more of her work on her blog, her Tumblr, and her Instagram. You’ll also find her visual influence on the Trolls movie, set to release this November.

How would you describe your artistic style?

It’s like lemonade with a dash of paprika. I like using real materials, like fabric, and unconventional materials. I think part of that comes from my love for fashion. I love Project Runway. I like different disciplines within art and design: I love graphic design, I’m in animation, I love fashion and industrial design. I try to bring as much of those influences together as possible because I think it makes a unique look and makes it universally appealing. It has a sophisticated mix to it, I feel. What I mean by lemonade with a dash of paprika is that I like things to be fresh but also a little dramatic, a little spicy. I got that from loving Diana Vreeland. She’s a fashion icon and she liked to challenge norms. She pushed aesthetics along from the 20s to the 60s. So much happened during that time and I think a lot of that has to do with her.

gegege_no_kitano_MEANBEANremix_pw copy
For the Q Pop Shop Gallery

Continue reading “Lemonade, Paprika, and Virtual Reality: An Interview with Priscilla Wong”