David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Techno-Anarchy: Peaceful or Violent?

An excellent article by Bill Wasik in Wired UK discusses the role technology and connectivity play in the creation of unruly mobs (as opposed to the peaceful protests seen widely during the Arab Spring). Common lore holds that the use of the Blackberry Messenger (BBM) by rioters in London in the summer of 2011 accelerated mob behavior and helped the mob coordinate its violent looting. London mayor Boris Johnson was incredulous that BBM had not been shut down, calling it a tool that "weaponizes" mobile phones. In the article, Wasik crticially examines this theory by further examining the link between the technology and the behavior of the mob. When a mob has turned ugly, did the technology do more than just organize the crowd? Did it in fact bring out the base animal instincts in man?

The London riots began in protest of the killing of a 29 year old man by police during an arrest. However, the protests soon turned violent and took on a life of their own, degenerating into looting across Britain, causing millions of pounds of damage. Their use of Blackberry Messenger (BBM) allowed them to move in a coordinated fashion, quickly assembling and disassembling before police could corner and suppress them affectively (see news clip below). Wasik explains that the crowd might have been acting senselessly to the outside observer, but to each of them they were following a coherent ideology, logically following instructions and warnings that appeared on their phones. They were organized and in their connectedness and access to information, they found confidence and power. As Wasik writes, “A crowd’s power is amplified by the fact that its members can never really get separated. A crowd that’s always connected can never really be dispersed. It’s always still out there.” Such a crowd moves like a disciplined army unit even though it is dynamic and seems to move in and out like a flash (hence the term flash mob).

This view is supported by researchers like Clifford Stot of the University of Liverpool. Drawing on the pioneering work of Nobel prize winner Elias Canetti and his landmark Crowds and Power, Stot and other social psychologists believe that members of an unruly crowd find a common identity and act in a disciplined manner (even though the crowd as a whole appears completely chaotic). This theory runs counter to the traditional belief that violent crowds are a collection of individuals who are behaving recklessly because their anonymity in the throng encourages them to shed the imposed morals of human society. In fact, they act in the name of their evolving common identity and can become violent if the leadership and purpose change.

2011 witnessed many protests around the world, some violent and others peaceful. Technology clearly helps facilitate both types, its primary benefit being its organizing power and in allowing for crowds to exist even when they are not physically together.

Is the universe a graveyard? This theory suggests humanity may be alone.

Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?

According to the Great Filter theory, Earth might be one of the only planets with intelligent life. And that's a good thing (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team [STScI/AURA]).
Surprising Science

Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.

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The key to better quality education? Make students feel valued.

Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.

Future of Learning
  • Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
  • One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
  • "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
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Study details the negative environmental impact of online shopping

Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.

A truck pulls out of a large Walmart regional distribution center on June 6, 2019 in Washington, Utah.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
  • Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
  • Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
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Personal Growth

Childhood sleeping problems may signal mental disorders later in life

Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.

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