Benny's Adventures

Wow! Really Awesome Magnet Machine

Just watch and you’ll see what I mean.

Source (found using StumbleUpon)

19 May 2011 Posted by | Engineering, Science | , , | Leave a comment

Playing a Role-Playing Game

Playing a Role-Playing Game 1I completed Mass Effect two days ago and started another play through. The first time I played through it I mimicked my own personality as much as possible. This resulted in a Paragon (“good”) character who tried to empathize as much as possible with everyone. If I could ever resolve a situation without violence I chose that route.

With that play through completed I’ve started a second play through. This time I decided that I would play as a Renegade character (“bad”). From the beginning it’s been uneasy but it’s provided an interesting perspective to a role-playing game for me.

Up until this play through of Mass Effect I’ve rarely strayed from my own personality when choosing the actions of a character. There are many cases where I only have one option, of course, but where I had some freedom I’d play as much like myself as possible. Generally this meant being a nicer character empathetic to the plight of other characters unless I lose my temper (in character, of course).

This time I choose the options that come off aggressive or mean or perhaps just plain evil. Each time I cringe because it just does not come naturally to me. However, each time I cringe less and less. Maybe there’ll come a time when it doesn’t bother me at all.

Playing a Role-Playing Game 2That bothers me. I completely understand that I am playing a game but what sorts of effects are changing my brain as I experience the game in this way? A recent program showed evidence for meditation changing the structure of the brain. If that is a possibility then couldn’t the focus we put in playing games alter our brain structure as well?

It’s an interesting thought with no concrete studies on it as far as I know. I think that because the full extent of effects are unknown all gamers should be wary. By no means am I claiming that games are evil or that we should stop playing games but being aware of the effects while we play the games can means that should there be any negative effects we can try to avoid them.

21 January 2011 Posted by | Gaming, Science, Technology | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Lead a Productive Life: Relax!

There are two articles I’ve read recently that lead me to make this claim. I’ll also define it more clearly. First, here are the articles:

“Sleeping on a problem” may be the best way to solve it

This article reports on a study that indicates that unconscious thoughts can produce better decision than conscious or immediate thought.

Tough Choices: How Making Decisions Tires Your Brain

This article basically describes the brain as a muscle that becomes tired even when doing seemingly simple things like deciding what to eat for breakfast.

Let’s make it clear now that I don’t mean slacking off is the way to succeed in life. When you have a problem set you have to do it’s clearly not in your best interest to decide to sleep rather than work on it, or so I hope. The first article comes into play if you are stuck on a particular problem on the problem set that you would like insight on AND you have time to think about it. (This is reason to start your work earlier than the night before it’s due!) Common sense always applies.

What I am recommending is being conscious of your brain’s energy level and how your choices will affect it. In my life this issue came up when I overloaded my class schedule and took on more responsibilities with the organizations I’m involved with. This wore me down mentally and physically. Ignoring the physical consequences (I was very sick most of the time), I still remember clinging on to the hope that the next semester would be better and when registration time for classes came around I made the choice to overload again.

It’s tough to say why exactly I made the choice but it did not lead to good things. I think what happened is something like this:

“Why is this so hard?”

“I SHOULD be able to do this.”

“Well I know I could do it so I’ll just minimize damage now and do it next semester.”

“I’ve GOT to pull it off! I KNOW I can do it!”

With the experience I have now I realize it was not the best course of thought. I’ve noticed myself thinking similarly on smaller scales and that’s why I believe I kept my stubborn streak going due to a lack of decision-making ability.

On the other hand I’ve been able to keep up with my assignments better and generally stay on top of things this semester when my life has not been infinitely busy and I have maintained my energy level. It’s getting tough now as the semester comes to a close and my energy levels drop.

With this information in mind I’m planning on adjusting my mindset to take that into account and soar rather than crash this year, making sure to keep up good habits, and avoiding getting off track. And perhaps these thoughts will help you work better as well!

14 November 2010 Posted by | Life, productivity, Science | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flat Earth Society

Apparently there is still a group out there who believes the earth is flat. After reading a bit about it in a blog I was unpleasantly surprised. It makes me wonder if there are other people believing ridiculous things. There are some legitimate concepts and ideas that either cannot be proven or disproven or have multiple sides but some things like the earth being round (not quite a sphere but close enough for most approximations) or 1+1 (as defined by math currently) =2 really can’t be questioned.

Well, I think it’s safe to say the misanthrope in me got a huge boost today.

8 October 2010 Posted by | Science | , | Leave a comment

in Science: What if we let tigers go extinct?

tiger I’ve been a bit active this morning and it’s because I’ve got a bit of time before I need to get to class and do not have any pressing tasks to take care of. In the activity I stumbled upon a blog post about the plight of tigers in Asia. Personally I believe we should protect all animals but a thought hit me – what if we didn’t? I know I’m playing devil’s advocate here. What if we didn’t protect animals that are dying out? Obviously they aren’t fit to survive if they’re going extinct.

I thought about it after the novelty of taking that stance wore off and realized that the difference lies in the magnitude of effect that humans can have. Here’s an analogy:

Cells in our body divide, grow, and die every second. We never worry about that. This would be like the world without human interference that follows the predator-prey cycle. However, when our cells grow uncontrollably – that is, they become cancerous – we do whatever we can (to the point of irradiating ourselves) to get rid of that uncontrolled growth. Humans are the cancer to the world. Now I realize there have been cataclysmic events in the past that have lead to rapid evolution but consider the difference: those large-scale events are like a wound on our body that heals. Sure, it may be scarred or not heal perfectly but it heals and the rest of the cells keep dividing and dying as usual. The cancer, however, sucks the life out of the whole body just as we are sucking the life out of this planet.

There’s been a study that claims killing off mosquitoes would not have a bad effect. While the claim could be exaggerated by the media outlet there is a quote in there that strikes me as ominous.

“The ecological effect of eliminating harmful mosquitoes is that you have more people. That’s the consequence,” says Strickman.

I don’t know if this Strickman character is aware or not but we already have millions of people suffering from hunger, poverty, and subpar living conditions in the world. Is Strickman really saying that an increase in population under those circumstances is a good thing? Maybe this comes off as cruel but consider where mosquitoes do most of their killing: in Africa where they can’t afford treatment for malaria. If you have a drastic increase in population in those areas that can’t afford the treatment, can those areas afford the cost of supporting those people?

To tie it back to the cancer metaphor, the mosquitoes are acting as a treatment against the human-cancer. If we get rid of that our growth will continue with even more reckless abandon and stress the Earth much more.

Perhap’s it’s time for people like Strickman to notice the bigger picture and see how having more people is not necessarily a good thing. I sincerely lament the loss of people to easily treatable diseases but at the same time would I want to sacrifice the quality of life of millions of people? It’s a really tough ethical question that I think we need to seriously think about but if scientists keep ignoring the big picture like that we’ll suddenly have more and more people suffering without even knowing why we let that happen. I think that’s the most unethical thing we can do.

If all this came from just mosquitoes being exterminated, imagine what could happen if tigers (who have just as much influence on the ecosystem if not more influence than mosquitoes) go extinct.

16 September 2010 Posted by | Science | , , | Leave a comment

in Science: Hydrogen Harvesting Life Forms


The article is an interesting piece on bacteria that can survive without oxygen. The key finding of this discovery is the implications on evolution and oxygen’s role in it. It is currently thought that oxygen played the dominant role in the appearance of larger, complex, multicellular organisms. This article claims that it was not oxygen but hydrogen that played the dominant role.

While I believe the truth to be more of a combination of both sides than either individually, I think there is interesting evidence now to consider the possibility of life elsewhere in our universe where oxygen is not available. We seek Earth-like planets (which includes oxygen content) and look for life there, but what if we are missing life under our cosmic noses because we are not focusing as much attention on planets with less oxygen?

It will be interesting to see where this discovery goes.

11 August 2010 Posted by | Science | , , | 3 Comments


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