Category Archives: Science & Tech

Technological and scientific news that is relevant to the Winthrop populace.

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Study and mental health strategies for surviving upcoming final exams

With final exams comes study stress, especially for those of you who might be graduating in December. Studying is the best way to get a good grade on your exams, but personal health is an even larger factor.

STUDYINGDon’t panic. You might have a lot of work coming up, but panicking won’t make things any easier. Think about your passing grade, and keep that goal in your mind as you study. Try to avoid the “what ifs” – they’ll do nothing but increase your anxiety.

Get organized early. Plan out and create study guides a week or two in advance, so most of your study time won’t be spent in the organization stage. Gather old tests, compile notes and go over earier material. This is also a good time to talk to your professors about how the exam will be structured and how much of it will be cumulative. Don’t be afraid to ask if an exam will be multiple choice or short answer if it affects the way you study.

Make sure to eat. Snacks are okay for studying, but take breaks for lunch and dinner. Avoid doing any intense studying on an empty stomach. Even if you plan on studying for the entire day, it’s still better to keep your brain focused on your work instead of hunger pains.

Study groups can help with memory. You might find that someone else has a piece of information you might’ve missed during class sessions. If you’re having trouble getting a group together, try using Google Hangout.

Take breaks. Your brain can only hold on to so much information at once. A two-hour study session might seem efficient, but without breaks in between, you’ll become overwhelmed. Take a break every 20 to 30 minutes – walk away from your study materials if you have to.

Make it fun. If bright colors, arrows and pictures help you remember information, include them in your notes. No one has the right to judge you for your study methods. Listen to music, watch TV or play a game if that’s what helps you to study better. Everyone is different, and the only reason why you should be changing your study habits is if they aren’t working.

Walk away when you need to. If you feel yourself growing frustrated or out of control, take a longer break. Go for a walk around campus or stop studying for the day if it’s late and you’re tired. Studying while on the verge of exploding will do more harm than good.

Stay healthy during your finals, both physically and mentally. Grades might be important, but your mental health matters more.

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Racially diverse emojis will appear in the future

On Nov. 3, the Unicode Consortium released a new working draft of emoji characters.

emojifacebookUnicode hopes to include a color palette for various skin colors, allowing users to choose between five different shades in addition to the standard bright yellow or orange. The color shades will be based on the Fitzpatrick scale, which is a classification for skin color used in dermatology.

“People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone,” Unicode Consortium said.

Released in 1999, emojis still use their original Japanese name, depicting cartoonish characters meant to express a variety of emotions through social media. According to the Washington Post, there has been an increase in pressure on the Unicode Consortium to create characters that look more like the people who use them.

Apple is currently working with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to diversify the emojis used in their products. According to Time Magazine, several celebrities were involved in the thousands of requests for ethnic diversity in emojis among social media platforms.

“Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms,” said Katie Cotton, Apple’s vice president of worldwide corporate communications. “There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”

If the draft is approved, the new emojis will be added to Unicode Version 8.0, set to come out on an unknown date in 2015.

“It isn’t completely set in stone;​ we are still collecting feedback on the proposal. But I think it is very likely,” said Unicode Consortium president and co-founder Mark Davis.

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2014 midterm elections heavily influenced by social media

A recent report has shown that cell phones, Facebook and other social media websites have played a larger role this year in midterm election voting decisions.

TWITTERSCThe amount of Americans who used their phones to track political news and campaign coverage has doubled with 2014’s midterm elections, from 13 percent in 2010 to 28 percent in 2014, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center.

There has also been a sharp increase in Americans who follow candidates on social media–6 percent of voters followed candidates in 2010, but the higher reliance on social media has pushed the number to 16 percent.

The survey also noted an increase in the amount of 30-49-year-old voters. Forty percent of voters within the age range have made use of their cell phones to keep track of the 2014 midterm elections, up from 13 percent in 2010. Twenty-one percent of these voters also follow political figures on social media, which was an increase from the 6 percent reported in 2010.

On Tuesday, Facebook placed a banner at the top of the news feed for users in the U.S., reminding people that it was Election Day and to share the message with friends if they have already voted. The banner will also show each user where their nearest voting precinct is located. Facebook calls their “I’m a Voter” message a “megaphone.”

“Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected, and a part of that is helping the people who use our platform to more easily engage with the leaders who make the decisions that affect their lives every day,” a representative from Facebook said. “In fact, although the megaphone has been available in the U.S. in elections in 2008, 2010 and 2012, for the first time ever this year, the megaphone was shown in elections internationally, including in India, Brazil and Indonesia.”

Twitter developed an #Election2014 dashboard, which allowed users to follow political tweets and candidates, with the ability to focus on conversations relating to a specific state. The website also shared the data it collected on the political activities of its users with other media outlets for election night coverage.

According to CNN, voters from both Republican and Democratic parties feel more engaged in the voting process and connected to their supported politicians. Republican voters said that following politicians directly on social media outlets enables them to skip the filter of traditional media outlets.

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Gamer’s Corner: Scott Cawthon’s “Five Nights at Freddy’s”

Indie developer Scott Cawthon’s “Five Nights at Freddy’s” features a children’s pizza place similar to Chuck E. Cheese’s, where the management routinely hires security guards to watch over the establishment. As one of those security guards, your job is not to keep potential intruders out, but to keep the animatronic characters inside.

Released for the PC Aug. 8, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” quickly gained popularity through its unique approach to survival horror. You’re trapped in a small room with an extremely limited power supply to keep yourself safe from the characters as you wait out your shift. Although they’re presented as simple robots who only want to help you get back into your costume because they think you’re one of them, the game quickly shows a more malicious side to the animatronics. If you can stay alive for five nights, you’re given a bonus level during which you can adjust the aggression levels of the animatronic characters.

Gameplay

freddy1“Five Nights at Freddy’s” features a very simple environment in which to play. You have control over two doors on the right and left sides of the office and the camera that enables you to watch the rooms in the establishment to track the animatronics’ movements. Your character doesn’t fight and must use different strategies to keep the animatronics from entering his room, avoiding a rather gruesome death.

This style of gameplay works well to set up the atmosphere and increase the player’s level of paranoia. In addition to the lack of fighting abilities, your fate depends entirely upon how well you conserve power. You have just enough power to operate the camera and close the doors when absolutely necessary, which leads to many moments where a robot will be hanging about just outside of your room with no indication as to when it will show up in your office.

I also found that keeping the same strategy throughout each night is impossible. The game is programmed to memorize the player’s actions, just as you’re trying to memorize the animatronics’ actions. For instance, focusing on one or two characters for too long will result in a third character rushing you at the earliest convenience.

Atmosphere

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” has one of the creepiest horror environments, despite being confined to a single room. You’re stuck in a very dimly lit room with a fan and some cameras, with pictures of the animatronic figures on the walls and children’s drawings scattered about. The camera itself is obviously an old, cheap system. While you can clearly see what’s going on with the animatronics, the camera noise and the limited range of vision increases the uneasiness – especially when viewing a robot.

The robots themselves have a unique AI that makes them difficult to predict. If you’re familiar with “Dr. Who”, they move similar to Weeping Angels, creatures that can only move if no one’s looking at them. To compensate for this, the animatronics can somehow turn off the camera momentarily while they switch rooms. Once they figure out the player’s strategy, they’ll adapt to it.

Without revealing too many plot details, I can safely say that this game is truly scary in its own way. If you’re in need of something cheap and scary to play in the dark this Halloween, you can purchase the game on Steam for $5.

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Five online resources for study assistance

With midterms in progress and final exams rapidly approaching, you might be interested in attempting some different study strategies. Here are a few online utilities that may help you stay focused and organized:

Rainymood.com simply plays the sound of a thunderstorm on loop for as long as you keep the window open. If you want background noise, but can’t focus with television or music, this may be the best thing to keep you on task.

Quizlet.com is an online notecard website that allows you to input terms at your lesiure and do various activities to promote memorization. You can simply flip through the note cards, play a matching game or set up a test or a quiz which records your answers and gives you a grade at the end.

Google+ Hangouts allows you to create an online study group to eliminate the hassle of finding a place to meet on campus. You can share screens to show each other notes, and use the collaborative whiteboard for drawing or writing out problems or definitions. Classes may also find this helpful for study parties before tests.

StayFocused is a Google Chome app that limits the amount of time you can spend on websites like Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube.

WriteMonkey keeps you focused when writing stories, essays or poems by turning your computer into a writing station. It blocks out the distractions and temptations of a normal Windows or Mac interface, leaving you to focus on nothing but your thoughts. The app lets you customize the interface to suit your personal preferences.

If you’re having trouble settling on new study strategies, find a comfortable place of your choice and try these out. You’ll find a way to use them to your best advantage.

Gamers’ Corner: “Super Smash Bros.” for the 3DS

Super Smash Bros., one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises as well as one of the most popular fighting games, is back again but on the Nintendo 3DS. Since its debut on the Nintendo 64 in 1999 with a roster of 12 characters, the series has grown over time to become one of the most popular series of all time.

Super Smash Bros. uses various characters from different Nintendo franchises such as Mario of the Mario series and Samus from the Metroid series.

IMG_20141021_193837For those who don’t know, the concept of the Super Smash Bros series is to knock your opponent off the stage. Unlike most fighting games that have a health bar such as Street Fighter, the health bar is the percentage gauge. The higher the percentage goes up, the farther your opponent or yourself will be sent off the stage. With the new game in the series, the formula is still the same but with several new features.

A new title comes with new fighters to play with. The game starts out with 38 (39 counting the Miis) fighters to choose from. Some of the new fighters include Pac-man, Little Mac from Mike Tysons Punch-out the Duck Hunt Dog from Duck Hunt on NES. Even Dr. Mario makes a return, and he hasn’t been seen since Super Smash Bros Melee on the GameCube back in 2001.

With new fighters and new stages to play on, you’ll have a lot of fun fighting your friends.

One of the new features is the new Smash Run which is only available on the 3DS version. Players have five minutes to run around an enormous stage and defeat enemies from various Nintendo series to collect power ups that could enhance a character’s speed, strength, defense  or jumping ability. Players then compete in a Final Challenge, which can vary from a race to the goal or fight each other with the damage gauge at 300 percent.  This mode is only available locally and can’t be played online.

Another new feature is the ability to customize a character. The player can play as a Mii and create a fighter. You can choose to be a Brawler, a Swordsman or a Gunner. You can also customize your character to whatever you want or change its move set. In other words, you can have a speedy Mario or a heavy hitting Pikachu.

After enough practice I say test your skills online with the For Fun or For Glory modes. In this mode, the states are randomly chosen and items are available whereas in For Glory players fight 1v1 on a random stage in a Final Destination form. Playing online is fun but like any game being played online, there are issues with lagging. I have experienced lag when playing against some people around the world.

Other problems with the game is the fact it’s on a handheld system. It can be an issue, because it is easy to lose track of where you are in a chaotic battle especially. I’ve noticed this while playing on a standard 3DS, so I highly recommend playing this game on the 3DS Xl.

Another issue with the game is the issue of lagging with playing locally. Whenever I was playing with friends there would be some lag due to someone being a couple of feet away when they need to charge their system. You have to be in close proximity in order to avoid this problem.

Despite connection issues, Smash Bros for the 3DS is fun to play, and anyone can learn. With the new Smash Run, I’m still learning new parts of the arena and being able to play with others online is a blast to play. My rating–full price.