How to Succeed in School: Five Easy Learning Tips

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When it comes to how to succeed in school, there are many ways to approach learning. Young people get advice like “Have a schedule and stick to it,” “find a mentor,” and “follow your passion.” But this is not enough.

Success in school starts with understanding that education and learning are not synonymous. Education comes through institutions designed to promote learning, but some schools are better than others at actually creating that environment. Study tips are for education, but this might not be enough.

Learning is completely different. We gather knowledge and apply it to learn. We can explain that knowledge to others. We enjoy learning as it is associated with pleasure. Learning is not always easy, but it can create great opportunity and improve the quality of our life.

So let’s get real about how to succeed in school! Here are five tips for making sure your education never gets in the way of your learning.

Busy is lazy. It means you aren’t thinking through your behavior.

If you go from task to task without taking the time to consider why you do those things, your enthusiasm will dry up like a sponge on a hot summer day. Instead, act with thoughtfulness as you choose tasks to engage with. In this way, you will never grow bored. You’ll also have more time for play as time is more easy to manage.

Apply your learning. Because anything less is foolish.

If you let your learning make you smart and stop there, you are a fool. If you let your learning drive you to action, you will get rich. People value other people who take action. Even if you don’t mind sitting on the sideline, you will make a better life for yourself if you are willing to act and risk for things you know and care about. Learning should always have a purpose.

Make your yes really count. Don’t use it for the small things.

There are going to be things in school that are considered required. Math class will be one of them. However, most schools have tremendous extracurricular opportunities. The fact is that there are too many for any one person to take on. So make a polite refusal of “no” be your first instinct. And save your “yes” for the things that you really care about.

Strong views, loosely held. Speak confidently, but stay open to reason.

When working in team projects, take the time to think through your position and your work. Then defend the points you believe with a lot of passion and clearly developed thoughts. But if someone disagrees with you, make a point of listening to them. If their logic is better, you should be open to changing your mind.

Ignore the noise. Your biggest heroes are still imperfect.

Life can be bigger than you ever dreamed once you realize that everything around you was created by someone who isn’t any smarter than you are. You can build and make things too like businesses, products, music, paintings. You’re smart, so focus on what you know and love. And don’t worry about what anyone says. Own your future and make some waves.

There are lots of places to succeed in school. You can find public and private schools, charter schools or even a home school. Public and private colleges get competition from for-profit colleges and online courses. But none of them can do your learning for you.

Without education, you can find learning. But without learning, there is no education.

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Change How You Learn With Genetic Engineering CRISPR

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Imagine you were alive back in the 1980s. You were told that computers would soon take over everything. Shopping, dating, the stock market, everything would be connected via a kind of web. You would also own a handheld device orders of magnitudes more powerful than supercomputers.

It would seem absurd. Right?

Instead, science fiction became our reality.

We’re at a similar point today with genetic engineering.

A very short and incomplete history of genetic modification

Humans have been engineering life for thousands of years, but a recent breakthrough will change how we live and alter what we perceive as normal forever.

James Watson and Francis Crick defined the structure of DNA in 1953. This code of life, Deoxyribonucleic Acid defines our very existence. This is a complex molecule that guides the growth, development, function, and reproduction of everything alive.

Information is encoded in the structure of the molecule. Four nucleotides are paired and make up a code that carries instructions. Change the instructions and you change the being carrying those instructions. As soon as DNA was discovered, people tried to tinker with it.

The past 50 years

In the 1960s, scientist bombarded plants with radiation to cause random mutations in the genetic code. The idea was to get a useful plant variation by pure chance. Sometimes it actually worked too.

In the 1970s, scientists inserted DNA snippets into bacteria, plants, and animals to study and modify them for research, medicine, and agriculture. The earliest genetically modified mouse was born in 1974, making this animal a standard tool for research and saving millions of lives.

In the 1980s, we got commercial. During this time, the first patent was given for a microbe engineered to absorb oil. Today we produce many chemicals by means of engineered life, like life-saving clotting agents, growth hormones, and insulin. Before, we had to harvest these products from the organs of animals.

The genetically modified food went on sale in 1994: the Flavr Savr tomato. It was a tomato with a much longer shelf life thanks to an extra gene that suppresses the build-up of a rotting enzyme. The 1990s also had a brief foray into human engineering. To treat maternal infertility, babies were made that carried genetic information from 3 humans. This made them the first humans ever to have 3 genetic parents.

Fast forward to today and you will find super-muscled pigs, fast-growing salmon, featherless chicken, and see-through frogs. On the fun side, we made things glow in the dark. Fluorescent zebrafish are available for as little as ten dollars. All of this is already very impressive, but until recently gene editing was extremely expensive, complicated, and took a long time to do.

The game changer

This has now changed with a revolutionary new technology now entering the stage—CRISPR. Overnight, the costs of engineering have shrunk by 99%! Instead of a year, it takes a few weeks to conduct experiments, and basically everybody with a lab can do it. It’s hard to get across how big a technical revolution CRISPR is. It literally has the potential to change humanity forever.

But why did this sudden revolution happen and how does it work?

The oldest war on earth

Bacteria and viruses have been fighting since the dawn of life. So-called bacteriophages or phages hunt bacteria. In the ocean, phages kill 40 % of bacteria every single day. Phages do this by inserting their own genetic code into the bacteria and taking them over to use them as factories. The bacteria try to resist but fail most the time because their protection tools are too weak.

However, bacteria sometimes survive an attack. Only if they do so can they activate their most effective antivirus system: they save a part of the virus DNA in their own genetic code in a DNA archive called CRISPR. Here it’s stored safely until it’s needed.

CAS9 is the game changer

When the virus attacks again, the bacterium quickly makes an RNA copy from the DNA archive and arms a secret weapon—a protein called CAS9. The protein now scans the bacterium’s insides for signs of the virus invader by comparing every bit of DNA it finds to the sample from the archive. When it finds a 100-percent perfect match, it’s activated and cuts out the virus DNA, making it useless. This protects the bacterium against the attack.

What’s special is that CAS9 is very precise, almost like a DNA surgeon. The revolution began when scientists figured out that the CRISPR system is programmable. You can just give it a copy of DNA you want to modify and put the system into a living cell. If the old techniques of genetic manipulation were like a map, CRISPR is like a GPS system. Aside from being precise, cheap, and easy, CRISPR offers the ability to edit live cells, to switch genes on and off, and target and study particular DNA sequences.

It also works for every type of cell: microorganisms, plants, animals, or humans. But despite the revolution CRISPR is for science, it’s still just a first generation tool. More precise tools are already being created and used as we speak.

The end of disease?

In 2015, scientists use CRISPR to cut the HIV virus out of living cells from patients in the lab, proving that it was possible. Only about a year later, they carried out a larger scale project with rats that had the HIV virus in basically all of their body cells. By simply injecting CRISPR into the rats tails, they were able to remove more than 50 % of the virus from cells all over the body. In a few decades, a CRISPR therapy might cure HIV and other retroviruses. Viruses that hide inside human DNA like Herpes could be eradicated this way.

CRISPR could also defeat one of our worst enemies—cancer. Cancer occurs when cells refuse to die and keep multiplying while concealing themselves from the immune system. CRISPR gives us the means to edit your immune cells and make them better cancer hunters. Getting rid of cancer might eventually mean getting just a couple of injections of a few thousand of your own cells that have been engineered in the lab to heal you for good.

The first clinical trial for a CRISPR cancer treatment on human patients was approved in early 2016 in the US. Not even a month later, Chinese scientists announced that they would treat lung cancer patients with immune cells modified with CRISPR in August 2016. Things are picking up pace quickly.

And then there are genetic diseases

There are thousands of them and they range from mildly annoying to deadly to entailing decades of suffering. With a powerful tool like CRISPR, we may be able to end this. Over 3,000 genetic diseases are caused by a single incorrect letter in your DNA. We are already building a modified version of CAS9 that is made to change just a single letter, fixing the disease in the cell. In a decade or two, we could possibly cure thousands of diseases forever. But all of these medical applications have one thing in common: they are limited to the individual and die with them, except if you use them on reproductive cells or very early embryos.

But CRISPR can and probably will be used for much more: the creation of modified humans—designer babies—and will mean gradual, but irreversible changes to the human gene pool.

Form follows instruction: Designer babies

The means to edit the genome of a human embryo already exists. The technology is still in its early stages, but it has already been attempted twice. In 2015 and 2016, Chinese scientists experimented with human embryos and were partially successful on their second attempt.

They showed the enormous challenges we still face in gene editing embryos, but also that scientists are working on solving them. This is like the computer in the 1970s. There will be better computers.

Regardless of your personal take on genetic engineering, it will affect you. Modified humans could alter the genome of our entire species, because their engineered traits will be passed on to their children and could spread over generations, slowly modifying the whole gene pool of humanity.

The revolution will start slowly

The first designer babies will not be overly designed. It’s most likely that they will be created to eliminate a deadly genetic disease running in a family. As the technology progresses and gets more refined, more and more people may argue that not using genetic modification is unethical, because it condemns children to preventable suffering and death and denies them the cure.

But as soon as the first engineered kid is born, a door is opened that can’t be closed anymore. Early on, vanity traits will mostly be left alone. But as genetic modification becomes more accepted and our knowledge of our genetic code enhances, the temptation will grow. If you make your offspring immune to Alzheimer, why not also give them an enhanced metabolism? Why not throw in perfect eyesight? How about height or muscular structure? Full hair? How about giving your child the gift of extraordinary intelligence? Huge changes are made as a result of the personal decisions of millions of individuals that accumulate.

This is a slippery slope—Modified humans could become the new standard

But as engineering becomes more normal and our knowledge improves, we could solve the single biggest mortality risk factor: aging. Two-thirds of the 150,000 people who died today will die of age-related causes. Currently we think aging is caused by the accumulation of damage to our cells, like DNA breaks and the systems responsible for fixing those wearing off over time. But there are also genes that directly affect aging. A combination of genetic engineering and other therapy could stop or slow down aging, maybe even reverse it.

We know from nature that there are animals immune to aging such as lobster. Maybe we could even borrow a few genes for ourselves. Some scientists even think biological aging could be something that eventually just stops being a thing.

We would still die at some point, but instead of doing so in hospitals at age 90, we might be able to spend a few thousand years with our loved ones. Research into this is in its infancy, and many scientists are rightly skeptical about the end of aging.

Dream big!

The challenges are enormous and maybe it is unachievable, but it is conceivable the people alive today might be the first to profit from effective anti-aging therapy. All we might need is for someone to convince a smart billionaire to make it their next problem to solve. On a bigger scale, we certainly could solve many problems by having a modified population. Engineered humans might be better equipped to cope with high-energy food, eliminating many diseases of civilization like obesity. In possession of a modified immune system, with a library of potential threats, we might become immune to most diseases that haunt us today.

Even further into the future, we could engineer humans to be equipped for extended space travel and to cope with different conditions on another planets, which would be extremely helpful in keeping us alive in our hostile universe.

Nothing wrong with progress, But.. a few grains of salt

Still, a few major challenges await us: some technological, some ethical. Many of you watching will feel uncomfortable and fear that we will create a world in which we will reject non-perfect humans and pre-select features and qualities based on our idea of what’s healthy.

We are already living in a genetically modified world

Tests for dozens of genetic diseases or complications have become standard for pregnant women in much of the world. Often the mere suspicion of a genetic defect can lead to the end of a pregnancy. Take Down syndrome for example, one of the most common genetic defects. In Europe, about 92 % of all pregnancies where it’s detected are terminated.

The decision to terminate pregnancy is incredibly personal, but it’s important to acknowledge the reality that we are pre-selecting humans based on medical conditions. There is also no use in pretending this will change, so we have to act carefully and respectfully as we advance the technology and can make more and more selections.

Powerful and imperfect solutions

But none of this will happen soon. As powerful as CRISPR is—and it is, it’s not infallible yet. Wrong edits still happen as well as unknown errors that can occur anywhere in the DNA and might go unnoticed. The gene edit might achieve the desired result—disabling a disease, but also might accidentally trigger unwanted changes.

We just don’t know enough yet about the complex interplay of our genes to avoid unpredictable consequences. Working on accuracy and monitoring methods is a major concern as the first human trials begin.

And since we’ve discussed a possible positive future, there are darker visions too. Imagine what a state like North Korea could do if they embraced genetic engineering. Could a state cement its rule forever by forcing gene editing on their subjects? What would stop a totalitarian regime from engineering an army of modified super soldiers? It is doable in theory. Scenarios like this one are far, far off into the future, if they ever become possible at all. But the basic proof of concept for genetic engineering like this already exists today.

The technology really is that powerful

While this might be a tempting reason to ban genetic editing and related research, that would certainly be a mistake. Banning human genetic engineering would only lead to the science wandering off to a place with jurisdiction and rules that we are uncomfortable with. Only by participating can we make sure that further research is guided by caution, reason, oversight, and transparency.

Let’s wrap this up: Conclusion

Do you feel uncomfortable now? Genetically speaking, most of us have something wrong with us. In the future that lies ahead, would we have been allowed to exist? The technology is certainly a bit scary, but we have a lot to gain. Genetic engineering might just be a step in the natural evolution of intelligent species in the universe. We might end disease. We could extend our life expectancy by centuries and travel to the stars. There’s no need to think small when it comes to this topic. Whatever your opinion on genetic engineering, the future is approaching no matter what. What has been insane science fiction is about to become our new reality, a reality full of opportunities and challenges.

Original content by Kurzgesagt – In A Nutshell

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Study Tips: Human thinking explained

human thinking explained

It isn’t easy to have human thinking explained. For most of us, thinking is at least somewhat unpleasant. We try to avoid it, where possible.

The reality is that we all have blind spots in our thinking due to the fundamental way that our brains work. One way of modeling how the brain operates is as though there are two systems at work.

Drew and Hazelyn

Psychologists call them system one and system two, but maybe it’s useful to think of them as characters. So let’s call system one Hazelyn and system two Drew.

Drew represents your conscious thought, the voice in your head. This is the voice that says, “I am who you think you are.” He’s the one capable of following instructions. Drew can execute a series of steps too. But Drew is lazy. It takes effort to get Drew to do anything, and he is slow. But he’s also the careful one, capable of catching and fixing mistakes.

Now meet system one, Hazelyn. She is incredibly quick, which she needs to be since she’s constantly processing lots of information coming through your senses. Hazelyn picks out the relevant bits and discards the rest, which is most of it. She also works automatically without Drew being consciously aware of it.

The way I like to think of these characters is related to one of your main memory structures. Hazelyn’s automatic responses are made possible by long-term memory. This is the library of experiences you’ve built up over your lifetime.

In contrast, Drew exists entirely within working memory so he’s only capable of holding four or five novel things in mind at a time. This is perhaps one of the best-known findings from psychology. Our capacity to hold and manipulate novel information is incredibly limited like when trying to remember a string of random numbers.

But we are able to overcome these limitations if the information is familiar to us.

How to test Drew

Let me give you four random digits “8102″. Now these would normally take up most of your working memory capacity just to remember. But if you reverse them, 2018, they are now just the present year.

The process of grouping things together according to your prior knowledge is called chunking. You can actually hold four or five chunks in working memory at once. So the larger the chunks the more information you can actively manipulate at one time.

Learning is then the process of building bigger chunks by storing and further connecting information in long-term memory. This is essentially passing off tasks from Drew to Hazelyn. In order for this to happen, Drew first has to engage with the information actively, often multiple times.

For example, when you were first learning to tie your shoelaces, you probably recited a rhyme to help you remember what to do next. You used up all your working memory in the process. But after doing it over and over and over again, it gradually became automatic. Drew doesn’t have to think about it anymore because Hazelyn gets it.

Musicians and sports stars refer to this as muscle memory. Of course, the memory is not the muscles. It’s still in the brain, just controlled by Hazelyn. Slow and deliberate conscious practice repeated often enough leads to automatic processes.

99% of the time what appears to be superhuman ability comes down to the incredible automation skills of Hazelyn and developed through the painstaking deliberate practice of Drew. What’s interesting is that it’s actually possible to see how hard Drew is working just by looking at someone.

Here’s an exercise

I’m going to show you four digits, I want you to read them out loud and then after two seconds, I want you to say each number, but adding one to each digit.

So, as an example, 7 2 9 1 should be… 8 3 0 2. This is called the Add One task and it forces Drew to hold these digits and memory while making manipulations to them.

Now it’s important to say the numbers at the end of two seconds, but this time try to add three. Ready? Here’s another one:

4739

 

 

 

 

What you’re unaware of is that as you’re completing this task, your pupils are dilating. When Drew is hard at work as he is in this task, you have a physical response. This includes increased heart rate, sweat production, and pupil dilation.

When this research was originally carried out, the researchers made a surprising observation. When the participants were not engaged with the tasks and were just chatting with the experimenters, their pupils didn’t really dilate at all. This indicates that the Add One and Add Three tasks are particularly strenuous for system two. Most of our day-to-day life is a stroll for Drew with most tasks are handled automatically by Hazelyn. We spend a lot of our lives lounging around. Our brains also spend most of their time doing the mental equivalent.

And I don’t mean to make that sound like a bad thing! This is how our brains evolved to make the best use of resources. For repetitive tasks, we developed automatic ways of doing things, reserving Drew’s limited capacity for things that really need our attention. In some circumstances, there can be mix-ups of course.

For example, if you spend any amount of time in Australia, one of the first things you will need to relearn is to turn the lights on by flicking the switch down. If you grew up in North America, Drew, “knows” that “down” was “off” in Australia. Oops!

Drew endorses the idea of flipping the switch down to turn off without being consciously aware that the answer came from Hazelyn. He goes forward without checking it. After all, the direction sounds reasonable and Drew is lazy.

So how do you get Drew to do more work?

Researchers have found at least one way. When they gave out a clearly printed test including the “Bat and Ball”question to incoming college students, 85% got at least one wrong. When they printed the test in a hard-to-read font with poor contrast, the error rate dropped to thirty-five percent. The harder to read test resulted in more correct answers. The explanation for this is simple. Since Hazelyn can’t quickly jump to an answer, he hands off the task to Drew who then invests the required mental effort to reason his way to the correct answer.

When something is confusing, Drew works harder. When Drew works harder, you’re more likely to reach the right answer and remember the experience.

This is something the advertising industry can use to its advantage.

Here’s a billboard with no clear meaning:

human thinking explained studygate

There is no logo and no indication of what it is for. This seems to go against all the basic principles of advertising. The viewer should see what the product does, how it’s better than the competition, and observe clear branding. The goal is usually to make the message as easy to understand as possible so Drew doesn’t have to work very hard.

But if you look at a lot of effective advertising today, it’s changed to be more confusing. There really is an “Un” advertisement campaign in Sydney, Australia, and they are everywhere. With “Un” there is no stress, just unstress. No hassle, just unhastle. With “Un” you can undo what you did, you can undrive through the car wash with the window down or unbreak dance in front of your teenage son. And his friends. “Un” makes life relaxing and unreal. “Un” your life. Be happy and live for now. Don’t worry. Unworry.

Can you guess what the ads were for?

They’re actually for insurance.

Now that advertising is everywhere, Hazelyn is skilled at filtering it out. If I see another insurance ad, I never would give it a second thought. But if something doesn’t make sense, my mind refers it to Drew.

This same realization has been happening in education. Lectures which have long been the dominant teaching method are now on the decline.

Like the old form of advertising, they’re too easy to tune out and often, especially in science lectures, too many new pieces of information are presented. That exceeds Drew’s capacity because he doesn’t have big enough chunks to break the material into.

In place of lectures, universities are introducing workshops, peer instruction, and formats where students are forced to answer more questions, and do more work than just listen and take notes.

This will undoubtedly make Drew work harder, which is good because that’s how learning happens, but a lot of students don’t like it because it requires more effort. Just as it’s hard to motivate someone to get off the couch and exercise, it’s hard to get Drew to give his full effort. There’s an appeal to doing things you already know.

That’s why we need Hazelyn to push Drew and do something new.

Original content by Veritasium

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