The science of boredom

No matter who you are and what you were doing during the lockdown, at some point or another, you must have felt this weird and pretty obnoxious feeling that we all know so well, boredom. Of course, boredom is not a feeling exclusive to the lockdown, but the limitations in term of movement and activities available greatly enhances the probability of it occurring. But why, why is our brain « torturing »us in such a way,  wouldn’t life be less boring  if « boring » didn’t exist ?

The face you make when you are bored

Boredom is by definition the feeling of ininterest in an activity we may be partaking in or just the lack of said activity. In other words, we get bored when we are left alone with ourselves and our thoughts, when whatever we are doing at that point in time is not stimulating enough to make us use our brains. When we think about it from this perspective, we notice that it means that our natural state of being is a state of boredom, and we get out of it whenever we start doing something stimulating enough. So does that mean that living in itself is boring ? Just « being » is not enough for our brains ?

Life is boring:

Animals get bored too, they need a certain amount of stimulus to stay healthy, but the amount and kind of stimulus they need if what makes us different. We are always looking for new ways to stimulate ourselves. Unlike a dog,for example, just going out to walk once every day is far from being enough for us. We could say that life is boring by default to force us to be creative with ourselves. On top of that, the part of the brain that controls boredom is the frontal cortex, the same part that helps with self-control and self-regulation. So in a way, boredom is a way for us to control our lack of activity. This begs the question, if we have a part of the brain specifically designated to force us to do more, does that mean that not doing anything is dangerous?

Our addiction to excitement :

A lack of activity is dangerous for us both mentally and physically, physically in the sense that the body is gonna be less developed and more prone to get sick, and mentally through different mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Our brains have thaasophobia, the fear of getting bored, if exposed to a total lack of activity, our brains can go as far as finding stimulation out of self-mutilation or from hallucinations.  Another negative effect of too much boredom is addiction, a lack of stimuli can trick our brains into getting addicted to harmful substances/activities to get some excitement out of it.           Why do we get bored even when partaking in activities then ? Well the chart down below explains to a certain extent, an activity is considered boring if our skill level in said activity is high enough to be able to execute it without using any considerable amount of energy.

Flow model from the book « Finding                           F low », 1997 by Csikszentmihalyi, M.

Boredom is anything but boring :

In the wheel of emotions shown down below, we can see that boredom is a subcategory of disgust,  an emotion that keeps us away from harmful things, it protects us the same way boredom protects us from monotony and sameness, it allows us to go out of our way to try new things. Boredom is a state of mind in which you are left alone to think about how to be more productive, It’sa feeling that keeps us going forward and It’swhat made us become what we are today as a species.

Robert Plutchik’s « Wheel of emotions »

Can electronic devices cause us harm ?

Will i get cancer if i use my phone for too long ? You probably asked yourself this question at least once in your life, gave it a quick thought and forgot about it 5 seconds later. Well, in this period of confinement where we are all using our electronic devices a bit more than usual, let me answer this question for you.

Let’s talk about waves, electronic waves 

All of our electronic devices work thanks to electricity but you knew that already. The thing is, electricity is not static, it moves through the devices. This movement generates electric and magnetic fields which creates waves. This phenomenon is called electromagnetic radiation.

Electromagnetic Radiation

The first thing people think about when hearing radiation is Chernobyl, but the literal definition of radiation is « letting out ». Just like uranium radiates gamma rays,  electronic devices radiate different kinds of waves that are more or less harmful depending on their frequency, the higher the frequency , the faster the waves and the more harmful they are. Harmful waves, such as gamma rays can kick atoms out of their place and cause permanent damage to our cells and DNA, causing cancer and other mortal diseases.

The most harmful ones are :

  • Gamma rays  : they are produced by the most extreme phenomenons in the unviverse, such as the explosion of a star or from black holes. We are constantly exposed to them, but in such infinitesimal rates that most of the time, they can be ignored. They can also be man-made in nuclear power plants.
  • X-rays  : these rays can only be man-made, they are known for easily penetrating soft material such as skin and are used in medical imaging among other things. It is not recomanded to stay exposed too long to them, you might die.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) : Situated at the far right of the visible spectrum, these rays can be seen, unlike the other two, thanks to specialised devices. 5% of the electromagnetic energy emanated from the sun are UV, they can easily penetrate the ozone layer and are the cause of tanning. They are necessary for us since they provide us in vitamin D, of course exposing yourself for too long to these rays can cause mutations and cancer in extreme cases.

    Frequency of electromagnetic waves

These 3 rays are the most dangerous ones since the waves they generate have such high frequency. Below UV, rays stop having any major impact on the human body.

Radio waves :

Radio waves are the ones we’re interested in, they’re radiated by every electric device we know of. These waves aren’t able to influence the molecules in our body. The best they can do is contract some of our muscles in certain circumstances. Long story short, using your electronic devices won’t provoke the appearance of cancer.

So why is there this belief that electronic devices can cause cancer :

This fear of getting cancer from our phones started when a study made in 1979 linked leukemia to living near a power line, time passed but no proof was found to confirm this study. Of course, it didn’t stop there, this study started a chain reaction and caused the appearance of multiple other studies trying to link electronic devices to diseases.

Media didn’t help either, whenever any kind of tiny hint linking the two was found, they didn’t waste any second to spread the news , removing all the crucial details and creating the buzz.

Finally, WHO, the World Health Organization, classified radio waves as possibly carcinogenic, reinforcing this belief. The problem is that WHO saying they are carcinogenic doesn’t mean that it is confirmed, it only means that there are hints that the two might be linked and that further research will have to be made to prove it.

But my head hurts every time i use my phone :

This is what’s known as the neucebo effect,  the placebo effect makes us believe something makes us feel better, the neucebo effect  is the contrary. We spend a lot of time on our electronic devices, be it phones, computers, tv, so whenever we get a fever or headache while using them, it’s not weird to think that they are the cause.

What’s not a neucebo though is the strain we feel in our eyes whenever we spend too much time in front of a screen. What causes this strain is the blue light which is situated just behind the UV, which means that it contains a good amount of energy. Blue light is something that we look at all the time and is the reason why the sky is blue, however, there are two types of blue light, the natural one which is low energy, and the one coming out of our screen which is high energy. Unlike UV, our eyes don’t block blue light, so the high energy blue light can damage light-sensitive cells in the retina. That is why using yellow teinted lenses helps releave the strain.

Effects of high energy blue light

Australian Bushfires

Over 18 Million of hectares burnt down over the last 9 months, causing the death of one billion animals.

Australia is known for being one of the wildest country in the world. With its 7 Million km² of land, it inhabits some of the most unique wildlife on the planet, attracting every year, millions of tourists. Who has never dreamt of seeing a kangaroo in the flesh or observing a koala being as cute as it can be? Australia is without a doubt one the most interesting place in term of fauna and flora all thanks to the bushfires in the country. Indeed, a less know fact is that bushfires are a regular occurrence in Australia, the country being as dry as a bone makes it easy for fires to start, forcing the wildlife to adapt and become so particular.

new growth after controlled burn, charcoal branches
                                      « Grass trees regrowing after the bushfires »

If bushfires are a daily episode in the life of Australians, why do they have such a hard time controlling this particular one?

  • First of all, we need to talk about global warning, a phenomenon known for causing an increase in the temperature of the planet. Since the creation of the steam locomotive,machines emitting greenhouse gases kept appeairng left and right,gases which are known for weakening the ozone layer. This has lead to an abnormal increase in our planet’s heath, scientists have predicted that by the end of the 21st century, we’ll observe an increase of 4.8°C in the worst case scenario. Bushfires may be a daily occurrence, but with the global warming having more and more of an effect on the environment, stopping and controlling these wildfires only gets harder.
« Increase of the temperature from the 1880 to this day »

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The World of Anime

Opening :

Are you ready to go with me on an adventure in the world of japanese animation ? Is that a ‘yes’ you’re thinking ? Or maybe is it a ‘no’ ? Well guess what, it doesn’t matter cause you’re already here ! Fasten your seatbelt and hang on tight because the ride is about to start.

What is « anime » ?

The word anime (plural is also anime) comes from animation (who would have thought) and designs, or at least used to, any kind of work of animation made in japan. I said « used to » because the word evolved to describe any kind of animation that looks like something made from japan, in other words, anime is not japan exclusive anymore.

History of anime :

This section is gonna be quick since im not here to put you to sleep. Let’s just say that everything started in the 20th century when the japanese got to learn and use french, german and american animation techniques. They made it their own and used it to create the big eyed characters that we all know so well nowadays.

The different genres in the medium :

The general consensus on anime is that it’s all about fighting ,ninjas, pirates and bald guys. I can’t deny that the most popular ones are all about these things but that is just the tip of the iceberg, Indeed, anime has so many genres that are unkown to the large public. As a disclaimer, these genres can be directly transalted to specific audiences, for exemple shonen means young boy. This means that each genre is targeted to a certain type of demographic. These terms are still used but their meaning has changed to just design a certain genre of anime.

    • Shonen(Young boy) : I’ll start with the most popular one, shonens are anime mainly around fighting and action, the story is most of the time a stepping stone for epic fights between badass characters.The biggest anime, « Naruto« , « One piece » and « Bleach« , know as the big three, are shonens. But the genre doesn’t only consists of this, shonens can also be anime that can be relatable to young boys mostly in term of school life, romance and life in general, some examples are « Nisekoi », « Daily life of high school boys » (pretty self-explanatory) and « GTO« .

Old school shonens

Continuer la lecture de « The World of Anime »