Category Archives: Learning

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Why Is Your Brain in Your Head?

We all know that our brain is in our head – that much is a given. But have you ever wondered why?

It all started about 550 million years ago, back when animals didn’t have brains or heads or anything really going for them. These were known as radial animals and were slightly two-dimensional looking (a bit like a star fish).

As animals evolved they began to have a new dimension to play with – a front and rear to the body (or a head and tail to you and me). These newly evolved animals were known as bilateral animals and all used the same set of genes to control how the body was organised in this new way. These genes are known as hox genes and clustered on the chromosome (a structure of all living cells, FYI) in the same order as the parts of the body they organised.

Bilateral animals continued to evolve with their senses and as such they began to develop eyes and noses. As these sense receptors became increasingly powerful so did the brains that processed this information. As a result of this they began to protect these brains by wrapping them in hardened skulls – and as we evolved from animals this form of protection remained.

The video below explains the evolution of the brain in much more detail and after watching it you’ll be blowing your science teachers own brains with your knowledge on the subject!

Bizarre and brilliant facts about the brain

• Your brain keeps developing until you’re in your late forties.

• Your brain uses up 20% of the oxygen and blood in your body.

• When you’re awake your brain produces enough electricity to power a small light bulb.

• A grand total of 60% of your brain is fat, and dieting could force your brain to eat itself.

• Long-term use of your mobile phone increases the risk of brain tumours.

• Half of your brain could be removed and there would be no apparent effect to your personality or memory.

(Facts from


What if I Fail?

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K.Rowling


You probably read this and wonder what J.K.Rowling, the woman who wrote the infamously successful Harry Potter books, knows about failure? But did you know that 12 publishers rejected the first manuscript of Harry Potter before Bloomsbury finally picked it up? J.K. Rowling must have felt as though she had failed with each rejection. Chances are, those 12 publishers probably felt like failures after the Harry Potter series went on to sell 450 million copies worldwide!

It is becoming harder not to feel like a failure. Thanks to social media and the perfect images people publish of themselves, our expectations are raised of our daily lives and the way that we look. A friend’s Facebook status update, announcing the A* they received in the test, when you only just scraped a pass in the same one, could make you feel like a failure. However, there is usually someone comparing themselves to you in exactly the same way and feeling like a failure as a result. It is a vicious cycle.

For every success story there will be about a dozen stories of failed projects before it. The only way to truly fail is to let the fear of failure or the failure itself defeat you. Going back to the example of a school exam, if you consider your grade a failure, then in order to turn that fail into success you must pull yourself together and study even harder for the next exam. By learning from your own mistakes and putting in the effort you will reach your full potential.

In many cultures the act of failure is actually considered to be a gesture of politeness. By allowing yourself to be imperfect you are showing an act of courtesy to your fellow human beings. To be hugely successful would be considered rude as you would be inspiring feelings of envy and jealously in others. And who really wants to be responsible for that?

Think about some of your favourite celebrities and TV characters, who are the personalities you’re most drawn towards, is it Mr Burns in his mansion of accomplishments and lack of human empathy? Or do you prefer Homer Simpson who often fails but never gives up? When it comes to surrounding yourself with friends wouldn’t you rather be around people who know what it’s like to fail and will be able to help you when you do? By having failed you become more empathetic towards your friends when they fail.

Failure is nothing to be afraid of and it is important to think about the benefits we have mentioned rather than feeling defeated. Time to stop asking yourself ‘what if I fail?’ and start thinking ‘how will I deal with my failure?’


What Is The Placebo Effect?

The placebo effect is a bizarre scientific phenomenon where dummy medicines – ones which are known to have no actual medical benefits – help people recover from illnesses.

Nobody knows quite how the placebo effect works, but the results can be astounding. Patients taking placebo drugs have reported massive reductions in pain and improvements to conditions, such as migraines and stomach ulcers.

How do placebos work?

Exactly how placebos work remains a bit of a mystery, but scientists now think that actual biological changes happen in our bodies when we take them. Previously, people put the effectiveness of placebos down to ‘mind over matter’, but this is no longer the case.

In a study testing the effect of placebos on Parkinson’s disease, it was found that a pill made only of sugar caused patients to produce the chemical dopamine, which helped their condition. Placebos can also cause your brain to produce its own natural painkillers after operations.

So even though we aren’t totally sure why placebos work, we know that they can have very strong medical benefits.

Strange things that affect how placebos work

One particularly remarkable thing about the placebo effect is the way that the appearances of fake medicines change how well they work in making people feel better.

In trials using placebo drugs, larger pills were found to have a stronger impact. The colour of the pills also made a difference – red pills had the biggest impact in reducing pain and green pills were best for treating anxiety. Most effective of all was a false injection of a completely harmless solution rather than a tablet.

The person giving the so-called drug also made a big difference. If the person was not a medical professional then the outcome was less noticeable. If the doctor giving the placebo was more caring and spent a lot of time with a patient, this improved the outcome further.

What if you know the medicine isn’t real?

Weirdly enough, placebos can have an effect even if people know that they are placebos! Studies have found that improvements occur when patients are told they’re being given placebo pills for their illnesses. It is thought that perhaps the act of visiting a doctor and receiving medical advice is enough to make a difference.

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How Does Your Brain Make a Memory?

How do memories work?

In the film Inside Out, Riley’s core memories come from super important moments in her life and power aspects of her personality islands. These are maintained by Joy and the gang. However, as much as we’d like to believe that we have little emotional people roaming around our brains looking after our memories, sadly that isn’t actually how it works. Your memory isn’t really one solid thing – it’s a term that refers to the process of remembering. Experts also believe that memory isn’t actually located in one part of your brain, but instead is a brain-wide process. Here’s how that all works. Short-term memory When we talk about short-term memory we often refer to things that happened to us in the last day or so, but in reality our short-term memory only lasts between 15 and 30 seconds! Anything that can be remembered after that length of time is actually a long-term memory. A good way to think of your short-term memory is like a computer RAM, as it works with information you are currently using or thinking about. This can be brand new information or old information we have recovered from our long-term memory. Long-term memory Your long-term memory is like a computer hard drive – it stores pretty much everything! What’s even cooler is that these memories actually have a physical presence in your brain because the neurons make physical connections with each other. These connections last regardless of whether or not they’re being used. Your long-term memory can also be split into two separate forms of memory – explicit and implicit.  Explicit Memory – These are memories we’re consciously aware of and actually want to remember (a bit like the information you absorb when you’re trying to study for a test). If you have an explicit memory that is of an event that has happened to you then you would call this an episodic memory, but if your explicit memory is more general knowledge based then you would call this a semantic memory. Implicit Memory – This includes habits and skills that you can automatically do, like riding a bike and tying your shoelaces. How Do We Actually Form Memories? Before we do anything we need to encode the information by sending it to the hippocampus (a part of the brain where new memories are formed). Here all the important information is prioritised and linked together to form a new memory. Of course, all of this is useless if the memory doesn’t have a home to go to.  Your new memory is able to chill out in the hippocampus for a bit, but as more memories are formed things start to become a bit crammed. The neurons that make up a specific memory therefore move further into your cortex – and as a result your memories end up being stored throughout your brain! Watch the video below for even more on the magic of memory.

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Why Do We Cook?

Ok, so we know that we cook food to make it edible and enjoyable.

But did you know that the simple act of cooking our food is what distinguishes us from animals and is a key contributor to our evolution as human beings?

Our primate cousins (like the Gorilla) may be three times the size of us and spend a good 70% of their day eating, but the reason they’re not the superior species all comes down to the fact that they eat raw plants.

By cooking our meat and veg we’re breaking down the tough cell walls and releasing more of the nutrients that are up for grabs, which is pretty vital considering our brains use one fifth of the calories we eat! This also means we get more energy from our food and can use this to increase our general knowledge and practical skills.

That’s exactly what our ancestors did when they first started cooking their food. Because they had more energy and free time, after learning how to preserve food and crush it into more edible forms, they were able to construct new tools to cook with and also develop languages (which we now speak) and create art and literature (which we now read).

Thanks to these new tools our ancestors came up with even more ways to release all the necessary nutrients, and as such people started living longer and healthier lives. Essentially, we ate our way to becoming the stronger and superior species!

Let’s not forget the fact that back when our ancestors first started cooking their food they would have to bring it back to a central location, and in doing so started strengthening social bonds. So next time you go to Nandos with your friends, just remember, your ancestors were essentially doing the same thing thousands of years ago!

Watch the video below for even more information about why we cook!

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5 Ways To Boost Self Esteem

If you’ve ever felt low before, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of seemingly unhelpful clichés like ‘Peaks and troughs’, ‘Life is a roller-coaster’ or ‘Life is a box of chocolates’.  These clichés are actually pretty spot on. It’s true that, unfortunately, everything can’t be wonderful all the time.

There are all sorts of set backs in life which can bring us down: mean remarks, failing an exam and your phone running out of battery, just when you need it most, to name a few.These kinds of events can result in low self-esteem. We’ve put together a list of ways to remedy this, get your head out of that ‘trough’ and fast track you back towards those positive ‘peaks’…

Don’t take yourself too seriously

Pride can most definitely get the better of a lot of people. A lot of the time this stems from being reliant on external validation as opposed to internal validation. It’s our human nature to care about what other people think of us. However, it’s also important to have the confidence that our flaws can be improved upon and to remember that absolutely everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Next time someone criticises you, try not to take it too personally, they might even be trying to help you by making you aware that you are doing something incorrectly. Whether they are constructive or not, criticisms will make the compliments all the sweeter!

The power of humour

As human beings we are unfortunately pre-disposed to be very irrational when things go ‘wrong’. Small events that take place during the day, like being splashed by an oncoming car or having the wrong sandwiches in your packed lunch (who thinks plum jam and ham go together? Bleurgh!) or forgetting to brush your teeth (ew!) can really dampen a day. However, this is the stuff that fills life with experiences, that you will look back and laugh about. Why not ditch the negativity and cut right to the laughing point?

Down with shame

Research has found that shame can be intensely painful for humans – making us believe that we are unworthy and flawed. In the future unfortunate things may happen to you; you may lose your job or say something embarrassing during a presentation. However, as much as these experiences make you feel rubbish at the time, it’s counter-productive to (metaphorically) kick yourself while you’re down. The best thing you can do is learn from these mistakes, recover and be stronger for next time!

Work out those empathy muscles

The phrase ‘do to others as you would have them do unto you’ really rings true here. Seeing the world from alternative perspectives is an amazing attribute to have and will help you make great relationships with all sorts of people. The ability to socialise, work and get along with people who have led very different lives to you, and may have a different outlook on the world, is incredibly valuable. By having an open mind and being empathetic you will open a lot of doors.

Think about the future

Self-esteem isn’t automatically ingrained in anyone’s personality. It grows over time through confidence, experience and personal achievement. One day your self-esteem may be lacking, another day you may feel full of self-esteem. Things are bound to change every day depending on surrounding factors and altering events. By thinking about the bigger picture, and realising that trivial problems are nothing but tiny specs on the canvas, you will find it easier to enjoy the journey, troughs and all!


Why Are Some People Left Handed?

Around one in ten people are left handed, and scientists can’t seem to agree why some people are born with dominance on their left side.

Being a leftie can cause a few problems – think smudging your writing and struggling with scissors – but it used to be a much more serious issue. Up to the 1960s in the UK many children were forced to use their right hands to write, even if they were naturally inclined to use their left. This still happens in some parts of the world, and can cause children to struggle with writing and harm their confidence.


In many languages, the word left is the same as the word for unusual or sinister, and the word for right is the same as the word for correct or good. This is because people used to associate left handedness with witchcraft and evil!

Now in this country, we know that being left or right handed isn’t a choice – it’s just the way you’re born. Scientists have found that it’s partly down to your genes, so kids with two left handed parents are more likely to be left handed themselves.

However no-one has been able to identify the exact gene that affects which side you happen to lean towards. The latest thinking is that there are a number of genes are work, and it’s the combination of these that decides handedness.

In day to day life, being in the left-handed majority can sometimes be a big advantage. Lefties excel in sports like cricket and baseball, and are often more artistic and creative than their right-handed cousins. Oddly enough, five out of the last seven presidents of America have been left handed.

Super-famous lefties throughout the ages

-       Barack Obama

-       Joan of Arc

-       Julius Caesar

-       Leonardo da Vinci

-       Jimi Hendrix

-       Tom Cruise

-       Marilyn Monroe


In the Name of Science

Throughout the years, there have been many times when scientists have gone the extra mile in order to make the next epic discovery.

Some scientists have gone to a new extreme, doing some crazy things and even putting their own safety in danger for the sake of research.

Here are five barmy experiments, all done in the name of science:

Living in a cave for a month

In 1938, sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman moved into a cave 120 feet below ground in order to study human sleep patterns. He and his assistant lived there for a month in an attempt to discover whether people could adapt to a 28-hour day.

The cave was the ideal place to test this out, as there were never any changes in the light or the temperature. However, it was extremely uncomfortable, claustrophobic and swarming with rats. His assistant did manage to adapt, but Kleitman unfortunately could not, disproving his own theory.

Travelling faster than a bullet

John Paul Stapp was a flight surgeon during World War II, and wanted to investigate the effects of extreme speeds on the human body. In 1954, he rode a rocket-powered sled, which travelled faster than a bullet, and observed what happened to him afterwards.

His experiments were hugely important for later improvements in transport safety, and his research influenced the training given to astronauts.

60 years of knuckle cracking

Ever been told that cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis? Scientist Dr. Donald Unger decided to find out once and for all whether this was fact or fiction.

For 60 years, he cracked the knuckles of his left hand every day, but never cracked the knuckles of his right. In the end, he found that all that cracking had no effect on the state of his joints.

Getting 120 bee stings

Michael Smith, a student of bee behaviour, conducted an experiment to see where the most painful place to be stung by a bee was.

The experiment involved pricking himself with bee stings 120 times all over his body and recording the pain levels. The sorest spot? Right inside the nostril. Ouch.

Living underwater for 31 days

Rather than making the occasional subaquatic trip to conduct his research, scientist Fabien Cousteau spent 31 days living in a laboratory under the sea.

In the time they spent 64 feet below sea level, he and his team studied the effects that humans had on ocean life. They gathered enough research to fill ten new research papers!


What is a Polyglot?

A polyglot is someone who knows and can use lots of different languages – a handy skill, indeed.

Although learning a new language is no easy feat, given that you’re required to use all of your many memory systems, the mental workout is one of the best brain training exercises you can endure. Nowadays, you can also learn languages online, making it that little bit easier!

Here are a few of the perks to being a polyglot:

Your self-confidence will increase

Taking on and mastering a new language will boost your self-confidence. The more languages you master, the more confident you’re likely to become.

You’ll gain a wider understanding of the world

When you learn a new language you also learn the behaviours and traits of another culture. By trying to understand a language and the history that goes with it you’ll not only discover more about that heritage but also how you view the world and its many cultures. You may even gain a new sense of appreciation for your own culture!

You’ll boost your brain and have a keener mind

Studies have shown that polyglots have very alert and keen minds – and are quick to spot anything irrelevant or misleading. You’ll also boost your reading, negotiation and problem-solving skills, as your brain will be forced to recognise a new language structure.

If you’re still in two minds about the perks of being a polyglot then Alex Rawlings, who was voted Britain’s Most Multilingual Student in 2012, may just change your mind in the video above.


The Story of “She Sells Seashells”

How many of you can say you have heard of Mary Anning?

There are very few people who haven’t attempted to master the tongue-twister, “She Sells Seashells on the Sea Shore”, until they are blue in the face.

Mary is the namesake and muse of Terry Sullivan’s infamous 1908 tongue twister. She earned the honour through her hard work and determination.

Lyme Regis is where the legend hails – a popular seaside resort teeming with visitors holidaying in the summer. Lyme Regis has a huge biological significance, offering a wealth of Jurassic fossils in its coastal cliffs, part of a geological formation known as the Blue Lias.


Mary’s father had earned his living and supported his family by selling objects known as curios, which he found whilst mining the coastal cliffs of the Blue Lias. These curios were incredibly old fossils of many varieties of ancient reptiles. Unfortunately, he passed away when Mary was just 11 years old.


It was not long before Mary stepped up and assumed his place as the main breadwinner of the family. With her passion for palaeontology already fervently ignited, she followed in her father’s footsteps and set up her own stall. Aside from supporting her loved ones, she also made some incredibly significant discoveries along the way.

The profession was not without its risks. Landslides tested her dedication and even took the life of her dog. However, this never kept Mary from her passion. Mary discovered several whole skeletons of ancient species. In 1823, she found the Plesiosaurus, pictured below; in 1828, she found a Pterosaurus; and, in 1829, the Squaloraja.


Even though Mary had grown up in a modest household with little to no education, she studied often and re-wrote scientific papers. Her work has since been praised by palaeontologists for its accuracy.

Mary managed to open her own shop called “Anning’s Fossil Depot”, which became a destination shop for geologists and palaeontologists around the country. During the course of her career, she promoted the concept of extinction through her discovery of fossils, proving this existence of ancient reptiles that were no longer living.

In 1847, Mary sadly died from breast cancer. Members of the Geological Society contributed a stain glass window in her memory with an inscription, part of which read: “In commemoration of her usefulness in furthering the science of geology…also of her benevolence of heart and integrity of life”.

The inscription was a testament befitting the sentiment. However; we think that Terry Sullivan’s tongue twister has preserved the memory of Mary Anning forever by using the most powerful thing of all, language.


9 Surprisingly Old Species

Modern human beings have been on earth for around 200,000 years.

While that may sound like a long time, it’s a minuscule amount compared to many other animals, who have roamed the planets for millions of years. These are the ones who have been around the longest:

White-tailed deer – 3.5 million years


White-tailed deer are the oldest living species of deer, and can be found from southern Canada down to South America as far as Peru and Bolivia.The key to the deer’s lengthy survival is its intelligence from fawn to fully grown adult. For their first few days their body gives off no smell at all, their dappled coats blend into the bush, and they instinctively hide by dropping to the floor at the first sign of danger. They fool predators and mask their own tracks by circling over them, sticking to familiar routes when chased, and wading through water to destroy their trail.

Zebra – 4 million years


These striped animals have roamed the African plains for up to 4 million years. There are 3 species and 10 subspecies of zebra, which all sport the trademark mohawk and black and white coat. Zebra coats are like human fingerprints in that no two are ever exactly the same. Despite living in the same territories, the different species don’t interbreed. The Grevy’s zebra is thought to be the oldest of the three, but is a rare sight these days.

Red panda – 5 million years old


Unlike their colossal cousin the giant panda, red pandas only grow to the size of a household cat. They do share their namesake’s high forest habitat and love of bamboo. Red pandas used to be thought to be a kind of raccoon because of the similarity in appearance – the two share a masked face and ringed tail – but DNA testing proved them to be part of the panda dynasty.

Sandhill crane – 10 million years

Sandhill Crane

A 10 million year old fossil discovered in Nebraska was found to be structurally the same as the modern-day sandhill, making it the world’s oldest living bird species. It’s the most common of the 15 crane species, and they breed in Northern U.S., Canada, Alaska and Siberia. Every year they undertake an epic journey, migrating to the USA’s southern states, travelling up to 400 miles per day.

Hedgehog – 15 million years


The same species of this prickly little mammal has existed for 15 million years. They’ve been protected by their famous hollow spikes all this time, which are made of keratin, the same protein that forms human hair and nails. Newborns have tiny, barely visible quills under their skin and adopt their prickly look after a few days. The hog part of their name comes from the squeals and grunts they make when foraging and communicating.

Flamingo – 18 million years


In what was once a Spanish lake, researchers have discovered a nesting site believed to belong to a prehistoric species of flamingo. The nests were different from modern-day flamingo versions, but the DNA structure of the birds was almost identical. Baby flamingos are born either grey or white and develop their candy-pink colour after a few years. The rosy tint is a result of eating crustaceans and algae which contain a substance called beta carotene, also found in carrots and pumpkins.

Aardvark – 35 million years


This mammal has hardly changed during its 35 million year history. It still has primitive teeth with no enamel or roots, and no collar bones. Scientists consider the aardvark to be a genetic anomaly, as its genes have developed so little over its life span compared to the rapid changes in other mammals. They feed on huge amounts of ant using their long and sticky tongue, but are in no way relating to their fellow bug guzzler, the American anteater.

Virginia opossum – 70 million years


North America’s only marsupial has fossils dating back 70 million years, making it one of earth’s oldest mammals. Much like a kangaroo, it has a pouch for its young which is so tough that it can protect the bee-sized babies if the mother is hit by a car. The secret to the opossum’s longevity could be its uncanny ability to play dead in the face of danger. In an emergency they can go limp and lifeless, slowing their heartbeat and breathing for up to six hours. It is also known to drool and spit in front of predators in an attempt to appear too diseased to eat.

Indian purple frog – 134 million years


These bizarre frogs are extraordinarily old – they hopped alongside dinosaurs for about 70 million years and managed to survive the infamous disaster that killed them. They were discovered in the Western Ghats of India, scientists found that their DNA was unique, meaning the frogs didn’t belong to any known species. They live mainly underground, using their hands as spades to burrow as far as 12 feet below the earth. The frogs have a puffy purple body, little white snouts, no discernible heads, and an unusual lolloping way of moving around. Despite their lack of physical beauty, they carry huge scientific importance. They may shed new light on amphibian evolution and how species reacted to ancient shifts in landmasses.


5 Places to Learn to Code

Most of us spend a big chunk of our time on the internet and use our smartphones, tablets and computers every day.

But how much do we know about how our gadgets actually work?


If you want a better understanding of computers and technology, why not try coding?

Code is the computer language used to create websites, apps, games and programmes. Learning code means you can get ahead in the job market in the future, use it to start your own business, or simply gain a better understanding of computer science.

Despite what many people think, anyone can learn to code – not just tech geniuses. If you want to brush up your technology skills and get to grips with code, here are five places you can learn for free:

Code Academy

Code Academy offers a range of lessons, such as HTML, Make a Website, and Make and Interactive Website, that are simple enough for absolute beginners to understand. Take your first steps in programming with the interactive courses, then move on to the more advanced modules.




With Scratch, you can learn the ideas behind coding by creating games, stories and animations. Once you’ve crafted your very own piece of work using the principles of coding, you can then share it with other users on the online community.



Khan Academy

Khan Academy’s mission is to provide top-quality, free education online – coding included. There are introductory lessons to get you started, and more advanced ones once you’ve nailed the basics. There are also interesting profiles of people who work in the computer science industry, which show where coding could lead you.



Code Kingdoms

Code Kingdoms (suitable for ages up to 13) is a fun and creative way of learning programming, where you build your own world through interactive games that also teach you real coding language. You can share your world with friends, and challenge them to create something better!




CoderDojo is a global organisation that provides volunteer-run coding and computer programming classes for 7-17 year olds. At a Dojo you can learn to design brilliant programmes, apps, games and websites in a creative way, while also meeting a bunch of like-minded people. There are more than 675 Dojos across 57 countries, find your nearest one here.

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What is Synesthesia?

Synesthesia is a rare condition where two or more of a person’s senses are joined together.

This means that feeling something with one sense leads to a response from another one. So some synesthetes (people with synesthesia) see certain colours when they hear sounds, music and words, and other people experience tastes when they look at images or objects.

The most common form of synesthesia is connecting letters and numbers with particular colours. People who have this might think of the letter ‘M’ as blue, and the number ‘12’ as red. Some letters are the same colour whereas others are unique – it’s different for everyone.

Some synesthetes also see colours when they hear music, so a certain song could be black, while another is pale yellow, and a long symphony changes colour at different points. Musicians who have this experience often talk about liking songs because they are the right colour or disliking them because they’re an ugly shade.

Synesthesia is totally harmless, but it can cause problems! For example, some Synesthetes taste and smell things when they hear words and names. If hearing someone’s name leads to a nasty or unpleasant taste, this can make it difficult to be around that person. Some people might hate Tuesdays, because the word has a horrible smell.

Famous people throughout history who have synesthesia include the musicians Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder, plus the artists Vincent Van Gogh, David Hockney and Edvard Munch.

Five facts about synesthesia

1) Synesthesia affects about 4% of people

2) Women are twice as likely as men to have the condition

3) The name comes from the Greek words ‘syn’ and ‘aesthesis’, and literally means ‘together feeling’

4) Synesthetes (people with synesthesia) are more likely to be left-handed than the rest of the population

5) Scientists aren’t completely sure what causes synesthesia, but they do think it runs in families


Vivo’s Favourite YouTube Channels

Want to impress your friends, parents and teachers with your breadth and depth of knowledge?

But don’t have the time to read 1000s of books? Have no fear. There’s always YouTube.

It isn’t just videos of cats,  people hurting themselves and acoustic covers of Rihanna songs. There are thousands of channels devoted to making learning fun and accessible  to everybody.  You don’t have to pay huge tuition fees or be the top of your class to view them.

Take a look at Vivo’s pick of the best educational YouTube channels for teens. Which one is your favourite?

Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

Kurzgesagt provides us with fresh visuals that make all those crazy statistics and science mumbo-jumbo a whole lot easier to understand. This is not the most busy or frequent channel, meaning it is extra special when a new one is published. In case you were wondering, Kurzgesagt translates into English as “in a nutshell”.

Subscribers: 244, 805

Views: 8,974,908

Joined Jul 9, 2013


Ted is built up of two channels. Ted Ed publishes videos of educators explaining the answers to fascinating questions, spiced up with amazing animation. Ted Talks is similar, but with no animation. With these videos you get to watch educators giving inspiring and informative lectures to hundreds of people on stage at a TED Conference.

Subscribers: 5,206,058

Views: 752,085,427

Joined Dec 6, 2006


Vsauce combines his incredible knowledge of obscure topics and a delightful humour to create a truly magnificent channel. His videos answer fascinating questions, such as: ‘How many things are there?’, ‘Is my red the same as your red?’  All of these videos are educational yet addictively gripping.

Subscribers: 7,795,749

Views: 676,503,863

Joined Jul 30, 2007


SciShow is a youtube channel where presenters explore various topics from the world of science news, history and concepts. It has previously published videos on dinosaurs, why stars twinkle and how rainbows are formed. It’s another really engaging channel, worth checking out.

Subscribers: 1,983,373

Views: 201,467,008

Joined Oct 20, 2011


The World’s Most Unusual Beaches

Check out this list of some of the most unusual beaches from around the world.

Glass Beach, California


This beautiful beach is actually the result of human pollution. Local residents used this site as a dump to discard glass, appliances and even vehicles. Until the California State Water Resources Control Board closed the area in 1967. Over time the glass and marble eventually shaped into smooth pieces.

Marieta, Mexico


The Marieta Islands were formed thousands of years ago by volcanic activity and are completely uninhabited. The islands are about an hour ride from Puerto Vallarta and are visited daily, yet no one can legally set food on the islands. In the early 1900s, the Mexican government began conducting military tests on the Islands. The beach is nicknamed “The Hidden Beach” and is only accessible when the tide is low. The island’s wildlife includes thousands of birds as well as sea turtles, manta rays and octopuses.

Vieques, Puerto Rico


Vieques is an island of Puerto Rico in the northeastern Caribbean. It’s home to the Bioluminescent Bay, also known as Mosquito Bay or “The Bio Bay”. The luminescence in the bay is caused by a micro-organism, dinoflagellate pyrodinium bahamense, which glows whenever the water is disturbed, leaving a neon blue trail. Spanish sailors believed that the bioluminescence was the work of the devil and tried to block the ocean water from entering the bay by dropping boulders in the channel. They only succeeded in preserving and increasing the luminescence.

Ribadeo, Spain


Catedrais beach translates as “Beach of Cathedrals”. The beach features natural arches and caves, which can only be seen in low tide. During high tide, the beach appears quite small. During low tide the sheer size of the cliffs and sea caves can be overwhelming. These rock formations are the result of crashing waves on the rock face over time.

Maho Beach, Saint Martin


Maho beach is on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. It is most famous for the Princess Juliana International airport adjacent to it. The beach is a popular destination for plane spotters.  Most of the local restaurants and bars show timetables or announce when planes are leaving or landing. The beach has white sand with no vegetation due to the blast from jet engines. Some parts closer to the runway are fenced off due to health and safety reasons.

Giant’s Causeway, Ireland


The Giant’s Causeway is made up of about 40,000 interlocked basalt columns. It’s the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Located in County Atrim in Northern Ireland, the shore was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 and a national nature reserve in 1987. It was also named the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff into the ocean. Most of the columns are hexagonal, the tallest is 12 metres (39 ft) high.

Punalu’u Beach

Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Also known as Black Sand Beach, Punalu’u is located on the island of Hawaii. The beach has black sand made of basalt created by lava flowing into the ocean. It is home to many endangered species, such as the Hawksbill turtle, the Green turtle and the Hawaiian Monk Seal.

Harbour Island, Bahamas


The pink sand get its colour from fractured shells mixing with the sand. Also home to an abundance of wildlife including species of crabs, fish, ants and reptiles.


Are You a Cyborg?

It sounds like a crazy question, right? Like something straight out of science fiction.

Are you reading this on your smartphone by any chance?

In the video above, Shots of Awe explores the idea that perhaps we’re all already cyborgs. It is argued that the reason for this is that our technology functions as an extension of our selves. When you take out your phone and search the internet, the information is presented to you instantly. It is as if it is part of your mind.

Many thinkers argue that these tools are just an extension of our selves, “extending our thought, reach and vision”, and that they are just another part of us, like our arms, our eyes or our brains. Our use of technology becomes so immediate and omnipresent that it becomes an important part of who we are. Why not check out the video and see what you think?

Facts about the ubiquity of technology.

  • 91% of all adults have their phones within arm’s reach every hour of every day.
  • Every minute 100 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube by individual users.
  • The average 21-year-old has spent 5,000 hours playing video games, sent 250,000 emails, instant messages and text messages and has spent 10,000 hours on a mobile phone alone.
  • There are 350 million Snapchat messages sent daily.

Source(s): Shots of Awe


Growing Up in Ancient Rome

Take a look at this TED-Ed video, which shows us what it would have been like growing up in Ancient Rome. The lives of men and women were worlds apart. One video follows the coming of age of a 17-year-old boy, while the other follows 4 sisters in their daily lives.

Fun Facts:

  • Left-handed people were considered untrustworthy and unlucky, while left-handed gladiators were treated special as their fighting style was different and made it more entertaining.

  • When the Roman Empire reached its territorial peak in 117 AD, it spanned across 2.5 million square miles.

  • Hair dye was popular amongst women with red and blonde being the popular colours. This was achieved with ingredients such as goat’s fat, beech wood ashes and saffron.

  • Caligula’s favourite horse lived in a marble stable with an ivory manger. He also tried to make his horse a consul, which was the highest job in government.

  • Rome had over 140 communal toilets where people would actively socialise.


Amazing Volcano Discovery

4 underwater volcanoes have been discovered just 250km off the coast of Sydney. Scientists estimate they could be up to 50 million years old. The volcanoes are calderas, which is a large bowl shaped hole caused when a volcano erupts and the land around it collapses. The largest of the four is 1.5km across and is 700m off the sea floor. Collectively they are 20km long and 5km underwater.


They were discovered by scientists looking for lobster larvae who used sonar mapping to see the sea floor. It’s believed that they were created by the shifts in the earth’s plates that separated Australia and New Zealand around 40 to 80 million years ago. Before this discovery, the area was thought to be flat. With exciting discoveries like this, scientists have a great excuse to explore the sea floor further for more information.

Fun Facts:

  • Underwater volcanoes are known as submarine volcanoes

  • There are around 1,500 active volcanoes on the earth’s surface and an estimated 10,000 submarine volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean alone.

  • Volcanic eruptions in shallow water can throw material in the air, which is what created the Hawaiian Islands.


Black Holes, Headless Chickens and YOU!

Check out Vsauce’s YouTube channel to see these amazing videos for yourself.


Vsauce is an educational YouTube channel hosted by Michael Stevens. Stevens poses a mixture of scientific and philosophical questions that seem impossibly weird. Within seconds, you will find yourself absolutely gripped by the unique mix of humour, knowledge and personality. You will never see the world in the same way again!

With Vsauce, expanding the mind and becoming a better, more knowledgeable YOU has never been so much fun!

What can you do without a brain?

In the video above, Stevens asks, “Is there such a thing as a no-brainer?” He tries to determine whether there is anything humans can do that doesn’t require the use of our brains. He wanders through stories of headless chickens, cockroaches and the possibility of finding an answer after death. It is one of our favourites.

Technology, gaming and fictional worlds

Vsauce has a number of other videos with intriguing titles made up of some of the most gripping content on the internet. If science and philosophy isn’t your thing, then you could check out Vsauce2 and Vsauce3 for more videos on topics like technology, gaming and fictional worlds.

Here are a couple of other Vsauce videos.

Did the past really happen?

Travel INSIDE a black hole

Source(s): Vsauce