All posts by paulyavarow

Infographic and Reflection


We decided to to make our infographic about the effects of caffeine. We wanted to do something about coffee, we decided to focus our infographic around the effects of caffeine itself, as neither of us really knew what it did aside from keeping people awake. We decided to split our infographic down the middle, with positive effects on one side of a human body and all of the negative effects on the other side. This helped make it  more organized.  We tried to arrange the information around the human body to provide a balance, so there wasn’t too much clutter in anyone one area.


This worked out fairly well; since caffeine is a stimulant, most of it’s effects are in the central nervous system. So, we were able to put two large bubbles with general effects caffeine has on the central nervous system on either side , this further helps to divide the inforgraphic. Then we added in other information around the human’s torso. However since caffeine primarily acts on the nervous system, it has very few effects that act on other area’s of the body. This left us with some empty space. To solve this, we placed additional facts in the blank space inside of the circular coffee stains.



We put one additional fact on each side of the infographic to maintain balance. These facts also align with the positive versus negative divide that we established. Conveniently, these extra effects can’t rally be targeted to a specific body area, so this way we could still include them. On the positive side, we noted caffeine’s link to lower suicide rates, and on the negative side we noted that a lethal dose of caffeine would take approximately 100 cups of coffee. The fact that it would take so much coffee to die of a caffeine overdose also helps to reinforce our argument since it shows how safe caffeine is.




We put a happy guy on the positive side, and a crazy lady on the negative side. We used different colors to display the information on the different sides. On the positive side we primarily used blue since it’s associated with being calm, and on the negative side we used red since it’s much more aggressive. We also used neutral colors, and put text in contrasting colors so it was easy to read.

Prevalence of Different Genres of Literature


There is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow that suggests people don’t focus on subjects unnecessary for survival unless other conditions necessary for survival and sanity are met. According to Maslow, people don’t focus on literature when other they are worried about there own survival. To survive, we need food, water, and shelter, in our society, we also need financial security.

To test this theory, we can follow trends in the major literary genres throughout the last 150 years.  Drama, comedy, tragedy, and satire correlate very well with each other, romance varies slightly but generally follows the same overall trend. During the 1860’s, during the Civil War, none of the genres gain any significant prominence, due to the fact that people were concerned with the safety of their friends and family. Starting in 1870, all genres start gaining more prevalance, until about the middle 1910’s, the start of World War I. During WWI, the relative prevalence of all genre’s drops sharply, potentially due to the fact that people are generally more concerned with their own personal safety. During the roaring twenties, the prevalence of all genre’s increases sharply. During this time, the economy was growing rapidly, due to the increased financial security, people where allowed to focus more on literature. The prevalence of each genre begins to drop when  the stock market crashes in the late 1920’s, and continues to drop throughout the great depression and World War II.  Growth is stagnated during the cold war in the 50’s, and begins to fall sharply as the Vietnam War escalates in mid 60’s to mid 70’s.

The prevalence of all genres continues to slowly decline after the 80’s, except for Romance. I think this decline is due to the decline of printed media as a whole due to the rise of technology and digital media.


Trekker and Exploration Pecha Kucha Recording and Reflection


During this slide, I was discussing how I got trapped on the side of Mt. Madison. I used this picture of my map to show approximately where I got lost, and how I close I was to getting down below tree line, and back to my car.  


During this slide, I was discussing how the conditions worsened as time went on. I took this picture climbing up Mt. Washington. It also serves as a great illustration of how there isn’t always a distinct trail when above treeline. During my presentation, I described how at times the trail was only marked by small piles of rocks, this showed that.

In my pecha kucha, I didn’t effectively utilize most of my images as part of my presentation. My presentation would have been about the same if I didn’t have them. Most of them where simply illustrations of key words that came up during that section of my narration. However I think I used the pictures most effectively while I was talking about my own experiences because they were pictures I took and they showed the sort of conditions and terrain that I experienced.

I decided to do my pecha kucha on google trekker and why humans feel the need to explore because I had been asking myself that question recently. I went backpacking alone for four days over fall break, and my friend kept asking me why I was going, they said it was dangerous and I could hurt and stranded in the middle of the woods. I agreed with them, and went anyways, and thought the whole trip about why I wanted to go. After I got back, I still didn’t quite have an answer, so I ended up doing a bunch of research on the subject, and decided to use it as the topic of my pecha kucha.

For my presentation, I scripted about two thirds of it, and did the rest on the spot. The part I left unscripted was where I shared my own personal near death experience. I thought it would come across as more genuine if I didn’t script it, but I think I should have had some structure, such as bullet points of topics for each slide because I quickly got off track with the pictures in my slides.

Self-Driving Cars Could Save the World

Self-driven cars may bring about a transport revolution. They work off of sophisticated sensors and algorithms that allow self-driven cars to operate extremely efficiently, and safely, while also reducing congestion. However the costs and legal issues could potentially prohibit the proliferation of this technology

Continue reading Self-Driving Cars Could Save the World

Spiffy Robot Legs

In this Ted Talk, Hugh Herr discusses the origins of his interests with bionics after he lost his own legs in a climbing accident, how his prosthetic limbs integrate with his body, and he shares several stories of recipients of the bionic limbs he works with.

From 2:00 through 2:30, Herr discusses how he began creating his own prosthetic limbs to adapt to different climbing situations. By adjusting the shape of his feet, he could climb rock features that other climbers couldn’t.  In this section, Herr uses visuals heavily, showing examples of the different prosthetic limbs he crafted for climbing, his heavy usage of pictures videos, and diagrams is consistent later in the presentation when he discusses the more technical aspects of the bionic limbs he works on. His tone and expression are fairly constant throughout the presentation, there is a detectable hint of pride in his expression when he demonstrates how he can neurologically activate running. Herr uses some head and hand motions throughout his presentation, however it is more interesting to note that the cameras frequently zoom in on his bionic limbs. Herr also paces around the stage much more than any other TED presenter I’ve seen. This is because they are the primary focus of the presentation, and frankly they distract from the monotony of his voice.

Herr’s presentation is a mixture of a technical presentation as well as inspirational stories. Herr’s dry presentation style works very well for the technical elements, however not very well for the inspirational stories. This is why he use’s videos and other examples so heavily, as they are much better at appealing to people’s emotions and representing the mathematical modeling.

For example, at the end of the presentation, Herr shares a story of a girl who lost her leg in the Boston Marathon Bombing. He led a team to create mathematical models of dance steps so the girl could dance again with one the of bionic prosthetic limbs.

A Machinist’s Handbook

I decided to use an engineering reference handbook for this project. Since I took pictures of most pages, a link to an imgur album is the most efficient way to share it.

This reference handbook was made to condense a large amount of information into a single place and simplify problems to save time in a business setting. If you look at images 6, 7, 8, 12, or 15 you’ll see they’re filled entirely with reference information, and a lot of it is as simple as converting fractions to decimal, or converting units. This is because it saves time and reduces the number of steps in any process, thus reducing the likelihood of an error.

It also serves as an advertisement for the company’s products. For example, in image 5, and 18 there are advertisements for various work holding products, as well as advertisements of the company’s website and design tools. By selling their own reference handbook, it allows them to easily target a specific market demographic. If you look at the cover in image 1, you’ll see at the bottom left these handbooks were sold for two dollars, whereas similar, more complete reference handbooks are commonly sold for hundreds; this further reinforces my reasoning that this handbook was primarily made for advertising. Since it was cheaply priced, more copies would be sold and more people in the targeted demographic would be exposed to the company’s products and services. Since the handbook is made by a supposedly reputable business it also gains some credibility that the information in it is accurate.

It’s also interesting to point out that while this particular handbook was likely printed in the early 2000’s based on the copyright date on the cover, paper reference books like this are still used today despite the fact that all the information is likely available online. I think this is due to the fact that while the information is online, it’s not organized as well as a handbook, the information is there, it just needs to be searched for, and the information found may not be as accurate or well presented.

The Cons of Big Data in Science and Medicine

“In a big-data world, by contrast, we won’t have to be fixated on causality; instead we can discover patterns arid- correlations in the data that offer-US novel and invaluable insights; The correlations may not tell us precisely why something is happening, but they alert us that it is happening;

And-in many situations-this is good enough. If millions of electronic medical records reveal that cancer sufferers who take a certain combination of aspirin and orange juice see their disease go into remission, then the exact cause for the improvement in health may be less important than the fact that they lived.” (page 14)

Matters of science and discovery shouldn’t be considered solved because some correlation was found from mining through millions and billions of pieces of data, only once we reach an actual understanding.

This passage refers to one of the advantages of using big data to answer questions about the world we live in, that we don’t need to know what causes something to happen.  It allows researchers to find cause and effect relationships between two events or actions without needing to know the why or how in the middle. However it can also lead to poor medical practices through superfluous correlations, much like old fashioned medieval medical cures.

A quick google search on old medical cures yields some surprising results, such as placing a tuft of grass on your stomach to cure stomach pains, or making a child eat a rotten mouse would stop them from wetting the bed. To us, all these cures sound ridiculous, however the doctors of the times wouldn’t have used these “cures” if they themselves didn’t believe them to have an effect on their patient’s well being. These old cures likely came around in a similar way to the proposed orange juice and aspirin cancer cure example, a doctor tried it, found it effective, and stuck with it; it’s the same idea, but on a smaller scale.

However these methods are vulnerable to superfluous correlations between two variables. A superfluous correlation occurs when two variables appear to be related, when in reality there is no relation, this can be due to chance, or a hidden connection between them.

For example, there is a correlation between ice cream consumption and drowning. Ice cream consumption, does not cause drowning, the correlation is due the fact that ice cream consumption increases during the summer, as does the popularity of swimming.

Cancer remission may have nothing to do with aspirin and orange juice, but something else shared by the patients who regularly consume aspirin and orange juice.  If we cure cancer, but don’t know how it works, then we’re not really moving ahead, we’re falling behind.


Video Response



I decided to make my video response about how access to technology has changed the way Iearn and interact with others. I did this because when I was reading the article it made me think most about how my friends and I still use our phones to communicate subverbally even when we’re all together.

If I had done this response in the form of a blog post, it would have been much more organized. This is because I decided against reading from a script for my video response so that the video would feel more natural.  As a result of this I ended up using a lot more hand gestures and moving, however I had some unplanned pauses when I was transitioning between ideas or stuttering.

Most of the challenges I encountered with making a video response were related to technology. Before recording the video, I spent a significant amount of time trying to position myself and my laptop to avoid looking goofy.