Mesmerizing New Augmented Reality Sandbox Demonstrates Hydrology in Action

In the library lobby, students stand transfixed by the sandbox. As they smooth, spread, and pile up sand, an infrared light above them senses their movements and responds to the changing landscape they’re creating.

The tool is Bowdoin’s new augmented sandbox, which mesmerizes as it demonstrates hydrological and geological concepts, such as how water moves through land, both during floods and in droughts.

“One of the aims of this device is to help people visualize topography, watersheds, and catchment areas — what they look like in three dimensions,” explained Paul Benham, an academic technology consultant at Bowdoin.

With help from Bowdoin’s physics machine shop, Benham created the augmented reality sandbox and set it up in the library this semester. Its permanent home will be in Druckenmiller Hall, where students studying earth and oceanographic science can use it to augment their studies.

America’s Elite Prepare for Doomsday (New Yorker)

The New Yorker explores the preoccupation of “super-rich” Americans with the apocalypse. In both Silicon Valley and New York, some of the wealthiest citizens prepare for the end of civilization by amassing supplies and building shelters.

Groups meet both in person and online to trade survivalist tips in case of a government collapse or a climate change disaster. Read more.

Why Smart People Tend To Be Loners (PsyBlog)

New research finds that intelligent people become less satisfied with life the more they socialize with friends.

While you might be tempted to suggest that these smarties wise up and ditch their downer buddies, the authors of the study published in the British Journal of Psychology have other perspectives, including the notion that intelligence facilitates adaptation to the modern world, where a pack mentality is no longer vital to survival. More in PsyBlog.

Do You Know the History of Your Terrible Breath? (Smithsonian)

The Roman poet Ovid wrote millennia ago: “She whose breath is tainted should never speak before eating,” he instructed in The Art of Love, “and she should always stand at a distance from her lover’s face.”

Bad breath has been a dilemma for the ages. As The Smithsonian details, the answer to why this “scourge” is so persistent “requires a 2,000-year detour through history, and might say more about our own social neuroses than about the scientific causes of this condition.”