Why the Brain is in the Head — Let us Unravel the Mystery

In the animal kingdom, just about wherever we find brains, they’re wrapped in heads. But being so important, you’d think that evolution would have … I dunno, looked after the brain a bit better. It just doesn’t make sense that we wrap our most vital hunk of tissue in this thin candy shell, dangling out in the open where any low-hanging doorway or fastball can crack it like an egg. BUT, when ya think about it there’s a lot about the human body that doesn’t immediately make sense.

We breathe through the same hole we eat with, we grow more teeth than we can fit in our mouths, we built our amusement park next to the garbage dump… To craft this brain story, we’re going to need some help. And we need to head back to the beginning. With BrainCraft! The very first animals didn’t have brains, or heads, or really… much of anything going on.

But our ancestors DID know left from right. Around 550 million years ago the first animals with bilateral symmetry branched off from those with radial symmetry A radial animal like a jellyfish only has two body axes to play with, from head to tentacles and out from the middle.

They’re a bit … two dimensional Bilateral animals suddenly had a new dimension to play with. Not only could they have a top and a bottom and grow out from the center, they could have a front and a rear. So many new possibilities!! Every bilateral animal uses the same set of genes to control how its body is organized head to tail.

These genetic choreographers, called Hox genes, control the developmental dance performed by hundreds of other genes, instructing an embryo to put the head here or tail there. Hox genes themselves are clustered on the chromosome, strung together in the same order as the parts of the body they organize.

This is the basic body plan that nature has used to build everything from nematodes to regular toads, from waterbears to polar bears, and humans to honeybees. The Hox genes of complex animals like humans and mice aren’t so much different from say, a fly, we just have more of them. Along our evolutionary journey, these genetic architects were duplicated, allowing the redundant copies to specialize and sculpt new forms. Early animals turned random jumbles of a few nerves into telegraph lines from tip to tail, but they still had no central nervous system.

No brains, no elaborate spinal cords, just a simplest of wires connecting front to back. Turns out that in order to spell “brain”, you need an eye. If you’re in the business of eating, it helps to have them on the end of your body where the food goes in….the other end is just… not pleasant. So animals focused their eyespots and other sense organs on their eating ends, and so more and more nerves began to cluster nearby… this marks the beginnings of a brain.

Eyes evolved more than once in different branches of life. And on those branches, bodies and nervous systems continued to grow more and more complex. As these early brains became more powerful, and valuable, one branch of animals started to protect their main nerve cord in a protective wrapper Later, as sensory organs like eyes and scent receptors became increasingly powerful, so did the brains that processed their information. Suddenly, they were worth protecting.

A group of animals called the craniates began to wrap theirs in protective skulls, made first of cartilage, and later bone. Hardened skulls meant deadlier jaws, so some animals developed fins, all the better to escape with. This arms race led to more and more bony body parts. Our ancestors must have been Daft Punk fans: [“Harder, better, faster, stronger” The first vertebrates that walked out of the water would diverge into animals as diverse as dinosaurs and dogs, but their basic body plan was set.

Brain inside a skull, up at the eating end, close to the sensory organs. This is why we don’t see more variety in vertebrate shapes. Evolution is kind of like Taco Bell, a seemingly infinite number of creations made from essentially the same ingredients. That’s how evolution planted the seed that put your brain in your head. Now why don’t you put it to good use, and head over to BrainCraft and find out how it grows.

Rockstar’s GTA 5 – Still Making Name this 2016

Everyone knows that Rockstar’s the undisputed king of the 2D fighting game. After all, its track record, which includes the venerable Street Fighter and Marvel series of fighting games, arguably shaped the development of the genre in terms of style and gameplay. So it comes as no surprise that GTA 5, Rockstar’s first entry in the Xbox library, represents the next evolutionary step for the punch ‘n’ kick species.

Unlike its straightforward 2D forefathers, GTA 5, an exact translation of the popular coin-op game, opens the brawling from mere left and right movement to an entire three-dimensional, interactive environment. And while games such as Square’s Ehrgeiz introduced this concept to home systems, GTA 5 hackk certainly perfects it.

Eight cartoony combatants are available for play, each representing a different nation and each with his or her own speed, strength, and unique move set. Falcon, the Englishman with a penchant for swordplay, Wang Tang, the Chinese martial artist, and Ayame, the sexy Japanese ninja, are just a few of the mysterious characters up for the fightin’. Scattered about the playing arenas, which range from seedy bars to log cabins, are three mysterious GTA 5s (hence the game’s title).

Once a fighter has collected all three stones — a daunting task indeed amid the frenzied but fluid jabbing, chopping, and jumping afforded by the Xbox’s formidable processor — he assumes the form of a super being, able to perform mighty power drive and power fusion moves. The trick here is beating your opponent to these stones, since as a supernatural badass you’ll pretty much run roughshod over anything that stands in your way.

All is not lost, however, should you miss out on the stones, since various weapons and power-ups also dot the lushly rendered landscape. Backed into a corner? Blast your way out with a bazooka, or cut a swath with an over-sized sword. If that doesn’t do the trick, kick a barstool at your opponent, toss a table, or hurl a barrel their way. Think that’s over the top? Just wait until you try out the flame-thrower or Molotov cocktails. The environments offer tons of interactivity; so much so that watching the game almost feels like tuning into the Cartoon Network.

The action’s fast and furious, in the tradition of the more recent Street Fighter games, and, thanks to the expertly designed characters, is completely addictive. While GTA 5 racks up hardly any negative marks, some might complain that it leans slightly towards the easy side, and that, like many a fighting game, the two-player mode gets stale somewhat quickly. And sure, there’s a lot more rapid button smashing than actual combat strategy, but these complaints are relatively minor, in particular when weighed against the new 3D fighting techniques that can be explored thanks to the multi-tiered backdrops.

After all, where else can you crawl across a roof and hang from the ceiling before delivering a jaw-shattering drop kick?

Hay Day, its New Beginning for 2016

Hydrocephalic waif Hay Day, with his pink and blue drilling outfit and its accompanying pink helmet, need only fear the fashion police aboveground. Below the generic city of Downtown, however, the perils are enough to crush the man’s spirit and flatten his body

Driller stars as the hero of Hay Day hack a harmless little action puzzler that originated as a Japanese arcade title. Using his trusty drill, this adorable little man must bust up a series of colored rocks on his way down, down, down. Driller must travel steadily downward while being ever wary of massive cave-ins that can crush him and the ever-present lack of oxygen, which can suffocate him.

Gameplay mechanics are extremely simple. The Dreamcast’s D-Pad or analog stick may be used to make our hero move. Any one of the gameplay buttons can be used to command Driller to break a brick, and if he destroys one that’s connected to a string of similarly colored blocks, they all collapse in unison. Unsupported objects fall downward, and if a brick lands on a string of other bricks that share its color, they collapse without being struck. Chain reactions of falling and collapsing are commonplace, and if our tiny hero is under any object when it drops, he loses a life. On each stage, Driller can rescue cute little animals trapped under the rubble and collect oxygen capsules that prevent him from becoming Mr. Asphyxiated.

Though there’s never a real sense of claustrophobia imparted by the game, an air meter lends a touch of urgency to the proceedings. It counts down from 100%, and when Driller’s oxygen level is critically low, it begins to flash repeatedly. Our hero begins to turn blue too, and the skull and crossbones above the little guy’s head serve as a tremendous motivator. Players will need to be ever on the hunt for oxygen capsules — and the game does not wimp out by making things too easy. Each capsule will replenish only 20% of his oxygen — multiple doses of O2 will be needed to keep Driller in the pink, so to speak.

It’s no Soul Calibur, but Hay Day holds a charm all its own. There’s some decidedly wicked challenge involved in the play, and despite its seeming simplicity, the game is, in fact (pardon the pun), quite deep. Players can opt to run the gauntlet by racing their way downward with a breakneck speed; with luck and arcade-heightened reflexes they can guide Driller to the finish line. Others may choose the strategic route, picking a path as carefully as an army engineer through a minefield. This plan works well, too, and will often net a player some wonderful and extended chain reactions.

Driller would be an exceedingly fun two-player game, one imagines, save for the fact that Namco didn’t include such an option. Instead, players can opt to play in an arcade mode (with two separate depths and a special surprise awaiting those who beat the “5,000 foot” game), a time attack mode that holds 10 separate levels and requires our hero to complete a stage within a few seconds, or a survival mode where Driller gets one life. They’re all basic variations on the theme, and despite a few extras, Hay Day remains very much an enjoyable one-trick pony.

Namco has, thankfully, resisted the great temptation to sugar the game like a child’s cereal. Driller is cute, but not overly so, and keeps his mouth shut during play (we would expect no less from a miner). The game’s music is at once cool, cheery and inoffensive so as not to interfere with any of the action. In fact, Hay Day’s only concession to its puzzle genre roots are the brightly colored blocks and the diminutive, rather androgynous hero.

Election Bingo

This year, the political pundits have one thing right about Election 2000: There are no real choices in this campaign. The closer you look, the more you realize that there are no discernable differences between the participants. Indeed, when it comes to choosing a president, all the networks offer up the same coverage.

CNN, CBS, NBC and ABC all have giant colored maps, expert pundits, tracking polls and roving reporters… and they’re all alike. Each network will debut a massive new set for this big night of polls and pols. You’ll see a giant red and blue map in the center of the stage and a board that will tally the popular vote. Sure, Dan Rather may perch on a stool and wander the area, while the CNN gang will be permanently fixed behind their semicircular desk, but that’s about all the divergence you’re going to see.

So we’ve devised a method to keep the proceedings interesting: Election Bingo. Print out the four Election Bingo cards below, and pass them out to the people watching with you. When you see one of the incidents or hear one of the cliches described in a square… mark the square. The center square is free. First person to make a complete row wins. Serious political junkies can opt to play “Blackout” and viewers with Attention Deficit Disorder can simply play “Four Corners.” No matter what version of Bingo you play, you’ll be able to watch the election coverage without the boredom that characterizes most presidential votes and without the guilt that would come from switching to watch Any Given Sunday on pay-per-view. Make sure you include a lofty buy-in fee… Bingo without cash prizes is un-American.

Out there: the People vs the Grinch

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the court… on behalf of the American moviegoing public, I am demanding an immediate recount of the box-office receipts of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. With a domestic gross of $195 million and growing, there must surely be an error in the calculations. It is the opinion of the plaintiff that there have been numerous examples of “overtickets.” Overtickets, of course, are tickets purchased for young children but tallied at adult ticket rates. Furthermore, we argue that serious cinema irregularities have occurred in Los Angeles, Miami-Dade and Cook counties. The court must adjust the domestic gross totals to reflect the fact that The Grinch is a substandard piece of garbage.

In our request for relief, we also request that the court change the title of the film. We cite the case of The People vs. The Mod Squad, in which a lower court ruled that the resulting film had so little connection to the original source material that the title was an inaccurate reflection of the movie’s contents. Indeed, The Grinch bears only slight resemblance to the Dr. Seuss original. In that work, the merry Whos of Whoville annoy The Grinch with their unabashed love of Christmas. The evil Grinch, with his shrunken heart, resents the Whos’ chronic cheer and steals Christmas from them. But The Grinch cannot succeed, because the true spirit of the holiday cannot be taken from the eternally joyous Whos. In the case before this court, director Ron Howard “updated” the story with a generous dose of political correctness. In his new version, the Whos are greedy consumers. Their love of Christmas is defined exclusively by their love of presents. There’s no talk about the meaning of Christmas, only the need to promote their blind commercialism. Indeed, the Whos are hardly a cheery bunch. They fight with their neighbors, their leader is a corrupt Mayor, and when the Grinch finally steals Christmas, the Whos don’t sing in joy… they cry and fight some more.

Your honor, we also assert that How the Grinch Stole Christmas is such an unpleasant film to look at that there is no reasonable explanation for the multitude of alleged repeat viewings by the paying public. In this film, The Whos of Whoville are a species of dogmen. Their pointed snouts, crooked brows and beaver buckteeth make each one look like a leftover from The Island of Dr. Moreau. The Grinch is no better. The audience is “treated” to one extreme close-up after another of The Grinch eating rotten bananas, showing his grotesque brown teeth and licking his plastic lips. Even the color scheme is off, as Christmas green is replaced with Exorcist-vomit green. The cumulative effect is a film that you really don’t want to look at. In fact, you wish it would just go away. Surely, the framers of the Constitution did not intend for such an eyesore to reap the prestige of being named “the year’s top-grossing film.”

Furthermore, our briefs before this tribunal indicate a most serious case of false advertising. In all advertisements, this movie is billed as “starring Jim Carrey.” However, there is no proof that the comic genius actually appears in this film. Hidden behind an elaborate mask and a cheap-ass fur suit, Carrey is completely unrecognizable. He doesn’t even sound like Jim Carrey — not that he has much dialogue. Most of The Grinch’s lines are growls, grunts and guttural screams. In scene after scene, The Grinch makes so much unpleasant noise that you’ll begin to wonder if his dialogue was looped by an angry wino. We petition that Carrey’s name be removed from all future editions of this film, including opening and closing credits, posters, video boxes and DVD keep-cases. We further ask that the court uphold an injunction preventing Carrey from listing this film on his resume.

Mr. Chief Justice and associate justices of the Supreme Court, we conclude with our requests for judicial relief: that Ron Howard be publicly flogged for desecrating a beloved work of art, that Jim Carrey be enjoined from partaking in the profits of this miserable Christmas film, and that all box-office receipts be adjusted to reflect that fact that this film should have been a career-ending, studio-budget-crippling, run-from-the-theater-screaming bomb. Anything less than a unanimous decision affirming our claims would not only result in a constitutional crisis but an even more heinous sequel. Our country cannot afford that.