Daily Archives: October 8, 2016

The Effect of “Aquatic Ambiance”

Video game music has come a long way since its beginnings in the late 20th century, from chiptunes to, nowadays, sometimes full orchestra settings. However, some of the greatest music of all time came from the earlier stages of sound development for games, including David Wise’s compositions for the Donkey Kong Country series. Opinions aside, looking objectively at possibly one of Wise’s most famous works, “Aquatic Ambiance” has a unique effect on players that sets it above many other game tracks.

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Super Nintendo version of Donkey Kong Country’s North American cover.

According to an interview with David Wise, he was inspired by a technique called “Wave Sequencing” on the Korg Wavestation, and attempted to replicate it on the SNES. In his replication of “Wave Sequencing” that used single cycle waveforms, he actually discovered effects that he liked and kept, such as distortions and harmonics.

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“Coral Capers,” the first level in Donkey Kong Country to feature the theme “Aquatic Ambiance.”

But what made the music great was the strategic placement of it, and the psychological effects that resulted. PsychCentral’s article, The Power of Music To Reduce Stress, describes how certain music can affect us in calming ways. It has the power to slow your pulse and heartrate, as well as lower blood pressure, and decrease stress hormone levels.

Now consider the levels where this theme is used. It plays in all of the water levels in the game, which are known for being tricky, as the controls are different when swimming. Additionally, the characters move slower than on land, which sometimes messes with reaction time when trying to avoid certain enemies. Placing tranquilizing music in levels like these serves to calm players who are having a frustrating time in these difficult moments in the game.

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Artwork for the Super Nintendo version.

Research sources:
David Wise interview
Music and Stress Reduction

Image sources:
American SNES Cover
Coral Capers
Artwork

Video sources:
Aquatic Ambiance

Giant Panda

Recently, one of the famous science news talked about that giant panda is not endangered any more due to the hard working of the Chinese government. However, since giant panda is an endemic species which can only survive in China, it is not a well known animal over the world. Due to my personal interest on cute animals. I did some researches on giant pandas. And I will present them in three parts, including external features, living conditions and culture.

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External Features

Big black ears, black circle around eyes, black arms and legs with white in the center of the body. These terms correctly describe the external features of pandas which only including two colors on their bodies. The color of black and white helps them to hide under the snow or a dark bosk in order to avoid enemies. Moreover, their claws are mostly sharp which assists them to catch or eat food. Giant pandas, just as their names, are really huge and male pandas usually are bigger than female pandas.

Living Conditions

Even though pandas become famous these years, they actually stayed for thousands of years in the world as an existent proof of ancient animals. And each of them usually lives for twenty to thirty years. As an endemic species, giant panda has a high requirement for living. One of their hard requirements includes high humidity which needs to be over eighty percent. And also for the most part of their lives, giant pandas only eat bamboos and water as their food. Except eating, they usually spend half the day to get enough sleep which becomes one of the causes of heavy weight. Also this habit decreases their energy consumption.

beijing_2008_olympic

Culture

As a national animal in China, giant pandas also becomes a symbol of the Olympic Games named friendlies in Beijing, China. There are five of them including Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, and Nini. Each of them represents different meanings which are prosperous,happiness, passion, health and luckiness. Also, there is a movie related to the giant panda called Kung Fu Panda. If you are interested in, you can click on the you tube video showing below. Kung Fu Panda

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Recently, a show including pandas which just born happened in China and attracted many visitors from different countries. And there is an interesting picture describes that a panda wanted to play with his neighbor but fell down from the stage. Last, if you want to travel to China, you can stop by in Chengdu, Sichuan to visit giant pandas. I am sure they will give you a big welcome party using their cute body languages. And even though giant pandas are not endangered animals anymore, they still need protections because of the low birth rate.

Sources:

  1. Giant Panda Facts
  2. Baby Panda
  3. No Longer in Danger

The Academic Merit of Extracurricular Activities

maxresdefault    This past Thursday, I played my first concert with the Penn State philharmonic orchestra. Playing cello is something that I really enjoy doing, but it is a very large time commitment. Since the main reason to attend college is to learn and succeed academically, should students consider extra curricular activities? Do they distract from the learning environment, or do they create a more desirable applicant and prospect for recruiters?

My first inquisition on my journey to answer this question was to search for a relationship between extracurricular involvement and GPA. This study found that not only were students involved in extracurricular activities more likely to have an A or B average when compared to other students, but were less likely to skip class. This study is observational because it simply examines certain statistics rather than manipulating a variable. Because of this, it can only show a correlation between extra curricular activities and academic success. A correlation makes it impossible for me to conclude that extra activities lead to higher academic performance. It is possible, for example, that students who succeed academically will automatically be drawn to extra curricular activities (reverse causation) or that a third variable, like a student’s level of motivation, leads to both extra-curricular success and academic performance (confounding variable).

Unable to prove a causal relationship between extracurricular activities and academic performance, I decided to examine a different area that could also possibly be benefitted by participation in co-curricular activities- employment. When deciding to audition for the Penn State orchestra, I reasoned that future employers may like to see that I possess the time management skills and work ethic required to participate in such a group. Could it be possible that all different kinds of activities, such as music, sports, and clubs, lead to higher employment rates? I was unable to find an experiment or strong observational study about this topic, however I did come across a case study. Here, the topic of the study discusses her extra-curricular endeavors in college and the skills she built with them that helped her obtain a career. She even goes as far as to say that she wishes she were more heavily involved with these activities and participated in them earlier. As convincing as this sounds, I do not believe that this is strong evidence for a relationship between extra curricular activity participation and post-college employment. Because it is only one woman’s data, it is considered anecdotal evidence. Scientifically, anecdotal evidence is very weak. While it is very possible that extra-curricular activities demonstrate passion, work ethic, and skill to employers, thus making a prospect more desirable, I do not have the evidence to support this idea.

After researching some of the possible benefits to extra-curricular activities, I decided to look into some of the adverse effects they may have on students. One concern of students and parents alike are the time commitments of extra-curricular activities. It is possible, for example, that students will spend less time studying and thus receive lower grades from participating in extracurricular activities. Studies that I have found, including the one mentioned earlier, seem to prove this assertion erroneous. I believe it is safe to conclude that any adverse effects of extra-curricular activities are minimal, if they exist at all due to evidence supporting the idea that these activities increase academic success rather than diminishing it.

Overall, It seems like participating in extra-curricular activities is a very good idea for students. In addition to the strong correlation between these activties and GPA, there are many other benefits that are difficult to quantify like enjoyment of the particular activity and exclusive networking opportunities. While my research does not imply a causal relationship, there are no apparent downsides to these activities unless they are taken to an extreme level of commitment. I will continue my participation in the philharmonic orchestra for both personal and professional reasons, and I encourage others to find a club or organization here at Penn State to get involved in as well.