STEAM it Up!

“I see Earth. It’s so beautiful!” exclaimed Yuri Gagarin during the first Earth orbit.

That’s awe.

Upon return, he pleaded that we not destroy her.

That’s compassion.

There was no GoPro to capture Earth’s beauty, no EEG to record his brain, no iPad to journal in and no education by internet.

Now when we ask astronauts “what’s it like?” to gaze at Earth, they can answer from a new perspective. Livestream their EEGs and ignite our imaginations with neuroscience in the cupola. In return we’ll STEAM it up with our own awe-inspired, compassionate stories.

That’s epic!

Imagine…

ISS Flyer 1.pagesAn astronaut prepares to enter the ISS cupola to see Earth for the first time from orbit.

She dons an EEG (electroencephalogram) skullcap to monitor her brain activity, a GSR (galvanic skin response) wristband, and goggles that not only record her view of Earth but also the focus of her gaze using eye tracking. A green light on a small camera mounted on round cupola window blinks on to read her facial expressions.

She floats in. She gasps, holds her breath and lets it out slowly.

And so do we.

Live streaming allows us to share this moment with her, and it’s oh, so intimate, her brain patterns of awe and wonder. We, the hundreds, if not thousands, of trained citizen scientists, also wearing Emotiv EPO+ mobile EEG’s, follow her gaze. Others watch on mobile devices via the Your Brain On Space apps. The distance between our minds and space transcended.

The view of Earth is a significant factor in astronauts’ ability to withstand many of the negative experiences of space travel. It contributes to their well being.

At the same time, over 230 health and medicine spinoffs, the results of NASA developed technologies and have contributed to healthier lives on Earth.

Perhaps it’s time for another. A spinoff to spin our perspective.

Perhaps it’s time to study goosebumps…

Your child looks up at you smiling. “I got goosebumps! It’s like I was floating in the astronaut’s shoes!”

ISS Flyer 1.pagesYou’re at Your Brain on Space Camp for the week to discover neuroscience for yourselves. You’ve just seen Earth from the astronaut’s perspective: the high jagged peaks of the Himalayas as well as the high jagged peaks of her EEG and biosensor metrics. Now, as Citizen Scientists, it’s time for you to review the data.

The user-friendly iMotion software which analyzed the astronaut’s emotions has also tracked yours and your child’s. You notice sometimes your brainwaves resemble that of the astronaut and each other and sometimes they’re in marked contrast.

“I was sad when I saw the pollution over China,“ says your child and points. “There’s my sadness on the graph. It’s blue.”

It’s time to reveal the data through your unique perspectives. Coached on the art of storytelling, you’ve learned to relive the journey each time you ‘tell.

Your child unconsciously moves to the rhythm of the ISS orbit. She recalls the astronaut’s awestruck eyes, the eye tracking path across hot shifting dunes and cold dancing auroras, and something elusive and profound that somehow she finds the words to express. Then you notice her voice has changed ever so slightly.

You share your tales with friends. Their mirror neurons recreate your stories and their cortex activity fires up in multiple areas. Listeners turn your stories into their own through neuro coupling. Your passionate ‘telling excites their brains to release dopamine. Now they will remember and retell. When you finish, your child hugs you and that, curiously, reminds you of the feeling you had looking at Earth. It was oh, so strong.

You get goosebumps.

Why STEAM it Up?

It’s very easy to get a child or adult to excitedly tell me about a time when he saw an amazing sky full of stars. I just have to say a couple of sentences, watch as his eyes shift to his own memory of awe, set my story aside and ask “What about you? Tell me yours.”

And I listen. I see the stars through and in their eyes. Each tale is truly unique. Each tale is very easy to recall.

Much easier way to absorb than new facts and figures.

It’s because we’re wired that way. We are storytelling machines. And we learn best through story.

When an astronaut prepares for and works aboard the ISS, she has opportunities to use all her intelligences or ‘smarts,’ often simultaneously. Where one astronaut differs from another is in the varying strengths of each intelligence. One strong in mathematical and natural abilities is chosen to learn NavStars; another whose visual-spatial and kinesthetic abilities is trained to manipulate the Canadarm2; and another’s to be a commander because of her interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.

The “smarts” used in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are the same as those used in the arts. STEAM or putting the Arts in STEM (aka arts integration) attracts students, otherwise perhaps not curious, to learn about a new subject and express their knowledge of it through their art of choice.

Through dance, one can demonstrate the movement of the planets. Through visual arts one can sketch lunar craters seen through a telescope. Through storytelling, we can connect the synapses of an astronaut in the cupola with ours on Earth.

Interestingly, oral storytelling allows both the ‘teller and the listeners to us all of our intelligences simultaneously. Even if the listener cannot see and only hear the ‘teller, it is sufficient to stimulate the sensorimotor areas of the brain. It’s one of the easiest to learn since it’s an art we all use in our everyday life.

Your Brain on Space Camp

Your Brain on Space Camps will be designed for parents, grandparents and children to experience neuroscience and space together, not an in-school program for teachers who are already overburdened.

Once crafted and audiotaped, the stories can be easily shared on multiple platforms: from NASA TV to StoryCorps, from 365 Days of Astronomy to YouTube, from The Moth to the World Science Festival, as well as at schools, planetariums and science centers.

Every decision , no matter how logical on the surface, is preceded by an emotional spark. Marketers to consumers and voters know that all too well and use narrative to persuade. However, no one likes to be manipulated. They like to be heard.

STEAM it up! is a unique way to invite the public to look up and, for the first time, look inward together. Perhaps this could create the political will for the kind of funding NASA envisions for its future.

There are other reasons to perform this experiment, perhaps multiple times.

Seeing Earth from space may be a unique “predictable”experience of awe. It’s been difficult to recreate or record in a laboratory setting and, to date, impossible to compare awe on Earth to that in space. Soon, however, space tourists who don EEG’s for their first parabolic flight may be able to contribute to that database.

The neuroscience data on awe is very intriguing with its links to curiosity and even altruism. Also, this approach could shift the focus of research from individuals in a laboratory setting to one that would include observation of Earth and social interaction.

Imagine an IMAX sized theatre with audience members wearing EPOC+ headsets watching 3D images of Earth. A neruoimaging study of crowd psychology.

Or perhaps at home wearing Google Glass. Further monitoring could include oxytocin and >>>>>>>>>>>

While innovation and technology might mitigate some of the effects of climate change, it’s compassion for each other that might make the difference between our species going extinct or thriving to search for other planets which we can newly call home.

Spinoffs to Spin Your Perspective

There are other reasons to perform this experiment, perhaps multiple times.

Seeing Earth from space may be a unique “predictable”experience of awe. It’s been difficult to recreate or record in a laboratory setting and, to date, impossible to compare awe on Earth to that in space. Soon, however, space tourists who don EEG’s for their first parabolic flight may be able to contribute to that database.

The neuroscience data on awe is very intriguing with its links to curiosity and even altruism. Also, this approach could shift the focus of research from individuals in a laboratory setting to one that would include observation of Earth and social interaction.

Imagine an IMAX sized theatre with audience members wearing EPOC+ headsets watching 3D images of Earth. A neruoimaging study of crowd psychology.

Or perhaps at home wearing Google Glass. Further monitoring could include oxytocin and >>>>>>>>>>>

While innovation and technology might mitigate some of the effects of climate change, it’s compassion for each other that might make the difference between our species going extinct or thriving to search for other planets which we can newly call home.

Citations

Thanks to the Giants on Whose Shoulders I Stand

Citations will be up by August 1, 2015.