This week’s curiosity box is about 

1 – What is the story behind the chorus?

2 – What is the science behind burnouts?

3 – Can you control machines through webcams?

1 – What is the story behind the chorus?

20 feet from stardom is next on my to-watch documentaries on Netflix. It is about the artists who are not in the spotlight during world-renowned singers’s concerts. As I realised that the concept of the chorus not only exists in music but also in drama, I got intrigued to read more about it. As I rewound the idea, I found myself reading about religious practices in Greece that involved women running around the village and tearing apart animals.

The story of how drama (the kind we know of today) originated from quasi-religious practices in Greece is interesting. In the 6th century BCE, Dionysus was one of the popular Gods amongst the people in Greece. On one hand there were wild rituals like the one where women ran around tearing animals apart. On the other hand, there were rituals where people would go on long processions singing praises called Dithyrams. 

Slowly the rituals evolved as groups of singers started to act and build a dialogue with the lead singer. And this practice eventually became theatre and drama.

The question “who is more important – the main singer or the chorus?”- is a great philosophical debate one can have. But however the debate tilts, one can not ignore the fact that chorus singers reinforce and bolster the artistic elements of the drama or the concert.

2 – What is the science behind burnouts?

When I set myself a goal to maximise every day with productive tasks, a burnout was imminent. After I logged off on Friday, I had a quick dinner and sat down to work on this curiosity box. I have no idea what happened, but my body and mind just refused to cooperate with each other. Luckily, I was able to rejuvenate myself after 11 straight hours of sleep.

The feeling of burnout is no subjective matter alone because there are physical changes that happen in our brains. 

  • The amygdala gets enlarged; this increases moodiness and increases stress response.
  • It thins out the prefrontal cortex; this affects the cognitive functioning of our brain.
  • Regions that control our attention span, problem-solving solves, working memory, and ability to learn are all affected, which leads to poor performance.

The ability to cope with burnouts is subjective, and it comes down to the individual’s capability to handle the workload and manage expectations. But the condition persists as the majority of burnout cases have been associated with occupations and workplace stress. The World Economic Forum predicts that burnouts cost the global economy £255 billion.

Yes, sleep is one of the best medicines to reduce cortisol (stress-causing hormones), but that can not be the remedy whenever one gets burnt-out. A few more coping mechanisms are needed to be in place for a more sustainable method of staying highly productive.

3 – Can you control machines through webcams?

Last week, my colleagues asked, “Can we develop a system that would allow us to control machines through CCTV cameras?”

With the advent of new tech, such questions are no longer only meant for dystopian sci-fiction novels. Scientists in the US (one of which is a good friend of mine) have developed systems that could detect if a 3D printer is not working the way it should. If this can be done, then it is without a doubt to the question my colleagues asked – yes, we can control machines through CCTV cameras.

The underlying science behind how this work is relatively straightforward but complex. One of the main methods used in the process is called Principal Component Analysis (PCA). You can narrow down your analysis by observing if the few parameters stay within the conditions you set before. 

Computer vision is a budding field of technology where the possibilities now seem limitless. Through cameras, one can find out someone’s pulse without touching them or determining the structural properties of materials. 

The video below is worth a watch during your free time.

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