Extending Wednesdays

ADHD medication on non-ADHD subjects

In today’s Extending Wednesday clip, UC Berkeley clinical psychologist Stephen Hinshaw discusses the psychological research on studies of the effects of ADHD medication on non-ADHD students, relating how, while the level of confidence of the students participating in the study typically drastically increased, their actual results told a rather different story. 

(Excerpt from Extending Ideas In Psychology)

This clip is an excerpt from Ideas Roadshow’s Extending Ideas Video in Psychology.  There are 7 different Extending Ideas Videos that are part of the extensive collection of authoritative expert resources for the extended essay that are part of Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal. Each video features five specific topics highlighted by Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP resources for a possible extended essay or internal assessment in that subject area.  Meanwhile, the comprehensive Ideas Roadshow Extended Essay Guide for Students highlights an additional 5 possible extended essay ideas for each of the 21 different DP subjects we cover.

Our IB-specific database also offers reliable expert resources in different formats – clips, compilation videos highlighting ideas from different perspectives, long-format videos plus accompanying, enhanced eBooks with lots of additional academic resources and more to construct an excellent essay from start to finish!

We offer all IB schools affected by Covid-19 free access for 1 month to Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal, an IB-specific database which includes an extensive collection of authoritative, digital resources for EE, TOK, TOK integration across the DP curriculum and 21 DP subjects. Please visit our website, HERE, for further details.

Extending Wednesdays

Money & Science

Today’s Extending Wednesdays topic comes from the Economics section of Ideas Roadshow’s Extended Essay Guide, and features renowned scientist and author Freeman Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study, reflecting on how underlying economic motivations often drive scientific inquiry. 

The fact that science, like any other human activity, is subjected to large-scale economic influences is hardly surprising when one stops to think about it, but often scientific activity is treated as somehow “beyond” standard economic frameworks with incentive structures considered to be based solely on internal scientific criteria or a more abstract, idealistic evaluation of “research interest”.

But Professor Dyson’s comments shed light on several important factors directly correlated with the economics of scientific research, ranging from a waste of human capital on a large-scale sociological level to an increased sense of personal and professional frustration on a personal one. 

This topic bridges Economics, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Geography and Environmental Systems and Societies.  Possible areas of investigation for an extended essay include analytical studies of the influence of economic factors on specific avenues of scientific research and the associated complexities of objectively quantifying innovation and productivity in the context of scientific research.

Related resources that are part of Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal include the clips Too Much String, and Suddenly Fashionable, as well as the hour-long videos and accompanying enhanced eBooks Pushing The Boundaries and The Problems of Physics which include a wealth of additional research materials.

If your school does not have an institutional subscription to Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal you can now sign up for an individual teacher or student subscription. Annual individual subscriptions cost only $99 and provide unlimited access to all resources that are part Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal.


Connecting Thursdays

Porous Boundaries

In what ways does historical knowledge progress?

For many people, it’s hard to think of a more static field of endeavour than history.  After all, everything that historians study happened in the past – often in the quite distant past – and the past, famously, doesn’t have the capacity to change. 

Those developing a TOK-related understanding may start to appreciate that things are not quite that black and white, as our current cultural values condition us to look differently at the same historical events than others who possess a different background would likely do.  

But what even a sophisticated TOK-aware person might miss is that some of those very values explicitly include historical categories themselves.  In this clip, Princeton University historian David Cannadine describes how recent historical understanding is beginning to re-assess the views that past historians thought were, well, written in stone.   

It’s worth mentioning that the filter of religious conflict is hardly the only one that Professor Cannadine takes aim at in his work on re-appraising what he calls the “boundaries of identity” as historical justification. In his book, The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences, and virtually all of the associated Ideas Roadshow IBDP videos, he examines no less than six different categories of what he calls “collective identity and collective antagonism” – religion, nation, class, gender, race and civilization – to demonstrate that, properly viewed, a proper historical understanding is invariably vastly more complicated than most people recognize.

Related resources and supporting materials that are part of Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal to explicitly integrate TOK in history:  TOK Connections Guide for History, TOK Connections Guide for English A: Language & Literature, TOK Connections Guide for SCA, Rethinking History (TOK), Towards Better Explanations (TOK), The Historian’s Task (TOK), History TOK Sampler.


  

Extending Wednesdays

Greening the Grid

Today’s Extending Wednesdays topic comes from the ITGS section of Ideas Roadshow’s Extended Essay Guide, where University of Michigan Business Professor Andy Hoffman describes a number of concrete measures needed to reinvent our current power grids so as to make them vastly more efficient and environmentally-friendly.

Professor Hoffman’s unique expertise at combining business innovation with environmental awareness make him extremely well-positioned to weigh in on the vital infrastructural concerns we are facing, together with a host of corresponding technological, environmental, social and economic challenges.

By focusing on specific aspects of how to coherently improve the power grid, students are provided with a wealth of different, overlapping factors to examine in depth – smart grid technology, demand loads, storage, distributed energy, and many more – all within a very specific and well-focused context. 

This topic bridges ITGS, ESS, Business Management, Chemistry, Economics and aspects of Design Technology.  Related Ideas Roadshow IBDP resources include the clips Energy Renaissance, Behaviour and Values and the hour-long video and accompanying enhanced eBook, Saving the World at Business School.

Extending Wednesdays

Crystallographic Conundrums

Today’s Extending Wednesdays topic comes from the Chemistry section of Ideas Roadshow’s Extended Essay Guide, where Paul Steinhardt, Professor of Physics at Princeton University, gives a detailed description of how a surprising result of his computer model of amorphous metals made him question the limits of the laws of crystallography for solids. 

Professor Steinhardt’s ruminations on whether or not the rules of cryptography could be extended to his computer simulations launched him on a remarkable voyage into the world of “quasicrystals”, a new state of matter which Dan Schechtman serendipitously simulated in a laboratory, a feat for which he was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. z

Paul Steinhardt’s path to quasicrystal discovery, meanwhile, went in a strikingly different direction, from the mathematics of symmetries, to theoretical predictions of a diffraction pattern that was unwittingly produced by Schechtman and his colleagues at almost exactly the same moment, to eventually stumbling upon a quasicrystal from a rock in Siberia that turned out to be, quite literally, out of this world.  

Possible areas of investigation for an extended essay include an analysis of the laws of crystallography for solids and the symmetries of materials, X-ray diffraction patterns and their use in material science, Penrose Tiles and their applications, and a history of quasicrystals.  This topic bridges chemistry, mathematics and physics. 

Related Ideas Roadshow content includes the clips Beyond The Textbooks, Natural Quasicrystals, Quasi-Serendipity, Scientific Stubbornness, Scouring Museums and the two hour-long videos Indiana Steinhardt & The Quest for Quasicrystals, along with the corresponding eBook with the same title. 


Connecting Thursdays

Undue Influence

Under what circumstances do authority figures inhibit the development of knowledge?

Most researchers like to proudly evoke the titans of their field. Biologists are quick to mention Darwin, mathematicians Gauss and historians Thucydides.  And even when limitations to their work are contemplated it’s done gently, with the utmost respect. You might think that The Republic’s view of the ideal society leans dangerously towards the totalitarian, or be hard at work on “extensions” to general theory of relativity, but the thought that Plato or Einstein had anything even remotely resembling a negative influence on philosophy or physics would never enter your head.  

But what about psychology? In particular, what about the figure of Sigmund Freud, doubtless the most famous psychologist the world has known and clearly one of the founding fathers of the entire discipline.    

In this clip, UC Berkeley sleep scientist Prof. Matthew Walker ruminates on how the enormous influence of Freud had a decidedly negative impact on the science of sleep and dreams – an influence that, he claims, we’re still living with.

Prof. Walker’s arguments are, it should be stressed, decidedly TOK-related. His concern doesn’t just focus on Freud as an authority figure and our unwillingness to question established opinion, it’s strongly related to his belief in the nature of appropriate evidence for a scientific theory – more specifically on how the inherently unverifiable nature of Freudian thinking is antithetical to our modern scientific principles. 

Related Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP resources and supporting materials:  TOK Connections Guide for Psychology, In Freud’s Shadow (TOK), Evolutionary Evidence (TOK), Sleep Attitudes (TOK), Sleep and Memory (TOK).

Extending Wednesdays

The Anthropic Principle

Today’s Extending Wednesdays topic comes from the Physics section of Ideas Roadshow’s Extended Essay Guide, where Nobel Laureate Tony Leggett discusses the so-called Anthropic Principle, an idea that begins with the recognition that our current models of particle physics contain within them a number of “fundamental constants” that have no prior explanation – they simply have to be accepted ahead of time, or, as physicists like to say, “put in by hand”.  

Well, most theories have some sort of axioms involved, so that, in itself, is not so significant.  What makes this case potentially different, however, is that the particular values of these constants seem remarkably special (“fine-tuned”, a physicist would say), with only a very narrow range being suitable for not only human life, but even the existence of stars and galaxies. Why, then, do we happen to have the very values of these constants that we seem to “need”? It is this that “The Anthropic Principle” purports to explain? Check out the video called The Anthropic Principle featuring Prof. Tony Leggett.

The recent history of The Anthropic Principle is an intriguing one all by itself, as scientific opinion has oscillated, often very frequently, from utter disdain at its “inherent unscientificness” to a wholehearted embrace. In the 1980s the celebrated science and mathematics writer Martin Gardner wrote mockingly about the “Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle” with its vividly ironic acronym (“CRAP”), while many theoretical physicists unquestionably accept it today.

This topic bridges physics and philosophy.  Possible areas of investigation for an extended essay include an examination of the history of the anthropic principle, current levels of acceptance in the scientific community, an analysis of the different types of anthropic principle (e.g. “weak”, “strong”) and a discussion on its compatibility with the scientific method.

Related Ideas Roadshow IBDP resources include the clip The Anthropic Principle, the compilation video Anthropic Reflections, and the eBooks and hour-long videos The Problems of Physics and Pushing the Barriers.

Your school has not subscribed yet? Visit our website – HERE – to learn more about Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal which offers an extensive database of authoritative video and print resources explicitly created to meet the needs of both teachers and students throughout the Diploma Programme.


Extending Wednesdays

The Derveni Papyrus

Today’s Extending Wednesdays topic comes from the History section of Ideas Roadshow’s Extended Essay Guide, where University of Michigan classicist Richard Janko describes the Derveni Papyrus, a half-burned manuscript found on an ancient funeral pyre in northern Greece in 1962.

This makes it the oldest surviving European book, with the common consensus being that the funeral took place sometime in the 4th century BCE.  While that alone would certainly justify historical interest, that turns out to be only the tip of the iceberg, because by far the most fascinating thing about the Derveni Papyrus isn’t its age, but rather what it actually says. Make sure to watch the video called The Derveni Papyrus.

The story of the Derveni Papyrus is a fascinating combination of archaeology, mythology, science, politics and sociology with no one clear professional consensus that has emerged to date.  Professor Janko, for his part, believes that it strongly supports the view of a “culture war” between rival camps of “traditional religion” and “modern science” in Classical Athens. 

Given this breadth of impact combined with its narrow focus on a particular manuscript, an associated extended essay could go off in many intriguing directions, from a history of the manuscript itself, funeral practices in the classical world, the technology of deciphering ancient manuscripts, cultural tension in ancient Athenian society, and many other topics.  

Related Ideas Roadshow content includes the clips Ancient Culture Wars?, Divining the Date, Idealizing Democracy and Putting the Pieces Together, the compilation videos Classical Greece, Being a Historian and History and Politics, and the eBook and hour-long video The Derveni Papyrus.

Your school has not subscribed yet? Visit our website – HERE – to learn more about Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal which offers an extensive database of authoritative video and print resources explicitly created to meet the needs of both teachers and students throughout the Diploma Programme.


Extending Wednesdays

Phantom Limb Pain

Today’s Extending Wednesdays topic comes from the Biology section of Ideas Roadshow’s Extended Essay Guide which you can find in the EE section of Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal, where Duke University neuroscientists Jennifer Groh and Miguel Nicolelis highlight how the intriguing phenomenon of “phantom limb pain” can be used to probe a wealth of issues related to the structure of our brains. 

Excerpt from the clip Suddenly Painful featuring Prof. Jennifer Groh


While Professor Groh focuses on the mysteries underlying what “spontaneous neural firing” really means, her fellow neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis invokes phantom limb pain as direct support for his belief that the brain actively constructs our representation of the world around us rather than simply recording sensory inputs, as biologists long believed:

“Interestingly enough, if you now change the framework and you put the brain in the centre of the picture, you find a completely different explanation for phantom limb pain. If you appreciate that the brain has an internal model of the body, which it has developed over the years, now what happens when you lose part of it? Suddenly, the brain has an internal model that is mismatched to the body and it is this mismatch that generates the illusion that you still have a part of yourself that has disappeared.”

Possible areas of investigation for an extended essay include an analysis of the history of phantom limb pain, competing scientific explanations, current and future experiments and implications for our general understanding of brain structure. 

Related Ideas Roadshow content includes the clips Suddenly Painful, Constantly Testing, the compilation video Examining the Brain and the enhanced eBooks and hour-long videos Knowing One’s Place: Spatial Processing and the Brain and Minds and Machines.

Your school has not subscribed yet? Visit our website – HERE – to learn more about Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal which offers an extensive database of authoritative video and print resources explicitly created to meet the needs of both teachers and students throughout the Diploma Programme.


Extending Wednesdays

The Drake Equation

Today’s Extending Wednesdays topic comes from our Extending Ideas in Mathematics video, where renowned astronomer and former longtime SETI director of research Jill Tarter discusses the famous equation that Frank Drake developed in the 1960s to help us best assess the likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligence in the universe. 

This intriguing topic naturally straddles a vast number of different fields, encompassing mathematics (through its pioneering use of statistical arguments), physics (through associated measurement and observational techniques), biology (definitions of life and intelligence), philosophy (the epistemic validity of such statistical techniques) and social and cultural anthropology (the validity of extrapolating the notions of intelligence and civilisation based upon our own experiences). 

While this wide variety of possible angles of attack might well raise suspicions about the likelihood of developing a suitably refined research question, more direct and focussed possibilities associated with this general topic include:

  1. An analysis of the current state of our knowledge of the specific parameters of the Drake equation
  2. An examination of its degree of recognition throughout the scientific community
  3. To what extent the biological category of “extremophiles” have changed the basic definition of life, together with specific examinations of extremophiles
  4. The rapidly evolving state of our understanding of exoplanets and related astronomical techniques for detecting them
  5. An assessment of how the prospect of extraterrestrial life influences the way we look at our own

Related resources that are part of Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal include the clips A Cosmic Perspective, Frank Drake’s Agenda, Fermi’s Paradox, Hunting Exoplanets, Technology as a Proxy, and the hour-long video SETI: Astronomy as a Contact Sport plus the accompanying eBook with lots of additional reference materials.

  Your school has not subscribed yet? Visit our website – HERE – to learn more about Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal which offers an extensive database of authoritative video and print resources explicitly created to meet the needs of both teachers and students throughout the Diploma Programme.