Category Archives: news

“Seeing” Music: How Synesthesia is Viewed by an Artist

I recently gave my wonderful grade seven students an assignment, titled “Science in the News” (click the link to take a look at the assignment), where they are asked to find a current event article and complete a written, visual and oral component to the article.  I wont go into details on what each component is, but I will demonstrate some examples that I came up with this week to model how this assignment might look.  So… here is article number one I would like to share.

© 2014 by Melissa S. McCracken

VISUAL COMPONENT: Here is the mini-movie I made about the article.


TOPIC – The topic of the article is human anatomy, more specifically the human brain.  The topic could also be under biology.

TITLE: The title of the article is “Here’s How an Artist with Synesthesia ‘Sees’ Famous Songs”

ARTICLE SOURCE: The article was found on the website


Synesthesia – a rare neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory pathway (such as sound) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second pathway (such as sight).  An artist who has synesthesia is able to not only hear music but can see or visualize the music as well.  Synesthesia is a very rare neurological condition.

Neurological: referring to the nervous system of the human body.  There are many different neurological diseases that can affect the human brain, such as Alzheimers.

Stimuli: something in the environment that causes us to react.The balloon popped and we all jumped.  In that scenario, the popping balloon was the stimulus and when we all jumped that was our reaction.


Artist Melissa McCracken, an artist from Kansas City, has a rare neurological condition known as synesthesia.  What this means is that Melissa will actually experience music as two things: something she hears and something she sees.  She experiences sounds as images and colours while listening to music.  To better share her experiences with synesthesia, Melissa decided to listen to some of the most popular songs from the last 30 years of music and paint what she saw.  She has been painting these images since 2014.  Scientists are still not sure what causes synesthesia.  The human brain and its abilities continues to be a very complex and mysterious part of the body.  Her paintings are available for sale from her website.


When reading the article, I was fascinated about the idea that people could see music.  When I took a university course on the brain, I also heard stories about people being able to taste shapes!  I wonder if it would be possible to taste music?  I think that being someone with synesthesia could be very difficult, because there would be a lot of sensory information that you would have to “deal” with at one time, rather than just hearing or listening.  I chose this article because not only do I really like science and the human brain, but I think that music and art are a large part of how wonderful our brain is and what it allows us to see and feel.  I also picked the article because I really liked her paintings and I wanted to know more about what songs she had picked to pain. I would be very curious how much one painting would be to buy!


I think that the impact this article has is mostly on the understanding that people may or may not have on synesthesia and how it can impact or influence the lives of others.  Reading the article actually gave me a greater appreciation for not just art but for what some people live with each and every day.  Some questions that I would have for the artist are:

  • What was your favourite song to paint?
  • Did one genre or type of song show the same sorts of paintings? (i.e. did rock music have lots of “sharp” or “pointed” parts of a painting??)
  • How did you feel while painting?

Consequences of the ‘Cinnamon Challenge’

It appears that doing that Cinnamon Challenge may actually have some dangerous effects on your respiratory system…

A recent journal article published by pediatricians in the USA seems to point towards information that shows that the challenge has led to a growing number of calls to poison control centres and visits to the emergency room.  Some teens have even suffered from collapsed lungs and ended up on ventilators.

In 2011 in the USA, there were 51 calls to the poison control centre related to the Cinnamon challenge.  Then at the start of 2012, that number jumped to 178, and 30 of those calls required immediate medical attention for burning airways, nosebleeds, vomiting and difficulty breathing.

Cinnamon is actually caustic to the airways, meaning it actually burns the pathways for air.  This can cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs.  You see, cinnamon actually contains a substance called cellulose which can lodge itself in the lungs, which never breaks down. The cellulose then causes chronic (continuous) inflammation and scarring – a symptom called pulmonary fibrosis.  “Getting scarring in the lung is equivalent to getting emphysema” says one author of the study, Dr. Steven Lipshultz.

For more of the article, click the following link:  Consequences of the ‘Cinnamon Challenge’ –



Brain awareness week with the U of L

Our grade eights had the chance to hear from neuroscience graduate students this week as the presenters came to share cool facts and info about our brains. This week is Brain Awareness Week, and we were so lucky to have such awesome presenters come by. They even brought real brains!!






Who wants Google Glasses?? I do, I do!!


That’s the best word that I can use to describe the newest tech coming from Google.  Its called Google Glass, and it is a set of glasses (set to be for sale sometime next year for less than $1500) that are basically a computer built within your glasses.  These glasses are designed to allow you to capture video, photos, see augmented information (info on the glass itself in front of what you are seeing) – all by voice command.  Check out the video below to see examples of how Google Glass is thought to be used.  Here is an image of what the glasses look like…












And here is video of how it ACTUALLY works.


For the full article I found this information on, click on the following link:

An Incredible Year of Google Searching

Looking for project feedback!!

Hi everyone,

Please fill take a moment sometime today to complete the poll below  -I am looking at the next unit and I’m looking for some feedback regarding the Mousetrap Car project…

If you would like to vote online, click here for the webpoll.  Otherwise, use the text and Twitter codes info described (standard text messaging rates do apply).

Mars Panorama – Curiosity rover: Martian solar day 2

Mars Panorama – Curiosity rover: Martian solar day 2 in New Mexico

Meet CURIOSITY, NASA’s New MARS Rover… That Lands Today!!

NASA never stops to amaze me!  Here I was, thinking that the previous two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, were the crown jewels of NASA’s Mars Rover “Team”.  Oh, how I was wrong.

If you haven’t heard, time to crawl out from under that rock…. today, after almost a year travelling in space, the newest Mars rover, Curiosity, is about to land (or has already, at the time of this post).  Here is an image of the newest rover – pretty cool eh?

Curiosity Rover

Unlike the previous rovers (which each had a collection of five science tools), Curiosity comes with a whopping TEN tools: four cameras, three spectrometers, a rock “grinder” and a bunch of magnets.  It also has a robotic arm to collect samples!  Wowzers!!

There is SO much on this new rover right now, so I thought I would share some pretty cool sites and videos today.

Here are some of the best sites that I have found at the moment:

NASA Jet Propulsion Lab: Mars Science Lab (great interactive!)

Meet Curiosity, NASA’s New $2.5 Billion Mars Rover


And two great videos also:

32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow

The NY Times website has a neat little interactive that very interestingly displays next 32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow.  In the article, they discuss technologies and innovations such as electric clothes, an entire room that is your PC monitor (just like in Tony Stark’s lab in Iron Man), robopets and many others!  This one below is one of my favourites that I would be interested in seeing come true… the shutup gun 😉

Kidding, of course.

Titanic: 100 Years Later

Exactly 100 years ago today (actually, last night at 2:20 a.m.) the unsinkable Titanic disappeared beneath the waters of the North Atlantic.  The story of the doomed ship is infamous, and all these years later, we still seemed to be fascinated by this tragic moment in time.  And a century later, we have some of the best images, information and computer graphic illustrations to show us the wreck as it is today as well as how we think (to the best of our knowledge) the Titanic sank on that fateful night.

Here is the most up-to-date and current image of the bow of the ship.  It is from National Geographic and it is a mosaic of over 80 individual images pieced together to give us this ghostly scene of the watery grave.

Titanic's Bow


Here is a smattering of some of the best sites out there today on the Titanic.

The Best Sites For Learning About The Titanic | Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day….

Unseen Titanic – Interactive: The Crash Scene – Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine.

Titanic: 100 Years — National Geographic Channel.

Passengers on the Titanic – A story map presented by Esri.


Lastly, here is an excerpt from the National Geographic special with James Cameron, titled Titanic: The Final Word, in which the sinking of the ship is brought into the 21st Century.