When I was 12 years old, a kid that I thought was my friend but turned out to only be into me for my Nintendo, tempted me to try a little something that he snuck out of his mother's liquor cabinet. We ingested it! We were so drunk! We were full of shit: we'd been eating powdered pina colada mix, trying to convince each other that we were, indeed, hammered. Anyway, booze isn't the problem for young folks that it once was. More times than not, of late, the first experience that young folks'll have with mind altering substances outside of spending too long inside drawing with a Sharpie will likely be with marijuana.
From The Verge:
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This trend is not because teens are smoking cannabis more than ever. Rather, the change is because teens are smoking cigarettes and drinking less while the numbers for marijuana have held steady, according to Katherine M. Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University and co-author of the new study, published this week in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
The authors found this by analyzing 40 years of surveys from American high school seniors. For example, in 1995, three-fourths of seniors who used both marijuana and cigarettes had tried cigarettes first. By 2016, only 40 percent had tried cigarettes first. Today, less than half of teens try alcohol and cigarettes before trying cannabis. (The researchers didn’t look specifically at whether alcohol or tobacco came next.) Other studies have found that, in general, teens are doing fewer drugs than ever, except for marijuana.
Over at YR (formerly Youth Radio), Desmond Meagley wrote and illustrated a moving, sad, and ultimately hopeful personal story about being committed to the psych ward at age 14. From "5150'd: My Journey Through a Psych Ward":
After I had a meltdown in the middle of my sixth grade class, my school gave my family an ultimatum: if I was going to be enrolled there, I also had to be in therapy. Just like that, my struggle to be heard was confined to dimly lit sessions with the school counselor and an outside therapist. I tried to be honest with them, but I was a little too young to grasp what was at the root of my mental health issues. I was also scared of what might happen if I was *too* honest.
I was getting used to pushing my mental health aside, believing that I would eventually grow out of my depression and anxiety… even though they were getting worse.
That’s the thing about chronic mental illness: you don’t grow out of it. It grows with you, getting smarter, more mature, more convincing. Constantly having to outsmart the worst parts of your own brain is a nightmare.
"5150'd: My Journey Through a Psych Ward" (YR)
illustration: Desmond Meagley
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Spotted on the Pittsburgh craigslist, the future of law enforcement. Read the rest
First aired in 1994 as a Beavis and Butt-Head spinoff, Daria was a fantastic animated series about a whip-smart, sardonic, misanthropic highschool girl, her punk friend Jane, and a familiar gang of jocks, dimwits, and cool cats. Daria, the show and the character, was funny, feminist, emo, and awesome. La la la la la. Vice has an oral history of Daria:
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Daria was put together by Harvard-educated Lampoon alum Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis, who spent her days at Temple University doodling MTV logos on notebooks until a classmate suggested she get an internship at the network. His book smarts combined with her street smarts and pop culture knowledge, in a dynamic not dissimilar to that of Daria and her best friend, Jane Lane. They made their project work without a singular creative mastermind like (Beavis and Butt-Head creator Mike) Judge, who wanted nothing to do with the spin-off and was on his way out the door to bigger (and much more lucrative projects) with Fox anyway.
Daria ended up being the longest-running show to come out of MTV's Animation department, surpassing even Beavis and other cultural touchstones like Celebrity Deathmatch...
David Felton, Beavis and Butt-Head writer and creator of the character Daria Morgendorffer): In my script, Daria was ordered to work with Beavis and Butt-Head on a science experiment because their project was a disaster. It seemed like it would be interesting if they had someone to back them up who was a female, but not a sexual object. They certainly didn't think of her in sexual terms—they'd ask her about sexual things, but they called her "Diarrhea" instead of "Daria."
Tracy Grandstaff, voice of Daria Morgendorffer: I was the only female writer on the Beavis staff at the time, so I was the default choice [for Daria].
A surprising survey by Teenwise Minnesota found that bisexual females were five times more likely to have been pregnant than straight females. Questioning and gay males were four times more likely than straight males to report getting someone pregnant. Read the rest
Parent-child bonding, done so right.
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The documentary Teenage, about the history of the concept of teenagers, will open in theaters on March 14th, 2014. Above, an exclusive clip from the movie about Frank Sinatra bobby soxers.
Teenagers didn't always exist. They had to be invented. As the cultural landscape around the world was thrown into turmoil during the industrial revolution, and with a chasm erupting between adults and youth, the concept of a new generation took shape. Whether in America, England, or Germany, whether
party-crazed Flappers or hip Swing Kids, zealous Nazi Youth or frenzied Sub-Debs, it didn't matter - this
was a new idea of youth. They were all "Teenagers."
A hypnotic rumination on the genesis of youth culture from the end of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th, Matt Wolf's Teenage is a living collage of rare archival material, filmed portraits, and diary
entries read by Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, and others. Inspired by Jon Savage's book and set to a
shimmering contemporary score by Bradford Cox (Deerhunter / Atlas Sound), Teenage is a
mesmerizing trip into the past and a riveting look at the very idea of "coming-of-age."
Teenage, a film by Matt Wolf Read the rest
It's that time again. Maggie is back at the largest science convention in the Western Hemisphere for four days of wall-to-wall awesomeness. Each day, she'll tell you about some of the cool things she learned watching scientists from all over the world talk about their work. Check the bottom of each post to find links to earlier posts in this series!
Fifteen years ago, Dr. Harry Kestler got a call from a colleague in Florida who had inadvertently stumbled across a very unique family. An African-American woman had brought her sick child into the hospital only to discover that the child was HIV-positive and experiencing symptoms of AIDS. Further tests showed that she, herself, had HIV. As did four of her five children. It was a family tragedy. But in the midst of that, Kestler's colleague had noticed something odd.
The woman knew how she must have been infected—her ex-husband had been an intravenous drug user. But that had been more than 20 years ago. She, and her oldest child, had had HIV for over two decades without developing any symptoms. And her second-oldest child—who shared the same father—wasn't infected with HIV at all.
I've written here before about long-term non-progressors—a rare class of people who can be infected with HIV and live for decades without the virus ever developing into anything serious. Their secret: mutations in their genes that prevent HIV from binding to cells, which means it can't invade the cells or replicate.
Yesterday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, I visited the student poster session, a place where undergraduate college students present research projects they're involved in and compete against one another to earn their poster a spot in an upcoming issue of the journal Science. Read the rest
Scientific American and YouTube are offering teenagers a chance to participate in real science. It works like this: Think up a question that can only be tested via an experiment performed in space. Make a video about your idea and submit it to the contest by December 14.
The two best ideas will actually be tested in space. That's right. If you win this, an experiment you designed will be performed by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. And you'll get some cool stuff—like a zero-G flight on board the "Vomit Comet" now, and, when you turn 18, actual cosmonaut training in Russia. Yeah. For real.
Oh, and Stephen-freaking-Hawking will be one of the judges.
This whole thing is a little insane.
If you're between the ages of 14 and 18, and you live on Earth, you can enter. Do it. Seriously. There are grown-ups who want to live vicariously through you.
For inspiration, here are some sample entries. Read the rest
This year, six Toronto-area high school students will get to learn supercomputing from researchers at The University of Toronto. If you'd like to be one of them, check out the application materials. Deadline is October 21. (Via Jonathan Dursi) Read the rest
My friend Jim captured this excellent moment in science reporting this morning. Thankfully, as I check Google News now, the headlines are drifting more towards the real story, which is fairly interesting. Turns out, deadly car accidents aren't so much a function of driver age as they are a function of driver experience.
Basically, over the past few decades, several states have placed stringent limits on teenage drivers—usually when they can drive, and who they can drive with. The idea was to separate first-time drivers from risky driving situations, and a lot of people assumed these measures were saving lives. Instead, we now know, the rules merely shifted when the deadly accidents happened. Some lives were saved. But, in general, the results were pretty much a wash.
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The researchers found that states with the most restrictive graduated licensing programs — such as those that required supervised driving time as well as having night-driving restrictions and passenger limitations — saw a 26% reduction in the rate of fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers compared with states without any restrictions.
But the rate of fatal crashes among 18-year-old drivers in those states jumped 12% compared with the states without restrictions.
A similar trend was seen when comparing drivers in states with strong graduated licensing programs with those in states with weak programs: The rate of fatal crashes among 16-year-old drivers was 16% lower but was 10% higher among 18-year-old drivers.
Overall, since the first program was enacted in 1996, graduated programs were linked to 1,348 fewer fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers and 1,086 more fatal crashes involving 18-year-old drivers.
My old employers, mental_floss magazine, have a new editor and some cool new stories out in their September/October issue. One is about a kid who built a nuclear reactor at age 14. No, not that kid. Meet Taylor Wilson, a kid who shares some hobbies with the more-famous "Radioactive Boy Scout" David Hahn, but with, apparently so far, less tragic results. (It helps that Wilson, unlike Hahn, discussed his plans with adults who helped set him up with the right safety environment to build his reactor in.) Another difference: Wilson's interests lie with fusion, not fission.
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By the time Wilson stumbled across Fusor.net, 30 hobbyists worldwide had managed to produce the reaction; Wilson was determined to become the thirty-first. He started amassing the necessary components, such as a high-voltage power supply (used to run neon signs), a reaction chamber where fusion takes place (typically a hollow stainless steel sphere, like a flagpole ornament), and a vacuum pump to remove air particles from the chamber (often necessary for testing space equipment).
Wilson also funneled money collected from Christmases and birthdays toward buying radioactive items, many of which, to his surprise, were available around town. Smoke detectors, he learned, contain small amounts of a radio-active element called americium, while camping lanterns contain thorium. In antique stores, he found pottery called Fiestaware that was painted with an orange uranium glaze. Wilson trolled websites such as eBay for an array of nuclear paraphernalia, from radon sniffers to nuclear fuel pellets, and came to own more than 30 Geiger counters of varying strengths and abilities.