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Father John McLaughlin with students at the information fair for religious groups last September. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky
It’s a small miracle that BU’s new Catholic chaplain is a priest. It’s a big miracle that he’s even alive.
Big miracle first: just before Christmas 1978, Boston College junior John McLaughlin was strolling through Faneuil Hall around eight at night with his brother. It was the era of the urban drug-and-crime plague, and five thugs jumped them. One sucker-punched McLaughlin. His brother decked the guy; perhaps in panic, one of the others stabbed McLaughlin from behind, hitting his liver and a lung. As his strength ebbed along with his blood, he prayed to God to care for his family if he died. He spent that Christmas at Tufts Medical Center, where, he says, “they saved my life.” Still, just three years ago he needed surgery related to that old injury.
It took more than a brush with mortality to steer him to the priesthood. After graduation, he worked various jobs, including as a wrestling coach at his alma mater, Woburn High School. At the time, McLaughlin says, he was a “punch-the-clock-Catholic.” Working long hours, he’d say, “Well, God, you understand, I’m busy,” when he skipped church. Then in 1986, four of his wrestlers hit a tree driving back from a tournament. Two died, and the others were seriously hurt. The small miracle followed: watching the survivors’ families pray for recovery, he was struck that “neither was angry with God at the accident. A lot of people can get angry, saying, ‘Why did you do this to me—I go to church.’…They never said that. They just looked at God to be the one to help them.” Their faith, and that of thousands of pilgrims he saw on a later trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina with one of his injured wrestlers, led him to reexamine his life. At 32, he entered St. John’s Seminary, in Brighton.
The theme linking these experiences is the fragility of life, and once you’ve grasped that fragility, you don’t sweat little things, like replacing an icon—in this case, McLaughlin’s predecessor as BU’s Catholic chaplain, Sister Olga Yaqob. Yaqob endeared herself to Catholics and non-Catholics at BU with her warm personality, tireless energy, and a “ministry of hugging,” as McLaughlin, 53, puts it. “She’d hug everybody. That’s a little different from me.” But he’s had to replace popular priests before in his parish assignments. “I’m not really here to fill the shoes,” he says. “I’m here to do my job.”
So far, say students who’ve worked with him, he’s putting his own stamp on the Catholic Center. Literally. A key goal is to publicize the center as a “safe house for kids” apart from religious observance, a place to relax, he says. In pursuit of that goal, he is installing a basement TV and has “turned Sister Olga’s office into a lounge, with free coffee, tea, soda, snacks,” says Joseph Austin (CAS’13).
“He’s a very comforting presence,” says Amanda Calderon (CAS’13), secretary of the center’s executive committee. “No one can be Sister Olga. In a motherly sense, she’s just so compassionate, and all the students really feel her love. He’s more of that masculine presence, the fatherly presence that we need. He’s relatable. He made sure to let us all know, this is who I am, this is where I come from, these are my experiences.”
McLaughlin bantered easily at an information fair for campus religious groups in September. Asked to pose for a photo conversing with students, he obliged, telling the group, “Act like you need to talk to me.”
“So tell me about the Catholic Center,” a woman complied. “I don’t know,” replied McLaughlin, “you’ll have to ask Sarah,” referring to center intern Sarah Doyle (CAS’11), who stood nearby.
Yaqob, who assisted McLaughlin during his first days at the University, says that watching him interact with students, “I witnessed the heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd. Father John is a very humble leader, compassionate shepherd, and dedicated priest.”
He is also experienced in youth work. “I’ve always worked with young people,” he says, recalling his coaching days. “And “I’m not that old that I can’t remember those moments of youth. I like the challenges. It keeps you young.”
In his new ministry, he says, his marching orders are pretty open-ended. O’Malley “is very laissez-faire on things. They don’t tell you what you’re going to do. They like to keep the continuity of last year.” Even if you’re not a big hugger.
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You're reading New Chaplain’s Faith Inspired By Tragedy
In flight, the drone resembles a giant seed pod, lofted in the wind and buzzing through a rotor.
Created by a team at the Singapore University of Technology & Design, this new seed-inspired one-wing drone is named F-SAM. It is a type of monocopter, or a helicopter with only one rotating blade. Engineers first developed a monocopter in 1913, with testing in 1915, but a problem arises in trying to make a crewed aircraft out of an entire spinning wing: It is really easy for a human pilot to get dizzy.
Drone monocopters, like the F-SAM, have been much more common, and have seen a particular burst of design in the 21st century. Generating lift with its wing-body as it spins, a monocopter replaces the many moving parts of a quadcopter with a single elegant wing pulled forward by one attached propeller.
The design of monocopters is inspired by samara seeds, which when released from a tree, spin and float on the air until they are carried far away into fertile soil. What sets the F-SAM apart, not just from other drones but even from other drone monocopters, is that its wing is foldable, making the entire drone compact and storable when not in flight.
[Related: Floating whirligig microchips could help us monitor nature without leaving a trace]
Thanks to changes in how and when the F-SAM generates thrust, the drone can be steered, allowing it to navigate through complex challenges like a loop in and out of a window. The researchers demonstrate a flight time with the drone of at least 15 minutes.
[Related: Watch a C-130 cargo plane grab a drone out of the sky]
In their paper, the researchers explicitly compare the F-SAM to two small drones developed for military use. One, the palm-sized Black Widow, came from a mid-2000s DARPA project to demonstrate a fixed-wing scout drone, which was useful at distances but struggled with the precise maneuvering needed for indoors. The other point of comparison made is the Black Hornet, a sparrow-sized helicopter that can navigate in small spaces but is made of many small moving parts.
In 2009, Lockheed Martin developed a monocopter called the SAMARAI, a DARPA-funded project originally designed to deliver a small scout. The SAMARAI lost the camera and got larger in subsequent tests, proving the drone could work but missing a clear use case.
With its simple body and high maneuverability, the F-SAM offers a drone that soldiers could someday lift from their pockets, and then use to explore the inside of a building. What makes this a somewhat harder task than the Black Hornet or even a small quadcopter is that any camera attached to the F-SAM would also be spinning. For video, that would make the person watching the transmission as dizzy as if they were themselves spinning, or it would require a complex stabilization mechanism on the drone. Other sensors, like the spinning lasers of LiDAR, would be a natural fit, allowing the F-SAM to map out the interior of a room, even if it couldn’t see it in the traditional sense.
[Related: This cutting-edge drone is headed out to pasture at an Air Force museum]
“[F-SAM] can be a good contender for single-use GPS-guided reconnaissance missions,” Shane Kyi Hla Win told IEEE Spectrum. “As it uses only one actuator for its flight, it can be made relatively cheaply. It is also very silent during its flight and easily camouflaged once landed. Various lightweight sensors can be integrated onto the platform for different types of missions, such as climate monitoring.”
With the F-SAM compact enough to fit in a pocket and be launched by hand or from the ground, the form opens up new options for how militaries might add reconnaissance to their forces. If sending an F-SAM to scout ahead is as effortless as hurling a grenade, scouting drones could move from a specialized piece of equipment to standard, almost disposable gear.
Watch it in flight below:
Turning a Personal Tragedy Into a Life-Saving Mission SED alum launches nonprofit to prevent dating violence
Malcolm Astley (SED’82) and Mary Dunne with their daughter, Lauren, at her high school graduation. She was murdered by an ex-boyfriend weeks later. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Astley
Malcolm Astley spent his childhood trying to understand what makes people tick. His parents were mental health practitioners, so dinnertime at the Astley house touched on such difficult questions as, “What makes people violent?” Astley (SED’82) continued to pursue these questions at the School of Education, where he earned a doctorate in counseling and human development. “My solution was to aim toward prevention, with the view that if educational institutions could be shaped appropriately, they could head off a lot of problems,” says Astley, a former Lexington, Mass., elementary school principal and a member of the Wayland School Committee. “It’s ironic that I’ve ended up in this position.”
Heartbreakingly ironic, because on the evening of July 3, 2011, Astley’s 18-year-old daughter Lauren paid a visit to her ex-boyfriend and never came home. Nathaniel Fujita, who Lauren’s friends said was struggling after the couple’s breakup, is serving a life sentence for murder, and Astley is left grappling with how his only child could be dead, why Fujita killed her, and how to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening to someone else.
In response to Lauren’s death, Astley and Mary Dunne—Lauren’s mother—established the Lauren Dunne Astley Memorial Fund shortly after her murder. The nonprofit works to promote educational programs and legislation that raise awareness about healthy teen relationships and that prevent dating violence. “It was an effort to put something in the place of something so dear that had been lost,” says Astley, his voice catching. “And that’s what humans rightly do—try to keep creating in the midst of destruction.”
The fund’s top priority is developing and passing legislation that requires K–12 education on healthy selves and healthy relationships in Massachusetts public schools. Such education can have a significant impact: research from the National Institute of Justice shows that classroom- and school-level interventions, including teaching about healthy relationships and encouraging students to report incidents to school officials, led to a 32–47 percent reduction in sexual violence victimization and perpetration in 30 New York City public schools. In Massachusetts, funding for healthy relationship education was cut following the recession in the early 2000s, Boston magazine reported. In cooperation with state legislators, Astley’s fund proposes incorporating safe relationships education into existing anti-bullying legislation. “The schools’ plates are so full,” Astley acknowledges. “But this ought to be number one, in my view.”
The fund’s second and related priority is to support awareness and prevention by training guidance counselors, helping boys and men find positive solutions to dating violence, and sponsoring related arts presentations in Massachusetts schools and venues. Two of these presentations are “You the Man,” a one-man show depicting various male characters’ responses to a partner violence situation, and “The Yellow Dress,” a one-woman show about a high school girl murdered by her boyfriend.
The fund also sponsored a performance of “You the Man” at Wayland High School. Assistant Principal Allyson Mizoguchi says the show hit the mark where previous performances and assemblies on the topic hadn’t. One male student told her, “I liked how the performer told the story; it was much better than being lectured to.”
Repeatedly talking about Lauren’s death isn’t easy, but Astley says it’s good for him. “It’s a way of grieving, and trying to heal and prevent agony for other young women and their families and communities. That in some way helps balance Lauren’s death and absence.” Looking back on all that people have achieved in human rights over the centuries, he told Rothman’s students, makes him hopeful about saving other young people from Lauren’s and Nathaniel’s fates. “I’m quite optimistic,” he told them, “despite the edge in my voice.”
Julie Rattey can be reached at [email protected].
A version of this story was originally published in the fall 2013/winter 2014 edition of @SED.
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# Analyze the HTTP headers returned from the web server;
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# Analyze the Robots meta tag directives and if search engines are allowed to spider the page;
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The Internet is an endless buffet of cat videos, bingeable TV, and celebrity Instagrams. And it may also be slowly driving you to the brink of insanity.
That’s no mere bloggy hyperbole. As the Internet evolved into a ubiquitous part of #ModernLife, we’ve witnessed a rise in the number of distinct mental disorders directly tied to our use of digital technology. These afflictions, which range from benign to destructive, weren’t recognized by the medical community until very recently, and didn’t even exist before the Clinton administration.
Some of these disorders are new versions of old afflictions retooled for the mobile broadband age, while others are wholly new creatures. Don’t be surprised if you’ve felt a tinge of at least one or two of them.Phantom Ringing Syndrome
What is it: When your brain punks you into thinking your phone is buzzing in your pocket.
Have you ever reached for the vibrating phone in your pocket only to realize that it was silent the whole time—or weirder still, it wasn’t even in your pocket to begin with? While you may be slightly delusional, you aren’t alone.
According to Dr. Larry Rosen, author of the book iDisorder, 70 percent of people who self-categorize as heavy mobile users have reported experiencing phantom buzzing in their pocket. It’s all thanks to misplaced response mechanisms in our brains.
“We’ve probably always felt slight tingling in our pocket. A few decades ago we would have just assumed it was a slight itch and we would scratch it,” Dr. Rosen told TechHive. “But now we’ve set up our social world to be tied to this little box in our pocket. So, whenever we feel any tingling in our leg we get a burst of neurotransmitters from our brain that can cause either anxiety or pleasure and prompt us to action. So, instead of reacting to this sensation like it’s a few wayward tingling nerves, we react as if it’s something we have to attend to right now.”
In the future, it’s possible that as new mobile form factors like Google Glass notify us in a visual way (the current incarnation of Glass uses audio cues rather than visual), our brains may be primed to see things that aren’t there.Nomophobia
What is it: The anxiety that arises from not having access to one’s mobile device. The term “Nomophobia” is an abbreviation of “no-mobile phobia.”
You know that horrible disconnected feeling when your phone dies and there’s no electrical outlet in sight? For a few among us, there’s a very neural pathway between that uncomfortable feeling of techno deprivation and a full-on anxiety attack.
Nomophobia is the marked increase in anxiety some people feel when they are separated from their phones. While phone addiction may sound like a petty #FirstWorldProblem, the disorder can have very real negative effects on people’s lives. So much so that the condition has found its way into the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and has prompted a dedicated Nomophobia treatment program at Morningside Recovery Center in Newport Beach, California.
“We’ve all been conditioned to be alert for notifications from our phones,” said Dr. Rosen. “We’re like Pavlov’s dogs in a way. You see people pull out their phones and two minutes later do it again even though nothing has taken place. That’s driven by reflex action as well as by anxiety to make sure we haven’t missed out on anything. It’s all part of the FOMO [Fear Of Missing Out] reaction.”
As it turns out, nomophobia is not distributed eaqually among all mobile users. Dr. Rosen and Dr. Nancy Cheever conducted an experiment that found that those who self-identify as heavy users experience the effects of being without their phone most acutely.
A study shows that high-usage phone users were most acutely affected by time apart from their phones.Cybersickness
What is it: The disorientation and dizziness some people feel when interacting with certain digital environments.
Apple’s latest version of iOS is a flattened, versatile, and beautiful reinvention of the mobile user interface! Unfortunately, it is also making people barf. And it provided the most recent high-profile example of cybersickness.
As soon as the new incarnation of iOS was pushed out to iPhone and iPad users last month, the Apple support forums started filling with complaints from people feeling disoriented and nauseous after using the new interface. This has largely been attributed to Apple’s snazzy utilization of the parallax effect, which makes the icons and homescreen appear to be moving within a three-dimensional world below the display glass.
This dizziness and nausea resulting from a virtual environment has been dubbed cybersickness. The term came about in the early 1990s to describe the disorienting feeling experienced by users of early virtual reality systems. It’s basically our brains getting tricked into motion sickness when we’re not actually moving.
The Apple support forums were alive with talk about the barftastic elements of the new iPhone iOS.Facebook Depression
What is it: Depression caused by social interactions, or lack thereof, on Facebook.
Humans are social creatures. So you might think that the increased communication facilitated by social media would make us all happier and more content. In fact, just the opposite appears to be true.
A University of Michigan study shows that depression among young people directly corresponds to the amount of time they spend on Facebook.
One possible reason is that people tend to post only good news about themselves on Facebook: Vacations, promotions, party pics, etc. So, it’s very easy to fall under the false belief that everyone else is leading far happier and successful lives than you (when this may not be the case at all).
Keep in mind that increased social media interaction does not have to lead to despair. Dr. Rosen also conducted a study of the emotional state of Facebook users (PDF) and found that while there was indeed a correlation between Facebook usage and emotional issues such as depression, users who had a large number of Facebook friends were actually shown to have fewer incidences of emotional strain. This is particularly true when their social media usage was coupled with other forms of communication like talking on the phone.
The moral of the story seems to be 1) don’t believe everything your friends post on Facebook and 2) pick up the phone every so often.Internet Addiction Disorder
What is it: A constant and unhealthy urge to access the Internet.
Internet Addiction Disorder (sometimes referred to as Problematic Internet Use) is excessive Internet use that interferes with daily life. The terms “addiction” and “disorder” are somewhat controversial within the medical community as the compulsive use of the Internet is often a symptom of a larger problem, rather than a unique disorder in itself.
“Dual Diagnosis is part of [treatments] so that the issue is focused on other disorders such as depression, OCD, ADD, and social anxiety,” wrote Dr. Kimberly Young in an email to TechHive. Dr. Young has run the Center for Internet Addiction, which treats numerous forms of Internet addictions such as online gaming addiction, online gambling, and cybersex addiction.
In addition, she finds that forms of Internet addiction can usually be attributed to “things like poor coping skills, low self-esteem, and low self-efficacy.”Online Gaming Addiction
What is it: An unhealthy need to access online multiplayer games.
According to a 2010 study funded by the South Korean government, about 8 percent of the population between the ages of 9 and 39 suffer from either Internet or online gaming addiction. The country has even enacted a so-called “Cinderella Law,” which cuts off access to online games between midnight and 6 a.m. to users under the age of 16 nationwide.
While there are few reliable stats regarding video game addiction in the United States, the number of online help groups specifically aimed at the affliction has risen in recent years. Examples include the Center for Internet Addiction’s Online Gaming program and On-Line Gamers Anonymous, which has fashioned its own 12-step recovery program.
While the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not recognize online gaming addiction as a unique disorder, the American Psychiatric Association has decided to include it in its index (or section III), which means it will be subject to more research and may eventually be included along with other non-substance based addictions like gambling addiction.
“If you look at the brain, when you are addicted to something your brain is telling you that it needs certain neurotransmitters—particularly dopamine and serotonin—to feel good,” says Dr. Rosen. “The brain learns very quickly that certain activities will release these chemicals. If you’re a gambling addict, that activity is gambling. If you’re a gaming addict, then it’s playing games. That need for those neurotransmitters drives your behavior. It makes you want to do it again and again.”Cyberchondria
What is it: The tendency to believe you have diseases you read about online.
The human body is a magnificent bundle of surprises that constantly greets us with mysterious pains, aches, and little bumps that weren’t there last time we checked. The majority of the time these little abnormalities turn out to be absolutely nothing. But the Web’s vast archive of medical literature allows our imaginations to run wild with all manner of nightmarish medical scenarios!
Have a headache? It’s probably nothing. But then again, WebMD did say that headaches are one of the symptoms of a brain tumor! There’s a chance you may die very soon!
That’s the kind of thinking that goes on in the head of Cyberchondriacs—a downward spiral of medical factoids strung together to reach the worst possible conclusions. And it’s far from uncommon. A 2008 Microsoft study found that search-engine-aided self-diagnosis typically led the afflicted searcher to conclude the worst possible outcome.
“[The Internet] can exacerbate existing feelings of hypochondria and in some cases cause new anxieties. Because there’s so much medical information out there, and some of it’s real and valuable and some it’s contradictory,” says Dr. Rosen. “But on the Internet most people don’t practice a literal view of information. You can find a way to turn any symptom into a million awful diseases. You feed the anxiety that you’re getting sick.”
Hypochondria, of course, was around long before the Internet. But previous generations didn’t have a way to surf medical sites at three in the morning researching the million different ways their bodies might fail them. Cyberchondria is just hypochondria with a broadband connection.The Google Effect
Thanks to the Internet, a single individual can easily access nearly all the information civilization has amassed since the beginning of time. And as it turns out, this ability may be altering the very way our brains function.
Sometimes referred to as “The Google Effect,” research has shown (PDF) that the limitless access to information has caused our brains to retain less information. We get lazy. Somewhere in our minds we think “I don’t have to memorize this because I can just Google it later.”
According to Dr. Rosen, the Google Effect isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It could be the mark of societal evolution where the end result is a smarter, more informed populace. But it’s also possible, he concedes, that it may have a negative result in certain situations. For example, a young teenager might not retain information for a test by assuming the knowledge will be readily available, he says.We are all going insane
If you’ve ever watched as a moth repeatedly kamikazes your porch lamp, or as your cat unnecessarily freaks out over the presence of a laser pointer, you’ve witnessed the sometimes uncomfortable meeting of the natural world with our new, digital reality.
Advanced as we humans are, we still share a lot in common with those lower creatures. In evolutionary terms, we’ve been thrust pretty quickly into a new digital world to which our brains are hurrying to adapt. Some of the afflictions we suffer may reveal that the process of adaptation isn’t yet finished.
In fact, when you think about it, it’s not surprising that our brains sometimes get sick because they can’t process all the bizarre figments of this new world. Really, it’s more surprising that it doesn’t happen far more often.
Where’s the best place to ride out the environmental apocalypse when it arrives? This is a question that should now be taken much more seriously, especially as leading climate scientists across the world are warning of an even more intense and dire situation with the 2023 IPCC report. The pressure is on to find solutions to an ever-closer dilemma that puts all of humanity at risk.
A few studies have already analyzed which parts of the world are going to be most affected by a changing climate. Some regions will experience deadly droughts, floods, increasing wildfires, and rising sea levels more than others. But everyone will be burned one way or another.
“Climate doesn’t care about political boundaries,” says Heidi Roop, an assistant professor of climate science at the University of Minnesota. “There’s not a corner of the globe that’s not feeling, or going to feel, the negative impacts of a warming planet.”
Now a more recent analysis, conducted by environmental scientists at Anglia Ruskin University in England, takes a hard look at which countries would be most insulated against a widescale shock like climate change. The resulting list included island nations like New Zealand, Tasmania, Ireland, Iceland, and the UK, plus the US and Canada, which tied for sixth place.
Does that mean it’s time to invest in a climate bunker on a hilly island off of Auckland? Probably not. The world is in this crisis together, Roop, who was not involved in the study, says, so it’s important to learn preparation tips from this research and help stabilize the most vulnerable populations.
[Related: The 4 biggest lessons from the latest IPCC climate report]
But as it turns out, nations that are self-sufficient and isolated are also the safest from collapse. After assessing the 20 lowest countries on a global climate-vulnerability index, Aled Jones, director of Cambridge University’s Global Sustainability Institute and one of the study authors, broke down a few telling factors. First he calculated how well each government would be able to feed its population with the land available. Then he checked if the government had already begun preparing for energy sufficiency and manufacturing potential to keep its society running. Finally, he gauged how well a government would be able to keep foreigners out. Some of these factors naturally favored wealthy countries—places that can afford to take big steps like switching to a renewable energy grid. But geography was an important variable too, namely for the islands, because of its influence on cross-border migration. That’s why the US and Canada, which have massive militaries, ranked near the top as well.
To put it another way, policies and resources can help a nation’s stability, but part of it rests on the uncontrollable. Humans have faced existential challenges before and seen their fair share of societal collapses, Jones says. The difference now is there are multiple threats looming at once.
“We’ve seen these big global impacts in the past, and so far, we’ve been able to withstand them all,” he says. “But if they happened at the same time … I don’t know how we’d fare.”
As we’ve discovered through current happenings and decades of research, climate change is a host of disasters rolled up together. Energy grids, public health, economic and political stability, and food systems are all teetering on the edge of serious disruption as weather systems become increasingly unpredictable. And what happens in one place can touch many others, because our lives are completely globalized. The food on our plates and the clothes on our backs are typically made from products sourced from all over the planet. So when a country is facing a crisis, be it due to climate change or financial stress or civil war, the entire world feels it. “[We] are mutually intertwined, no matter if we like it or not,” Roop says.
[Related: What is ecocide, and why might it be criminalized worldwide?]
The main point to remember is that the countries on Jones’s list aren’t immune to climate change and other problems. New Zealand, for example, is at risk of storms, fires, and pathogens just like many other parts of the world. Rather, the takeaway, Roop says, should be that we need to study different governments’ strategies through a lens of preparedness to understand what’s best for social stability. Knowing that can make it clearer how we can support the rest of the world.
“What they are specifically looking at are the starting conditions—not how the country could do hypothetically, but what are the assets that a country has currently that enable it to be responsive to or self-sufficient in the event that the global supply chain is disrupted,” Roop explains. This can mean anything from working toward a less material-dependent economy and prioritizing climate resilience in policies, both in local communities and on a global scale. For those of us who don’t live on isolated islands in the middle of the ocean, it also means working together with neighboring countries so that everyone, no matter where they live, has a fighting chance of living in a safe and healthy world.
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