Game Theory: The Best Board Games Based On Scientific Ideas

When I was a kid, if you had told me that the board game industry had reached the point it has today, I would have laughed and probably made a snide remark about the Monopoly Guy. Today, however, the board game industry has hit heights that many couldn’t have imagined. More than rolling dice and falling down snakes or climbing ladders, the industry now covers a huge variety of themes and play styles.

Naturally, one of the themes covered by board games is science! While it doesn’t have the full scientific accuracy that one would get from actually studying science, it’s a great way to get people interested in the sciences and how they can be fun and relevant. There are actually dozens of science themed board games, but some are too “educational” to be fun. Here’s our list of games that are both fun and educational:

Pandemic

Pandemic is a highly exciting game, primarily because you know you’re playing on a clock. A clock that can be suddenly shortened based on random events. This is a great reflection of what the game is representative of in the real world: a disease outbreak and the race to find a cure.

It’s a good game to introduce people to the idea behind pandemics, how viruses or bacteria spread to reach pandemic level, and how different branches work together to identify the disease, how it’s spreading, and how to isolate and eradicate it. All within a set number of turns, though!

Evolution

In Jurassic Park, Ian Malcom makes reference to a real theory called the Red Queen theory. Based on a line from Alice Through The Looking Glass, the theory states that all living things have to run as fast as they can in order to stay where they are. That’s pretty much the gist of the deceptively simple, yet tremendously fun Evolution.

Rather than using the existing evolutionary paths our world has seen, players struggle to evolve their starting species to make them better adapted to surviving the slowly changing world of the game map, which is slowly entering an ice age. The premise seems simple but with multiple players vying for the same evolutions, players can be forced to evolve down paths they didn’t plan to in order to survive.

Fauna

Similar to Evolution but with greater focus on biogeography than evolution, Fauna is a less hectic game, which makes it significantly easier for new players to get into. After all, complexity isn’t always a requirement to make a fun, addicting game. By presenting a relatively simple game that’s based on point scoring, gamers looking to recruit new players can use Fauna as a “gateway” game, so to speak.

It also introduces players to the concept of biogeography and the interrelation between ecosystems, and how frail the balance between them can be. You’d be surprised how concepts learned from board games and other forms of entertainment work their way into your mind, making players aware of environmental issues they would otherwise be blissfully unaware of.

TV shows grounded in science

In recent years, TV shows have reached a prominence that used to be reserved exclusively for movies with theatrical release. With casts, budgets, and writing teams to rival any theatrical release movie, TV shows have really taken off with big-budget titles like Game of Thrones, Westworld, Stranger Things, and Sherlock setting the bar to a level beyond what was even expected of TV shows before.

Like recent movies upping the bar on historical and scientific accuracy, TV shows have done the same as well. Shows like The Crown, featuring the royal family of the United Kingdom are very meticulous about being historically accurate. On the science end, there are also some shows out there that make sure they’re accurate. Here are our favorites:

Cells At Work

A charming anime about the cells in our body, Cells At Work follows the daily life of a Red Blood Cell as she goes about her tasks. Also featured regularly is a particular White Blood Cell, the Platelets, and the other cells found in the human body and how they respond to parasites, infections, and the other hazards our bodies face on a day-to-day basis.

The series was praised by a Japanese Cancer researcher, who particularly praised the how the series portrayed how the body’s immune system reacted to infections. The show also refers to the cells through their actual scientific names and thoroughly discusses their functions. It’s a great way to educated kids and adults alike about the specific functions of each cell as well as their own internal processes.

Numb3rs

An older entry on our list, Numb3rs first aired in 2005 and ran for 5 seasons. It was rather different from the other crime action-dramas of the time, because rather than using the more special-effects friendly forensics that CSI and its many spinoffs used, it instead focused on a mathematician and his FBI agent brother using math to solve crimes. Not the most exciting premise but it was actually pretty good!

What was amazing about the show was rather than just showing the audiences random numbers and diagrams to confuse them, Numb3rs had a consulting team of mathematicians to develop and complete the formulas. This means that every formula presented on Numb3rs is accurate and properly formulated and solved. Pretty amazing for a show that could have gotten away with flashing random formulas!

The Expanse

First launched in 2015, the Expanse has received quite a bit of praise for its talented cast, compelling storylines and hard-hitting portrayal of politics in a resource-starved environment. There is one other element, however, that the Expanse deserves praise for: its scientific accuracy. With all the effects and the like possible, it would be generally easier to go with what’s more visually appealing rather than what’s accurate.

The Expanse, however, decided to go with using scientifically accurate depictions of how gravity functions in space. They also went with spaceship designs that were more practical in design than flashy, like the ships you’d see in Star Trek or Star Wars. When mankind finally does make it to the stars as a colonist-explorer, I wouldn’t be surprised if that future looked a lot like the one from The Expanse!

Building An Immunity To Fiction: Why Vaccinations Are Important

One of the most polarizing topics today outside the realm of politics is the topic of vaccination. There’s a lot of support out there both for and against vaccination, but there’s also a lot of misinformation flying around we feel it’s part of our duty to present the facts related to vaccines to people can make decisions for themselves based on these facts. Here are some key facts to consider:

Breast Milk Does Not Provide The Same Protection As Vaccines

One argument that’s often seen is that breast milk provides everything needed by a baby to protect it from illnesses like measles or other viruses that are deadly to newborns. This is in fact, false. While breast milk does do a lot to boost the immune system of the baby drinking it, it doesn’t raise it to the level that would make a baby completely immune to disease.

This is only emphasized by the fact that recently, an 11-month old baby whose parents said no to a measles vaccine fell into a coma after getting infected. This, unfortunately, ties in with the rising number of measles cases in the UK, where the family is from. So remember, while breast milk is best for babies, it isn’t a guaranteed immunity from disease!

Herd Immunity

Herd immunity is what’s used to explain how vaccination protects people who have allergies to certain vaccines and therefore can’t receive them. To put it simply, if a large enough percentage of the population is vaccinated, the people who can’t receive those vaccines will receive a measure of protection as the likelihood of the disease spreading and reaching them is reduced significantly.

The argument that anti-vaccine supporters go with is that it’s ok for them to not vaccinate because of herd immunity. The problem is that the more anti-vaccination supporters refuse vaccinations, the weaker herd immunity becomes. This is why herd immunity should exclusively benefit people who are allergic to the vaccines and therefore can’t receive them.

Ingredient Lethality

One of the constant topics discussed in vaccination forums are the ingredients. There are a lot of arguments about how some of the ingredients are actually poisonous and, by using vaccines, we’re poisoning our kids. When one does check the ingredients for certain vaccines, some questionable ingredients (such as ones banned for use in certain countries) do show up on the ingredients list.

That’s only half of the story though. One element that’s overlooked is the quantity of those substances. Often times, when an ingredient is banned for use, especially for medical purposes, they are rarely banned outright, but rather have a volume threshold; a threshold that guarantees that the amount will not be harmful to the human body. There is no actively used vaccine that foes over the thresholds set for any of their ingredients.

In the end, people will formulate their own conclusions on the whole pro and anti vaccination debate. What we feel is important is that whether for or against, your stance is based on actual facts rather than “alternative” facts, made to suit a narrative. Remember, the key to winning any scientific debate is based on credible research from recognized, verified sources!

Weather You Like It Or Not: The Importance Of Meteorology

For some people the extent of meteorology, the branch of science that focuses on predicting the weather, is only good for telling us if we need an umbrella or not. What a lot of people fail to realize is that weather prediction can affect a lot more than your daily commute to and from work. In fact, successfully being able to predict the weather affects some major elements. Here are a few:

Agriculture

Agriculture is a billion-dollar industry that creates jobs for hundreds of people, and that’s just in the continental North America alone. Around the world, agriculture not only provides a lot of jobs, but it also serves as the foundation for many countries, ensuring that their populations are fed, as well as providing a source of income through export. Countries that have unique products are particularly dependent on agriculture.

Knowing the weather ahead of schedule can determine the success or failure of a harvest. Predicting a big storm can tell farmers that they may have to harvest earlier than usual because a lower quality harvest is better than no harvest at all! Predicting a drought can help the farmers take the necessary precautions to ensure the crops don’t wither away.

Without meteorology to serve as an early warning device, a lot would end up being left to chance. This means that the job security of hundreds, if not thousands of people rests on meteorology’s shoulders.

Disaster Preparedness

Given the massive hits that the United States have taken over the years from typhoons and super typhoons, disaster preparedness is something that we need to always have in mind. Meteorology is essential to this. After all, in order to prepare for something, one must be aware of it first, right?

Meteorology also does more than just predict a storm. It also monitors the storm, tracking any gains or losses in strength. This is essential as some storms that seem relatively mild can suddenly build up into bigger storms or even merge with other storms to form much larger, much more dangerous ones.  Being able to adjust to chances is essential in being prepared.

By tracking storms, meteorologists are also able to provide a timetable for operations like evacuations. If a storm speeds up, it’s essential for the local governments to know that they have to speed up the process and put more effort into getting the civilians to the evacuation zones.

Personal Outings

Nothing can ruin a wedding or family vacation like getting caught in a storm, or stranded at a no-longer-sunny destination. Meteorology not only predicts weather, but through observing and recording weather patterns and trends over the years, you can expect a fairly accurate prediction of the pattern for the year. This means you can schedule your events on dates where the weather is least likely to ruin your day.

For people whose livelihood revolves around good weather, like tour guides, knowing the weather patters can help them schedule the best dates for tourists. After all, nothing can get you a bad review like getting your charges caught in a sudden storm!