A medical school in Cleveland got one of the coolest gifts of all time from Microsoft: holograms.

Who hasn't thought about what it would be like if holograms were more commonplace?

Not just holograms as specters for spectators...



A pseudo-holographic Tupac Shakur performs for hipsters and hop-alongs at Coachella 2012.

...but holograms as an integrated part of our lives — as the new standard interface for personal computing.

GIF from "Minority Report."

Engineers may know how to create holograms, but the technology has yet to touch our lives in ways that are relevant and useful to us.

Holographic technology may finally be getting the chance it deserves and in a truly worthy way.

In a partnership with Microsoft, medical students at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University are learning the intricacies of the human anatomy with holograms.

The goal is for a team of students and faculty to create a comprehensive anatomy curriculum using HoloLens, Microsoft's augmented reality headset that projects computer-generated holograms onto users' view of the physical world.

The HoloLens will be available for early purchase by approved developers in 2016 for the low, low price of $3,000 per headset. Photo via Jorge Figueroa/Flickr.

Radiology professor Mark Griswold was one of the first people at CWRU to test HoloLens. Griswold's "world had changed the moment he first used a prototype," according to a press release from the university.

"I think this will improve students' confidence in learning anatomy dramatically," says Griswold in the video below. "With HoloLens, you can imagine having a class standing around a model, almost like a tour group in a museum, where they're all interacting completely naturally."

GIF from Microsoft HoloLens/YouTube.

The technology proved itself instantly to students, too.

"You can take any anatomical part and show any of it," said CWRU medical student Satyam Ghodasara. "You can move it around, you can make it kind of translucent so you can see through the outside, and that really helped me understand how cardiac anatomy worked. It was a way of seeing it that you couldn't do with an actual heart."

GIF from Microsoft HoloLens/YouTube.

Holograms can make the impossible possible, which could transform education as we know it.

From arts to astronomy, archaeology to engineering, augmented reality could have huge implications for how people learn. “The whole campus has the potential to use this," said Griswold. "Our ability to use this for education is almost limitless."

Even NASA has plans for the HoloLens. They want to send headsets to space so Earth-bound scientists can better collaborate with their colleagues in the cosmos.

A rendering of how augmented reality could look for scientists collaborating in a 3D simulation created using Mars rover data. Photo by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

For now, early signs point to holograms having a positive effect on the future of medicine.

On top of the new perspectives they allow, another change holographic learning could bring to medical schools is a reduced need for cadavers.

GIF from Microsoft HoloLens/YouTube.

While learning anatomy the old-fashioned way will always have an important place in medical training, who can honestly argue that fewer dead bodies lying around in noxious chemical baths isn't a good thing?

Check out a video about the Microsoft-CWRU partnership:

Heroes

Whenever someone's words or behavior are called out as racist, a few predictable responses always follow. One is to see the word "racist" as a vicious personal attack. Two is to vehemently deny that whatever was said or done was racist. And three is to pull out the dictionary definition of racism to prove that the words or behavior weren't racist.

Honestly, as soon as refers to the dictionary when discussing racism, it's clear that person has never delved deeply into trying to understand racism. It's a big old red flag, every time.

I'm not an expert on race relations, but I've spent many years learning from people who are. And I've learned that the reality of racism is nuanced and complex, and resorting to a short dictionary definition completely ignores that fact. The dictionary can't include all of the ways racism manifests in individuals and society, and the limitations of dictionary definitions make it a poor tool for discussing the topic.

Since "racism" is such a loaded term for many people, let's look at such limitations through a different complex word. Let's take "anxiety." According to Merriam-Webster, "anxiety" is defined as "apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness, usually over an impending or anticipated ill."

Now imagine thinking that you understand everything that encompasses anxiety from reading that dictionary definition. Imagine thinking you could recognize the signs of anxiety in someone based on that definition alone. Ridiculous, right? The dictionary doesn't explain that some people's anxiety manifests as anger, even though it does. It doesn't say that anxiety sometimes manifests as withdrawal or aloofness. It doesn't say that you often won't see obvious signs of fear or nervousness in someone experiencing anxiety.

The dictionary doesn't offer anything close to the reality of what anxiety is or looks like. It would be silly to say that someone isn't experiencing anxiety because they're not clearly showing signs of nervousness like the dictionary definition implies. Just as the dictionary definition of anxiety is not comprehensive, neither is the dictionary definition of racism. Yet people keep using it to "prove" that something or someone isn't racist.

Fox News analyst Brit Hume just pulled that trick on Twitter to try to back up his claim that Donald Trump's "go back to" statements to four Congresswomen of color weren't technically racist.


The first Merriam-Webster entry for "racism" reads "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."

Merriam-Webster

First of all, I'm not sure how this definition actually makes Trump's statements not racist. A belief is not always conscious, so even assuming that his racism is unconscious, a white man telling four women of color to "go back to" their countries of origin—despite three of them being born in the U.S. and the fourth being a naturalized citizen of the U.S.—is pretty objectively racist. No one knows exactly what is going on in the President's head, but such statements only being made to women of color would certainly be consistent with the behavior of someone with a belief in white people's inherent superiority.

But that simple definition isn't truly definitive, either. Shortly after Hume's tweet, Merriam-Webster pointed out a usage note for the word "racism," which clarifies that dictionaries do not provide the be-all-end-all definition of words.

Anti-racism advocates have tried time and time again to explain that racism is not as straightforward as someone saying, "I think I'm superior to people who don't share my skin color." Racism is almost never that blatant, and yet oodles of Americans refuse to call anything less than that kind of bold statement "racism." We have a long history showing exactly how white supremacy—the origin of racism in the U.S.—exerts itself in both strong and subtle ways, and thousands of hours and pages of education from experts describing how racism works on an individual and societal level. But people still insist on the simplistic narrative of "Racism=hating people of a different race."

I've seen many people, including Brit Hume, argue that the word racism has lost all meaning. Frankly, that's a copout. Racism—as both a conscious or unconscious belief of racial superiority and as a system of racial prejudice blended with power dynamics—has a broader meaning than one person hating another person for the color of their skin. But that doesn't make it meaningless.

I've also seen people complain that "everything is racist these days," but no, it's really not. We simply understand more about racism now, thanks to the field of race studies and to people of color offering their time and energy to explain it, so it's easier to identify in its various forms. In my experience, when someone's understanding of racism reaches a certain stage, they start recognizing it in places where ignorance or unconscious bias may have caused them to miss it in the past. That's not imagining racism where it doesn't exist or "calling everything racist these days"; that's simply seeing reality more clearly.

When you really dive deep into the historical, psychological, and sociological reality of racism in America, it becomes painfully obvious that racism is far more prevalent and enmeshed in our society than most people think. Until defensive, mostly-white folks stop automatically denying racism every time the word is used and stop throwing around dictionaries to avoid having to do that deep dive work, we're not going to make real headway on this issue.

Let's stop pretending that the definition and supposed overuse of the word "racism" is the problem, when the problem is racism, period.

Democracy
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