Harry Potter: When is enough, enough?

I consider myself a connoisseur of sorts when it comes to Harry Potter. I had the whole series read by the third grade, religiously memorized to the point where I can still quote characters from even the least memorable of scenes. Try me.

So when I heard that a new book was going to be released, albeit a screenplay, I was excited. There was so much potential. Potential for things to wrong, sure, but also so much potential for J.K Rowling to remind die-hard fans why we fell in love with the series in the first place. Sadly, I was extremely disappointed. Critics insist the live play was nothing short of spectacular, but Harry Potter and the Cursed Child left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

The screenplay skewed my initial perception of the universe, with its repetitive story line and one-dimensional characters. Even old friends like Harry and Ron were virtually unrecognizable. It seemed more like badly written fan fiction than anything that J.K Rowling could have produced. Hardly worth the $17.98 off Amazon. And now, the franchise is expanding even more.

I have higher hopes for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, mostly because it stars Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne as the protagonist, Newt Scamander. Though, I have to say, five predetermined films (that will reportedly keep the universe alive for the next 19 years) has me a little skeptical that this is all just one big money-making stunt. But if the trailer and initial reviews are anything to go by, the movie will retain the onscreen magic and charm of its historic eight predecessors.

If you ask me, quit while you’re ahead. The universe has gained a colossal fan base over the years. The theme parks, the memorabilia, the every-other-weekend Freeform marathons. For good reason too; it’s timeless. But this over-extension is just that– we’re taking away what makes it special.

I’m still going to see the movie this Thanksgiving break (nothing could keep me away), and fingers-crossed that it will meet my expectations. I want so badly not to be disappointed again. Some people say that I’m crazy for being so emotionally invested in a fictional world, but as the wise Albus Dumbledore once said: “Of course it’s happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Note: Go to https://thecspn.com to see fellow Chronicle writer, Alexandra Lisa’s story on Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them!

Social media battleground pulls younger generation into election

Whether you’re #I’mWithHer or #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, social media is the place for you.

Statistically, the 2016 presidential election has the most social media presence of any to date, said Government Technology magazine. Candidates are using social media to cater to younger audiences, especially the 18-24 year old demographic, said Ipsos Mori, a market research organization. More than 34 percent of this group indicated that reading something on social media would influence their vote.

Many students, even those who are not eligible to vote this November, are taking to social media to express their political views. Senior Brock Denniston said he believes there is no age limit when expressing one’s political opinions.

“I am not eligible to vote this election,” Denniston said. “But does that mean I can’t express my views? Do I have to be 18 in order to have a say in something? No matter what age you are you can express your ideas, there is no age limit. When people try to say I can’t have a say in something about Trump or Hillary because I can’t vote, it makes me even happier to debate with them.” 

By utilizing social media to get information out to the public, candidates are able to express their opinions and receive an immediate response. A recent survey by Fluent, a college insights and marketing firm, shows that social media is the primary method through which high school students get their information on the election and 41 percent of youth ages 15 to 25 engage in some form of participatory politics online.

Senior Danny Mackzum said that expressing opinions could help others decide where they stand on the election.

“Even though I can’t vote, I still like to express my opinions,” Mackzum said. “People on social media are going to see my opinion and be like ‘Yeah, he’s right’ or ‘No, I totally disagree with him.’”

Among popular mediums of political expression is the meme. Through every step of the race to the White House, memes have documented the candidates’ best and worst moments. Recently, the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights and human relations agency, has declared certain memes – including the popular “Pepe the Frog” internet meme – symbols of hate. This comes in response to the increasing propagation of the Alt-Right Movement, a movement that represents right-wing ideologies as an alternative to conventional conservatism, online.

Junior Millie Ortega said that memes educate and help lighten the mood of this controversial election.

“I think they do serve an overall purpose,” Ortega said. “They educate and bring awareness to what the reality of this election is. Four years ago, I don’t think there would’ve been political memes, but with how popular social media is and how wild this election is, they’re good for people to be looking at.”

Students also post material such as videos, quotes, and articles promoting a preferred candidate. Senior Noah Harrison uses social media to put Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson into the spotlight.

“I’ve actually always considered myself more of a Libertarian, so if I had to pick right now, I’d say Gary Johnson,” Harrison said. “I think they need to let him debate; I think he makes the most sense. The last thing I posted (on social media) was for Gary Johnson, just trying to get him on the stage to be able to have a debate.”

The presidential candidates are also utilizing the power of social media to reach their audiences. With a total of 11.9 million followers on Twitter, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been the most talked about person on social media since January, said SocialFlow, a social media optimization platform. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has 9.3 million followers and tweets several times a day. Gary Johnson holds 359 thousand followers. Through social media, the candidates have covered topics such as terrorism, the economy and race.

Denniston said people are often swayed by anti-Trump sentiment on social media.

“Don’t listen to the liberal and anti-Trump social media, make your own decisions for yourself, do your research and decide what your opinion is after that,” Denniston said. “Too many people have no knowledge of this election. I will continue to express my views and can’t wait to vote for Trump when he’s running for his second term.”

With the presidential election coming up on November 8, Ortega said that she feels a responsibility to be aware and make others aware of political issues, even though she can’t vote.

“A lot of people are like ‘You can’t even vote, why do you even have political views?,’” Ortega said. “But I think it’s so important to be educated, because decisions that they’re making now will affect us in the next four years. Honestly that’s why I tweet. I have 600 and something followers and that’s 600 people that go to our school and see that on their timeline.”

Harrison said that freedom of expression on social media is part of a person’s rights as a citizen.

“Whoever you support, you have a 100 percent right to put that wherever you want,” Harrison said. “You should be able to believe in what you want as long as it’s not harming (others) in any way. As you get older, it’s part of your rights as a citizen to contribute to society and do whatever you think is best.”

New legislation regulates drone use

With new drone regulation, the sky is no longer the limit.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems, more commonly known as drones, are aerial vehicles without a human aboard. Drones, originally used in military operations, have widely expanding applications in commercial, scientific, and recreational fields. But with this proliferation of uses, comes concern over safety and aerial ethics.

For this reason, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a series of new regulations, which came into effect on August 29, that limit drone activity and place several prerequisites on remotely piloting an unmanned aircraft.

The new regulations are designed to minimize risks to other aircrafts, as well as people and property on the ground. They require the pilot to be at least sixteen years of age and have a remote pilot certificate by passing an aeronautical knowledge test.

Acccopy-of-img_4703ording to junior Joey Wood, the process of obtaining a license is relatively simple, and requires no physical test.

“They made it recently that you have to get registered, so everyone is supposed to have that,” Wood said. “It’s really easy.  You go online to the website and there’s a code.  It costs five dollars, and it lasts two years. There’s no flying test, but you can’t use (the drone) for commercial licensing. You have to get a different license for that.”

The regulations also set operational limits such as height and speed restrictions. Drones are only allowed to be operated during the day, and must be kept within a visual line of sight without the aid of any device.The rules also state that drones may not fly over anyone not directly involved in the operation. They set a maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level and a maximum speed on 100 mph. These measures have been put in place primarily for safety reasons.

According to senior Peyton Krell, the agency’s new regulations are logical and should be followed.

“The people who created the new regulations are very smart people,” Krell said. “Anyone who gets appointed to be in charge of deciding the rules behind drones definitely knows what they are talking about. I respect the new rules. I wouldn’t want to walk outside and see a thirteen year old kid flying a 30 lbs machine with four carbon fiber blades above a large group of people.”

Wood said that he happy with the newest addition to the bylaws, but is not sure how the agency will enforce them.

“I’m glad they put them in place,” Wood said. “But I feel like it’s going to be difficult them to follow through. It’s out in the open. It’s going to be hard to control.”

According to the agency’s initial estimates, the new regulations could generate over 82 billion dollars for the U.S economy over the next ten years. These rules are also set to mobilize new innovations safely, stimulate job growth (an estimated 100,000 new jobs over the next decade), and advance discoveries in research and science.

In a press release on August 29, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx commented on the potential of drones to shape the economy.

“People are captivated by the limitless possibilities unmanned aircraft offer, and they are already creating business opportunities in this exciting new field,” Foxx said. “These new rules are our latest step toward transforming aviation and society with this technology in very profound ways.”

The FAA has currently registered 20,000 drones for commercial use and expects nearly 600,000 to be registered within a year.

Athletic Director Scott Stemple said that the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) has banned drones at Greater Miami Conference (GMC) events due to this safety hazard.

“We’ve made the choice as a district and as the GMC to follow this policy based on the OHSAA recommendation,” Stemple said. “We’re not going to allow them in our regular venues. The GMC has taken it a step further; all the schools in the conference have agreed to not allow drones. And it’s really just about safety.”

Although the OHSAA had banned drones from tournaments, Mason Lacrosse coach Paul Limpert said that drones can be very practical during home practices.

“It is very useful because you can gain a perspective on player positioning that you otherwise could not get,” Limpert said. “Using the football stadium stands and filming down on practice and games is pretty good, but the direct overhead gives you exact movement angles and positioning that you just cannot get from an oblique angle.”

The FAA’s latest regulations exempt only news organizations due to protection under the First Amendment right to to press. The agency is also offering a process to waive some of the restrictions if it is demonstrated that the flight will be conducted safely under a waiver.

In addition to laws concerning operational hazards, Krell said there is much debate over the legality and ethics of flying drones.

“Most of the (FAA) laws are about who can fly it and where you can fly it, but there’s still a lot of gray area,” Krell said. “Like if I own my house, I own the land, but I don’t own the air above it. So can I fly there or can I not? So that’s what they’re still trying to figure out one hundred percent.”

According to the agency’s initial estimates, the new regulations could generate over 82 billion dollars for the U.S economy over the next ten years. These rules are also set to mobilize new innovations safely, stimulate job growth (an estimated 100,000 new jobs over the next decade), and advance discoveries in research and science.

In a press release on August 29, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx commented on the potential of drones to shape the economy.

“People are captivated by the limitless possibilities unmanned aircraft offer, and they are already creating business opportunities in this exciting new field,” Foxx said. “These new rules are our latest step toward transforming aviation and society with this technology in very profound ways.”

Krell said that despite the concern over safety, ultimately, drones pose no threat provided the pilot is skilled enough to fly it.
“Drones are designed to be safe,” Krell Said. “Yes, they look very intimidating. Yes, they do crash into trees and buildings, but these are all user errors. If the battery gets too low, it will fly back to the exact sport it took off from. If it is getting out of range, it will tell you. It would never fall out of the sky for no reason. Someone who knows what they are doing should have no trouble whatsoever.”

Photo by Ryan D’Souza 

Conceptual Hyperloop transportation technology becomes a reality 

From the wheel to the cell phone, new advancements in technology are continually revolutionizing the way society operates. And now, there’s another one for the books: the hyperloop.

First put into theory by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the hyperloop is a high-speed transportation system aimed at eliminating travel complications due to cost, time, and weather conditions. While the idea of such a system may be attractive, hyperloop technology has yet to be perfected. Musk intends to change that.

In June 2015, the SpaceX CEO announced a competition to create the best hyperloop pod, open to any university or independent engineering team willing to take up the challenge. Teams participating in the competition were asked to design and build a safe, scalable, and feasible hyperloop pod, which will then be tested on a mile long track at the California headquarters.

A hyperloop would theoretically break the sound barrier, travelling at a speed of 760+ mph, almost four times faster than a train. Pods move in evacuated tubes above the ground using a magnetic levitation system. The dynamics of a hyperloop diminish external influences, like the drag force of air and friction, allowing for supersonic speed at low energy consumption.  

The final round of the SpaceX competition is set to take place this summer, when participants will demonstrate their human-scale pods on the track. There are  30 teams advancing to the final round including  the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Cincinnati, University of California Santa Barbara, and Carnegie Mellon University.

University of Cincinnati’s team, titled Hyperloop UC, was founded by graduate engineering student Dhaval Shiyani. The team boasts over 60 members from various fields such as engineering, business, and design.

Tim Allen, a member of Hyperloop UC’s Operations team, said that the team has achieved a great amount in these past few months, winning multiple awards for their work.

“We are the only team from Ohio to have been selected in the final round beating out other notable universities,” Allen said. “The group has won several awards for their accomplishments including the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design Competition finalist award which is a sample of the actual steel material that will be used in the first ever Hyperloop test track in the world.”

The allure of a hyperloop comes from its many economic advantages, such as lower construction costs, affordable travel, and self-sufficiency. Strategically placed solar panels along the tracks will produce a surplus of energy needed to fuel the system.  

Mason Physics teacher Joseph Schnell said that a hyperloop system exhibits proficiency in a number of ways.

“I think it has the potential to be much more of an efficient system for transport than the things we have now,” Schnell said. “It’s not necessarily going to require fossil fuels to work. The track itself has less potential for danger. It could have a reduced need for constant maintenance because there aren’t moving parts that are going to wear and tear against each other. It could definitely, especially in the U.S. where we’re so spread out geographically, be an excellent way to cover large areas of distance.”

According to Hyperloop UC Aerodynamicist Karthik Vigneshwar, transportation of humans using this technology is not only feasible, but closer to reality than many might think.

“The biggest challenge for transporting humans through the Hyperloop is safety,” Vigneshwar said. “An obvious first step is to implement a working full scale Hyperloop system for cargo capsules. This would help in demonstrating the feasibility, safety and reliability of the system paving the way for human travel. The potential benefits of such a transportation system greatly outweigh the hurdles to be overcome.”

The participants in the SpaceX competition are not the only ones looking to revolutionize the world with this technology. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a company dedicated to developing a fully-functional hyperloop, has negotiated an agreement with the Slovakian government to implement their designs and later connect to Austria and Hungary.

The hyperloop can solve many environmental problems the world is currently facing, such as global warming and depletion of natural resources,Vigneshwar said.

“It can jump current transportation methods where we can directly move to a cleaner system than going through the motley of non-renewable, polluting means of transportation,” Vigneshwar said. “In a world where clean, efficient, and fast transportation solutions are paramount to the success of rapidly changing environment, the Hyperloop provides the perfect solution.”

 

Connecting Little and Great Miami bike trail excites local cyclists

Plans are underway to connect the Little and Great Miami Bike trial to Mason.

The Great Miami River Trail already runs from Miami township to Washington township, but a new, multi-state initiative aims at completing and extending the network to Cincinnati. Eventually it is scheduled to connect with the Little Miami Scenic Trail in Warren County. The project is being conducted by Tri-State Trails and will also be connecting Warren and Butler counties.

The project, which was proposed in 2001, has yet to begin. Recently, the Mason City Council met to discuss supporting and funding the project since the extension of the trail would move it closer to home.

Senior Austin Woodruff, who trains in competitive cycling, said that a trail’s long terrain, such as those of the Little and Great Miami, is important for cyclists.

“If I’m not on trail, the best places in Mason to ride are difficult for me to access, just because there are a lot of areas in Mason where you don’t have sidewalk access outside of a neighborhood,” Woodruff said. “A runner can take a side walk, other athletes can use fields, but because when you’re cycling and you’re travelling at great distances the terrain in which you are riding can change greatly within just one or two miles that the accessibility of the area can completely diminish you. Having that long path is amazing because it allows you to have such versatility in how you cycle.”            

Such an extension appeals not only to bikers and athletes, but to health advocates and economic development officials. The extension of the trail into Mason will also expand fitness and exercise opportunities, said Woodruff.

“(The trail extension) would drastically change the way people in Mason see cycling as a physical activity or interest,” Woodruff said. “For many people who are just starting up with cycling or biking, or just want to do it for fun, it can be really difficult to bring themselves to drive that large a distance just to ride. But by bringing the trail into Mason, that would offer a really great opportunity for people to begin getting interested in cycling.”

Preceding the Tri-State Trails project, is an extension of the Little Miami Scenic Trail through the Village of Newtown and Anderson Township in Hamilton County. The project will add 3.15 miles to an existing 78 mile trail, already one of the longest paved trails in the United States.

Studies in 2008 and 2011 assessing the impact of the Little Miami Trail on single family residential properties also found retail price to go up by over seven dollars for every foot closer to the trail. According to Kimberly Whitton, the Marketing Communication Coordinator for Great Parks of Hamilton County, the extension project aims to accentuate the many benefits the trail provides.

“This trail offers enhanced transportation and recreation opportunities for multiple communities in the Cincinnati region,” Whitton said. “Besides being great places to walk, run or bike, studies are showing that multi-use trails and other greenways improve air quality, health, reduce crime, improve property values, spur tourism revenue, prompt economic growth, increase worker productivity and job satisfaction. A trail can even boost community pride and appeal.”

After receiving $1 million from Ohio’s capital budget for the project and $1.94 million in federal funding, the Great Parks of Hamilton County began construction on the Little Miami trail mid 2015 and is looking forward to completion in spring.

Whitton said that the extension project aims to supplement resources and connect the communities through which the trail passes.

“The project will enhance the existing trail system serving Hamilton County and improve the transportation and recreational opportunities for area communities,” Whitton said. “The continuation of the trail is a significant milestone for the Cincinnati tri-state region as we continue to connect communities together through amazing trail systems.”