Trekking into Star Trek

In 1966, Gene Roddenberry, in affiliation CBS and Paramount Pictures, created the infamous science fiction franchise, Star Trek (The Original Series). The series follows a group consisted of humans and of extraterrestrial beings who serve in Starfleet, “the space-borne humanitarian and peacekeeping armada of the United Federation of Planets.” Star Trek was known to have consistently referenced the scientific world through envisioned technologies, which, in the context of the original series’ era, would’ve seemed impossible.

Star Trek Emblem: Famouslogos

Star Trek Emblem: Famouslogos

Well, that was exactly half a century ago.

2016 and more technologically advanced than we’ve ever been, many of Star Trek’s scientific dreams are starting to becoming true.


 

  1. The Warp Drive

In Star Trek, starships were portrayed as being able to travel at a faster-than-light speed. A state named “subspace” was used to explain such an unfathomable phenomenon. Subspace was similar to the Alcubierre Drive, but obeyed different laws of physics, where a bubble of subspace could distort the local spacetime continuum, and propel the starship at velocities greater than the speed of light.

By status quo, NASA’s stance on faster-than-light travel is an unconfident one, deeming such speeds impossible by current scientific knowledge. However, the New York Times reported in 2013 that NASA is actively funding research into the topic, based on physicist Miguel Alcubierre’s theories. Alcubierre’s theory posits that the if the space following a starship could expand rapidly enough to propel the ship forwards, the ship’s passengers would be unable to discern any movement of acceleration, thus creating a loophole in Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Warp Speed: Memory Alpha

Warp Speed: Memory Alpha

  1. Universal Translator

In Star Trek, a universal translator was used for intergalactic communication (between humans and their respective annexed alien races). Just a few years ago in 2014, Microsoft successfully launched a real-time audio translator across Skype. Unfortunately translator technology is based on very weak foundations of language and speech recognition and therefore is not perfectly accurate. All the while, only baby steps can train a child to leap.

  1. Handheld computers:

It might be difficult to imagine, but in the 1960’s handheld computers and any tablets, touch screens, were far from being developed. Star Trek protagonists communicated and carried operations through touchscreen computers called  PADDs (Personal Access Display Devices).

Now if that doesn’t strike as some suspicious prediction, I don’t know what would.

  1. Medical Tricorder

Dr. Leonard McCoy’s signature piece of technology, named a medical tricorder is a device that can instantly assess patients’ vitals as well as diagnose medical conditions.

Now, a competition named the “Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition,” and its 10 million grand prize is being competed over. The guidelines of the competition state that the team to be crowned winner must develop a Tricorder device that will accurately diagnose 13 health conditions, with one being the absence of the rest of the other conditions. A secondary expectation is that the tricorder will capture and display five real-time health vital signs. As for results, consumer testing is scheduled to begin in September of 2016, and the results revealed in early 2017.

I’m sure that if Dr. McCoy were alive (and real), he would be bristling with pride.

  1. Androids

Lieutenant Commander Data, a character featured on Star Trek: The Next Generation was a self-aware, sapient, sentient, and anatomically fully functional android who served on the USS Enterprise-D and USS Enterprise-E. He possesses a positron brain, which provides him with superhuman computational abilities. At first, he was unable to understand human emotion, but later aspired to achieve his own humanity through an “emotion chip.”

Data: Wikipedia

Data: Wikipedia

In the real world, Softbank, a Japanese company launched (though not officially for sale), Pepper, an emotion-sensing robot. Pepper is able to read human emotions by judging facial expressions and the tone of voice, and act accordingly. On a completely different note, a Hong Kong V.C. firm, in the past year, has named an artificial intelligence tool to its board of directors, assuring that “it” will be treated equal to other board members. Other breakthroughs are constantly being introduced to the world, but none have yet met the requirements of a fully empathising, independent android.

  1. Teleportation

The legendary line from the series, “beam me up,” refers to the fictional teleportation machine used to convert a physical being into an energy pattern, which is transferred to its destination, and then rematerialized.

Alas, teleportation does not yet exist, but it was announced only recently that researchers in Germany have discovered a way to transport information from one place to another using quantum teleportation. Though this term has been circulating in the quantum physics community for a while now, this discovery marks the first time quantum teleportation has been successfully demonstrated outside the world of quantum particles.

Beaming System: Memory Alpha

Beaming System: Memory Alpha


 

In sum, though the sheer thought of bringing fiction into reality is both mostly impossible and irresistibly fascinating, we have come a long way. And though none of these technologies as described in the world of Star Trek have been realized, I’m sure our Captain Kirk and his trusty First Officer Spock would’ve been proud of us nonetheless (if they could travel back from the future, that is).

S’chn T’gai to y’all as well,

~ Newton’s Pineapple

Sources:

Forbes.com

Mental Floss

Wikipedia: Star Trek Technology

Memory Alpha (Wiki)

Chien-Shiung Wu (The Finkbeiner Test): Joyce Zhu

Chien-Shiung Wu was a Chinese-born American experimental physicist who made significant contributions in the field of nuclear physics, although her work transcended into many other corresponding fields. Some of her great achievements include working on the Manhattan Project, which produced the first nuclear weapons during World War II. Within the Manhattan project, Wu took part in the development of the process that separated uranium metal into uranium-235 and uranium-238 respectively, by manipulating gaseous diffusion. Later in her life, she conducted the Wu experiment, whose purpose was to determine whether weak interactions abided by the conservation of parity, which was usually established in electromagnetic and strong interactions. Her results contradicted the hypothetical law of conservation of parity, and earned her colleagues Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics. Wu, due to various causes, did not receive the Nobel Prize, but instead, earned the inaugural Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978.

Columbia: Chien-Shiung Wu

Columbia: Chien-Shiung Wu

Wu was born in on May 31st, 1912, in Liuhe of the Jiangsu province. She attended Ming De School for her elementary education, and then transferred to Suzhou Normal School No. 2 when she was eleven, where she ranked ninth out of 10,000 applicants. In 1929, she attended National Central University in Nanjing and graduated in 1934. She later became a researcher at the Institute of Physics of the Academia Sinica, where her teacher, who had earned his PhD at the University of Michigan recommended her to go abroad as well. She was accepted by the University of Michigan, and travelled with her friend, Dong Ruo-Fen, a chemist from Taicang. Following their arrival at San Francisco, Wu visited the University of California, Berkeley, and due to external factors, decided to attend Berkeley instead. There, she met physicist Luke Chia-Liu Yuan, grandson of Yuan Shikai, who was the First President of the Republic of China. Yuan showed her the Radiation Laboratory directed by Ernest O. Lawrence, who would eventually win the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1939 for his invention of the cyclotron particle accelerator.

She made substantial progress in her research alongside Emilio Segrè. Her thesis covered both bremsstrahlung, the electromagnetic radiation produced by the deceleration of a charged particle when deflected by another charged particle, and about the production of radioactive isotopes of xenon as produced by the nuclear fission of uranium using 37-inch and 60-inch cyclotrons at the Radiation Laboratory. She remained at the Radiation Laboratory as a post-doctoral fellow.

Smithsonian Institution: Chien-Shiung Wu in 1963 at Columbia University

Smithsonian Institution: Chien-Shiung Wu in 1963 at Columbia University

Wu became a faculty member at Smith College in Northampton Massachusetts, and then accepted a position as instructor for Naval officers at Princeton University. In 1944, Wu joined the Manhattan Project, where she worked at the Substitute Alloy Materials Laboratories at Columbia University. In August of 1945, Wu became an associate research professor at Columbia just as communication with China was restored. Her post-war research consisted of the investigation of beta decay. She teamed up with Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang to initiate the Wu experiment, which was to determine whether parity was conserved for electromagnetic interactions and for the strong interaction. Their results (of parity violation) not only contributed majorly to the development of the Standard Model, but also awarded Lee and Yang the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1957.

In 1963, Wu also confirmed the Conserved Current hypothesis of Richard Feyman and Murray Gell-Mann. Alongside this achievement, she also confirmed E. M. L. Pryce and John Clive Ward’s calculations on the correlation of the quantum polarizations of two photons propagating in opposite directions.

She retired in 1981 and took on the title of a professor emerita. She then died of a stroke on February 17th, 1997 in New York City.  

Sources:

Famous Female Scientist: Chien-Shiung Wu

Britannica: Chien-Shiung Wu

Wikipedia: Chien Shiung Wu

Cloud Chamber Lab Report (head in the clouds of particles)

 

Date: 2.23.16

Name: Joyce Zhu

Class: Future Science Leaders (year1)

Cloud Chamber (Lab Report)

Purpose:

To examine and observe the particles that surround us. As well, to use every day materials and techniques to demonstrate a characteristic of radioactive physics. A cloud chamber makes it possible to observe the result of radioactive decay.

 

Materials:

  • Cotton ball (1)
  • Magnets (2) → roughly the size of a pinkie nail works best
  • Paperclip (optional if magnet is ineffective)
  • Dry ice (however much is necessary for results)
  • Tape (roll)
  • Black tissue paper (one sheet of 50x50cm or less)
  • Petri dish (the size of the opening of the plastic cup, preferably)
  • Plastic cup (transparent)
  • Styrofoam bowl (larger than size of petri dish)
  • Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl)
  • Radioactive source (1)

 

Procedure:

  1. Secure the cotton ball to the bottom of the transparent cup with the two magnets
    1. it’s suggested the second be buried inside the cotton ball and the other placed on the outside (bottom) of the plastic cup → it will provide maximum stability
  2. Soak up cotton ball with isopropyl (rubbing alcohol)
  3. Cover the petri dish (entirely) with the black tissue paper
    1. tip: cover so that no light can penetrate through the bottom; the more opaque the better.
    2. if necessary, crop paper to fit petri dish.
  4. Cover the petri dish with the opening of the cup.
  5. Seal the the two securely with tape.
  6. Fill styrofoam bowl with dry ice and place it underneath the petri dish
    1. the orientation of things: the bottom of the cup (with the magnet and the cotton ball) should be at the top, and the bottom is the styrofoam bowl with the dry ice.
  7. WAIT and observe for ten minutes; jot down observations
    1. Turn off the lights and illuminate a single flashlight.
    2. avoid touching the contraption
  8. Open the seal (tape) and place a radioactive source on the petri dish.
  9. Seal the the two securely with tape.
  10. WAIT and observe for ten minutes; jot down observations.
    1. Turn off the lights and illuminate a single flashlight.
    2. Avoid touching the contraption
  11. Dispose of materials wherever necessary and safe.

 

Observations:

After step 7:

There seems to be condensation beginning to collect along the bottom, and the black tissue paper appears moist. Nothing was further observed.

After step 10:

  • A thin layer of mist is gliding across the black tissue paper. The mist is made of very fine droplets of water only visible with a single light source and good vision.
  • The mist seems to be falling from the top of the plastic cup (where the cotton ball is suspended), and then gliding as soon as it touches the black tissue paper.
  • Slightly more opaque/visible bands of white mist are travelling across the bottom and then dispersing into individual droplets of water.
    • Bands: very thin and almost indiscernible.
    • Only visible when a single light source is shined from a very specific angle.

 

Improvements to Cloud Chamber:

There are many ways that the cloud chamber lab/experiment could be improved, for our’s worked only half as well as it was originally intended. A suggestion could be that the experimenter minimizes the disturbance of the contraption while observing. When touched, the mist particles stop momentarily, and the placement of the dry ice is also an influential factor. At times, it was difficult to observe the particles mostly because there were too many light sources being shined simultaneously. As for the building of the cloud chamber, perhaps a more efficient and foolproof way of securing the petri dish and the plastic cup would improve the results. Though magnets were an effective way of suspending the cotton ball, it did not fully prevent the cotton ball from moving around and the risk of it dropping.

 

What was learned:

The alcohol-soaked cotton ball is at room temperature, and therefore evaporates into the air. The placement of the dry ice cools down the evaporation and causes the alcohol to condense. At this point, air over the black tissue paper is “supersaturated” (below atmospheric dew point), and will cause moisture to cling onto almost everything.

When particles travel through the cloud chamber, it turns molecules into charged ions, and therefore is attracted by the atmospheric alcohol. These particles and the alcohol cling together and form the tracks as perceived passing across the bottom.

It’s also possible to distinguish particle (type) from particle (type) by the appearance of the tracks.

Short, fat tracks: alpha particle

Long, straight tracks: muons (heavier form of electron)

Zig-zagged: electron or positron

Forked (Y shape): particle decay (with each branch representing another decay)

 

Interview: Mr. Sigmund Freud (PART 1)

(Disclaimer: this interview is entirely fictional, but the facts are cited straight from Freud’s real life)

Today is a very special day.

Why?

Well, it is with great pleasure on this very rainy Vancouver afternoon that I introduce a very special guest with whom I’ll be conducting an interview. Our guest has played such a significant role in the intellect of civilization. He has contributed as much to psychology as Albert Einstein to physics. This guest, for both your and my convenience, has resurrected from his death in 1939. He is willing to share some general thoughts of his life, though bound by time, but nonetheless spectacular, and his, needless to say, timeless discoveries.  

Hold your horses, everyone. Or should I say, hold your consciousness (and unconsciousness).

As I present to you all, Mr. Sigmund Freud.

Sigmund Freud (1926)

Sigmund Freud (1926): Ferdinand Schmutzer

… (applause)

 

Hello Mr. Freud, may I ask how you’re doing today?

Seventy-seven years have taught me to accept death with cheerful humility.

Ah, I apologize to have disturbed you from your peaceful slumber. I will do my best to keep our interview concise and lovely, and to keep you as comfortable as possible throughout. Now, before further ado, could I ask you to give us a brief overview of your life to inform those who are not as familiar with your legacy (as I am).

 

My life is but one to remark; I believe I have lived a humble, unpretentious life just like any other soul. I was born in born in Freiberg, Moravia, but I moved to Vienna, my true home and deathbed when I was four years old. I was engaged to my life-long partner, Martha Bernays in 1882 and married her in 1886, and together, we raised six children. The youngest of them, my dearest Anna went on after my death to become a distinguished psychoanalysts and further implement my theories, and develop their clinical, epilogues, per se. I even admit I am more proud of her than I am of my life.

 

That sounds to me like a life thoroughly fulfilled. If you wouldn’t mind, could you possibly explain your career? I can only guess our audience are very interested in how you managed achieve… you know, all your achievements (which I cannot even fathom to list).

 

I cringe to evaluate my life as a single career — rather, I believe my life was consisted of three careers. One being my degrees and education in physiology and as a medical doctor, the second, a psychologist, and the third, just a simple man with a family and a head full of messy thoughts.

It began in 1873 when I enrolled in the University of Vienna, and where I studied underneath a German scientist, and my good friend, Ernst Brüke. I received my medical degree in 1881, and then went to Paris in 1885. There, I was impressed by a man by the name of Jean Charcot, who used a strange little method of hypnotism to treat hysteria.

When I returned to Vienna a year later, I experimented with hypnosis, but I noticed its benefits did not last. It was then, I adopted a method (suggested by my good friend Josef Breuer) that allowed for a hysterical patient to talk uninhibited about the earliest occurrences of their symptoms. And it worked; the symptoms gradually diminished. This is what I’d like to call free association. And this is what I’d like to call the beginning of something new.

 

You have published numerous articles, books, and essays. Would you mind discussing some of them with us?

 

My work with Breuer helped me develop the idea that neuroses had their origins in deeply traumatic experiences in the past, which have been forgotten, or more accurately, hidden from the individual’s consciousness. The two of us published “Studies in Hysteria” in 1895. We parted shortly afterwards, and I began to work independently.

It would be too much to mention all my publications, but I from what I hear from the living world, it seems that “The Interpretation of Dreams” is often considered my greatest work. I published it in 1900. My work was initially badly received, as most people criticized my emphasis on sexuality as a basis of human unconsciousness. In 1908, was when the first International Psychoanalytical Congress was held in Salzburg and the day my work was officially recognized. I am grateful beyond measures for this acknowledgement and I give it credit for allowing me to continuously pursue and publish my studies.

During the last few years of my life, I managed to record my theories into a little under twenty publications. It was as the Nazis annexed Austria and I was allowed to flee to England that I concluded my life. In 1939, I died from cancer, and in 2016, here I am again, talking to you.

 

That was enlightening, Mr. Freud. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. Even though you may see it as lacking speciality, we, as the new, technology-driven, rash and impulsive generation see it as influential and inspiring.

I think now’s the time to take a little break. I hope to, after you are well rested, discuss some of the many affluential theories you introduced to the world during your lifetime, if that’s alright with you.

 

It definitely is.


PART 2

(will link once finished)

Sources:

An interview of Freud (1927 by G.S. Viereck)

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud: Theories

Nature’s finest equation: Love (and Rodents)

It’s the theme of 99% of all trending pop songs. It’s a crucial component of every spy movie, no matter how unrelated the main plot is; infamous literature pieces by the most renowned authors revolve around it far more than frequently. It’s depicted as the main ingredient to happiness —

Love. It’s almost like magic.

Unfortunately, in the world of science, magic is often considered as conundrum waiting to be solved, and in this instance, the love equation has, more or less, been solved as well. After decades and decades of love-based research, we are revealed as merely happy victims to mother nature’s lovely plan.


 

According to Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist who specializes in the chemistry of attraction, love transpires across three distinct stages. These stages are as listed in order as Lust, Attraction and Attachment, and are defined by their individual chemical and hormonal constitution.

Lust

The first stage of love is driven mostly by the sex hormones, testosterone and oestrogen, which are distributed nearly equally between men and women. According to Fisher, we all have individual “chemical families” associated with these hormones that lead us to choosing our significant others; she has scientifically proven that we tend to choose “chemical families” that compliment our own. As well, limbic processes in the human brain during this stage is potentially health-promoting and stress-reducing, which leads directly to the second stage of love.


 

Attraction

This stage is often referred to as the “love-struck” stage. This is when most of us experience the “butterfly in stomach” sensation and can think little of anything besides our partner. Of course, behind the scenes, are three main neurotransmitters, categorized as monoamines, which are prompting all these deep emotions.

Dopamine, among the three, is a natural stimulant responsible for providing feelings ecstasy, along with a surge of energy, resulting in less sleep, a decrease in hunger, and a prolonged attention span. Dopamine is also activated by cocaine and nicotine, making it extremely addictive.

Norepinephrine is the neurotransmitter that increases adrenalin and cortisol, and is the cause of all physical effects of love such as sweating and an increased heart rate. Norepinephrine is puts us in a state of stress, where we’re constantly ready to respond, and causes us either slight or drastic attitude changes.

Lastly, Serotonin is often referred to as the neurotransmitter that renders us temporarily insane. Its main function in the second stage of love is to divert our minds to think only of our lover, and nothing and no one else.


 

Attachment

The last stage of love, attachment, determines whether or not a relationship will last, whether or not a couple is thinking into a longer lasting commitment such as forming a family and raising children. Two hormones play significant roles in social attachment.

The first hormone Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddling” hormone, is speculated to deepen feelings of attachment and intimacy after sexual intercourse. The current theory posits that the more sex a couple has, the deeper this bond becomes, although it has not yet been proven. Oxytocin is released by the hypothalamus gland during, as mentioned earlier, sex, childbirth, breast milk, and while forming the bond between a mother and her child. This hormone is known to improve one’s awareness of one’s surroundings and social interaction by enhancing one’s ability to interpret cues.

Vasopressin is secreted from the pituitary gland, and is anti-diuretic, which means that it controls the kidney and comparably, thirst. A study published by Biological Psychology in 2012 measured and neuropeptide blood levels in 37 couples and found several roles of Vasopressin. The hormone was found to have affected interpersonal function as well as larger social interaction, spousal support and security, and the amount of negative communication.

 

The question: How do we know this for sure?

The answer: We don’t know it for sure, but we’ve got some proof to back us up bit.

 

As mentioned in the title, rodents are involved in the discovery of the hormones Oxytocin and Vasopressin and their involvement in love.

Prairie Voles are rodents that resemble hamsters. They are also one of the only species, against 97% of mammals that are monogamous, meaning they form long lasting bonds after mating, sometimes lasting for a lifetime. When prairie voles lose their partner, they are documented to experience grief. Prairie voles are especially unusual because their physical dopplegangers, meadow voles, share none of their social tendencies.

Larry Young, a Yerkes research who has studied voles for nearly two decades has identified oxytocin and vasopressin as unique to prairie voles and almost absent in meadow voles. He has also found that behaviours can be changed dramatically by the injection of one of these two hormones. Young has even successfully transformed a meadow vole into a prairie vole behaviour-wise. Along with these discoveries, Young discovered that oxytocin and vasopressin are related to territoriality, which secures a bond between a pair. As well, the two hormone receptors are located in areas of the brain normally associated with reward and addiction. This labels the sensation of “love” as an addiction where an individual associates the reward of sex with the presence of a particular partner. An article was published in Psychopharmacology in 2012 comparing behaviour addiction with social attachment. This finding fulfills the common metaphor of love being a drug.  


 

And finally, a York psychologist, Professor Arthur Arun has formulated an actual equation to falling in love. The steps are:

  1. Find a complete stranger.
  2. Reveal to each other intimate details about your lives for half an hour.
  3. Then, stare deeply into each other’s eyes without talking for four minutes.

Does this work? How about you be the judge.

Thank you for reading,

Sincerely,

Newton’s Pineapples.

Sources:

Smithsonian: What Can Rodents Tell Us About Why Humans Love? 

BBC Science: The Science Of Love

Your Amazing Brain: The Science Of Love

WebMed: The Science Behind Romance

Li-Fi has just arrived, and it surpasses the speed of WiFi by a hundred times.

Guess what, fellow internet addicts?

Although we have already dedicated our hearts and our eyes to our great companion, WiFi, I must admit there is a new technology in town, and with no doubt, this technology will cause our loyalty go down the drain. It’s more secure, it’s more energy-efficient, and it’s a heck lot faster. Allow me to introduce the technical world’s hottest new heartthrob: LiFi.

As someone who spends a good quarter (a guilty half) of her life online, I would say this news comes across as pretty exciting. However, likewise any exciting new concept, both promising prospects and drawbacks await for us further down the road to technological advancement.

Credit: Dragan Todorović on Flickr

Credit: Dragan Todorović on Flickr

LiFi, also known as Light Fidelity, is a wireless technology that stems off the idea of WiFi. It was invented by Dr. Harald Haas from the university of Edinburgh in 2011, though only recently, has the Estonian company, Velmenni revealed that it has already begun testing the technology within offices and other environments in Tallinn. The slight adjustment is that LiFi, instead of radio frequencies from its predecessor, WiFi, uses Visible Light Communication (VLC). This technique entails visible light between 400 and 800 terahertz (THz) and basically mimics the process of morse code, as it relays messages through the switching on and off of light-emitting diodes (LED) at speeds so fast, they’re imperceptible to the naked eye. Amidst the Jargon, LiFi holds the budding potential to send data at up to 1GBps, which is comparingly 100-times faster than than the current WiFi installed in our homes. In research labs, LiFi has even achieved speeds of 224GBps, although this speed is only feasible in lab conditions.

Another advantage that LiFi possesses is the ability to provide a greater security for transmitting information. Because light cannot pass through walls, LiFi may put a halt onto interference between devices as well as maintain confidentiality for information passed restricted to the room it is operated in.

Among the thrilling new conclusions technology has promised us, as well as the dream to be able to download an high definition movie within a couple of seconds (as LiFi would grant), there are some drawbacks that delay LiFi from reaching our homes sometime in the utmost future.

Predictions have expressed that LiFi may not be able to completely replace WiFi, which allows us to retain some of our fidelity, but the two technologies could work in parallel to ensure the highest efficacy by drawing benefits from both sides. Another drawback is that before the possibility of a mass adoption, techniques need to be developed in order to retrofit our current technology devices with LiFi, as they are currently equipped to process The same issue persists for infrastructures such as offices or buildings that normally require high speed internet. This development may very well take a significant chunk of our decade, which holds back the usage of LiFi despite its functioning state.

However so, Harald Haas, the inventor of LiFi seems to hold high hopes for his invention to grace the lives of people of this technology-infused generation.  In his TED Talk held in 2011, Harald predicts that in the future, every LED lightbulb could be used to channel LiFi. He also claims to have a solution for the infrastructure.

“All we need to do is fit a small microchip to every potential illumination device and this would then combine two basic functionalities: illumination and wireless data transmission,” Haas said. “In the future we will not only have 14 billion light bulbs, we may have 14 billion Li-Fis deployed worldwide for a cleaner, greener and even brighter future.”

In sum, all we must do is be patient as the society catches up to the emerging technology. We must stay put for a while, whether that’s streaming our favourite television broadcasts on Netflix or videochatting someone while simultaneously completing our digital English essay. And as Winnie the Pooh would say “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”

Thank you for reading!

Sincerely,

Newton’s Pineapple.

Sources:

ibtimes: LiFi Internet

Sciencealert

Li-Fi Centre

BBC.com

Session Summary: January 5th 2016

This was the first Future Science Leaders session back from winter break, and as expected, the majority of us were still stuck in our own states of minimal brain functionality, having inhaled too many sweets and over reciprocated the lack of sleep accumulated during the school year.

Thankfully, the theme of this session was graphing, on the topic of scientific reasoning, which was refreshing and challenging enough to serve as an extra loud alarm clock.

We started off with a lecture narrated by our beloved program director, Jenny. She explained to us, both verbally and visually, the process of interpreting and communicating information in the form of a graph. We were arranged in groups varying from two to four people, and within each topic, we were expected to work with said groups on completing an activity.

Our first activity consisted of interpreting a series of graphs representing data collected on bike riders in BC. Afterwards, we discussed our outcomes and analyzed them.

Following suite, we moved on with the topic of communicating graphs. We learned the most common types of graphs and in which situations each would be most beneficially employed. On the topic, Jenny warned us about the types of misconceptions placed in graphs, and how they would distort public interpretation.

This lead to our second activity: purposely misrepresenting our bike rider data to benefit our designated organizations.

The third topic of the day was “when the graph might not be enough.” We were put back into our blogging groups to complete the third and fourth activity. The situation given was was to determine which water flow meter was most efficient for the metal factory we worked in. Activity three was to invent a procedure for graphically representing water flow data for the four nominated devices, and the fourth activity was to come to a conclusion and choose which device to buy.

Finally, as our session drew to a close, we were handed our ‘blogging’ report cards, which were to serve as a reflection of our individual blogging duties and responsibilities.

Through this session, we learned important skills relevant to not only academics, but also real life situations. It’s also safe to say most of us were encouraged to work on our punctuality.

 

Anesthesia Awareness: The Worst Time to Wake Up

There are many preoperative fears surrounding surgical operations, some being the fear of anxiety of not being able to be in control of one’s body, and others being the phobia of possible surgical failures and mortality. Another common fear of patients about to go under the knife is the likelihood that they will not be sufficiently anesthetized and will wake up mid-surgery, with their bodies probed and cut open, and unable to escape.

Unfortunately, this incident does indeed exist. Not only does this incident — called anesthesia awareness — exist, but it also occurs to more than 300 people each year.

Surgery

Photo Credits: Suzanne Carillo

All patients going through surgery are given general anesthesia, which affects the whole body by (typically) inducing a loss of consciousness. These intravenous drugs are implemented to cause amnesia, pain relief, muscle paralysis, and sedation. If this medication fails or if one of these drugs isn’t as strongly administered as the others, awareness occurs; the patient wakes up, becomes aware of occurring events during the surgery, and may even recall the information after the surgery. If the pain relief medication fails, the patient may be physically conscious of pain during their surgery. In the most severe and rare cases when both sleep and pain medications simultaneously fail while the paralytic agent does not, the patient is rendered both in excruciating pain, and unable to communicate his or her situation to the anesthetist or surgeon.

According to the UK’s Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Association of Anaesthetists, one out of every 19,000 operations resulted in anesthesia awareness, with 41% being of patients who suffered psychological damage for years after their awareness. The study involved researchers analyzing approximately three million discrete operations over a period of one year. The statistics revealed one in 670 women going through C-sections experienced anesthesia awareness. The cause of this sizeable number is attributed to doctors’ miscalculations of drug administration (sedation), as they are required to keep the baby conscious while the mother is under sedation. The remaining cases of anesthesia awareness took place during heart and lung surgeries, particularly with obese patients. However, Anesthesia awareness itself is still very uncommon and its duration and severity are subjected to each individual case.

Although anesthesia awareness is most often due to outlying factors, certain characteristics may cause an individual to be more prone. These characteristics may be associated with the ASA physical status, drug resistance and/or tolerance, age, and gender. Patients with a history of substance use or abuse may be subject to a higher risk of anesthesia awareness. Procedures such as cardiac surgery, C-sections, and emergency surgery can also increase this risk.

The main cause of anesthesia awareness is unexpected patient-specific variability in dosage requirements of sedation drugs, which can put the group of individuals more ‘resistant’ or ‘tolerant’ towards particular drugs at high risk of anesthesia failure. Another valid reason is the requirement for a light anesthesia during surgeries (such as C-sections). In some cases, patients are simply intolerant towards a sufficient dosage of anesthesia drugs.

Many victims of anesthesia awareness have shared their feelings of anxiety, helplessness, and panic of impending death they claim to have felt during its occurrence. With some patients, anesthesia awareness may cause temporary effects such as sleep disturbances, or nighttime and daytime anxiety, which usually recedes after a short period of time. However, in a small percentage of patients, anesthesia awareness may cause post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), which consists of continuous nightmares that may require counselling.

Along with this information, it’s important not to fear anesthesia awareness and surgical procedures. We must recognize that though these accidents occur, anesthetists and doctors are both sufficiently trained in their respective fields of work and are researching the means to avoid anesthesia awareness entirely.

 

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

~ Newton’s Pineapple.

Sources:

Buzzfeed

Anesthesia Web

WebMed

AANA

ODDEE: 7 Amazing Anesthesia Awareness Stories

Gay or Straight: An (occasionally) Accurate Test

Homosexuality

Credit: Newscult.com

On October 8th, the American Society of Human Genetics, at their annual meeting, revealed a new saliva test that claims to predict whether a man is homosexual or heterosexual. As a test, it did not prove the why aspect of its results, and unfortunately, it doesn’t work for women or bisexuals either, only male twins.

 

Based on minuscule alterations to a person’s genome, this test is one among many tests asserting to be able to detect, or even predict sexual orientation.

This test, however lacks formal results, as it is based on an abstract at a conference, not a published paper, and has not been peer-reviewed nor replicated. Deriving from several projects and studies, scientists have long since hypothesized a link between genetics and homosexuality. Perhaps the next biggest finding was in 1993 at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, when Dean Hamer’s team found a sequence of five genetic markers of the X chromosome replicated in gay brothers. Although this region has been associated with other studies concerning sexual orientation, no specific “gay genetic sequences” have been identified. Many scientists considered it rash to draw such far-reaching conclusions, as epigenetics is still not very well understood. 

Another set of observations has suggested the fraternal birth order effect. That is, for every male pregnancy, every next son has a 33 percent higher chance of being homosexual. The reason for this effect remains unknown, but studies have traced it to changes – the addition or subtraction of a methyl group to genes, which switches them on or off.

In order to further investigate the role of epigenetic changes, Tuck Ngun, a postdoctoral researcher at the Center of Gender-Based Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles launched the spit test project. Ngun and his colleagues examined epigenetic markers in the saliva samples of 47 pairs of twins, 37 twins both identifying as gay, and 10 with one brother gay, and the other straight. They ended up with a giant spreadsheet showing the levels of methylation across the genome of each twin, and singled out nine gene regions that were dissimilar between homosexual subjects and their heterosexual twin brothers.

Then, Dr. Ngun and his colleagues constructed an algorithm called FuzzyForest. Their results suggested methylation patterns in nine small regions across the genome that could be used to predict study participants’ sexual orientation with a 67 percent accuracy.

 

Following these results, scientists have expressed a great deal of concern. It is a possibility that the studies may be false due to misleading associations that attribute to sheer chance. For this reason, the results are considered no more than suggestive, as further verification is required for more definite conclusions to be drawn.

The possibility of abuse also exists when dealing with the application of these results. Ngun himself identifies as homosexual and fears that his work will be abused by those seeking to punish people for being gay; these individuals could very well attempt to interfere with epigenetic modifications to change sexuality. This technology does not currently exist, but geneticists in the previous decades have reached many advancements in the field of epigenetics, not limiting to epigenetic modifications.

However, others argue the fact that the test itself isn’t accurate enough to be considered valid. The 64 per cent is only relevant for a certain population, which does not adeptly reflect off the general population.

Amidst the commotion, Tuck Ngun has expressed his own consternation about the future implementation of his study and reluctance to be involved, and as a result, recently quit his position in the specific field of research.

 

At the end of the day, it really comes down to our outlook on not only homosexuality, but the entire LGBTQA society. Homophobia, or the threat towards homosexuals is still prevalent today in a number of countries around the world. The newfound association (between homosexuality and epigenetics), and the further discoveries to come will, indeed, largely influence the future of this prolonged fight for equality and movement. The lack of valid results linking homosexuality to a specific genetic factor can precipitate the negative accusations towards homosexuals, which may proclaim their sexual orientation to a matter of choice. However, if more substantial results do unfold, it may lead to the implication of genetic modification of one’s gender, which puts the right of personal identity and of sexuality in jeopardy. This, of course, depends on our unforeseeable future. 

Most importantly, this news secures the correlation between science and other economical, social, and moral matters relevant to our world today. It proves that science’s role in our everyday lives is much broader than we are aware.

Thank you for reading, and ’till the next time.

~ Newton’s Pineapples 

Sources:

Buzzfeed: Epigenetic Test Can Predict Homosexuality

Mail Online

Advocate Online

New Scientist

 

My Citizen Science project: Galaxy Zoo

 

The definition of citizen science is a research conducted by amateur or nonprofessional ‘citizens’. Conventionally, citizens who aren’t necessarily knowledgeable in the particular field of science can take part in the systematic collection and analysis of data through online or offline platforms. The data collected is usually submitted to a larger project and applied to the advancement scientific discovery, or towards issues concerning our environment or our well-being.

Flickr: Azam Ali

Flickr: Azam Ali

Galaxy Zoo is one of the most widespread and prominent citizen science project currently on the internet, as it holds the largest number of publications based citizen volunteers and professional volunteers contribution. Galaxy Zoo also greatly influenced the creation of The Zooniverse, which replicates the techniques in which Galaxy Zoo is operated and uses them for other citizen projects. Galaxy Zoo was created in July of 2007, and its purpose at the time was to receive aid in classifying the millions of galaxies imaged by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The images were classified far quicker than the program coordinators had previously predicted, and therefore officially established the project under the heading of ‘citizen science’.

The classifications work in a simple, yet efficient way. Each citizen volunteer is asked to split the given galaxy, based on its image, into different categories. The project then compiles the different results as submitted by citizen volunteers of the same galaxies together into a compact classification.

My own experience (five hours of volunteer) of Galaxy Zoo is a positive one, indeed. My reason for choosing this project was due to my interest in galaxies beforehand that I never got the chance to address. It seemed to me that galaxies and basically anything concerning the remote universe beyond Earth’s atmosphere was unreachable and impossibly complicated. I couldn’t imagine myself being able to contribute to their research, as a thoroughly unqualified teenager with limited astronomical knowledge.

But Galaxy Zoo proved me wrong.

In my opinion, Galaxy Zoo’s main benefit was that it gives its volunteers a chance to feel like they’re doing something useful — or helping astronomers with their research. Although this is aim of volunteering in general, Galaxy Zoo enhances this feeling of accomplishment, as people don’t often get the chance to observe galaxies in their everyday lives.

Another benefit of Galaxy Zoo is the scientific knowledge you can learn from classifying. There were terms I had never heard of in my entire life that appeared as an attribute of galaxies I had to choose from. This prompted me to first, look up the provided examples of such attributes on the site, and to further research the term.

Galaxy Zoo is also a project that you can do on a whim, as it doesn’t require much focus, time, or commitment. Each classification takes approximately less than a minute, and it’s a great way to efficiently pass time.

I have had the great pleasure of taking part in such a great project, and I hope to one day see your contributions published as well.

Sincerely,

~Newton’s Pineapple (Joyce)