Helios Magazine Vol. 4 Issue 2

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Dear reader,

It’s here at last, amid the clamor of AP tests and end-ofyear events: the school year’s final issue of Helios Magazine. While it took a while for us to get this issue to you, we promise it’s worth it: Consider it a highlight reel of some of this semester’s political, cultural, and artistic developments, a worthy introduction to the summer.

Of course, summer wouldn’t be summer without a few good blockbusters. In that spirit, you’ll find promising dissections of popular film culture in our Art section this issue, alongside a few summer recommendations and an in-depth investigation of media depictions of Palo Alto. As election season approaches, prime yourself to engage politically with analysis of youth voting trends or take a dive into San Jose city politics in our Culture section. And in the spirit of inquiry, flip to our Science section to better understand the April 8 eclipse and insidious inequities in the U.S. healthcare system.

Once again, this magazine is the product of so many individuals’ work. Thank you to everyone who collaborated on this issue, whether it be through making graphics, writing stories, or designing layouts—you’re the backbone of this publication.

In that vein, we’re excited to announce that Sarah Grupenhoff and Sylvie Nguyen, two of our current writers, will be leading Helios next year. If you’d like to work with these two immensely talented and passionate individuals—alongside a slew of other wonderful staffers—keep an eye out for the Helios booth at the club fair this fall. As we said last time, the more, the merrier!

Without further ado, then, we present to you this school year’s final issue. You’re going to love it.

Your Editors-in-Chief, Amann Mahajan and Irene Tsen


Amann Mahajan

Irene Tsen


Aarushi Kumar WRITERS

Sarah Grupenhoff

Aarushi Kumar

Jeri Lieberman-Evans

Amann Mahajan

Kabir Mahajan

Sylvie Nguyen

Violet Tivol

Irene Tsen


Aarushi Kumar

Caitlin Ginn

Irene Hong


Aarushi Kumar

Amann Mahajan

Violet Tivol

Irene Tsen

Helios, Gunn’s arts, culture, and STEM magazine, publishes one color issue each semester. Join our staff as a writer, layout designer, graphics artist, or photographer by coming to our club meetings at lunch on Tuesdays in N-106. No experience needed!


recognizing the artistic value of high-grossing films in award shows

summer book and film recommendations

exploring portraits of Palo Alto in books and films

Carl Andre’s recent death, his possible involvement in his wife’s, and their legacies

dispelling myths about youth civic participation

San Jose’s struggles meeting water regulations and combating homelessness the neurological bases of fan culture and “fandoms”

breaking down the science of the April 8 eclipse the implications of systemic racism in healthcare

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This year brought a new category to the Golden Globes: Cinematic and Box-Office Achievement. The introduction of this award, which evaluated the highest-grossing films of the year, received mixed reviews, with many complaining that it undermined award shows’ artistic integrity. “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer”—two of the most popular films in the last year—were the frontrunners for this new distinction. However, both of these movies were nominated for numerous other awards, including Best Picture, demonstrating that many popular films are also artistically excellent. Though some argue that prioritizing popularity is ruining award shows, blockbusters’ artistic merit should not be underestimated.

According to the Academy’s website, the organization “recognizes all aspects of the film industry,” “inspires young artists,” and “preserves our film history.” These aims are consistent with acknowledging blockbuster films. Nevertheless, some people’s assumption of an inverse relationship between popularity and quality creates a stigma against mainstream films: “The Oscars themselves are intended to award artistic achievement in film; box-office success has no bearing on quality,” Washington Post writer Sonia Rao claimed. While it is possible for poorly made films to generate revenue and for critically acclaimed films to flop in the box office, it is erroneous to assume no correlation between success and quality. Box-office successes are inherently more likely to have immersive writing, engaging plots, and attractive cinematography, as these elements are what make films enjoyable—and, ultimately, popular. The Oscars strive to “recognize all aspects of the film industry,” which includes many types of films. Highbrow pieces should certainly be considered, but not at the expense of technically outstanding action movies or intricately crafted comedies (it is, after all, sometimes harder to make someone laugh than it is to make them cry).

Moreover, a review of past Oscars nominees disproves the claim that award shows have just begun trending toward popularity. In fact, popularity and selection have been inextricably entwined since award shows’ inception. According to the Washington Post, “the Oscars (are) a moneymaker for studios interested in leveraging prestige to boost ticket sales.” With this incentive, the

Oscars and other award shows become even more of a popularity contest. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, now-disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein was famous for treating the Oscars like a political race, spending money on campaigns and going so far as to talk down “Saving Private Ryan”—his main competition—to journalists in private. As a result of his machinations, in 1999, his film “Shakespeare in Love” won Best Picture, increasing its box-office revenue. Award shows are, at their core, a popularity contest, whether the judges be film critics or the general public. They do not, and have never, judged based purely on quality, because it is impossible to objectively evaluate such a subjective medium. Complaints that the Oscars are moving toward prioritizing popularity over artistic value disregard the history of the Academy.

There have been attempts to recognize even more blockbusters in award shows, but audiences always meet these endeavors with skepticism. In 2018, the Academy revealed plans to create a new “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film” category, which would be decided by the public. This idea generated so much backlash that it was ultimately scrapped before the awards were held. Audiences complained that the award was meaningless (compared to Best Picture) and a desperate attempt to increase viewership. However, a Popular Film award would have brought more attention to blockbusters and bridged the disconnect between nominations by the Academy, whose members are in the film industry, and the opinions of the general public. This year, for instance, “Maestro” was nominated for seven Oscars (including Best Picture) despite an audience score of 57% on Rotten Tomatoes. This middling score does not mean that “Maestro” did not deserve its nominations, but rather that the Academy is not always representative of their audience. The Popular Film category would have brought forth a better representation of public opinion.

Every year, millions of people tune in to the Oscars to root for their favorite films of the year (or to look out for celebrity drama). Ultimately, whether audiences celebrated the “Oppenheimer” sweep or mourned “Barbie”’s snubs, the Oscars provided what movies, at their core, are supposed to: a few hours of relaxation, entertainment, and escape from busy lives.

Graphics by Aarushi Kumar

HELIOS 5 Summer Media Recommendations


“It” (2017) tells the story of the “Losers Club,” seven middle-school outcasts who band together to defeat Pennywise, a murderous clown who awakens every 27 years to prey on the children in their town. Though a certifiable horror classic, “It” finds time to illustrate the Losers’ coming of age as they endearingly navigate love, friendship, and family over the course of this horrifying 1989 summer. A fantastic watch with friends—throw it on with some popcorn during summer break’s inevitable spells of boredom. After all, what quenches boredom better than terror?

This quintessential summer flick depicts the week leading up to Sophie Sheridan’s (Amanda Seyfried) wedding on a gorgeous Greek island. Sophie, daughter of singlemother Donna (the ever-lovely Meryl Streep), wants nothing more than to walk down the aisle with her father. The only problem: She has no idea who he is! By secretly snooping in her mother’s old diaries, she narrows the suspects down to three men, then impulsively invites all three to her wedding. This movie-musical pairs beloved ABBA songs with mesmerizing shots of glittering seas and exciting dance sequences. Watch with friends, family, or alone, but make sure to have space to succumb to the inevitable urges to dance and water to soothe your singing-sore throat.

Edith Wharton’s “Summer” follows Charity Royall, a seventeen-year-old girl in rural New England circa 1917. The novel sees Charity’s dreary life with her adoptive father—a disturbed alcoholic—transform into a lively and lush summer. The audience follows Charity through this titular summer in her attempts to carve her own path in her suffocatingly small town, witnessing her reflections and despair in its aftermath. Stunning 1917 audiences with her candid depictions of womanhood, class, and feminism, Wharton forces us to wonder if there was any way for a girl to truly flourish independently in this time. A more serious read, but certainly one you can mention having read to your English teacher the next school year.

“In Other Lands”

From the novel’s very first line—“So far, magic school was total rubbish”—Sarah Rees Brennan takes every standard fantasy trope and comedically subverts it. Rather than a strong, noble warrior, our protagonist is the scrawny, mean, and endlessly funny Elliot Scafer, who takes barely one minute to admire the marvels of the “Otherlands” before critiquing its spartan tendencies. Throughout his journey to bring peace to the lands before he graduates high school, he and his best friends—Serene, a misandrist elven warrior, and Luke, the more typical noble hero Elliot envies—Elliot grapples with love, friendship, and how to carve his own, unique path in a world determined to change him. This satire is perfect for any sunny summer day—a quick, hilarious, and entertaining read.

—Written by Aarushi Kumar, a head editor.

“It” Aarushi Kumar “Mamma Mia!” Aarushi Kumar


What does popular media have to say about our hometown?

“Can an entire city be haunted? Haunted as some houses are supposed to be haunted?”

It’s this question Mike Hanlon—a protagonist in Stephen King’s sprawling novel “It”—ponders while penning the history of Derry, his hometown. A rural idyll in Maine, its past is plagued with inconsistencies—disappearances and deaths that are forgotten with alarming alacrity.

It’s also eerily similar to the image of Palo Alto that author Malcolm Harris constructs in “Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World.” “We have a word for idyllic towns where the youth suicide rate is three times as high as it’s supposed to be: haunted,” he writes.

Yet this similarity isn’t entirely surprising. In Derry lies a familiar history: Its purges are stand-ins for events like the Tulsa Massacre, broader historical erasures that, in the manner of “doublethink,” at once rewrite history and deny that the rewriting occurred in the first place. The town is a perfect proxy for cities like Palo Alto, pockets of sleepy suburbia that belie darker histories. The natural question, then, arises: What haunts Palo Alto?

It’s a question that media pieces about Palo Alto—imbibing and then regurgitating the town’s history in their words and images—attempt to answer. To grow up in Palo Alto is to grow up in contradiction: We create progress, but also fear that progress; we are lovers of nature, but only through artifice (think manicured lawns). Palo Alto occupies a distinct space in the American imagination precisely because of these dualities—it is a place of the future distinctly mired in ideals of the past (e.g., Manifest Destiny).

Actor James Franco’s “Palo Alto: Stories” captures that spirit exactly. The short stories, narrated by a series of bored suburban teens living a “simple existence,” end catastrophically: After getting drunk, one boy barrels through a light on Embarcadero Road and runs over a woman. In another tale, a group of high schoolers gather at Gunn High School to blithely discuss a student’s suicide. (“I think the parents made him do it,” one says crassly as they pass the Alta Mesa cemetery.) These are kids who recognize that “the nicest part of town … was the closest to East Palo Alto,” who see and feel the historical hauntings around them, but are unable to move beyond them. Indeed, in

one of the book’s most distinctive stories, a boy extolls the virtues of slavery to catch the attention of a girl he likes. It’s a trivialization used in the name of efficiency to achieve the desired results—damn the moral degradation occurring in the process. Like Leland Stanford’s racehorses,



carefully bred and trained, these kids have been systematically pruned, narrowed, and stifled.

An integral part of this mindset is denying that the stifling is happening in the first place—letting the fear and ghosts live in the margins. Director Mike Judge’s “Silicon Valley,” a riot of a show, tears apart the hypocrisies undergirding tech startup culture. Striving to sabotage a competitor, CEO Gavin Belson seethes, “I don’t know about you people, but I don’t want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do.” Thriving in Silicon Valley means participating in a rat race, then denying a rat race exists in the

conclusion, we end with processes and results we cannot fully control. In “The Overstory,” an epic by Richard Powers spanning several storylines and decades, CEO Neelay Mehta—Stanford University graduate and creator of hit video game The Sylvan Prophecies—aims to create a virtual world rooted in nature. Still, he finds history remaking itself online, “faithful to the tyranny of the place it pretends to escape.” Like so many Palo Alto dreamers, his attempts to create an idyll simply end up creating more hedonistic, destructive consumerism.

Thus, to live in Palo Alto is to live in houses of broken promises. The original deed from my family’s old home on Middlefield Road states, “No lot nor portion thereof in this subdivision shall be sold, leased nor rented to any person or persons not wholly of the white Caucasian Race.” The ghosts roaming Palo Alto are those of veterans of color like Art Fong who, upon serving for the U.S., returned to find Palo Alto barred to him; they are those of immigrant women filling non-union assembly jobs in postwar America; they are those of the Ohlone people, expropriated and murdered. They are also those of prodigal sons, of Frederick Termans and Leland Stanfords and Herbert Hoovers, crushing and quashing to reach some invisible summit.

The variety of these ghosts reflect the confusion of Palo Alto. Indeed, California itself is, as linguist Ross Perlin writes, “a glorious stew of contradictions,” a diverse state “forged by a mass middle class.” Assessments of Palo Alto in media, then, are rarely complete indictments. In fact, there’s an almost parental forbearance displayed toward the town and its inhabitants, a reluctant indulgence in their wonderful wackiness. The best part of “Silicon Valley” is its lovable nerds, and Neelay Mehta finally does adapt his game to better suit a world careening toward inhabitability. And when it comes to films like “High School Musical” or “In the Heights” (and, to some extent, perhaps even the recent “Challengers”), Stanford serves as a place uninhibited by the rules, tradition, and frigid weather of the East Coast.

In this way, “haunting” takes on a new meaning: Both gruesome death and ineffable beauty are haunting, after all. Palo Alto ghosts aren’t ghosts in the traditional sense: They’re simply reminders of these contradictions. They don’t require that we raze the town to the ground, but they do require that we listen a bit more closely and think more deliberately about the culture we want to create.

In the words of novelist David Leavitt, “To grow up in Palo Alto is to grow up amid obsolete visions of the future … unsettling relics of the past, marvelous dead boys.” In short: “It is to grow up haunted.”

—Written by Amann Mahajan, an editor-in-chief.

Photos courtesy of Creative Commons



A36-year-old artist falls out a window in the time between midnight and dawn, just eight months after her marriage. Her husband, also an artist, is charged with second-degree murder—and eventually acquitted after a highly publicized trial. “Justice has been served,” he says as he leaves the court. Her death—and her husband’s possible role in it—opens a rift in the New York art world, as she becomes a symbol of the feminist cause to some and stereotyped as a rash Latina by others.

This story of Ana Mendieta’s death on Sept. 8, 1985, sounds lurid enough to be fiction. With the death of her husband, Carl Andre, on Jan. 24, 2024, theories about his role in Mendieta’s death (did he push her out the window? Did she fall as they fought?) have resurfaced. Many of Mendieta’s friends and followers believed Andre killed her, and that his acquittal betrayed the fundamental injustice of the legal system for marginalized groups. The enduring hearsay around Mendieta’s death speaks to how she has become larger than her art: Her identity as an artist has been transmuted into her legacy as a martyr, and she has become successful in a way few artists are as the impact of her work has manifested in the real world.

Andre was an American minimalist sculptor who arranged industrial materials, such as metal plates and bricks, into geometric shapes on the ground. His freestanding arrangements are characterized by an unfeeling quality, a plainness of fact that hides nothing from the gaze. His 1996 sculpture Equivalent III, for instance, comprises 120 bricks, two deep, arranged six by 10 on the gallery floor. His work lies in stark contrast with the details of his personal life, which remain shrouded in unbanished allegations. Whether Mendieta died by accident, suicide, or murder, Andre was never able to escape the shadow her death cast on his artistic and personal reputation.


Mendieta’s work was the antithesis of Andre’s. She pioneered the genre of “body-earth art,” using organic materials and the imprint of her body to conjure the connections between the natural world and our bodies. Her “Silueta” series have included her on a rooftop, cow he-

Andre and Mendieta both leave lasting legacies entwined with the aftermath of and discourse around Mendieta’s death. Andre continues to be hailed as an artist whose innovations in minimalism, in the words of sculpturist Richard Serra, “changed the history of sculpture.” Mendieta has become a symbol for both feminist and Latinx causes, her death sparking outrage about the imbalance of power in both the art world and justice system. The “Whereisanamendieta” group continues to raise awareness about the exclusion of her work given the inclusion of Andre’s. At the same time, the revivals of her work—which explore interdependence and womanhood—in the last two decades speak to its enduring reverberation with those who feel excluded from Western artistic traditions.



Dispelling myths surrounding youth voter apathy

ounger people have established a reputation for many things—some innovative, others not so much— and, especially in recent years, one of these has been low voter participation. Many say that these low voting rates stem from political disinterest, while others claim they reveal a distrust of the voting system—but neither of these assumptions is true. The genuine root of younger Americans’ low voting rates is voting barriers.

Younger citizens’ voting rates are quite low relative to other age groups’. Voter turnout data from Brookings, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization, shows that in the 2022 midterm elections, 31.2% of people aged 18-29 voted whereas 46.9% of people aged 30-44 voted. These results lead many to assume that younger people simply do not care enough about politics. However, in a poll conducted by CIRCLE, a nonpartisan independent research institution, 50% of surveyed people aged 18-24 had been politically active during the 2020 election. Since 50% is just shy of the majority, it would be senseless to claim that the bulk of younger people do not care about politics. Voting is simply not the sole way to be politically engaged: CIRCLE lists other ways that younger people can be “politically active,” including attending a march or demonstration, donating money to a campaign, and volunteering for a political campaign.

Many use younger voters’ lower voting rates to claim that younger Americans choose not to vote because they have less faith in the election system and the integrity of its outcomes than their older counterparts. However, a 2020 survey run by statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight and market research firm Ipsos of over 8,000 Americans reported that younger people were just as likely as older people to say that they did not vote because they thought the system was too broken to be fixed by voting, revealing that equal percentages of older and younger people lack faith in voting as a political remedy. Every age group will always have a few members who are against voting for personal reasons; the current younger generation is no exception. Distrust of the election system causes a minor blow to every generation’s voting rates and is therefore not something to worry about.

Thus, these widespread myths really are just myths. The underlying cause of low young voter turnout seems to be not decreased feelings of civic duty or trust in the political

system but barriers to voting. The same FiveThirtyEight and Ipsos survey said that “almost one-quarter (22%) of young people said that when they didn’t end up casting a ballot, they had actually wanted to but couldn’t.” According to a 2022 CIRCLE poll, 58% of white youth and 34% of youth of color were too busy or had a conflict on Election Day. Having just joined the workforce and started working their way up in the world, younger people typically need to work longer hours. Older Americans are less likely to face the same disadvantages of conflicting school hours and financial vulnerability.

To better facilitate youth voting, then, election day must become a national holiday—an idea currently under discussion in Congress. A national Election Day holiday—and other ways of decreasing voting barriers for younger voters—would raise current youth voting rates and build stronger political


Preregisteror registertovoteat registertovote.ca.gov
Graphics Caitlin Ginn


San Jose struggles to meet its water-regulation requirements while combating homelessness

In recent months, difficulties in eliminating water pollution and homelessness have hindered San Jose’s efforts to obtain a stormwater permit.

In February 2024, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board denied San Jose’s Direct Discharge Plan for the third consecutive time. According to a March 12 budget message from San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan, this step is critical in San Jose’s application for a Municipal Stormwater Permit, which regulates municipal systems’ stormwater discharges to prevent untreated runoff from polluting natural bodies of water.

The Board cited eliminating pollutants in encampments by creeks and lived-in vehicles near storm drains as a key unmet requirement. Consequently,

An estimated

$25 million is needed to clear

San Jose has until June 30, 2025, to clean up pollutants, which include trash,

biowaste, plastics, and metals, or face up to a daily fine per pollutant and per day.

This issue is compounded by homelessness: An estimated $25 million is needed to clear 1,000 homeless people from encampments along creeks, according to the Mercury News. To address the impacts of unsheltered homelessness on waterways, on May 17, Santa Clara Valley Water District held an Environmental Creek Cleanup Committee (formerly Homeless Encampment Committee) meeting to propose a Water Resources Protection Zones ordinance, which may place fines up to $500, jail time up to 30 days, or both to violators. The ordinance rules that activities such as camping are prohibited in the Water Resources Protection Zone, guarding “water resources, endangered species, riparian habitat of creeks and waterways, and other ecological resources.” This protection zone comprises 295 miles of the 800 miles of the creeks and rivers in Santa Clara County, per the published meeting presentation.

“We work with Sunnyvale, San Jose, Santa Clara, and all over the county for safe housing and getting families and children out of the creeks.”

—Santa Clara Valley Water Director and Vice-Chair Richard Santos

San Jose’s struggles to fulfill its stormwater-permit requirements illustrate a broader problem: a dire homelessness crisis informed by the saga of politics, state budget limitations, and growing mental health concerns.

A growing homelessness crisis

With urban sprawl, stormwater permits have become an emerging issue. Indeed, the federal Clean Water Act— which governs water pollution and guarantees citizens access to clean waterways—provides a framework for water regulations.

1,000 unhoused people from creek encampments

Source: Mercury News

In California, however, homelessness poses a problem: According to online civic newspaper San Jose Spotlight, Mahan approximates that about 90% of pollution in creeks and rivers is caused by homeless encampments, and



with about 180,000 unhoused individuals, the Golden State has more than one-quarter of the nation’s total, according to the New York Times. Driven by the defunding of mental health hospital systems, income loss, high rent, and a rising fentanyladdiction crisis, California’s unhoused population continues to grow.

This issue has historical roots. In 1967, California Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, all but ending the practice of institutionalizing patients against their will to save state money. Today, cities like San Jose are still experiencing the political trade-off: a lack of funding for mental health. Richard Santos, Santa Clara Valley Water director and vice-chair, has emphasized the need for increased funding to resolve the homelesness crisis.

“Our current financial and environmental realities this season are going to require us to do what is right, and that is to create basic, dignified places for people to go with an urgency and at a scale that we haven’t seen yet.”

—San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan

“The (Santa Clara County) is the best facility to handle this, but we need our state senators and our federal representatives in Congress to provide us with more money,” he told Helios Magazine. “The state of California had Proposition 1, which just barely passed, to provide more funding to address mental health and homelessness issues. We’re hoping that we can get it real quick because we don’t have enough money. We work with Sunnyvale, San Jose, Santa Clara, and all over the county for safe housing and getting families and children out of the creeks.”

In the past, San Jose has provided shelter to reduce the number of creek encampments. Since 2020, the City has built affordable “interim” housing or “fabricated modular units” for a long-term solution, with Santa Clara County’s and the state’s support.

The county has also tried other approaches. According to ABC7, Santa Clara Valley Water has spent almost $3 million cleaning up 1,300 tons of trash along almost 300 miles of Santa Clara County’s waterways since July.

In a call-to-action during a press conference on March 13, Mahan announced his budget priorities for the 2024-25 fiscal year. Ending street homelessness was one of the core goals. Although at risk of violating the Clean Water Act, Mahan has, nevertheless, started to put up less costly, faster solutions, including safe sleeping and parking sites for the homeless.

“Our current financial and environmental realities this season are going to require us to do

what is right, and that is to create basic, dignified places for people to go with an urgency and at a scale that we haven’t seen yet,” he told the Mercury News.

Moving forward

Political responsibility for glaring social issues is often complex. San Jose, for example, needs to address its growing homeless population, but that requires the state and federal government to fund programs for mental health. Multiple public institutions must collaborate and share the burden of waterway cleanup for San Jose to obtain its stormwater permit. Santos stresses the importance of recognizing that solutions must be collaborative in effort, not just in San Jose but throughout California.

“We all have to keep in mind the rest of the cities are not getting enough towards the homeless situations,” he said. “We all are responsible and we all need to be held accountable. It can’t be done alone. Partnerships are the only way. You can volunteer at a Coastal Cleanup, educate people, and get the youth involved.”

Following the recommendation of the Water Resources Protection Zones ordinance on May 17, staff will gather as much information from committee discussion to finalize the ordinance and will present it to the full Board for approval in July, when the public can voice their concerns.

As the homelesness and environmental crises intersect, Jennifer Codianne, deputy operating officer of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, encourages students to voice their perspectives.

“Students would be welcome to submit a written response to the Board or to make a public response during the meeting either virtually or in person,” she wrote to Helios Magazine.

Graphics cred
miles total in the Water Resources
Protection Zone
Source: Water Resources Protection Zone Ordinance



Fan behavior and energy have a complicated reputation in pop culture. They can be directed toward positive ends—think the reboot of hit sitcom “One Day at a Time” post-cancellation or the million dollars BTS fans raised for the Black Lives Matter movement. However, these positive consequences tend to be overshadowed by fans’ harmful impact, like the increase in domestic violence after English soccer losses, or the aggression and rampant bullying in online fan circles. But why do people get so emotionally invested in people and stories they don’t directly interact with? A favorite team’s win or a character’s happy ending has little practical impact on people’s lives, so why do they care so much? The answer lies in human psychology: more specifically, a craving for social connection and belonging.

A 1999 paper by John R. Anderson in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that audiences initially get invested in media due to their need for social connection. For instance, audiences see celebrities and athletes on the news and social media so often that it becomes difficult to not develop a connection to—and form opinions on—them, even if these connections are one-sided and not necessarily positive. For fictional works—movies, shows, or books—these connections may be stronger. Audiences see fictional characters more intimately than they do celebrities because narration lends them insight into characters’ thoughts. Thus, they may personally relate to them and their experiences. Psychologists differentiate between casual appreciation of people or stories as entertainment and being a proper fan. Fans will go beyond simple media consumption; they will assess, scrutinize, and analyze the media piece, and even create their own interpretations of the original work in artwork or rewritings (colloquially, “fanfiction”). To be considered a fan, someone must identify themselves as one—“a Taylor Swift fan” or “a Warriors fan,” for example—effectively acknowledging their admiration as part of their identity. Advanced Placement Psychology teacher Warren Collier explained that being a fan becomes part of people’s “selfconcept,” an individual’s beliefs and perceptions about themselves. “The first things you see yourself as may be a husband, a teacher, but also a super-fan of ‘Star Wars,’ for example,” he said.

After identifying as a fan of something, many people then explore “fandoms,” which bring together fans of a particular person, group or media piece. The desire to participate in these fandoms may stem from the “affiliation need,” people’s psychological need to belong. Being the singular

fan of something among one’s friends can be isolating, so people’s affiliation needs motivate them to seek out like-minded people. Joining a fandom effectively moves fan behavior into individuals’ “social identity,” the portion of self-concept that is derived from membership in a social group.

Fandoms are complex social groups. They can be helpful to those who have difficulty relating to people, as they provide a default topic to bond over. Similarly, fandoms can promote closer relationships because fans, less worried about judgment or criticism of their tastes from fans of the same people or pieces of media, are willing to be more vulnerable with one another.

However, fandoms can also enable toxic interactions, especially online. Faced with differ ing opinions, fans may become aggressive and harm one an other, as well as people outside their fandom.

Social media has allowed fan communities to grow significantly, which means that fandoms are no longer able to stay a lim ited part of one’s life. “Social media makes it easier for fan behavior to become a big ger part of one’s identity, lead ing them to become more defensive of the topic as a result,” Collier said.

Larger fandoms amplify the “us versus them” aspect of a social group, the motivation to build bonds within a group and hostilities to those outside of it. This mentality leads to aggression toward those in different fandoms, or even subgroups in one’s own fandom. Because social media enables anonymous interactions, people are more likely to be rude and aggressive. In fact, as fan behavior becomes more participatory and time-consuming, fans may see it as a substitute for face-to-face interactions, causing them to lose the social benefits of in-person communication.

Fan culture’s most detrimental effects on social behavior happens when it is taken to an extreme. Healthy interaction with media and fandoms can satisfy certain unmet psychological needs. Fandoms aren’t inherently harmful, but indulging in them excessively can be detrimental. Indeed, self-awareness is key: Fans can prevent behaviors from reaching unhealthy extremes through being cognizant of their own attitudes and interactions.

—Written by

AarushiKumar Aarushi Kumar

Behind Total Darkness

Science of the April 8 Eclipse

To the viewers on Earth, the moon is the same size in the sky as the sun, so the moon blocks out the light of the sun by “eclipsing” it.


The April 8 eclipse’s maximum time in totality

After eagerly waiting for seven years, an astronomical event took my family and me to the serene shores of Mazatlan, Mexico, to crane our heads back and gaze, awestruck, at the sky for four and a half minutes. This event, a total solar eclipse, made headlines as the second major total eclipse to be visible across the country and continent in less than a decade.

A total solar eclipse, such as the one on April 8, occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun at the right distance. To the viewers on Earth, the moon is the same size in the sky as the sun, so the moon blocks out the light of the sun by “eclipsing” it.

An eclipse in its entirety occurs over about two-and-a-half hours and is split up into stages separated by first, second, third, and fourth contacts. Each contact represents a different edge of the moon overlapping a different edge of the sun. Before first contact, the sky appears like any other day with a new moon. First contact—when the leading edge of the moon touches the lagging edge of the sun—starts the eclipse. At this stage, with proper protective eyewear, viewers can see the sun take on a crescent shape that becomes thinner and thinner until second contact—when the lagging edge of the moon touches the lagging edge of the sun—which starts totality.

The sight of a total eclipse is mystifying: As the sun is blotted out, the sky changes colors as during a sunset. Not only the sight is reminiscent of dusk: The temperature plummets and the animals go crazy.

During second contact, viewers can see “Baily’s beads,” rays of sunshine peeking through the craters on the surface of the moon’s edge. Third contact—when the leading edge of the moon touches the leading edge of the sun—ends totality. Fourth contact— when the lagging edge of the moon touches the leading edge of the sun—concludes the eclipse.

Totality is the only time when it is safe to stare at the sun with the naked eye. In fact, it is encouraged. The sight of a total eclipse is mystifying: As the sun is blotted out, the sky changes col-

ors as during a sunset. Not only the sight is reminiscent of dusk: The temperature plummets and the animals go crazy.

These phenomena occur because the area is in the complete shadow of the moon, or the umbra. The length of totality is determined by the size of the shadow and distance from the center line in the shadow. In the April 8 eclipse, the maximum time in totality was four minutes and 28 seconds, over 1.5 times longer than totality in 2017, the most recent eclipse to pass through the continental U.S.

In some locations in the penumbra, or partial shadow, the eclipse will never reach totality and instead viewers will see a partial eclipse. Palo Alto was one of these places in both the 2017 and 2024 eclipses.

Although total solar eclipses, including this most recent one in April, are most widely discussed, many types of eclipses occur at different frequencies.

An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is closer to the sun than Earth due to the timing of earth’s orbit, meaning that the moon’s relative size in the sky is too small to create the effect of totality.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is between the sun and the moon, so the sun casts Earth’s shadow onto the moon. Solar eclipses and lunar eclipses occur in pairs, due to the moon’s orbit of the Earth, but lunar eclipses are much more widely visible than their sunny counterparts.

The 2017 and 2024 eclipses have been rare occasions as the only total solar eclipses passing through the U.S. since 1979, and the last until 2044. However, eclipses themselves are not that rare, as roughly two eclipses happen every year, but not all of them reach totality in places visible to travelers like this one. Many eager viewers, colloquially known as “eclipse chasers,” travel around the world to see total solar eclipses.

Eclipses also provide astronomers with a unique opportunity to examine the sun. During an eclipse, the sun’s corona, normally too hard to inspect due to the sun’s overwhelming brightness, becomes much easier to study. NASA coordinated 11 studies during the 2017 eclipse, recording new findings about the sun and the earth. In 2024, NASA launched satellites into the path of totality to collect more data.

Although we don’t quite qualify for “eclipse chaser” status, my family has planned our vacations around solar eclipses in 2017 and this April. With the next major total solar eclipse upcoming in August, 2026, eclipses are breathtaking opportunities to plan trips, jumpstart a new passion as an astronomer, or just take a moment to safely gaze up at the sun.



The impact of systemic racism in health care

Imagine smiling families filling your TV screen, a calm voice describing the newest revolutionary medicine—their product will change your life! A vast majority of medical advertisements follow this narrative, propagating an inaccurate image of diversity and satisfaction. For many families, this scene isn’t quite the story. Across the U.S., 21.4% of adults said they experienced discrimination in health care, and a large portion of the events reported were recurring incidents, according to the JAMA Network, the American Medical Association’s openaccess medical journal. This pervasive racism is rooted in the foundation of medical institutions—the first Black American to receive a medical degree, James McCune Smith, had to go to Glasgow, Scotland, due to the U.S.’ discriminatory laws. These long-standing biases still seep into modern medicine, plaguing everything from health care access to the quality of care received.

Many marginalized groups have less access to health care. According to the CDC, Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women have between double and triple the probability of dying from pregnancyrelated causes. This figure isn’t an outlier: Statistics about a multitude of other diseases have shown similar trends. Many of these families simply aren’t able to access affordable health care—systemic racism leads Americans of color to have lower

for Black Americans, and nonelderly Hispanics are three times more likely to be uninsured than nonelderly whites from 2010

color consistently receive lowerquality health care. One reason for this gap is the rise of personalized medicine, a type of

funds, which is likely a byproduct of systemic racism. Even though sickle-cell anemia is more prevalent than cystic fibrosis, cystic fibrosis—which primarily affects white Americans—gets more research funding. A 2020 study published by the JAMA Network found that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved four times as many cystic fibrosis–specific drugs as sickle-cell anemia–specific drugs from 2008 to 2018.


Genetic profiling also raises concerns about eugenics, an immoral theory on “improving” humanity’s genetic profile by selecting for certain genetic traits, usually based on racist early-20th-century ideals. Questions on the ethics of branding some genes as negative and some as positive is an everexpanding area of conversation, especially with the advent of technologies like CRISPR/Cas9 that make gene editing discrimination even in the diagnoses. Race-based diagnosis is often faulty. According to a 2021 JAMA Network study, using patients’ race is unnecessary when doctors know that a certain genotype is correlated with specific important outcomes. This practice nevertheless occurs. Organizations like the FDA and other authors of clinical guidelines often assume that racial categorization is enough to distinguish between populations, and have included race and ethnicity in recommendations for genetic screening before drugs.

comes with a multitude of problems, as genetic variation in a racial or ethnic group can sometimes match variation between groups. One medication, allopurinol, is known to cause potentially deadly reactions called severe cutaneous


adverse reactions. The association of one particular allele with these reactions was first found in Taiwan, and since its finding, the American College of Rheumatology has recommended that people of Southeast Asian and African American descent be tested before taking allopurinol. However, a study in Switzerland revealed that while across Switzerland, the reaction-causing allele had similar frequencies to those of white U.S. Americans, the city of Basel reported higher frequencies than the U.S.’ African American population. In short, the allele frequency varied widely, even in racially homogeneous Switzerland. Thus, doctors’ generalizations in banning this medication for those of Southeast Asian and African descent could impair their access to medication. Systemic racism in the medical industry isn’t just a disease that can be cut out, but is built into the very backbone of the system. Even as new fields emerge, racism is inextricably tangled with their roots, promoting and prolonging the system of inequality already present in medicine. From inaccessibility to generalizations to genetic profiling, racism in medicine relies heavily on people’s reluctance to change the status quo. But without intervention, the gap between racial and ethnic groups will only continue to widen.

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