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FALCONIUM

VOLUME 2, NUMBER 1

GOING

FOSSIL FUELS: EARTH’S ENErgY CRISIS CAN IT BE STOPPED?

Basics of

Alternative energy: pros and cons of alt. energy

IN A FUTURE AGE:

&

BIZARRE ENERGY SOURCES OF THE FUTURE The Secret of the Secret Ingredient:

MSG 7

Genetically Modified Organisms: A Question of Ethics 3

Stress:

wind

the Silent Killer 19

IS THE NEW BLACK:

page 14

WHY WIND IS IN

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The commencement of a new school year always calls for special attention. As students are bidding good bye to those precious eleven weeks of summer, shopping for new school supplies, and getting used to their new schedules, teachers, and classmates, Falconium, too, is busily anticipating the beginning of a new year and the start of its 2009-2010 volume. Since the distribution of our premiere issue in May, the Falconium staff has been eagerly writing, editing, and designing the issue in your hands. And now, at this apt time for resolutions, we wish to share some of our goals and plans. First and foremost, we plan to publish quarterly this year so that our readers may enjoy even more of our wonderful scientific insights. We also hope to extend Falconium to a greater student audience, and will begin doing so by allowing submission from students in all schools. And as always, we will continue working hard to ensure the quality of each issue. With this in mind, we launch Falconium’s second flight by exploring the growing obsession of “going green.” Our authors provide a snapshot of the burgeoning energy crises: what’s wrong with fossil fuels, rising sources of alternative energy such as those derived from sun and wind, and even the potentials of fecal matter, bacteria, and the moon as fuels of the future. As we trek into these matters, we couldn’t help but note the similar roles science and technology hold in healing the planet and in healing the microcosm of the human body. Accordingly, we similarly delve into the world of health and investigate a number of topics that impact our own physical and mental wellness. In short, don’t miss out on anything in this adventurous issue - much more is in store in the pages ahead. Wishing you an enjoyable flight,

Alice Fang President

Sponsors:

!

Complex Numbers ! ! Authors: Noor Al-Alusi, Emily Cai, Varun Chaturvedi, Albert Chen, Alice Fang, Ling Jing, Connie Liu, Theresa Lee, Elora Lopez, Eric Marin, Marci Rosenberg, Sara Shu, Angela Qian, Tavia Sin, Rebecca Su, Lauren Sweet, Sharad Vikram, Caroline Yu

Was just sit and play *i=

Graphics: Olga Batalov, Michelle Chen, Alice Fang, Kay Lin, Ling Jing, Lauren Sweet, Amanda Yuan, Jessica Zeng

The old cliché “laughter is

Design: Amanda Yuan

18 The beloved, thirst-

Advisor: Mr. Belyea

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Special Thanks to: Noor Al-Alusi, Alice Fang, Ling jing, Rebecca Su for editing Olga Batalov for graphics

Under the sea

Submission We want you to contribute to the greatest high school science journal ever published! Visit www.falconium.org for article submission guidelines.

8 Going Green

We also welcome letters to the editor; please visit our website for details and to submit.

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FALCONIUM

ABOUT THE COVER The cover, drawn by Olga Batalov (a TPHS ‘09 graduate), seeks to portray a sense of urgency in the growing energy crisis. The earth being held is red and gray, laden with problems mankind has thrust upon it. The person, colored blue to minimize association with any particular nationality, holds the earth, demonstrating that the future of the planet lies in our hands.

Abstracts A Few Words on Innovation 2

History and Science: Taking Flight The take-off of the space race Scientific Magic: Bending Water

ahead.

Science or Myth? Stress: The Silent Killer

Wishing you an enjoyable flight,

Alice Fang President

Cover

!

20

5 Complex Numbers

10

Fossil Fuels The Basics of Alternative energy 11 Not Your Average Energy Source 13 Did you think we’d stop at wind turbines and solar panels? Blowing Strong: Wind 14

There once lived a number quite shy, Though they said he was a complex guy. You see, all he did every day Was just sit and play With his imaginary friend named i*! *i=

Art

“I love science, and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awed by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and reinvigorate it.� - Robert Sapolsky

Health

Laugh Out Loud: The old clichĂŠ “laughter is the best medicineâ€? may have more merit than previously thought. 1 Watermelon Wonder:The beloved, thirstquenching summer treat may be beneficial to both health and environment 1 15 The Secret of the Secret Ingredient: MSG An Ocean of Discovery: Under the sea is where it’s at. Searching for drugs in the ocean.

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The Science of the Muses: Why do we love music so much?

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Life

Protein Structure 9 Opinion: Genetically Modified Organisms: A Question of Ethics What is a GMO? 4

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Original Research

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Von Willebrand Factor

Summing it Up: Going Green

Is America really “going green?�

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OPINION

a few words on innovation (a few words on innovation) by albert chen

What shall I write for my essay (or science journal article, may it be)? I look at my blank word document and begin to type. I have my subject! My word document! No, it is the written language, which can capture ideas and thoughts. And my computer, which stores my writing and allows me to edit. More broadly, my subject is innovation, the creation of a new idea or method. The written language, weapons, mathematics, and printing are among the greatest innovations of all time. They have stood through periods of war and of peace and prevailed timelessly as inevitable components of society. Innovations can come many ways and from many sources; they may come accidentally or through necessity. Companies innovate by improving products and services to meet society’s demands and keep up with competitors. For those in business, innovation is critical to maintaining revenue and keeping customers satisfied. Scientists and engineers also innovate, whether in searching for a novel cure for a disease or creating a new gadget that will ease the flow of everyday life. Creative new products are constantly being designed. Here are some examples. The Surge Protector But not just any surge protector. In light of today’s conservation efforts, Belkin, a consumer electronics corporation, has created a surge protector that goes beyond merely protecting devices from voltage spikes: Belkin’s surge protector saves energy and money as well. Belkin innovators knew that even when electronic devices are powered off, they still suck precious energy. After scratching their heads for some time, they invented a surge protector with the extra feature of cutting off power from select electronic devices in order to eliminate waste of standby energy. Belkin’s surge protector meets the need to conserve while serving the surge protector’s traditional role.

Insulin and Diabetes For people with diabetes, insulin providing devices are an integral part of daily life. Insulin must be inserted in the bloodstream in order to maintain stable blood glucose levels. The primitive needle and syringe method was one of the first ways this was accomplished. However, scientists soon recognized the need for a discreet yet effective insulin-delivering pump. After all, poking yourself with a needle to monitor glucose level, and then poking yourself a few more times to actually get insulin in your body isn’t the most pleasant thing to deliberately do every day. Thanks to their efforts, there are now customizable external insulin pumps that deliver insulin based on a daily routine and can sense changes in blood glucose levels. This greatly improves the quality of life for diabetics. Current research shows an in-development intranasal spray may also show some promise. Those Nasty Mosquitoes Innovation doesn’t always come from the big companies and scientists. Anyone can innovate. For an elementary school science fair project in Taiwan, one student and his teacher devised a method to capture mosquitoes. By using an empty soda bottle, paper, tape, water, yeast, and cane sugar, the student was able to make a trap that caught 1,400 mosquitoes over the course of a few weeks. No more mosquito problem. As you might have realized, innovation can come from anyone, and it can be practical or just cool. Visit www.falconium.org/innovation to find out more about innovation and Innovation Club meetings at Torrey Pines High School. Our world is always in need of innovators.

CORRECTIONS The review article “The New Crash Course in Physics” in Falconium V1, I1 erroneously stated that liquid hydrogen is used in the Large Hadron Collider to achieve temperatures near absolute zero. It is liquid helium, not hydrogen, that is used in the cooling process. art by jessica zeng

Abstracts By Eric Marin Our society produces an unlimited supply of interesting situations on a daily basis (just listen to the evening news). This column, titled “Abstracts” for its summative nature, sheds light on a few of these humorous, interesting pieces with relation to science. Dog's Bowl + Sunshine = Fire? Investigators from the Bellevue Fire Department (WA) are probing into a house fire that caused over $200,000 damage. The alleged culprits—an elevated glass dog water dish and sunlight. But this theory is hard-pressed, as explained by professor of optics at the University of Rochester Thomas G. Brown, who stated “that the scenario is plausible, at least under very specific conditions. The bowl must be transparent—preferably glass— with an overall convex shape, according to Brown. A wider bowl would need to be set further from the flammable material to concentrate the sun’s rays. (The resulting energy, however, would be far greater than that created through a small bowl – or maybe even your dad’s magnifying glass.) The skies must also be clear, dry and the sun shining from moreor-less directly overhead.” Not to be left doubtful, the investigators arranged an experiment to test the likeliness of the theory, where “Lt. Eric Keenan, the Bellevue Fire Department’s community liaison officer,… placed a partially-filled bowl on a wire stand nearly 14 inches above the sun deck at Bellevue City Hall” and mirrored the weather conditions to that of the day in question. Within 15 seconds the piece of cedar underneath had begun to smoke, showing that it would require relatively little time for the house to be set ablaze. Lesson learned: keep Fido’s water bowl inside next time. More at falconium.org.

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chloride before being killed by the toxicity of the vinyl chloride. Thus, in trying to rid

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of third world countries. Children and adults alike are severely suffering from malnutrition

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OPINION

Genetically Modified Organisms: A Question of Ethics Every earthly organism has its good and bad points. Even bacteria, which are the infamous source of countless fatal illnesses, contain valuable traits that have the potential to avail mankind. The idea of harvesting only the benefits of these organisms has given rise to a new field of science involving genetically modified organisms. GMOs, as they are called, allow scientists to build the “perfect microbial machine,” which combines the best capabilities of each organism into one super organism. The positive impacts of this technology are astounding and innumerable. If allowed to progress, genetically modified organisms could revolutionize all areas of science. Although the idealistic concept seems perfect, GMOs have been the subject of intense ethical debate, mostly due to the problems involved in its implementation. Consider the creation of a modified asphalt-eating bacteria, an aide to construction workers and builders. At first glance, it appears only as a beneficial organism. This microbe, however, would also have the potential to cause significant damage to roads, such as aggravating already present road cracks. Furthermore, when scientists create GMOs, they are not simply engineering a static individual that, once produced, will stay in a certain form until death. Rather, they are engineering organisms that have the capability to mutate, to alter in genetic structure. In fact, there is the possibility that the super paint-eating or rubber-degrading strains of the asphalt-eating bacteria may undergo mutations that will allow them to attack houses, cars, and machinery - causing unstoppable devastation to society. Another problem occurs when scientists engineer microorganisms to degrade xenobiotic compounds - man-made compounds that linger hazardously in the environment. A GMO that efficiently removes these dangerous compounds from the environment appears to be a must-have. However, this process, one that would take many hundreds of years in nature, is actually problematic when dealt with by GMOs. Since these xenobiotic compounds are toxic, the GMO, itself, is often killed in the degradation process. This causes increased health problems because the intermediary by-product is highly hazardous. A well-known example of this is the anaerobic biotransformation of trichloroethylene. Scientists found that GMOs only have the ability to transform trichloroethylene to vinyl chloride before being killed by the toxicity of the vinyl chloride. Thus, in trying to rid

components of society.

examples. The Surge Protector

protector’s traditional role. CORRECTIONS

that is used in the cooling process.

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by marci rosenberg and connie liu

trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen and an even more dangerous toxin is formed and left undegradable in the environment. After realizing this, GMO usage ceased in trichloroethylene degradation; however, this lesson learned poses a important argument that shows the risks of GMO implementation. DNA transfer between altered and non-altered organisms is another rare, but dangerous possibility. DNA transfer can occur between natural bacteria via viruses to bacteria of other species and genera, an action that, as suggested by the name, transfers genetic material from one species to another. This is a rare occurrence, but if it were to happen with a GMO, there would be negative consequences because of unexpected changes in the genetic sequencing of previously stable species. A strain of sweet potato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) that turned into a super bug around 1991, destroyed around 200 million Californian crops that year. Additionally, single-gene changes that occur through these gene transfers can make a previously non-pathogenic organism pathogenic. A grape pathogen with limited range became a pathogen with wide-range because of a single-gene transfer. Houseflies and anopheline mosquitoes also developed resistance to certain insecticides because of a singe-gene transfer. But besides technical problems, there are also socioeconomic effects involved with introducing GMOs to society. The Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), for example, is a genetically modified hormone, which increases milk production in cattle by around forty percent. Because this growth hormone art by jessica zeng increases milk production, it also decreases the number of dairy farmers necessary. In essence, hardworking human labor will be outsourced to million of microorganisms. The economy will be most damaged in a country where a large percentage of the populations depends on the one process that GMOs might dominate. In Ghana, for example, over twenty percent of the work force is in cocoa production. With the use of GMOs and simple carbohydrates, synthetic alternatives to cocoa, coffee, and tea can be easily produced, taking away the jobs and livelihoods of people around the world. But then again, to the consumer or to the country in famine, these changes might be more advantageous than problematic. Genetically modified foods can relieve the prevailing malnutrition issue, particularly that of third world countries. Children and adults alike are severely suffering from malnutrition

The application of GMOs poses a risk. Though asphalteating bacteria can be of great potential, it also may be detrimental, widening cracks in roads.

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OPINION

history and science

and anorexia because of the lack of nourishing foods. This concern can be solved easily by utilizing GMO technology. Golden rice is one example of a GMO that has been successfully incorporated in societies dependent on rice. The plain rice that many people rely on as their staple diet does not have an adequate amount of nutrients. Because of the lack of Vitamin A in rice, Vitamin A deficiency is a primary cause of blindness in these countries. Golden rice, developed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Institute for Plant Sciences, contains an unusually high content of vitamin A, among other nutrients. Scientists also are developing a process to reduce costs of producing medicines and vaccines by developing edible vaccines in tomatoes and potatoes. Through this new development, it will be easier to ship, store, and administer these new vaccines to people in third world countries. These new advancements would also drastically decrease prices of generic medications prescribed by doctors and make them more readily available to financially-challenged individuals in the United States. Along with alleviating hunger, GMOs be produced with desired traits such can as drought resistance, disease prevention, herbicide tolerance, and more; in addition, due to modern technological advancements, plants can be grown virtually anywhere. Millions of people would be saved from the fatal grasp of anorexia or malnutrition; moreover, we would boost the survival rate of babies in third world countries. In the end, it is difficult to decide whether further research and implementation of GMOs should be performed. They are perfect in so many ways: cheap, effective, (in most cases) harmless: to the key to resolving many problems that plague society today. Yet, at the same time, there are risks to releasing GMOs, making their debut in society linked to questions of ethics. GMOs are an ideal solution to many of the world’s problems, but only in ideal circumstances. Do we risk harms like that of the asphalt-eating bacteria, the biotransformation of trichloroethylene, or the sweet potato whitefly super bug while we strive to make GMOs practical? The noble task of relieving famine may be at hand with the aid of genetically modified foods, but can we endure the potential consequences? There are no clear answers to these questions now, but questions never stopped the progress of science, and the enormous potential of genetically modified organisms is just too momentous to contain.

art by olga batalov

what is a GMO? by elora lopez

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. A GMO is any organism, be it a plant, animal, or bacteria, whose genetic sequence has been changed from its natural state. Sometimes these changes come from the addition of DNA from one species into another species’ genetic code. This newly combined DNA strand is called recombinant DNA. The organism that has DNA made from two different species is referred to as a transgenic organism, whereas the GMO that is made up of DNA from only one species is a cisgenic organism. The first transgenic organism was created in 1973, when an E. coli bacterium was genetically modified to express a Salmonella gene. This genetic alteration can be done in several different ways. In the case of transgenic organisms, there are two main methods that are used to add a section one organism’s genetic code to another. In some cases, the DNA section that is to be inserted is attached to a virus, and the virus transfers the section to the desired destination. This way, the two sections of genetic code can be combined. DNA can also be physically be inserted by use of a gene gun, also called a biolistic particle delivery system. The gun inserts a heavy metal coated with the DNA that is to be transferred into the other organism’s genetic code. There is now a myriad of different GMOs being produced in the world, all with very different applications. The human protein antithrombin III has been injected into the milk-producing genes of goats, the result being that the goats produce the protein in their milk, and so it can be collected and given as medicine to those that have an antithrombin III deficiency. Though GMOs have already endured numerous scientific breakthroughs its implementation is still awaiting approval from those with ethical concerns. Marci Rosenberg, co-author of this article, won a $200 2nd-place prize from the Center for Ethics in Science and Technology for her essay on the ethics on GMOs, titled “Bioremediation and Genetically Engineered Organisms: A Look Into the Ethics of a Promising Solution to Environmental Concerns in Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystems.” Marci was invited to enter the competition after recieving a Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair Special Award.

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OPINION

taking off

history and science by eric marin

With Falconium's takeoff into the expansive skies of the scientific community, it seems fitting to present a story of how the United States’ campaign against the USSR “took off.” Let’s rewind to the 1960s, to the advent of space exploration and to the set of events through which science made its largest contribution to the United States political stature (as of course, we hope Falconium’s accomplishments will mirror). From as far back as 1939, the United States was experiencing various states of distress due to antagonism from the USSR, ranging from a wary suspicion after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to a hectic fear of imminent and total destruction during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The drastically different opinions regarding political structure led the two superpowers to feel that they could not coexist peacefully; thus began each country’s attempt to edge the other out of the world picture. During their quest to gain a significant advantage over each other, the USSR and the United States found themselves looking for an edge not only on face of the earth, but also above our planetary terrain. Success in space would enable them to survey the other, and if need be, launch their payloads from space, rendering the opposition helpless. This finding ignited the “Space Race,” and needless to say, every minute accomplishment of the two opposing space programs had the potential to greatly affect the future of both parties. It was during the Space Race that United States valued its scientific community most, for it would determine the country’s fate.

Historical Timeline 1957: Soviet Union launches Sputnik I, the first satellite, into space. It could identify atmospheric density through measuring orbital changes, provide information about radio-signal distribution, and detect meteoroids. Its success sparked the “Space Race” to come. 1957: Sputnik II brought a dog named Laika into orbit. The Soviets accordingly earn the title of bringing the first animal to space. However, it is believed Laika survived only a few hours, not the planned ten days. 1957: US attempts to launch a satellite, but fails. 1958: US launches its first satellite, Explorer. Explorer helped confirm the existence of the Van Allen Radiation Belt. 1958: The Eisenhower Administration sign into effect the creation of the National art by olga batalov Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA). 1959: The Soviet Union launches Luna II, the first unmanned space probe to hit the moon. Luna II confirmed the existence of solar wind, performed basic experiments of behavior of gas in space, among many other pioneer demonstrations. 1961: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth for 108 minutes, making the USSR the first country to put a human in space. 1961: President John F. Kennedy had announced to the world that the United States “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth” by means of the Apollo Project. 1961: Alan Shepard, Jr. becomes the first American astronaut in space. 1962: John Glenn, Jr. becomes the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. 1968: The United States launches Apollo 8, the first manned space mission to orbit the moon. 1969: U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins make it to the moon on Apollo 11. Armstrong is the first man to walk on the moon. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” This summer actually marked Apollo 11th’s 40th anniversary.

individuals in the United States.

countries.

momentous to contain.

art by olga batalov

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Bending Water by alice fang

Materials: Water faucet, one nylon comb Directions: 1. Comb your hair with the nylon comb. 2. Turn on the faucet to produce a 1-2 mm stream of water. 3. Move the comb close to (but not in) the water. The water should now start to bend towards the comb! How does this work? The water bends because of static electricity, a process in which electric charge builds up on the surface of an object. Your hair has weakly bound electrons that are easily picked up by the nylon comb. As the comb gains electrons, it becomes negatively charged. Similarly, your hair becomes temporarily positively charged because it looses electrons. This phenomenon, in which electrons are exchanged upon contact, is known as the triboelectric effect. The water is attracted by the comb because of another type of static electricity, electrostatic induction, in which charges build up without direct contact. When the comb (negatively charged) approaches the water, electrostatic induction occurs, and the water’s positive end is attracted towards the negatively charged comb. Remember that water is polar; that is, the electronegativity of oxygen is greater than that of hydrogen. This causes the electrons to spend more time near the oxygen than near the hydrogens, which gives the oxygen a slight negative charge and the hydrogens a slight positive charge. Knowing this, can you guess the orientation of the water molecule with respect to the comb? Notes: 1. Don’t have a nylon comb on you? Try this experiment with a blown-up latex balloon! 2. This “magical” demonstration works best when humidity is low. Otherwise, the water vapor in the air intercepts the electrons before they reach their destinations, and consequently, the charges of the objects are not very strong. 3. Fool your friends and family! Comb your hair while they aren’t watching, and then show them the trick!

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review

review

science science of of the the muses muses

MSG

by alice fang

Music has a seemingly inexplicable power and presence. Whether through century-old musical instruments or the latest high-tech MP3s and Ipods, a melody always manages to find its way into the ears, minds, and hearts of mankind. This mysterious force has caused numerous to dedicate their lives to composing and performing music. It has driven the average American teenager to spend an eighth of his or her waking life listening to music. It has even entered the deep contemplations of philosophers like Plato, who noted more than two millennia ago that “rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.” More recently, it has caught the attention of scientists, who are now attempting to uncover the secrets behind the powers of the so-called “food of love.” It has long been recognized that there is no “music center” in the brain; rather, a number of the brain’s apparatuses are involved in processing music. In 1997, Hervé Platel, JeanClaude Baron, and their colleagues at the University of Caen set out with this goal. Their most substantial results were attained when examining brain activity in subjects who listened to a familiar melody in which the pitch of a few notes were changed. In such a case, neurons were excited not only in the temporal lobes (the brain’s hearing center), but also in Brodmann’s areas 18 and 19, which constitute a region in the brain’s visual cortex often called the “mind’s eye.” This implies that the brain creates a symbolic picture to the sounds heard when music is played. Carol Krumhansl of Cornell University furthered the University of Caen team’s ambitions by demonstrating that the limbic system, a region of the brain heavily associated with emotion, is also active when music is sounded. It was shown that slow music in a minor key, for example, causes the limbic system to produce the same physical responses as sadness. In other words, what is commonly associated with “sad” music produces actual responses such as a decrease in heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, a drop in skin’s conductivity, and an increase in body temperature. Fast music in a major key, on the other hand, produces the same physical signals as happiness. In essence, these results confirm that music produces commonly felt emotions and music often allows us to paint pretty pictures in our mind. Are these the reasons that explain why humans are so addicted to music? Many other activities similarly evoke emotions, but none are quite as captivating as music. Subsequent studies by Blood and Zatorre in 1999 and Menon and Levitin in 2001 provide the most accepted explanation to the question of why humans love music. Their work demonstrated that listening to music elicits emotions that are associated with the reward, motivation, and arousal regions of the brain. Many of these structures, such as the ventral striatum, amygdala, midbrain, and regions of the frontal cortex, are also activated when gamblers win a bet, when drug users take their favorite drug, during sexual activities, and even when we eat our favorite (fattening) chocolate cakes. The question remains of why music is connected to reward centers of the brain. One can say that humans adore

by ling jing

photo by amanda yuan

music for reasons similar to their enjoyment of chocolate cake. An attraction to the latter can be traced to evolution: we need fat and sugar to survive. Could music, too, have origins in evolution? Music has likely existed for nearly as long as food, or agriculture at least. Musical instruments like flutes date back to the Neanderthal period. Furthermore, music seems to be ingrained in humans; children must be taught how to talk, but even young infants move to musical rhythms instinctively. Exactly how music came to be, however, is still debatable. Some scientists suggest that music may have posed some evolutionary advantage at one point. Those that could sing and dance, for example, may have been more attractive to potential mates; as a result, they passed the “survival of the fittest” test, and society became more musical. Other scientists, such as Harvard professor Steven Pinker, disagree with this theory. Pinker suggests that music is a marvelous, accidental spin-off of language, calling it “evolutionary cheesecake.” As highcalorie chocolate cakes (and cheesecakes) evolved from highenergy foods that are needed for survival, Pinker views music as an oversupply of tones, rhythms, and melodies - components of language in excess. After all, both cheesecake and music are desired for reasons outside biological need. However, still others believe that music, unlike cheesecake, is not something that can be simply tossed out of society. Dr. Annirudh Patel of the Neuroscience Institute, for example, contends that humans created music for their own benefit. Patel compares the creation of music to the control of a fire; as fire allows for warmth, cooking, and protection, music transforms human emotion and identity. In whatever case, the power of music is undoubtedly remarkable. As music’s distinct ability to affect humans becomes increasingly accepted, research is turning its focus from merely comprehending the basics of music to using it as a tool to understand human perception and to improve human condition. Music therapy, for example, is being used to help patients with disorders ranging from aphasia (difficulty verbally communicating) to tinnitus (ringing in the ears) to memory loss to simple stress. Yet despite wonderful breakthroughs, a giant field of undiscovered answers and questions still lay hidden in the treasure chest of the human brain and the shrouded enigmas of evolution. Stay tuned to progress, but meanwhile, as we are waiting or searching, may we turn on our iPods and switch to our favorite songs, and perhaps also grab a slice or two of cheesecake to go with it.

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The Secret of the Secret Ingredient: MSG

by alice fang

As the bell sounds, signaling the commencement of the few treasured minutes of lunch, students flock to lunch lines and emerge with steaming cups of Ramen noodles. Unbeknownst to them, however, a certain molecule is interacting with their taste buds as they are gulping down the savory, warm soup. This notorious substance is monosodium glutamate, more commonly known as MSG. The MSG in the students’ scrumptious and inexpensive cup of noodles produces a delectable flavor, but also acts as a poison. MSG, or Aji-no-moto, as it is called in Japan, was isolated from a type of seaweed by Kikunae Ikeda in 1908. Since its development, a major MSG industry has evolved, and MSG has become an essential component in processed, dried, and canned foods, certain cultural cuisines (most notably Chinese food and American fast foods), and of course, the famed and adored Ramen noodles. As a flavor enhancer, MSG changes the sensitivity of taste buds and stimulates electric signals to the brain, thus intensifying pleasing sensations. MSG is not a flavoring in itself, but rather targets glutamate receptors in the mouth to create the unami taste, a recent add-on to the traditional four tastes of sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. (Unami describes the flavors common in foods such as meat, cheese, and mushrooms.) In a sense, MSG tricks the brain into thinking the food being eaten tastes good. With the stimulation of taste buds, a series of detrimental events take place. To give a definition shouldering some indication of its effects, monosodium glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, a non-essential amino acid, an amino acid that the body sufficiently manufactures. MSG is also described as processed free glutamic acid, or glutamic acid that is not a component of a protein. Unlike L-glutamic acid, the naturally occurring variant of glutamic acid that is found in proteins and acts as a neurotransmitter, free glutamate does not have peptide linkages; as a result, the body does not digest it properly but instead quickly absorbs it into the bloodstream. This rapid absorption causes glutamate level to be multiplied eight to ten times its usual level. This excess is toxic and leads to severe implications for the nervous system. Though astrocytes, helper neurons, can moderate glutamate level, lack of glucose renders them ineffective while simultaneously increasing the toxicity of glutamate one hundredfold. Thus, astrocytes are not always present to help the body recover. Another defense mechanism, the blood brain barrier, regulates transportation of glutamate to prevent it from spreading, but is not developed in children, is worn with age, disease, and injury, and does not include the vital hypothalamus or pituitary gland in its protection. Ultimately, there exists no foolproof, impeccable defense against excess glutamate. Consequently, to people without adequate defenses, to those who are MSGsensitive, MSG consumption can be extremely problematic. More than 100 million people in the world today suffer from MSGsensitivity.

favorite (fattening) chocolate cakes.

by ling jing

MSG can also insidiously affect the health of those who are not MSG sensitive. In carefully moderated concentrations and amounts, MSG shows no significant implications. However, excessive consumption can lead to or exacerbate long-term health problems including chronic headaches, asthma, heart problems, mood swings, depression, and paranoia. MSG is also involved in retinal degeneration, or breakdown of cells composing the retina, which extends to damage to dendrites (filaments on neurons that receive signals from other neurons). MSG, simply put, kills brain cells, acting as an excitotoxin and neurotoxin by instigating neuron degeneration and death through overstimulation of glutamate receptors. Recently, attention has been called to the deleterious effects of MSG, sparking an ingredient-naming movement in which companies market MSG under alternate names on food labels. Worst of all, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows and is in fact the driving force behind this flurry of renaming. Decomposed proteins and glutamic acid produced by bacteria that have been refined to be 99% pure glutamic acid must be recorded as monosodium glutamate. If the artificially synthesized glutamic acid is refined to be less than 98% pure glutamic acid, the ingredient name becomes hydrolyzed vegetable protein. HVP can be particularly harmful because it also contains other amino acids, such as aspartic acid and L-cysteine, which also contribute to neuron death. Finally, if amino acids are combined, a third type of MSG is yielded and dubbed natural flavoring. Other names for MSG that have been approved by the FDA are accent, Chinese seasoning, glutavene, subu, Kombu extract, and meijing. No matter what name it is disguised under, however, MSG will always have the same pernicious effects. Fortunately, the public is now much more aware of the health implications of MSG than it was a few decades ago, but MSG is still used extensively in packaged foods and restaurant dishes. Those with MSG sensitivity who ingest the substance or normal people who unknowingly devour large amounts of the flavor-enhancing molecule will be plagued with severe and significant health conditions, which can lead to death if left untreated. Thus, though students may relax and enjoy a filling, tasty lunch of ramen noodles, the secret ingredient scattered within the soup will ensure that the pleasure is only temporary. This cup of Maruchan instant noodles, bought at Torrey Pines High School, contains more than 50% of an average person’s daily sodium allowance. The presence of MSG contributes significantly to the high level of sodium. photo by ling jing

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original research

1. TSRI - IIIG05 - 4C

2. TSRI - IIIG05 - 20C

3. TSRI - IG01 - 4C

Von Willebrand Factor by noor al-alusi

4. TSRI - IG01 - 20C

This paper investigates the optimal conditions for the crystallization of the monomer of the von Willebrand Factor A1 domain in complex with the Fab fragment of NMC-4, mA1A2A3/NMC4, and the dimer, dA1A2A3/ NMC4. By comparing the number of favorable results that were produced under a particular condition to the frequency of that condition in the initial screening, we concluded which conditions were favorable for the crystallization of each specific domain in terms of temperature, precipitant, and pH range. The optimal condition for the crystallization of the von Willebrand Factor A1 domain in complex with the Fab fragment of NMC-4 was in a solution at 20 degrees Celsius and with PEG 3350 as a precipitant. The optimal condition for the crystallization of the binding site in terms of the buffer, salt, and pH range was inconclusive. Introduction Von Willebrand Disease (vWD) is the most common disorder involving abnormal blood coagulation, affecting approximately 3% of our human population. It results from deficiency of the von Willebrand Factor (vWF), a multimeric protein that interacts with platelets to induce blood clotting. Symptoms such as easy bruising, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and prolonged menstrual periods are prevalent in victims of vWD; however, these symptoms are often ignored or falsely attributed to other sources because, until recently, little has been known about vWD. With recent advancements in biochemistry, elucidating the enigma of vWD has become a priority; as the National Hemophilia Foundation states, “vWD is far more widespread than previously thought, and the quality of life issues are more complex than they were previously understood to be.” The function of any protein is dependent on its structure. In 1998, researchers from the Scripps Research Institute solved the crystal structure of the vWF A1 domain in complex with the NMC-4 Fab fragment (mA1A2A3/NMC4 and dA1A2A3/NMC4), a function-blocking antibody. However, further investigation of this complex may help expose new information about this binding site as well as the binding site of the other proteins, particularly Glycoprotein (GP) Ibá. A better understanding of the structure of this complex can assist the discovery of new treatments for diseases involving blood clotting, such as vWD, Hemophilia, heart attack, and stroke. In order to achieve these vast impacts, however, this complex must once again be crystallized. First Screening of mA1A2A3/NMC4 and dA1A2A3/NMC4 The analysis of the first screening of mA1A2A3/NMC4 and dA1A2A3/NMC4 included hundreds of cloned samples of the protein complex, with each sample under different conditions. The variables for the sample conditions were temperature, pH range, precipitant, buffer, and salts. Each sample had one of 52 different precipitant solutions, was either at 4°C or 20°C, had a pH within the range of 4.0-10.9, and had none, one, or multiple of the various buffers and salts tested. The screening was analyzed in order to determine the optimal conditions for the crystallization of each of the protein complexes.

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We began our analysis by using CrystalTrek software to look at photographs that followed the progression of crystal growth in each sample. The samples, based on their most recent photographs, were then divided into two categories

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based on whether they were a “hit” or not a “hit”. A sample was considered a “hit” if it produced a uniform precipitate or exhibited any crystallization; any sample that remained a clear drop or formed an amorphous precipitate was not a “hit”. The hit rate for the different varieties of precipitants, temperatures, and pH ranges was then calculated to determine which condition was the most favorable for the crystallization of the protein complex.

Temperature: The data collected for temperature was clearly in favor of the 20°C conditions. The initial screening for the mA1A2A3/ NMC4 provided an overall 12% hit rate. The hit rate for the 20°C trials was 14%, whereas the hit rate for the 4°C trials was 11%. This means desirable results for mA1A2A3/NMC4 are more likely to be attained with the conditions at 20°C rather than 4°C. The same trend was demonstrated with the dA1A2A3/NMC4 screening. The initial screening for the dA1A2A3/NMC4 provided an overall 15% hit rate. The hit rate for the 20°C trials was 19%, whereas the hit rate for the 4°C trials was 10%. Also, several samples with identical conditions, with the exception of temperature, provided results that were much more favorable in 20°C than 4°C; examples include the TSRIIG01-20C sample and the TSRI-IG01-4C pictured above. Both had identical solution with a pH of 5.0 and contained 20% w/v/ PEG 3350 and 0.2 M di-Ammonium hydrogen Citrate, but the sample at 20°C produced quality crystals (a score of about 7), whereas the 4°C sample resulted in nothing but than a clear drop (a score of 1). The same occurred with the TSRI-IIIG05-20C and TSRI-IIIG05-4C samples. At different temperatures (but otherwise identical conditions), these two samples produced many small needle clusters (a score of 7) at 20°C and only a clear drop (a score of 1) at 4°C. Determining the most favorable precipitant based off of the data in the table was not as clear as determining the favorable temperature, but a vague trend could still be extracted. Before conclusively deciding which precipitants were the most favorable, however, an observation must be made that the precipitants were not all tested the same number of times. The number of samples that contained each precipitant varied from one sample to 48 samples. This means that even if the hit rate of a sample with one trial is 100%, samples with more trials might be more favorable even if they have a lower hit rate because they have proven to be more consistent.

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original research With this in consideration, the most favorable precipitants from this screening were PEG 400, PEG 3350, and PEG 6000; all had moderately high hit rates for both the monomer and the dimer and produced fairly consistent results in over 20 trials. However, the majority of the PEG samples between 3000 and 8000 were also successful. This is because the PEG samples within this range are more similar in quality than PEG solutions with higher or lower values, or solutions that did not contain PEG. This is the reason that, even though PEG 400 was more successful than PEG 3350 according to the hit rate (with a hit rate of 27% as opposed to 21%), PEG 3350 may still be considered more favorable because it is more similar to the other PEG solutions. pH Ranges: The most favorable pH range for crystallization was not clear; however, it was evident that, as the pH of the samples exceeded 8.0, fewer samples produced favorable results. This means that samples with a pH between 4.0 and 7.9 are more likely to be favorable than samples with a pH equal to or greater than 8.0. Samples with a pH less than 4.0 were not tested in this screening, but they probably would not provide favorable conditions because a pH lower than 4.0 is generally too acidic for crystal growth.

Introduction

Buffers and Salts: Determining the hit rates for each of the buffers and salts utilized in this screening would be impractical because of their vast number. Instead, the salts and buffers that were deemed successful were those that produced general high quality results. These buffers and salts include Sodium Chloride, Ammonium Acetate, Magnesium Chloride Hexahydrate, Ammonium Citrate di-Basic, Sodium Citrate, HEPES pH 7.0, 1% Tryptone, Sodium Sulfate Decahydrate, Ammonium Sulfate, Citric Acid pH 5.0, HEPES pH 7.4, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate Heptahydrate, Calcium Chloride, Potassium di-Hydrogen Phosphate, Citrate pH 5.4, Tris pH 8.0, 2% Tryptone, Potassium Sulfate, MES pH 6.0, and Bicine pH 9.0.

previously understood to be.”

Conclusion Though crystals did formed under both 20°C and 4°C, the 20°C conditions were notably more favorable than the 4°C conditions. Solutions with vastly different pHs had some favorable results, but most of the favorable results came from solutions with a neutral to mildly acidic pH. Many precipitants did not produce any favorable results; however, most of the precipitants with 0% hit rates were only tested in five samples or less. Perhaps if they were present in more samples, some favorable results may have yielded. The most favorable results came from the PEG solutions, especially PEG 30008000. Finally, many different salts and buffers were used in these screenings and most of them produced at least some favorable results. The results from the monomer were similar to those of the dimer. Slight variation was still shown: when held under the same conditions, for example, many samples crystallized either the monomer or the dimer, but not both. However, both monomer and dimer provided similar trends for favorable results: they both favored 20°C, pHs between 4.0 and 7.9, and PEG precipitant solutions. The accuracy of the data collected is questionable solely due to the fact that hit rates do not take all factors into consideration. Firstly, the hit rates do not take into account

protein complexes.

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that there are different numbers of samples for each of the conditions evaluated. Using the hit rate calculation method, a sample with a 100% hit rate for having 1 hit out of 1 sample would be considered of the same quality as a sample with a 100% hit rate for having 80 hits out of 80 samples. Clearly, the second sample would be a more favorable condition because of consistency, whereas the one hit out of one sample might have been a chance occurrence. Second, the data assumes that each of the variables (temperature, pH, precipitant, salts, and buffers) was isolated and analyzed separately. This is important to take into account because these variables may very well be dependent on each other and certain conditions might have only been favorable when paired with another condition. The only conclusion that can be derived from this experiment without this problem is that the 20°C trials were more successful than the 4°C trials because identical samples were tested at both temperatures.

Protein Structure by noor al-alusi

The human body is perhaps the most intricate biological apparatus in existence. Because it is constantly active, undergoing changes, and adjusting to different environments, it requires trillions of cells to enable its regulation. Of the most useful and versatile of the molecules in these cells are proteins. Proteins carry out a variety of functions, including building and repairing body tissue, catalyzing reactions in the body, transporting nutrients, contracting muscles, signaling other cells, and providing energy to the body. Proteins are able to perform all of these diverse functions because of their complex, irregular structures. But, before delving into the depths of the role of proteins in the body, a basic understanding of what a protein is needs to be established. Proteins, also known as polypeptides, are long strands of amino acids. The sequence of amino acids in a protein is called the “backbone”, or the primary structure. Due to the intermolecular forces between molecules of different amino acids on the polypeptide chain, the protein twists and turns into a structure that varies from protein to protein; this is called the secondary structure. Additionally, a protein may fold over itself. This can come as the result of either a reaction between two specific molecules in amino acid side chains or strong intermolecular forces between various molecules in the backbone of the protein. This protein folding is what makes the tertiary structure, which describes the way secondary structural elements are arranged in the three-dimensional structure of the protein. Lastly, some proteins interact with other polypeptides chain, resulting in a quartenary structure. So, of what importance is the knowledge of the structure of a protein anyway? In order for a scientist to fathom the specific function that a protein has in the body, the structural determination of the protein is imperative. Moreover, each of the four levels of a protein’s structure needs to be determined because each one reveals a different aspect of the protein; the primary structure defines the identity of the protein, the secondary structure explains the geometry of the protein in space, the tertiary structure shows how the protein folds, and the quartenary structure reveals any interaction a protein might have with other proteins. Once these structures are determined and the role of the protein is established, the potential of using the protein to regulate and enhance different processes in the body is unleashed.

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Fossil Fuels: The Depletion of Our World’s Dependency by ling jing

Fossil fuels are energy sources formed from ancient decomposed animals and plants. Coal, oil, and natural gas, the three types of fossil fuels, are each composed of hydrocarbons (compounds containing only carbon and hydrogen). The formation of fossil fuels happens in the course of hundreds of millions of years and requires intense conditions of heat and pressure; thus, it is a non-renewable resource. Gasoline is a mixture of the hydrocarbons that compose fossil fuels, including butane and ten-carbon hydrocarbons. Properties of gasoline make it ideal for use in cars, allowing for combustion efficiency, rapid acceleration, and decreased stalling. Gasoline, however, is not the only energy source derived from fossil fuels; electricity, too, is generated through coal combustion. In fact, approximately 1.9 billion tons of coal are burned in the world every year for electricity. Given the swift methods of transportation, increased need for electricity, and development of advanced technologies, it is apparent that fossil fuels, which currently supply 85% of our energy needs, are crucial to the survival of our modern world. However, energy use is commensurate with rapid modernization and urbanization, and our fossil fuel supplies are being depleted at an alarming rate. The depletion of fossil fuels has not only sparked a global search for alternative energy sources, but it also has implications on international relations as well. During the Baghdad Conference in 1960, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia founded the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and were later joined by Qatar, Indonesia, Libya, Algeria, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, Angola, Ecuador, and Gabon. This twelve-country cartel designs policies regarding oil production and exportation. It is also responsible for setting oil prices. As the reservoirs of fossil fuels diminish and the energy crisis grows more severe, tensions between the countries that import fossil fuels and those who process and export them have

escalated; often these tensions can lead to global wars. For instance, if the United States, a major consumer of oil imported from Saudi Arabia, suddenly switched from fossil fuels use to a form of alternative energy, Saudi Arabia would likely experience an economic crisis. Feelings of hostility may develop toward the U.S. and war may erupt. Also, the United States is on good terms with the Soviet Union and many countries in the Middle East solely due to their oil reserves. These relations may turn rocky when fossil fuels are used up. International relations are not the only victims of fossil fuel use; the environment has also suffered deeply. Combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. As much of the planet knows by now, this results in global warming and will result in global disaster if a solution is not found. Though this frightening reality may be several years into the future, the burning of fossil fuels also has immediate implications on the environment. Burning the fuels releases byproducts that can enter the lungs and bloodstream, resulting in asthma and other respiratory problems. Oil spills are detrimental to ecosystems and can continue to affect populations years after the spill has been cleaned up, as illustrated by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 that severely impacted the populations of many species of marine and terrestrial mammals, birds, and fish. With possibly only 17 years left of fossil fuel usage in the worst case scenario, it grows ever urgent to find a solution to the energy crises, for the sake of the modern world as we know it and for that of our planet’s survival. Imagine a world with no cars, no planes, no electricity, and an uninhabitable environment—this is the world that will become reality if we do not strive to find a sustainable, effective, environmentallyfriendly form of energy as replacement for fossil fuels. Fossil fuels have contributed to the development of modern society; it is now up to us and our increased scientific knowledge to maintain it.

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The Basics of Alternative Energy

Imagine yourself stranded on the highway, the gas meter on your car pointing below “LOW.” As you look for help, you notice that all the other cars have also run out of gasoline. Though this situation is largely unrealistic, fossil fuels, which currently supply over 80% of our nation’s transportation and electricity needs, will eventually be depleted. In fact, the rate at which fossil fuels are being consumed is incredible, exceeding the rate at which they are naturally produced by our planet. Fortunately, new alternative energy sources have been discovered. Here are a few of the most promising. by tavia sin Alternative Energy Source

Description and Benefits

Photovoltaics

Wind Power

Biomass

Obstacles and Disadvantages

Solar power is produced when light from the sun is captured by photovoltaic cells (solar cells), and converted into electricity. On a sunny day, the sun produces approximately 1,000 watts of energy per square meter. Thermonuclear reactions within the sun releases this energy, which is transformed into electricity through photovoltaic cells, usually made of silicon crystals. As light from the sun is absorbed by the cells, electrons in the silicon atoms gets excited to a higher energy level, creating an electrical current. These photovoltaic cells are made into solar panels to receive sunlight. This source of energy is attractive because sunlight is free and solar power does not release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere like other energy sources do.

The greatest obstacle to widespread solar energy generation is the cost of building and installing solar cells, which must decrease significantly in order for solar energy to be competitive with fossil fuels. Fortunately, recent developments in the nanotechnology industry have assisted the creation of more efficient methods of capturing the sun’s energy. One such development is solar energy paint: solar energy paint allows more nanoscale solar cells to be packed into the same surface area as traditional solar cells.

Wind power uses wind turbines to convert wind to useful energy. As the wind blows, wind turbines spin to generate electricity. The blades on wind turbines are at a 45 degree angles to draw energy from even gentle winds. When the wind pushes the blades, the turbine spins, converting the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical energy, which is then transformed into electricity by a generator. Wind power is environmentally friendly, creating energy without polluting the earth.

A downside is that wind power is dependent on weather. The amount of electricity produced by wind turbines is not constant because the strength of wind varies. Furthermore, wind turbines are unsightly, causing visual pollution. Although the process of converting wind to electricity does not release pollutants, the manufacturing of wind turbines does.

Biomass - biological waste (e.g. dead plants and animal feces) - can also be transformed into energy. Biomass in the form of liquid fuel is known as biofuel. A common biofuel is ethanol, an alcohol that can be used in cars as a replacement for gasoline. Biodiesel is a division of biofuel that made from excess vegetable oils to substitute diesel in cars.

The use of biomass for energy produces carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The collection of adequate biomass can also difficult.

The battery in electric cars can be fully recharged within three to ten hours (not exactly your five minute gas stop). For this reason, hybrid cars are often more practical. However, hybrid cars drive much slower than traditional gas-fueled cars, and its costs and maintenance of hybrid cars are also more expensive than traditional cars. The government is trying to make up for these expenses by providing tax refunds.

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Hydropower

Water can generate electricity through tidal, wave, and hydroelectric power. Hydroelectric energy is produced when water from lakes and rivers flows through turbines in dams and produce electricity. Similarly, tides and waves can be channeled into turbines to generate electricity. Hydropower is very similar to wind power. As water flows through dams with water turbines, the turbines spin the generator and produces electricity. These three related processes for producing electricity from water are environmentally friendly.

The use of dams is vital in hydropower. However, building dams is extremely expensive and can result in serious geological damage. The constructions of these dams is also a potential threat to the environment.

The use of nuclear power is attractive because it is a low cost alternative to fossil fuels. Nuclear power plants can produce much electricity without augmenting air pollution. About sixteen percent of the world’s electricity comes from nuclear power. Nuclear power plants are fueled by radioactive elements such as uranium and plutonium. The atoms of the radioactive under go nuclear fission, which releases enormous amounts of energy. This energy is used to heat water, producing steam. The steam then pushes turbines, which in turn generate an electric current.

Nuclear power produces radioactive wastes which need to be disposed of safely. Thus, the use of nuclear power is widely debated. Although fossil fuel use contributes to air pollution and global warming, radioactive wastes from nuclear plants can be just as harmful. Nuclear power plants release radiation that harms body cells and may even result in death. Too much radiation exposure during pregnancy may also result in birth defects. If nuclear power plants are not maintained and controlled properly, a meltdown may occur, in which nuclear fission causes a nuclear explosion and releases radiation into the atmosphere.

most promising. Alternative Energy Source

Nuclear Power graphics by olga batalov

photo by alice fang

As more alternative energy sources are being discovered and used across the world, we will be able to live in a healthier environment with fewer pollutants. Although no energy source is perfect, the use of natural resources such as sunlight, wind and water can improve the condition of our environment.

Photovoltaic power

The Alternate Alternative Electric cars by lauren sweet

Wind Power

As gas prices increase, the prospect of electric cars, cars that run on electricity, is becoming more attractive. Electric cars run on batteries. Hybrid cars are cars that run on both electricity and gasoline, and help reduce air pollution and reliance on gasoline.

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The battery in electric cars can be fully recharged within three to ten hours (not exactly your five minute gas stop). For this reason, hybrid cars are often more practical. However, hybrid cars drive much slower than traditional gas-fueled cars, and its costs and maintenance of hybrid cars are also more expensive than traditional cars. The government is trying to make up for these expenses by providing tax refunds.

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Not Your Average Energy Source by rebecca su

As the United States’ gas and electricity demands increase and an energy crisis looms ahead, the search for alternative energy sources has been brought to the top of the national agenda. Common alternatives such as solar, wind, and nuclear power have already been studied considerably and are beginning to provide for a small fraction of our energy needs. 21st century technology does not stop at wind turbines and solar panels, however. Researchers have been exploring on new frontiers, and the results are surprising. Ranging from fuel from the moon to that extracted from the infamous E. coli bacteria, these remarkable discoveries may just become the energy of the future.

promising.

Fecal Matter: Recycling Our Waste As unappealing as it sounds, animal fecal matter is a potential alternative energy because it can create two substances: oil and methane. Oil can be obtained from fecal matter through a process known as thermal

depolymerization (TDP), which uses extreme heat and pressure to transform organic material into crude oil. Because animals consume organic matter and then eliminate it, their waste is still considered organic. Thus, TDP simply harnesses the hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen present in the fecal matter, converting it into petroleum hydrocarbons, or crude oil. The crude oil can then be refined into substances such as gasoline and diesel fuel. Fecal matter is also a source of methane, a clean fuel used for heating, cooking, and other activities that normally require natural gas. Researchers have already developed a simple device, called a methane digester, to capture the methane. Using the methane digester, the animal waste would be placed inside a tank, where bacteria may then convert it into methane. Capturing the methane not only prevents free methane from contributing to global warming, but also keeps fecal matter out of landfills. In fact, this method is already used in parts of Europe, developing countries, and several dairy farms in the U.S. Bacteria:Petroleum-Producing Factories In addition to producing methane, bacteria are also capable of creating crude oil, a valuable commodity in today’s developed world. Because bacteria allow us to “grow” our own oil, this method essentially provides us with a “renewable” energy source. A California-based bioengineering company called LS9 has developed a way to create crude oil using a harmless strain of E. coli bacteria. During fermentation, the E. coli bacteria naturally produces fatty acids as a waste product; coincidentally, the molecular structure of these fatty acids is similar to that of crude oil. Thus, LS9 scientists have genetically-modified the digestive systems of the bacteria, making them produce crude oil as a byproduct instead of fatty acids. Fortunately, this bacteria-derived petroleum

of the bacteria, making them produce crude oil as a byproduct instead of fatty acids. Fortunately, this bacteria-derived petroleum is already distilled, so it can easily be refined into diesel, jet fuel, and other substances without any additional purification. In addition to being an environmentally-friendly alternative to oil drilling, this new method is also relatively cheap. Due to recent innovation, the genetic modification process only requires $20,000, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have been required in the past. An additional expense is feeding the bacteria; since they generally eat anything that can be broken down into sugars, they can be fed agricultural waste such as sawdust, woodchips, and straw. According to Greg Pal, a senior director at LS9, if Brazilian sugar cane was used as feedstock, the crude oil produced by the bacteria would cost approximately $50 per barrel. Having already developed the fundamental technology, LS9’s only challenge is to expand on a larger scale. Currently, a 1000-liter “bacteria machine” covering 40 sq ft can produce one barrel of crude oil per week; however, in order to account for the country’s 143 million barrels per week, the facility would have to cover 205 sq miles, an area the size of Chicago. Nevertheless, by no means will this inhibit the LS9’s development: according to Pal, the company is planning to open a commercial-scale facility in 2011.

graphics by ling jing

Helium 3 Fusion: A Mission to the Moon Until recently, nuclear fusion has always been portrayed as a scientist’s fantasy, a futuristic technology destined to remain in sci-fi movies and comic books. However, a few companies have already found ways to produce clean, economical fusion power for commercial use. Nuclear fusion is the joining of two atoms. (Nuclear fission, which involves the splitting of an atom, is the currently more widespread technique used to extract nuclear power). When two hydrogen atoms combine, they form helium atoms, excess neutrons, and energy. Most fusion reactions involve isotopes of hydrogen such as deuterium and tritium. The problem with this is that 80% of the released energy is radioactive. Facilities would have to invest heavily in safety technologies, significantly lowering the appeal of the cost-effective factor. As a result, many scientists have turned to helium 3, an isotope of the helium used in balloons. Helium 3 fusion produces a mere 1% of the radioactivity that results from deuterium-tritium reactions. It is clean, safe, and capable of producing large amounts of energy—scientists have deemed it as the perfect energy source. Unfortunately, helium 3 exists in limited supplies on Earth. On the moon, however, there is enough helium 3 to power the United States for thousands of years; one shuttle load (25 tons) could sustain the U.S. for an entire year. Thus, with the technology already in place and a virtually unlimited fuel supply, helium 3 fusion may be the answer to our energy problem.

Scientific development has brought the search for alternative energy to a whole new level, broadening its horizons from microscopic bacteria to the far reaches of the universe. Technologies that could only be found in science fiction several decades ago are now on the brink of commercialization. As we look for a solution to our current energy crisis, we should take advantage of these extraordinary leaps in scientific progress.

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cover by rebecca su

BLOWING STRONG

of the bacteria, making them produce crude oil as a byproduct instead of fatty acids. Fortunately, this bacteria-derived petroleum is already distilled, so it can easily be refined into diesel, jet fuel, and other substances without any additional purification. In addition to being an environmentally-friendly alternative to oil drilling, this new method is also relatively cheap. Due to recent innovation, the genetic modification process only requires $20,000, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have been required in the past. An additional expense is feeding the bacteria; since they generally eat anything that can be broken down into sugars, they can be fed agricultural waste such as sawdust, woodchips, and straw. According to Greg Pal, a senior director at LS9, if Brazilian sugar cane was used as feedstock, the crude oil produced by the bacteria would cost approximately $50 per barrel. Having already developed the fundamental technology, LS9’s only challenge is to expand on a larger scale. Currently, a 1000-liter “bacteria machine” covering 40 sq ft can produce one barrel of crude oil per week; however, in order to account for the country’s 143 million barrels per week, the facility would have to cover 205 sq miles, an area the size of Chicago. Nevertheless, by no means will this inhibit the LS9’s development: according to Pal, the company is planning to open a commercial-scale facility in 2011.

by emily cai

art by michelle chen

birds a year. When birds attempt to perch on the wind turbines, which are often in their migratory routes, deaths may easily result. However, these problems do not hinder wind power’s enormous potential. Sophisticated studies of bird migratory routes and newly designed wind turbines that reduce rotation speeds help reduce bird death rates. Land shortages are not a significant issue either: research from Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, has shown that to produce all of the energy necessary to power all of the vehicles in the U.S., wind farms would occupy 0.5 percent of all U.S. land, but it would take over 30 times more land to grow the crops to produce ethanol instead. Moreover, wind turbines can also be built at sea, saving more land for other projects and uses. Offshore wind turbines have more access to stronger and steadier winds as well, providing a more reliable energy source. At the end of 2004, U.S. capacity for electricity generated by wind energy reached 6,740 MW. The U.S. Department of Energy has resolved to obtain 6% of U.S. electricity from wind power by 2020, while the European Wind Energy Association predicts that by the same year, half of Europe’s population will be receiving their residential electricity from wind power. As alternative energies jobs are becoming more prevalent and generating more jobs in the economic downturn, the potential for wind energy is greater than ever. With high hopes, the answer to the energy crises may just be blowing in the wind.

graphics by ling jing

As increasing reports of environmental damage surface, people are changing their energy habits to halt the permanent destruction of vital environmental services and ecosystems. More and more alternatives to conventional fossil fuels are being developed and considered. A significant proportion of these energy generating processes is already in use. Among them, wind energy proves to be one of the most promising. Wind energy is essentially electricity derived from solar energy. Heat from the sun’s radiation warms the atmosphere unevenly. The less dense hot air rises, lowering the atmospheric pressure on the earth’s surface. Cooler air then moves to replace the hot air, generating wind. Wind then flows over wind turbines, turning them and generating electricity. Because wind energy does not emit carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, the environmental impact of wind energy is lower than that of the energy extracted from current fossil fuels. One study found that wind energy can reduce carbon and air pollutant emissions by 99 percent. Other sources of renewable energy, such as biofuels, do not reduce greenhouse gasses, but instead further contribute to its prevalence. In addition, biofuels require large volumes of water, fertilizers, and pesticides in order to grow. Another advantage of wind energy is the ease with which plants can be constructed and expanded. Wind turbines can be constructed efficiently on wind farms. Livestock and crops can be raised and grown on the same land, taking advantage of the space below the wind turbines. Farmers also benefit from wind farms as they can receive over one thousand dollars per year in royalties for each turbine they allow on their farmland. Meanwhile, they continue to profit from the crops and livestock are raised below the turbines. Despite its benefits, wind farms do come with several setbacks. Among these disadvantages include wind energy’s dependency on weather. Wind farms require steady winds, limiting the areas where they can be built. In fact, an average wind turbine’s capacity factor, (the turbine’s actual energy production over a given period of time over the amount of power the turbine would have produced if it had run at full capacity for the same amount of time) may only be between 20 and 40 percent. Lack of strong winds may force people to use back up generators, which reduce the benefits of wind farms. Wind farms overall also require a large amount of land, creating visual pollution and decreasing the aesthetic value of the land. Besides land issues, wind energy also directly threatens animals. It is estimated that wind turbines kill 40,000

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The Water Crisis

An Ocean of Discovery by lauren sweet

For centuries, scientists have looked to land for their medicinal treatments: aspirin from willow leaf and birch bark, antibiotics in fruit mold, insulin from lizard saliva, and much more. However, over time, this once veritable pantheon of drug possibilities has been nearly scraped to its core. As new chemical drug alternatives from land have become less varied and promising, scientists have turned to the most ancient, vast, and unexplored terrain on our planet: the ocean. This new endeavor, called marine biosprospecting, searches the extensive biodiversity that exists within Earth’s waters for new antibiotics and cancer treatments. Unlike rainforest bioprospecting, which can be detrimental to rainforest inhabitants, marine bioprospecting is not harmful to ocean life. Just a small unobtrusive sample, about half a sponge, is sufficient material to recreate the medicinal substance. Furthermore, most drugs that are discovered in the deep blue can be easily recreated in labs as effective medicine using elemental analysis. The concept of looking into our oceans is fairly new, arising only in the 1970s when scientists realized that land had few remaining chemical resources that were manipulable for human benefit. The ocean, having the greatest biodiversity on the planet, was a virtually untapped resource, making it a worthy candidate for medicinal exploration. The seas’ vast size and innumerate unstudied species paint a promising future for this field; in fact, about 94% of the earth’s known phyla exist in the seas, making it a literal ocean of possibility. Already, some twenty-five different chemicals harvested from marine life are being tested in drug trials. The extreme conditions present in areas of deep sea where little light, oxygen and warmth are found have sparked

and potassium. tomatoes, is a powerful antioxidant.

humans.

certain diseases.”

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evolution of a variety of survival systems. Interestingly, these unique techniques also seem to help fight off disease in humans. Scientists have discovered some promising new medicines from these regions of extremity. Researchers have discovered sea creatures that produce a growthrestricting compound to keep its species’ population from becoming excessively large. The chemical works similarly in humans, restricting the growth of tumors, thus being a potentially useful drug for cancer patients. Another potential tumor-fighting drug can be found in certain sponges and fungi. Scientists have found that these animals produce a chemical which can inhibit effective functioning of an enzyme malignant tumors secrete, an enzyme that would otherwise protect the tumor from the body’s defense mechanisms. A drug that utilizes this chemical may allow the body to react efficiently to the abnormal tumor. Other potential cancer-fighting species include a fungus that grows on Bahaman sea grass and a bacteria found in ocean sediment. The sea grass fungus can destroy the network of vessels in the tumors of people with non-smallcell-lung cancer. When combined with chemotherapy, the chemicals produced by this fungus can starve tumor cells and kill them. Similarly, the bacteria may help prevent strong enzymes call proteasomes from destroying helpful, cancer-preventing proteins. These new findings show great promise, and while most are still in the first and second stages of the three stage trial process (in which drugs are tested for (1) safety, (2) effectiveness, then (3) consistency, the ocean shows enormous potential as the next miracle pharmacy). Who knows, in a few years those pills on sale at the counter may have been swimming with the fish.

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In many ways, water is Earth’s most abundant resource. In fact, oceans cover approximately 75% of our planet. Even human bodies are composed of 60% water! Though water is seemingly everywhere, humans are only able to use 1% of the water on earth. Furthermore, 99% of this usable water is stored in the ground and is not easily accessible. Instead, most of our water comes from rivers, which comprise a mere 0.22% of the usable water on earth. The amount of usable water is steadily decreasing and the water shortage is especially dominant in third world countries. A United Nations report stated that 20% of the world population does not have access to clean drinking water.

art by ling jing

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HAHA review

laughoutloud caroline yu

A neutron walked into Starbucks and asked, “How much for a drink?” The clerk replied, “For you, no charge.”

Social Lubricant Maybe you laughed, and maybe you didn’t, but the fact remains that laughter is a universal language. Whether one speaks Chinese, Italian or even Yezidi (spoken in Armenia), laughter is a regular series of short syllables that can be spelled out as “ha-ha”, “ho-ho”, or “hee-hee.” Until recently, remarkably little was known about laughter. Most would assume that laughter is a simple response to humor—people laugh because something is funny. However, several researchers argue that people often laugh not so much in response to a specific stimuli (such as a punchline), but rather more in response to their situation. Roy Baumeister and his colleagues at the Florida State University studied the effects of different environments on subject’s responses. In the study, the subject was told a notso-funny joke. When told the experimenter was a boss or a coworker, the subject tended to laugh. However, when the roles were reversed, with the subject as the boss and the experimenter as the underling, the subject was more often unamused. The experiment showed that laughter also has to do with social hierarchy. When people are low in the social ladder, they need all the allies they can find; thus, they are primed to chuckle at anything, even if it doesn’t do them any immediate good. Clearly, laughter is a social activity, but laughter is also good for people on a biological level.

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The Chemistry of Laughter Laughing generates a wealth of healing chemicals. Some of these, such as serotonin, a neurotransmitter, send messages to the brain; others are immune-boosting chemicals such as interleukins. Lee Berk of the Loma Linda School of Medicine conducted a study that revealed that laughter decreases stress levels and raises the levels of HDL cholesterol, also known as the “good” cholesterol. Berk found that subjects who watched a humorous movie experienced an increase in two chemicals, beta-endorphins and human growth hormones, that help to improve the function of the immune system in the body. More specifically, the subjects averaged a 27% increase in betaendorphins and an 87% increase in human growth hormone. There were no such increases within the control group, whose members did not watch the humorous film. In another study, Berk found that laughter reduces the levels of three stress hormones, which at high levels can be detrimental to the immune system. Cortisol; epinephrine, also known as adrenaline; and dopac, the major catabolite of dopamine, were reduced by 39%, 70% and 38%, respectively. After two months, the laughter group also had an increased amount of HDL cholesterol and a decreased amount of TNF-α,

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IFN-γ, IL-6 and hs-CRP, indicating lower levels of inflammation. At the end of one year, the research team saw significant improvement in the laughter group: HDL cholesterol had risen by 26 percent compared with only 3 percent in the control group. The level of c-reactive proteins, proteins that are synthesized by the liver in response to inflammation, decreased by 66% in the laughter group compared to the 26% decrease in the control group. Laughter As Exercise The process of laughter has similar effects to that of exercise. The body movement that results from both exercise and laughter causes lymph fluid to shake, which helps eliminate waste products from organs and tissues. Since the lymph system lacks its own separate pump, movement is the primary way that lymph fluids circulates through the body. Circulation is necessary for the immune system to run efficiently. Laughter also increases oxygenation of the body at both cellular and systemic levels. Vast amounts of oxygen are taken in by the body in what may appear to be a temporary hyperventilation session. This is the natural result of laughter, and these biophysical effects can easily be observed when watching someone laugh. It seems pretty obvious so far. People intake more oxygen when they laugh. So what? Because oxygen is strongly electronegative, it is one of the primary catalysts for biological energy in the body. Remember that humans breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, so oxygen is an element of intracellular energy that is absolutely necessary to sustain life. While oxygen is being circulated in the body, abdominal and facial muscles are also being exercised, and the flexibility of various joints throughout your body is being improved. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have shown that laughter is linked to healthy functioning of blood vessels, causing tissue that forms the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels, to dilate in order to increase blood flow. According to Dr. Miller, who lead the study, “The magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium is similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic activity, but without the aches, pains and muscle tension associated with exercise. We don’t recommend that you laugh and not exercise, but we do recommend that you try to laugh on a regular basis. Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system.” Laughter has many of the same benefits of exercise, and has also been shown to be a positive way to minimize stress levels.

photos by amanda yuan

Laugh Your Pain Away Pain reduction is another promising application of laughter. Rosemary Cogan, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Texas Tech University, found that subjects who laughed at a humorous video tolerated more discomfort than other subjects, similar to the effect of a relaxation procedure on subjects. Humor may also help temper intense pain. James Rotton, Ph.D., of Florida International University, reported that orthopedic surgery patients who watched comedic videos requested fewer aspirin and tranquilizers than patients who viewed more serious videos, such as Saving Private Ryan. Although the researchers are not sure of the mechanism by which laughter reduces pain and discomfort, it’s possible that laughter causes an upsurge of neurotransmitters such as GABA, glutamates, or tachykinins, which all help to suppress pain. Laughter: A form of Coping Humor also aids in coping with stress. In a study by Michelle Newman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Penn State University, subjects viewed a film about three grisly accidents and were asked to narrate it either in a humorous or serious style. Those who adopted the humorous tone were best able to deal with the accident in a positive manner. The funny group experienced less tension and other negative emotions compared to the serious style. Newman’s research suggests that laughter is a legitimate method to cope with traumatic situations, such as accidents or loss of a loved one. Whether it be through social bonding, biological and chemical changes that reduce stress and raise good cholesterol levels, or a productive way to cope with pain and stress, laughter is important to your health. So, the next time you are overwhelmed with homework, or just feel slightly under the weather, try a laugh or two.

After all, laughter is the best medicine.

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Watermelon Wonder

There is great justice in saying that the watermelon should be considered one of the greatest fruits of all time. Watermelons not only have a delicious and juicy interior, but recent studies have also indicated that they show promise in promoting health as well as in protecting our environment. by sara shu

The Water Crisis In many ways, water is Earth’s

Though

Watermelons are not only good for quenching thirst In addition to the abundant source of lycopene in but can also quench inflammation that contributes to conditions watermelons, ARS studies also in Lane, Oklahoma have shown such as asthma, diabetes, colon cancer, and arthritis. that simple sugars in watermelon juice can be converted into Watermelons are healthy because they don’t contain any fat ethanol, a cleaner-burning alternative to gasoline, currently or cholesterol, and they are high in fiber, vitamins A, vitamin C, being produced from cane crops such as corn, sorghum, and and potassium. sugarcane. Chemist Wayne Fish conducted studies at ARS that Watermelons are also one of the few fruits that contain have shown that ethanol can be fermented from the glucose, a considerable amount of lycopene. Lycopene, a red pigment fructose, and sucrose in the watermelon juices left after that is responsible for the vivid color of watermelons and lycopene is extracted. On average, a 20-pound watermelon tomatoes, is a powerful antioxidant. yields about 1.4 pounds of sugar, which can produce about Antioxidants are substances that can prevent, or at seven-tenths of a pound of ethanol. Fish is also experimenting least slow down, the oxidation of other molecules in the body. with chemical and enzyme treatments with hopes of optimizing Oxidation occurs when a substance transfers an electron ethanol production from watermelons. to another substance, called the oxidizing agent. Once the Considering that there is a vast number of deformed oxidizing agent receives the extra electron, it becomes a highly watermelons that are unsuitable as commercial produce and reactive molecule, commonly known as a free radical. Since would ordinarily be put to waste, converting the sugars from all molecules strive to have a neutral charge, the free radical these watermelons into ethanol would be a very beneficial way attempts to rid itself of its extra electron by transferring it to to produce biofuels. In 2007, twenty percent - about 800 million another molecule, however this just results in the formation pounds - of watermelons grown were left in the fields because of another free radical. The only molecules that can stop this of deformities making them unable to go to the market. These ongoing chain reaction are antioxidants. When antioxidants unused watermelons can be a major source of ethanol. The receive an extra electron, they maintain their uncreative state. ARS’s research on the production of ethanol from watermelons Antioxidants are, thus, crucial for proper cell function: without reflects the national push for new sources of biofuel that can them, free radicals would be able to destroy important cells in diminish America’s reliance on limited petroleum supplies. the body. The deficiency of antioxidants in the body can result Ethanol production also provides a new market for watermelon in oxidative stress, a major contributor to many diseases in growers. humans. As it helps defend the body against harmful diseases Scientists have proven that there is indeed a link and, provides a prospective alternative energy source for the between the consumption of antioxidants, such as lycopene, future, the watermelon has proven to be more than just a thirstand the reduction of the number of incidences of heart quenching snack. attacks and certain types of cancer. However, most research on lycopene has been done with tomatoes. Currently, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Lane, Oklahoma is beginning to investigate lycopene in watermelons as well. The ARS is working on determining the level of lycopene in different varieties of watermelon and examining how exactly this crucial antioxidant functions in the human body. ARS scientists⎯plant physiologist Penelope Perkins-Veazie, food technologist Julie K. Collins, and entomologist Sam D. Pair⎯grew and analyzed thirteen different types of watermelons, including eleven red-fleshed, two yellow-fleshed, as well as seedless, openpollinated, and hybrid varieties. The amounts of lycopene greatly varied among the different watermelons, but the seedless variants were found to usually contain the most lycopene. Studies have shown that 1½ cups of watermelon contain roughly nine to thirteen milligrams of lycopene, which is, on average, 40 percent more lycopene than raw tomatoes. “We think there are a lot of potential uses for watermelon that graphics by olga batalov are just beginning to be explored,â€? says Perkins-Veazie, “It can be a so-called functional food—one that can help prevent certain diseases.â€?

water

is

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The amount of usable water is

Currently, a large proportion of ethanol is made from corn. However, ARS studies shows that the sugars in watermelon can also be fermented into this environmentally friendly fuel.

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SCIENCE OR MYTH?

stress: the silent killer

art by alice fang

“I don’t want to push her too much. When she stresses, she loses all her hair! I don’t want a bald daughter!” a mother jokingly exclaims. Her daughter, Sally*, is a dedicated student who just transferred schools. Faced with a schedule filled with AP classes, a new school, new friends, new teachers, and so much more, Sally noticed that her hair was falling out more than usual. What was the cause of Sally’s mysterious case? Is the myth of stress and hair loss true? Although we all lose about 100 hairs a day, hair loss has become a growing problem for all our society, not just a handful in their golden years. Is it true that a shedding scalp can be blamed on stress, or is this just another myth to be busted? by connie liu A Look Inside The most common type of excessive hair loss is telogen effluvium, a condition not quite as severe as its name may sound. Sudden or severe stress, which results in abrupt changes in hormone levels, can cause hair follicles to stop growing prematurely. As a result, hair growth halts for a two to three month period. It is a rather mild syndrome, as within a year, the hairs begin to grow once again. The imbalance of thyroxin in the body is a huge contributor to the activation of telogen effluvium. Thyroxin is a hormone produced by the thyroid gland that regulates body cell metabolism levels along with cellular respiration. If thyroxin levels are unstable, as is the case with hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, hair loss usually occurs. Stress is a major contributor to hormone levels since when the brain registers external dangers (also known as stress factors), the cerebral cortex sends a message to the hypothalamus to initiate a hormonal response to protect the body. Thus, with too much stress comes an imbalance in thyroxin. The thyroxin levels need to be stable for the hair follicles to develop hair properly. When there is instability, hair will stop developing in the middle of a growth stage and start giving you a reason to find a good hat. Hair follicles are very sensitive and require very constant conditions to develop correctly. When thyroxin levels fluctuate abnormally, the hair follicle will no longer be able to do its job. Some studies have also linked diffuse hair loss, such as that caused by telogen effluvium, to blood sugar level imbalances caused by stress. It has been shown that levels of blood glucose depend on three factors: (1) The uptake and release of glucose by the liver. (2) The absorption of glucose from the gastrointestinal tract. (3) The utilization of glucose by the tissues (cells). The hormones, such as glucagon and insulin, that control these processes, are dependent on stress. Dermatologist Dina R. Massry explains the treatment: “Telogen effluvium is self-correcting. It is really not influenced by any treatment that can be given. However, gentle handling of the hair, avoiding over-vigorous combing, brushing and any

type of scalp massage are important. You should also ensure a nutritious diet, with plenty of protein, fruit and vegetables.” Another stress induced hair loss condition is alopecia areata, a disorder in which the immune system attacks hair follicles. Hair falls out in patches and treatment is usually necessary. These symptoms are less common but still relatively rampant among our increasingly stressed society. Alopecia areata is commonly caused by hereditary factors and is especially prevalent in people whose relatives are diagnosed with autoimmune diseases. However, it can also be triggered by environmental stress or even a virus. Studies have shown that T cells (lymphocytes) cluster around the hair follicles and cause inflammation that then results in severe hair loss. In short, stress is a major factor in maintaining stable hormone level and thus homeostasis, which contributes to almost all internal functions of the body, even those beyond hair loss. So tell your parents that maybe it’s time to stop getting all worked up about that A- in math and take it easy once in a while.

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Impact Sally, who we were talking about before, went to the doctor and was told her hair loss was due to stress. Reassuring her that everything will be alright soon, the doctor sent Sally home with a diagnosis of telogen effluvium and a treatment of relaxation and some special shampoo. But Sally is not alone. People that we see in our everyday lives are all subject to, or have already undergone, hair loss. No one is immune to these conditions. Stress is mounting up, especially in these economically unstable times when millions are being laid off and the pressures of school and out-competing peers in a fight to reach that Ivy League university are at an all-time high. This increasingly problematic issue is sprouting up everywhere, and leaving our average hair count lower than usual. So maybe next time, you think about enduring that schedule of six AP courses or enrolling in the notorious AP Chemistry class, consider trading it in for a nice, healthy head of hair.

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SCIENCE OR MYTH?

myth to be busted? A Look Inside

photos by amanda yuan

what about my graying locks? by alice fang

Graying hair, to parents and older adults, is often of greater concern than losing a few strands here and there. Nonetheless, the same culprit is at the stand - stress. Is graying related to stress? The answer here is less clear. There is no “graying-hair syndrome” as there is for excessive loss of hair. In many ways, the answer to this commonly posed question is a resounding “no.” But let’s take a closer look. Graying begins at the bottom of the hair follicles, pits in the scalp that serve as hair growth centers of our bodies. Keratinocytes, epidermal cells, are the main construction workers of hair. They stack up one on top of another like bricks and eventually die to leave behind keratin, a colorless protein that gives hair its texture and strength. The substance that gives hair its color is melanin, a pigment delivered to the keratinocytes by melanocytes, which are also melanin-producers. According to Jeffrey Miller, associate professor of dermatology at Penn State’s College of Medicine, “Hair grays when cells stop producing melanin. It’s a natural part of the aging process.” Does this mean that the next time your parents convict you as the source of their gray hairs, you should respond as Miller suggested? “Mom, it’s natural - you’re just aging!” Well… not quite. Evidence shows that stress may play a role in the deficient production of melanin. It is shown that stress hormones can unleash free radicals, instable molecules with the capability of damaging cells. Free radicals may play a part in disrupting melanocytes, which results in reduced amounts of melanin in hair, and ultimately, the popping up of a few silver strands.

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going green graphic by olga batalov

by elora lopez

This issue of Falconium focuses on issues that have been deemed “green.” This choice follows the trend that has become exceedingly prevalent in media, advertising, and even the Torrey Pines campus: it is the mentality that we⎯the rising generation - must find and implement the solutions that are necessary to saving humanity. Undeniably, this is a worthwhile cause. In practice, however, this quest to prevent climate change and save the planet holds many obstacles in its path. Firstly, it is often diluted and warped by marketers driven by profit. Many companies claim to be green to attract customers. Automobile industries, for example, are one of the biggest culprits of the going green fad. Most car commercials nowadays brag about the fuel efficiency of their “green” cars - but the commercials are misleading, as the car usually only achieves the claimed fuel efficiency under a few ideal conditions. These advertising tricks, much like those enticing “low-calorie” chocolate bars and snacks, help the consumer feel less guilty about their actions that are still polluting our fragile planet. After all, even the most fuel efficient car emits far more carbon than a pedestrian or a biker does. These car companies try to prove to their potential buyers that they are eco-friendly, but their claims are mostly thinly veiled lies.

However, it is not just the marketers who are jumping onto the green bandwagon façade. Individuals often take up the green trend in order to show their friends what a great person they are or to deflect the guilt they feel from their actual not-soenvironmentally-friendly habits. Plenty of students wear green T-shirts on the annual “Go Green Day” at TPHS (which is meant to garner support and draw awareness to saving the planet) only to toss water bottles into garbage cans at the end of the day and drive home in gas-guzzling cars. Admittedly, there are some people that truly live their lives with as little carbon output as possible. They buy locally grown food, rarely (if ever) drive a car, and use no unnecessary electronic devices such as cell phones, laptops, or televisions. In this way, they avoid expending the vast quantities of electrical energy that their not-so-eco-friendly companions do on a daily basis. However, the vast majority of us do much less than we should (and could) accomplish, often only doing the bare minimum in order to maintain an acceptable public image.

graphic by amanda yuan

In a national study conducted by the Shelton Group, it was found that, although 60% of Americans are looking for greener products, they value convenience and comfort more than they value the environment. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they would not give up their Ipods even if they knew it harmed the environment.

Herein lies the climate change contradiction in the 21st century United States. It has been scientifically proven that there is a serious climate change issue that needs to be fixed, but the solution is not as simple as buying a cute grocery bag to avoid the dilemma of paper versus plastic. In an attempt to be “green,” an issue of People magazine advertised several companies that sell reusable tote bags. Some of these, including the 2K by Gingham, cost nearly $50. But the motives behind this “greenness” is made quite clear after reading more of this issue of People. It refers to people that try to promote eco-consciousness as “ecovangelists,” and imply that these people are pushy and intrusive in trying to implement beneficial changes in policies. People magazine, just like countless other mainstream corporations, pretends to be green when there is a profit to be made but when it comes to making real change, they do nothing. Reducing carbon emissions and lessening the human impact on the Earth must come through policy changes in governments, domestically and abroad, that promote usage of cleaner fuels and more effective recycling programs. Unless these changes are implemented on a global scale, the “going green” fad is nothing but a fraud used to boost sales and the morale of American people who really are not doing much to save our planet.

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graphic by olga batalov

necessary to saving humanity.

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CONTRIBUTE

Call for Submissions! Want to contribute to the greatest and coolest student science journal ever? Write a review, op-ed, or original research, and get PUBLISHED! Visit www.falconium.org for detailed guidelines.Blogs, articles, and other online-only specials are also available at www.falconium.org.

electronic devices such as cell phones, laptops, or televisions. In this way, they avoid expending the vast quantities of electrical energy that their not-so-eco-friendly companions do on a daily basis. However, the vast majority of us do much less than we should (and could) accomplish, often only doing the bare minimum in order to maintain an acceptable public image.

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Job # x8190

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School xTorrey Pines High School

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WICS20701L

Š2006 Herff Jones, Inc., All Rights Reserved

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Includes Spot Color(s)

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Job # x8190

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School xTorrey Pines High School

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JOURNYS Issue 2.1  
JOURNYS Issue 2.1  
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