JOURNYS Issue 2.3

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FALCONIUM a student perspective WHY SCIENCE?


An Ode to the Question




“Science is the search to find the treasure chests containing the answers to the mysteries of life.”


4 A Word from the President 5 A Ripple in Time 6 Follow the Rainbow 7 Science + Penguins 8 An Ode to the Question 9 The Ocean 10 Mirror, Mirror 11 Tree of Knowledge 12 Be a Nerd if you Have To: Math is Fun 13 Sequoias 14 Quotable Science 15 Odd, Inherently Beautiful

EDITED BY ALICE FANG AND HOWON LEE; DESIGNED BY AMANDA YUAN; CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FALCONIUM STAFF COVER ART BY MICHELLE OBERMAN: “Studying science opens our eyes to the world around us. Clarity of vision can only be achieved with understanding. For me, this is the essence of science: observing, analyzing, and finally, understanding.” INSIDE COVER ART BY JESSICA ZENG

a word from the president... When it comes to science, there are generally three groups of people: those who find it torture, those who passively participate, and those who like it unreservedly, as if with salivating neurons. We all can find ourselves at some place along the spectrum, not without good reason. Some abhor the subject because they feel that it has no relevance to their lives, involves too much unconnected knowledge, and demands too much of the learner. Others participate merely for the sake of participation, obliged by parents or looming college applications. Yet a few give their souls to it: they are consumed by the world of atoms and molecules, light and energy, microbes and genomes. There is little understanding between the three groups. The classic stereotype is that people who disdain science are blonds and jocks, that people who stick their heads in books for success’s sake are Asians and geeks, and that people who show real enthusiasm are simply weird. But despite our diverse opinions, the concept of science remains the same. It is one concrete sculpture no matter the side from which it is seen. What unique shape and form then, draws such different responses from slightly varying angles? What really is this elusive concept we call “science?” Of these three groups of people, why does the third embrace it so? What is the source of their quirky excitement? As students ourselves, we posed these questions for the sake of all three aforementioned groups. For those who claim no association with the realm of the empirics, our intent is to present a less seen perspective, and by doing so, to encourage consideration, not to convert. For those who dutifully but passively surround themselves with science, our goal is to provide a reason why, in hopes of motivation. For those who truly love science and its curiosities, our aim is to reaffirm this love, to assure that it will not be lost from sight. And for all, our purpose is to loosen the walls of common scientific stereotypes by presenting a unique view of what science really is. In the pages ahead, students themselves seek to define science. Some say that it is truth, others adventure, still others understanding. To some, it is an acacia tree; to others, it is a ripple of water. Is science the process of wooing Mother Nature? Or is it simply a guide to the truth? Prepare to be shaken by unconsidered truths and words of wit and wisdom. Join us at your own risk. …Hold on tight as the search for science begins.

Science is an idea that flows into the process of experimentation. Each small droplet contributes to the great pool of understanding. It is required for and the main ingrediEnt of life.


Wendy Zhang 4




Science is as elusive as our attempt to grasp a rainbow. Through hard work and ingenuity, we may manage to catch a corner or steal a glimpse, but other parts we cannot even begin to get our minds around. We may understand a lot about nature and the world around us, but there are always more mysteries to solve and processes to explain. As we can never grab the light and move it to wherever we please, we are also unable to fully control the processes of nature.

Penguins are unusual. They wear tuxedos of feathers and squawk and shriek. Some of them are adorned with spiky orange caps. They participate in an avian version of the Winter Olympics daily. The stereotypical versions live in a beautiful but horribly cold continent, but these rebels against zoological labels may dwell on Australian beaches, sunning themselves in crowds of rocks. Penguins are intriguing and deceiving. Emperor penguins appear to loom on nature documentaries, thanks to cinematography. In fact, they are only four feet tall. Much more can be said on the life cycle, behavior, physiology, and so on about penguins, yet the emotional impact of penguins has forged the deepest scientific connection of all. Penguins are nearly universally adored. In a random poll of a typical AP English Language class, at least 75% of the students would have admitted to liking penguins, if the poll had actually been taken. This statistical conjecture, however, can be given confidently based on past experience and daily interactions with others, as well as the surprising success of March of the Penguins in 2005. Proceeding from this, one can also reasonably conclude that the majority of people on a national or perhaps even global scale have a soft spot for penguins. It is not difficult to see why. Penguins are amazingly strong and persevering. While residents of San Diego complain when the weather drops below 70 degrees, father emperor penguins must survive frigid winters and blizzards. Emperor penguin chicks are in constant danger. Leopard seals are always after penguins, but I concede that everyone has to eat, and my sympathy also goes to the fish and shrimp that the penguins devour. Penguins are also adorable in appearance and behavior, with their natural tuxedos, soft feathers, wobbly walking style, belly-sliding, and beady black eyes. They are a zoological enigma and curiosity - one of the few bird species that cannot fly, and residents of the harshest environment on Earth, a place forbidding to most other sensible creatures. And yet, humans and penguins have much in common. Like penguins, we waddle awkwardly through the quagmires of life. The emperor penguins of Antarctica must traverse a rough and icy plain and

climb hills of snow. Scientists must wade through swamps of mysterious deadly diseases, mutating genes, imploding stars and conundrums of all kinds, attempting to solve the unsolved mysteries of life and widen our range of knowledge, thereby decreasing the number of threats and obstacles. Penguins compete for food and space. Scientists compete with each other and themselves to be the ones to make a breakthrough and see their years of effort come to fruition, such as with the races to discover DNA’s structure and to publish the theory of natural selection. Penguins have devised tactics to ease their survival, such as warming their eggs with flaps of skin, or sliding on the ice upon their bellies when they tire. Similarly, scientists have developed technologies for facilitating research in addition to conducting actual research itself. A typical chemistry or biochemistry lab contains tools such as centrifuges, PCR machines, autoclaves, and filtration devices, all common equipment for conducting experiments. Penguins are also endearingly awkward, and science, of course, can be endearingly awkward. When an experiment fails for the fifteenth time, or the results are light-years away from hypotheses and/or past results, or thenbrilliant models are refuted years later and viewed as misguided or even silly, or a wrong chemical is mixed into a solution, or a beaker or flask is dropped and smashed after a long and complex process of solution-preparing, or plants grow tumors and beg for hundreds of detailed photographs, or animals/ plants refuse to cooperate and wander off on a behavioral tangent, science suddenly bears a great likeness to a stumbling penguin. Just as the stumbling penguin soon stands back up, science does as well. And as the penguin perseveres through the most difficult winters, science refuses to back down in times of attack and skepticism, constantly on the search for more evidence and data. In the penguin, we find ourselves. In the oddities of the penguin, we see the oddities of the scientist. In the brilliance and determination of the penguin, we see the vision and drive of the scientists. To be a penguin is a great honor. It is one of the more flattering comparisons in nature.

Melodyanne Cheng 6




An Ode to the Question It is the nature of the human mind to thirst for knowledge, to understand how events in this universe occur. I do not know why humans behave so irrationally. After all, Mother Nature is a fickle lover, unwilling to throw herself at the casual curious spirit. She must be courted lovingly, given body and soul for years before doing the same. And even then she does so sparingly. Too much work for too little a prize, if you ask me. Yet mankind pursues her to the ends of the earth, hanging on her every word in hopes that one day her lips might slip, revealing all to those worshiping her. Perhaps it is hardwired into our DNA; a salmon cannot help but swim upstream despite its ultimate demise. Or maybe we are fooled by our own ignorance, thinking that the answers we discover will fix all the problems we possess. But I like to think that we woo Mother Nature because we know that we will never have her. We like this challenge of impossible nature. We enjoy the fact that we are ultimately doomed to fail. Never will we know all that there is to know, and that excites us to a greater degree than any softly spoken secrets Nature feels willing to part with us. It is the challenge, the insurmountable odds that tell us we will never know everything—that we will never truly understand life—to which we defiantly call out. The brief existence of one man cannot hope to see him learn all knowledge of the Universe, but that does not stop him from trying. And in this colossal effort to achieve the impossible, man has created the mathematics and sciences, tools for its posterity so that people in their lifetimes may reach a tiny bit farther than their forebears ever could. And it is these tools that we must use to greatest extent. Not for ourselves—even the youngest among us has


no hope of understanding a trillionth of all there is—but for our children’s children. For the generations that will base their imaginations and theories on the ideas ours has yet to define. So that one day, after infinitely many lifetimes and countless generations, man will walk upon this Earth with such knowledge that he will have satisfied all curiosity, ridden all questions. Then, finally, mankind will be lifted from this curse of wonder. No longer will he search in vain for answers that will not be discovered until his grandchildren are gone from the earth. Then man will finally be at peace. Some may fanaticize of this time, wishing themselves in this paradise full of answers. I, however, am not one of these. Peace has never been my strong suit. I am drawn to adventures full of difficulties and misfortune. Much like love, the quest for answers is full of hazards. It throws you to the ground, beats you to an inch of your life, and steals all your money. But also like love, I would rather experience a hell twice as gruesome than be denied of that quest. What ecstasy can be found in finding patterns no one else knew existed! What euphoria exists in boldly going where no human being has gone before! The delight of using math and science to discover answers no creature has ever laid eyes on is something indescribable. Even simply increasing my own knowledge, better understanding how a plane is able to glide across the clouds, amuses me to no end. And guessing… using the imagination to try and explain the laws of the universe; Coming up with multiple hypotheses, each one appearing as correct as the next; Eliminating one after the other slowly and thoughtfully; Constantly molding this explanation, correcting its faults through years of experience until I am sure I am right; Then one fine morning waking up and discovering that I was absolutely and totally wrong. What greater adventure is this? Man throws himself into his questions, regardless of the paucity of answers, because in doing so he proves himself worthy of living. By questioning he finds adventures. By imagining he experiences courage. And by believing, regardless if all he believes turns out to be wrong, he lives his life.

The ocean

is like the realm of science. The light emerging from the clouds and beaming on the ocean represents scientific inspiration. As light strikes the ocean, ideas and hypotheses are formed. These hypotheses then become theories, symbolized by the high and visible cliff, known of and accepted by most people. Claire Chen



We, and the world around us, embody the essence of science. around us, embody the We, and the world Tiffany Sin

Science is like an acacia tree. Knowledge (the tree) starts small and grows with water and nutrients. Then knowledge blossoms (flowers) and ripens (pods) so that it may be passed on to the next generation. Sumana Mahata



Be a Nerd if you Have To: Math is Fun BY ROBI BHATTACHARJEE

For me, math is fun because it is challenging. Maybe that makes me a nerd, who cares? I do math because I like to challenge myself. When solving a math problem, I constantly struggle for the right answer, much like an athlete running a marathon. When the solution is finally achieved and the finish line finally reached, I feel accomplished. Am I really that different from any other person? We are all are born with a sense of ambition and curiosity. For some, these traits are manifested in sports, for others, leadership, and for an increasing number of us, mind-boggling games and puzzles. Math is not any different. The misconception is that math is a hard and boring subject in school. It involves tedious “problems” in which everyone gets the wrong answer. And as you finally began to “get it,” the teacher gives a lecture on something else that just doesn’t make sense. Much hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth follows. Interestingly enough, many of these people, who struggle through high-school math, enjoy playing games like cards and chess or doing puzzles like Sudoku and the Rubik’s cube. Puzzles and math are essentially the same: both involve a lot of concentration and a touch of ingenuity. And generally, the more difficult a puzzle or problem is, the more fun it is to solve. It is the strategy-making, then the grasping for the solution, the missing by just a hair, the grasping again, and then the solving. The ensuing satisfaction is comparable to that of a dog finally catching its tail. Problem-solving isn’t the only thing that is awesome about math. Math on its own can be interesting. For me, one of the most interesting concepts is how geometric shapes such as circles can be expressed as equations. A circle is a visible object – round and everyday. But math can express all its properties in a simple equation. This fact never ceases to amaze me. In fact, my favorite area of math is geometry. I strongly believe that geometry is under-represented in our education system. While we have two whole years of algebra, we only have one year of geometry. As a result, many people are uncomfortable when confronted with it. Some people even find it difficult

to find volumes and surface area. That is shameful. Geometry is among the most fundamental and important branches of mathematics. History, not math, can prove this: geometry has been around since the times of the ancient Greeks and even before that. It is of vital importance in building any kind of structure. And on top of that, it is fun. Geometry challenges us in a way that no other math does. It is tangible and visual. You can see what you are doing, as opposed to abstract ideas like algebra or number theory. Additionally, you have more freedom than you do in most branches of mathematics. It is much more fun to figure out why three points are collinear than to solve 2x – 3 = 7. There is elegance in how math builds upon itself. The ironic thing is that this building up of ideas is also the main reason people find math so difficult. If your understanding of one concept is not complete, then you will have difficulty not only with it, but with every topic that comes after it. However, on the plus side, if you do have a solid understanding of one concept, everything else follows with relative ease. Math is definitely one of my favorite subjects. It is exciting, challenging, and above all, addictive. Believe it or not, people who do math aren’t all geeks and nerds; they can be very social and fun. I have met many of my best friends through math. And companies like Google and Apple are ready to hire math nerds right out of college, because they know that they will be sharp problem solvers, ready for challenges. There is a whole world out there for people who like math. I encourage everyone to go and try to solve a couple of math problems that are NOT typical school textbook problems. (I sympathize; textbooks can be boring and tedious, and do not represent all that math is about). A few challenging problems will open your eyes. Not only will you discover a new technique to stay awake during history class, you will become better problem solvers, prepared for challenges in all areas of life to come.

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TRY THESE! 1. Given a right triangle with integer side lengths and a leg of length 24, find the minimum possible height of the triangle. Note: a triangle has 3 different heights, one for each potential base (including the hypotenuse.) 2. Let m = a2 + b2 + c2 + 2(ab + ac + bc) Prove that if a, b, and c are all integers, then m can never be a prime number. 3. How many factors of 5760 are not divisible by 3? Check your answers! Visit mathsolution.




“SCIENCE IS EVERYTHING “Science is the logistics of the EVERYONE SEES EVERYDAY.”universe: it explains why what we see is.” - SHARON PENG -Noor Al-Alusi “Science is the guide to “Like a baby taking its first steps, science is still tentative and may fall with every TRUTH.”setback, but it still has many more steps to

-Emily Cai

take. It is always pushing forward.”

- Katya Glazko “Science is the study of life and space. ” -Valentina Ruiz “Science is the physical embodiment of curiosity. ” -Lauren Sweet “Science “Science is an art that is a science in itself. ” -Angela Qian “Science is a closer look at the natural world. ” -Anonymous revelation

is the of life processes.” -Alka Munshi “Science is beyond the ordinary mind. It stimulates miracles in nature and is a valuable minefield for breakthroughs, discoveries, and ideas.”-Melodyanne Cheng

“Science is what is.” -Tiffany Sin

“Science is understanding “Science is the discovery of how and why work, and how to apply these things to ourselves.” thingsimprove our daily lives.” -Paul Ho -Michelle Oberman

“Science is a way of creating more problems from previous problems; in a good way, of course.” -Florine Pascal

"Science is the great contributer and destroyer of society." -Angela Zou

is the “Science is the bottom of “Science tool of mankind the academic food pyramid. to understand the “Science is the breaking Don’t forget your 4-5 workings of the of perceptions and bias. science is servings a day!” universe.” - Sid Therefore, truth.” -Paru Pubbi Bhattacharya -Michelle Kao Science is the pathway that connects us to the world. “Science is the explosion of ideas that

We can view our world in a new perspective with the shapes the world around us and spreads expanding knowledge of science. -Yuri Bae to every race, culture, and person.” Science is the “Science is found in every aspect of life. It is explanations of the -Sumana Mahata

Science is odd, quirky, unexpected, surprising, layered, multifaceted, and inherently beautiful. It is found in every aspect of life, and comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. Ling Jing

what binds the universe phenomenons of the “Science is merely an together.” -Jessica Zeng world. -Connie Liu attempt humans make to “Science is the creation of man and the understanding of nature.” -Sarah Watanaskul

understand the world.” is man’s way -Becky Kuan “Science of making sense of the

“Science explains why it hurts to lick a battery.”world.” -Michelle Sit -Michael Dang “Science is the result of our unending desire A book of science is a Science is the study that to understand everything about ourselves and book of truth. Science is not belief but the desire to explains the existence of everything in the the world around us. Science is our attempt to discover. -Justin Song world. -Sarah Hsu answer why.” -Murong He



Fa Falconium 2009.2010

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