A P I S
SAR SCIENCE JOURNAL 2016-2017
APIS SAR Science Journal 2016-2017 Editor in Chief Liana Katz & Jordana Kosowsky
Article Editors Rachel Cohen, Sara Muharremi, Ayelet Kalfus, Davida Krauss, Talya Lisker Writers Liana Katz, Jordana Kosowsky, Ari Stein, Jonah Garbuz, Rita Feder, Rachel Cohen, Eitan Karsch, Shelomzion Steinmetz-Silber, Maya Rubenstein, Maayan Milgram, Rebecca Perla, Ellie Kosowsky, Eva Ingber, Talya Lisker, Ayelet Kalfus, Rebecca Rosenzweig, Noa Kalfus, Ben Klestzick, Rachel Blumenstein Layout Editor Ben Klestzick, Jonah Garbuz Cover Artwork Eva Ingber Artwork Editors Rebecca Perla, Rebecca Spitzer Artists Rebecca Perla, Rebecca Spitzer, Sarah Daube Faculty Advisor Ms. Bader
TABLE OF CONTENTS Articles
Football’s Effect on the Brain
Overcoming Scientific Bias
Interview: Consequences of Addiction
How Smart is it to Use a Smartphone?
Food Cravings: Who’s in Charge?
Are Diet Sodas Making You Fat?
The Utereus Transplant
Summary of the Universe to Life
The Effects of Stress
Why Doesn’t the Flu Vaccine Always Work?
How Flushing Your Toilet Could Help Create Biofuel
Can Genes Affect Behavior?
Is Gym Class Actually Keeping Us Fit???
Letter from the Editors Welcome to the 2017 edition of APIS, SAR High School’s Science Journal. This journal was created as a forum for SAR students to share their scientific questions, experiences, interests, and research. This year, over 20 innovative science students developed a journal encompassing an array of topics including medicine, physics, biology, psychology and chemistry. Students had the opportunity to express their respective scientific passions and inquiries through articles, art pieces and even poetry. The students’ wide range of ideas and perspectives ultimately came together in APIS, resulting in a nuanced publication that offers a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world as a whole. The finished product of APIS 2017 would not have been possible without the support and enthusiasm of our faculty advisor, Ms. Bader. We truly appreciate all of her guidance, as well as the dedication and talent of all of those who contributed to this year’s science journal. Finally, we hope the contents of this journal will initiate conversations about the future of science, and will inspire further exploration of the incredible scientific world in which we live. Enjoy! Sincerely, Liana Katz and Jordana Kosowsky Your Editors-in-Chief
Science Journal Articles 2016-2017
Football’s Effect on the Brain Rita Feder
Every winter, we find ourselves turning off our TVs after watching one of the most watched sporting events in the world–The Super Bowl. The beloved football season is over, and our days of using fantasy and Sunday, Monday, and Thursday Night Football as excuses not to do homework are over. But no worries, these days will start up once again, as the pre-season will be beginning in only a few months. How exciting, right? Wrong. Fans are ecstatic about football–and the NFL, made up of 1,696 players, produces north of $9 billion every year, making football the most lucrative sport in the world. However, such excitement over football seems to overshadow the incredible hazards that come with the sport. Every game, there are an estimated 100 tackles. An average sized NFL defensive back can produce up to 1,600 pounds of tackling force. 100 times. Every game. Every season. Inevitably, these sustained bone-jarring tackles result in an average of over 100 minor traumatic brain injuries, or concussions, every NFL season. These concussions occur as a result of a sudden jolt of the brain. While the cranium, or skull, is stationary, the brain is floating in cerebrospinal fluid, not attached to any stable object. The immense momentum of the football tackle carries the brain forward, stimulating a rotational force on the midbrain and thalamus (sections of the brain). This can result in multiple damages to the cerebrum and such as, in the case of cranium-cerebrum contact, bleeding and cell death. If not treated properly, concussions, labeled as a primary brain related injury, can lead to more significant and dangerous secondary injuries. One of such secondary injuries includes Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE was first discovered by Dr. Bennet Omalu while he was examining the disease stricken brain of NFL Hall of Famer, Mike Webster. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain. Research has found that this disease is caused by repetitive brain trauma. These traumas can cause a buildup of tau, a protein that slowly kills brain cells, in the brain. Once such a buildup has started, it can continue even after trauma has ceased. According to Omalu, due to the constant blows and concussions that are inevitable in the game of football, CTE is most probably found in over 90% of NFL players. The film recently made about CTE and Dr. Omalu, Concussion, describes CTE as “suffocating the brain.” This seems to be an accurate description, as CTE has been found to result in memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, parkinsonism, progressive dementia, and even death. Another risk of football is being predisposed to depression, even without CTE. In a study presented at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in San Diego in March, 2013, 34 retired football players were evaluated. Results of this evaluation showed football’s direct correlated to depression. While 10-15% of the general population experiences depression, 24% of football players are affected by the same disorder. Once again, this seems to be due to concussions. This study suggests that as the amount of concussions received increases, so does the likelihood of exhibiting depressive symptoms. This seems to be caused by damaged white matter in the brain. The brain consists of white and grey matter. While grey matter consists of cell bodies, white matter is made up of axons and connects grey matter–it is the communication system which enables different parts of the brain to talk and interact. When someone receives a concussion, they can severely damage the white matter in their cerebrum. If this occurs over and over again, which can happen in football, it can prove extremely dangerous. The consequences of football are not only affecting former NFL players. The number of High School boys that played football in the 2013 school year was 1,086,627–more than boys and girls combined in any other sport. When asked about children playing football, Omalu responded, “our children are the most vulnerable in our society. You wouldn’t hire children to become fighters. You wouldn’t let children jump from a plane to skydive. You wouldn’t let children smoke. You wouldn’t let children drink alcohol. You wouldn’t even let children have sex. Why would we then put a helmet on the child, and tell the child to slam his head against another child’s head?”
Overcoming Scientific Bias Rebecca Rosenzweig
Imagine this: You are sitting in lab at school, doing an experiment you just learned about in class. Using what you learned, you create a hypothesis, a prediction as to what the results of the lab might be. However, when you finish the procedure, the results are not what you expected and do not reflect what you learned in class. You are sure that you followed the procedure, and all your other classmates have the results that you were supposed to get, yet you didnâ€™t. This compels you to change the results of the lab in order for it to match your hypothesis and what you thought was supposed to happen. That is an example of scientific bias. Scientific bias is assuming that a theory is true or false without evidence and trying to dismiss research that might confirm or deny a theory. In other words, having a scientific bias is being stubborn about a certain topic and refusing to use scientific research to actually back up an argument. Scientific bias also contradicts the scientific method. The stages of scientific method include: observation, prediction, testing, and the results. This method, while it can not eliminate a scientific bias, when done right, can produce accurate results and discoveries in the scientific world. To most accurately perform scientific method, all procedures, evidence, and observations must be recorded. If all the information about the experiment is not documented truthfully, wrong conclusions can be made, which will alter future research. This also connects to the many factors in an experiment which must be controlled. If I am doing an experiment and I do not understand everything going on, my results will not be truthful. For example, when I am investigating whether or not sleep affects students test grades, I document how much sleep each student gets, how much the student studied, and what the studentâ€™s test grade was. I ultimately made a conclusion about the correlation between sleep and test scores, however, I did not record what foods the students were eating, what times they went to sleep and woke up, and other factors that seem irrelevant to the experiment, but are actually very important and affect the accuracy of my results. This is one way to avoid a scientific bias, by truthfully recording everything that occurs within the experiment. Another way to overcome performing a bias experiment is to come into the experiment with no assumptions. If a scientist assumes something to be true without actually proving it, they risk basing their entire argument off an untrue fact. In 1878 it was believed that at one point while a horse galloped, all four of its legs were splayed in a certain way that they were off the ground. This was a commonly held thought that even led to paintings of this image and the belief that horses were completely off the ground at certain points. However, it was not proven to be false until a photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, captured stop-action pictures which revealed that at least one leg was always on the ground when the horseâ€™s legs were splayed. This assumption, with no scientific evidence, while may seem like not a big deal, is in fact very monumental. Assuming something to be true creates a myth, which alters the way humans live their lives because they are fearful of that myth and try to avoid it. Bias exists in everything we do. And while it is impossible to be 100% objective, a bias can be decreased by understanding that it exists. Knowing that something leans one way helps someone understand their point of view. This allows researchers to seek out other opinions and point of views, which might actually help an experiment and add to the conclusions drawn from this experiment. This makes overcoming a bias easier to accomplish and actually benefits the scientific world. While biases can be avoided with honesty in an experiment and no assumptions, knowing that yours exist and letting others know, will only add to the scientific world.
Interview: Consequences of Addiction Talya Lisker
When I met John on a bright spring afternoon, he was wearing a turtleneck, which he assured me was a mere coincidence; he was not intentionally covering the hole in his neck. The hole, or stoma, in his neck is actually the opening to his trachea, and is the result of the treatment of his vocal cord cancer. Although John believes he might have some genetic predisposition to cancerous growths, his disease did not happen in a vacuum. John was a longtime smoker, alcoholic and abuser of hard drugs. He reports being “one of those bad kids” at his high school in Astoria, Queens. But John’s exposure to smoking began long before high school. John’s parents were both heavy smokers, who later died of cancer. He describes the home in which he grew up as “dysfunctional,” where the priorities were: “Cigarettes, beer, food.” Access to cigarettes was never an issue for John. He remembers accompanying his then-thirteen-year old sister and her friends to smoke at the age of eight. He recalls that his first cigarette -- the one that got him interested -- was a Kent. He describes the feeling that ensued: a lightheaded, dizzy sensation that made him feel really, really good. Following this experience, John began sneaking Kents, a habit which became increasingly desperate, to the point where he would smoke out of the bathroom window. In addition to cigarettes John also had early, unrestricted exposure to alcohol. In various incidents throughout his childhood, John got drunk on alcohol left out by adults. By the time he reached early teenagerhood, John was drinking consistently on the weekends. It was at this stage that John began routinely smoking half a pack a day. At age 22, John was a full-fledged addict. He smoked cigarettes, was rarely sober, and frequently abused various illicit substances. Such behaviors and the inability to disengage from illegal activities led John to seek help. At 25, John went to his first rehab, where he learned that he had a disease called alcoholism. Alcoholism is a disease characterized by dependency on alcohol consumption, which often results in compulsive behavior to obtain the addictive substance. From rehab, John says, he was able to begin his journey to sobriety. Although he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and succeeded in overcoming his alcoholism, John remained addicted to cigarettes. The ultimate motivation to quit came when his wife announced that she was pregnant with their first child. John had always told his wife that he “never wanted his children to see him drink or smoke.” John honored his commitment to being a responsible father. After confirming that his wife was really pregnant (he was reluctant to quit), he began the struggle to overcome his addiction. According to John, the drastic transition from three packs a day to none was far more difficult than abandoning alcohol and hard drugs. During our conversation, John succinctly summarized: “The bottom line is, I haven’t had a cigarette in 28 years. I haven’t had a drink or a drug in 33 years.” However, John cannot escape from the long-term effects of his addiction. These impacts manifest themselves in his everyday life -- especially as he sits across from me, pressing the button on his neck which enables him to speak. After getting sober, John embarked on an acting career, eventually becoming an independent filmmaker. All seemed well, until a fellow member of Alcoholics Anonymous noticed a change in John’s voice and asked if he was practicing for a new role in a play. Reluctantly, John went to see an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor, who diagnosed him with laryngeal cancer -- a cancer of the vocal cords,caused by smoking. John was 49 years old. The initial treatment was radiation therapy. John remembers the treatments being excruciatingly painful -- just drinking water felt like swallowing razor blades. After six months of treatment, John’s condition significantly improved and he was believed to have been cured. Two years later, though, John’s voice appeared to take on a new role once more. When a new biopsy revealed cancerous growth in his vocal cords, a laryngectomy became the necessary course of action. A laryngectomy is a surgical procedure in which the larynx, or vocal cords and surrounding area, is completely removed. This cuts off the connection between the trachea and the nose and mouth. Instead, the tracheal tube is re-routed to a stoma cut in the patient’s neck. Those procedures have majorly altered the ways in which John breathes and speaks. As a result of his upper-respiratory reconfiguration, John’s nose is no longer functional. As he says, “it’s nothing more than an accessory”. He now breathes through the stoma in his neck. When diaphragmatic muscles expand, air pressure in the lungs decreases, so air under higher pressure outside the lungs rushes in -- in John’s case, through the hole in his neck. When these muscles relax, air pressure in the lungs increases and air is forced up the trachea and out of the body. Exhalation occurs through John’s stoma as well. His speech, of course, is altered, as well. Normal speech occurs when air is exhaled through the vocal cords,
which obviously cannot occur once the vocal cords have been removed and the connection between the trachea and the mouth has been severed. John is able to speak via a one-way valve inserted between the modified trachea and the esophagus. This valve allows air from the trachea to enter the esophagus during exhalation, which can then travel out the mouth and be formed into speech. Hours of speech therapy are required to teach the patient to speak using the esophageal air supplied to the mouth. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the tracheal-esophageal valve to leak, which can result in food or drink collecting in the lungs, increasing a patient’s risk of developing chronic respiratory diseases. John speaks by pushing a button which temporarily covers the stoma in his neck. Pressing this button opens the one-way valve, enabling air to flow from John’s trachea to his esophagus, and out his mouth. Although John is able to verbally communicate, it is not without frustration. Sending air to his mouth requires at least one hand to be on his neck, leaving him with only one functional hand while speaking. The stoma presents other complications as well -- John must use caution while showering and is advised against swimming in order to prevent harmful fluid buildup in his lungs. (John’s rebellious spirit lives on despite this, and he has jumped into a pool once or twice.) When asked how he copes with such limitations, John provided an inspiring answer: “I have a new normal. This is my new normal.” John is not ashamed of his reality. His senses of smell and taste are compromised. Eating can be a difficult process. He must sleep in an upright position. His verbal communication is often hard to understand. Salivary buildup prevents him from speaking for extended periods of time. Despite all of this, John remains optimistic about his condition and is determined to live life to the fullest. Using himself as an example, John is on a mission to prevent addiction to life-threatening substances. He believes that it was a combination of peer pressure and impulsivity which led him from cigarettes to alcohol, which in turn opened the door to other hard drugs. Drugs and alcohol were vehicles by which John could escape himself. They carried him from his early teenage years into adulthood, boosting his self-image and confidence. But, it was nothing more than a mind-game. John found himself severely addicted to many substances, and committed to all the wrong things. Fortunately, John found the help he needed to rebuild a true sense of self-esteem and a meaningful life, yet the consequences of addiction are inescapable.
The FDA? Ben Klestzick
“FDA approved.” Two very simple words that have an everlasting effect on the product they are stamped upon. But what do these words mean? The Federal Drug Association, or FDA for short, is responsible for reviewing, approving and regulating medical products, food and cosmetics. The FDA must ensure that all medical products sold in the U.S. do not harm the consumer. As a result, the FDA is hesitant to approve any drug that has a chance of harming the consumer because they do not want to be held responsible for any negative outcomes. If a person dies because the FDA approved an unsafe drug, then the FDA is directly responsible for their death. On the other hand, if the FDA does nothing and does not approve a drug, a patient could die because of a lack of medicine. Even though the FDA is responsible for the death, it is not directly caused by them which is what really matters. Sometimes, people travel to Europe in order to buy the latest drugs that have not been FDA approved. However, the FDA being conservative on allowing drugs to be sold in America can help the American public. In the 1960’s, FDA inspector Frances Kelsey refused to approve a drug, despite it already being used world wide. It was later discovered that this drug has catastrophic consequences for a baby’s development in the womb. This, however, was avoided in America due to the FDA’s strict drug approval. In order for the FDA to approve a drug, pharmaceutical companies must go through a long and gruelling process. First, the drug must pass pre-clinical animal studies. Then, if it passes, it is tested on a small number of healthy patients. The next test is performed on patients who possess the target disease in order to identify the most effective dosage. The drug is then tested on a larger number of patients. If it passes all of these tests, then the company can apply to sell it in America. The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, known as the CDER, reviews these applications and can either approve or reject them. If the CDER has any specific concerns, experiments are conducted to address them. The next time you are sick and need to take medicine, think about how much care went into approving that little pill that you are taking. And don’t be afraid, since it passed one of the most challenging tests in the world to ensure that it is safe.
As young adults in high school, sleep isn’t always guaranteed. However, research suggests that we do need adequate sleep, as it plays an important role in both learning and memory. Many researchers believe that specific brainwaves during the different stages of sleep are associated with the formation of memory. The three stages that allow for memory in the brain to function properly are: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. While acquisition and recall occur during our waking hours, consolidation, the process in which memory becomes stable, takes place during different stages of sleep. One of the earlier stages of sleep is known as SWS, slow wave sleep, involved in processing and consolidating newly acquired information. Another stage, REM, rapid eye movement, is the stage in which dreaming often occurs. Scientists have discovered that both REM and SEM, slow eye movement, sleep are essential for the acquisition of learned material and are involved in declarative memory process, the knowledge of fact-based information, and procedural memory, remembering how to do something. Moreover, a study at Harvard proved that sleep helps improve recent memory in the hippocampus. Student volunteers that had been awake for 35 hours before viewing certain images performed 19% worse remembering them two days later. Researchers used an fMRI to trace the initial learning impairment to the hippocampus and noted that its activity was significantly less than those who were not deprived of sleep. Matthew Walker declared that “the results of the sleep-deprived students were as much as 40% worse than those who had slept normally before viewing the images.” So, what actually happens when you aren’t getting enough sleep? Without sleep, your neurons can no longer function properly and your ability to access previously learned information is impaired. Not only do you physically feel fatigued, but you also lose your ability to make sound decisions and your mood is negatively impacted. Thus, when you come home from a grueling day of school, make sure you prioritize sleep!
How Smart is it to Use a Smartphone? Rachel Blumenstein
People today can be described as “glued” to their smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Some argue that these machines are actually very helpful. A Nielsen Company Audience Report, published on June 27, 2016, showed that the average American adult spends nearly 11 hours on devices each day. As people are spending more and more time dependent on screens, it is necessary to understand if these screens are helpful or harmful in our everyday lives. This question is very subjective, and there are many differing opinions as to how to answer it. For example, Danny Fratella, a high school student in Covington, WA, believes that “Smartphones encourage us to think more and act as a readily available source of infinite information” while Tara Subramaniam, a high school senior in Atlanta, GA, says, “I can’t even watch a movie without checking my phone, which means nothing ever receives my full attention”. While this subjective question of whether or not technology usage is doing more help or harm is important to consider, there is an even more important, and very objective question to ponder as well; are there any health risks involved in using smartphones and devices? It turns out that there are many dangerous outcomes of using these gadgets in our everyday lives. For example, most of us are very confident in our ability to walk around outside in a careful fashion. This confidence is so strong that we use our phones while simultaneously walking down the street. However, this fearlessness causes us to be reckless. According to the National Accident Helpline in the U.K., 43 percent of regular smartphone users have foolishly walked straight into a wall or object while checking their phone. Additionally, many drivers think that there is no harm in quickly responding to a short text or email. This results in over 1.5 million people who end up in the hospital each year because they dared to text behind the wheel. Additionally, Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, believes that extensive screen time for children can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. He says, “[It] is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.” Many kids and teenagers lack sufficient social skills because they spend way too much time on their phones. They become obsessed with their electronics and become disconnected from the world around them. In addition to external dangers, there are also many physical risks with regard to using a smartphone. Have you ever spent a decent amount of time on a screen, and felt fatigued or stiff afterward? Many of us suffer from posture-related disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome, even if we don’t know it. Maintaining a certain position for prolonged periods of time can be detrimental to muscles, tendons and nerves. Looking at a phone for hours at a time means your arms are lifted in an unnatural position and your neck is bent. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, M.D., an osteopathic physician, those who are fixated on their phones are more likely to develop pain, muscle spasms, and chronic diseases. Spending prolonged periods of time on a screen could also cause visual issues. Screen fatigue, when one’s eyes, forehead, and temples will throb and hurt, is a probable outcome from staring at a screen for too long. These brightly lit screens can also suppress melatonin production and cause many sleeping problems, such as insomnia. According to Professor Kevin Morgan, of the sleep research unit at Loughborough University, “Looking at screens engages you in intellectual activity that is not at all like reading a book. It puts you in a state of alertness, which is the last thing you want to be before going to bed.” Furthermore, when we look at our phones, our neck inches forward, the shoulders round or lift upward, and, most especially, the neck and shoulder muscles spasm and contract. US spine surgeon Dr. Kenneth Hansraj discovered that although our heads weigh between 10 and 12 pounds, the weight on our necks increases when we angle them downwards to look at our phones. At a 30° angle, for instance, the effective weight on the spine is 40lb. “These stresses may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration and possibly surgeries”, he warns. “While it’s nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues, individuals should make an effort to look at their phones with a neutral spine and to avoid spending hours each day hunched over”. So, next time you go on your phone or tablet, keep in mind the dangerous effects it could possibly be having on your body. Spend less time looking at screens, and try to look at them with your head straight if you can. These small, light, gadgets are beginning to control the mental, social, and health-related aspects of our lives. What consumes your mind controls your life. Don’t let your phone rule over you.
Food Cravings: Who’s in Charge? Ayelet Kalfus
Did you know that you have two brains? Often called your “second brain”, your enteric nervous system is the gut’s dense network of neurons lining your gastrointestinal tract. It contains more than one hundred million neurons! And, these neurons exchange chemical signals with the central nervous system - the brain and spinal cord. Furthermore, your enteric nervous system is directly connected to your brain through the vagus nerve, the longest nerve cell in the autonomic, or not consciously-controlled, nervous system. The enteric nervous system actually has neurotransmitters identical to those of the brain and therefore is able to affect your mood. Additionally, the enteric nervous system can directly control your appetite. When food enters your gut for digestion, the enteric nervous system is able to secrete hormones that stop food consumption, like peptide YY which suppresses your appetite. But, the story doesn’t end there. Recall that trillions of microbes call your gut home. In fact, the average person has approximately 1.5 kilograms or 3.3 pounds of gut bacteria, which are collectively called the gut microbiota. In recent years, the gut microbiota has been receiving long-overdue attention for its effect on behavior. Advancing research suggests that food cravings are influenced by your microbiota. It is well-known that different bacterial strains prefer different diets. For example, Prevotella grows best on a carbohydrate rich source. So, it would make sense that these microbes would try to influence what their host, you, eats in order to achieve the diet which will maximize their growth. Microbial breakdown products include many agents that, due to their small size, are able to permeate your blood-brain barrier and thereby possibly impact your brain’s functioning. An important study demonstrat-
ed that out of a group of people on identical diets, those who desired chocolate had different microbial breakdown products in their urine than those who didn’t. In other words, there is strong evidence that people who crave chocolate have different gut bacteria! Another possible mechanism for the gut microbiota to regulate food cravings is through specific peptides, proteins that mimic human hunger or satiety hormones. By making you feel hungrier or less hungry, your gut microbiota can further control your diet. On an interesting side note, your body has actually developed antibodies against these peptides. Yet, the defect with your body’s antibodies is that they cannot flawlessly distinguish between the bacterial peptides and real human hormones. Therefore, even if your body’s antibodies successfully target all of the peptides that the bacteria produced, they will target your human hormones as well, which will affect your hunger or satiety hormones. You will therefore feel more or less hungry than your body actually intended, which means that bacteria successfully manipulated your diet! So, are you wondering if there are ways to regulate your own cravings rather than letting some bacteria in your gut run the show? Well, first of all, scientists have noted a fascinating correlation between the lack of diversity of gut bacteria and obesity. This would make sense in light of the current theories. A less diverse gut microbiota contains a smaller amount of species that have larger populations than a more diverse gut microbiota, which contains many different types of species that all have small populations. Researchers have proposed that since the large bacterial species in a less diverse gut are competing with fewer other bacterial species, they can devote more of their resources to manipulating the host’s diet and consequently cause obesity. Focusing on cultivating a diverse microbiota is a proposed solution to conquering gut bacteria’s control on food cravings. Additionally, professionals are hopeful that the use of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) and prebiotics (food for these beneficial bacteria) can help individuals positively alter their gut microbiota. Next time you have a food craving, just remember that it may not be you who wants that ice cream sundae. Rather, it’s some of the trillions of microbes sitting in your gut.
Are Diet Sodas Making You Fat? Eva Ingber
Many SAR students love diet sodas, including myself. During lunch and Mincha-break, I often see kids rush into The Kosher Market to buy a Diet Coke or Diet Snapple, sometimes even more than one! Ever since soda brands started selling diet versions of their products, people have been snatching them off the shelf as a substitute for the ones containing real sugar, claiming that “fake sugar must be healthier!” Well, I’m here to say, not necessarily. Recently, a team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators discovered that the popular sugar substitute aspartame (often found in diet sodas) is not beneficial to one’s health, and can actually be detrimental. Specifically regarding weight loss they discovered that, in contrast to popular belief, aspartame does not promote weight loss-- it prevents it! The head of the study Richard Hodin, MD, explains “that aspartame blocks a gut enzyme called intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) that we previously showed can prevent obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome; so we think that aspartame might not work because, even as it is substituting for sugar, it blocks the beneficial aspects of IAP.” In order to support their hypothesis, Hodin and his team conducted various experiments on mice to clearly illustrate aspartame’s effects on weight. In one such experiment, two groups of mice were fed a normal diet, but of the two groups, one also received aspartame. In addition, they also fed two other groups of mice a high-fat diet, and again only fed one of those groups aspartame. Upon observing these mice for periods of time, they discovered little difference between the weights of the two groups fed a normal diet. However, there was a major difference between the weights of the mice fed high-fat diets; of the two groups, the mice fed aspartame were significantly heavier than those not given aspartame. In addition, the team also realized that the aspartame fed mice in all four groups had higher blood sugar than those not fed aspartame, indicating glucose intolerance, and that these mice also had more of the TNF-alpha protein in their bloodstream, indicating an inflammatory reaction associated with metabolic syndrome. Ultimately, MGH’s study clearly illustrated the negative effects of sugar substitutes and disproved the common misconception that foods containing fake sugar are in fact healthier than those containing the real thing. So, for those of us who think “no calories, no problem,” think again.
The Utereus Transplant Jonah Garbuz
The essence of life is to expand, change and ultimately evolve. Humans have neatly followed this formula, evolving themselves and their systems; one of which being medicine. Once medicine became coupled with the ever changing species of people, medicine also adopted this recipe of evolution; ranging from simple advancements such as washing hands, to the more complex, such as isolating insulin. Though these examples of medical ingenuity are extraordinary, the most daring sector of medicine is arguably transplanting organs. Transplants were so novel and ambitious that during the notions earlier stages of development, some might have declared it impossible. However, with time, the shrouded topic of transplants has become integrated into generally accepted medicine. From here, the same evolutionary pattern continues as new changes and ideas open doors to the next, even within isolated topics as transplants. Today, a seemingly impossible feat has become a reality: the transplantation of a uterus. A new frontier was recently opened with a twenty-six year old woman in Saudi Arabia. She had a hysterectomy because of a hemorrhage after childbirth, but still hoped for another child. A team of Saudi Arabian doctors worked tirelessly to make this dream a reality. They transplanted a uterus from a forty-six year old woman into the twenty-six year old. The uterus had successfully completed two menstrual cycles before a blood clot caused the uterus to deteriorate, which demanded its removal, a short ninety-nine days after implantation. The procedure has caused much uproar within the scientific community. Doctors all over the world are tasked with one vital question: was the transplant a success? University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Fung, vocally condemns the transplant: “If you’re concerned that the blood supply is compromised by just a kink, what is going to happen when the uterus expands during pregnancy?” Many other physicians share Dr. Fung’s opinion and would have wanted to see the uterus survive longer before naming it a complete success and ready for childbearing. However, while the surgery may not have succeeded in its intended goal, many other doctors believe that the transplant was still a successful advance, and provides insight into the future of similar operations. Dr. Del Priore, compared the uterus transplant to in vitro fertilization, another procedure also highly criticized within the scientific community. Dr. Priore states that the hub around IVF was “quite an ordeal”. However, he remains optimistic by saying “we got through that, and we’ll get through this.” Experts who share Dr. Prior’s opinion see this supposed failure as a first step towards something far greater in the future. A step that will improve the lives of women everywhere without uteruses who would like to participate in childbirth. However, the heated discussion is far from resolved. There is an ethical dilemma brought up in exploring the need of the surgery. On one side of the discussion, fertility expert Roger Gosden at the Eastern Virginia Medical School, takes a logical approach, saying, “A transplant to save a life is an acceptable risk, but one for fertility, when there are alternatives. This is why we would never be given ethical clearance in the United States.” Alternatively, many in the medical community have expressed that childbearing is, “the greatest event of a lifetime,” and thus a uterus transplant “would not be considered frivolous or unnecessary.” This new transplant with all of its different ethical dilemmas and ties, whether ultimately successful or not, is medically groundbreaking and has just joined medicine’s evolutionary journey.
Z ika Outbreak Liana Katz
Zika is the most recent virus to take the world by surprise. Although the mosquito-borne virus was discovered in 1947, no one paid much attention to it because it was both rare and thought to cause only mild symptoms, if any. But now, with the virus’s rapid spread and its potential link to microcephaly and other neurological damage, the World Health Organization has declared a global emergency. Scientists are racing to develop therapeutics as well as a vaccine, building off research on related flaviviruses such as dengue and yellow fever, but none have been successful yet. The Zika virus, or “ZIKV,” was first discovered in a rhesus monkey in 1947, and was isolated from Aedes africanus mosquitoes in 1948. The first known instances of severe neurologic abnormalities associated with ZIKV infection occurred much more recently. From October 2013 to April 2014, French Polynesia experienced a large outbreak of ZIKV, estimated to have infected 66% of the general population. A contemporaneous surge in the number of cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system, raised serious concerns of an association with ZIKV: 42 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome were reported from November 2013 to February 2014, compared with only 3 cases in all of 2012. Following the French Polynesia outbreak, ZIKV spread throughout the South Pacific, including outbreaks in New Caledonia, the Cook Islands and Easter Island in 2014. Brazil logged its first cases of Zika in 2015, but infections there peaked in the summer of 2015 with perhaps up to 8,000 new infections per week. The virus crept northward and infiltrated many more countries including Panama, Haiti and Mexico. Now, the threat has even come to the United States. The Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Mosquitoes become infectious about 10 days after biting an infectious human, and likely remain so until death. The virus is then transmitted sexually from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners and it can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Much of the concern surrounding ZIKV has focused on the link between infection in pregnancy and fetal microcephaly. However, while microcephaly was the first fetal abnormality recognized, there is increasing evidence that ZIKV may be responsible for other fetal abnormalities such as intracranial calcifications, ventriculomegaly, ocular impairment, brainstem hypoplasia, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and fetal demise. Many researchers suggest that a ZIKV vaccine may be the best way to protect at-risk populations over the long term. Vaccine development has been prioritized by the WHO and other public health agencies, resulting 18 active manufacturers and research institutions pursuing early stages of ZIKV vaccine development. Trials for these vaccines only began in early 2016, and require much time to develop and test, hence a vaccine is unlikely to become available in time to change the course of the current outbreak in the Americas. In the time being, the World Health Organization suggests the use of protection when having sex. Also, topical insect repellents and other personal protective measures to reduce mosquito biting. Finally, WHO recommended the practice of space spraying or fogging to control transmission of mosquito related diseases. On one hand, the speed with which the global community has collected and disseminated clinical, epidemiologic and laboratory information on ZIKV after recent identification of the threat is impressive. However, the development of therapeutics and diagnostics is inhibited by the global scale of this disease, despite knowing of ZIKV’s existence for over half a century. This is because scientists have been able to do little to contain the virus’s rapid spread. In our highly interconnected world which is being subjected to massive ecological change, we can expect ongoing outbreaks of viruses originating in various regions, and it is upon us, the future scientists of the world, to better understand the viruses in order to prevent them.
Summary of the Universe to Life Maya Rubenstein
This summer, I had the amazing opportunity of taking a class at Columbia University. The class was entitled “The Universe from the Big Bang to the Evolution of Human Life” and incorporated astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth sciences, and physics. We covered billions of years of history, exploring our world from a hot dot until today. Although the content spanned billions of years, I would like to recount a brief summary of the universe. The universe is theorised to begin with the Big Bang. Beforehand, everything, all the matter, energy, and time in the universe was contained in a singularity smaller that the dot on the letter “i” with a temperature that was so high that we cannot conceive of it. And then, it exploded. This stage is called inflation. As the universe expanded, it cooled and elementary particles like quarks, leptons, and bosons formed. At this point, the universe was still extremely hot, and the particles thus had too much kinetic energy to stick to each other and form atoms. However, as the universe continued to cool and the particles lost energy, up and down quarks fused to form protons and neutrons. Quarks are elementary particles that comprise all observable matter, although it is impossible to observe them directly. Quarks come in different flavors, the most stable of which are up and down quarks. Two up quarks and down quark form a positively charged protons, and two down quarks and an up quark constitute a neutron. Protons and neutrons began to stick together, forming light nuclei. These nuclei are held together by the strong nuclear force, which arises from the quarks within them exchanging particles called gluons. Eventually, electrons also reached a low enough energy state to stick to these positively charged nuclei, as well as lone protons. Mostly hydrogen and helium atoms were formed, along with small amounts of lithium and beryllium atoms, because heavier nuclei wouldn’t fuse on their own. This process is called light atom nucleosynthesis. These light elements weren’t equally distributed across the universe. Gravity caused surrounding hydrogen atoms to speed towards areas that had higher hydrogen densities. This bombardment produced energy from friction. The energy fueled a nuclear reaction that fused hydrogen into helium and released even more energy. These dense hydrogen clouds turned into hot balls of gas with extremely high gravitational pulls, which we know as stars. These stars created heavier elements by nuclear reactions in their core. When the first stars died, they exploded, releasing heavier elements into space. Afterwards, when stars formed in a stellar nebula, or the cloud of elements remaining after a star’s death, debris from dead stars were pulled into its gravitational pull. This debris orbited around the star in an accretion disc. The particles gradually accumulated and clumped together to form larger entities. Once one of these entities became large enough, it was able to pull surrounding rocks and debris into its gravitational pull, eventually creating a planet. Accretion disks contained hydrogen and helium gas, nonmetal compounds like water, methane, and ammonia, metal, and rock. When these materials grouped together, the more dense metals and rock sunk to the inside, while the less dense gases remained on the surface or in the atmosphere. Likewise, planets acquired moons by sucking pieces of debris into their orbit. Earth, like all other planets, was created this way. It is hypothesized that our planet’s water comes from comets that were attracted by its gravitational pull and slammed into Earth. Continents were formed by volcanoes, which brought up magma from the earth’s mantle. The magma then solidified to form rocky continents atop the water. Tectonic plates, pieces of the Earth’s crust floating on the liquid rock mantle, caused the continents to form and reform. Our planet cycled between one gigantic continent and several smaller pieces of land. Additionally, the climate changed. Varying levels of carbon dioxide plunged Earth into ice ages as well warmer eras, where the majority of our planet resembled Miami Beach. (And we think global warming is new.) This geological feedback loop has kept Earth in between two extremes, providing the stable environment necessary for organisms to thrive. About 3.4 billion years ago, life formed. Like the singularity in the Big Bang theory, much of life’s formation remains a mystery. The first cells to form were heterotrophic, prokaryotic bacteria, which obtain energy only through anaerobic respiration, which involves breaking down glucose without oxygen. Eventually,
photosynthetic cyanobacteria evolved, which release oxygen into the atmosphere. Aerobic bacteria consequently developed, utilizing this new oxygen supply. Eukaryotic cells are thought to have formed from the combination of three or four of these prokaryotic organisms. From that point on, life skyrocketed. Evolution is dictated by geological processes and natural selection. The planet is constantly changing: plate tectonics are moving, the temperature is dropping and rising, and the composition of our atmosphere shifts. Organisms that fail to evolve go extinct. Catastrophes like volcanoes and asteroids slamming into Earth also wipe out species. The disappearance of a group of organisms presents an opportunity for other life forms to evolve and replace them, filling the empty ecological niche. Multicellular life began in the ocean when a multitude of invertebrates suddenly evolved in the Cambrian Explosion. From these early animals, vertebrates evolved. Among these vertebrates were reptiles and amphibians, the first animals to crawl out of the water. These reptiles are the progenitors of mammals as well as dinosaurs, which developed into birds when the majority of the dinosaur species went extinct. This mass extinction may have been caused by an asteroid collision or volcanic eruptions. Either way, the absence of dinosaurs allowed mammals to thrive. Primates evolved from mammals, and humans evolved from primates. The exact cause that led to humans’ high IQ’s is unknown, but it may be related to speech or fire. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that us humans have abilities unique to our species. We populate the Earth and hypothesize about our beginning. We strive to find purpose and meaning in our lives. And, ultimately, it is impossible for us to ask the classic question of “why do we exist?” without also asking “how do we exist?”
Anesthesia Ari Stein
For all those who have had intensive surgery, the experience of general anesthesia is a familiar one. One minute they’re being told to count to ten; and... boom! the surgery is over. They may have gone on to describe the experience to their friends, saying that they were “put to sleep”. This is not true. In fact, they were as awake as ever. But before anesthesia is discussed, it must be understood how the brain works. When a neuron depolarizes from its resting potential to its threshold potential, positively charged sodium ions rush down to the end of the neuron in the form of an action potential. Multiply the process by one-hundred billion, and you get the human brain. All these parts interact in a fast paced manner. Despite this, the interactions are controlled enough for communication. If the memory center in the brain wants to “tell” the reading center the definition of a word, it sends message or wave to the reading center. Think of it as two friends talking at a baseball game; they don’t interrupt each other and can have a complex conversation. This process can occur anywhere in the brain. The place that is relevant for surgery is the pain center. Normally, if a neuron feels pain, it communicates the pain to the pain center of the brain, where it is registered as the normal pain people feel every day. Anesthesia stops this process. It slows down all the processes within the brain, causing the individual centers to be unable to communicate with each other. A part of the brain may be screaming with pain, but it just can’t reach the pain center. The pain center can’t hear it’s shouts. During anesthesia, all the centers of the brain become isolated. Individually, they may be full of action, but because they can’t talk to each other, the brain just can’t feel pain. This is also why people who go under general anesthesia can’t remember things. Imagine the same baseball game, but now the row that the two friends are sitting in decides to do the wave. When one friend says one thing, the other friend is standing, and when the other friend tries to respond, she finds her friend standing. And that’s how anesthesia works. By turning the fine tuned jumble of communication in the brain into isolated, slow signals, anesthesia allows surgeries to be performed without the pain that should come along with it. This allows more advanced procedures to be done, and major advances in medicine.
The Effects of Stress By: Rachel Cohen
We all experience stress from various sources such as work, the death of a loved one, divorce, illness, trauma, or just every day responsibilities. The nature of the stress and how we deal with it can have vastly different impacts on the systems in our body. Indeed, protracted stress can adversely affect our health by causing bodily systems to malfunction and a decrease in learning ability while moderate amounts of stress can propel us toward resolving the issue. As such, managing our stress to optimum levels plays an important role in our mental and physical well-being. The endocrine and central nervous systems control one’s natural “fight or flight” response. They are linked through a portion of the brain called the hypothalamus. When the brain perceives a stressful situation, the hypothalamus sends a signal to the adrenal glands to release two hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, which help the person react to the issue at hand. The hormones increase breathing and heart rates, constrict blood vessels, and tighten muscles. This provides body cells with more oxygen, increasing energy production. After the danger appears to be gone, the endocrine and central nervous systems should return to normal. However, if the stress continues unabated, the hormone overload will cause the body to suffer by releasing corticosteroids. This is known as chronic stress, and symptoms include anxiety, depression, irritability, headaches, insomnia, overeating or undereating, alcohol or drug abuse, and social withdrawal. Moreover, for people with prior respiratory problems such as asthma or emphysema, the effects of the increase in adrenaline and cortisol can make breathing even more difficult. Too much adrenaline and cortisol can also increase blood clotting and vessel damage, raising the risk of a person having a heart attack. In addition, the constriction of blood vessels can lead to hypertension. Stress affects other systems as well. The digestive system reacts to stress by having the liver release more glucose into the blood, providing the body with extra energy to help tackle the stressful problem. The body reabsorbs any glucose that is left unused so there is no adverse effect on the liver in the case of limited amounts of stress. Frequent stress, though, leads to an excess amount of glucose in the body that could cause the development of type II diabetes. Furthermore, the higher heart rate, faster breathing, and rush of hormones that come with chronic stress can result in acid reflux or heartburn. In addition, constant stress changes the way that food travels through the digestive system, resulting in nausea, stomachache, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea. Stress can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. High levels of cortisol suppress inflammation and can cause the body to develop a resistance to it, leading to a state of chronic inflammation, where the body mistakes its own cells as a threat and attacks. Cortisol also suppresses lymphocyte cells, which are vital in recognizing and killing invading foreign substances. Furthermore, chronic stress can lower the amount of a protein that is needed to signal other immune cells, making the body more susceptible to illnesses and prolonging healing periods. For women, chronic stress may cause either irregular or no menstruation, very heavy and painful periods, or heightened reactions to menopause. Stress limits the functionality of the hypothalamus, which controls the pituitary gland, which in turn controls the ovaries, among many other things. For men, a limited amount of stress can lead to an increased production of testosterone leading to a stronger desire for sex. In contrast, longterm stress decreases testosterone levels, which can result in erectile dysfunction and problems with the production of sperm. Frequent stress for men also increases the risk of infection in the prostate, urethra, and testes. In both men and women, stress causes the tightening of muscles as a reaction to one’s fight or flight system, causing back, shoulder, or neck pain. This constant discomfort could, in turn, lead to a decrease in exercise and increase in the usage of pain medication, creating an unhealthy cycle. Students at the University of California, Irvine studied the effect of stress on learning and memory and the findings appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience. The study focused on another hormone activated by stress called corticotropin, which releases other hormones that disrupt the process that the brain uses to collect and store memories. The students released corticotropin in the hippocampus of mice, the main learning and memory center of the brain. The corticotropin caused the disintegration of the dendritic spines, specialized branch like
protrusions on neurons, which then limited the ability of the synapses, where brain cells communicate and where learning and memory occur, to collect and store information. Blocking the corticotropin molecules from interacting with their receptor molecules removed stress damage to the dendritic spines in the hippocampal cells that are used in learning and memory. In fact, removing the corticotropin caused the dendritic spines to re-grow, suggesting that minimizing stress can increase learning and memory function in mice and possibly humans. Studies on the effects of stress are ongoing but it seems clear that a limited amount can be beneficial while chronic stress is unhealthy. Therefore, learning how to manage stress is essential for our mental and physical well-being.
Why Doesn’t the Flu Vaccine Always Work? Maayan Milgram
Millions of people each year get the flu vaccine in order to avoid getting the flu. However, some people who get the vaccine still get the flu! Why? The flu vaccine production requires the vaccines to be produced six months before they are used. Each February, the World Health Organization chooses three or four strains to include in the vaccine for the following year; the strains always come from the H1N1, H3N2, and influenza B viruses. These strains are then injected into a fertilized egg where they reproduce. After two or three days, each egg contains millions of live flu viruses, which are then extracted from the egg and killed using chemicals. Particles of viral proteins, which make up the flu vaccine, remain. These particles of viral proteins correspond to proteins in the human body; when the parts of the virus interact with their corresponding human proteins, antibodies are made. When an antibody binds to a foreign substance, which is the virus in this case, it “marks” the foreign substance to be destroyed. The strands that are chosen for the vaccine are the ones that are most common and dangerous to the population. Therefore, there is no one vaccine that protects against every type of flu. The vaccine also takes two weeks to take full effect in the body, making it possible to get the flu in that two week window regardless of having gotten the vaccine. Additionally, flu viruses naturally mutate. Therefore, each year the flu vaccine is updated to anticipate mutation, yet often the vaccine mutates in a way that was not anticipated. If, for example, a major “shift” mutation occurs, the vaccine becomes less effective. Typically, when this happens, the antibodies are still able to fight the virus, although to a lesser extent. In 2012, the H3N2 virus, the dominant virus of the season, endured a major “shift,” making the vaccine less effective. And by the time a new vaccine would have been made, flu season would have been over. Should you get the flu vaccine? That’s your choice. But beware: Whether or not you are vaccinated, a flufree winter is not guaranteed.
Neutron Stars Maya Rubenstein
One of the most amazing things about astronomy is that it rejects our intuitive sense of what obeys the laws of the universe. Even in our own solar system, Saturn has a moon called Titan that is covered in lakes containing methane, a hydrocarbon which would never exist on Earth as anything but a gas. A day on Venus is longer than its year. These phenomenons are unsettling and exciting; everything “normal” is flipped around. Furthermore, these observations allow human beings to learn about the fundamental laws governing the universe, gaining knowledge that would be impossible to learn on Earth. And among these eccentric entities are neutron stars, one of the most fascinating anomalies astronomy has to offer. As the name implies, neutron stars are powerful, spinning spheres of mass composed almost entirely of neutrons, in sharp contrast to all matter on Earth, which consists of several different particle types. Only neutron stars’ surfaces contain “normal” matter, and even this is in a weird, super compressed form. Both of these factors cause neutron stars’ incredibly high densities. They are typically a mere twelve miles in diameter, yet they have densities greater than that of the sun, which is over 864,000 miles in diameter. The escape velocity, the speed at which matter must be travelling to break out of its gravitational pull, from neutron stars’ surface is about half the speed of light. A teaspoon of neutron star material would weigh a billion tons on Earth. Neutron stars are exceptional in more ways than simply their incredible densities. Their temperatures can be above one million degrees Celsius. Additionally, they rotate extremely quickly and have been found to spin hundreds of times per second. This rapid rotation boosts their magnetic fields, which can be a quadrillion times that of Earth. These magnetic fields result from the rare charged particles amid the stew of neutrons. So where do neutron stars come from? How does our universe create such strange and interesting objects? Neutron stars are the product of the star cycle, which is the life cycle of stars. However, only stars with eight to twenty times the mass of the sun are the progenitors of neutron stars. Relatively small stars like the sun, on the other hand, do not create neutron stars. The star cycle commences with the birth of stars. Matter, most abundantly hydrogen, is dispersed unevenly across the universe. Thus, there are regions of space that are more densely filled with hydrogen than other areas. In the denser areas, gravity comes into play, causing surrounding atoms to rush toward these areas. The friction from the zooming hydrogens, as well as the bombardment of the atoms, generates enough heat to catalyze a nuclear reaction - the conversion of hydrogen to helium by fusing the nuclei of hydrogen atoms together. The temperature necessary to catalyze hydrogen fusion is above fourteen million degrees Fahrenheit. However, nuclear fusion is an exothermic reaction; it creates more energy than is needed to catalyze it. This makes it possible for helium to be created on a large scale, a self-supporting process that lasts billions of years. Gravity keeps these stars from exploding amid all the heat and energy that they rapidly produce. This newly created energy in turn keeps these stars from collapsing in on themselves. Eventually, though, the peaceful truce between these forces ceases. When helium is generated in such a star’s core, it can’t escape. It gradually builds up, making the core denser, and thus, hotter. Once the heat rises to a certain point, the outside of the core heats up enough to catalyze hydrogen fusion even outside the core. At this point, the energy is strong enough to push against even gravity. The star inflates into a form called a red giant. Think Charles’s law; when you heat a gas, it expands. Some of the star’s outer layers are blown off, decreasing the star’s mass. As the core continues to heat up and the pressures increases, helium fusion will occur. Like hydrogen atoms are squeezed together to form helium in hydrogen fusion, helium nuclei fuse to form the heavier, nuclei of carbon in helium fusion. This cycle will repeat as carbon forms, the star expands and contracts, and its outer layers heat up and are blown away - until there is no more helium left to fuse. Eventually the star will have no more energy, just debris. This debris is then pulled together due to the immense gravity. All that will be left is a planetary nebula and a white dwarf, which is the collapsed core of low-mass stars and lacks the necessary mass to
give rise to neutron stars. However, stars with eight or more times the mass of the sun have a different fate. The cores of these stars are more pressurised, so nuclear fusion continues past generating helium and carbon. Heavier and heavier elements are created. Iron, however, is a dead end. Fusing elements lighter than iron produces energy, but assembling the nuclei of heavier elements requires energy input. At this point, there is no energy being generated to keep gravity at bay. The star collapses in on itself, a process which rebounds in an explosion called a supernova. Supernovae are violent and bright enough to outshine galaxies. As the core of a high-mass star collapses, protons and electrons are smushed together, creating neutrons and neutrinos. Atoms disappear, leaving neutrons sitting next to each other like marbles in a box. Neutron degeneracy, or repulsion between neutrons, is the only force that can halt the collapse, yet the pressure from gravity in really high-mass stars can overcome neutron degeneracy. Therefore, once the star has exhausted its fuel, exploded in a supernova, and then imploded from its own pressure, a neutron star is finally formed. However, if a star contains twenty to thirty times the mass of the sun, nothing is strong enough to stop the implosion. The core will become denser until it forms a singularity of continuous matter. Nothing can escape the incredible gravity of these objects, not even light. Thus, they are called black holes. Our universe is home to black holes, neutron stars, stars of every color of the rainbow, as well as floating chunks of rock and rotating balls of liquid gas. By studying these entities, we gain not only an understanding of how the world works but also agreater appreciation of our own existence.
Physical Fitness Ellie Kosowsky
Many people think that eating well is the best way to be healthy, however, fitness and exercise are equally important. Exercise is important to maintain a healthy weight and improve one’s overall health, both physically and mentally. One should get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, for at least 3-5 days per week to maintain good health. In addition to maintaining a healthy weight, exercise can prevent many diseases. Specifically, exercise decreases the risk of heart disease and diabetes because regular physical activity lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol, and reduces blood sugar. While, everyone knows that exercise helps you lose weight, it is also very important for your mental health. Exercise can positively impact depression, stress, memory, and one’s overall mood. In fact, exercise can treat depression as effectively as antidepressants and other medications because exercise releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in the brain that make you feel good. Exercise also reduces the body’s levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Finally, exercise promotes changes in the brain, including neural growth, and reduced inflammation that positively impact one’s outlook. In one article in the American Psychological Association, Dr. James Blumenthal discussed a study he conducted where patients with anxiety were split into three groups: one group did supervised exercise, one group received medicine and the third group received a placebo, a treatment with no active therapeutic effect. He found that the exercising group and the medicated group had the same positive results. Physical activity also helps remove stress by relaxing the muscles and relieving tension all over the body. When you are stressed and your muscles are tense, particularly in your face, neck, and shoulders, it often results in back or neck pain, or painful headaches. You may also experience problems such as insomnia and heartburn. Therefore, people that exercise regularly feel more energetic and can sleep better at night. This allows sharper memories and positive feelings about oneself. Exercise has many benefits and is crucial to one’s overall health and well-being, so everyone should find time to do physical activity.
How Flushing Your Toilet Could Help Create Biofuel Rebecca Perla
Picture a giant toilet bowl looming larger than life outside the UN headquarters in New York. It sounds like an absurd scene, but this stunt from three years ago was not a childish prank. It was a serious statement to mark the first World Toilet Day and raise awareness of the fact that one third of the world’s population lacks access to toilets. Addressing the global sanitation crisis is a top priority among the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and it now has an exciting solution. In fact, science may soon make your toilet bowl a viable alternative energy source. Your flushes can produce two or three gallons of biofuel per year when the wastewater is treated using a process, developed scientists and engineers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, called hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL). HTL emulates the way crude oil forms naturally. Biomass usually decays under high pressure and heat for millions of years — but it only takes 45 minutes with HTL. Research engineer, Justin Billing says the technology works with any wet organic waste materials, such as sewage, algae, feedstock, or animal manure. These were once considered poor sources for biofuel because older processes required drying them out, but this does not. All it takes is pressure and heat — you must bake the material at 660 degrees Fahrenheit. James Oyler, the President of Genifuel Corporation acquired the license for the technology and plans to put it to good use. He focuses on wet waste materials because there is an abundance, and would be expensive to dispose. “We can avoid the disposal costs, completely eliminate the waste and turn it into fuel,” Oyler explained. The process creates two main products. One product is a biocrude, a substance similar to oil that comes out of the ground. Biocrude can be refined using conventional processes to make gasoline and jet fuels. The other product is a form of natural gas. HTL also creates a small quantity of nutrient-rich solids as a byproduct, which can be used in fertilizer production. “What sets HTL apart is the simplicity,” Billing said. “It was always the ideal solution because it produces quality crude with high stability (great efficiency)”. HTL is more far more efficient than ethanol. HTL yields three to four times the energy required to produce it, while ethanol barely breaks even. Unlike ethanol, which must be mixed with conventional gas before it enters your tank, HTL biofuel works in its purest form. Vehicles can run on 100 percent HTL. HTL is far more eco-friendly than gasoline. With HTL, human waste, which would otherwise decompose, is used to power cars and trucks. With gasoline, oil is dredged up from the Earth and dumped into the sky which therefore increases the total volume of carbon pollution(CO2) in the atmosphere. In the aggregate, HTL generates up to 75 percent less carbon pollution than gasoline. Overall, HTL has three main benefits: 1. It makes renewable fuel 2. It solves the critical problem of treating wastewater 3. It creates clean water at the end, without filtering out the solids. To explain further, too much CO2 in the atmosphere is a bad thing because CO2 — a naturally occurring gas that is also emitted at great levels by human activity — is one of several greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. To understand the impact of greenhouse gases, we first start with the sun, which sends solar radiation in the form of light to Earth. The atmosphere deflects some of this radiation, while the rest hits the planetary surface and warms the land and oceans. The Earth then radiates its own heat back up in the form of infrared rays. Some of those rays escape the atmosphere, while others are absorbed and then re-emitted by the atmospheric gases. These gases – the greenhouses gases – then help to keep the planet at its normal temperature. For millions of years, the production of greenhouses gases was regulated by the natural systems of the planet. Gases would be absorbed and emitted at a fairly steady rate. Temperatures, meanwhile, were maintained at a level that supported life around the world. The Environmental Protection Agency characterizes this as “a balancing act.” Humans changed the balancing act beginning in the second half of the 1700s and since that time we have been adding greenhouse gases, primarily CO2, to the atmosphere at a steadily increasing rate, trapping that heat and warming the planet. Although there are several greenhouse gases — some are more potent than others —
CO2 currently represents about 84 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted by human activities, totaling about 30 billion tons a year. Most of this comes from burning fossil fuels for electricity and transportation, although industrial processes and forestry also contribute heavily. This US population produces an estimated 34 billion gallons of wastewater per year, according to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Local governments bear the brunt of the costs. Orange County, CA alone spent $17 million last year and there are about 15,000 wastewater treatment plants around the country. Therefore, this new process could have a transformational effect. Three years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and the Water Environment and Reuse Foundation put the technology to the test and we pleasantly satisfied with the results. Implementing HTL in all of U.S., wastewater treatment plants would produce 30–45 million barrels of bio-oil per year, which would sell for $3–5 each. The U.S. currently uses 18 million barrels of oil per day. This technology isn’t a silver bullet that will replace fossil fuels on its own, but a piece of a larger puzzle which will include other forms of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. The process is exceptionally versatile and scalable. Researchers are working to replicate the process in a much larger facility. The same reactors can be used for different organic materials, from municipal sludge (which also includes toilet paper and other components ) to waste material from wine and beer production. The hope is to also apply the process to dispose of trees killed by beetles and wildfires in the western half of the country. Dealing with the sewage also preserves valuable drinking water. As the planet warms, droughts are getting longer, hotter and more frequent. Rivers and streams are drying up. In many parts of the developing world, water is scarce and toilets are few, and people succumb to diseases like dysentery, typhoid and cholera. Even in America, wastewater is still a problem that we can’t flush away, but HTL can help bring us one step closer to caring for our planet.
Can Genes Affect Behavior? Eitan Karsch
Although people like to believe that their behavior is not presupposed by any code or formula, there is significant evidence that shows that genetic makeup can have a prominent effect on people’s actions and reactions. Studies in labs are difficult to conduct because many claim it is unethical to research human behavior, however this understanding of presupposition has become accepted by most modern scientists. This discussion relates to the “nature vs. nurture” argument which has been reviewed by many scientists. The “nature vs. nurture” argument suggests a balance between the affect that genetics and the environment have on the behaviors of any given species. This issue tries to address the question regarding whether nature or nurture plays a more dominant role in a person’s behavior. Canadian Psychologist Donald Hebb explains that trying to prove that either nature or nurture is more important is like attempting to prove that the length or the width of a rectangle is more important. In addition, just like two rectangles with equal areas can have different dimensions, so too the hereditary and environmental role in an organism can vary. Children generally resemble their parents’ in their physical appearance and behavior. There is obviously some type of connection between a child’s nature and their parents’. But only recently has the field of genetics been able to somewhat explain why children act the way they do based on their genetic makeup. In the mid 1970s, several studies were run that demonstrate a clear connection between genes and behavior, but the results were only accepted in the early 1990s. In one specific study, scientists analyzed the behaviors of identical twin mice, which had the exact same genetic makeup. The reason for identical twins having the same genetic makeup is because in the uterus, when the fetus is in the two cell stage, the two cells split, forming two individual cells, which eventually leads to two separate organisms with identical genetic compositions. Scientists used these twin mice to isolate the genetic factor so that observing the mice would be purely a demonstration of the environmental influence on their behavior. Using over 10,000 mice, they observed that the IQ (intelligence quotient) of the two twins was 85% similar, despite the fact that each twin was raised in a different environment. This has been used as a baseline to defend the theory that genes significantly affect behavior. Another intriguing study conducted by scientists from University of British Columbia and Cornell University in May 2015 demonstrated that some people are more sensitive due to their genetic makeup. They characterize these people as Highly Sensitive People, or HSPs. The researchers found that some people have a variation of the ADRA2b gene which influences the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. This chemical heightens the “activity in specific brain regions that trigger more intense emotional responses and sensitivity when viewing both positive and negative images.” A group of people with and without this gene were shown a picture and asked to describe how “loud” the picture seemed to them. Each picture had either positive, negative, or neutral emotional content. Carriers of the ADRA2b gene variation had an increased emotional reaction to these pictures as seen in the MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) that were taken just after seeing the picture. According to Dr. Arthur Aron, the HSP trait is strongly associated with identifiable behaviors, genes, physiological reactions, and patterns of brain activation. This study was published in a paper called “Neurogenetic Variations in Norepinephrine Availability Enhance Perceptual Vividness” which appeared in The Neuroscience Journal.
Is Gym Class Actually Keeping Us Fit??? Shelomzion Steinmetz-Silber
Gym class. Some of us actually enjoy it lishmah, it makes some of us feel better about eating all that Dunkin Donuts, but some of us are traumatized from constantly getting basketballs thrown at us, and some of us are tired and just want to go to sleep. Either way, we all have it and we all have to do it. But the real question is: Are just two forty minute gym classes a week really getting us into shape? Probably not. If you subtract the five minutes of changing into and out of gym clothes from each forty minute period, you get a total of an hour and ten minutes of gym class per week. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion suggests that adolescents get a full hour of aerobic activity per day, most of that “moderate to vigorous intensity.” Mayo Clinic has a more realistic suggestion of 30 minutes per day. However, we are simply not getting that in gym class, and I don’t know about you, but when I have a research paper due and two tests to study for, I’m not going for a run. Especially not when I get home at 6PM, and if I stay for extracurriculars, well then, there is no chance I go for a run. So what can we do to try and stay active while balancing the stress of high school and serious sleep deprivation? 1. Try to do small things. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk or bike instead of going by public transportation or car. 2. Try to stay active on the weekends .Do things that you like, like swimming or other sports. 3. Go outside whenever you get the chance! Breathe fresh air that doesn’t smell like paint. 4. Try to be active in gym class. It’s practically the only two times a week where you have a set time to be active. 5. If you have gym equipment in your house, in your building, or have a membership to a gym, USE IT!!!!! Even for just a few minutes a day! Then when the stress of high school is over, we’ll all go back to running everyday. Right?
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Are Diet Sodas Making You Fat?
Can Genes Affect Behavior?
https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/biological-foundations-of-psychology-3/genetics-and-behavior-31/the-influence-ofgenes-on-behavior-137-12672/ https://www.edge.org/response-detail/12035 http://web.stanford.edu/~wine/202/g-and-b.html https://www.britannica.com/science/behaviour-genetics https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201505/how-do-your-genes-influence-levels-emotional-sensitivity
Football’s Effect on the Brain
http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/sports/a2954/4212171/ http://www.brainfacts.org/diseases-disorders/injury/articles/2012/hard-knocks-the-science-of-concussions http://time.com/4158140/concussion-film-bennet-omalu-cte-nfl/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995699/ https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/home/PressRelease/1134 http://time.com/4158140/concussion-film-bennet-omalu-cte-nfl/
How Smart is Your Smartphone?
http://www.msn.com/en-gb/health/mindandbody/10-reasons-your-smartphone-is-bad-for-your-health/ar-AAaWd47#page=2. Chang, Angel. “The Eight Dangers Of Excessive Smartphone Use.” LittleThings.com. December 30, 2015. Accessed April 19, 2017. http://www.littlethings.com/dangers-of-using-smartphones/. “Debate: Are Smartphones Making Us Stupid?” Choices. January 26, 2016. Accessed April 19, 2017. http://choices.scholastic.com/story/debate-are-smartphones-making-us-stupid. Hill, Simon. “Does staring at screens all day really damage your eyes? We asked an expert.” Digital Trends. March 03, 2015. Accessed April 19, 2017. http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/does-your-phone-damage-your-eyes-an-experts-advice/. http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/health/americans-screen-time-nielsen/. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/behind-online-behavior/201604/what-screen-time-can-really-do-kids-brains
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http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax http://www.helpguide.org/articles/exercise-fitness/emotional-benefits-of-exercise.htm
The Effects of Stress
https://adrenalfatiguesolution.com/stress-immune-system/ http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/10/high-stress-high-school/409735/ http://psychcentral.com/news/2008/03/12/stress-affects-learning-and-memory/2031.html http://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body
The Uterus Transplant
Why Doesn’t the Flu Vaccine Always Work?
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2016/07/13/science.aaf8160.full http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/ https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Guillain-Barr%C3%A9-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet
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Published on Aug 9, 2017