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Fall 2014 | University of Chicago

ISSN 2164-4314

A Production of The Triple Helix

The International Journal of Science, Society, and Law

6 The Sense Fusion

of Synesthesia

9 13 20

An Interview with Dr. Janet Rowley Bright Lights: Are They Killing Us? The Loneliness Factor: Information and Communications Technology and Social Isolation

ASU - Berkeley - Brown - Cambridge - CMU - Cornell - Georgia Tech - Georgetown - GWU - Harker - Harvard - JHU - NUS - OSU - UC Davis - UCSD - UChicago - Melbourne - Yale

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THE TRIPLE HELIX A global forum for science in society

TRIPLE HELIX CHAPTERS North America Chapters Arizona State University Brown University Cornell University Carnegie Mellon University Georgia Institute of Technology George Washington University Georgetown University The Harker School Harvard University Johns Hopkins University The Ohio State University University of California, Berkeley University of California, Davis University of California, San Diego University of Chicago Yale University Europe Chapter Cambridge University Asia Chapter National University of Singapore Australia Chapter University of Melbourne

The cover for this issue’s Science in Society Review was photographed by Carrie Chui of the University of Chicago. Taken near the heart of the city of Chicago, it illustrates the plethora of technology and industry that has become normative in modernday society.

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The Triple Helix, Inc. is the world’s largest completely student-run organization dedicated to taking an interdisciplinary approach toward evaluating the true impact of historical and modern advances in science. Work with tomorrow’s leaders Our international operations unite talented undergraduates with a drive for excellence at over 25 top universities around the world. Imagine your readership Bring fresh perspectives and your own analysis to our academic journal, The Science in Society Review, which publishes International Features across all of our chapters. Reach our global audience The E-publishing division showcases the latest in scientific breakthroughs and policy developments through editorials and multimedia presentations. Catalyze change and shape the future Our new Science Policy Division will engage students, academic institutions, public leaders, and the community in discussion and debate about the most pressing and complex issues that face our world today. All of the students involved in The Triple Helix understand that the fast pace of scientific innovation only further underscores the importance of examining the ethical, economic, social, and legal implications of new ideas and technologies — only then can we completely understand how they will change our everyday lives, and perhaps even the norms of our society. Come join us!

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Cover Article 6

Terry Jones

Local Articles 9

Aleksandra Augustynowicz


Michael Yanagisawa

16 Helen Kyung Kim 20 Casey Ebner

Cover design courtesy of Carrie Chui, University of Chicago

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STAFF AT UCHICAGO Co-Presidents Jawad Arshad Missy Cheng Director of Marketing Adiba Matin Managing Editors, SISR Abhi Gupta Adil Menon Frank Qian Jacob Ryall Lenard Shaw Austen Smith Managing Editors, Scientia Patrick Delaney Khatcher Margossian Luizetta Navrazhnykh Irene Zhang Jake Russell Michael Begun Michael Cervia

Message from Chapter Leadership Dear Reader, It is with great excitement that we bring to you the 2014 Fall Issue of The Science in Society Review.A new year has introduced new directions to consider in some of the most pressing issues of science in society and at The Triple Helix, Inc. we understand the need to investigate these questions in aninterdisciplinary manner. In this vein, our writers, aided by a strong support system of undergraduate editors and faculty mentors, strive to incorporate the perspectives of multiple fields in their articles. For this reason and others, we at The Triple Helix, Inc. pride ourselves on the fact that we bring our writers together with eminent University professors and field professionals for one-on-one collaboration. We are proud to encourage our future leaders in their rigorous exploration for the key issues in society today. It is our hope that the articles presented herein will stimulate and challenge you to join our dialogue.

Co-Directors of Production Carrie Chui Charles Pena Production Editors Tima Karginov Chau Pham Writers Ania Urban Cynthia Avila Troie Journigan Claire Wilson Wendy Wei Niloufar Hafizi Associate Editors Will Craft Adil Menon Claire Wilson Lan Wang Matthew Yeung Victor Tan Eric Zhang Faculty Review Board Dominique Missiakas Liz Moyer Dari Maestripieri Events Coordinators Stephanie Bi Catherine Castro Cecilia Jiang Evan Jin E-Publishing Managing Editors Deborah Olaleye Alice Lee Austin Yu Jake Mullen


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Local News We are having a successful year here at the University of Chicago. In addition to this print journal, we also publish student articles on the Triple Helix Online. Electronic articles are read by over 300 unique visitors to our website per day. We have expanded our online division through new recruiting and marketing efforts. In terms of events, since the end of Autumn Quarter, The Triple Helix at the University of Chicago has been experimeanting with a new structure for the Events Division. Instead of a single Science Policy Director, we now have a multi-person Events Committee. Our Event Coordinators have worked closely with the Marketing and Production Divisions to successfully advertise our events. This past quarter, we hosted a lecture by Lainie Ross, MD, PhD on the ethical of genetic testing. The audience was highly engaged and brought up many questions at the end of the lecture. Currently, we are working to host an event concerning the Ebola epidemic. Our Marketing and Production Divisions have also expanded this year. We are proud to encourage our future leaders in their rigorous exploration for the key issues in society today.

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hat would it feel like to involuntarily taste words and sense the personalities of numbers? This might seem like a trippy fantasy, but to synesthetes, it is all they have ever known. Synesthetes have a neurological condition called synesthesia, which means “joined perception” in Greek. Synesthesia occurs when a stimulus in one sensory modality, such as vision, involuntarily generates a sensory experience in a distinct modality, such as hearing. There are many different types of synesthesia. The most common type is grapheme-color, where the letter “q” might appear a vibrant lime green. Other types are lexical-gustatory synesthesia, wherea word, such as, “knock” might elicit a taste, such as that of Granny Smith apples. Ordinal-linguistic personification occurs when a synesthete involuntarily associates a personality, such as grumpy, with a number, month, letter, or day. These multi-modal sensory experiences can be inspirational and many synesthetes have been drawn to the arts for this reason. What causes synesthetic experiences to occur? Functional MRI studies have indicated that the limbic system, which mediates the emotional response, and brain areas that process sensory input are active during synesthetic experiences. It is also known that infants have prolific connections between brain areas that are pruned back as they enter childhood. Some neuroscientists believe that synesthesia can develop if these connections are not eliminated. This article seeks to describe the different types of synesthesia, discuss the connection between synesthesia and art, and explore what neuroscience experts believe to be the root of synesthesia in the brain. The composer Franz Liszt saw colors when musical notes were played. He was even known for instructing orchestra members to make the sound, “a little bluer, if you please,” or “not so rose.” What does it feel like to involuntarily see colors when you listen to music, associate tastes with words, orsee numbers as having personalities? This is what people with synesthesia, a neurological condition present in roughly four percent of the population, experience. Synesthesia occurs when a stimulus in one sensory modality, such as vision, involuntarily generates a sensory experience in a distinct modality, such as hearing. There are many different types

There are many different types of synesthesia. The most common type is grapheme-color, where one involuntarily associates a particular letter with a particular color...

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Reproduced from [16]

Reproduced from [6] of synesthesia. The most common type is grapheme-color, where one involuntarily associates a particular letter with a particular color; for instance, the letter “q” might involuntarily and consistently appear a vibrant lime green. Other types are lexical-gustatory synesthesia, in which a word, such as, “knock” might involuntarily elicit a taste, such as that of Granny Smith apples. Ordinal-linguistic personification occurs when a synesthete involuntarily associates a personality, such as grumpy, with a number, month, letter, or day. These multi-modal sensory experiences can be creatively inspiring, causing many synesthetes to be drawn to the arts. What causes synesthetic experiences to occur? Many neuroscientists believe that most neonates experience synesthesia, and they argue that it continues into childhood and adulthood if the excessive neural connections between cortical areas in the brain that exist during infancy are not eliminated. This suggests that an underlying neural framework for synesthesia exists in babies, but is typically modified during normal development. Functional MRI studies indicate that the limbic system, which mediates emotional responses, as well as brain areas that process sensory input, are active during synesthetic experiences. By exploring neurological and cognitive studies


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CMU Many neuroscientists believe that most neonates experience synesthesia, and they argue that it continues into childhood and adulthood if the excessive neural connections between cortical areas in the brain that exist during infancy are not eliminated. about synesthesia, we can gain a better understanding of the roots of the condition, as well as some possible evolutionary advantages of synesthesia. Neurological and cognitive studies have linked synesthesia to neural connectivity. The neonatal synesthesia hypothesis states that babies that are newly born have synesthetic experiences [3]. The result of neonatal synesthesia is that neonates “‘mix sights sounds, feelings, and smells into a sensual bouillabaisse’ in which ‘sights have sounds, feelings have tastes,’ and smells can make a baby feel dizzy” [3]. This might either be because the neural pruning and inhibition that occurs in adults hasn’t occurred yet or because the limbic system is more mature that the cortex in neonates [3]. Ramachandran and Hubbard support the former hypothesis, arguing that synesthesia results from increased neuronal connectivity between brain areas devoted to different sensory modalities [1]. They assert that this increased connectivity is a result of decreased neural pruning, or elimination of synaptic connections between neurons, which is normally a process that occurs during fetal and postnatal development [1]. Data seems to support the pruning hypothesis; imaging studies of adult synesthetic brains have indicated greater white matter and greater gray matter volume, as well as increased connectivity between cortical areas compared to normal adult brains [1]. Besides the neurological studies, there have been efforts to identify a genetic basis for synesthesia. A whole-genome scan and linkage study performed by Asher et al. indicates that there is no single gene that can be attributed to synesthesia [2]. It is likely that the condition is inherited in a polygenic, heterogenous fashion, in which many genes are involved and there are multiple ways of inheriting the synesthesia trait [2]. The study indicates a linkage between synesthesia and a genetic locus associated with autism-spectrum disorders. In many cases, synesthesia is reported as a symptom of autism. Brain imaging studies of autistics indicate abnormally elevated levels of neural connectivity [2], as is the case with synesthetes. Candidate genes in this locus include the TBR1 gene, which codes for a transcription factor that regulates the expression of genes such as RELN, which is involved in the development of the cortex [2]. The study also revealed a possible link between synesthesia candidate genes and genes


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associated with dyslexia, including KIAA0319 and DCDC2, which are implicated in neuronal migration [2]. Involvement of these genes in synesthesia seems plausible, since neural connectivity is modified in synesthetes and changes in neural migration might be involved in this modification. Another noteworthy synesthesia gene candidate is DPYSL3, which is implicated in axonal growth, guidance, and in neural differentiation [2]. This gene is primarily expressed in the latefetal and early-postnatal brain and spinal cord, but not in the adult brain [2], which reflects the time course of neural pruning, and consequently appears to support the neonatal synesthesia hypothesis. Many hypotheses exist for why synesthesia has been evolutionarily conserved [1]. The synesthesia genes may have been maintained because they provide an epiphenomenal advantage – an evolutionary advantage for an unrelated purpose [1]. It is also possible that synesthesia might exist as one of the extremes of a normal distribution of communication between the senses in humans [1]. Evidence for this hypothesis lies in the fact that hallucinogenic drugs can cause synesthetic experiences [1]. Individuals who are not synesthetes associate high auditory frequencies to light colors and low frequencies to dark colors and similar patterns have been observed with grapheme-color synesthesia [2]. This evidence seems to indicate that the underlying neural framework for synesthesia exists in the non-synesthetic human brain. Ramachandran and Hubbard have suggested a hypothesis for the evolutionary advantage of synesthesia: synesthesia genes might confer the evolutionary advantage of creativity and metaphor [4]. The connection of synesthesia to creativity and metaphor seems intuitive because multi-modal sensory information allows one to describe experiences in unique ways, such as describing a Monday as sky blue. This might explain the increased incidence of synesthesia exists among artists [1]. Composer and pianist, Duke Ellington, associated color with Reproduced [1]Vladimir Nabokov, had grapheme-color timbre [5]. Thefrom writer synesthesia [5]. In his autobiography, Nabokov describes the letters that generate the colors of the rainbow for him: “The word for rainbow, a primary, but decidedly muddy, rainbow, is in my private language the hardly pronounceable: kzspygv

By exploring neurological and cognitive studies about synesthesia, we can gain a better understanding of the roots of the condition, as well as some possible evolutionary advantages of synesthesia.

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CMU Regardless of whether we feel synesthesia is beneficial, we should celebrate different ways of seeing and perceiving the world. [5].” Marina Diamandis, Welsh singer-songwriter for Marina and the Diamonds, associates colors with music and days of the week [5]. However, an issue with the creativity and metaphor hypothesis is that synesthesia involves connecting two unrelated objects, like the number 5 and aquamarine, whereas metaphors generally link two objects that have some similarities, such as anxiety being metaphorically described as a “bush shaking in the wind” [1]. Even though creativity and metaphor may not be considered evolutionary advantages of the condition, they are aspects that many synesthetes cite as advantages of their unique sensory experiences. Another hypothesis for the evolutionary advantage of synesthesia is that it may confer sensory processing and cognitive benefits [1]. Synesthesia appears to be implicated in enhanced sensory processing [1]. For instance, number-color synesthetes can more easily discriminate similar colors than can those without number-color synesthesia [1]. It should be noted that this enhanced discrimination could either be the result of their synesthesia, or simply because they have more experience with viewing colors than their non-synesthetic counterparts [1]. However, synesthetes also experience increased communication between their senses compared to non-synesthetes, even when they are not having a synesthetic episode [1]. This appears to indicate that the benefits from synesthesia can generalize to increase communication and processing between the senses [1]. One of the cognitive advantages synesthesia confers is memory [1]. Savants with synesthesia have been known to have superior memories as a result of their synesthetic experiences: Daniel Tammet, a grapheme-color synesthete, memorized pi to 22,514 digits using his synesthesia [1]. This link to memory seems to be the most compelling hypothesis for the evolutionary advantage of synesthesia, where these multi-modal sensory experiences “may serve as cognitive and perceptual anchors to aid in the detection, processing, and retention of critical stimuli in the world” [1]; indeed, Daniel Tammet put his synesthetic color associations to use to remember the order of the digits of pi by remembering the ordering of the colors. However, there are drawbacks to synesthesia: synesthetic experiences can result in a sensory overload and might become so overwhelming that these experiences affect their everyday lives [2]. It seems that the neurological basis for synesthesia is the maintenance of enhanced neural connectivity past infancy. There also appears to be a genetic basis for synesthesia that involves many genes and allows the condition to be inherited in many

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fashions. Although there are many hypotheses that indicate the evolutionary advantage of synesthesia, the hypothesis that addresses the memory advantage conferred by synesthesia is most compelling. Despite the possible disadvantage of sensory overload, there can be many advantages to synesthesia, including creative inspiration as well as enhanced memory and sensory processing. Regardless of whether we feel synesthesia is beneficial, we should celebrate different ways of seeing and perceiving the world. At first, orchestra members would make fun of Franz Liszt’s comments to make the sound, “a deep violet,” but soon they learned to accept that great musicians saw colors where there only appeared tones. Terri Jones graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2013 with a degree in Biological Sciences and Neuroscience.


Brang, D, &Ramachandran, V. S. “Survival of the Synesthesia Gene: Why Do People Hear Colors and Taste Words?” PLOS [Internet]. Available from:


Asher J. et al. A Whole-Genome Scan and Fine-Mapping Linkage Study of Auditory-Visual Synesthesia Reveals Evidence of Linkage to Chromosomes 2q24, 5q33, 6p12, and 12p12. The American Journal of Human Genetics. 2009;84:285. Available from: PMC2668015/.


Mauerer D. and Mondloch C. J. Neonatal Synesthesia: A Reevaluation. Available from: NeonatalSynesthesia.pdf


Ramachandran V.S. and Hubbard.E.M. Synaesthesia -- A window into perception, thought and language. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 2001;8:3–34. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2000.1576.


Wikipedia. List of People with Synesthesia. Available from: http://


Grapheme-color synesthesia [image on the Internet]. DeviantArt; 2013. Available from: grapheme_color_synesthesia_by_fluffy_fuzzy_ears-d5un11x.png [Accessed 27th August 2013]


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r. Janet Rowley was described as a visionary in establishing cancer as a genetic disease. She identified the 9:22 and 8:21 chromosome translocations and their roles in abnormally regulated cell growth and division. This discovery had a significant impact on the development of drugs such as Imatinib (Gleevec), and revolutionized the treatment of leukemia. On 18 May, 2013, she received the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical research. She was chosen for her research that led to the development of targeting therapy drugs. Dr. Rowley was also the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago. She received numerous prestigious awards, such as the Lasker Award, the National Medal of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences of the American Philosophical Society, the Gurber Prize in Genetics, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor). Beyond all these accomplishments stood a woman who was curious, humble, and in tune with nature. Before she passed away last winter, The Triple Helix sat down with Dr. Rowley for an interview, in a sunroom overlooking her garden.

Your life is going to turn out very much different from you expected. And, as a consequence, it is beneficial to get as broad and as general of an education as possible. I was a premed in college. I took biology, physiology, and all my peers were pre-med. At the same time, I was here when Hutchins was here, and a general education was emphasized. I found it, even in later life, to be very, very useful.

Your life is going to turn out very much different from you expected. And, as a consequence, it is beneficial to get as broad and as general of an education as possible.


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I think I realized later. Otherwise, anything you read that refers to something in literature or history can just pass you by. Reading newspapers today, I’m not up to date on current youth culture, hip hop and whatever, so those references just go over my head. I don’t watch TV, so I’m ignorant of whole other aspects of society.

I watch PBS news at six o’clock. Most TV is a waste of time. And frankly for years I was too busy with research, writing papers, and writing grants; I had no time for TV. I actually had to give up reading books, which was a great loss. One has to set priorities.

Well that’s true. So, I graduated from medical school, and I got married the day after. I was not really certified to be any specialty—I never took a residency or anything of that

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UCHICAGO The dogma at the time was that chromosome abnormalities were a consequence of the genomic instability of cancer cells: in experimentally induced animal tumors, the chromosome pattern was really wild and often different from one cell to another. sort. My husband went to NIH to do research, and I worked two to three half-day clinics a week. That was after our first child was born. Working part-time was a problem because I only needed a housekeeper for half-days a week, and for a woman who’s trying to make a living herself, a half of a day isn’t very satisfactory. There was a six to eight week period when I went through four different housekeepers. They just wouldn’t show up. I had a neighbor who was marvelous, and she didn’t work, so I could take the baby over to her house. Soon after, I started work at the clinic for retarded children, which was all day, two days a week. And the third day I worked at the University of Illinois. So I was home for much of the time with the children.

No: Because, particularly when I started working for the clinic with retarded children, the children there needed help. Their parents especially needed help. My own children were going to nursery school, so it worked out alright. Had I worked full time, I would’ve felt differently, I think.

No, I mean, I come back to the fact that I didn’t have any extra training. I couldn’t go work in the University, in the Department of Pediatrics. I didn’t have the training. Clinics that needed a physician, but not a specialty trained physician, were appropriate for what I knew.

I did not plan my life; it sort of happened. In 1959 French geneticist Jérôme LeJeune discovered that Down syndrome was trisomy 21. When my husband went on sabbatical to

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England, I couldn’t practice there, so I thought that I could learn something about chromosomes, and then come back to the clinic. We had many children with Down syndrome, and other severe congenital malformations. I could study their chromosomes to see what I could see. There, I worked with a hematologist who was using radio-active thymidine to study replication of blood cells. He suggested that I look at the pattern of replication of chromosomes. That seemed like a great idea. It was! A cytogeneticist from a lab down the road taught me cytogenetics, and I learned how to make chromosome preparations and identify chromosomes. I cultured the cells with tritiated thymidine so the chromosomes would incorporate it into the DNA, labeling it. The technicians in the lab were skilled at that, and they helped me. I used my own blood, as most everybody in labs did. I was my own guinea-pig. One of the chromosomes always took up thymidine very late. This was the group that the X chromosome belonged to. Now at that time (1961-2), chromosomes were stained with a dye that stained them uniformly. Though you could tell them apart by size and shape, you couldn’t distinguish one from the other within a group of similarly sized chromosomes.

The man who was teaching me cytogenetics had a friend in Sweden who was interested in sex abnormalities in people. Many of his patients had chromosome abnormalities. So I took my tritiated thymidine, stuck it in my pocket (it doesn’t radiate very far), and flew from England to Sweden. I made slides, and took them back to England. I approached the professor who had helped me get to England, asked him to use his microscope and “by the way, could you pay me?” Though I was doing my own research, he said yes to the above. He’s a marvelous person. That kind of thing wouldn’t happen today. You know, today you come in to a lab, a PI pays you, and you work on what he wants. Though the work is not specifically directed, employers must follow the PI’s principle: “these are my objectives, and if you’re interested in working on any of these, come join us.” Anyhow. So, to answer your question, it was only when I went back to Oxford the second time that I learned chromosome banding, the brand new technique that finally made it possible to tell specific chromosomes apart from each other. In 1960, Nowell and Hungerford discovered that there was an abnormally small chromosome, the Philadelphia chromosome, linked to Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). The hematologist asked me to look at the chromosomes of his CML patients, because patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia very often have chromosome abnormalities. I was curious to see what those were. By looking at the banding, I found the 21 translocation in two patients. The dogma at the time was that chromosome abnormalities were a consequence of the genomic instability of cancer cells:


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UCHICAGO in experimentally induced animal tumors, the chromosome pattern was really wild and often different from one cell to another. Chromosome abnormalities were thus considered inconsequential, at least in causing cancer. The question I was trying to answer was, in these patients with CML, was there any pattern that would suggest the chromosomes weren’t irrelevant? Or were they totally random from one patient to another? In the course of doing that, we saw that chromosome 9 had an extra piece of material that looked just like what was missing from the Philadelphia chromosome. I sent the paper off to Nature, with data from maybe four patients, and it got rejected with various reasonable and unreasonable comments. One of the reasonable comments was, “well maybe this is just a polymorphism.” We couldn’t know for sure, due to a lack of chromosome studies in humans. I increased the patient number and showed that blood from healthy patients had a normal karyotype. It was published.

have given any money to Daniel Nathans and Hamilton Smith for looking at restriction enzymes in bacteria [they received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering restriction enzymes in 1978]. You could ask, “what does that research have to do with anything?” But now it underlays modern biology! So, people are making young people, and older people, just too focused on something that’s practical. Obviously we’re benefitting from practical things. But the internet and all the rest of such discoveries have come out of people tinkering with things or with an idea that they pursue (and who could fortunately persuade somebody to be funded).

One issue we came across was that there was a group of patients who were diagnosed with CML but who did not have the Philadelphia chromosome. The translocations (both the Philadelphia chromosome and the 8:21 chromosome translocation) didn’t seem to be consistently associated with a particular disease. Only five to ten percent of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) patients had the chromosome 21 translocation. So, what’s the specificity there? In 1977 we discovered that all patients with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia had a 15:17 translocation. One patient who had the translocation didn’t show signs of disease. The inconsistencies were a worry. Thanks to electron microscopy, however, we learned that actually, the patient’s leukemic cells did have small granules. They were too small to see with the light microscope, but they were there. That discovery confirmed that for APL, the translocation was critical; if it was critical for APL, it could be critical for these other things. That was a very longwinded answer to how you get to the fact that chromosomal changes, and therefore presumably genetic changes, are a critical component of cancer.

Well. It didn’t change what I did very much, because whole genome sequencing has really only been feasible financially (except for those well-funded by the government) in the last few years. I watch it—it’s fascinating to see what’s being learned and the impact on research that others are doing in the laboratory. The discovery of the translocation breakpoint in the 9:22 was a hard slog for the people involved. It took several years of very hard work; there wasn’t any browser that you could go to and match up the sequences. You had to do everything in very tiny bits at a time. Now, it’s vastly different. And it will be in the future. This is just the beginning.

I think hypothesis-driven research has some very negative consequences for science. My research has been driven by curiosity. Particularly in new areas of science, you just don’t know what’s going on. And when you don’t know, you’ve got to explore all areas. Are chromosome studies interesting in cancer research? Are they useful here? Until you get some positive observations, it’s hard to draw up really relevant hypotheses. Unfortunately, some congressmen are very much in the mode of “If you can’t tell me it’ll be useful, we shouldn’t fund it.” Well that’s been proven totally wrong! Who would


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It addresses using gene expression patterns from a large group of patients, and patients who already have leukemia. If they had certain genes that were up-regulated, then they had poor survival, and if they had some genes that were down-regulated, they had a better response to treatment, and a better rate of survival. So what you’d want to do is a prospective study of new patients, get a sample from them at the time of diagnosis, see what the pattern of gene expression is predicting which patients will do well and which patients won’t, and see how accurate that prediction is. This was based on information about patients from six or eight years ago. As more and more patients have genomes sequenced, you’d want to take your criteria and find a backup for it—see whether the predictors that you had in a simpler time are the same as the ones that would come out of present and future genomic sequencing. You wouldn’t necessarily have to sequence the whole genomes if you found really strong predictors. For the practical purposes of healthcare, it’s better to find the important players and not bother about everything else until it’s shown to be important by more detailed research.

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10/10/14 10:52 AM


Well, I bicycle. The first thing I think about then is making sure I don’t get run over. I bicycle illegally, the wrong way down one way streets.

Well, that’s my rationale. But that’s not the law. The law is a bicycle is a vehicle, and it follows vehicle rules. And I agree with you. While biking, I look at people’s houses and gardens, and see what new flowers are out and what trees are leafing. Gardening and waking up are the times when I’m most free associating. I’m a very late riser and slow riser. So I might be awake in bed a half hour or more before I get out, and that’s when I think of all sorts of things. For example, if I read a review paper the night before, I’d think of new questions that the paper didn’t address.

Well, as an alumnus, I’ve been approached for some months now by the alumni association. This isn’t directly related to your question, but they had two sets of lectures. I chose to see Matt Tirrell on molecular medicine, because that’s the direction we’re moving in the laboratory. But if I went back to the college, what class would I go to? It would be hard to choose. I would want to do something different. I’ve been fascinated and appalled by the Supreme Court. The other night I went to a lecture by Denis Hutchinson on the Supreme Court. (The alumni emeriti meet once a quarter). It was fascinating and scary. So I think I’d go to some lecture on evolutionary changes in American politics and how they’re influencing society and law. I think those are things that today are concerning and relevant, and which people should be paying attention to.

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ome view the light emanating from a big city as a magical aura, the glow and buzz of a thriving metropolis. But anyone who has ever seen a pitch-black sky bespeckled with thousands of glimmering gems knows it by another name: light pollution. Pollution seems like a strong word for our everyday lighting habits. We tend to think of pollution as trash suffocating marine life, debris collecting on highway shoulders, car horns piercing a symphony of birds, chemicals spilling into a local river, etc. – light does not seem to fit in. It is the least tangible of the pollutions, impossible to touch or see. In recent human memory, light has been a fundamental part of life; to think that something as basic as light could constitute pollution is hard to believe. Before electricity, candles illuminated cities; now, neon signs and streetlights burn throughout the night. The mushy orange night sky is one that is natural to modern man, but not to nature. Never before has daylight shone all night long. Only in the past decades have scientists begun to measure the effects of light on the larger environment. Most studies agree that excessive artificial lighting poses a threat to animal habitats and health, but such harmful effects may also extend into human health. While these studies are not yet widely accepted, the possibility of artificial light harming us is particularly frightening – a popular, trusted technology with ulterior motives. Should we fear persistent illumination, or simply accept it as a cost of modernity?

Before the dawn of electric lighting, there were two sources of light: the sun and fire. Once the sun went down, people for the most part remained enveloped in darkness, prompting a desire for convenient lighting. The Industrial Revolution ushered gaslights into the public domain, albeit slowly; the simple lighting allowed the theater to hold evening performances and the Smithsonian to host evening lectures [1]. The true

When a street corner is hardly different by night than by day, when the light spills beyond its intended target, when whole cities can be seen from space, we have to wonder: are all these lights necessary?


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Reproduced from [21] thirst for nighttime lighting would soon become apparent. In 1879, Thomas Edison lit up the first light bulb. While at first a novelty, the light bulb quickly became an imperative, a part of America’s vision of the future [1]. As cities competed to light their streets, the need for lighting became insatiable and electric companies responded with bigger and brighter lights. Soon enough, every community had its own “White Way,” a brightly-lit stretch of town. When the Great Depression struck, citizens refused to turn off their lights for fear of crime, despite the financial savings that would result [2]. Lighting had become a fundamental part of urban life, even more valuable than money itself. The craze for artificial lighting continued to spread. Lights now illuminate empty parking lots, line driveways, and storefronts, amongst infinite other purposes. The end result: suburban towns feel like ghost towns without artificial lighting, and cities like Las Vegas and Hong Kong have become swirls of neon signs. When a street corner is hardly different by night than by day, when the light spills beyond its intended target, when whole cities can be seen from space, we have to wonder: are all these lights necessary? And, more importantly, are they hurting us?

The most obvious harm of lit-up cities is the loss of stars. Country dwellers lament that the city lights drown them out; the twinkles in a black sky becomes imperceptible in the fog of light. Scientists call this astronomical light pollution. In effect, the stars are a luxury that city inhabitants can no longer afford.

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BROWN However, the unintended side effects of artificially-lit night skies may be larger than we think. There is another form of light pollution – ecological – that scientists have identified. The damage that light causes makes intuitive sense. Anyone who has experienced a warm midsummer night in New England knows that the lights inevitably attract moths, beetles, mosquitoes etc. These insects then attract their predators; a patio lamp becomes a new environmental microcosm. Without patio lights, these micro-environments would never form; a small amount of artificial lighting, it seems, can create a slightly altered local ecology. It is not hard to imagine that the compounded effects of global nighttime lighting may amount to larger problems. Indeed, a review of the current research suggests that the excessive light causes countless species of animals to fall victim to problems such as confusion and disorientation [3].

40% of Americans live where it gets sufficiently dark at night for the human eye to completely transition from cone to rod vision, and that 18.7% of the world’s land is polluted by astronomical standards [10]. These findings suggest that light pollution is both global and omnipresent. While the research is not yet conclusive, it points to a hidden human cost of light pollution. The light that is hurting our environments and animals may harm us humans, too.

This is not to say that light pollution is the sole cause of human illnesses. Rather, controlled laboratory studies have shown that exposure to light can cause health problems. For example, exposure to light is thought to disrupt circadian rhythms, which control the human sleep cycle. This disruption may then affect the balance of hormones in our body, accelerating tumor growth [11]. Artificial light inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that is known to regulate the sleep cycle. A recent study has also linked The studied effects of ecologimelatonin and the organ that procal light pollution may in fact duces it, the pineal gland, with We must critically weigh the be fatal. Some birds crash into cancer-suppressing properties; hazardous effects of light and its brightly lit buildings, and othit posits that one large factor in ers circle searchlights until the recent epidemic of cancer is necessary uses... they die of exhaustion, showexcessive lighting [12]. Thus, light ing the disorientation that city pollution disrupts the human lights may cause [4]. Lighting sleep cycle, which contributes along beachfronts has also devastated the already endangered to more serious health concerns [13]. sea turtle. Some turtles cannot find a suitably dark beach on which to lay their eggs; many of the hatchlings, attracted Some studies have explicitly linked nighttime illumination, to the light, never make it back to sea [6]. The sea turtles’ both intentional and occupational, with various cancers. One confusion and deaths are well-known consequences of light group reported a 35% increase in risk of colorectal cancer for pollution. In another study, the túngara frog’s mating patterns nurses who worked night shifts at least three times a month were studied in dim and dark conditions. The results showed for 15 years or more [14]. In a similar study, there was a slight that the female frogs became less selective about their mate increase in risk of breast cancer for nurses with 20 or more years choices in artificially-lit conditions, presumably to hasten the of night shift work [15]. Some researchers even suggest that dangerous act of mating [7]. In short, our unnaturally-lit nights the coinciding increases in cancer and light pollution are no have a sizeable if subtle effect on other animals around us [3]. accident, that these two phenomena are somehow intertwined Reproduced from [1]continues to unearth new connections, [13,16]. The research The effects of light pollution on a single species may even cas- linking light pollution with other health problems such as cade into effects on local ecology. Aquatic invertebrates, such depression, insomnia, and cardiovascular disease. as zooplankton, rise to the ocean surface in dark conditions to avoid predation [8]. Thus unnatural lighting – from oil rigs, Important to note, though, is that the conclusions reached fishing boats, etc. – throws off the natural flow of zooplankton, by such studies are not yet widely accepted. Nevertheless, disrupting not just the single species but all that depend on new studies continue to point to the potential harm of light it. For example, zooplankton feed on algae, so with excessive pollution. For example, a 2006 study showed that infant mice artificial light, algae populations can grow exponentially [9]. exposed to constant artificial light could not establish a regular Thus the effects of light pollution may have effects not only sleep cycle [17]. The present dearth of research should serve on single species, but on a larger environment. This domino not as reassurance of the safety of light pollution, but as an effect makes the full scope of light pollution harder to study. imperative to do more. As we continue to piece together the growing body of research, we more clearly see a looming danger that we have the power to prevent. Artificial lighting is a distinctly human invention created for our betterment, but recent research has begun to suggest a possible detrimental side effect of excessive light. After all, we surround ourselves in light: one study estimates that only

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The solution to light pollution involves balancing the hazardous effects of light and its necessary uses. This balance hinges


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BROWN Reproduced from [22]

...These small, simple, and measurable changes to our daily lives may be able to decrease light pollution, even if by a little... on so many parties – politics, money, ecology, health, safety – that a solution seems unlikely. Yet the cost of light pollution in the U.S. alone is estimated at 7 billion dollars a year [18]. Thus environmental and health gains could be linked with financial savings – that is, more money – perhaps spurring sensible and immediate action. In looking for a solution to light pollution, we must realize that there is no quick fix. Indeed, small changes can go a long way in diminishing the effects of light pollution. Such small adjustments will allow us to see the stars, help animals navigate, and may even help decrease the human cancer risk.

decrease wasted light [19]. Office buildings waste energy and light when they are kept lit after hours. Setting the lights to turn off when the office closes is a first step towards eliminating the glow-stick effect skyscrapers have on the nightscape. In the same vein, sensors can be used in low traffic areas so that streets illuminate only when in use. Small changes in lighting design can mitigate light pollution. Streetlight bulbs usually have a bulge hanging below the metal housing, allowing light to disperse in all directions, including upwards, sending wasted light into the night sky. If the bulge were eliminated, light could be directed to where it is needed. Many outdoor lights are also too powerful. For example, 500-watt “Rottweiler lights” line gardens and houses where 100-watts would suffice [19]. By aligning designated use with intensity of light, we can select appropriate lighting, eliminating the excess light that accompanies poor design. The solution requires us to think about what we really need light for, and where it is used frivolously and carelessly. Excessive lighting is what spills over into the surrounding environment, encroaching on a diverse cross section of ecosystems, including ours. To this end, one dictum for proper lighting proclaims: “Use the ‘correct’ lighting level, not too little, not too much” [20]. Perhaps we have been erring on the side of too much. Michael Yanagisawa graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor of Science in Materials Chemistry and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology.

One proposed solution is to use “smart” light sensors that

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

Holden A. Lighting The Night: Technology, Urban Life and the Evolution of Street Lighting. Places Journal. 1992; 8(2): 56-63. Municipal Lighting Operators Point Out Folly of Street Lighting Cuts. The American City. 1932 Oct; 47(4): 110. Longcore T, Rich C. Ecological Light Pollution. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 2004 May; 2(4):191-198. Klinkenborg V. Our Vanising Night. National Geographic. Nov 2008. [cited 2013 Feb 13]. Available from: Derrickson KC. Variation in repertoire presentation in northern mockingbirds. Condor. 1988 Aug; 90:592-606. Witherington BE, Martin RE. Understanding, Assessing, and Resolving LightPollution Problems on Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches. St. Petersberg, FL, Florida Marine Research Institute. 2000. Rand AS, Bridarolli ME, Dries L, Ryan MJ. Light levels influence female choice in Tungara frogs: predation risk assessment? Copeia. 1997; 1997:477-450. Gliwicz ZM. A lunar cycle in zooplankton. Ecology. 1986; 67:883-897. Moore MV, Pierce SM, Walsh HM, et al. Urban light pollution alters the diel vertical migration of Daphnia. Verh Internat Verin Limnol. 2000; 27:779-782. Cinzano P, Falchi F, Elvidge CD. The first world atlas of the artificial night sky brightness. Mon Not R Astron Soc. 2000; 328:689-707. Chepesiuk R. Missing the Dark: Health Effects on Light Pollution. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2009 Jan; 117:A20-A27. Kerenyi NA, Pandula E, Feuer G. Why the incidence of cancer is increasing: the


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13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22.

role of ‘light pollution’. Medical Hypotheses. 1990 Oct; 33(2):75-78. Anisimov VN. Light pollution, reproductive function and cancer risk. Neuro Endocrinology Letters. Schernhammer ES, Laden F, Speizer FE, et al. Night-Shift Work and Risk of Colorectal Cancer in Nurses’ Health Study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2003 Jun; 95(11): 825-828. Schernhammer ES, Kroenke CH, Laden F, Hankinson, SE. Night Work and Risk of Breast Cancer. Epidemiology. 2006 Jan; 17(1): 108-111. Stevens R, Blask DE, Brainard GC, et al. Meeting report: the role of environmental lighting and circadian disruption in cancer and other diseases. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2007 Sept; 115(9):1357-1362. Ohta H, Mitchell AC, McMahon DG. Constant light disrupts the developing mouse biological clock. Pediatric Research. 2006; 60(3):304-308. Gallway T, Olsen RN, Mitchell DM. The economics of global light pollution. Ecological Economics. 2010; 69:658-665. Winterman D. Light pollution: Is there a solution? BBC News Magazine. 2012 Jan 17. Available from: Crawford, DL. Light pollution, an environmental problem for astronomy and for mankind. Memorie della Società Astronomia Italiana. 2000; 71:11-40. City Lights of the United States 2012 [image on the Internet]. 2013 [cited 30 May 2013]. Available from: City lights public domain image picture [image on the Internet]. [cited 30 May 2013]. Available from: html

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e are all made of stardust. When we look out deep into space, we are looking at our shared history of more than 13.7 billion years – from the leftover radiation of the Big Bang, to the tiny atoms of which we are all composed, and the luminous stellar explosions known as supernovae that make possible the creation of planets and people. As a field that is constantly expanding its boundaries (both literally and figuratively), astronomy is rich with information regarding the universe and our place within it. As a fundamental science from an early age, astronomy asks profound questions of human nature that feed the curiosity of all generations who look up at the night sky. But how knowledgeable is the public, and in particular, what emphasis has been placed on teaching schoolchildren to explore the “far reaches of space”? In order to understand the significance of astronomy in today’s schools and beyond, one may analyze how astronomy education currently figures into elementary school curricula.

I have rarely seen many teachers to try and demonstrate the physics behind why things are the way they are in the universe. the college level due to prior negative experiences reflects challenges of teaching astronomy at the primary level. Although astronomy education appeals to many people, it is important not to assume that it will garner support from all areas and automatically appeal to youth [4]. This is often disregarded by proponents of astronomy education in the academic literature. Many teachers choose not to prioritize astronomy because of time constraints on the established curriculum and instead devote time to material emphasized on standardized tests Reproduced from [16]

Astronomy education is motivated not only by scientists’ obligations to disseminate their research, but also by the development and continuation of the field and of science education in general [1,2]. For example, U.S. colleges have recently found decreased enrollment in their physical science courses, partially as a result of poor grade-school science instruction that failed to engage students [1]. To combat this rising dilemma, Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi developed a physics and astronomy-based outreach program for elementary school students in hopes of stimulating and maintaining interest at an early age [2]. The program exposed them to astronomy with hands-on activities, such as star parties and exercises in robotics [2]. Similarly, Mrs. Jenifer Perazzo, science teacher at Vintage Hills Elementary School (Pleasanton, CA), considers astronomy a tool to generate excitement for science: “Kids really love to learn about space.... Every time I have taught an astronomy lesson, I have had the most intensive and attentive discussions. They are naturally curious about the universe outside this planet, but it is so rare to find it taught in schools” [3]. The recent trend of declining interest in physical sciences at

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UC Berkeley

[3,5,6]. This limitation is possibly a consequence of “No Child Left Behind” [7], an act that was signed into law in 2002 by President George W. Bush with the intent of making elementary and middle school students proficient in reading and math by 2014 [8]. Furthermore, despite its ability to generate enthusiasm in people of all ages, astronomy is acknowledged to be conceptually difficult and “abstract” [5]. Learning and teaching astronomy requires spatial awareness and the ability to visualize an event from multiple perspectives [5]; for example, to explain the change in seasons, one must account for the tilt in Earth’s axis and its orbit about the Sun, as well as the Sun’s varying position in the sky over a year. Thus, it is important for students to understand fundamental physical concepts when learning astronomy, an issue that often goes neglected. Mrs. Perazzo says, “I think for most teachers astronomy is the most challenging to teach in a well thought-out, hands-on learning experience. Most astronomy lessons taught in elementary school are projects that require only memorization. I have rarely seen many teachers to try and demonstrate the physics behind why things are the way they are in the universe.” [3] In addition, studies have shown that it is common for teachers to have misconceptions in basic astronomy, suggesting that not all teachers currently possess sufficient background to teach it [9-11]. In order to identify the prevalence of misconceptions, a NASA-sponsored study performed by North Carolina State University tested 98 teachers on various astronomy-related basics. When asked to describe and explain the change in temperature with the seasons, some teachers pictured Earth’s orbit as an exaggerated ellipse and responded that the phenomenon was due to the varying distance of Earth from the Sun, instead of the tilt in Earth’s axis; when asked to explain the Moon phases, only 4% answered correctly [10]. Other studies have shown similar results, with teachers sharing similar misconceptions with the students they teach [13]. Challenges involving implementation with curricula and common misconceptions amongst elementary school teachers reveal even larger obstacles, with astronomy functioning as a sort


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microcosm of the overall state of general science education in the U.S. With the exception of a few states, astronomy is not part of the required curriculum for teacher certification in the sciences [7]. Hemenway, an astronomy education specialist at University of Texas at Austin, states that “Although astronomy is required for U.S. National Science Teacher certification in Earth/Space Science, and recommended for Physical Science, few teachers attempt this certification” [7]. In fact, as of 1997, the National Science Foundation (NSF) reported that as few as 3% of elementary school teachers had science degrees [12]. The NSF invested $4.7 billion towards education research from the 1960s to 80s, focusing on factors such as curriculum and teacher preparation [11], and continues to invest millions of dollars towards the improvement of K-12 education. However, despite such efforts, there exists a notable tension between the “politically sensitive” education system and the Foundation’s goals that has hindered implementation: “any substantial involvement in large-scale implementation and the practice of education would involve a serious political risk” [11]. Thus, reform in science (and astronomy) education is not a simple process, and involves a dynamic interplay between public standards, the government, researchers, educators, and students, which must be addressed when considering potential improvements to astronomy and science education.

In view of these challenges, there has recently been a substantial increase in astronomy education research, with articles further investigating topics such as perceptions of astronomy and effective teaching strategies [13]. Strategies that figure prominently into modern pedagogical methodology and address the difficulty of learning/teaching astronomy include the incorporation of physical models to illustrate concepts, hands-on activities, and inquiry-based learning, all of which are focused on student-driven investigations rather than on teacher-driven lectures. Much research has indicated that Reproduced from [17]

Students observe sunspot by projecting the Sun with a telescope onto a white surface.

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UC Berkeley Reproduced from [18]

A student observes through a Galileoscope, a simple telescope used in many astronomy outreach events.

students learn more effectively when allowed to actively identify and alleviate their misconceptions through repeated questioning and experimentation with modeling, than when teachers describe difficult material and terminology [12-13]. In addition, teachers were likewise able to relieve their astronomy misconceptions and maintain long-term retention of the material after presented with workshops that applied inquiry-based learning and demonstrations [10]. Many of these strategies and techniques embody the principles and ideals of “Hands-On Universe” (HOU), a successful educational outreach program for K-12 students founded by Dr. Carl Pennypacker of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL). HOU aims to make astronomy education more accessible to both students and teachers by providing online resources, teacher-training workshops, and a detailed curriculum of interactive investigations that allow students to analyze and process real images with user-friendly software, all while building on their conceptual knowledge of math and science [14].

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HOU is thus an example of how astronomy may become a basis for employing math and science as tools to explain how the universe works. According to Dr. Pennypacker, “Some science standards aren’t so specific, and astronomy supports big-picture items and ‘common-core’ standards: energy conservation, forces, atoms… it is also a critical right for human beings in general: to be an educated citizen, one should at least know about our nearest star, the Sun, especially since it is the supporter of all life on Earth.” [6] In order to further develop astronomy education, Dr. Pennypacker is currently working with local students in the El Cerrito High School Interact Club, a high school version of Rotary Club, an international community service-based organization. High school students involved in the program visit elementary schools to teach the students lessons in astronomy [6]. This collaboration fosters astronomy outreach at a variety of levels


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UC Berkeley and ages, under the consent of the teachers and the school administration. In addition to harnessing spirit in astronomy in the local community, HOU disseminates astronomy education at the international level with Global Hands-On Universe (G-HOU), which highlights the inherent role of international collaboration in astronomy. The project involving high school students in El Cerrito has a tie with Kenya, where students from the Interact Club of Nairobi High School learn and teach the same lessons to elementary schools in their area [6]. “Astronomy has always been international,” says Dr. Pennypacker, “from the different telescopes and article databases, to the international ideas. Collaboration has been essential to HOU, and ideas from teacher workshops come from all over the world. It plays a modest, but important role if we help exchange teaching strategies and materials” [6].

is still potential for it to grow in the U.S., aided and impacted by the cooperation and interaction between students, teachers, federal regulations, and other nations. Astronomy has a strong basis as an important science and is integral to advance knowledge of other subjects, such as math and physics. In addition, astronomy develops awareness of other cultures, such as through the exchange of educational strategies and ideas, ultimately leading us to understand the universe, including ourselves. Helen Kyung Kim is a senior at UC Berkeley studying Astrophysics and Physics.

By crossing borders, G-HOU not only improves interest and methods in astronomy education, but allows children to learn about global perspectives, which can serve to further fuel their enthusiasm. Exposing children to international collaboration provides them with an opportunity to discover cultures and to establish meaningful relationships that transcend political differences [6,15]: Dr. Pennypacker reflects, “When students get inspired in their learning, they get a sparkle in their eyes. It makes this so worthwhile and fun when you see them excited about something important to them and important to their future” [6]. G-HOU currently includes the participation of at least 17 countries [14]. Astronomy education thus prospers as an international vessel that incorporates interactive, inquiry-based learning. There



3. 4.


6. 7.

8. 9.

Percy JR. Teaching and Learning Astronomy. AIP Conference Proceedings. [Online]. 2010;1283(1): pp. 46-56. Available from: ehost/detail?vid=7&hid=105&sid=98b01e76-a2ed-4efc-a70e-1184a21ecb77% 40sessionmgr114&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h& AN=54469219 [Accessed 13/3/2012]. McKone K. Physical Science Rocks! Outreach for Elementary Students. Community College Journal of Research and Practice. [Online]. 2010;34: pp. 892-894. Available from: 05&sid=98b01e76-a2ed-4efc-a70e-1184a21ecb77%40sessionmgr114&bdata=Jn NpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=54330495 [Accessed 13th March 2012]. Perazzo J. Interviewed by: Kim H. 3rd April 2012. Nolan K. Astronomy and space outreach new requirements for a new generation. In: Valls-Gabaud D, Boksenberg A, editors. The Role of Astronomy in Society and Culture. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2011. pp. 748-753. Yair Y, Schur Y, Mintz R. A “Thinking Journey” to the Planets Using Scientific Visualization Technologies: Implications to Astronomy Education. Journal of Science Education and Technology. [Online]. 2003;12(1): pp. 43-49. Available from: [Accessed 8/3/2012]. Pennypacker C. Interviewed by: Kim H. 6th April 2012. Hemenway, MK. Pre-service astronomy education of teachers. In: Pasachoff JM, Percy JR, editors. Teaching and Learning Astronomy: Effective Strategies for Educators Worldwide. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2005. pp. 139-145. U.S. Department of Education. No Child Left Behind: Executive Summary. [Online]. Available from: html [Accessed 28th July 2013]. Pasachoff JM, Percy JR. Introduction. In: Pasachoff JM, Percy JR, editors. Teaching and Learning Astronomy: Effective Strategies for Educators


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Worldwide. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2005. pp. 139-145. Barrier RM. Astronomical Misconceptions. Physics Teacher. [Online]. 2010;48(5): pp. 319-321. Available from: ttp:// tPDFServlet?filetype=pdf&id=PHTEAH000048000005000319000001&idtype=cvi ps&doi=10.1119/1.3393064&prog=normal [Accessed 14th May 2012]. Tressel GW. Thirty Years of “Improvement” in Precollege Math and Science Education. Journal of Science Education and Technology. [Online]. 1994;3(2): pp. 77-99. Available from [Accessed 14th March 2012]. Spotts PN. Experiments in teaching science. Christian Science Monitor. [Online]. March 13 1997. Available from il?vid=3&hid=122&sid=07432033-deff-41fe-861f-3d4bdbc5cad%40sessionmgr 113&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=9703210801 [Accessed 14th March 2012]. Lelliott A, Rollnick M. Big Ideas: A review of astronomy education research 1974-2008. International Journal of Science Education. [Online]. 2010;32(13): pp. 1771-1799. Available from id=122&sid=6e90f20c-626f-4088-b5f5-9ceadad50c32%40sessionmgr10&bdata=J nNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=52889367 [Accessed 13th March 2012]. Lawrence Hall of Science. Hands-On Universe. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 21st March 2012]. Simmons M. Astronomers without borders. In: Valls-Gabaud D, Boksenberg A, editors. The Role of Astronomy in Society and Culture. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2011. pp. 438-441. Dusty Death of a Massive Star [image on the Internet]. NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Berkeley; 2006. Available from: php?id=PIA08516 [Accessed 27th August 2013]. Observing Sunspots. Jenifer Perazzo; 2011. [Accessed 22nd April 2012]. Hands-On with Telescope. Jenifer Perazzo; 2011. [Accessed 22nd April 2012].

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n the current information age, the individual is bombarded by technology: from the simplest calculator to the application laden smartphone, technology rules our daily lives. With the array of information and communication technology (ICT) platforms in existence, such as text messaging, video chatting, and tweeting, forming and maintaining relationships with people both near and far is easier than ever. ICT is invariably changing social interactions and the way children and adults approach interpersonal relationships. However, whether such technology has a positive or a negative effect remains to be seen; in particular, the role of ICT use in producing “loneliness” in its users is debated amongst academics and researchers. The implications of an increasingly isolated and lonely society extend beyond the concerns of mental health and depression. Loneliness, or feelings of social exclusion or isolation, can also have physiological effects. Researchers have linked loneliness and social disconnect with Alzheimer’s, the breakdown of DNA transcription in immune response cells, poor eating habits, high blood pressure, and shorter lifespans [1]. But what exactly is loneliness in this information age? Does ICT really make us lonely? Although widely regarded as a negative or undesirable state, loneliness may have evolved to facilitate the social bonds and emotional attachments necessary to survive in fickle pre-historic climates. According to John T. Cacioppo, a social psychologist at the University of Chicago, maintaining close ties with friends meant constant access to food and resources, and ultimately, a chance to pass on a genetic legacy [1]. The uncomfortable loneliness our ancestors felt after drifting far from a group served as a reminder to rejoin or reconnect with a social group in order to increase their chance of survival. [1] Engineered for interdependent, close-knit societies, the mechanism once developed to ensure our survival is maladapted to

...nowadays, loneliness is often geared around the subjective experience of social detachment, or in other words, how far away we are from our communications technology...

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Reproduced from [7]

our increasingly isolated and independent society. Families and communities are now dynamic rather than static groups, individuals are subject to movement in and out of the group based on academic, job, and relationship opportunities [2]. Children find themselves living far away from parents and relatives, without the comfort and dependability of familial social bonds, and sometimes without means to foster or maintain new connections. Studies conducted well before the advent of Facebook illustrate a strong correlation between increased internet usage and notions of loneliness; the “Internet Paradox,” described by researchers at Carnegie Mellon, shows that while ICT has made staying in contact with people easier, ICT actually decreases occurrences of human contact and increases loneliness (as measured by the UCLA loneliness scale which asks people about their feelings of connection to others around them) [2]. Moreover, the definition of loneliness has itself evolved, becoming particularly nebulous in the new technological era. Loneliness is no longer always synonymous with being physically “alone”; nowadays, loneliness is often geared around the subjective experience of social detachment, or in other words, how far away we are from our communications technology [3]. Originally a technology enthusiast, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Sherry Turkle argues that with the widespread use of cellphones, the internet, and other messaging programs and devices, people are never offline, or unreachable, and therefore are never truly alone [3]. To shut off one’s


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BROWN UCHICAGO reflect his or her own introverted or extroverted nature. [6]. Extroverts use wall and chat features often as a means for social extension, whereas introverts may play games or use applications while on Facebook [6]. Similarly, while shy or socially anxious people consistently use Facebook mostly as a means to develop relationships in a more comfortable, less threatening setting, lonely people use Facebook for different purposes and at different frequencies depending on whether they feel romantically lonely, familially lonely, or socially lonely [6]. Because personality influences the reasons for why and the way in which people use technology, the question remains about whether social networking websites, such as Facebook, produce feelings of loneliness or merely reflect a genetic or psychological predisposition towards loneliness. phone or go extended periods of time without using ICT is a rarity. Though we are constantly connected to others, ICT only provides the illusion of companionship and makes our face-to-face relationships less meaningful. Turkle asserts that technology not only traps us into corporate, business driven schemes, such as Facebook or Twitter, but also works to flatten our emotions towards real experiences and others in general. “Happy” is a colon and a parenthesis and not an emotion, and people show more empathy and feeling towards inanimate objects- Tamagotchis, Ferbies, Robotic Dogs- than real people [3]. Instead of describing or elucidating our feelings or thoughts, we use emoticons and acronyms as a quick substitute. In fact, public spaces have morphed from physical places rife with face-to-face interaction, to private places within public spaces that allow us to retreat into the connectivity and anonymity of the virtual world; in waiting rooms or even in close social settings people text and check the internet instead of talking to the people around them. Even when surrounded by others, we feel isolated because of our preoccupation with ICT. [3] Ian Hutchby and Jo Moran-Ellis, professors at the University of Leicester and University of Surrey respectively, disagree with Turkle’s view on technology with respect to childhood social development research. For generation XD, digital natives born after 1994, technology is particularly integrated into social relationships. While at first it may seem that technology has usurped personal face-to-face relationships, researchers in Great Britain have determined that ICT and other social media are actually incorporated into face to face interactions and often facilitate personal relationships: for example, families often gather around the television together, while children play video and online games with one another in person [4]. ICT and other social media enrich and promulgate offline relationships instead of replacing them [5]. Although people may spend a great deal of time with their electronics, ICT can also be used as a tool to enable more fulfilling face-to-face interactions. Tangentially, the question remains about whether technology facilitates social relationships or actually creates them. In a study conducted to tweeze apart behavioral dispositions and technologically altered social behavior, researchers determined that an individual’s habits on Facebook invariably


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The evidence for whether technology makes us lonelier is conflicting; in some cases, it seems to have a negative effect on lonely feelings, while in others it seems to actually ease the pains of loneliness. Social interactions are undeniably key elements in maintaining both our happiness and health. With the stakes rising, perhaps instituting cellphone and internet bans in school, or shutting off the digital world once in a while, or redirecting our social efforts to face-to-face interactions, may be for the best. Casey Ebner is a student at the University of Chicago.


Gibson L. The Nature of Loneliness. The U. of Chicago Mag. http://magazine.


Kraut R. Patterson M. et Al. Internet Paradox: A Social Technology that Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological Well-Being? Am Psychol. 1998 Sep; 53(9):1017-31.


Turkle S. Alone Together. New York; Basic Books, 2011. Print.


Lehrer J. We, robots. New York Times. 21 January 2011. http://www.nytimes. com/2011/01/23/books/review/Lehrer-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0


Hutchby I, Moran- Ellis, J. Children, technology, and culture: impacts of technologies, in children’s everyday lives” London; RoutledgeFalmer, 2001. Print.


Ryan T. Xeno S. Who uses Facebook? An investigation into the relationship between the Big Five, shyness, narcissism, loneliness, and Facebook usage. Computers in Human Behavior. Sep 2011, 27(5) 1658-1664


Loneliness [image on the Internet]. Flickr; 2010. Available from: http://www. [Accessed 19th November 2013].

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The Triple Helix at the University of Chicago would like to sincerely thank the following groups and individuals for their generous and continued support:

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Founding Pritzker Director, Institute for Molecular Engineering (Event: Nanotechnological Innovations in ASVD and P4 Medicine) Associate Professor of Surgery Director, Minimally Invasive and Robotic Cardiac Surgery (Event: Minimally Invasive Robotic Cardiac Surgery)

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© 2014 The Triple Helix, Inc. All rights reserved. The Triple Helix at the University of Chicago is an independent chapter of The Triple Helix, Inc., an educational 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. The Science in Society Review at the University of Chicago is published bianually and is available free of charge. Its sponsors, advisors, and the University of Chicago are not responsible for its contents. The views expressed in this journal are solely those of the respective authors.

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Profile for The Triple Helix at UChicago

Science in Society Review - Fall 2014  

Science in Society Review - Fall 2014