The Science Magazine A Verde Special Edition
THE BRAIN: EXPLAINED
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FROM THE EDITORS
E OFTEN HEAR OUR PEERS telling us that they’re “just not a science person” or that they don’t think that they’ll ever use what they learn in class. With so many fascinating and relevant science topics to explore, should students have to settle for such an inaccessible perception of science? We hope not. Veritas is a special edition of Verde, Palo Alto High School’s features magazine, designed to encourage readers to appreciate the beauty of science in their everyday lives just as they engage with pop culture. In the heart of Silicon Valley, we have a frontrow seat to the growing technological revolution. We live among groundbreaking scientists and engineers, but science can still feel intimidating to students. Veritas aims to change this by showing readers the relevance and accessibility of STEM. This is especially important in our current climate where statistics are manipulated and “facts” are often anything but. In this inaugural issue of Veritas, we focus on the driving force behind history’s greatest revolutions, conflicts, and accomplishments, the same organ that enables you to read this page — the human brain. By diving into the neuroscience of everyday topics like athletes’ concussions, multilingual connections, and Juuling, we hope to shed light on the intrigue and beauty of the brain. With two more issues slated for this semester, we seek writers, artists, and photographers who would like to contribute science-oriented content. For more information, email palyveritas@gmail. com – Allison, Calvin, Estelle, Frances, Kaitlyn, Nicole Cover: Photo by Stephanie Lee.
February 2018 Volume 1 Issue 1 Editor-in-Chief Frances Zhuang Business Manager Allison Mou Design Editor Kaitlyn Khoe Digital Editor Calvin Yan Managing Ediors Nicole Adamson Estelle Martin Contributing Writers Soumya Jhaveri Antonia Mou Andrew Shih Adviser Paul Kandell
WRITE FOR VERITAS CONTACT palyveritas @gmail. com for details Check out: @palyveritas /palyveritas
Letters to the Editors The staff welcomes letters to the editors but reserves the right to edit all submissions for length, grammar, potential libel, invasion of privacy and obscenity. Send all letters to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 50 Embarcadero Road Palo Alto, CA 94301. All Veritas stories are posted online and available for commenting at verdemagazine.com/veritas. Advertising The staff publishes advertisements with signed contracts providing they are not deemed by the staff inappropriate for the magazine’s audience. For more information about advertising with Veritas, please contact the Veritas business manager Allison Mou through our adviser at 650-329-3837 for more information. Publication Policy Veritas, a science magazine published by the students in Palo Alto High School’s Magazine Journalism class, is a designated open forum for student expression and discussion of issues of concern to its readership. Veritas is distributed to its readers and the student body at no cost. Printing & Distribution Veritas is projected to print three this semester by aPrintis in Pleasanton, California. All Veritas work is available at verdemagazine.com/veritas.
TRIGGER FOR VIOLENCE
The beauty of science in images Email email@example.com to have your science photos featured.
Text and photos by NICOLE ADAMSON
SAGUARO CACTI can live up to 200 years. The pleats in the sides of the cactus allow it to expand to store water.
VIVIDLY COLORED SUNSETS occur because sunlight strikes the Earth at a shallower angle. The light travels a farther distance, and the atoms in the atmosphere scatter the blue light away.
BANSKIA PLANTS are native to Australia and provide an important source of nectar to a variety of birds, rats, and bats.
IGNEOUS ROCKS such as these form by cooling quickly on the surface. The rock does not have enough time to form crystals which gives it a smooth texture.
BULBOUS STRUCTURES on kelp allow the stalks to float towards the surface to better access sunlight for photosynthesis.
THE SCIENCE DEPARTMENT SCOOP
BASIC? Senior Ushana Vivek displays her nearly perfect titration from last year, a pale shade of pink after the tiniest amount of phenolphthalein indicator has been added past the equivalence point. “This year’s AP Chemistry students will conduct the titration lab early in February,” Ashwini Avadhani, who teaches AP Chemistry, says. Photo by Frances Zhuang.
UNECLIPSABLE: After hearing warnings to protect her eyes, junior Sabrina Martin wears a welding mask to view August’s solar eclipse. “That [eclipse] was really cool,” Martin says. “Next time I want to be in the path of totality.” Photo illustration by Sabrina Martin and Frances Zhuang.
LOOKING FISHY: A denizen of the deep attempts to camouflage itself among the rocks, purple sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus), and branching coralline algae 40 feet below the water’s surface in Monterey Bay’s National Marine Sanctuary. Purple sea urchins are an important member (keystone species) of the kelp forest ecosystem, as both predators and prey, but are also highly sensitive to poor water quality. Photo by Nicole Adamson.
SCIENCE BUILDING TO EXPAND IN 2019 by KAITLYN KHOE and FRANCES ZHUANG
HE SCIENCE BUILDing is projected to receive four more classrooms next to the gym in 2019, thanks to the Strong Schools Bond passed on June 3, 2008. “We’re supposed to break ground [for it in] spring 2019,” says Kelli Hagen, the Science Department’s instructional leader. “What we have right now is very nice, and to get four more of these classrooms would be amazing. I’m very excited.” ABOVE: An artist’s rendering, viewed from the space between the gym and science building. LEFT: A floor plan of the proposed expansion, with four more rooms, an expanded science resource center (SRC), and staff office room. Images: Deems Lewis McKinley via the Palo Alto Unified School District.
THIS GUAC ISN’T EXTRA: AP Environmental Science students plant an avocado tree (Persea Americana) in East Palo Alto as part of the course’s service learning requirements. Kathy Alford, a professional arborist who volunteers for Canopy, takes a selfie as Paly students measure their hole and prepare to move the tree. Many Paly students volunteer for Canopy, a program that “plants and cares for trees where people need them the most.”
THE 1700S SUMMER RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES
CALENDAR by FRANCES ZHUANG
As summer research applications open, students search for interesting opportunities and seek advice about maximizing their chances of securing an internship of their choice. Veritas has tips for finding your ideal internship, featuring senior Chloe Hong, who held a paid internship through the Stanford Institutes of Medical Research (SIMR). Veritas: What advice would you give to students applying for research positions? Chloe Hong: Apply to every single one you like. Take it seriously ... you might reuse them [essays] for college and they matter. Veritas: Why did you decide to apply to SIMR? CH: I was hooked on the idea of “biodesign” after freshman year. ... It’s basically product design but with biology. There were no summer programs that specifically do this except the Bioengineering Bootcamp Institute [subdivision] of SIMR. I really wanted a chance to create a medical device instead of just doing lab work, which I’d done before. Veritas: What was your favorite part of the program? CH: There’s nothing more exciting than hitting on an idea that your entire team agrees on, one that makes them jump on another six hours of enthusiastic, energetic prototyping and never tiring out. Honestly though? I liked the entire thing.
1 2 3 4 5
TOP 5 PLACES TO SEARCH:
Local universities: Stanford’s Science Outreach Office has a list of local internships, ranging from medical research programs at Stanford University to aerospace programs at NASA. Other universities: Johns Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth offers 100+ internships across the country. Online resources: PrepScholar, College Confidential, and Google are great places to search. Teachers: With years of experience, your teachers often have great suggestions. Peers: Fellow student science enthusiasts suggest applying to many programs. “The only way to guarantee you don’t get into something is not to apply,” Hong says.
JANUARY 6: Science Olympiad competes at the Mira Loma Invitational 6: Robotics team’s Build Season starts 23-24: AP Environmental Science classes visit the Palo Alto Wastewater plant 27: Science Olympiad at Golden Gate Invitational
FEBRUARY 3: Science Bowl competes at the SLAC Regional 20: Robotics team’s Build Season ends
MARCH Early March: AP Biology classes dissect rats and frogs; Marine Biology classes take their annual field trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and dissect dogfish sharks 7-10: Robotics competes at the Arizona North Invitational 17: Science Olympiad at Santa Clara County Invitational 28-31: Robotics competes at Silicon Valley Regionals
APRIL 18-21: Robotics competes at the World Championships in Houston, Texas
Photo/Art by KAITLYN KHOE
Text by CALVIN YAN Additional reporting by KAITLYN KHOE
IT’S ALL SMOKE AND MIRRORS Facts and falsehoods about the health concerns of vaping
PICK YOUR POISON Professor Judith Prochaska displays a variety of e-cigarette brands in her ofice. Prochaska conducts extensive research into the tobacco industry’s marketing techniques, and has expressed concern about the appeal of e-cigarettes to teenagers.
OU KNOW A PRODUCT IS A BIG DEAL WHEN IT What we do know is that e-cigarettes contain the addictive has its own verb. Juuling, or the use of Juul-brand e-cig- chemical nicotine, a fact unknown to the majority of teens. Acarettes, is a perfect example, having caught the atten- cording to a study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 66.0 tion of Palo Alto High School administrators and stu- percent of teens believe e-cigarettes contain only flavoring, while dents alike. At the same time, teen use of e-cigarettes is on the 13.7 percent do not claim to know what is in their e-cig, possibly rise nationwide: according to the Center for Disease Control and because manufacturers are not required to list ingredients. Prevention, about 11 percent of high schoolers reported using an Nicotine’s effects on a teenager’s developing brain are e-cigarette in the last 30 days during a 2016 study. That figure was well-established. So while current evidence suggests that e-cigs 1.5 percent in 2011. are safer than traditional cigarettes, or “combustibles,” students While a wide variety of e-cigarette brands exist, Juul is gen- should be aware that by using them, they are still using an poorly erally recognized the most popular regulated, addictive substance with poat Paly — and it shows. School janitor tential consequences on health. Albert Hidalgo, who monitors the bath- “It [nicotine] is like a key that To more clearly understand the prorooms in the Media Arts Center, says he cess of addiction, we spoke to Associate comes to the lock and ... refinds three to seven discarded Juul pods Professor Judith Prochaska, a Stanford on any given day. researcher specializing in tobacco and leases a number of different “If I were to go substitute for one e-cigarette use and marketing. The huneurochemicals.” of my coworkers, I’d find them in their man brain, Prochaska says, contains — JUDITH PROCHASKA, Stanford associate professor restrooms as well,” Hidalgo says. “It’s nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. These everywhere.” receptors detect nicotine molecules in But while everyone and their moththe brain and then bind to them. er recognizes the sleek, rectangular outline of a Juul, not all stu“It [nicotine] is like a key that comes to the lock and … redents understand its health risks. How addictive are e-cigarettes? leases a number of different neurochemicals,” Prochaska says. Do flavorings in e-liquid pose a major health risk? Is second-hand These chemicals, such as dopamine, norepinephrine and exposure to Juul vapor harmful? GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), result in feelings of euphoUnfortunately enough, the answers to these questions are ria, relaxation and increased focus. However, problems arise not clear. E-cigarettes entered the American market in 2007, and when the brain becomes overly reliant on them. there are many things we don’t know about their effects on the “Your brain changes as a result of that nicotine exposure,” human body. Prochaska says. “You actually upregulate [increase the amount
FACT CHECK CLAIM: Due to the presence of diacetyl, vaping may lead to a disease named popcorn lung.
t is well established that diacetyl can cause popcorn lung if inhaled. But while the Harvard School of Public Health did find diacetyl in some e-cigs, they never claimed that the threat of popcorn lung was significant. In 2006, UC Davis found combustibles to contain 750 times the amount of diacetyl detected in e-cigs by Harvard, yet combustibles have never been linked to popcorn lung.
CLAIM: E-cigarettes can produce up to 15 times as much formaldehyde as combustibles.
he value is closer to 2.5, leading Portland State researchers to claim that vaping was up to 15 times as likely to cause cancer as smoking — hence the misquote. While this conclusion is alarming, it ignores the fact that the researchers only produced any formaldehyde by overheating the e-cig and creating a “dry puff,” which e-cig users avoid for its unpleasant taste.
of] nicotinic receptors that then become hungry for the drug when you don’t have it.” While it’s true that the upregulation process eventually reverts itself, this process is slow and doesn’t completely repair the damage. According to Prochaska, a former smoker can feel tobacco cravings even years after kicking the habit. How could such a small drug have such a powerful effect? The answer lies in the absorption of nicotine in the lungs. According to Prochaska, a single lung has the surface area of a tennis court, allowing the lungs to receive and pass nicotine into the brain more quickly than other methods, resulting in a greater chance of addiction. For a Paly student taking a puff of a Juul in a school bathroom, the dangers of combustibles may seem miles away. This thinking isn’t entirely unfounded: After all, e-cigarettes generally contain less nicotine and fewer toxicants than combustible cigarettes. In 2013, an international research team found that certain compounds, namely carbonyls, volatile organic compounds, nitrosamines and heavy metals, appeared in e-cigs with concentrations that were 9-450 times lower than in combustible cigarettes. “There are so many aspects of using a cigarette that contribute to addiction,” says Michael Siegel of Boston University. “And while the Juul is able to simulate a little bit of that, it’s still a very different type of behavior.” Siegel, a tobacco expert fighting to curb cigarette use, contends that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative. He even encourages smokers to use them as a quitting aid, a method that has aided people like Adrian. Adrian, a Paly student whose name has “They [e-cigs] are a been changed to maintain anonymity. acknowledges that better alternative e-cigs are “the lesser of two to what I’ve been evils” compared to combustibles, and no longer uses either doing before.” — ADRIAN, anonymous Paly student as of several weeks ago. and former smoker “The number [of toxins] is low enough that it wouldn’t cause anything in the near future,” Adrian says. “All I know is they’re a better alternative to what I’ve been doing before.” While some tout vaping’s potential benefit to society, others have seen evidence to the contrary. “I’ve worked with a lot of smokers who say ‘This doesn’t do it for me,’” Prochaska says. “‘I miss the real thing.’” Putting aside the smoking debate, Siegel believes that misconceptions about vaping are common. For example, a 2015 study identified a chemical called diacetyl in flavored e-liquids. While diacetyl causes lung disease in high concentrations, Siegel points out that combustible cigarettes also contain the chemical, but have never been linked to the disease. Siegel also dismisses complaints about the presence of a carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) named formaldehyde. The finding comes from a recent study stating that vapers could be exposed to 2.5 times as much formaldehyde as regular smokers. However, a letter of response (which Siegel co-authored) pointed out that these levels of formaldehyde only occured during a “dry puff,” causing a nasty taste which e-cig users are careful to avoid. Others criticised the study’s use of only one e-cigarette brand. A follow-up study which tested five commercial e-cigarettes found that three of them actually produce less formaldehyde than combustibles under normal conditions.
findings Experts still aren’t sure whether vaping affects the adolesNot everyone who vapes uses Juul e-cigs, and not all of them cent brain. Prochaska errs on the side of caution. vape recreationally. But for the undoubtable majority who do “We know that the frontal lobe — both, there is good news and bad news. The the decision-making, impulsive, congood news is that e-cigarettes do not appear trol part of the brain — is still develop- “It’s important that we disto pose the same risks as their traditional ing out to age 25,” Prochaska says. “You courage youth from vaping counterparts. The bad news is threefold. want to protect it from things that are First, a safer version of a harmful product ... as we encourage adults going to change it.” is still harmful. Second, because the vaping Siegel, on the other hand, main- who are already smoking to industry is fairly unregulated, companies tains that no significant risk of brain are free to misrepresent their products and switch to vaping.” damage has been found. what they contain. And third, because there — MICHAEL SIEGEL, Boston University professor “Let’s say that … it’s true that nicis a lack of scientific information on e-cigaotine is impairing adolescent developrettes, new dangers associated with vaping ment,” Siegel says. “You wouldn’t know may eventually come to light. it. The only way to detect it would be to have them [teens] ... do “We don’t know the long term effects because it [e-cigasophisticated neuropsychological behavioral testing.” rettes] are such a new product,” Prochaska says. “It took decades But e-cigs are the uncharted territory of health research, before people appreciated the harms of combustible cigarettes.” with Juuls being the most powerful of the bunch, using a nicotine While demonizing e-cigs is counterproductive, those who salt that quickly absorbs in the bloodstream. Perhaps caution is use them ought to consider the risks to make informed decisions the best policy, which Siegel agrees with. about their health. v “There are no positive effects of vaping,” Siegel says. “It’s important that we try to discourage youth from vaping at the same time as we try to encourage adults who are already smokers to switch to vaping if they’re not able to quit completely.” Scan for information “We still don’t know a lot ... so it’s hard to say ‘this is what you should do,’” Prochaska says. “I would say don’t use an e-cig about JUUL Labs’ anwith nicotine in it. But I can’t guarantee that one that says it ti-underage-use policy doesn’t have nicotine isn’t going to have nicotine, because it [the industry] isn’t well-regulated.”
e-cigs enter US market
87% 66% this includes
of teens don’t know that nicotine is in e-cigs
who believe e-cigs only contain flavoring
of high-schoolers used an e-cig in last 30 days
DO YOU READ ME?
Dyslexia within the Palo Alto High School community
Text by ESTELLE MARTIN Photos by JAMES POE
HEMICALS LIKE DDT can accumulate in predatory birds,” Alicia Szebert says, as she teaches an AP Environmental Science lesson. She writes as she speaks, erasing “brids” and correcting it to “birds”; she does this so swiftly that most of the class doesn’t notice. Szebert is an admired chemistry and and AP Environmental teacher at Palo Alto High School. However, many of her students remain unaware that Szebert has dyslexia. Szebert says that her spelling struggles initially caught the attention of her mother, a school psychologist. According to Szebert, starting from a very young age, she would write the same word three different ways within the same paragraph. Szebert believes that her spelling skills actually have not significantly improved with age, but because she does not write on the whiteboard often, her students do not notice. Reading has always proved to be a less of a challenge for Szebert; though she was a little slower at reading and still has to re-read text sometimes, “it [reading] has never severely affected my life,” Szebert says. Szebert has been very successful throughout her school and work career; however, Szebert stresses that while her dyslexia has not greatly affected these areas of her life, others may have very different experiences. As Szebert points out, dyslexia can manifest itself in many different ways between many different people. Dyslexia is a combination of “dys,” meaning “difficult” in English, and “lexis,” meaning “speech” or “words” in Greek. The term was first used in the late 19th century and has become much more commonplace as the disorder is more extensively studied. In 2017, the California Dyslexia Guidelines were published by the California Department of Education. The document serves as a response to several sections added to the California’s Education Code in 2015, and to provide information for the identification, assessment, and supporting dyslexic students. According to Paly School Psychologist, Lara Zawacki, the typical symptoms of dyslexia include difficulty with phonological processing paired with difficulty with rapid naming. Phonological processing is the ability to break a word down into small sound units such as syllables or letters. Once a person is able to phonologically process a word, they must then register the word and retrieve it from their memory. Typically, this process takes about .2 seconds. However, “Difficulty manipulating phonics and blending out sounds, and also [difficulty] with quickly scanning print and retrieving the associated verbal label from long term memory ... are often two signs of dyslexia,” Zawacki says. Zawacki uses the word ‘fellowship’ as an example, which has the syllables fel-low-ship. Those with dyslexia often struggle with sounding out the ‘phe’ sound in their mind, then connecting that
findings to the ‘el’ sound, and so on for the rest of the word. MoreIn order to qualify for accommodations in a classroom setover, once they have processed the word with sound, they must ting, Avery must take tests that gauge her dyslexia. Avery says recall the word from their long term memory. For those with dys- that since third grade, she has taken these tests five times. lexia, this process takes so much time and effort that the brain Avery dreads standardized testing; for many people, the SAT essentially becomes exhausted. takes four hours out of their day. For Avery, it took ten hours. Zawacki stresses that no two brains are alike and as a re- For much of that time, Avery was accompanied by an adult who sult, no two cases of dyslexia are identical. Some might just have read the test out loud to her. Avery says that this accommodation difficulty blending out sounds, but can remember words visual- allowed her to understand the text more thoroughly, and as a ly when they sight read. Others might experience the opposite. result, score higher on the SAT than she would have without the There are even cases where people with dyslexia struggle with accomodation. direction due to their inability to retrieve information from their Avery states that her education experience and her teachers visual memory. have helped her succeed in academics. Documents such as the For this reason, intervention is tailored to each individual California Dyslexia Guidelines aim to shape the experiences of and symptoms they exhibit. Advances in technology now play a many students with Dyslexia, and hopefully aid students to sucrole in accommodating students in the classroom. ceed as Avery has. Zawacki wants students with “I consider it a gift… my brain is learning differences to know that a different than everyone else’s and that “We all just have our unique disorder does not define a person. is pretty cool,” Jones says. “The way I strengths and weaknesses and approach everything is slightly differ“We are in a time were we tend to over pathologize… and that can be ent because my view on everything is have to learn what strategies risky because it can lead to getting slightly different.” v. work best for us.” depressed, like ‘oh, this is my label’,” Zawacki says. “But really, we all Editors Note: Additional reporting by — LARA ZAWACKI, School Psychologist just have our unique strengths and Frances Zhuang weaknesses and have to learn what strategies work best for us.” Jones, whose name has been changed to respect his privacy, is a junior at Paly who has always done things his own way. He attributes this trait to the unique way his brain functions. For Jones, his school experience has consistently varied from those of his classmates. Jones was put in separate classes from AN ESTIMATED FIVE TO 10 PERCENT his peers at a very young age as he was learning to read; howevOF THE POPULATION HAS DYSLEXIA* er, Jones first noticed a difference in his learning pace compared to those of his friends around second grade. Jones kept reading simpler books as his friends began to read more advanced ones. Initially, Jones was labeled with a processing deficit and problems with reading comprehension. However, Jones was tested last year and subsequently diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. According to Jones, he struggles to differentiate words, “I will see them on a page and not be able to remember them, and then I will have to read and reread them,” Jones says. Jones says that often, when he re-reads a word, his mind will read it slightly differently than he had before. Avery, whose name has also been changed to respect her privacy, is a Paly senior who dreams of one day working in the fashion industry. Avery certainly fits the part; after a quick look at her sleek all-black clothing ensemble, accessorized with delicate jewelry, one can easily predict Avery’s future entrance into the fashion world. But before she can accomplish that goal, she must take her SATs, turn in her homework assignments, and complete her essays. For Avery, these tasks pose more of a challenge than they DYSLEXIC 5-10% would for many of her peers. Avery depends on spell check to correct misspelled words within her writing, however, sometimes, spell check suggests a NOT DYSLEXIC 90-95% word that she wasn’t even intending to use. Due to her dyslexia, she cannot tell that this is not the correct word. Luckily, according to Avery, teachers are accommodating towards this and usu*Source: University of Michigan ally understand what she is trying to say.
DYSLEXIA BY THE NUMBERS...
BILINGUALISM ON THE BRAIN PARLEZ-VOUS FRANÇAIS? Juniors Grace Lam (left) and Saki Matsumoto (right) converse in French. Both students are bilingual and learning a third language. Lam grew up speaking Mandarin and Matsumoto speaks Japanese. They are now developing their linguistic skills in Advanced Placement French. “I think that it [knowing Mandarin] has given me a better ability to pick up other languages,” Lam says.
Text by NICOLE ADAMSON Photos by JAMES POE Additional reporting by ANDREW SHIH
How has multilingualism affected your life?
“The biggest advantage “You can visit parts of the is to be able to communicate world, and not have to learn because, in Chinese especial- a language to communicate ly, over 1 billion people most- with the locals.” — LUDOVICA LA ROSA, sophomore ly speak only Chinese.”
— MICHAEL XU, junior
“When I’m speaking French I get mixed up with Spanish and Portugese. It just becomes one language, so it’s harder.” — MARIANA HOLTZ BETIOL, senior
The effects of multilingual life
alking around Palo Alto High School campus, it’s not rare to hear conversations in foreign languages. In fact, 42.6% of California public school students speak a language other than English at home, according to the California Department of Education. The Palo Alto Unified School District has even made efforts to educate younger students in world languages, with the 10th anniversary of Ohlone Elementary School’s Mandarin Immersion Program next fall. But does fluently speaking two languages give students an advantage? According to Kenji Hakuta, an expert on bilingual education and professor emeritus at Stanford University, it can be difficult to determine if bilingual students actually learn better than their monolingual peers. California students who started off as English learners and later became proficient show higher state standardized test scores than the average student of English-speaking background. However, Hakuta cautions that this is only a correlation, and does not necessarily indicate that bilingualism makes students better at learning other subjects. Beyond school, bilingualism has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life. For bilinguals, the onset of dementia is delayed four years compared to their monolingual counterparts, according to a study by Ellen Bialystok comparing the medical records of bilingual and monolingual patients at a memory clinic in Toronto. Studies indicate that bilinguals learn a third language more quickly than monolinguals learning a first language. However, these studies lack statistical rigor because it is impossible for researchers to randomly assign a subject to be bilingual. Carla Guerard, Paly French teacher and World Languages Department in-
structional leader, agrees that students learn a third language more easily than a second language. “They [students] use the basis they acquired learning that second language to learn the third language,” Guerard says. Guerard herself grew up in a household learning French, Spanish, and Italian. She later picked up English in school. At times in her life, being multilingual has made life difficult for Guerard. “You have to remember, I had four languages in my head, so it’s a lot going on,” Guerard says. Although starting school without knowing English may have initially delayed her education, Guerard says that overall, multilingualism has benefited her life. Paly junior Grace Lam had a similar experience growing up in a Mandarin-speaking household. Sometimes, she thinks of an applicable idiom in one language, but cannot find a good translation. For Lam, the benefits of bilingualism are mostly cultural. “There’s an aspect of culture that you learn, an ability to see from a different perspective, than just the all-American perspective,” Lam says. “If you understand the language, it’s easier to understand how people think.” Guerard has similar perspective. “Knowing more languages brings you to know more cultures and brings you to be a little more open and understanding about others’ diversity,” Guerard says. v
STATISTICS NATIVE LANGUAGES OF PAUSD ENGLISH LEARNERS*
Other 4.4% French 5.9%
Hebrew 7.9% Korean 10.6%
43 PERCENT of California public school students speak a language other than English at home.* *Source: California Department of Education
USING LANGUAGE TO SHARE CULTURE French teacher and World Language department Instructional Leader Carla Guerard also speaks Italian and Spanish. She advocates for the cultural learning that comes from world language education. “You become more of an explorer because you’re exposed to reaching out and trying new things,” Guerard says.
Text/Photo/Art by KAITLYN KHOE Additional reporting by CALVIN YAN
Neurological abnormalities to explain acts of violence
T’S AN OVERWHELMING INFLUX OF TEARS, NEWS With increasing research looking at neurological abnormalalerts, and silence for the deadliest mass shooting in the US, ities as a reason for acts of violence, there might be another way while students across the country sleep or stay up, prepar- to ensure safety. Every high-profile mass shooting prompts the ing for a fresh week of school, only to wake up to news of the recurring question: Was the perpetrator or perpetrators mentally latest devastating event with incomprehensible motives. ill? In some cases, the answer appears to be “yes”. For example, Shootings come and go and then extensive investigation of Eric Haralways come again. To prepare for a Someone with a rare allele of ris, one of the 1999 Columbine High potential shooter on campus, schools School shooters, revealed his God comthe MAOA gene that regulates … plex and admiration for figures such as have to implement emergency drills not just forw natural disasters. the breaking down of other crit- Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson. Most districts, including PAUSD, “We have definitely found a trend ical neurotransmitters has an nationwide that those who have been require just one code red drill for the entire school year; however, this seincreased chance of exhibiting committing these types or crimes had mester, Paly will have another drill some type of mental illness,” Chen shooting and stabbing behavior says. followed by a faculty training to refresh procedures — an appropriate Possible signs of homicidal immeasure given the recent rise in shootings. pulses include abusive, aggressive behavior, detachment from “It [a shooter on campus] may not always be on the forefront peers or combative nature. Parenting, school, the innate traits of our mind, and that’s the part we want to improve on — mak- people are born with, and environmental factors could contribute ing sure that were cognizant and vigilant about these possibilities to thoughts of violence, according to counselor James Hamilton. becoming a reality,” says Janice Chen, the assistant principal of “Violence usually comes from the psychological impact of teaching and learning. other things––abuse or neglect at home,” Hamilton says. “Any
findings number of things that should be there for the healthy develop- The dark patches on both scans implied inactivity of the orbitofment of a child that aren’t there can lead to that [violence].” rontal cortex, an indicator of a predisposition to violence that can Twenty-five-year-old Charles Whitman shot his wife, who be passed down genetically, according to Fallon. was not the only victim of his destructive outburst. He would kill Scientists have continued research in predicting potential his mother, as well as 17 strangers at the University of Texas from signs of harmful acts towards others. A group of neuropatholAustin’s tower deck on August 1966, before being shot dead by ogists, scientists who look at diseases in the nervous system, at police. Prior to the shooting, Whitman had expressed fears that a Stanford are currently examining the brain tissue of the perpepsychiatric disorder was causing his aggression, according to the trator from the Las Vegas mass shooting, Stephen Paddock, to autopsy report reproduced look for a biological rationale by the Austin History Cenbehind his actions. ter. While scientists give opti“Lately (I can’t recall mism about gaining the ability when it started) I have been to anticipate perpetrators of a victim of many unusual violent crimes, it’s importand irrational thoughts,” ant that the burden of a safer Whitman wrote in his suicide note, also published by the Austin History Center. “It was after much thought that I decided to kill my wife, Kathy. I cannot rationally [sic] pinpoint any specific reason for doing this.” An autopsy performed on Whitman by his own re- ALWAYS PREPARED Assistant principal Janice Chen explains the safety procedures in quest seemed to confirm his the event of a shooter on campus. The PAUSD requires one code red drill per school year to prepare. “I know I have a really strong team, so I trust the adults on this campus are fears, finding a pecan-sized going to make sure that the students are safe,” Chen says. tumor in the brain. Based on these facts alone, it is tempting to jump to the conclusion that world falls on potenWhitman’s brain tumor caused his cravings of violence; although tial targets to be preauthors of Whitman’s autopsy report found “no correlation [of pared by practicing the brain tumor] to psychosis or permanent pains”. safety procedures. Aside from psychological conditions, genetics, specifically “We’ve seen so mutations in the MAOA gene, has also been a common expla- many cases where unnation for aggressive or violent behavior. Despite having sever- fortunately this [code al moments in the media — receiving the nickname of “warrior red] drill has become gene” — studies have yet to provide irrefutable conclusions. a reality… but the fact Someone with a rare allele of the MAOA gene that regulates that we’ve done it so serotonin in the brain and the breaking down of other critical many times makes neurotransmitters has an increased chance of exhibiting shooting me less nervous about and stabbing behaviors, according to a study of African American what to do [in a code males by Kevin Beaver, James Barnes, and Brian Boutwell. red],” junior Riya KuIn a trailer home in Tennessee, Bradley Waldroup shot his mar says. v wife’s friend eight times and cut her head open with a knife, then attempted to chop up his wife with a machete in 2006. To counter the death penalty Waldroup face, his genes were studied at a lab to find that his X chromosome had the MAOA genetic variant, allowing his legal team to claim that the buildup of chemicals led to his loss in impulse control, according to Lois Parshley’s article written in 2016 “Can Your Genes Make You Kill?” Other scientists also try to use parts of the brain that could cause mental health issues to explain violence. The orbitofrontal cortex, located in the frontal lobes of the brain, is involved in the decision-making process and ethical behaviors, according to a study by Michael Koenigs. James Fallon, a professor in psychiatry and human behavior at the University of California-Irvine, has studied many brain scans. He took a PET scan of his own brain and found that his orbital cortex appeared similar to the brain scan of a psychopath.
Text by ALLISON MOU AND SOUMYA JHAVERI Art by MAYA ANDERSON
DON’T SCRIMP ON YOUR SLEEP The insidious harms of sleep deprivation
ENIOR MIGUEL MORENO DESCRIBES HIS WORST the lost of sleep over period of months or even years. night of sleep ever. Once in his first semester of junior “There’s no hard-and-fast rule, but basically if you’re not getyear, he went to bed at 5:45 a.m. only to wake up at 6:30 ting the amount of sleep you need to perform optimally, you’re a.m. sleep deprived,” says Christopher Farina, an AP Psychology “One night, I had to prepare for a communications speech, teacher at Paly. finish a chem lab, finish Analysis [Honors] homework, and look According to Farina, sleep debt is a term used to describe over my Japanese notes for a test,” Moreno says, “But every time I cumulative sleep deprivation over a two-week period of time. As sleep less than three hours, I always get sleep debt builds and sleepiness increases, a fever by the end of the day.” a person’s cognition decreases along with Moreno is in good company. Actheir ability to judge the severity of their cording to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavcondition. ior Survey conducted by the Center “You may notice that you’re getting for Disease Control, only 27.3 percent pretty tired, but you don’t notice the deof high school students get more than gree of the effect,” Farina says. 8 hours of sleep on an average school Zeitzer explains that people who re— NICHOLAS BLONSTEIN, senior main chronically awake at night for pronight. A proposed bill, which failed late fessional purposes are able to train themlast year in the California legislature, selves to ignore sleepiness, but would still would have required all California middle and high schools to perform just as poorly as any other person who is awake in the start at 8:30 a.m. at earliest. Currently, Gunn High School starts middle of the night. the day at 8:30 a.m., and Palo Alto High School’s Innovative “At a more local level, people just need to be more aware of Schedule Committee is considering the possibility of a later start the consequences,” says Nicholas Blonstein, a senior at Paly who time next year. gave a Tedx talk on sleep deprivation last year. All of these efforts are According to Kate Kaplan, a psychologist that treats sleep meant to combat sleep depriand anxiety disorder, there are some fairly severe effects vation, which decades of to chronic sleep deprivation. Kaplan is also a part research has shown to of the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medhave negative health conicine. sequences. “We have evidence that inadequate sleep in adolescence leads to poor health outcomes,” Kaplan says. “[Inadequate sleep] increases overweight and obesiHealth Effects ty, increases in poor food choices [and] other risks…. According to JaWe know that new episodes of depression, different anxiety mie Zeitzer, an associdisorders [and] suicide increase with sleep restrictions and ate professor at Stanford deprivation--that’s true in adolescents as well as adults.” University’s Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, there are two kinds of School Start Times sleep deprivation: acute Summaries on the issue of delayed school start times and chronic. Acute by the American Psychological Association and the Censleep deprivation is ter of Disease Control assert that significant improvea short term sleep ments in student’s mental, physical, and academic loss, like pulling well-being have been proven in studies following an “all-nighta shift back in school start times. er.” Chron“At a school like Paly where everyone is ic sleep taking hard classes, it’s not hard to imagine deprivawhy students aren’t getting enough sleep,” tion is junior Annie Tsui says.
“Even though you may not see the consequences on the person, they can be hidden monsters,”
findings Many students find themselves skimping on sleep in order to finish homework and study for tests after coming home late due to a variety of extracurriculars. Even so, the problem impacts more than just students. “I would say, students and staff and admin — across the board — you’d be hard pressed to find a lot of people that are getting enough sleep every single night--the amount of sleep that they individually need,” Farina says. Tsui attributes this to the culture at Paly. “We’ve fostered an environment where we encourage competition among students,” Tsui says.“Now this obviously has its benefits, but sometimes it really does takes a toll on students.” Blonstein wants schools to develop reward systems which would academically and directly benefit students for sleeping more and emphasize sleep over schoolwork. He believes that if schools can shift their culture to prioritize wellness and adequate sleep, students will find themselves sleeping more due to reduced pressure. “Even though you may not see the consequences on the person, they can be hidden monsters,” Blonstein says. “Things like anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts are all connected to sleep deprivation, and ADHD, too.”
Electronics and Sleep Aside from the chronic sleep deprivation most teenagers experience, the overall quality of sleep has also been decreasing. This is mostly due to the introduction of backlit devices into our daily lives. “When light hits your eyes, it stimulates the suprachiasmatic nucleus in your brain which sends signals to your pineal gland to stop secreting melatonin, a hormone that tells your body to feel sleepy,” Farina says. “If it stops secreting that hormone, you stop feeling sleepy. When you have a backlit device, it’s shining that light directly in your eyes, your body stops producing melatonin, you stay awake, and it takes you longer to fall asleep afterwards.” Zeitzer, however, provides a more nuanced view on the effect of electronics on sleep. “If you’re exposed to very dim light all day, it’ll [the light] be impactful, but the light itself doesn’t have a lot of impact if you’ve got normal lighting during the day time,” Zeitzer says. “What is quite impactful is what you’re doing with that light. If people are using electronics and staying up late, the electronics are either encouraging more wakefulness or causing the individual to be stressed; neither one of these are good for promoting sleep.” According to Zeitzer, in order to improve sleep quality, every individual needs to evaluate their individual reasons on why electronics might be keeping them awake.
schedule. “Basically, you want to have as much consistency as possible to have as strong a circadian clock as possible. If you start messing around having different start times, presumably, that can cause different wake times. With different wake times, then you’re gonna start actually causing sleep to be more problematic,” Zeitzer says. “If you can make little changes to try and make improvement towards that ideal, that’s something that everybody can do. You will sleep better, you will feel better and you will perform better,” Farina says.
Conclusion Zeitzer and Kaplan both suggested that the best way for students to improve sleep quality is keeping a consistent daily sleep
HOURS OF SLEEP on an average school night for high schoolers nationwide. Source: CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2007-2013
THE (SECOND) IMPACT The risk of athletes sustaining multiple concussions
HE LAST IMAGE SHE SAW was the spherical yellow ball hurtling toward her. In her very last movement, her body tensed as she prepared for the inevitable impact. And her last thought? Block the goal. Then, for split second, Palo Alto High School water polo player sophomore Al Lee could only hear one noise: the sharp, loud crack created by the ball—traveling at approximately 30 miles per hour— making contact with her skull. Lee sank, feeling the cool water envelop her whole body as she tried to shake off the pulsing sensation of pain traveling through her head. Lee punctuates her recollection with a laugh, and excitedly tells me, “At least I blocked the ball.” According to Lee, she resurfaced with a smile on her face to reassure concerned teammates, and kept participating in the drill, hoping her lingering headache would soon cease.
But it didn’t. “I had a headache for a week,” Lee said. “I started sleeping a lot; I was taking naps during the day.” After five days, Lee’s mother convinced her to see a doctor. Lee was diagnosed with a concussion, and was not permitted to play water polo or engage in challenging school work for another week. The doctors decision may have made all the difference for Lee. Lee was cleared by her doctor to return to playing water polo after recovering from her concussion and presenting as asymptomatic. On the very same day of the clearance, Lee sustained a second concussion at practice. Luckily, due to a strict six stage recovery regimen widely used throughout the medical commuity, Lee had no lingering symptoms from her previous concussion, obtained two weeks prior. Though Lee was disappointed that she had to stay out of the pool for another
Text and Art by: ESTELLE MARTIN
week, she fortunately did not have to deal with effects on the brain could be fatal. any further complications. According to a study published in the Western A concussion is defined — in the book “Minor Journal of Emergency Medicine, 39 percent of high Emergencies” — as a change in one’s mental status school and college athletes who suffered catastrophic due to a mild traumatic brain injury. Most concus- injuries had played with residual symptoms of a prior sions result from a blow to the head or violent concussion. jostling to the body. SIS was first coined to describe a medical condition According to Paly Athletic Trainer, Justine in 1984, according to The Sports Medicine Research Iongi, the direct cause of a concussion stems Manual. Though SIS rarely occurs, the consequences from the impact creating movement within the can be devastating. head. The brain hits the skull, resulting in a Scientists believe that SIS is caused by impaired brain trauma. autoregulation to the brain, resulting in a cerebral Every concussion case is unique; however, edema and a rapid increase of intracranial pressure. the Center for Disease Control states that com- In simpler terms, this translates as a lack of controlled mon symptoms include nausea, balance prob- blood flow throughout the brain. Blood vessels then lems, mood swings, and irregular sleep patterns. engorge, causing brain swelling and a sudden increase According to Lee, an additional symptom in pressure within the skull. she experienced was cognitive difficulty. For a All immediate treatment is directed towards reweek she struggled with her homework, especial- lieving intracranial pressure; however, the mortality ly math and chemistry probrate is approximately 50 percent, lems. the athlete can die within min“We want to make sure and Despite these symptoms, utes of the head trauma. Lee waited days to have a conThe morbidity rate, or the every athlete returns cussion test. However, Iongi prevalence of athletes sustaining to play, safely.” warns that athletes should aclasting effects of the syndrome, apknowledge the severity of their - JUSTINE IONGI, the Paly Athletic Trainer proaches 100 percent of all survivinjuries, instead of casually dising patients. missing them. Iongi uses the example of Pres“A lot of times, people just say ‘oh, I just got my ton Plevretes, a college football player who, in 2005, bell rung’ [dismissing the severity of the injury] which sustained a concussion in practice. One month later, is terminology we need to change,” Iongi said. Plevretes played in a game — despite lingering sympHowever, Iongi hopes to change Paly athletes’ re- toms from his previous head injury — and sustained a actions to, as well as perception of, concussions. second concussion. As a result, Plevretes spent months “We have been advocating, especially at the high in the hospital, and despite multiple surgeries, he still school level, [for students to recognize the effects of] struggles to talk and has failed to gain back full physSecond Impact Syndrome,” Iongi says. “It is when ical capacity. you sustain a concussion and you don’t get adeDue to the tremendous consequences of concusquate rest and recovery time before you sustain sions and other sports related injuries, Iongi emphaanother one.” sizes the importance of high schools hiring Athletic According to Iongi, once an athlete suf- Trainers, and expresses that she is very pleased that fers from a concussion, the athelete becomes both PAUSD high schools have full time athletic trainthree times more likely to experience an- ers. other. This is partially due to the fact that “Athletic Trainers … specialize in prevention, asthe impact required to cause a concus- sessment, and evaluation of injuries,” Iongi says. sion declines after the first impact. This expertise allows for Paly athletes to undergo However, most high school ath- proper protocol after sustaining a concussion. letes remain unaware of the severity “It [the brain] is not a muscle; a muscle can regenof SIS. If an athlete endures a concus- erate… you only have one [brain],” Iongi tells athletes. sion while still grappling with symp- “We want to make sure every athlete returns to play, toms of a previous concussion, the safely.” v
THE MYERS-BRIGGS TEST The pseudoscience behind the popular personality test Text by ANTONIA MOU Art by MAYA ANDERSON
NFP. ISTP. INTJ. IT IS LIKELY YOU HAVE seen It could also be the dedicated practitioners who swear by some variation of this four letter combination, usually their personality type and continue to endorse the commercialin an Instagram bio, and sometimes next to an astrolog- ised test, some even going as far as to get it tattooed on their ical sign. body, as found on the photo sharing site Flickr. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, is a questionAnnie Murphy Paul, author of “The Cult of Personality Testnaire with the purpose of indicating different personality types ing”, argues that people cling to the test because thousands of using four sets of binary characteristics: introvert vs. extrovert, people have invested time and money in becoming MBTI-certiintuitive vs. sensory, feeling vs. thinking, and judging vs. per- fied trainers and coaches, and because of the feeling people expeceiving. rience when they gain insight on themselves and others. These four sets of characteristics have been perceived as the “Those who love type,” Paul writes, “have been seduced by basis of all personality and human behavior, despite the lack of an image of their own ideal self.” scientific proof and repeated debunking of the assessment. The Palo Alto High School Freshman Cindy Liu, a supporter of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is unreliable, unsupported, and ul- the MBTI, says, “I support the test because it gives me a better timately, pseudoscience. understanding of myself and what works best for me.” For example, ENFP stands for Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Many people believe companies and other institutions Prospecting, which is described as a enthusiastic, creative and should not use MBTI because of potential misuse. Some compasociable free spirit. nies use MBTI results from their employees as a deciding factor The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, was developed for training programs and groups. However, this method is unby Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers reliable as employees can alter their results depending on what beginning in the 1920s. The assessment refers to Carl Jung’s the- they believe the company wants. ory of psychological types, which is a theory based on various Despite the assessment’s low test-retest reliability, students inconclusive methods for modern scientific psychology such as at Paly and other educational institutions are encouraged to take clinical observation, introspection, and anecdote. a career quiz with MBTI principles to help them find potential Using their own research and incorpocareers based on the results. rating Jungian concepts, Katharine Briggs But Jeffrey Hayes, the president of It gives me a better and Isabel Myers established one of the CPP Inc., the private distributor of the understanding of myself world’s most popular personality instruMyers-Briggs test, stated, “It is not, and ments, taken by an estimated 2 million peowas never intended to be predictive, and and what works best for ple a year and used by 89 of the Fortune 100 should never be used for hiring, screenme. companies to gather categorizing informaing or to dictate life decisions.” — CINDY LIU, Freshman tion on their employees. Biology teacher Randy Scilingo, However, the results of the MBTI who advocates taking the Myers-Briggs should not be used in business settings to determine specific test, says “I think it’s better to take the test when you’re older, work placements. A person’s type can change depending on their like 25 instead of 15, because as you get older you get to know situation, as the test heavily relies on binaries while humans fall your personality better.” on a spectrum. Many professional psychologists have pointed Scilingo acknowledges that humans fall onto a spectrum, out the scientific and psychometric flaws in the MBTI, stating but that the binary structure of the MBTI can still help someone that the MBTI is used incorrectly and was constructed without gain insight into other people. Taking the assessment in adultproper controlled scientific studies. In fact, several studies, such hood may yield a more permanent type, but there will always be as the one by David J. Pittenger, have shown that when retested changes based on a person’s current state. Much like Buzzfeed even after intervals as short as five weeks, as many as 50 percent quizzes and horoscopes, the MBTI should be used for self-reflecof the subjects will be classified into a different type. tion, not to make business or life decisions. So, without solid scientific evidence to support the A more scientific and accurate alternative to the MBTI is the MBTI and opposition from many psychologists, why is it still “Big Five” personality test. This test is considered more reliable so prevalent in our society? One reason may be that the MBTI by scientists because modern studies based on scientific evidence has become the standard of psychological assessments, ingrained have proven its ability to predict possible future outcomes usinto businesses, government agencies, and educational institu- ing five traits said to construct the human personality: openness tions. to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeability, and
findings neuroticism; commonly referred to as OCEAN. The National Center for Biotechnology Information and researchers in the field of personality neuroscience have done multiple studies that support the Big Five traits with genetic and biological evidence. The Big Five traits are shown on a spectrum and results are shown in relation to people with similar demographics like age and geographical location.
Data is continually being analysed by researchers to uncover more facts. For example, most studies on the Big Five traits reveal that conscientiousness is the most important factor for success in employment. Conscientious people are more effective in planning and organizing, act within the rules, and work well with other people. The Big Five is the most widely accepted framework for personality, contrary to tests like the MBTI which are more popular in mainstream media and workplaces. Essentially, the authenticity of the MBTI is questionable, and should be regarded with skepticism. The Big Five test is a scientifically-sound alternative that provides considerably more insight. v
I think it’s better to take the test when you’re older, like 25 instead of 15, because as you get older you get to know your personality better.” — RANDY SCILINGO, Biology teacher
COMPATIBILITY The MTBI can be used to anticipate whether or not two people have personalities that would work well together in friendships or romantic relationships. Usually, if the middle two letters match, those personalities are a good match.
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