07Dec/17

Near Earth Object Deflection Methods

 

Imagine a day when an asteroid over a kilometer in diameter, much like the one that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs, is detected and predicted to impact our planet. If this object were not properly controlled, it could lead to global catastrophe with billions of casualties (OECD 3). An impact could lead to the destruction of entire regions and populations through tidal waves, the partial blocking of sunlight, and firestorms of heated debris. With all the current technology, do we stand a chance of surviving a so called “planet-killer” asteroid?

 

Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are celestial bodies such as comets, asteroids, and small planets (excluding dwarf planets) whose orbital paths reach less than 1.3 astronomical units away from the sun. The probability of a NEO collision with the Earth is low; NEOs with diameters over 100 metres are expected to hit the Earth with an average interval of 10 000 years. Currently, there are very few NEO deflection methods being discussed, and most are not developed enough to propel a large NEO away from its predicted trajectory.

One potential deflection technique, called blast deflection, consists of using nuclear explosives to change a NEO’s velocity, and consequently, its trajectory. Nuclear fusion weapons would be set off above the Earth’s surface to change the object’s velocity while avoiding fracturing the object (as multiple pieces would hit the Earth, creating an even larger problem). Even a minor velocity change in the NEO’s motion could lead to the asteroid’s trajectory missing the Earth entirely, over the course of several years. Thus far, blast deflection may be the only viable strategy for the deflection of “planet killer” NEOs over a kilometer in diameter. However, many countries and organisations advocate for the abolishment of nuclear weapons, and very few countries possess nuclear weapons. Nuclear explosives also pose a major threat to the environment and the health of organisms, and are technically banned from use in outer space. This is why it is essential that alternative deflection methods are developed.

In 2011, a NASA team established the Solar Sail Demonstrator, a “Technology Demonstration Mission” intended to prove the versatility of a lightweight sail approximately 13,000 square feet in length that relies on the pressure of solar light to propel itself. A deflection method that has been considered is to place large solar sails on a small NEO so that the sunlight’s pressure could redirect the object away from Earth’s path. Unfortunately, the Solar Sail Demonstrator project was concluded before flight testing, and propulsion by solar sails is still only in experimental phases.

Another non-nuclear related deflection method is to use a “gravity tractor” device to divert the NEO from its original path. The device would have to fly alongside the NEO for many years to pull it out of its predicted trajectory, and therefore the approaching object would have to be detected early enough. Gravity tractors are easy to control and could most likely mitigate NEOs of any shape or material; however, they may not be an option for objects over 500 metres in diameter. Moreover, this technique has never been attempted, and many decades would be required to develop it.

Lastly, kinetic impactors are high-speed spacecraft that would crash into an NEO to alter its trajectory. NASA has tested kinetic impaction on a small scale with its 2005 Deep Impact mission, and the ESA is currently undergoing the Asteroid Impact Mission to develop a kinetic impactor. Once kinetic impactors are available, the National Academy of Sciences would require at least one to two years of warning time to deflect smaller NEOs, and at least a few decades for “planet killer” NEOs. Even then, kinetic impactors may not be able to change the orbit of the very largest objects.

 

The issue of Near Earth Objects is widely overlooked, even though it could have a detrimental effect on our society. As recent as February 15, 2013, a NEO entered the atmosphere and disintegrated above Chelyabinsk, Russia. Peter Brown at the University of Western Ontario, Canada concluded, from low-frequency sound waves detected by a global network, that the object had a diameter of around 17 metres and a mass of approximately 7000–10 000 tonnes when it hit the atmosphere. It caused a shockwave that “shattered glass and injured about 1,200 people” (Howell). It is of utmost importance for the world’s space agencies and governments to develop NEO deflection methods, and prevent another catastrophic impact.

Written by Maia Poon

Works Cited

“Asteroid Impact Mission.” European Space Agency, www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Engineering_Technology/Asteroid_Impact_Mission/Asteroid_Impact_Mission2. Accessed 27 Oct. 2017.

“Close Approach Fact Sheet.” ESA – European Space Agency, neo.ssa.esa.int/.

Esa. “Near-Earth Objects – NEO Segment.” European Space Agency, www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Operations/Space_Situational_Awareness/Near-Earth_Objects_-_NEO_Segment.

European Space Agency. www.esa.int/Education/Solar_sails. Accessed 27 Oct. 2017.

“Information on Research in the Field of Near-Earth Objects Carried Out By Member States, International Organizations and Other Entities .” United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, United Nations, 18 Dec. 2009, www.unoosa.org/pdf/reports/ac105/AC105_949E.pdf.

NEOShield-2. Airbus Defence and Space GmbH, www.neoshield.eu/. Accessed 27 Oct. 2017.

“Space Mission Planning Advisory Group.” Home – Cosmos. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2017.

Workshop on Near Earth Objects: Risks, Policies and Actions. Frascati, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 22 Jan. 2003. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, www.oecd.org/sti/sci-tech/2503992.pdf. Accessed 24 Oct. 2017.

 

13Nov/17

Science Chat: Austin Wang, 2016 ISEF Winner and Princeton Undergrad

2016-ISEF-Austin-Wang

Introduction: Austin Wang is a sophomore majoring in Computer Science at Princeton University. Originally from Vancouver’s David Thompson Secondary, Austin won the Gordon E. Moore award (top project) along with $75,000 at Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in 2016 as well as a wealth of additional accolades for his research in microbial fuel cells (MFCs).

Jerry Jiao: Hey Austin! How’s everything going?

Austin Wang: It’s been great! Sophomore year’s well on its way and I have a lot of things on my plate, but I’m managing well and having a lot of fun.

J: Let’s start from your time as a high school student and then go on from there – what were some of your biggest accomplishments in high school?

A: I started science fair in grade 8 when I did a project on hydrogen fuel cells – it was my first time experimenting and so I didn’t do very well, but I thought it was a very interesting and valuable experience. Then, in grade 9, I took upon the project that occupied me for most of my high school years: using bacterial for waste-to-electricity conversion.

My first success was in grade 10, at the Canada Wide Science Fair (CWSF). It was such an incredible experience because I met bright individuals all across Canada and it inspired me to expand and move further my research. I then went on to attend CWSF again the next year, as well as the BioGENIUS Challenge and ISEF.

J: What was the inspiration for your project?

A: Ah, that’s an interesting question. When you’re looking at all these incredible projects at CWSF, ISEF, etc., they all started with baby steps. Going back to my grade 8 project on hydrogen fuel cells, my primary inspiration came from a hydrogen fuel cell car set that one of my teachers had in her classroom. I thought it was really cool and used it as a starting point for my science fair project in grade 8. Then, in grade 9, while researching hydrogen fuel cells, I came across these microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that used bacteria to generate electricity. They really intrigued me and got me thinking, so I ended up building an MFC of my own and produced some very interesting results. I later contacted UBC with my idea, and they gave me an opportunity to go into the lab and do research and experimentation on my own; after that, it kind of just took off from there. It’s all really just been a culmination of small inspirations along the way – I kept on asking questions and striving to answer them, and eventually I arrived at the project that I took to ISEF.

J: Wow, that’s amazing! How has this all helped you reach where you are now?

A: Throughout all my science-related experiences, I’ve developed so many different skillsets – science, and research in particular, forces you to be resourceful and independent. It forces you to learn on your own, ask questions based on what you’re doing, find your own mentor, etc.

J: In your opinion, what parts of your project brought out its novelty and led you to ultimately win ISEF 2016?

A: In my work with microbial fuel cells, I tried to take a different approach from others. Right now, the general focus is on finding how to improve these MFCS and how can we get more electricity out of these fuel cells. Most of the current research tends towards trying to find new materials to increase the efficiency of the cell itself, but better materials are often very expensive – when you ultimately put these MCFs into practical use, large scale production entails a whole lot of costs along the way. On the other hand, my approach aims to improve the bacteria that is used rather than the cell itself. The good thing about bacteria is that they multiply, and so if we’re able to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the bacteria themselves, they’re able to replicate and produce results with relatively little resource expenditure on our part.

J: And you’re the first person to come up with and really develop that idea?

A: Yep!

J: Any tips for aspiring young scientists?

A: The most important thing for me, I think, is that you really have to believe that you can do it. It’s cliché that you hear a million times, but it’s true. A big inspiration for me when I was in grade 8 or 9 – I can’t remember exactly – was a girl in grade 12 from my school. I came from a public school where there weren’t many resources there to support our projects, so I never really envisioned much success for myself back then. But, I saw this girl from my school, and she was winning all these awards, even at the Canada Wide Science Fair! She was someone that I could just ordinarily see in the hallways everyday, and I thought, if she could do it, I could do it too.

And, do you know Raymond Wang? We went to CWSF together and became very good friends. The following year, he won ISEF! Up until that point, ISEF was super distant for me – it was another step up from Canada Wide. It was something humanly achievable, but so out of reach. Then, Raymond wins ISEF and that was when I started to believe that it’s actually possible for me. I knew him well, and having someone right there who had achieved such a feat helped me realize that with determination and hard work, I could do it too.

J: Man, that’s awesome!

A: Haha. I love this quote, I think it’s a Navy Seals quote: “When you think you’re done, you’re really only 40% done”. The only thing that truly limits you is yourself. So, in terms of advice for everyone, believe in yourself but also help yourself believe in yourself. Go out and meet others like you, and realize that they’re all just human, and that you can achieve whatever you set out to achieve.

J: So, how did you go from winning the largest international high school science fair in the world with a biotech project to now majoring in Computer Science?

A: Well, right now I am minoring in bioinformatics, so I’m still quite involved in that area. But to be honest with you, I was not expecting to major in computer science until I got to Princeton. I actually had never coded until I got here! I took a coding class at Princeton, though, and really enjoyed it. College is a great time to explore and find out what you want to do, and that’s certainly been very true for me.

J: At Princeton, are you continuing your research with microbial fuel cells?

A: Every time I come back to Vancouver, I go to UBC and work on it. I can’t really let go of the project, because there’s still more to be done! At Princeton, though, I try to explore other things.

J: Has your perspective on education, and in a broader sense life in general, changed since starting at Princeton?

A: Great question! At Princeton, I’ve met a lot of fantastic people who are all trying to do a lot of incredible things with their lives. It’s amazing to see so many people who are so dedicated to what they’re doing! I guess this isn’t specific to Princeton, but for me it’s really galvanized and inspired me to do the best I can do and leave my own mark.

J: Have you given any thought to what you’d like to do career-wise, or after undergrad in general?

A: I’m relatively undecided – but, I definitely have a lot of time, and this point in my life is a great time to explore, find new things, and figure things out as I go.

J: Alright, that’s about it from me. Thanks so much Austin!

A: My pleasure! Best of luck.

 

 

*Picture from ISEF 2016

13Aug/17

Milk has been found in the sea!

“Sudden pale, milky, glowing waters”; this is how sailors of yore in the 90’s used to describe the phenomenon. Although the tales might date further back in time than we know, modern scientists are still looking into the mysterious subject, having discovered interesting aspects in the last decade. Furthermore, the first satellite discovery of this phenomenon was reported just a bit over a decade, in 2005, where a report was published by the Naval Research Laboratory’s Marine Meteorology Division (NRL) in Monterey, California.

Going back in the 17th century, the so-called “milky seas” were thought to be purely linked to uncertainties of human perception and maritime folklore. Nowadays, although the specific cause of this mysterious activity remains unknown, we know that the milky seas can be so large and luminous that they are visible from space. The NRL wrote that the phenomenon explained in their paper has been detected by the Operational Linescan System (OLS) instrument, which was designed primarily to monitor global cloudiness under both solar and lunar illumination. Curiously enough, in 2005, OLS was able to detect bioluminescence for the first time, with no reports of a precedent. Enhancement of the OLS imagery revealed a massive region of low-level light emission, which lasted for three whole nights.

So what do the milky seas look like? Although the light is usually described as white (hence the “milky”), it is in fact blue. The human night-time vision perceives it as white, and the rod photoreceptors are not able to distinguish the colours. Continuing on the aspect of this phenomenon, a closer look gets us to the question: what really makes the colour so luminescent? Trillions and trillions of bacteria gather around and glow with a continuous light if under ideal conditions. One luminous bacteria that transforms chemical energy into light energy and that is thought to be responsible for this phenomenon is Vibrio harveyi. What still intrigues the scientists today is the fact that bacteria would need to reach very high concentrations in order to accumulate the chemical that induces light production. Moreover, these high concentrations would not tend to occur in natural conditions, such as in the sea. The mystery digs up deeper into the biology of this phenomenon, but since these events occur rarely and within a limited geographic range, we can assume that the bloom of bacteria can be triggered by special circumstances.

Although the luminous waters have a long, elusive background, there only have been 235 documented sighting since 1915, mainly concentrated in the Indian Ocean and around Indonesia. Slowly but steadily, we are starting to discover more about the deep waters and their mysteries. There is no prediction in regards to what the next breakthrough might look like for these strange phenomena, but properly equipped research vessels and low-light detectors on satellite systems are the main focus areas for further scientific development. Meanwhile, let’s all acknowledge the contribution made in 1870’s about the milky seas: Jules Verne’s very “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea” novel. His explanation of the “large extent of white wavelets” and all of his scientific mentionings coincide with the current findings. Coincidentally or not, even more strange is the fact that both the NRL observations and Verne’s observations take place on January 27th, more than 100 years apart.

The mystery continues… but there is no actual milk found in the sea.

 

Written by Alexandra Caramizaru

Edited by Yoo Jin Bae

 

 

 

Works Cited

http://biolum.eemb.ucsb.edu/organism/milkysea.html

Miller, S.D., S.H.D. Haddock, C.D. Elvidge, T.F. Lee. (2005) Detection of a bioluminescent milky sea from space. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 102:14181-14184.

https://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2005/nrl-scientists-detect-milky-seaphenomena

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3760124.stm

19Mar/17

The Mandela Effect

You could’ve sworn that it was ‘Berenstein Bears’! You grew up on those books, there is no way you could have gotten it wrong! Alas, your brain tricked you; the title of the famous children’s book in question is actually spelled, ‘Berenstain Bears’.

Several other instances of this have occurred throughout the past decade, for example, the namesake of this effect, Nelson Mandela’s death. In 2010, author Fiona Broome launched a website, coining the phenomenon the “Mandela Effect” after discovering that she shared a misconception with several others that Mandela had died in prison in the 1980s… Turns out he died in 2013.

What’s odd about this phenomenon is that countless people share the same misconceptions. Normal false memories occur often; perhaps you’re certain you placed your keys on the hook, but you really left them on the table. The Mandela Effect, however, is a false memory shared with a large number of people who have virtually no connection or similar emotional factors. What drives these people to miss-remember something so identically? Scientists aren’t sure, in fact, there’s very much speculation and very little fact on this phenomenon. Science-fiction lovers had looked towards parallel universes and alternate dimensions to explain these mass false memories. Perhaps in another 4 dimensional plane in which we grew up, the famous air freshener brand is spelled “Febreeze” and that’s why we all have that incorrect spelling committed to memory. Some other potential explanations are borrowed from Star Trek (as sci-fi theories always are), such as the Holodeck ‘theory’, as well as the possible attribution of the effect on a “glitch in the matrix.”

For those who lean more towards the science side, rather than the fiction side, a leading psychological theory does exist:

Through a miniature-scaled experiment conducted at Ecole Panorama Ridge Secondary, it was discovered that the “Mandela Effect” phenomenons that tricked people more often were those that involved misspellings. The ‘Berenstain Bears’ had stumped three quarters of those surveyed, and the air freshener ‘Febreze’ had tricked a whopping 90% (all of whom spelled it ‘Febreeze’) of those surveyed. The TV cartoon ‘Looney Tunes’ also had three quarters of those surveyed spelling it ‘Looney Toons’. Of course, there is also the famous line from the Star Wars franchise. Almost everyone surveyed recalled Anakin Skywalker saying, “Luke, I am your father,” rather than the real line, “No, I am your father.” Meanwhile, famous logos such as that of ‘Chevron’ (blue is on top, not red), and of ‘Froot Loops’ were either easier for people to recognise the correct logo, or had people more evenly divided in opinion.

This experiment, along with several others, suggests a pattern to the effect. First and foremost, memory is fallible. We make mistakes in details all the time, especially when things seem to make more sense to us in a certain, distorted manner. The theory that memory is constructive, and not reproductive says that the brain creates memories by piecing together information, as opposed to the ‘watching a movie’ feeling. That being said, our memories would be distorted by bias, association, imagination, peer pressure, etc. This same theory also suggests that, for example, in the case of the ‘Berenstain Bears’, we are confused due to being more familiar with names ending with ‘-stein’ rather than ‘-stain’ and therefore conclude incorrectly that it is spelled ‘Berenstein’. Similarly, ‘Looney Toons’ seems to make more sense to us, as it is a ‘toon, and the air freshener is misspelled ‘Febreeze’ because we associate it with the word ‘breeze’.

In terms of bias, the line, “Luke, I am your father,” has been written countless times on the internet, and it makes sense, as Anakin really is Luke’s father, so we end up remembering the line (with whole Darth Vader voice) incorrectly.

Meanwhile, ‘Chevron’ is much more visually memory-based, and most people just have no idea whether it’s blue or red on top and ended up guessing. The ‘Froot Loops’ logo is somewhat of an anomaly. It should make more sense to be spelled ‘Fruit Loops’ and yet many people easily recognized that the photo, doctored to show ‘Fruit’ instead of ‘Froot’, was not the correct logo.

Most importantly, the theory suggests that the incorrect memory of Nelson Mandela’s death in many people is created due to the synthesizing of separate pieces of information. We know that Mandela was imprisoned in the 1980s, and we know that he is now dead. We’ve heard of many people dying in prisons, and we make that connection; to us, it makes sense that Mandela died in prison in the 1980s.

It is possible that we will never reach a conclusion as to why large masses of people remember things wrong in the same way, but we can guess pretty well. While the subject may be getting harder to collect accurate results for, due to its surging coverage on media, new instances of the ‘Mandela Effect’ occur all the time, and all that speculation can perhaps lead us to an answer… or to an alternate universe. For now, you can blow the minds of your friends by showing them these phenomenons and see if they fall for the ‘Mandela Effect’ too.

 

Written by Reina Li

Edited by Alexandra Caramizaru

 

Works Cited

Aamodt, Caitlin. “Collective False Memories: What’s Behind the ‘Mandela Effect’?” Discover Magazine. Aeon, 16 Feb. 2017.

Broome, Author Fiona. “Alternate Memories.” Mandela Effect. N.p., n.d.

“Debunking Mandela Effects.” Debunking Mandela Effects. N.p., n.d.

Emery, David. “The Mandela Effect.” Snopes.com. N.p., 24 July 2016.

McPherson, Douglas. “Are You Living in an Alternate Reality? Welcome to the Wacky World of the ‘Mandela Effect’.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 20 Sept. 2016.

27Feb/17

Best of Consumer Electronics Show 2017

Do you ever wonder how technology evolves from year to year, or how ubiquitous devices might look in the near future? We here at Scope certainly do, which is why we’ve brought back our overview of CES. Here are the highlights of the annual “Consumer Electronics Show” which is held each January in Las Vegas.

Last year, the tech show presented baffling innovations, from proof-of-concepts such as the Ehang octocopter to market-ready products like the Sensorwake. CES 2017, the show’s 50th anniversary, gave us a closer look into new technologies that have developed over the past year. We’ve gathered the most notable gadgets of CES this year, so let’s take a look at their potential impacts.

First up is the home appliances sector. While we may not expect much innovation for menial items, the tech industry has astounded us again and again with products we didn’t know we needed. The Kuri, from Mayfield Robotics, is certainly such a product. As a cute, heartwarming robot that looks like a curious mash of Star War’s R2D2 and Wall-E’s Eva, it serves as an all-in-one home assistant and “security guard”. Acting as a 1080p mobile security camera for those who are often away from home, it also features 2 powerful speakers, Wifi, and Bluetooth connectivity which can be used to stream music or read a bedtime story to the kids. In its 50cm frame, there is also a plethora of sensors that allow it to effectively navigate the typical living room. In addition to its mobile and flexible capabilities, it takes human interaction to the next level. Forget about talking to the Amazon Echo or Cortana on your computer, because Kuri’s intelligent response system utilizes a variety of head and “facial” movements that beeps and bops that makes conversation easy and natural. With Kuri and artificial intelligence systems rapidly on the rise, robot home assistants could be commonplace within the next decade.

Next are the popular user electronics, of which there were many standouts this year. Most notable was the French company “Theory”, which rolled into the show with the “VR Hypersuit”. This is a prototype Virtual Reality peripheral, a device that pairs with a VR headset to create a more realistic experience. What sets it apart is its size and ambition; it’s a functional horizontal exoskeleton that, when paired with an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, gives the user a feeling akin to flying in the air, or even swimming deep underwater. With moving arms connected to a body-length platform and even a fan with adjustable speeds (much like in a 4D movie), the Hypersuit fully immerses the user and lends an unparalleled reality to experiences like deep water diving, bungee jumping, or soaring through the clouds.

Finally, the vehicle show this year did not disappoint. Honda unveiled a Ride-Assist motorcycle that demonstrates both self-balancing and self-driving features. Not only can it balance itself at low speeds, which is a common problem with cyclists, but it can also follow its owner in places where riding on the motorcycle would be inconvenient. Why is Honda’s new innovation relevant? Well, think big! Even humans have trouble balancing on one leg, and it is a feat of programming and engineering in and of itself to have a motorcycle that can balance with no physical support to its left and right. Even if Honda’s Ride Assist motorcycle never makes it past the back of our minds, it is a testimony of the robust advancement of current technology.

Although CES 2017 is now over, its innovation continues. Every day, businesses both big and small are at work to bring us the best products and inventions. Some may be disappointing while others may soon fade into the background, but those that do persist will undeniably go on to define the way we live our lives. And though we won’t go to bed today with a friendly robot assistant patrolling our living rooms, we can certainly go to sleep easily with the knowledge that somewhere in the world, someone is making that possible for tomorrow.

For the gadgets of CES 2016, read last year’s article.

By Jerry Jiao

Edited by Sarah Ng

08Feb/17

Energy From Algae

As our world becomes increasingly industrialized and the less economically developed countries are racing through the conventional stages of development, our consumption of energy has skyrocketed. We have yet to put a lid on population growth, and in the meantime we have been scrambling to discover new sources of energy. Our crude oil reserves are speculated to be drained by 2052, and even when the greenhouse gas emissions that comes with burning carbon is disregarded, the use of coal will only last us to 2088. Nevertheless, there still is hope; companies and governments worldwide are funding efforts towards a fairly new source of oil-based fuel – algal biofuel.

        The hope resting on these photosynthetic organisms is high – although still a ways from large-scale commercial use, there is increasing incentive to exploit algae as an energy source. Algal biofuel stands as a more efficient and ethical alternative to food-crop biofuels, such as from corn and sugarcane. After all, with malnutrition and starvation rampant in the world, do we have the right to make fuel from food? Algal fuel circumvents that problem – algae farms are compact and highly efficient, known to yield up to 100 times more fuel than other biofuels. Easy to grow with mainly water and light, algae can even be cultivated successfully in polluted run-off water, minimizing the impact on freshwater supply. Algae can filter the water as they soak up nutrients, and also absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they photosynthesize. Of course, algal fuel also releases carbon dioxide when it is burnt to be used, but only as much as the algae fixed during its growth – this means that the balance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is maintained! And all this is without the hazard and environmental consequences that come with hydro-electric or nuclear power.

        The extraction process determines the type of fuel that will be refined from the algae – lipids (fats and oils) are converted into biodiesels, while the carbohydrates undergo fermentation into bioethanol or butanol fuel. Currently, the main procedures used are dehydration and processing via chemical reactions to extract lipids, and hydrothermal liquefaction, where the algae are subjected to high temperature and pressure to yield crude oil. Here lies the main set-back of this technology– the cost of refinement is higher than the price of the fuel it yields, and this prevents its large-scale commercial production. Hopefully the research efforts going into the extraction of algal fuels will present a new and more cost-efficient method that will allow the phasing out of fossil fuels. Researchers are continually looking to find more efficient species of algae and bio-engineering species to increase fuel production and ease of extraction.

        Companies such as Solazyme, Sapphire Energy, and Algenol have already begun to produce and sell algal biofuel, and government-funded projects are hard at work to make it a viable energy source. It is possible that within the next few decades the gasoline in our cars and jet fuel in our planes will be extracted from tiny micro-organisms fixing carbon dioxide for our atmosphere and purifying our waste water. So the next time you take a dip in the ocean or a lake, give a shout-out to the small green creatures swirling around you – they may just be the foundation for future civilization!

Works Cited:

https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/our-green-energy/energy-independence/the-end-of-fossil-fuels

https://energy.gov/eere/bioenergy/algal-biofuels

http://www.nrel.gov/bioenergy/algal-biofuels.html

 

Written by Sarah Ng

Edited by Yoo Jin Bae

21Jan/17

The Mozart Effect… On Babies?

Admit it. When you find yourself in situations where you have absolutely no clue what the person in front of you is talking about, you feel ashamed. You feel unknowledgeable, and you wish you could have learned more things beforehand. As such, for very good reasons, most of us aren’t satisfied with an average level of intelligence.

Essentially, science has been trying to integrate research concerning human intelligence, its inheritance, and its evolution within the study of psychology for many years now. However, with each published study, new questions only arise at a hastening rate. Did a small light bulb just flicker in your head? Very unlikely it was the correlation between intelligence and classical music that triggered your interest just now. Nonetheless, all prospective explanations may be logically considered as the reasoning behind your newfound engrossment. We all want to be a bit “smarter”, after all, and humans, too, are subjects of natural selection. It’s no surprise that we want to produce more, stronger, and brainier offspring with each passing generation. But is this reliance on the genetic lottery of chromosomal recombination open to manipulation and change? Is there anything that we can do to increase the likelihood of bearing an intelligent child?

Countless studies have shown that in order to have a considerable impact over a baby’s intellectual dexterity, the parents of said child should take action as early as the prenatal stages of its development. In 1933, a group of scientists from the University of California at Irvine depicted the Mozart Effect as a temporary increase in cognitive activity in a group of test subjects. The study, however, was not conducted on young children at all – contrarily, this experiment was done with college students! Despite this, the notion that classical music would be especially beneficial for babies was actually born out of this very study. Since then, thanks to populist media stories and politically-affiliated assumptions made by the public, unrealistic expectations in regards to the effect of classical music on babies have become increasingly widespread. For instance, the Governor of Georgia once mandated that every newborn that leaves a hospital in his state will do so with a classic music CD. Although this ruling certainly raised questions, no significant resistance to it ever arose.

As controversy heightened, in July of 1999, a paper released in an issue of the journal Psychological Sciences titled “The Mystery of the Mozart Effect: Failure to Replicate” was published by Kenneth M. Steele, Karen E. Bass, and Melissa D. Cook. Opening the study with an open mind, the three researchers decided to attempt a replication of the Mozart Effect. This resulted in the debunking of the UC Irvine study by proving the efficacy of this concept in a differently-tested environment. Due to an apparent lack of consistency, the Mozart Effect became less and less believable recently.

Despite the extensive amount of research carried out on the human brain, to this day we know little about its true capacity. At this stage, it would be impossible to conduct reliable research on the various factors that might influence the brain and its development. However, on a positive note, we do know a number of ways in which you can train your brain! Various in-depth studies have shown that engaging with music, be it by playing, learning, or teaching, will boost some of the chemistry working up there. So next time you stare blankly at a speaker, consciously being aware that you should know this already, let down those earbuds, close the Spotify app, and plant your fingers on the keys of the nearest piano instead. Who knows, you might even be the next Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!

 

By Alexandra Caramizaru

 

Works Cited: 

http://pss.sagepub.com/content/10/4.toc

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130107-can-mozart-boost-brainpower

http://www.babycenter.com/0_the-mozart-effect-classical-music-and-your-babys-brain_9308.bc

16Nov/16

EmTech MIT 2016

It’s common knowledge nowadays that technology is growing and taking leaps faster than ever before, and many of us experience the impact of new inventions and breakthroughs first hand. Very few of us, however, are in touch with the jumps that either take place behind the scenes or are not a part of our daily lives – new algorithms, machine learning, and space exploration, to name a few. This is where EmTech comes in. EmTech is the MIT Technology Review’s annual flagship conference which brings together individuals ranging from entrepreneurs to humanitarians. It gives people like us an insight into the progress that has been made and a view of the ongoing projects that can one day potentially change the world.

Unlike conventional tech shows, EmTech places an emphasis on ground-breaking research that may not make it to the living room or the average palm, but the potential impact of which is just as significant, if not more so. Here at Scope we’ve selected a few of the most notable technologies that popped up at EmTech; take a look, and perhaps you’ll recognize some!

Continue reading

26Jun/16

Music that Improves Brain Function

       Many people will admit that they cannot live without music. The importance of music is not a matter to disregard—this form of art has been in existence for centuries and continues to become more accessible to us. It can have a profound effect on our moods; making us happy, sad, or even angry. Adam Hewett and Junaid Kalmadi are aware of music’s ability to have a profound effect on our psyche. This why they founded brain.fm, a program which aims to conduct music that does more than just entertain the listener.

Continue reading