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!

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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.

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07Jun/16

The Topography of Tears

       Did you know that the tears rolling your cheeks after watching The Notebook have a different structure than those that you have after laughing so hard? This is not a fact many people ponder except for Rose-Flynn Fisher. Fisher is a photographer whose work explores the continuity between the grand and miniscule in both aerial and microscopic views. Fisher’s work has been presented in galleries and museums of art, science, and natural history all over the world. She named her most recent project “Topography of Tears”. It is a study of tear samples, her own and others’, that have been viewed through an optical microscope and photographed with a specialized microscopy camera. After inspecting the structure of one tear sample, Rose-Flynn began to wonder “if a tear of grief [would] look any different than a tear of joy”. Her curiosity led her to launching a multi-year project which consisted of the photographer collecting, examining and photographing more than 100 tears from both herself and many other volunteers, including a newborn baby.

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27May/16

Right In Midair

       In news feeds and online media today, we constantly see and hear of new and profound technology. Some are astounding, others irrelevant; for this one, we’ll let you be the judge. Harvard has just created a 3D printing technology that can, quite literally, print things in midair! This extension to 3D printing is still new and being improved, but has the definite potential to revolutionize a number of industries – up until now, we’ve never seen anything like it.

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