Video Games: Health Boon or Bust?

Row Of Video Games

I, like most other people my age, like to play video games. I can easily lose myself for hours on end in virtual worlds. I’m not alone either; games such as Minecraft are played by millions of people of all ages all around the world. In fact, from 2016 to 2020, it is estimated that gamers collectively spent a total of more than 68 million years playing Minecraft — and that’s just a single video game out of tens of thousands played each year. While that might sound like an unimaginable amount of time to spend playing a video game, it’s not at all surprising to me. Minecraft is especially fun to me because of all the creativity that I can use to build amazing structures and environments. I even get to interact with friends online, so I can spend time in these incredible places building palaces and surreal structures with my close friends. Sometimes I even get to make new friends this way. Despite the benefits I’ve found playing video games, many people still think that video games are bad for you for numerous reasons. So, the question is: what does the research reveal? Are video games good or bad for us? 

 

Depression, Anxiety and other Psychological Issues

One of the major worries that people have concerning video games is that they can cause depression and anxiety. Numerous studies actually show this to be true. For example, an opinion piece from the Georgia State Signal points out that, 

A comprehensive study from the Journal of Health Psychology shows that gaming disorders are linked to greater levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, social problems and many other psychological-social problems.

On the other hand, Webmd cites other sources which show that video games actually distract and help people deal with depression, anxiety, or PTSD.

Video games can act as distractions from pain and psychological trauma. Video games can also help 

Woman And Virtual Reality

people who are dealing with mental disorders like anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There is research supporting both arguments, so it really comes down to the individual gamer and their particular circumstances. 

 

Video Games and Violence

The argument for individual circumstances and personality is also the central factor behind the connection between video games and violence.  I’m sure there are even many readers of this article who think that video games cause violence. Video games such as Grand Theft Auto are often accused of being too violent, affecting the player’s brain in ways that lead to violent behavior in real life. Studies have shown that this is not the case. Apa.org, points out that

Recent research has shown that as video games have become more popular, children in the United States and Europe are having fewer behavior problems, are less violent and score better on standardized tests. Violent video games have not created the generation of problem youth so often feared.

With this in mind, many will wonder: what about all of the people who got in trouble and blamed video game violence as the source of their behavior? Well, it’s more about the personality of the player rather than the game. Harvard Health says that,

Two psychologists, Dr. Patrick Markey of Villanova University and Dr. Charlotte Markey of Rutgers University, have presented evidence that some children may become more aggressive as a result of watching and playing violent video games, but that most are not affected. After reviewing the research, they concluded that the combination of three personality traits might be most likely to make an individual act and think aggressively after playing a violent video game. The three traits they identified were high neuroticism (prone to anger and depression, highly emotional, and easily upset), disagreeableness (cold, indifferent to other people), and low levels of conscientiousness (prone to acting without thinking, failing to deliver on promises, breaking rules).

Just like with loneliness and depression, games themselves are never the sole cause of problems. For example, I have personally played many violent video games, and I’m certainly not a violent person. While it might be true that violent video games can make an already violent person more violent, it does not appear to be the case that video games specifically cause violence. 

 

Playing Video GamesBottom Line: Video Games are Good for You

If video games aren’t bad for you, then are they good for you? Well, in fact, yes! Video games can benefit players in a multitude of ways, including and not limited to improvement in:

  • memory
  • spatial visualization
  • mood
  • social skills
  • perception
  • physical fitness
  • decision making
  • youthfulness
  • problem solving skills
  • curiosity

As a specific example, studies have shown that fast paced games can help you make quick decisions

Fast-paced video games like Need For Speed or Call of Duty require you to stay on your toes and make decisions quickly. These energizing action games can also improve your ability to make game-time decisions in real life.

In terms of benefit to motor function, Psychologicalscience.org says that:

Playing action-based video games may boost players’ ability to coordinate incoming visual information with their motor control, a skill critical to many real-world behaviors including driving, new research shows. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

For improvements to general psychology, Webmd explains that:

When you fail in a game or in other situations, it can be frustrating. Video games help people learn how to cope with failure and keep trying. This is an important tool for children to learn and use as they get older.

For stress relief, Verywellmind.com says that:

Really, any game that you truly enjoy can be a stress reliever. Virtually any game that you find to be truly fun can be beneficial by providing an escape from daily stress, a break from patterns of rumination, or a way to build positive feelings.

For improvements to intelligence, Webmd says that:

Video games often make you think. When you play video games, almost every part of your brain is working to help you achieve higher-level thinking. Depending on the complexity of the game, you may have to think, strategize, and analyze quickly. Playing video games works with deeper parts of your brain that improve development and critical thinking skills.

And finally for sociability, Levelskip.com says that:

Most gamers (over 70%) play video games with one or more of their friends. Gamers who play video games with friends may play either cooperatively (where two or more players work together to achieve the goal of the game)

 

The Best Video Games for You to Play

If all games are good, what are the best games? Well, I might be biased, of course, but the famous Minecraft is an amazing game to play. It can teach you how to be creative with your buildings. There are all sorts of blocks and different colors to build with. From idtech.com, they explain:

Minecraft is educational because it enhances creativity, problem-solving, self-direction, collaboration, and other life skills.

Other first person shooter games, such as Call of Duty, are also good games to play. Even though they can show blood, it makes children quickly move around so that they can get fast reflexes, as there are always enemy combatants working against you. Polygon.com says that

A growing body of research indicates that playing first-person action games, particularly shooters, improves brain function such as cognitive abilities and learning skills — changes that have real-life applications, reports Scientific American Mind.

If those games don’t interest you, there are thousands of others to choose from. CheckPoint offers numerous video gaming titles for you to try, and even splits them up by what aspect of health they are best for. Some of my personal favorites include:

  • Bound
  • Florence
  • Destiny 2
  • Hollow Knight
  • Persona 5
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Video Games and Disabled Players

Something else to consider is how video games provide an amazing outlet for disabled players to be themselves and live a life liberated from the difficulties they face in the real world. People with disabilities are usually treated very badly and are sometimes even seen as outcasts. In video games, they don’t have to be outcasts anymore! Since no one can see them, they can be themselves without worrying about being judged, allowing them to have as much fun as other players while they are playing! Disabled players actually make up a large part of the gaming community. According to Polygon.com

…20 percent of gamers have some form of disability — not including the eight percent of men who are colorblind or the 14 percent of adults who have a low reading age, and also not including the many temporary impairments, such as broken arms, sleeping babies or bumpy public transport, that most people face at one point or another… 

It is vital that disabled players are afforded numerous outlets of accessibility in games so that they continue playing the games they love and improving their health while they’re at it!

 

In Conclusion

Video games are able to help with real life functions of the human body and mind. Best of all, they invite all types of players, even those who are normally unable to participate in activities that are normally considered beneficial, like sports. Whether or not video games are good for you, we can all agree that they are fun, at the very least. So, pick up your favorite game, and go have some fun! In the meantime, I’ll be playing Minecraft. 

See you online!

Glow in the Dark Wounds

The Civil War was an extremely violent period of American history, and soldiers from both the North and South faced terrible violence and painful situations. There were many wounds and casualties during the war, some of the worst and most grotesque in all of American history. Even the lucky ones who survived had many serious wounds and injuries that continued to affect them for the rest of their lives. 

One day, during the battle of Shiloh, something extremely surprising occurred. The soldiers from the North and South were at a standstill, and they ended up sitting in mud and rain for two whole days. Even soldiers with serious, open wounds had no choice but to sit in the mud, which allowed bacteria and eventually infection to begin attacking their bodies. While normally the infections would simply lead to amputations or even death, at Shiloh, the soldiers’ wounds, filled with dirt and detritus, began to glow. . This glow was named the “Angels Glow.”

When the doctors treated them, they had never experienced anything like it. It was already strange to see glowing wounds, but what’s more, the wounds healed faster because of a bacteria called Photorhabdus Luminescens. This species of bacteria was found in parasites, plants, animals, and insects. The P. Luminescens bacteria would release bioluminescent toxins to kill other parasites and bacteria it was competing with, keeping the wounds of the soldiers cleaner and healthier since there was relatively less bacteria to infect them.  

So, why don’t we see this happening more often? While it can’t be proven exactly where this species of bacteria came from during the battle of Shiloh, researchers think that the soldiers probably got the bacteria from insects that were in the dirt of the battleground during the war. The insects may have regurgitated on the soldiers wounds, hoping to use their flesh to eat or breed. This regurgitation on the wounds may have left a scent, which possibly could have attracted the glowing bacteria. So, researchers thought that  when  the insects threw up,  the bacteria probably went into the wounds to get to the nutrients of the barf. Little did the bacteria know that this would actually lead to more rapid healing for the soldiers. 

The men who got the bacteria experienced their wounds healing a lot faster than normal, and in the dark, they would glow. They healed faster because, according to iflscience, the bacteria that was in the soldiers’ wounds fought off the bacteria that was harmful, causing them to be safe and heal quicker. 

…it’s possible that the Angels Glow reported by Civil War doctors and soldiers may have been a bacterial species simultaneously fighting off infection and preventing the rotting of wounds until doctors could arrive, all whilst glowing to demonstrate their otherworldly healing.

In 2001, the bacteria was actually isolated and discovered by a man named Bill Martin. One day, he was out in the battlefield of Shiloh and heard about the Angel’s Glow. He wanted to do research about it. His mom was a microbiologist who studied soil and he decided to find out how it helped the soldiers’ wounds. Bill and his research partners soon figured out that there were actually worms that had a very bright blue color and that bacteria living in the worms, the same Photorhabdus Lluminescens I mentioned before, could fight off other bacteria that did harm. Bill succeeded in discovering where exactly this bacteria came from, but there are still many mysteries to solve. 

The Shiloh soldiers experienced something that no one has ever experienced before. Even though BIll  found out about the worms, people still do not know the full explanation of where the worms live most often, or if they can be used in a laboratory or medical setting. Maybe in the future the glowing worms and their associated bacteria will become a specific type of medicine that people can use to help with the healing process. 

What is in the Covid Vaccines?

Army Col. Sean Dooley, a doctor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, receives a COVID-19 vaccination, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

 

For many people around the world, this has been an exceptionally frightening year. From the first indications of a new virus emerging in China, to the slow trickle of reports as it arrived in countries around the world, and finally the lockdowns, sicknesses, and deaths that became daily news as the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the globe. Many of us have lost ones we loved, our jobs, or our sanity as the days go by and our lives continue to be disrupted by this new virus. 

As the end of the year approached, two vaccines appeared that promised to help end the suffering and finally get this disease under control. But to many, this seemed like it had to be rushed. Adding to that uncertainty, the average person doesn’t have the education to understand what is in these vaccines that they were suddenly being asked to trust. Conspiracy theories abounded and distrust swelled, threatening to upend the vaccination program.

Both vaccines have been proven safe and highly effective in large trials, and have already been given to tens of millions of people! Even so, as a healthcare provider, I know the importance of what is referred to as “informed consent.” It means that it is your responsibility to educate your patient to a level where their agreeing to a treatment is based on generally knowing what is being done to them, including the risks they face by allowing that treatment to go forward. I believe that the ingredients within the two emergency approved vaccines should be readily available, and there should be a basic explanation of what those ingredients are. 

The Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 has been scary enough; the ingredients within the vaccines don’t have to be as well. What follows is a very simplified breakdown of the ingredients within the first two vaccines to receive Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA: the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine:

 

Simple ingredient list of both vaccines:

  • mRNA – The active ingredient
  • Lipids, a different word for fats
  • Salts
  • Sugar

 

Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a single-stranded RNA molecule that is complementary to one of the DNA strands of a gene. The mRNA is an RNA version of the gene that leaves the cell nucleus and moves to the cytoplasm where proteins are made. During protein synthesis, an organelle called a ribosome moves along the mRNA, reads its base sequence, and uses the genetic code to translate each three-base triplet, or codon, into its corresponding amino acid.
https://www.genome.gov/

Further Breakdown

  1. Messenger-RNA

The messenger ribo-nucleic acid (mRNA) is the true active ingredient of the vaccine.  Our body makes, uses, and then breaks down natural mRNA constantly in order to function. Think of it as a copied set of instructions that takes information from our DNA and brings it to the parts of our body where we make stuff (amino acids and eventually proteins) necessary for our survival. 

In the vaccine, scientists made a synthetic copy of these instructions that allow our body to temporarily produce a single part of the virus known as the spike protein, which is harmless on its own. Our bodies then develop an immunity against the coronavirus by identifying and building defenses against the virus from this single part. We then break down this synthetic message and stop producing the spike protein, but our defense against the disease remains. 

To better understand it, think of it like this: when we get the vaccine, we are giving our bodies a fax which allows us to print a mugshot of the virus, which then allows our immune system to know the enemy we are up against in precise detail. 

 

  1. Lipids (Fats) 

These are just pieces of fat that allow our cells to absorb the messenger-RNA so that they can start making the spike proteins for our body to develop immunity. Using the analogy from the previous item in our list, you can think of these fat particles as the fax number that allows the vaccine to send the mugshot to your fax machine. 

 

  1. Salts

These salts allow the vaccine to have the same level of acidity as our bodies, which keeps it from causing harm inside of us when it is injected. The reason why things like battery acid or bleach will harm us is because it doesn’t match our bodies acidity levels, which is why you should never inject either of them! 

 

  1. Sucrose (Sugar)

This is just like the plain old sugar we know and love, except it isn’t put in the vaccine to make it taste sweet. The vaccine has sugar in it to keep all the ingredients from clumping together when it is frozen. 

 

Full Ingredient Lists

**While these may seem to contain names that you don’t understand and that might frighten you, those are all just the scientific names for the fats and salts in the vaccines! For example, Dihydrogen Monoxide sounds very scary, until you realize it’s just the chemical name for water**

 

  • Pfizer-BioNTech: mRNA, lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose.
  • Moderna: mRNA, lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glyceral [DMG], cholesterol and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

 

For more information, check out these links!

https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine

https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/moderna-covid-19-vaccine

https://www.fda.gov/media/144638/download

https://www.fda.gov/media/144414/download#:~:text=The%20Pfizer-BioNTech%20COVID-19%20Vaccine%20includes%20the%20following%20ingredients,),%20potassium%20chloride,%20monobasic%20potassium

https://www.pfizer.com/news/hot-topics/the_facts_about_pfizer_and_biontech_s_covid_19_vaccine

https://www.modernatx.com/covid19vaccine-eua/providers/about-vaccine

https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/12/09/1013538/what-are-the-ingredients-of-pfizers-covid-19-vaccine/

Dyson Spheres and the New Age of Energy

In one week everybody’s life will change. It is the year 3031, and I am the one to finish building the Dyson sphere. I had to finish the algorithm to finally bring the Dyson sphere online. It was unbelievable how Kanye West, our world president, was able to make every government agree to make a Dyson sphere. We had to get everybody’s help to have the materials, money, scientists and sacrifices to build the Dyson sphere. Social media is booming in excitement and anticipation for this event. Global warming is getting out of hand so we know we have to do something about it. In the meantime, Russia, China and the United Countries have come up with the idea to explore other planets. With the energy we acquire from the Dyson sphere, this will be no problem. Also, we will have the energy from the Dyson sphere to develop technology to stop climate change. All the hard work that the world did to make a Dyson sphere will only be complete if I solve the calculation to finally bring it online. Why, do you ask? Well, my name is Cloud Strife, and my mind is capable of processing complex calculations all at once, just like my brothers and sisters, all named Cloud Strife as well. Millions of scientists and professors are trying to help me, but none of them are capable of this level of mathematics. But something incredible has happened: I have found another Dyson sphere using my buster telescope. The bad thing is that there are some sort of beings out there that might be smarter than us. However, at least I found the proper algorithm for the construction of our Dyson sphere using their Dyson sphere. I have the answer now, and in six days, the launch will be all over the news and will be streaming on the Banana Bpad. I can already hear them counting down, preparing to power on the Dyson sphere around our sun, propelling humanity far into the future. I can already hear it, 3…2…1…

 

What Do You Need to Make a Dyson Sphere?

This topic has been discussed at great length by the well known Youtube channel, Kurzgesagt, in a video entitled, “How to Build a Dyson Sphere.” In the video, the author mentions the importance of the design. The Dyson sphere should probably not be a solid shell because a large rigid body like that would be vulnerable to shattering on impact. What would be better is a Dyson swarm which has orbiting panels that collect the sun’s energy for use by all the world’s people. This Dyson swarm would be better at avoiding the impacts of space debris. If each satellite is a square kilometer it would take about thirty quadrillion of them to surround the sun. Even if we do build them, we would need one hundred quintillion tons of material. Then we would need the parts to put that material together around the sun. We also need a permanent infrastructure set up in space to start building. On top of that, to get the energy for the Dyson sphere, we need to go to a planet closer to the sun so we could easily harness and transport the energy. A good option would be mercury. The permanent infrastructure would need four major pieces of technology: solar collectors, miners, refiners and launch equipment. Finally, would need to get the energy from Mercury to the solar panels on the Dyson sphere. Another option is to use the entire planet of Jupiter as a hollow shell after breaking up the gas giant. While this process might sound extreme, it is possible, and is estimated to take about 800 years to create a Dyson swarm this way, according to Freeman Dyson, the creator of the idea. Dyson states that, 

To trap the energy, earthlings could knock apart the planet Jupiter and rearrange it as a hollow ball about 10 feet thick with a diameter twice the size of earth’s orbit. This would take all the energy given off by the sun in 800 years. Such a sphere would be “comfortably habitable.

How will we handle the transition of a Dyson sphere when the sun enters a new state? Well, when the sun dies it would turn into a white dwarf.  According to physicists Ibrahim Semiz and Salim O˘gur at Bo˘gazi¸ci University in Istanbul, Turkey, you can build a Dyson sphere around the white dwarf without even needing the use of artificial gravity technology. But, even though we can build a Dyson sphere around a white dwarf, we won’t get as much energy. We know this because the sun will lose half its mass when it becomes a white dwarf, meaning less energy.

 

Do We Currently Have the Technology to Make a Dyson Sphere and if We Did, How Long Would it Take?

No, the amount of energy and materials we need is way too much for us at the current moment. Even with the technology, there is no estimated time because the growth of our energy and technology in the future is hard to tell. Giving a proper estimate of when we will be able to make a Dyson sphere is nearly impossible. In fact, we don’t even know that future civilizations will even want to make a Dyson sphere; or maybe they will even come up with something better. Also, if we do ever wish to get together enough energy and materials, we would need to collaborate on a global scale, requiring governments to work together. A lot of governments will probably not like the idea of joining together. Another point is that it will be hard to convince the world to build a Dyson sphere at such a high cost of materials and energy since failure would result in a complete loss with no real ability to mitigate the losses. 

 

How Much Energy Would a Dyson Sphere Produce?

By using a Dyson sphere, we would have access to a colossal 400 septillion watts of solar energy. That’s a trillion times more power than what the entire Earth produces today. With this amount of power we could do incredible things, like deconstructing planets by removing parts of the planet to find more energy. We could also power super computers, allowing us to boost our interstellar exploration and space travel. We would also most likely be able to make stellar engines. A stellar engine is a way to move our solar system. We might even be able to travel at light speed because of how much energy we get from the Dyson sphere. This will help us with space travel and space expansion. Another thing we can expand is virtual reality by making it feel more real, meaning you can experience full immersion in virtual reality and meet people or have adventures.  So, now we know that you can make many significant things and change the world from the energy you get from the Dyson sphere. 

 

What Are the Disadvantages of Making a Dyson Sphere?

One disadvantage would probably be asteroids. When you are building the Dyson sphere, one of the satellites might get damaged by an asteroid, which could jeopardize the whole Dyson sphere. This also relates to the problem that you have to waste a lot of energy to make a Dyson sphere and if it fails then it might create problems on Earth due to a shortage of energy. Another disadvantage might be the fact that if you’re blocking the sun or absorbing its energy, it might make the climate colder. Furthermore, the Dyson sphere might absorb too much energy and the whole thing could fail. The last disadvantage would be that humanity would have to come together to decide what to do with all the energy. So, just deciding what to do with the energy could start wars that could kill millions of people. So, now we know that building a Dyson sphere can be beneficial but it can be disastrous too for humanity.

Earth’s Secret Oceans

Earth itself is one of the best secret-keepers known to man. There are countless mysteries under its outer shell, but slowly, scientists are uncovering them. In the past few years, scientists have discovered pockets of water trapped beneath the oceans. Not only this, but they have also found evidence to support the theory of hidden oceans under Earth’s mantle. When I talk about these hidden oceans, I am not saying they are the conventional large body of water. These oceans are much different than the ones you can snorkel and scuba dive in. Right about now, you are probably wondering, “how is it possible? How did they find them? Why did it take so long? Why is this even important?” Finally, scientists are able to answer your questions with real concrete evidence.

This may all seem like a fantasy, but aquifers are now a reality. Aquifers are water-bearing sediments in the oceans, also referred to as water pockets. The reason they are called water pockets instead of ocean pockets is that the waters are two different solidities, two different colors, and two different types. These pockets are not made of Salt water, but rather Fresh water. The pockets were discovered a while ago when a drilling team in search of oil had mistakenly run into them, releasing bits of Fresh water into the sea. Since then, marine biologists have found many more, mainly under the Atlantic ocean. These water pockets are not a few cubic kilometers, but rather 2,800 cubic kilometers. To gain a better perspective, this is nearly equivalent to six Lake Eries. This specific aquifer was found by marine biologists. They perform a technique which uses Electromagnetic(EM) receivers to measure the current in waters. This is applicable in finding Fresh water because it is commonly known that Salt water is a much better conductor than Fresh water. When they notice a fall in current, they know they have found another aquifer. How these pockets were formed is a much deeper question. It is expected this water has been hidden from society since way back during the Pleistocene Ice Age. Our knowledge of aquifers has been around for tens of years, but recently we have taken a deeper interest, which has directly led to our better understanding.

As we continue researching these aquifers, we are slowly realizing how much of a role they may play in our future. It is common knowledge many countries around the globe are suffering from water shortages. According to the World Health Organization (WHO),

Some 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed* drinking water services…

To allow a better understanding, this is roughly one in three people internationally. By 2025, it is expected half of Earth’s population will suffer from the water crisis. The water shortages around the globe are unreasonably harmful as they have also led 4.2 billion humans to lack of sanitation services. Yes, that is more than half of the population. When lacking sanitation, humans are at an exponentially higher risk for countless diseases ranging from Cholera to Diarrhea. Aquifers could very well be the solution to our woes. If Oceanic scientists continue discovering these aquifers, it would be logical to develop a technique in order to properly harness most if not all of this Fresh water. Once we do develop proper technique to harness the water, we move to the desalination step. Yes, yes, I did say it was Fresh water, so it should not need desalination; in this particular scenario, desalination is required. Since the Fresh water has been trapped below or near Salt water for nearly 2.6 million years, Salt water was able to slowly mix in with the Fresh water. This means the Fresh water does have some salt, therefore needs to be desalinated before drinking. Although desalination plants cost a hefty amount of cash, the bright side about this water is there is a much lower amount of salt, meaning the desalination of this water will be for less time and much less money. Aquifers will soon be the driving force in our efforts to reduce the impact of the water crisis.

Although aquifers are relatively old, the theory of oceans under Earth’s mantle is fairly new. The path to this discovery is very odd, but there is a connection. Deep down in Earth’s mantle, Richard Siemens and his research team from the University of Alberta have found diamonds. These are no ordinary diamonds, as they are water-based. When I say water-based, it’s not liquid water trapped in diamonds, but rather the elements which make up water (oxygen and hydrogen), are trapped in diamonds. Due to convection in Earth, where hot magma rises and cool sediment sinks underneath, the water from the diamonds is pulled out and pushed under hot magma. Once the elements are under the magma they begin to warm and bind, resulting in liquid water we are used to seeing. When researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas decided to continue the diamond experiment, they found a very unique set of diamonds containing little bits of a particular type of water, Ice VII, better known as water-ice. Water-ice is a crystalline form of ice formed when water is put above 3 GPa (30,000 atmospheres). Ice VII is important because it fully supports and proves the theory of aqueous pockets under Earth’s mantle.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:15th_MEU_Marines_provide_drinking_water_from_ocean_150307-M-JT438-156.jpgAqueous pockets, unlike aquifers, leave an impact on the past instead of the future. It is the common theory by thousands of scientists that there was a large icy comet that had crashed into Earth, which had later melted and formed oceans. This is the common belief because when Earth was forming, it was most likely too hot for any water molecules to survive and cling to any space dust which would eventually become Earth. The newly found aquifers may finally provide a sustainable contradicting theory. The volume of water under Earth’s mantle is expected to be three times that of the surface water. This is much more water than an icy comet could have ever brought down. This means the water on Earth might have come from somewhere else: aquifers. The new theory of how this water came is a massive earthquake that allowed water to slowly seep through the crust and make up the ocean in the given time frame. Some of the water may have taken a much longer route and seeped through more rock. This is the expected path for Fresh water, as rocks serve as a natural filter. Who would have expected a diamond experiment would lead to the altering of a long-lasting belief in the science community.

For thousands of years, human nature has been to explore. This is precisely what we have done on both these occasions. The water shortage is growing at a large rate, meaning we need to continue finding these aquifers at an even higher rate. Aqueous pockets are still relatively new, but in the near future, progress will come. Both discoveries will take their place in history and mark their icy comet mark on both the past and the future. Earth has previously shown it holds countless secrets, and it is our job to continue uncovering them if development is our goal.

Cancer and the Effects of Radiation

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cancer_cells.jpg

What is Cancer?

The human body is a very intricate and complex design. Keeping it healthy is what we stride and hope for in order to live a longer life. Diseases and pathogens hurt our human body, which ultimately hurts our way of life. One of these diseases is cancer. Cancer is a very dangerous disease that threatens all human bodies. About 10 million people every year die from cancer, making it a leading cause of death. If cancer is this deadly, it’s important to learn about it and how you can get it.

Cancer starts and ends in the human cells. The disease heavily affects these cells and harms the body. In a healthy human body, human cells grow and then divide to form new cells, which is a process called mitosis and meiosis. In a body affected by cancer, however, old cells survive when they should die, and they keep dividing to create more unnecessary cells. These cells are called cancer cells, and they form together to create tumors. There are two different types of tumors: benign and malignant. Benign tumors mean the tumor cannot spread and when it is removed, it will probably not grow back. Benign tumors are easier to handle and sometimes don’t even need to be removed if they aren’t hurting the body. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, can spread to different parts of the body to form new tumors, making it harder to get rid of. 

One deadly trait of cancer is that wherever there are cells, cancer can affect it. This makes virtually every part of the body vulnerable to the disease. Depending on the type of cancer, which usually is named in the location of the body it is in, it hurts the body in different ways. For example, lung cancer blocks off part of the lung which doesn’t allow you to inhale the amount of oxygen you need. Brain cancer means a tumor forms in the brain, which can hurt different parts of the brain serving different functions for the body. In these types of cancers and hundreds of others like liver cancer or throat cancer, the tumor is a solid object in the body. In blood cancer, more commonly called leukemia, the tumor is not in a solid state. Starting in the bone marrow, when abnormal cells start growing out of control, also called white blood cells, they interrupt the function of normal blood cells. There are then different types of blood cancers, but leukemia is the most common.

Learning about cancer is important, but understanding how it functions and your chances of getting it may be even more important to you. The main reason why most people get cancer is from genetics. A person’s parents, grandparents, and further ancestors may have had genes that make them more prone to cancer, which makes it more likely for them to also develop cancer compared to other people. There is no solution to avoid genetics, but a person might be tested for any cancer genes, which gives doctors a head start on their cancer therapy. However, one way people can try to avoid cancer is by limiting their exposure to radiation.

 

 

Radiation and Cancer

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Placing_markers_on_short_face_mask.jpgRadiation of high wavelengths has been proven to cause cancer and is widely accepted science. This type of radiation, called ionizing radiation, has enough energy to damage a person’s DNA. The radiation can ultimately disassemble the atoms in the body, which causes the DNA damage in the cells. A lot of side effects can arise from this happening, with a main one being cancer. There are different ways you can be exposed to ionizing radiation. Radon, x-rays and gamma rays are all sources of ionizing radiation harmful to the body. The most likely way to be exposed to gamma rays is from accidents at nuclear power plants or when atomic weapons are made, tested, or used. X-rays like CT scans and MRIs also give out high levels of radiation, but it is very unlikely that you will develop cancer from it. Lastly, radon is a type of radiation which very often gets overlooked for the wrong reasons. Radon, which can be found in your own home as a gas, can create harmful levels of radiation, which is why it’s important to check for it in your own home. The government doesn’t recognize radon as a serious health hazard in homes currently, despite the science. Checking for radon in your home is free and a major step towards lowering the risks for cancer. Another type of radiation is UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds. This can cause skin cancer in the body, and has a simple solution of just using sunscreen and/or not tanning frequently. A type of radiation which CANNOT cause cancer is 5G cell phone towers. The radiation these towers give out is non-ionizing radiation, the same type of radiation radios and microwaves give out. There has been absolutely no evidence of cell phone towers causing cancer, nor is it even possible for this to happen since this type of radiation does not ionize atoms. 

Now, if you do get cancer, it doesn’t mean you will definitely die. Cancer is a very serious issue, but thanks to recent developments and new technologies, we know a lot more about preventing and treating it. However, there still is not one universal cure to cancer which removes it and ensures it doesn’t come back. It’s also important to remember that we all have cells which can potentially become cancerous from damaged DNA. Most of the time though, your body just kills the cell through programmed cell death, or apoptosis. There are different types of treatments based on the path you want to take. Some treatments may be to remove the entire tumor while others may be to help the body cope with the cancer. The most common procedure is surgery, which is usually used to remove as much of the tumor as possible, if not the entire thing. Chemotherapy is another option, which is the method of using drugs to kill cancer cells. And just like how it can cause cancer, radiation can also remove cancer by using high-powered energy beams to kill cancer cells. Many other treatments also exist, like bone marrow transplant or targeted drug therapy. Thousands of clinical trials are also taking place to find new ways to cure cancer.

The future holds many different ideas on the cure to cancer. The clinical trials taking place and new technologies scientists develop continue to help doctors in removing and preventing the development of cancer in patients. Gene therapy and gene editing are two ways which have been in clinical trials for many years. Gene therapy is the idea of guiding the body’s immune cells to directly attack the cancer cells. Gene editing is where we edit humans’ RNA to remove genes which can cause cancer. There’s a lot of research which goes into these ideas because scientists have to find new cells and genes which show potential to cause cancer. A very interesting idea is using and studying animal cells. Animals, like whales and elephants, have the same risk, or maybe even lower, than smaller animals like chihuahuas. This is odd because larger creatures tend to have bigger tumors and higher risks of dying to cancer. An animal like an elephant should be riddled with tumors across the body, but they are always cancer free. Studying elephants and other animals’ cells may give us an insight on medicine for humans.

The most important thing to remember is to seek the treatment needed if you think you might have cancer or have a genetic history of cancer. Cancer is a very deadly disease, which can turn a lot worse pretty quickly. The one good thing is that our knowledge of the disease increases every day. Maybe even one day a universal cure might be discovered. All we can do right now is educate ourselves and take all the precautions we can in the fight against cancer.

Covid-19: Building a Future

“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war… We’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We’re not ready for the next epidemic.” -Bill Gates, 2015

Unfortunately, Bill Gates was exactly right in making this statement in 2015. Coronavirus, more specifically the COVID-19 known to us, is a highly infectious respiratory virus that has caused a global pandemic. Starting in Wuhan, China, it has traveled all around the globe to our comfy homes. Everything is being affected by this virus: economy, manufacturing, production, politics, jobs, but most importantly, our health.

COVID-19 is spreading globally at an exponential rate. It appeared in a city in China called Wuhan in December 2019, and is believed to have come out of a seafood market. Patient zero has still not been identified, but we all know the quickness of this virus. To combat the virus, China quickly put a strict lockdown on the city of Wuhan on January 23. China then locked down their whole country, becoming the first country to do so, in an effort to stop this virus. Travel bans were being held in place and countries slowly started to follow China’s example. South Korea, Italy, and Iran were hit especially hard with the virus. When March finally came, the U.S. finally decided to take some measures and hold restrictions to practice social distancing. Italy surged past other countries with the highest death toll and had the highest number of cases in Europe. Sporting events, concerts, competitions were all getting canceled, including the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Finally, we get to now in May, where Wuhan has become virus-free after a 77-day lockdown, and other countries, including the U.S., have started to open up while trying to maintain social distancing. 

This coronavirus, to some people, just seems like another type of flu or cold. But the reality is, it is much more dangerous than the flu and can become even more dangerous if we don’t take the necessary precautions. The coronavirus spreads through droplets released in the air, like when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Droplets, however, fall to the ground after a few feet, which is why people need to stay 6 feet away from each other and wear masks to not retain any droplets. It can also be spread through surface transmission, making washing your hands and not touching your face out in public very important. It may be possible, however, that you may not even feel the symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you are a younger person. Or you may feel the symptoms after about 14 days of coming in contact with the virus. But, the dangerous thing about this is that you can be a carrier and not even know about it, putting other people, especially elders, at risk. The majority of deaths are coming from older age groups because of their lower level of immunity. This pandemic is similar to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, and the world and the U.S. can learn from the mistakes and successes that different cities made. During that time, Philadelphia held a World War 2 parade, meanwhile St. Louis had put its entire city on lock down. The death rate in St. Louis was about 358 per 100,000 people while Philadelphia suffered 748 deaths per 100,000.

The time when this pandemic will stop is a question every expert is trying to solve right now. Nobody knows what the future of this virus holds. A vaccine is needed to truly live without fear and go back to a normal life. The bad thing is that the vaccine isn’t expected to come sooner than 2021, so we may have to get used to this social distancing. Scientists also don’t know whether COVID is a seasonal virus or will come back every year like the flu. If it comes back in the same strand as before, people will have immunity to it, but it can also come back in different strands like the flu, wherein the vaccine is a very key role in our safety. There is not much we know right now since this virus is so new. The facts we do know are that we have to practice social distancing as much as possible to ensure the safety of ourselves and others by slowing the spread of the virus to not overrun hospitals. 

The current focus is on stopping the spread of this virus, but we need to also start planning for our economic recovery after the virus. For companies in the medical field, business is booming, but outside of this, there are many more companies on the verge of collapsing. According to Deutsche Bank, the world’s major economies have the highest debt levels in the past 150 years, excluding World War II. There has been a similar instance, far tougher than what we are going to face, better known as the Great Depression. During the Great Depression, the United States’ GDP declined by nearly 30%, over a course of 43 months. In just the first quarter of 2020, the U.S. GDP has already declined by 4.8%. If we compare these two situations, the economic recovery will be much easier. The first step in the Great Depression comeback was to cut spending by lots. The second step in the process is lowering tax rates on the middle class. This may sound absurd for the government, but it’s a quite simple analogy. The faster people are able to recuperate, the faster the economy will recover. The current global pandemic has hurt the economy in countless variations, but in the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, “There are no gains, without pains.”

The COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history as one of the world’s most major events. No one has seen a virus outbreak this bad since the Spanish Flu of 1918 or a worse economic crisis than the Great Depression. Even with the advanced technology we have, a virus has shown that it is much more powerful. Hopefully, this can prepare the world for what to do next time with a pandemic of this scale. The memories you are experiencing during this time aren’t something many generations will live through. Later in life, this will be what kids study in their history class or what historical fiction novels will be about. Right now, though, we need to be doing everything we can to contain this outbreak and set the world on the right track again.

 

Is Poop a Gift or a Curse?

In our world, a new creature has come into town. It is a devious enemy with a smell vicious enough to make us run away. Its brownish skin taunts you to come closer until you come close enough, and it haunts you forever. It is filling up our space and taking over, preparing to kill us one by one. The worst part is, we are producing it. POOP! Yes, poop, aka as feces, is this diabolical specimen that will be (and currently is) a big problem for the human race. Now, I’m not saying that human waste will smell worse over time and cause us to pass out every time we go to the bathroom. Do you ever wonder where all our human waste goes? Now you’re getting at what I’m saying.

Human waste isn’t the first thing you think of when someone says “crisis,” but this should be near the top of that list. Many humans don’t have access to necessary sanitation–precisely 1,800,000,000 people. Yes, you read that number correctly; nearly a quarter of humans do not have access to basic sanitation, for example, toilets. The result of this is that approximately 200 million tons of waste goes untreated. When sewage is untreated, it can lead to countless health issues. If the feces finds an entrance to the water supply, it will release E. Coli, leading to many diseases. Not only does human waste impact humans, but ecosystems may be destroyed. There was a disease spreading through the coral which decreased the population of coral greatly in the Florida/Caribbean area. This disease was White Pox. This disease spread to the corals as a result of human waste being discarded into the oceans. There are bacteria in the human feces, which we can live with but coral cannot. Many sea creatures lost their homes due to human feces. So, how do we control the amount of feces and how should we discard it?

Controlling feces is something out of the ordinary, meaning it needs an out of the ordinary solution. To control feces, there’s a two-step process. The first step is humans changing their diets to vegetarian or vegan. According to the Mayo Clinic, a leading medical center in the U.S., “Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass…” This explicitly states if you eat more fiber, your stool will be easier to pass. This means your body will be producing more waste as it’s heavier and larger. Right about now you are probably thinking to yourself, “I just spent the last 5 minutes reading why we’re producing too much waste, now he’s saying we should make more?” Yes, that’s precisely what I’m saying. The more waste we produce, the more efficient the second step will be.

Fecal energy; this is the second part of controlling human waste. Fecal energy is the process of converting biomasses such as human waste into sources of energy. How this works is the toilet has a grinding system that makes the waste odorless and dries it. Once it dries, microbes will biodegrade the waste. This process generates biofuel gasses such as Ethanol. You may think this sounds crazy, turning poop into power, but I can assure you it’s not. There have been multiple instances where biofuel has been beneficial. A small city in Colorado is fueling over 40 vehicles by using biofuel gasses provided by the local waste management company. On the second occasion in Europe, a Netherland’s Dairy company has started a new project. Since their building already has over 175 cows, they decided it would be more efficient to collect their waste and convert it into biogas for the company. Since the cows are constantly eating, and eating fiber, their stool is very efficient. This is where converting to vegetarian and vegan diets come in. If we are able to produce efficient stool by eating more fibers, the result could be very similar to the success in Colorado. If small towns and big businesses can jump into the future, why can’t the big cities (which have more people and more waste) do the same thing? 

As you can see, the idea of transforming poop into power is not a fantasy; it’s happening. There have already been multiple instances of people adapting to the process. Biofuel can help countries around the globe, as we don’t need to spend millions on drilling and importing, but we can use that money to develop a cheaper biofuel facility. Innovation is using what you have to make something great. In this case, you are using your waste to produce energy. The poop crisis on Earth may be harsh, but I see it as an opportunity. What do you see?

Automation: Cause for Concern or Celebration?

You are walking on a sidewalk in Chicago minding your own business. Suddenly, a little robot comes up to you, trying to make a sale for some product. You choose to ignore it, just like you do every other robotic salesman. When you pass the robot, another robot cuts you off to make the same sale as the first robot! You try passing this one too, but more robots appear, eventually trapping you in a circle, all of them making the same sale simultaneously. The robots have cornered you; they’ve forced your hand to buy their product. And this is only the first block of your walk.

Okay, it probably won’t be that extreme, but robots are taking over our world one by one, whether you like it or not. The world as we know it will completely change within 10 or 20 years due to the ceaseless increase of automation. 

Automation is rapidly changing the job market; millions of jobs which were once done by humans can now be done by machines. You probably already know about the factory jobs, which even basic machines can now do. But, I bet you haven’t heard of the more interesting ones like lawyers, medics or even chefs. A very major AI in making these jobs possible for automation to handle is IBM’s Watson. Watson is an AI program which is capable of analyzing hundreds of thousands of different algorithms and possibilities in a matter of seconds and then choosing the best one. Technology like this can completely change the way doctors diagnose patients. Some doctors have already taken advantage of this opportunity and used Watson or other AI programs in diagnosing conditions, one of them being cancer. Currently, Watson cannot analyze images like X-rays and retina scans, but IBM already has an active research product to expand the capabilities of its AI. Medicine is not the only industry Watson has taken over; “Chef Watson” can now generate new recipes entirely from scratch using its AI mind. It uses its incredible knowledge of mixing flavors and food chemicals to create pairings favorable to the human tongue. Add Miso Robotics Flippy, a robot capable of making food faster than some chefs, along with table delivery drones, and there won’t even be a need for humans. Imagine a whole place fully operated by robots. The thing is, it’s already here. A hotel in Japan called Henn Na Hotel is completely run by automation. From the concierge to the receptionist, every individual staff member is a robot at the human customer’s disposal. All types of other jobs including drivers, telemarketers, and financial analysts can all be taken by robots and may be taken sooner than expected. 

The problem with all this automation isn’t the automation itself, it’s what we should do with all us humans. What happens to us if robots are doing everything? The first thing most people think of is unemployment. If a machine is doing your job faster and more efficiently than you, then what is the point of you, a human, doing that job. According to a new study from Oxford Economics,

within the next 11 years there could be 14 million robots put to work in China alone.

As a result of the jobs robots are taking over, more than 1.5 million jobs have been lost to robots in the United States, more than 11 million in China, and almost 2 million across EU member states. Due to this unemployment issue, people lose jobs, and income inequality is then increased in those countries. A former 2020 democratic candidate, Andrew Yang, became famous for addressing this issue by proposing a UBI. A UBI is a universal basic income, which gives every citizen a minimum amount of income. Andrew Yang explained how automation would take many jobs away from Americans, which would leave them with no source of income. According to Andrew Yang, the UBI would allow a lower class American to support themselves with money funded by taxes and wall street speculation. 

However, there is a very compelling argument that robots will do much more good to humans than harm. After all, robots were made to make human lives easier, not harder. With all the efficiency of these robots, they can actually open up more jobs instead of only killing them. Ethical sourcing officer, Artificial intelligence business development manager, and A.I. assisted health care technician are all examples of future jobs robots will open up. Most of these future jobs are based around working with the robot like the assisted health care technician, which works with the robot to diagnose patients. The saying “A dog is a man’s best friend” could be changed to “A robot is a man’s best friend,” or maybe even, “a man is a robot’s best friend.” Another possibility for humans is the idea of not working, of growing beyond the paradigm of basic labor as a species. An architect called Buckminister Fuller had the idea of man focusing their mind purely on their creative means. He had said,

We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery… The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

Fuller’s idea is even more relevant to our society nowadays because of the increasing rise of automation. If humans are losing their jobs, they can still work, not for the goal of earning money, but for the creative or personal goals they set for themselves. 

Robots and AI are beautiful works of cutting edge technology. Mankind is always looking for new ways to improve their life or to make it easier on themselves. The first robot, made in 1954, basically sparked a new life form. As automation and AI continues to grow, so will its capabilities, to the point where it may be able to think and learn by itself, going beyond its natural programming. The new life of robots is coming, for better or for worse. Will you be ready for them? 

Algae: Fueling Our Future

Currently, human societies’ increased reliance on fossil fuels is creating a need in the future for an alternative yet equally functional energy source. The solution is a green, fuzzy, and live organism: algae. Multiple organizations have already taken initiatives and identified algae as a viable energy producer. Algae could very well be the future of energy.

Nowadays, the United States is falling drastically behind the expected reductions in fossil fuel consumption. Fossil fuels are natural fuels of decomposition which take millions of years to replenish. According to a leader in the green energy section in Britain, Ecotricity, at the present usage rate, nearly 11 billion tonnes a year, fossil fuels are expected to run out in about 53 years, with oil running out in less than 35. Fossil fuels are the common route in energy usage, blowing all renewable energy out of the water. Fossil fuels supply a whopping 80.2% of energy, compared to the mere number 11.5% for alternative energy, provided by the PEW Research Center. If this continues at the same rate as the population spike, this date may arrive sooner than expected. An alternative, yet equally efficient solution must be looked at before the time to switch has run out.

BioProcess Algae technology is used to treat waste products, carbon dioxide, recycled heat and water to mass-produce algae. Algae from this facility are used for animal feeds, pharmaceutical and beauty products. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Algae is a simple yet complex alternative to non-renewable and other forms of renewable energy production. To understand how we may use algae for energy, we first have to understand algae itself. Algae is a living organism, specifically a eukaryotic organism. Eukaryotic organisms, as opposed to prokaryotes or archaea, have a nucleus and numerous organelles, among other differences.  Eukaryotes can be split into 4 major kingdoms: animals, plants, fungi, and protists. The special part about algae is the growth rate. The average growth for algae is exponential. According to Fahri Koray Sakarya, a Turkish expert in environmental sciences, 0.4 day^-1 is the daily growth rate. This means algae growth will slowly become larger until the point where it grows in large batches at a time. In the words of the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy,

…algae, small aquatic organisms that convert sunlight into energy and store it in the form of oil.

This means, once we have harvested the large batches, we will be able to access tons of oil at a time, making up for the depletion of natural fossil fuels. For a while now I’ve been talking about how algae could play a big role in the future, but what about in the present. Where is algae right now

The green machine will be able to save billions if it becomes the everyday norm and takes over for fossil fuels. If most of the human population were able to swap to algae, fossil fuels could be focused on industrial uses, while residents would be able to access a cleaner and more efficient energy source. Many companies have already hopped on to the algae-fuel train, one being NASA. Seambiotic has partnered with NASA to efficiently grow and harvest the oils of algae. Some farms are already planning to grow nearly 200 gallons of fuel from 1 acre of algae per year. Once technologies and funds have been invested in this idea, the price per barrel will drop significantly, as the industry will be expanding. Algae biofuel farms are becoming the norm for many, and the number will continue to grow. If the U.S. is able to make a push for algae fuel, further globalization will occur, taking algae energy to a whole new stage.

Commercial scale photo bioreactors/harvesters

As one can see, algae is an exceptionally productive source of energy. This solution benefits the environment, as the carbon emissions may drop by a monumental 50 to 70 percent, as well as the economy in the future,as algae will replace fossil fuels. Algae is a perfect fit for the criteria of humans, innovative and efficient, the basis of mankind itself. Algae growth will eventually be enough to supply a global demand, but it is crucial we make the first step into the future right now.

If you are interested in learning more about the process of algae-to-energy, click on this video link: Algae to Fuel by the U.S. Department of Energy