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Notable News in Science From This Summer

While everyone was enjoying their vacation, including the staff here at Whim, science didn’t take a break for anybody. Here are some of the biggest stories in science that happened during the summer.

A wildfire that occured in 2016 in California; photo from nbclosangeles.com
A wildfire that occurred in 2016 in California; photo from nbclosangeles.com

 

Does Mars have water? Scientists say yes: One of the most important findings in the pursuit of life on other planets, scientists working on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission announced back in July that they had found a 12 mile-wide underground liquid pool, not just the normal damp spots that have been seen in the past. The water was detected in Mars’s south pole using radar.  As of now, there’s plenty of more plans to research the area for possible life and if it’s ever possible, to drill at the area. But that won’t happen until Earth gets humans on the Red Planet.

Another bad year for wildfires: While science does tell you that it is good for the ecosystem to have some wildfires, it does get to a point where too much is way too much. Wildfires have spread across the western United States, from California to Montana. Because of the wildfires, the northwestern part of the country has experienced the worst air pollution in 30 years according to a July 16 report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This is even worse when considering that when we have wildfires, the fires release chemicals like sulfate and black carbon which do not hurt the environment in the long run but are harmful in the current time period.

Spiders do have a “spider-sense”: Research done by Erica Morley and Daniel Robert of the University of Bristol in Britain found that electrical charges in the air give spiders a cue on when to fly. This signal will most likely explain why the timing of a spider’s takeoff is so unpredictable. In order to fly, spiders use their web and they have to wait for gentle wind conditions in order to take off.  For more about this, Morley and Robert’s research appeared in July’s issue of Current Biology.

Uranus Smells like Rotten Eggs

 

It’s bad enough that Uranus is the “butt” of all jokes, but now, kids all over the world can now say that Uranus smells like a “butt.”

Uranus’ upper clouds are made of hydrogen sulfide, the same molecule that gives rotten eggs that awful smell. This was discovered Leigh Fletcher and his colleagues detected the chemical fingerprint of hydrogen sulfide at the top of the planet’s clouds. The team issued their reports in the April 23 issue of Nature Astronomy.

This discovery wasn’t a complete surprise, though—observations from the 1990’s showed hints of the chemical lurking deep in the atmosphere of Uranus, but the gas wasn’t conclusively detected.

As it turns out, the clouds are not just the smell of farts, but they may have helped in discovering some details of the early solar system. It is likely that frozen hydrogen sulfide ice crystals would have been abundant in further reaches of the early solar system, suggesting that Uranus and Neptune were born farther from the sun than Jupiter and Saturn.

Fletcher says that “this tells you the gas giants and the ice giants were formed in a sightly different way.”

Fletcher and his team now are planning to send a spacecraft to the ice giants of Uranus and Neptune, the first since the Voyager spacecraft, which visited in the 1980’s.

So while all of the crude humor surrounding this planet may have grown stale, none can now deny the irony of its atmosphere, nor the wonders that such distant bodies still dangle before our scientists today.

Looks like Uranus was in on the joke this whole time.

 

Photo from Nasa.gov

Line of Gemini – Part 15

His wrists shackled together, burning his skin, Eli shuffled along, prodded forward by a Leo. He winced when the man pushed him a little too hard onto the platform, forcing him to his knees. Eli had been captured by one of the Cassiopeia, and of course without Tod, he’d been helpless to fight back. And if Tod wasn’t here now, he was done for.

He saw a pair of polished knee high boots appear in front of him, spurs flaming, sparking with electric energy. He looked up to see one of the Cassiopeia with the long sword they’d used for executions since the beginning of their realm. It wasn’t often that they performed public executions; the phenomenon had started quite recently, just after the Great War. The woman, Isolde, tipped his chin up with the sword to stare into his eyes. “Hm,” she said, and there was an odd smile on her face. “What a shame.”

She handed the sword to the executioner, the Leo behind him and Eli braced himself, when they were interrupted by more footsteps. Eli glanced out of the corner of his eye to see to his surprise, Tod and Sunny. Sunny? How had she gotten here?

The executioner spoke in a gruff voice: “No one else is allowed up here.”

Tod crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m ruling with Isolde, and this is my…assistant” – he gestured to Sunny – “so I think it’s perfectly fine. I help make the rules around here, right?”

Isolde’s mouth dropped open. “Just – just get on with it!” she snapped at the executioner.

But before he could, a bolt of light arced through the air, hitting the executioner squarely in the chest. He moaned and fell to the ground. Eli met eyes with one of the Cassiopeia, hand still raised. Immediately, some of the other Cassiopeia attacked her, beating her to the ground.

“What on Dross!” Isolde cursed, scrambling for the sword.

Just as she picked it up, Eli leaped to his feet, and joining hands with Tod, felt the familiar energy pulsing through him. But there was something wrong – Tod was weaker than he’d been before. Eli pushed past it and summoned all the strength he had. Isolde raised the sword, and Eli fired a wave of white energy, what looked like shards of broken stars, in her direction. She was blasted off her feet and fell dizzily to the ground.  

She groaned in pain, and then tried to get to her feet, but she was hit again, what felt like flames attacking her face.

“No!” she screamed. The last thing she saw before she blacked out was her father’s face staring worriedly down at her, and his voice mixed with hers echoing in the distance.

Line of Gemini – Part 12

Exhausted the next day, Sunny chugged a cup of coffee and hit the road. When she’d opened her eyes that morning, she’d managed to convince herself for a few minutes that she was in Nashville with her normal family. However, that didn’t last long when she saw that she was entirely alone. She called her parents and said that everything was fine. Both of her parents were on their way to work so they didn’t talk long. Somewhat relieved, but still feeling like garbage, she stared out at the road ahead of her. “Great, here’s hoping I don’t get attacked,” she muttered to herself.

Even though she turned on her music, she couldn’t get Tod and Eli out of her head. She was angry at them, angry at Tod for keeping it a secret for so long, angry at them for arguing. But more than that, she missed them and she wanted to help them. She remembered Eli had said something about granting wishes. Maybe she could wish for something and they’d hear her. She cleared her throat, even though she wasn’t even going to say her wish out loud, and thought hard.

*** Continue reading Line of Gemini – Part 12

A Space Hotel in Real Life? It’s Sooner Than You Think

Forget about staying at a five-star hotel when you can stay at a hotel that’s actually “sitting on” five stars (AKA space).

Orion Span, a start-up company based out of California, is planning on building and launching a space hotel called the Aurora Station in late 2021. They plan to accept guests the following year.

The hotel will be 43.5 feet long by 14.1 feet wide and will have a pressured volume of 5,650 cubic feet. It will be orbiting at an altitude of 200 miles or around 1,164,000 feet.

Founder and CEO of Orion Span, Frank Bunger, described the Aurora Station as “the first-ever affordable luxury space hotel” at the Space 2.0 Summit in San Jose, California.

However, to a normal person, “affordable” might as well be a metaphor. The price for a stay at the Aurora Station is roughly $800,000 a night, and you will be paying more than $9.5 million for the required 12-day stay.  Previously, it would cost over $20 million to travel to the International Space Station under the Virginia-based company, Space Adventures. Only 7 people took this trip between 2001 and 2009.

Bunger’s goal for his company is “to create that innovation to make simplicity possible and by making simplicity possible, we can drive a tremendous amount of cost out of it.”

Aurora Station will be able to hold four guests and two permanent crewmembers which would likely be astronauts, and as long as the demand is there, Orion Span will continue to expand their station.

While Orion Span is currently not the only company planning on sending a hotel into space, they are the only ones to have laid out a plan for the future that has a good chance of succeeding.

 

Featured Image from Krone

School’s Almost Over, Now What?

As this semester comes to a close, many students will be wondering what to do for the summer, or if you are a graduating senior, what to do for the rest of your life. The students that are not yet graduating will need to be looking for short-term occupations for the summer. Part-time jobs will most likely be high up on that list. A little bit of extra cash will always be helpful for a college student; if nothing else, it will give them a bit of pocket change for when those exams get tough. A night out or a good meal can be just what the doctor ordered. Internships are another good opportunity for the summer, though those can be difficult to achieve and maintain. To realistically be able to hold one, you need someone who is willing to financially support you, which is a lot easier said than done. The real trouble comes for the graduating students though.

First of all, every student has to decide what to do, whether or not they are going to go on to grad school, or head into the workforce. That in and of itself can be a pretty drastic decision, and can be cause for a lot of concern. Graduate school can significantly increase the amount of debt a college student is in already, but it can potentially mean more money. However, there is also the issue of financing graduate school, which can be difficult after spending all of that money on four years of regular college.

Going into the workforce is not much easier nowadays. For all of the emphasis on getting a diploma, many employers also want their applicants to have years of job experience that no one fresh out of college realistically has. Job experience can be difficult to gain because no one will hire you in the first place without job experience. It is a vicious cycle, one that is made even more dangerous by the fact that recent graduates will soon have to pay off their accumulated debt. The best option is unclear, and it is a decision that is ultimately different for every person. There is not an easy way out, even though many of us may want that.

Line of Gemini – Part 9

They rolled into the hotel around 10 o’clock and after they checked into their room, Sunny flopped down on one of the beds. “Man, I’m exhausted. I hope this silly eclipse is worth it.”

Tod sat down on the bed opposite and pulled off his shoes. Eli stayed standing. Do you really like Sunny…in that way? Eli’s thoughts were harsh and cold.

Hey, none of your business. And so what if I do?

We need to go back. I’m serious about this. You don’t know what it’s like up there. You can’t just run away from who you are.

Watch me.

Sunny tilted her head. “I’m sensing some tension in this room,” she proclaimed. “What’s going on? Talk it out.”

Eli just shrugged his shoulders, turning away from Tod and moving aside the curtain to stare out at the Nashville skyline.

“Don’t you need each other to use your powers?” Sunny tried. “What if more people try to attack us?” She got to her feet. Her voice was higher than she meant for it be, but she didn’t care. These boys were driving her crazy.

“It’s fine, Sunny,” Eli said, his tone turning cold. “Just stay out of this, okay? It doesn’t concern you.”

At his words, Sunny shrunk against the nightstand, rubbing her thumb against her knuckle. “Okay. Geez.”

“Eli – ” Tod said.

“Just shut up,” Sunny said, not even knowing why she said it. She knew Tod had just been trying to stand up for her. For some reason, she felt close to tears and she angrily turned away, staring at a picture of a purple river cutting through silhouetted trees, a sliver of a moon pasted in the upper right-hand corner. She stared at the stars sprinkled around the moon and then looked back at Eli and Tod.

Tod looked up at her, and Sunny saw the helplessness in his eyes, but she didn’t stay focused on him long before turning straight to Eli.

She looks right through me, Tod thought. Like I’m invisible.

“Of course she does,” Eli said aloud.

Sunny didn’t bother to ask, even though her stomach ached with not knowing. “Well, I’m going to bed,” she said. “Do you sleep?”

Eli nodded. “Some – “

Tod said, “We’ll just stay up and make sure that no one else is coming after us. Go to sleep.”

Sunny saw the softness in his gaze, the tender look that she must have missed a thousand times. She nodded thankfully. “Okay. Um, I’ll see you tomorrow.” After she went to the bathroom to get dressed she slipped under the covers. She’d never been afraid of the boys before, but now everything was different. She felt like she was in a room with two complete strangers. And looking up at the blank ceiling, she didn’t feel like sleeping.

Did Self-Driving Cars Hit a “Pothole?”

While a lot of us want to see the revolution of self-driving vehicles, there is still a lot of work to be done, especially after what happened a couple weeks ago.

This could be the future of driving but Uber may not have a part in it; photo from techgenez.com
This could be the future of driving but Uber may not have a part in it; photo from techgenez.com

A woman in Arizona was killed when a self-driving car from Uber hit her while she was crossing the street at night. She “could have” been to blame for suddenly walking off a median or jaywalking in front of the car in the night. However, the street was well-lit and the woman was making an attempt to get across the street before the car hit her.  This shows that there is work to be done by Uber and state governments.

Self-driving cars would save many lives in the future but as of now, at least 30,000 to 40,000 people every year in the U.S. die in auto accidents (human-driven cars).

The provider of Uber’s laser technology, Velodyne, said that their technology was “more than capable” of identifying her before the collision which would have stopped the car.  Police in Arizona stated that the car didn’t slow down until after she was hit.

Velodyne is blaming Uber and its test driver for the incident and they have a point. Uber’s driver, who is supposed to take the car over if the autonomous system fails, didn’t even have their hands on the steering wheel. Uber’s cars have had a hard time lasting 13 miles before a driver has to take over. In comparison, Waymo’s cars (Google) can last over 5,600 miles.

Uber has also cut down its Lidar system from seven units to only one. The remaining one does have a blind spot according to employees who have worked on the car. So in other words, Uber is cutting corners to lay claim as the first company to sell a self-driving car.

States across the U.S. have taken action and have made regulations for the self-driving cars which is why Uber is in Arizona (they don’t have many regulations for the self-driving car business). Arizona could have a problem on their hands if this becomes a common theme.

While self-driving cars are touted as the future of driving and they would cut down on many deaths, there is more work to be done before they become a common feature in someone’s driveway. States have to be tough on regulation so we get the best product, and don’t end up with a product that has been cutting corners like Uber has.

 

 

Makeup is not Freedom

As I go into the final stretch of my undergraduate education here at Radford University, I’m preparing to enter into the adult world of employment. I, like many of my peers, am searching online sites and talking to different professors about potential job opportunities in my field. For the first time I’m looking at jobs that offer an annual salary and health benefits, wondering which ones I qualify for, and what to do to ensure I get the job I want. What to wear to an interview, and what to put in my resume. That’s what I’m focusing on in the last four weeks of the semester, not, for the first time in years, on my finals.

As a woman, I have a whole slew of things I have to consider when it comes to presenting myself to future employers. How high my heels are, how short my skirt, how to style my hair and most importantly what is the exact right amount of makeup. These questions are debated over and over until I finally perfect my interview outfit.

I’ve been told by many people that makeup is a tool. It’s a form of self-expression and it’s freeing. Strong women wear makeup, and they use it to show off their inner beauty. These same people were also trying to sell me thick concealers and foundations so maybe they were a little biased.

Here’s the thing. I love makeup. I’m the kind of girl that owns bright purple lipstick that I will wear around the house just for fun. But makeup isn’t freedom. It’s not strength. It’s definitely not a sign of great feminism. Women are expected to wear makeup in the professional world. Women who do are paid more and are more likely to be given promotions. Women who don’t are told they aren’t dressed appropriately. There are real-life consequences for me if I don’t put this gunk on my face.

No matter how people want to spin makeup to me, it still doesn’t change that fact. Girls can love makeup. They can become amazing artists and even make careers out of the field. But this one fact remains. Makeup isn’t freedom. It’s another way that society has made women feel like they are not enough. That we need to cover up our very skin in order to look appropriate to work in a cubicle. That’s damaging. Don’t buy into the idea that makeup is for strong women because that only deludes you into believing that you are benefiting from a system that preys on your insecurities and weaknesses.

Dahlia’s Secret; Part 2

“Ryan? Little Dowler, is that you? My, my, boy, have you grown!”

 

Ryan’s frown shifted into a brief grimace before he planted a courteous smile on his face and stood up to meet the newcomer.

August Elwood was a portly man, middle-aged, with a magnificent dark blond walrus mustache that nearly covered his mouth and curled upward elegantly at the tips. His head, most likely balding to begin with, was shaved and shiny, and his blue eyes twinkled as he looked Ryan up and down. Mr. Elwood had been a close friend of Ryan’s father, but the pair had had something of a falling out over half a decade before. While Ryan had not known Mr. Elwood well enough to care at the time, he could only guess that it had been some sort of business dispute. As he grew older, Ryan learned that Mr. Elwood and his father had been partners in banking—indeed, Dowler & Elwood remained to that day one of the preeminent banks of the area… despite the withdrawal of one of its founders.

“Good morning, Mr. Elwood,” Ryan said with a nod, gesturing instinctively towards the seat across from him at the table before he could stop himself.

The large man nodded in thanks before pulling up the chair. He was dressed in a fashionable black morning coat, the buttons of his shirt straining as he took his seat. In comparison to Ryan’s tweed jacket and tan pants, Mr. Elwood cut the image of an elite on business—what a banker would need at Clydesport, however, was beyond Ryan’s guess. A waiter boy rushed forward, but Mr. Elwood was quick to wave him away with a gruff “coffee.”

“So,” Mr. Elwood started, retrieving a handkerchief from a pocket and wiping his bald head, “what has it been? Three years? Four?”

Ryan smiled politely but offered no reply. Luckily Mr. Elwood was not looking for one, as he simply nodded sagely at the young man’s silence and continued: “Too long. How’s your father doing, by the by?”

“Well.”

In truth, Ryan had no idea how his father was doing—not for nearly two years now. After undertaking his current job, Ryan thought it far better to remove himself from any sort of home environment. What Mr. Elwood’s words did do, however, was make him wonder; wonder about his father, his mother, and Mary. It was hard to keep the smile plastered on his face as the old banker took his coffee with a muffled “thank you” from the serving boy.

“Good, good.” Mr. Elwood drew from another pocket a silver hip-flask, which he proceeded to upend over the porcelain cup. “Of course, I’ve seen Edward out and about. Good man, your father. Respectable.”

Ryan’s eyes narrowed behind his stained spectacles. “What brings you out to Clydesport so early, Mr. Elwood?”

Ryan’s question seemed to catch the older man by surprise, and he nearly coughed as he lowered his drink. Before he could answer, however, Ryan continued. “Surely an expansion out here would be a waste? No need for banks while fishermen are happy to sleep on stuffed cots.”

Mr. Elwood chuckled, but his face visibly tightened. “Oh, nothing special… a deal that I would like to be present for.”

Though his words were offhanded, it was easy to guess that Elwood was hiding something. Ryan pondered this for several moments, but did not want to push the subject—he was too, after all—and so took the older man’s words with a nod and turned his gaze out over the cresting waves.

There was an awkward silence between the two, which ended when Mr. Elwood seemed to spot several suited men that he knew further down the pier. The banker’s farewell was hurried, but its sincerity puzzled Ryan as the older gentleman rose from his chair and bustled away with a nod.

Dahlia’s Secret; Part 1

The air was heavy, full of the sound of crashing waves breaking over the harbor. Mist was borne aloft on the breeze, bringing with it the smell of salt and shore. Every now and then a man’s shout, the horn of a disembarking ship, or the cry of gulls would shake Ryan Dowler from his reverie as he sat there, seated at a coffee table near the pier’s wrought iron fence, awaiting the vessel that would carry him far away.

It had been the gulls this time, their call breaking the monotonous sound of the ocean and causing Ryan to start. The young man straightened, looking down the dock for what seemed like the hundredth time in half-hearted search for his transport. When only the crashing waves greeted him, he sank a hand into the pocket of his tweed coat and drew from within a golden timepiece, which he flicked open. Minuscule hands made their slow dance across the polished backdrop—half-past noon. Ryan shut it and gave another look down the dock, a puff of derision escaping from nostrils.

Of course, Ryan expected such a wait and had prepared his patience accordingly. Captain Jasper had earned a bit of a reputation around of the docks of Clydesport as an excellent navigator, but somewhat unreliable in terms of punctuality. It was common for the old skipper’s ship, the Meredith, to take port hours after its intended arrival time, usually to the detriment of whatever contract Jasper had offhandedly signed days before. Ryan, after learning of this, had taken the necessary steps to avoid such a situation, and had arranged for their meeting some four hours early in order to try and assuage any lateness of the eccentric seaman.

Nevertheless, Ryan had made sure that he had been there for the initial meet-time at eight-thirty that morning on the off chance that Captain Jasper may keep his word. It had been peaceful then, the sun dampened by thick gray clouds and the sounds of the ocean surrounding the pier. He had sat at the same table he was now, nursing a small cup of coffee as he looked out over the waves through darkened spectacles. The Meredith had remained absent, which annoyed Ryan somewhat, but he recovered quickly and chose instead to simply enjoy the morning.

When a familiar voice boomed from behind him, however, Ryan could hardly help but frown.

“Ryan? Little Dowler, is that you? My, my, boy, have you grown!”

The First of its Kind, Oxygenation of the Brain

So, most of you may not watch WWE but if you do, you may have noticed that Daniel Bryan (real name: Bryan Danielson) was cleared to return to the ring. What you may not know is that his recovery is history in the making.

Daniel Bryan's return is history in the making for all with a history of concussions; photo from denofgeek.com
Daniel Bryan’s return is history in the making for all with a history of concussions; photo from denofgeek.com

Bryan has had a history of concussions. Over the course of his wrestling career, Bryan has had over 10 documented concussions along with many others that they couldn’t count in his 16-year career. So in 2016 after another concussion, multiple tests were done and the worst came true; Daniel Bryan had to retire from the WWE.

Flash forward to 2018 and after multiple tests were done, Bryan was cleared by Joseph Maroon, WWE and Pittsburgh Steelers doctor. So how was it possible for Bryan to get his brain into the shape that the brain is supposed to be in?  He was able to oxygenate his brain in a scientific procedure.

During his efforts to be cleared, Bryan was using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) which has you inside a pressurized chamber, breathing in oxygen.  Bryan in 2017 praised the treatments saying that “it’s way better than nuclear spec scans of the brain.”

In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration noted HBOT has not been clinically proven to cure or be effective in treatment of cancer, autism, and diabetes among many other illness and diseases.

It is cleared that the FDA still won’t be approving the treatment anytime soon. It’s clear that HBOT might be a blueprint in concussion recovery. Even Dr. Maroon only saw a “15% chance” that Bryan would be cleared.

Now, tens of thousands of athletes across the world will be watching Bryan’s return to see if he will be back for an extended period of time.

If Daniel Bryan is successful in the long return after HBOT treatments, many of those athletes will be looking to explore HBOT in the hopes of returning to their respected sport or even just their normal health.

Stop Defending Racists

“He’s from a different time!”

“He’s only a kid, he doesn’t know any better!”

“It’s how he was raised!”

People, white people specifically, have this weird desire to defend racists. We know racism is wrong; we’ll happily say it. We talk a big talk, especially on social media where real-life problems can sometimes seem distant and distorted. We rake in useless ‘ally’ points when we post about how we support black people or the LGTBQ community but when we see someone acting racist first hand we balk. We step back and defend and justify the actions of white people around us.

Sometimes, we even go so far as to defend the racist actions of long dead people. We’ll read literature written by white men who depicted people of color and women in awful ways and defend it by saying that the author didn’t know any better, that it was a different time. When the discussion of slavery or Jim Crow laws comes up, (laws which still have actual impacts on black people today), we dither over whether or not those white people knew their racism was wrong.

Let me tell you this. They knew it was wrong and they didn’t care. Our ancestors weren’t stupid. They had the same ability to think things through that we did. We can all read about and find old studies done by scientists hundreds of years ago. These studies found that black people were lesser, less evolved, brutish, dangerous and in some cases more animalistic than their white counterparts. Science that didn’t have any basis in fact. These studies were funded by the rich, the rich that wanted to justify what they were doing. The sheer volume of the literature out there seems to imply that they needed a lot of stuff to justify making their wealth by owning and torturing other people.

We need to stop justifying what they did by claiming it was a different time or that they were ignorant. Our grandparents lived through the 60’s, which means they were teens and children through one of the greatest civil rights movements in American History. They were there, alive and able to witness those moments in a way we couldn’t. They were the ones who failed to learn and understand what it meant. It’s not being from a different time; it’s being racist.

When teenagers or people our age say racist things, we try and play it off. Make them seem ignorant rather than malicious. When we do that, we prioritize the feelings of a racist over the feelings of people who are being oppressed. We side with the oppressors, and every time we justify what they do we only further prove that we find racism in any form acceptable. All of us have things we have to unlearn and relearn as we grow. It’s part of life. But justifying things as being how we were raised is just immature and empty. If we want real change then we need to hold ourselves and those around us to a higher standard; we need to stop defending racists.

Learning the Lesson of Stephen Hawking… Never Give Up

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up- Stephen Hawking.

Stephen Hawking; photo from bbc.com
Stephen Hawking; photo from bbc.com

Famed physicist Stephen Hawking has passed away at the age of 76 in his home in Cambridge, England, early in the morning of March 14. In a statement from his family, they stated that Hawking died peacefully.

For over 50 years, Hawking had battled a form of ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and he was orignally given only two years to live when first diagnosed. Instead of giving up, Hawking took this as another part of life.

Stephen Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England to Frank and Isobel Hawking. Stephen had two sisters, Philippa and Mary and an adopted brother, Edward. The family was known for their intelligence and eccentricity.

Hawking was known to be “lazy” and “bored” when it came to his work, especially when he felt the work was easy. This showed itself while at college in Oxford, and later on, Hawking would gain popularity by joining the University College Boat Club and serving as coxswain.

Everything was going well until Hawking started to experience increasing clumsiness during his final year at Oxford. It got to a point where his family noticed the changes. A medical investigation had begun, and the worst possible outcome had been diagnosed: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a neurological degenerative disease that eventually left Dr. Hawking unable to move on his own.

Hawking was given two years to live. Though tempted to give up, he soon noticed how slow the disease was taking affect on him. H decided that rather than falling into despair and letting the disease control his life, h would instead delve into something that he loved–science.

With all of the work that Hawking did for the world, it’s even harder to began to think about how much pain he went through on a daily basis. That alone should be enough to make us appreciate all of the work he did in physics, which will be discussed, tested, and lead humanity into the future for years to come.

God Speed, Mr. Hawking… see you on the other side.

 

 

Cover Photo from The Telegraph

The Problem with Consent

Imagine, if you will, a seven-year-old me going to her 2nd grade classroom to find the room filled with sugar cookies and balloons. It’s one of my classmate’s birthdays and their mom had brought in some store-bought birthday themed cookies to celebrate. I was what adults called a picky eater; I still am actually. I hate those store-bought cookies—the ones that come in those difficult to open plastic containers and have frosting that sticks to the roof of your mouth like cement. My parents never bought these cookies and so the only times I ran into them were at events like these.

Before, whenever a parent would come in with these cookies, I’d be given one, which I’d immediately sneak into the garbage can when no one was looking. I hadn’t yet learned the skill of eating something just to be polite. This year though I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to waste the cookie. I told the woman passing out cookies that I didn’t want one, that I didn’t like them.

If you’ve ever been in a situation similar to this one you know how persistent people can be when you tell them that you don’t like a certain food. They’ll cajole, prod, and sometimes even trick you into eating the food. Convinced if you try it just one more time that you’ll love it. This woman bothered and harassed me so much about her gross cookies that I ended up taking one and biting into it, even though the taste made me gag. From then I started lying, telling people when they offered me those cookies that I was allergic to one of the ingredients inside.

On the surface this seems like more of an annoying thing that people do rather than a real societal problem, but it’s actually a larger symptom of the problems with consent in America. In that classroom that woman taught everyone in that room that it doesn’t matter what you want. “No” didn’t mean no. “No” wasn’t the end of the conversation, it was the beginning of a siege. You can see parallels in how people pressure others into drinking at parties or even having sex.

This woman thought she knew better what I wanted inside my body than I did. She wasn’t my mother, my doctor, or me. I’m not trying to demonize her, but to merely show that we have a serious problem with how we teach kids about consent. She taught every child in that room that the word “no” was meaningless and that others can and will bully you into doing things you don’t want to do. We can tell children that “no means no” all we want, but unless we put the weight of our actions behind it, then it’s meaningless. Teaching people about consent starts when we respect people and their own personal wants.

Whether its about cookies or sex, No should mean No.

 

Cover Photo from “Forks in the Road”

Change in Graduation Plans

There has recently been talk of changing the plans for Radford University’s graduation ceremony starting this year for the Spring 2018 graduation. The university wants to change the plan from an individual college graduation that gives recognition to each department to one single all-college ceremony. That is to say, Radford University would have a large graduation ceremony for every student, instead of each college receiving its own ceremony.

The biggest issues with this new plan is that it drastically increases the time for everyone involved and the ceremony becomes much more impersonal. This new ceremony plan forces students, and their family, to sit through several hours of graduation that has nothing to do with them. Individual departments will no longer receive recognition; departments like Geology, Geospatial, Anthropology, Women Studies, and others will be forgotten. Students will no longer have their moment of real recognition; instead they will be quickly cycled through for the sake of efficiency.

Our university has always advertised and prioritized small classes and personal connections among faculty and students. Students are able to develop close connections with their teachers, and on a day that celebrates a student’s personal work and achievements, this new plan suddenly strips them of that and makes them anonymous. Radford University prides itself on its close-knit community. This is a major selling point of the University. Yet, suddenly that key aspect of our community is being tossed aside.

There is currently a petition that is going around in opposition of the new graduation ceremony. The online petition is searching for 2,500 signatures. There is also a report available on the Radford webpage for the plans, factors, and decisions leading up to the new graduation ceremony.

The Line of Gemini – Part 8

Sunny’s mind was racing. She took a breath. “So you say you’re not like humans. Are you like aliens?”

Eli didn’t answer, looking a little offended by the word.

“Do you think that we’re aliens?” Tod said.

She paused, and her lip quirked up slightly. “I mean, you, yes. Eli, I thought he was an angel.”

She turned to Eli at that moment, and missed Tod’s crestfallen look entirely. “But wishes? You say you can grant them?”

“Well, not on Earth,” Eli said. “We’re not strong enough here, and we need more than two Setareh anyway.”

“What planet do you even live on?” Sunny said, shaking her head.

“It’s called Dross,” Tod said.

“So can you go back there?” she asked.

“Yeah. Technically,” Tod muttered, rolling his eyes.

“But only together,” Eli said. “And if we’re here too long, we lose the ability to go back.”

“Oh. And how many years is that?”

“Maybe six or seven,” Tod said with a shrug. “Hard to say.”

In her head, Sunny counted the years Tod had been with them. Five. No, maybe it was five and a half now. Had to be. “So you guys have to leave?”

There was a pause, and Eli opened his mouth to speak but Tod was quicker. He shook his head. “No. We don’t have to. I mean, Eli wants to, but that’s just because he’s Eli. I want to stay,” he said. He stepped closer to her.

Sunny didn’t look at him. She leaned against the truck. She tilted her head against the window. She looked up at the night sky. She sighed. “Oh. Well. That’s fine then.”

Continue reading The Line of Gemini – Part 8