Archive for the ‘ Science ’ Category

The Thirteenth Zodiac Sign

by Kaleb Lyonnais

A zodiac sign is defined as a constellation which the sun passes through during part of the year. During their part of the year, zodiac signs are not visible because they are in the sky during the day, while the sun is in front of them.

Zodiac signs are frequently used in a style of predicting the future called astrology. Astrologers believe that whichever zodiac sign was behind the sun when someone is born defines their personality and fate.

Something to keep in mind is that thirteen constellations fit the definition of a zodiac sign. Ophiuchus, “the Serpent-Bearer”, is located behind the sun from November 29 to December 18. However, astrologers do not include it as a zodiac sign because they like the number 12 more than 13.

This demonstrates something scientists have been saying for centuries: stars don’t control the future.

Constellations are just random assortments of stars that people gave names because their shape is reminiscent of their namesake. They help astronomers remembers the stars and give systematic names to the hundreds of stars in the sky, such as Alpha Centauri, the birghtests star in the constellation Centaurus.

However, these stars only appear in these shapes from the Earth’s perspective. From anywhere else in the galaxy, the constellations would be different, and, in other galaxies, constellations would be made of entirely different stars. Stars in the same constellation have no relation to each other, and the shapes they form are invented by humans.

Astrology claims that the relative position of these arbitrary shapes in sky, made of unrelated objects, can predict the future. This is as accurate as drawing pictures on telescopes and then wildly speculating about destiny.

How unreliable astrology is should be apparent from the convenient omission of a zodiac sign for the sake of easier arithmetic.


A Hairy Question

By Amanda Bertsch


One of the most obvious differences between humans and other mammals is body hair. Most monkeys, including our closest genetic relatives, are covered in a thick coat of hair. In comparison, even the most well-bearded man seems nearly bald. So why the hair discrepancy? And why do we still have hair in certain regions, like the scalp and armpits? Continue reading

Misconceptions about Brains, Part 1: You’re not left-brained or right-brained, you’re front-brained

There are many misconceptions about the brain, but perhaps the most pervasive are the many myths about the structure of the brain and how it relates to function.

Many people have made claims about which area of the brain is associated with which actions. It is true that the brain is partitioned into different structures, but the divisions are very broad. The brain contains three main structures: the hindbrain (which handles involuntary actions such as breathing and heartbeats), the midbrain (which handles reflexes), and the forebrain (which handles thoughts, senses, and voluntary motion)1.

Most people’s visualization of the brain is limited to the forebrain. The forebrain is divided into four lobes on each of two hemispheres. A particularly widespread myth is that the right hemisphere is associated with creativity while the left is associated with logic. This is completely false2. Continue reading

Muscle to Stone

By Katherine Christians


Imagine bumping into a table with a knee and getting a swollen lump where it was hit. A little while later, that lump hardens, and suddenly the person can’t move that joint. Underneath the skin, the muscles and ligaments turned into bone.

Though it might seem like it is impossible, there is a disorder that one in two million people have which turns muscle to bone, resulting in a second skeleton. This disorder is called Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva, or FOP.

Early signs are abnormally big toes, short thumbs, and other skeletal and muscle abnormalities. FOP is usually discovered around the age of three, but it can sometimes be discovered at a later age.

Some people with FOP have been able to live an average life for a short time, until they have lost all, or most, of their

Example of this "second skeleton".

Example of this “second skeleton”.

mobility. Other people choose to play it safe in order to be mobile for a longer amount of time. This disorder has no cure.

There seems to be a big focus on “headline diseases” that are very common. These are the diseases that are very well known, such as cancer or HIV-AIDS. People with less well-known diseases or disorders like FOP are much less likely to get adequate treatment or be cured.

Funding is rarely allocated to research rare diseases because there are not enough patients to make money off any resulting treatments. Without a proper amount of attention to any of the less well known disorders, there will be no hope for the people suffering from these serious and disheartening diseases.


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Could Gold Cure Cancer?

By Amanda Bertsch


These are all particles of gold in solution. The reason for their strange colors lies in the sizes of the particles. Photo credit

Craftsmen in the Middle Ages were very fond of their stained glass. They would frequently mix new compounds into the molten glass to try to get better colors. They observed that the best way to get a rich red color was to use a gold chloride compound. Gold is a yellow metal, and chloride is a greenish-yellow gas. How was a combination of the two producing red?

The answer, surprisingly, lies in one of the newest and most complicated areas of medical research: nanotechnology.

Continue reading