Archive for the ‘ Science ’ Category

Tay.AI: Shocking Failure or Shocking Success?

By Aiden Montgomery

 

On March 23, Microsoft released a new artificial intelligence Chatbot named Tayler or Tay.ai for short. Chatbots are robots that will talk to you with automated messages and are usually used on fake websites or entertainment websites. What makes Tay.ai special is that she’s a Chatbot who uses the Internet, human interaction, and relevant resources to improve her speech and herself. The more people talked to her, the more she learned. People were able to talk to her over social media sites such as Twitter. When Tay was first activated she posted this simple message.

Things seemed to be going good for Tay as she interacted with people by answering questions. Things however quickly turned sour. It only took the Internet about 3-6 hours to destroy her innocence like the Internet does to most things. Tay started to swear viciously, make racial slurs, and hurt people’s reputation. As Tay began to become what she thought was human she became a Nazi; she began to praise Adolf Hitler for his work and express her hate for the Jews. Most of the things she said are so graphic that we can’t post them in this article. Here’s an example of one that we can show. Continue reading

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Your Insomniac and You

Patricia Azevedo
Lying awake in the dark seems to be becoming a common pastime of youths in the United States. Currently in the U.S., a little less than half of the youths between ages 10-17 experience sleep deprivation in some form. In addition to being sleep deprived, children between ages 10-17 transfer from elementary school, to middle school, and then finally to high school within a relatively short time period. At such a stressful time, when suicide rates for this age group skyrocket, children are put in competitive environments and often told it will affect the rest of their lives.

Your circadian rhythm is your internal clock, and when these this is messed with there are significant reductions in immune system abilities. Your internal clocks also control when it’s time to eat and sleep. Sleep deprivation causes more sleep deprivation, while healthy sleeping schedules result in healthier sleeping schedules.

If sleep deprivation becomes extreme, it can become insomnia. Insomniacs have varying levels of intensity: some may sleep for maybe 6 hours a night (mild insomnia), but some people who suffer from insomnia may not sleep for days and then end up passing out once for 8-14 hours (serious, chronic insomnia).

While it’s impossible to completely remove stress from the lives of American adolescents, getting enough sleep is important. Sleep deprivation can cause lower grades, depression, and even higher risks of car crashes. There are a few things you can do to encourage sleep in yourself and those around you. Continue reading

“Islands of Genius”: What Savant Syndrome Could Show Us

By Amanda Bertsch

Note: this essay was written for the Math Honors class. If any students have interesting essays or assignments they would like to share, please email them to alexandre.dubroy@student.tricityprep.org.

 

What are savants?

Savants are people who have mental handicaps, often severe, but possess incredible skills. Most of these skills are contained in five general categories: music, calendar calculations, mathematics, art, and spatial skills. Musical skills are perhaps the most common and usually include perfect pitch and unusual skill at the piano; interestingly enough, blindness tends to be associated with musical savants as well. Calendar calculations involve being able to tell what day of the week any given date fell on, no matter how far in the past or future it lies. Mathematical skill is not being able to understand complex math—on the contrary, mathematically gifted savants rarely comprehend even arithmetic. Rather, they can perform lightning calculations or quickly compute huge prime numbers. Spatial skills are often the ability to measure distances extremely accurately without any tools, construct complicated models perfectly, or give the best directions to a location based on memorized maps.

Continue reading

Interview with Mary Halvorson-Prazak: Is a Cure for Diabetes On the Way?

By Amanda Bertsch

Every day, approximately 80 people in the United States are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and half of these are children. Type 1 diabetes is a disease that can strike suddenly at any point in a person’s lifetime, and insulin injections, though helpful, are not a cure.

Many believe the answer lies in the artificial pancreas system. The artificial pancreas is a relatively new, but promising technology that connects an automated insulin pump with a continuous glucose monitor. The monitor notes the blood sugar level of the patient, and the pump adds insulin or shuts off, depending on the value. This system could make treating Type 1 diabetes an entirely autonomous process.

But is this really a cure? The leading diabetes researcher and spokesperson Mary Halvorson-Prazak explained the controversy in an exclusive interview with Denobis. “Some people say a technological cure isn’t a real cure, but […] as long as you can get kids’ lives so they don’t really have to do a lot every day, and their control and their blood sugar is at a near-normal level, then I think that’s great for the interim.”

Halvorson-Prazak estimated that the artificial pancreas technology should be up on the market as soon as the products are both fine-tuned and passed through the FDA, adding that it was exciting to see the devices on.

She also shared her advice for students interested in a science career. “We need a lot of scientists,” she said, adding that more cutting-edge, innovative thinking is needed in the laboratory. In this way, treatments can be passed from “bench to bedside” to cure serious illnesses.

“People with health problems don’t get enough attention, really,” she noted. “When you test things out with people, it’s really fabulous because they’re getting better already just because of the structure and the attention they’re given.”

And as for public speaking? Halvorson-Prazak simply advises getting to know the information without your notes and remember to explain concepts that your audience might not know. Symposium-giving students would be wise to keep those tips in mind.

Mary Halvorson-Prazak has been working in diabetes research since the 1990s and works with children with Type 1 diabetes.

 

The Pluto Parable

By Alexandre DuBroy

 

The summer fast approaches, and it brings with it enjoyable pastimes, heat, family fun, and more excitingly, a fabulous scientific occasion. The New Horizons space probe, which has been flying towards Pluto since January of 2006, will make its closest flyby of the planet in July of this year.

 

It will be a momentous occasion, as no probe has ever visited Pluto, and it will allow for extremely high resolution photos of the celestial body. (For reference, the highest quality photos we have of Pluto currently come from the Hubble Telescope, and are only pixels across). The probes trajectory has taken it on a journey that we here on Earth can barely fathom. It launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and rocketed off at high speed towards Jupiter, where it made observations of the planet, using Jupiter’s gravity to slingshot itself towards Pluto. By aiming itself into its orbit, it accelerates around the planet, and then slingshot around the planet to increase its speed by 25%, and prepare its final trajectory for a meetup with wee Pluto.

 

The distances involved are numbers so large we really have no comparison to them. It took the probe about a year to reach Jupiter at launch speed, and even at increased speed, it has taken it ten whole years to reach Pluto. Even the first color photo of Pluto, which was recently taken, is barely a few pixels across. The photo was taken recently, and though it’s only 3 months away, the distances involved are still in the hundreds of millions of miles. The probe is travelling about 20 kilometres every second (compared to 16 at initial launch, the fastest launch of a probe from earth yet).

 

When it reaches Pluto, it will take high resolution photos of the dwarf planet, map the surfaces of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, investigate the atmosphere of Pluto, however faint it may be, and look into the interaction of high energy solar and comic particles with the atmosphere of Pluto. The spacecraft comes equipped with several telescopes, cameras, radio experiments, a dust counter, and other scientific payloads. The probe is managed by a flight computer, which interfaces with earth over a several-hour-long communications delay. It is equipped with small thrusters for course correction and powered by an RTG.

 

An RTG is a Radioisotope Thermal Generator, which means it is a long tube with a sizeable amount of Plutonium 238 inside of it to produce power where solar panels are unreliable. Its power decreases in an inverse exponential function as the Plutonium decays. The half-life of Pu238 is about 87 years, meaning the probe will produce only half the power it started out with after 87 years. However, this time will likely come before the 87 years, as the power couplers which absorb the particles from the Plutonium will be degraded significantly before then. When the probe reaches Pluto, its power output will have already decayed about 25%.

 

The cost of the project was high, but not outrageous. NASA’s estimate is that the entire project from start to finish will cost only about 650 million dollars in its primary operating life, 15 years. For comparison, this is one tenth of a percent of the yearly earnings of Apple, and one-one hundredth of a percent the yearly annual American defense budget. It seems NASA deserves a pat on the back for efficiency in the world of bureaucracy and science. For just a speck of funding over 15 years, a massive scientific milestone for humanity has been achieved.

 

The probe’s main mission is in the 15 or so years from 2001-2016, though the probe will operate well past this date, until its RTG no longer can power the probe. After that, it will float through space, heading to who knows where. It will join the small and venerable rank of probes to have escaped our Solar System and will continue to fly onward. Its small and desolate form, one of the grandest achievements of an entire species of sentient beings, a mere speck in the context of the Universe glinting starlight off it as it goes towards stars, or galaxies, or nebulae or even aliens who we may have the pleasure of meeting one day.

 

Credit for information goes to NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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