Science

From Babbling to Birdsong: What Finches Can Teach Us About Vocal Learning

From Babbling to Birdsong: What Finches Can Teach Us About Vocal Learning

This article by Kelly Shen '23 was one of the top 11 winners of the New York Times's "The Learning Network" competition— the second annual  STEM Writing Contest. The photo is from the New York Times article where it was published. This is a huge accomplishment and we thought it would be fitting to include it in the Quad for those who haven't seen it online! Imagine listening to Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro,” as performed by a two-month-old baby, or Bizet’s “Habanera” crooned by a toddler. In some sense, that is what you hear when a baby finch practices…
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Answering All Your Science Questions!

Answering All Your Science Questions!

Kelly Shen '23, image from Unsplash.com Instead of the latest news, for today’s article I decided to compile a list of science questions we’ve all probably wondered at some point. So here are five science questions and the answers that you’ve been dying to know :) 1. Why do we die if we don’t drink water? You know the answer to this one. We’ll dehydrate. But really, what’s the reason? Is it because our cells are drying up? Or is it because we can’t produce saliva and other fluids anymore? There are actually multiple reasons as to why we need…
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Ultra-White Paint Might Soon Replace Air Conditioners

Ultra-White Paint Might Soon Replace Air Conditioners

Kelly Shen '23, image from Unsplash.com A new coat of paint is a simple way to freshen up your home. Soon, it could also help keep your house cool. Researchers at Purdue University have developed an ultra-white paint that reflects 98.1 percent of sunlight, and could possibly keep surfaces up to 19 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than their surroundings.  The team of scientists in Purdue’s engineering department recently published the findings, stating “Our paint only absorbs 1.9 percent of the sunlight, whereas commercial paint absorbs 10 to 20 percent of sunlight.”  The paint may be a marked improvement from current heat-rejecting…
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CO2 Levels Hit New Record

CO2 Levels Hit New Record

Kelly Shen '23, image from Unsplash.com For the first time, CO2 levels in the atmosphere have surpassed 420 parts per million (ppm = 1 particle of CO2 per 1 million particles of air). Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii has been monitoring weather and climate since the 1950’s and reported the news on April 5th, after recording a daily average of  421.21 ppm, a new record. For comparison, the daily average was 315 ppm only sixty years ago.  Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at Nasa, is “more certain CO2 causes global heating than smoking causes cancer.” The evidence is strong, as…
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Scientists Discover Why Our Brains Are So Big

Scientists Discover Why Our Brains Are So Big

Kelly Shen '23 A defining characteristic of mammals, and especially humans, are our very large brains. In fact, the human brain typically reaches about 1,500 cm3, nearly three times the size of the gorilla brain (500cm3) or the chimp brain (400cm3). How did we develop larger brains than most other organisms? Scientists believe they have finally unlocked some clues, starting with cells from our primate cousins.  The Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, has grown brain “organoids” out of stem cells called neural progenitors. These cells are shaped like cylinders, and when they split make…
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A Light Free Zone for Birds

A Light Free Zone for Birds

Kelly Shen '23, image from Unsplash.com One of the many consequences of light pollution is an increase in bird deaths. Artificial light emitted from homes or skyscrapers during the night time can confuse migratory birds, who use the stars and night sky to navigate. When it is cloudy and the stars are hidden, the birds will become disoriented, which leads them to crash into buildings or go off course. Windows also play a role, reflecting light and images of their surroundings. In the morning, hundreds of dead birds line the street, a grim reminder of the effects of light pollution. …
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Long Lost Bird Found After 170 Years

Long Lost Bird Found After 170 Years

Kelly Shen '23, photo from the New York Times Muhammad Suranto and Muhammad Rizky Fauzan trekked into the South Kalimantan rainforest in Borneo, and spotted a black and brown bird darting between the trees. They couldn’t identify it, so they captured one and sent photos of it to a birdwatching group, BW Galeatus. One member, Joko Said Trisiyanto, matched the bird to the black-browed babbler, which was listed in his guidebook as extinct. He sent the photos to ornithologist Panji Gusti Akbar, who passed the photos along to many other experts. After the initial shock faded, experts agreed: it had…
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This Flower Has Learned To Hide From Humans

This Flower Has Learned To Hide From Humans

Kelly Shen '23, Photo from AllThatsInteresting.com While writing this article, I was looking up pictures of the flower’s bulb out of curiosity, and it turns out that the bulb of this flower is a staple in the cough syrup/medicine (糖水) I drink when I’m sick. I went to my grandma with the Chinese name of the plant, and she immediately knew what it was. In fact, she commented on how the price of the bulb was skyrocketing. No one in my family, including myself, knew that this plant was only grown in remote Chinese mountains in limited numbers, we all…
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A Bird That Builds Its Nest Right Next to Its Enemy

A Bird That Builds Its Nest Right Next to Its Enemy

Kelly Shen '23, photo from Unsplash.com Eagles are known to prey on other bird’s chicks and eggs, and the Blue Heron is no exception. When eagles swoop in, Blue Herons have no choice but to flee, leaving their nest unprotected. The eagle will snatch an egg or a heron chick and fly away with it. You’d expect the herons to live as far away as possible from eagle nesting territory. However, the opposite is happening, herons are actually trying to get as close as they can. If eagles prey on Blue Heron young, why would they build a nest colony…
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How B Cells Contribute to COVID Immunity

How B Cells Contribute to COVID Immunity

Kelly Shen '23, Image from Unsplash.com One good thing about SARS-CoV-2 is that there is rarely ever re-infection, though many are still falling ill. This points to a positive aspect about immunity: there might be long-term memory in the immune response to the virus. However, immune response can get extremely complicated, and research is still scarce. We will take a closer look at all the promising reasons as to why we might have long term immunity.  The immune reaction requires the coordinated activity of a variety of cell types. There's an innate immune reaction that's triggered when cells sense they're…
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