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NU Science Issue 9

NU Science Issue 9

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Published by: NuScience Mag on Apr 08, 2012
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NUScience
Northeastern University’s First Science Magazine
Issue 9
WHERE HAVE ALL THESHARKS GONE?Shark fnning andits eect on global shark populations
 ALSO INSIDE:
 
 An Introduction toHydro-rackingUpdates on the KeystoneXL Pipeline Applications oEvolutionary Genetics
 
1 NU ScienceNU Science 2
EVENT CALENDAROF SCIENTIFIC HAPPENINGS
December/January
at Northeastern and in the Boston Area
Dec 01Dec 08Dec 13Dec 15Jan 15Jan 22
Aective Science Institute Meet and Greet
1:30-4:00pm
Profles in Innovation: President Aoun hosts conversationwith airspace sculptor Janet Echelman
5:00-6:00pm
Global Climate Change Meets Ecophobia Lecture
Presented by David Sobel, PhD
New England Aquarium
Whale Poop and the Meaning o Lie Lecture
Presented by Dr. Kathleen Hunt
New England Aquarium
Book Club or the Curious: Museum o Science Book Club
This Book Club will be discussing the book “Beyond Boundaries:The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines -and How It Will Change Our Lives” by Miguel Nicolelis
5:30pm at the Museum of Science
Cosmic Train Wrecks
Discussion of colliding galaxies
7:30pm at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Nursing: The Evolution o Patient Care
Discussion presented by Massachusetts General Hospital
12:15-1:00pm at the Old South Meeting House, Boston
Northeastern Marine Science Center Monthly Lecture Series
7:00-8:30pm at Murphy Bunker at the MarineScience Center in Nahant, MA
Geckos: Tails to Toepads Exhibit opensat the Museum o Science
Temporary Exhibit
Science Ink: Tattoos o the Science Obsessed
Carl Zimmer discusses his book, “Science Ink”
6:00pm at the Harvard Natural History Museum
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Dear Readers,The events o the past ew months have clearly demonstrated the level o rustration citizens have withcurrent governmental and societal problems in the United States and abroad. From the prolieration oOccupy events across the country, to the erce protests in Egypt, 2011 quickly became the year to haveyour voice heard and to demand change.In the midst o this complex, turbulent, and thought-provoking atmosphere, Issue 9 ocused onenvironmental activism and some o the problems plaguing the earth and its species. We have a primeron the racking issue or your perusal, as well as updates on the Keystone debacle, and a eature on thehorric practice o shark nning. While each o these topics have alarming aspects, in their research theauthors discovered the change that civilian voices can cause. When we met to discuss articles in earlyall, the Keystone pipeline was still little debated. Since that point thousands o people have marched onWashington demanding it be halted, and the vote determining its ate has been pushed back until aterthe next election, ensuring it a spot among the campaign trail talking points. Furthermore, shark andshery legislation has been slowly but surely advancing, with a recent approval by the ICCAT meeting inNovember to protect the Silky shark in Atlantic waters.We hope that you enjoy this issue and will nd something to interest you among its pages. Wewelcome you to join us or Issues 10 and 11 in the spring, or to submit any ideas or suggestions youmight have. Whether you’re an avid writer, graphic designer, web guru, or photographer, we would loveto collaborate with you and showcase your work on campus. I you’re looking or a place to get creative,innovative, and maybe just a bit intellectual, become a part o NU Science Magazine!Kristina DeakBiochemistry, 2012Editor-in-Chie, FounderNU Science Magazine
EAST COAST DIVERS
 With over 34 years o experience, East Coast Divers has become a staple o the New England divecommunity. Located just o the green line in Brookline, the local shop can help you with all o your divingneeds, regardless o skill level. They oer several open water certication courses throughout the year,as well as a multitude o specialty classes to build on your credentials. Most recently, they’ve added anew class on the undamentals o reediving, which teaches you the practice o static apnea and can bringyou to depths o up to 20m on a single breath. In addition, they provide a great networking resource ordive enthusiasts, by hosting both local shore dives every weekend (weather and season permitting), sealdives throughout the summer, and urther travel opportunities to exotic locations, such as the ever-populartrip to Bonaire. Above all, the sta are extremely knowledgeable equipment specialists, and are alwaysavailable or any questions you may have, or or equipment purchase, rental, or maintenance. You can ndout more on their website, at www.ecdivers.com, or join their acebook group, acebook.com/ECDiversor continual updates.NU Science Magazine thanks Nick Fazah, an instructor at East Coast Divers, or his generous donationo the image on page 9 o this issue. The photo is rom a recent dive in the Maldives.
MOTE MARINE LABORATORY AND AQUARIUM
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida has been a leader in marine research, education,and public outreach, since it’s beginning in 1955. Founded by the legendary “shark lady,” Dr. EugeneClark and her mentor Dr. Charles Breder, Mote’s primary research was ocused on shark biology. Today,the lab has become a hub or research across a variety o disciplines, including ecotoxicology, coastalecology, coral ree restoration, aquaculture, and marine mammal and sea turtle studies. In addition, theyhave expanded into a beautiul aquarium, which eatures more than 100 dierent marine species andhosts several educational lectures, special exhibits, and amily-riendly events each year. Mote also has avery active internship program, with allows over 125 college students rom around the country to urthertheir research skills in a stimulating research setting each year.Mote Marine Laboratory remains one o the top acilities or shark research in the United States,with present studies ocused on the biochemistry, immunology, sensory biology, behavior, and populationdynamics o a large variety o shark species. You can nd out more inormation on the web at http://www.mote.org.NU Science Magazine thanks Mote or their generous donation o two images in the magazine, theimage o the whale shark on the back cover, as well as the sandbar within the shark ning article.
EXECUTIVE BOARD
President
Brad West, Chemical Engineering, 2013
Editor-In-Chief
Kristina Deak, Biochemistry, 2012
General Content Editor
Michael Murray, Computer Science/English, 2014Cat Ferguson, Behavioral Neuroscience, 2013
Interviews and Reviews Editor
 Elizabeth Gilbert, Health Science/International Aairs, 2013
Graphic Design
 Alyssa Sullivan, Graphic Design, 2013
Finance
Taarika George, Health Science, 2013
Secretary
Cat Ferguson, Behavorial Neuroscience, 2013
GET INVOLVED!
Are you looking or a creative way toshowcase your work on campus? Do youwant to boost your resume in a way that’screative, intellectual and un? Becomea part o NU Science! We publish twoissues per semester on a variety othemes in science and technology andwelcome our writers to explore anyappropriate topic they nd interesting.You can always email us at
nusciencemag@gmail.com
, checkout past issues on our website at
 http://www.nusci.weebly.com
, orollow us on
Facebook 
(Facebook.com/NUScienceMagazine).We meet every
Monday
at
7:30 pm
in room
245 Ryder Hall
.Come collaborate with us!
 
NU Science 4
You might think computers are pretty smart.It’s probably because they can spit out amillion possible answers ater a quick internetsearch. But you do the research to nd an answer,and search engines simply match keywords tobring you to sources. Computers don’t solveproblems or understand language, we do. Butthat’s most computers. It’s not IBM’s Watson.IBM created a trivia mastermindthat easily deeated Ken Jennings in alive Jeopardy show in February.Watson is a computer network madeup o 2,800 computer processors, theequivalent to about 6,000 computers. Itis about the size o 10 rerigerators andno, it doesn’t have access to Google.Rather preparing or Jeopardy like normalcontestants, Watson has about 10 milliondocuments downloaded and stored in itsmemory. We’re talking about countlessbooks, encyclopedias, thesauruses, andthe New York Times archive, you know,the basics. IBM developers also gave himextra sources o inormation like Wikipedia,the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com),and religious documents like the Bible.It’s more than just the inormation though.Machine learning is a new strategy thatcomputer designers used in Watson.It would be almost impossible to teach acomputer to understand handwriting by showingit every possible way o writing a letter. I you takethe letter “A,” or instance, there are innite ontvariations. But i you gave it hundreds o examples,Watson will recognize patterns, so that whenaced with a version it doesn’t already know, it canidentiy the letter. I it gets the letter wrong, Watsonwill remember that mistake and learn rom it.When given a question, Watson breaks itdown and takes out keywords. Then it compilesa list o inormation related to those keywords.Here’s an example, with the keywordsWatson would highlight in italics:
Keanu Reeves
had a
Nokia
phone,but it took a
landline
to slip in and out othis, the title o a
1999 sci- fick 
.Watson recognizes that the question isasking or the name o a movie. So he looksor a
1999 science ction fick 
starring
Keanu Reeves
but recognizes that thedetails about the phone aren’t relevant.Once it breaks down the question intokeywords, Watson searches through its databaseand comes up with a list o thousands opossible answers that relate to the keywords.That might include any movie Reeves has everbeen in, other popular science ction movies,and a list o all movies released in 1999.Next, Watson checks to see what inormationoverlaps and how oten, and ranks each optionto see what would be the most likely. ThenWatson analyses how much condence it hasin each answer. I it has less than 50 percentcondence in its answer Watson will not respond.In less than 3 seconds, it knowsthe answer: “The Matrix.”
-Alli Knothe, Journalism, 2014
During the dark ages the Black Death sweptthrough Europe, killing up to 50% o the populationin some areas. This notorious plague had a majorimpact on art and inspired the development osome o the rst health clinics. A little bacterium,
Yersinia pestis
is a prime suspect or the massiveepidemic. Scientists recently isolated this bacteriumrom 700-year-old plague victims in an attempt tosequence its genome and discover its relation toother plague-causing bacteria. This techniquecan provide insight into the evolutionary patternso bacteria and has the potential or elucidatinghealth implications or today’s diseases.How do you obtain700-year-old DNA withoutcontaminating the sample? Scientists extractedDNA rom the teeth o the victims o the plagueound in a cemetery created in 1348. Using amolecular capture assay, they were able to isolatethe ancient DNA rom contaminants and sequenceit, compensating or DNA damage. From thebacteria’s DNA sequence, scientists could attestthat it did in act cause the Black Death and isgenetically related to the bacteria that causedwidespread disease in Asia. DNA rom causalbacteria has also been isolated rom victims o aplague that swept through the Roman Empire inAD 541-542 and even rom a plague in Athensthat occurred in 430 BC. However, the techniqueto isolate the DNA rom these victims has notbeen as successul and the causes or bothare still said to be unknown. The mostamazing aspect o this discovery isnot the genomic inormation romthe bacteria itsel, but o the vaststeps scientic technology hastaken. The act that we canisolate, sequence and interpretthe modern brothers o ancientDNA is a great advance increating a historical timeline opathogens that eect humans.
-Tara Dhingra, Biochemistry, 2012
BLACK DEATH DISCOVERY
NU SCIENCE EXPLAINS...
 
Alternative Vehicles
Knowing what we do today about how combustionengines work, it is understandable as to whysomeone would want an alternative to the traditionalcar. Not only are greenhouse gas emissions harmulto our atmosphere, the gasoline required to powerengines is becoming more and more costly. Onealternative type o vehicle is a hybrid. It has twoengines, one gas powered and one electricallypowered. These engines can power the vehiclewhile consuming less gasoline than conventionalvehicles. This saves the owner money and resultsin the emission o less greenhouse gasses.Three dierent mechanisms built into thecar help to achieve this eat. The rst is calledregenerative breaking. Normally when the carbrakes with a combustion engine, the excessenergy is lost as heat through riction. Thismeans that the energy is simply wasted, whereashybrid vehicle can conserve this energy. Whenit brakes, the energy rom the wheels is used toturn the electric motor, converting energy thatis normally wasted into electricity, which can bestored in the battery until needed by the motor.The second thing that a hybrid car can do to limituel consumption is operate the electric motorand combustion motor at the same time. Theelectric engine assists in acceleration, passingand hill climbing. Since combustion engines areextremely inecient at low speeds, in certain hybridmodels the electric motor will take over at thesespeeds. The nal thing that sets hybrids apartrom traditional cars is that the combustion engineautomatically shuts o when the car comes to astop and is at rest. When pressure is applied tothe accelerator, causing the engine to turn overagain, the electric motor takes over and powersthe vehicle. This allows the gasoline that wouldhave been wasted during idling to be conserved.These cars are a great option or anyone whoneeds to tighten their belt, or just cares about theenvironment. They are a more sustainable modeo transportation, and hopeully enough peoplewill take advantage o this option to preserveour natural resources and the environment.
-Bill Fleming, Chemical Enginering, 2016 
 Watson:
 
Computer Genius
Everyone loves the idea o mind reading. From theprolieration o New Age psychics to appearances inpop culture - there is even machine on House thatcan read a girl’s thoughts to diagnose her illnesses– it’s clear that people nd telepathy ascinating.Skeptics deride it, while the gullible happily orkover money to Madam Cleo. But what i sciencecould actually nd a way to see inside your head?That’s exactly what the Gallant lab at UCBerkeley is trying to do. Using a combination ounctional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)and computational models, scientists havemanaged to recreate the mental pictures oseveral subjects who are watching video clips.The accuracy is striking. It’s not like you can watch
Gone with the Wind 
through another person’seyes, but seeing the recreated image and the clipside by side is certainly impressive. (To see thecomparisons, look up “Reconstruction rom brainactivity” rom the YouTube user gallantlabucb).The media, as usual, has taken the pressrelease rom the Gallant lab at its word and thenadded its own hyperbole. Articles with titles like“Someday, you might watch your own dreamson YouTube” prolierated soon ater the paper’spublication, and spread across the web like wildre.Soon, the inboxes o academics even tangentiallyinvolved with neuroscience (lowly undergraduatesincluded) were fooded with questions like,“So can I look at my baby’s thoughts now?”While this technological advance is incredible,it doesn’t come out o the blue. For years, MRIsand PET scans have been used to map theneural patterns during various stimuli. In 2007,NeuroImage successully predicted brain statesusing MRIs. In 2008, the Gallant lab publisheda paper showing that, by using a vast databaseo brain responses to selected images, it waspossible or the researcher to determine which o agiven set o photographs the subject was lookingat. The paper concluded that soon, instead ocomparing inormation to decide which one o a ewpictures the subject was viewing, any visualizationcould be recreated rom brain scans alone,This research is an exciting advance, one thathopeully will provide scientists with answersabout the brain’s unctioning. Further delving intothis line o work might even provide clues aboutthe Big Questions – consciousness, dierencesin visual experience, how babies eel whenthey watch those insane Baby Einstein videos.Still, it would be wise to exercise caution whendiscussing the implications o current research– no matter how thrilling “Scientists in Caliorniacan now read your mind” sounds as a lede.
-Cat Ferguson, Behavioral Neuroscience, 2013
PICTURE THIS:
 
The
Emerging Science
o 
Mind-Reading
Photos courtesy o gizmodo.com
3 NU Science

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