Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2012

Green Homes and the Greenhouse Effect

A sustainable-energy house. (source)
   Climate change has integrated itself into our daily actions. It’s in the green recycle bins, marked with the immediately recognizable triangular arrow symbol, the paper versus plastic, the electric cars humming down the road and the grass-fed cows. Becoming environmentally-conscious has affected many communities, some more than others.      It’s still not enough. Ice caps are still making the news as they melt into the ocean, and this summer’s record-breaking temperatures have cast an ominous shadow onto the future. People are largely aware of this, but oftentimes brush the frantic cries of environmental scientists off. To many, global warming has faded into the background, a part of the ever-changing scenery and a doom so large and so distant there’s no point in actively searching for ways to slow it. ‘Going green’ is too unwieldy, too time-consuming, too costly or too much effort.
    However, global warming cannot be dismissed so easily. Ice caps…

More than a Surgeon's Sidekick: The Anesthesiologist

An anesthesiologist at work. (source)
      Dr. Art Wallace is a professor of anesthesiology and perioperative care at UCSF, and an attending anesthesiologist at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Hospital. He is a man of sharp wit, wry humor, and countless analogies to explain the complexities of anesthesia. He was also kind enough to answer a couple of questions for me over the phone.
What exactly is anesthesiology?       An anesthesiologist makes patients become compatible with surgery. They put patients in a state in which they can undergo painful operations and surgeries. Anesthesia requires the use of several powerful, lethal drugs and is extremely dangerous. Its cultivation over the last 150 years has been geared toward making it more effective, more efficient, and thus more safe.       Anesthesiology has helped reduce the risk of surgical care tremendously. Around the 1950s, the ratio of fatal to nonfatal procedures was 1:200 to 1:1500. The present day ratio of 1:100000 to 1:100000…

Bringing the Ecosystems Back

(source) Bothin Marsh, in Marin County
       Nearly all continents and countries on Earth share one constant: the concrete, plastic, steel and asphalt of any cities’ infrastructure. The sidewalks, highways, subway systems and airports that have become so necessary in life are slowly expanding outwards. Urbanization spreads, developing countries develop, and people worldwide work towards more efficient and convenient lives. Since the Industrial Age, humankind has been working towards this goal.        Yet, today, we exist in another movement, another age: the Environmental Age. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring sparked a movement to protect, conserve, document, and heal the environment—a movement that’s still going strong. National parks have appeared all over the world, and conservation has risen to political importance. Nowadays—especially in Marin—people are constantly reminded to ‘Go Green,’ and from personal shopping bags to newly electronic buses, efforts to cut down waste have become …

Space, the Enigmatic Frontier

(source) A pie graph of the universe's composition.
    When most people think of outer space, they don’t usually imagine space
    The first thing that comes to mind are stars. Tiny white pinpricks of light in the sky that, in reality, are blazing spitfires of roiling gases. We envision bands of them, flung out into the inky blackness, coiled tight into galaxies or let loose in vibrant splashes of nebulae. Then people may think of comets, bulky intergalactic travelers remembered by their brilliant icy trail. Perhaps the asteroid comes to mind, one amongst millions drifting lethargically in the thick belt that separates the inner planets of our solar system from the outer. We could imagine planets and constellations, nebulae and supernovae, quasars and pulsars!
    Yet the yawning black stretches of nothingness between these extraterrestrials bodies remain overlooked.
    Of course, ‘nothingness’ isn’t quite the correct term. What really fills the blanks between the occasional blimps …

The Science Right in Your Bloodstream

There are a lot of words that begin with the prefix ‘bio-.’
     Biology, for instance, and then biochemistry, biotechnology, bionics, biopharmaceutical... the list goes on and on, advancing further afield the deep, often obscure world of biological sciences.  (source) pH is one of many properties used to analyze chemicals in body fluids.
     And, why shouldn’t it? “Bio” as a prefix means ‘life’, the study of which starts at the very core of our existence. We have been fascinated with everything to do about life: plants, animals, people, and the chemical breakdown of them all. Food chains, weather, evolution, natural selection, and how they all shaped the world we live in today. There’s a lot of “bio” in this world, and a lot of different ways to study it! Some of them we can recognize right off the bat, like biomedical, or zoology. Other fields are a bit more esoteric.
     Take bioanalytics, for instance.
     By parsing the word into two bits, ‘bio’ and ‘analytics,’ it seems bioan…

MSS launches its 6th year with UAV ONLINE!

Marin Science Seminar Presentation: "UAV OnlineThe Challenges of Engineering Autonomous Drones for the Open World" with Pavlo Manovi, TLHS grad and junior at UC Santa Cruz (September 19, 2012) Download the flyer here.
This presentation will introduce the SLUGS autonomous development platform being developed at UC Santa Cruz's Autonomous Systems Lab.  Pavlo will discuss the goals, the science/ aerodynamics/ controls/ programming/ physics aspects of the project, and the challenges and considerations faced in adapting SLUGS for the open source world.  There will be hands-on demonstrations and Q/A.
Pavlo Manovi is an alumnus of Terra Linda High School who studies robotics engineering at UC Santa Cruz. His interest in research stems from his love of prototyping and the prospect of learning and collaborating with like-minded, creative, intelligent individuals on the forefront of their field. Pavlo is a two time winner of the Marin Physics Olympics, and is a strong advocate fo…

Interview with Robotics Engineer Pavlo Manovi

by Sandra Ning, Terra Linda HS

UC Santa Cruz junior and TL alumnus Pavlo Manovi gives a taste of his upcoming presentation on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with an interview:

A SLUGS UAV simulation tour around San Francisco, using Simulink  (uploaded 26 Jul., 2011; created by Samuel Toepke)
What makes robotics engineering so compelling?
-   What makes robotics engineering engender such a strong interest in me is the fact that the skills you need to be a competent robotics engineer encompasses most STEM fields and allows students and engineers both in academia or industry to be involved in projects from all studies of science.  Choosing a type of engineering was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make, as I didn't want to find myself focused on one field of engineering.   What I really wanted was to do everything that I loved, which is to say that I was looking for a balance of physics, computer science, math, and materials science that just didn't exist in most tradi…

Math in the Movies

by Julia Moore, Drake HS

On April 4th, Tony DeRose Ph.D. came to the Marin Science Seminar to discuss the many applications of mathematics at Pixar studios.  As a high school student, it can seem like hours of abstract math each week is a strange use of time, but calculus, geometry and other advanced mathematics are used on a daily basis at Pixar to make the incredible animations we know and love.

The process of making an animated film involves many steps with fine tuning at each to create the incredible worlds we see on the screen.  First, the story is drawn by hand into a "storyreel".  For each character, sketches of the character's main facial expressions are made to understand the character's personality.  The characters and sets are then modeled from the sketches on computers.  There are controls for the movement of different body parts of each character.  To simulate face movement, there are over 300 controls for the face movements of each character, each for a…

Interview With Dr.Susan Fisher

by Julia McKeag, Terra Linda HS
Susan Fisher, Ph.D. is the Director of Translational Research in Perinatal Biology and Medicine at UCSF. She is also a Professor in the Departments of Oral Biology, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and Anatomy and Faculty Director at the Biomolecular Resource Center, UCSF. She is also a member of the UCSF Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program (BMS). (Figure 1- refer to end of interview) 
What type of experiments does your lab do? We study the early stages of human development. One of the approaches we use includes deriving human embryonic stem cell lines.
How did you become interested in stem cell research? Stem cell research is rooted in developmental biology, which I have been interested in for as long as I can remember. I have always been fascinated by how one cell becomes an entire human being.
How do you think stem cell research will benefit humanity? Eventually we will understand how to cure human diseases using cell-based therapies. (Figure 2) Do you thi…

Interview with Edward Hsiao MD PhD of UCSF

by Julia Moore, Drake HS

How did you become interested in musculoskeletal disorders? I’ve always been interested in the skeleton. Although we typically think of bones as being solid and unchanging, they undergo a variety of very significant events throughout our lifetime, including growing and repairing after injury. In addition, bones are central to us as a living organism. They provide structure to our bodies, protect soft or vital organs, allow us to move efficiently, and provides bone marrow space for blood formation. We now know that many medically important diseases including osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, and heterotopic bone ossification are all a result of problems affecting normal bone formation.
How are we currently treating different types of musculoskeletal disorders? Since we don’t  understand how many musculoskeletal disorders develop, our ability to prevent them is pretty limited. Treatments for established disease are also very rudimentary and mostly symptomatic. For exam…

Hydrology and Restoring Ecosystems

Hydrology and Restoring Ecosystems: Applications in Engineering and Earth Sciences
By Julia McKeag, MSS Intern, Terra Linda High School
We are water. Well, anywhere from sixty to eighty percent of our body anyway. We may be mostly water, however, our body still requires a daily intake of this substance. Not saltwater, not marsh water, not swamp water, not muddy water, not vitamin water, but clean, fresh, water. This need has been known since the beginning of time, an instinct stored within the very fiber of human being, and has resulted in many conflicts. One of history’s famous “water wars” occurred between the farmers and ranchers of Owens Valley and the City of Los Angeles. In the 1800s, when Los Angeles outgrew its local water supply, the city searched for a new source of water. The mayor of Los Angeles, Fred Eaton, suggested that water from the Owens Valley could be diverted by aqueduct to Los Angeles. Owens Valley, a once fertile agricultural environment, supported various speci…

An Interview With Prominent Hydrologist: Rachel Z Kamman

Rachel Z. Kamman, P.E. Consulting Hydrologist of Kamman Hydrology & Engineering
Interview by Julia McKeag, Terra Linda High School
1) Why did you become a hydrologist? What inspired you to study hydrology and engineering in college?
RK- I always loved sciences in school and entered college as a biology major. In my freshman year I heard that there were some cool water classes in the engineering department, so I sat in during my second semester and as a sophomore, signed up for a class in fluid mechanics (the study of the physics of water movement).  I was hooked after the first class.  Hydrology 101 was next and I loved that even more because it focuses on the movement of water across the landscape.   I studied both biology and water resources engineering in College, and wanted to combine the majors but the departments had no combined program (this was before environmental engineering existing). Eventually I had to pick a degree, and chose engineering because I wanted to focus on app…

How we Know What we Know about the Brain

by Julia Moore, Drake HS

On January 25, 2011, Dr. Raymond Swanson explained to the youth and community of Marin the modern devices and techniques used in neuroscience.
About the Seminar:             Dr. Swanson is the professor and Vice-Chair in the Department of Neurology at UCSF.  He first became interested in neuroscience when he took at class in Physiological Psychology as an undergraduate.  His lab (Swanson Lab) does medical research to understand what will keep neurons alive, in hopes of improving the lives of patients suffering from strokes.    
            He discussed the past and current methods of neurological research.  Comparing normal brains and brains with differences is how we determine what certain parts of the brain do.  He gave the famous example of Phineas Gage who had his frontal lobe destroyed through an accident when building a railroad.  We saw major differences in Gage’s abitlity to have normal human controls (eg: sit still) and plan ahead, indicating that the fro…