by Devin Juros
Edited by Felix Green
What happens to the brain when someone dies? The brains of mammals need oxygen and sugar to sustain the cells of the neurons within. They obtain these vital substances from blood flow, as there is a network of blood vessels that runs through the brain to deliver these substances to every neuron. Yet, when one dies, the heart stops pumping blood throughout the body, including the brain. Because of this, neurons no longer receive oxygen and sugar and they begin the process of death and degeneration. This process leads to several questions about the time frame and severity of neuron degeneration post-mortem. How quickly does this degenerative process take place in the brain after death? How long can the brain continue to function? Finally, is it possible to revive some brain activity or function post-mortem?
by Ziwen Zhou
Edited by Ishaani Khatri
Cryptocurrency: a term I’d wager you are familiar with, especially as more and more of the public falls in love with the indelible promise of this revolutionary technology. Indeed, various cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, have dominated news cycles as they experience preposterous price fluctuations (with daily losses/gains in the magnitude of hundreds to thousands of dollars) and continually see the development of technical upgrades.
The interest and investment in the cryptocurrency sphere shows no signs of halting, and at this point seems to rival the frenzy of the dot-com bubble in the 90s. Currently, cryptocurrencies have a market capitalization of over $190 billion dollars, which is simply an astounding figure . This pales in comparison to the quantity of fiat money, “regular” currency such as the US dollar or Chinese yuan, in circulation. Yet, some experts predict that cryptocurrencies will eventually supplant fiat money, especially as the worldwide economy that such a centralized system is predicated upon shows increasing signs of strain and deterioration.
Unfortunately, even as many can articulate a general familiarity with cryptocurrency or Bitcoin, a large percentage of people still don’t fully comprehend what constitutes a cryptocurrency.
A cryptocurrency is a digital currency that operates without a central regulatory body or bank and uses encryption techniques in order to regulate the currency supply and verify the legitimate transfer of funds. Naturally then, there is no artificial restriction placed upon the number of cryptocurrencies. A veritable menagerie have come into existence (including DogeCoin, which was originally created as a joke coin only to later be seriously traded).
The valuation of a cryptocurrency is entirely dependent on supply and demand, which explains its tremendous volatility. This offers the advantage of rendering cryptocurrencies virtually immune to regulation or manipulation by a government, which counterintuitively makes them more stable than fiat money as a monetary source as far as its susceptibility to systematic manipulation and control by external events. Experts have pointed to cryptocurrencies’ “information transparency, tamper-proof construction, and openness” as significant advantages over fiat money .
Of the thousands of cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin clearly possesses the most renown and popularity and also holds the largest share in the cryptocurrency market at 68.4% . As the majority of the value in the market is in Bitcoin, all other currencies are collectively referred to as “altcoins”.
Even as Bitcoin holds a commanding advantage over its competitors for preeminence in the cryptocurrency realm, many believe that the future actually resides with Ethereum, the largest altcoin.
Whereas Bitcoin is as pure as a form of cryptocurrency there is (simply your funds stored digitally, exempt from oversight or regulations by banks or the government), Ethereum is an entire digital ledger system that uses a currency called Ether (what is actually traded) to maintain its integrity .
In short, the developers of Ethereum didn’t simply apply the blockchain concept to currency in their efforts to decentralize. With the advent of smart contracts and “dApps,” short for decentralized Apps, business agreements, technology, and information can all change hands on the Ethereum network without the possibility of third-party influence/interference.
Smart contracts are exactly what they sound like; they are supposed to be a more intelligent way to create a contract between parties. They only execute with the transaction of Ether once certain conditions are met: as these conditions are encrypted into the blockchain, they are henceforth unable to be modified . As a result, there can be no backtracking on agreements, and business disputes become an impossibility. Furthermore, these agreements suddenly can be made at the discretion of any two parties; there is absolutely no way for the government or anyone else to be privy to or intervene in their creation or fulfillment.
On the other hand, dApps work to afford developers a similar degree of autonomy and freedom as well. By uploading their invention directly to Ethereum, they make it immediately and directly available to users, cutting out any middlemen to store information or manage functionality. The programs run on code that is publicly available, and is not owned, controlled, or turned off by anyone. Imagine then, a dApp version of Facebook or Twitter where any post would now become permanent the moment it was uploaded to the blockchain, unable to be deleted or modified by either the user or the creator of the app. At the present moment, there are over 2,600 dApps available on Ethereum.
With Ethereum, the potential for deregulated, 100% secure transmissions of money, information, and agreements is suddenly far closer to reality than the pipe dream it was once considered to be.
However, the issue with Ethereum today is that its encryption and verification system is highly cumbersome. In order to verify the legitimacy of actions performed on its blockchain, Ethereum requires thousands upon thousands of nodes (think extremely powerful computers) to work in tandem in the verification process. The problematic aspect is that each node must store the full history of the blockchain in order to accurately compare transactions with other nodes.
As the data storage requirement has already eclipsed 1 terabyte for the entire blockchain (equating to over 350 million transactions), this system is already becoming infeasible. As Ethereum seeks to continue growing toward a worldwide user base, scaling its encryption techniques is a must.
Luckily, a few methods are currently in development (with projected implementation in the next year). The two most promising solutions that are being tested are sharding and off-chain transactions.
Sharding seeks to break the Ethereum into smaller, more manageable components by dividing the node network into smaller node networks. The goal is that a group of nodes is assigned responsibility for only a small portion of actions on the blockchain. If a node needs to access transactions or blocks of data they don’t possess, theoretically other nodes can be accessed for the required information. With this method, nodes no longer have to verify the entire blockchain before approving transactions and the current 10-15 transactions per second Ethereum can handle could grow exponentially. Recent research suggests that processing efficiency could improve to levels on par with leading credit card companies, which can handle upwards of 50,000 transactions per second .
The other solution is to implement off-chain transactions. The principle here is that the majority of actions will no longer have to be verified in real time by nodes but will instead occur off the blockchain. For this to work, transactions must be irreversible by payers and able to be enforceable on the main blockchain at a later time. For a point of reference, think of a tab at a restaurant. Throughout the night, the amount on the bill accumulates as more food is consumed, but payment is withheld until the entire meal is finished.
Off-chain transactions would work very similarly with transfers occurring between two parties before being uploaded to the main Ethereum network at an opportune moment. If this method can be successfully incorporated into Ethereum, the pressure to complete transactions at a certain speed would be eliminated and the current efficacy of the network at processing transactions would be sufficient even as the network continually grows. While certain security issues arise if transactions are permitted without verification by the node network, the time and energy expenditure needed for each transaction decreases drastically, which is important for both the scaling and environmental sustainability of Ethereum .
The ramification of the successful scaling of Ethereum could be incredible. Soon, there could be a day where all our money, information, and communications go fully digital in a decentralized worldwide network.
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 Xu M, Chen X, Kou G. A systematic review of blockchain [Internet]. SpringerLink. Springer Berlin Heidelberg; 2019 [cited 2019Nov11]. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s40854-019-0147-z
 ETHEREUM: A SECURE DECENTRALISED GENERALISED TRANSACTION LEDGER EIP-150 REVISION [Internet]. gavwood.com. [cited 2019Nov12]. Available from: gavwood.com/paper.pdf
 Dang H, Dinh TTA, Loghin D, Chang E-C, Lin Q, Ooi BC. Towards Scaling Blockchain Systems via Sharding [Internet]. comp.nus.edu. 2019 [cited 2019Nov13]. Available from: https://www.comp.nus.edu.sg/~hungdang/papers/sharding.pdf
 Gudgeon L, Moreno-Sanchez P, Roos S, McCorry P, Gervais A. [PDF] SoK: Off The Chain Transactions: Semantic Scholar [Internet]. undefined. 2019 [cited 2019Nov13]. Available from: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/SoK:-Off-The-Chain-Transactions-Gudgeon-Moreno-Sanchez/4d5b9fb1c4205b61060117e3c71b04464c2a1c77
by Erin Walden
Edited by Jeanne Zheng
Cardiovascular health risks are often used as an argument against Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for transgender people. Many articles and news sources have claimed that since HRT (and puberty blockers for transgender children) are not well studied and may lead to higher risks of cardiovascular events (such as myocardial infarction, stroke, and venous thromboembolism/pulmonary embolus), they should not be administered [1,2]. However, there are many misconceptions about the risks of HRT and, often, arguments against HRT ignore the benefits they have for the well-being and safety of trans people. On the other hand, these risks should not be ignored; rather, they should be seen as reasons why the health of transgender individuals should be researched more.
By Malika Ramani ‘21
Edited by Tiffany Lin ‘21
From serving as seeing-eye animals to licensed emotional support pets, dogs have long been declared man’s best friend. A recent study, however, further elevates this discourse: not only might dogs be our best friends, but could they perhaps help us live longer lives, too?
by Priya Bhanot
Edited by Jonah Boardman
This article is the second part to a series on China’s Social Credit System. Part one can be found here.
Despite China’s Social Credit System -- a new initiative to socially rank China’s citizens using surveillance -- revolutionizing the relationship between government and privacy, it still mostly remains an academic topic of discussion. Within these academic groups, though, there is a lot of controversy over how to interpret it. Although at first the SCS may seem like a shocking new initiative that came out of nowhere, scholars of Chinese government saw it coming. For Western thinkers that support democratic ideals like freedom of speech and the right to protest, the stifling constraints on what kinds of information citizens have access to seems like an encroachment on their human rights. When talking about this issue, many experts compare the SCS with the government censorship of media and internet already happening in China. By taking a closer look at the reception and role of the internet in China itself, they hope to predict how successful this new plan might be. James Leibold, an Associate Professor in Politics and Asian Studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne Australia, noted in an article for the Journal of Asian Studies that “it should come as no surprise that Chinese netizens are not only generally apathetic about discussing politics online but also highly supportive of government controls in cyberspace.” This brazen statement received harsh backlash in the academic community, especially from Guobin Yang, hailed an expert in the Chinese internet. While Leibold believes that the role of the internet in China differs from that of the rest of the world because of the lack of political discussion and “heavy” conversation, Yang has a much more optimistic view about how China’s perceived ‘extremism’ comes from deep cultural differences.
By Melinda Li
Edited by Sophia Collis
On November 2, the Shanghai-based Green Valley Pharmaceuticals company announced that its drug, Oligomannate, was approved by the Chinese National Medical Products Administration for the treatment of “mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease and improving cognitive function.”  This comes as exciting news to the field of drug development for Alzheimer’s as the last therapeutic treatment, Mematine, was approved seventeen years ago.  Since then, billions of US dollars have been invested in over four hundred clinical trials with little success. 
By: Sarah Wornow
Edited by: Alyscia Batista
Bacteriophage therapy has existed long before antibiotics, but most people have never heard of it. Primarily developed in the Soviet Union in the early 1900s, phage therapy quickly rose to prominence in treating bacterial infections but was abandoned by Western medicine in the 1940s with the advent of antibiotics like penicillin. Antibiotics proved to be advantageous for multiple reasons. For example, a single antibiotic has the potential to clear infections caused by a diverse array of bacteria. Antibiotics are also easily mass produced and cultivated in labs.
By: Maya Mazumder
Edited by: Priya Gajjar
More boys are diagnosed with ADHD than girls. This is a well-established fact among researchers, with some estimating as much as a 10:1 ratio in the rates of clinical diagnosis. However, there is far less understanding of why such a striking pattern persists. For many years, doctors and psychologists simply viewed this as an aspect of the condition, characterizing the disorder as something primarily affecting grade-school boys who have difficulty sitting still and staying focused. Recent research suggests that it is not the case that ADHD only affects boys. It has become increasingly clear that both the perception and diagnostic criteria of ADHD have led many girls to go undiagnosed for years, often with massive repercussions.
Bioprospecting promises revolutionary discoveries — but must first reckon with its postcolonial legacy
by Bria Metzger, '20
Edited by Elana Balch, '21.5
Graphic novelist Chris Ware, when asked how he represented nature in his art, replied: “[...] there is no greater art on planet Earth than the planet itself [...] no greater beauty to be found in any painting or musical or literary work than can be found in the increasingly fine structures of any leaf, or how that leaf functions as part of its tree or its surroundings or its life cycle or the knowledge that its atoms came from stars that collapsed billions of years ago and billions of light-years away .”
by Priya Bhanot
Edited by Jonah Boardman
Black Mirror -- one of Netflix’s most popular originals that explores the consequences of futuristic technology -- released an episode titled “Nosedive,” in which a young woman navigates a world dependent on social rankings. With an easy-to-follow storyline, great graphics, and interesting tech, it has the perfect elements for a mind-twisting thought experiment. At first, it may seem like an interesting take on social media and the pervasive modern tendency to value appearance over substance. More deeply, though, it grapples with the question of whether actions, relationships, networks, and, finally, people can be reduced to a single number. Perhaps what is most thought provoking, though, is that this one episode of a TV show is more widely recognizable (at least in my social circles) than the real world implementation of this exact same system. In 2012, President Xi of China published his plans for an all-encompassing social ranking system, including the installation of over 200 million cameras nationwide to track and judge his citizens.