Written by : Casey Chan
Edited by: Owen Wogmon
While certain crops are commonly found in our diet, we barely stop to consider the processes that transfer these foods from the field to our plates, let alone their level of efficacy. In fact, some farming processes are highly unsustainable and harmful for the environment. An example of such a farming process is intense monoculture, a practice in which one plant is cultivated in a specific region. Monoculture can lead to a depletion of water and nutrients in the soil.
Written by: Mark Appleman
Edited by: Maximilian Bonnici
With incidences of bladder cancer rising over the last decade from around 60,000 to 80,000 new cases annually, treatments are in high demand. Of these 80,000, roughly 45% present with high-grade, noninvasive tumors most effectively treated through intravesical immunotherapy with Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), a critical microorganism which prompts the immune system to attack bladder cancer cells . Over the past year, a nationwide BCG shortage has led to heavy rationing and has prompted clinics across the board to use less-effective alternatives for all but those with high-risk Non-Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer (NMIBC) .
Written by: Devin Juros
Edited by: Sisasenkosi Mandi
As anyone who has been through major surgery can attest, putting your life in the hands of someone else, even when that person is a highly skilled surgeon attempting to save your life, is difficult. How, then, would people react to putting their life in the inanimate hands of a computer? As artificial intelligence (AI) is developed and improved, new uses for the technology are being established, including in surgery. Recently, T Hollon and others developed effective technology for intraoperative brain tumor diagnosis using laser imaging and AI.
Written by: Saradha Miriyala
Edited by: Yevin Chung
There is no question that coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused a widespread panic across the world. With cases appearing far from Wuhan, China (the site of origin), countries are scrambling to keep the disease out of their borders via airport screenings, quarantines, and travel warnings for those travelling to Asia. However, despite these measures, cases of COVID-19 have appeared in the United States, Iran, Italy, and South Korea . With extensive screenings both domestically in China and internationally for those travelling from these regions, why has COVID-19 been able to spread? The answer lies in the nature of the screenings themselves.
Written by: Emily Rehmet
Edited by: Ethan Thio
The rise of neuroscientific data has continued to shape our understanding of the ways in which our mind retrieves, processes, and conveys information about the world around us. New neuroscientific research has shed additional light on a hotly debated topic — free will. Free will is a perception of control — the feeling that we are in command of our actions, desires, and decisions. Developments in neuroscience have led to the general conclusion that because individual action is strictly the result of brain functions, that we must not have “free will” or agency over our decisions.
Written by: Harshini Venkatachalam
Edited by: Ishaani Khatri
The plan was simple: build an app to tabulate the votes and advance the Democratic party’s goal of developing efficient organizing technology in the process. However, in the Iowa Democratic Primary on February 3, 2020, failures in the app structure and disorganization in the backup plan resulted in days of delay in reporting the votes. Following the fiasco, Nevada party leaders decided not to use the app and count paper votes instead .
Written by: Sisasenkosi Mandi
Edited by: Alyscia Batista
HIV infection rates in young people are expected to rise in the next coming years, even if the current rate of HIV prevention progress is maintained . This is because of the projected increase in the number of young people worldwide, and barriers to access particular to this group. This presents adolescents and young people (AYP) as a group requiring special attention for the global goal to end AIDS by 2030 to remain attainable. To achieve this, adolescents must be named and recognized as a key population.
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.
 Total market cap: [Internet]. Cryptolization. [cited 2019Nov11]. Available from: https://cryptolization.com/
 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.