Featured Image - Inflatable Satellite Dish


Computers have become ubiquitous in modern life. We get news updates, find driving directions, communicate with one another, write papers, make calculations, and perform countless other tasks with the aid of various computers. Yet, as these fabulous tools increasingly permeate our lives, they remain undercapitalized in most classroom settings. Many kids learn to text with their cellphones years before they learn to type on keyboards. Why?

Public schools seem to be built for intellectual stagnation. The most apparent academic goal in most students' minds is surviving the next test or exam. Grades are everything. Is there any consideration for the interests and talents of the students? No. You must learn these subjects, by this date, or you are a failure. If you excel linguistically and are passionate about history but have trouble with math, then your education will be plagued by a spotty record and perhaps impressions of inadequacy. Math adepts who are uninterested and unskilled in other classes will experience the same problems. The often uncompromising attitude of school authority “kills creativity” and subdues individual excellence. People's abilities shine most when they have the freedom to follow their passions.

What does that have to do with technology, especially computers? Computers allow us to exceed the academic limits of previous generations. Why memorize lists and tables of numerous facts when you can access them at will with a search query? Hard drives store raw information so that we can focus on interpreting and utilizing data instead of memorizing it. Email and satellite transmissions make long-distance communication nearly instantaneous. Software plots data faster, more accurately, and in more ways than a single human ever could by hand. People can do so much more with the aid of technology, and we are constantly finding new ways to exploit it. Government officials do not appear to care about a potential leap in human-computer capability. They just want test scores so they can rank with other countries. The quantification of students eases the task of assigning value to them and their schools. Much of the time schools are focused on improving standardized test scores and fail to devote energy towards exploring how students learn—much less how to improve their learning experience.

One problem that schools face is a shortage of teachers and a surplus of students. Standardization and mass production are themes that seem natural for dealing with this dilemma. Working out standardized problems with pencil and paper, in addition to reading standardized texts, is the classic approach that has emerged for cramming information and skills into students' brains. Is this still a valid method of learning, considering today's technology? With computers and the internet, a student can find countless sources of information regarding any topic in class. The versatility of computers enables any student to express their knowledge in myriad ways—slide-show presentations, animations, typed essays, etc. In light of this, the dull exams of today seem unnecessary. A common complaint for schools is the infrequent buying of new textbooks. The internet allows access to free, legal, easily updated textbooks written by qualified experts who value education above profit. Using digital textbooks and unconventional methods of assessing academic progress reduce the use of physical resources like paper. In this way, going digital is also going green.

Many schools seem to be in denial about the ubiquity of computers. Computer skills are more important than ever and can be very lucrative. But some schools do not even teach their students how to touch-type. Why is programming—or, at the very least, computer literacy—not a major subject alongside social studies and math? Programming develops language and logic skills while empowering individuals to innovate with software. Knowing how to use computers is necessary for countless careers, but that importance is overlooked by many teachers and administrators. The internet gives people access to vast amounts of knowledge, but students are severely limited in time that is allowed to explore it.

America's ideal economic model is one that provides individual freedom and allows personal experimentation. Ideally, citizens are free to buy what they want and start businesses selling what they want. This results in net economic growth because people will learn how to make a profit and provide for the needs and wants of customers. Such freedom is expected in virtually every facet of life except, it seems, in schooling. Unless you want to change your address, you cannot choose which public school your kids attend. Students have very little choice about what subjects they study until they get to the college level. Students must study the same subjects and devote the same amount of time to each one, and they have no say in the curriculum of those subjects. The administrators get to make all the decisions. This power structure is analogous to a communist state. Everybody gets equal pay, and the people in charge manage all the resources. With this you get low productivity and little innovation. If students had more freedom to choose what subjects they study and how to manage their time, then they would be more productive and creative. They have more freedom outside of school, and they quickly learn how to use cellphones, personal computers, game consoles, etc. as long as their families can afford such things. Once connected to the World Wide Web, a person is free to learn about any topic imaginable. The internet holds much more information than a room full of textbooks, but school systems are too rigid to take advantage of it.

There are some people who are trying to bring public education into the twenty-first century and use technology for academic benefit, but they cannot do it alone. School administrators need to be more open-minded. Teachers need to be willing to learn as much as their students. Parents need to speak up about the quality of their children's education. Students need to care about their education. Today's technology is just too powerful to be wasted.

Featured Image


Nanotechnology is becoming increasingly promising in the field of medicine. Nanoparticles, objects much smaller than a single cell, are showing various potential uses that could revolutionize medical practices. These uses range from greatly improving medical imaging to curing cancer.

A significant part of the usefulness of nanoparticles is their engineered ability to target cells and tissues within the body. For instance, gold nanoparticles can be made to target the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Once the nanoparticles have attached to the parasite cells, an external laser can be applied which excites them and kills the parasite via induced heat. This same method can be applied to cancerous tumor cells. In future application this might mean giving a patient a small injection of nanoparticles in solution, then, after a waiting period, shining a laser on the patient's body. This kills harmful cells without harming the patient. Another application is drug delivery. Drugs can be attached to nanoparticles which then go to targeted cells. This means drug doses can be drastically smaller while having the same or better results. Yet another application is for medical imaging; nanoparticles greatly improve MRI images. If the nanoparticles were made to target a tumor, then the tumor cells would light up under an MRI scan.

IBM has engineered biodegradable, plastic nanoparticles that target bacteria and shred their cell membranes. In tests involving mice, IBM's nanoparticles successfully killed the infamous MRSA bacteria, proving their effectiveness against drug-resistant germs. After a few days of killing bacteria, the nanoparticles break down and leave the body along with other bodily waste.

There are some applications that have yet to be seen, but many people remain hopeful. Nanoscale robots would be able to physically repair cellular damage and rearrange molecules. Such “nanobots” could dramatically increase control over microscopic processes within the body. Another application would be to interface the nervous system with computers. One major limitation of current neural sensors—used to connect the brains of quadriplegics and others with computers—is the size and number of electrodes. Nanoscale sensors could potentially connect with individual neurons, greatly increasing the resolution of information given to a computer.

As these technologies are refined and improved, people's lifespans should increase accordingly. How long will we be able to live in the coming decades? Drug resistance will become less of a problem. Medical imaging will improve in detail and clarity. Cancer will be an easily treatable disease. Maybe we will even cure the common cold.

Featured Image


Japan's nuclear disaster is far from over. The situation has gotten so bad that large amounts of contaminated water have been dumped into the Pacific Ocean. Why did they do that? To make room for even more radioactive water. Imagine what this will do to Japan's world-famous fish market. Bans on Japanese goods will severely hinder any economic recovery. People are reminded of the dangers of nuclear power, and many are deciding the energy is not worth the risk. Many countries, the most notable being Germany, are seriously reconsidering their support of nuclear power.

Radioactive waste is accumulating by thousands of tons every year. Right now most of it is stored on-site with power plants, and there is no plan laid out to store the waste for millennia. This problem will only become more controversial as more people learn about it.

If other alternative energy sources—like wind and solar—become more widely and efficiently used, then the need for nuclear fission power can be reduced. More likely, fission will remain an important source of energy in the foreseeable future, and its nonstop output will maintain its utility.

Eventually nuclear fusion power will be a viable option for alternative energy. There are several methods of attaining fusion being pursued around the world, and this multifaceted approach increases the likelihood of success. Fusion has been achieved, but the problems lie in sustaining a fusion reaction for a long time and harvesting enough energy to make a profit. Perhaps someday, in the far future, fusion will replace fission, and we will have a cleaner, safer way to meet our energy needs.