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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A New Exoplanet


Almost forty light years - or 240 trillion miles -  from Earth, scientists have discovered a new planet: LHS 1140b.

An international team of astronomers in Chile recently discovered this rocky exoplanet. Approximately 6.6 times the mass of Earth, LHS 1140b has a very dense iron core, scientists hypothesize. It is close enough to Earth for scientists to view with the next generation of telescopes. The dwarf star that the planet circles is close enough to not only have water, but also to sustain life. These two criteria - distance from Earth for telescopes and the amount of starlight received for water - are obstacles that are not found in a lot of planets. Astronomers have found 20 planets around Earth's size that might support liquid water, but LHS 1140b stands out because of its proximity to Earth.

Already, astronomers are able to conclude that the conditions are very stable on this planet, without high energy flares and a milder climate.

MEarth-South Telescope in Chile
With new telescopes, both already in use and of the near future, scientists will be able to learn more about planet's conditions. With telescopes in Chile, the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere can be detected. In 2018, NASA will launch James Webb Space Telescope, which will be able to detect the presence of ozone. In 2025, the The Giant Magellan Telescope will be able to discover even more. Understanding the atmosphere of new planets can reveal a lot about the planet, because with a thick enough atmosphere, winds can distribute the heat and make the exoplanet livable.

What do you think about this new planet?

Post by Swathi P., Homework Assistant

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Memes!

From Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, and various online outlets, you can find Internet memes. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a meme is simply a picture, phrase, or video that becomes viral. A meme, in its essence, should never be questioned for it is random and no one knows where it originates. Generally popular among teens, parents look at Pepe the Frog and ask, what’s the hype? Thus, I want to go through and list the best memes in the last year.

Salt Bae
You know the guy. He is actually a Turkish chef that literally sprinkles salt on his food just as his viral Instagram video shows, making a dramatic finishing touch to his steaks. Honestly, I think anyone who looks at this photo finds it funny. I love memes.

Cash Me Outside (How Bout Dah) aka Danielle Bregoli on Dr. Phil
So this is a 13 year old girl that has serious behavior management issues, and her iconic line “Cash me outside” is all part of the language she learned “from the streets,” as her mom puts it. This girl was out of control on Dr. Phil, offending both the doctor and the audience.  She has literally blown up since then, and she now has over 5 million followers on Instagram. 

                                               Kazoo Kid (Trap Remix)
THIS is one of the best things on the internet. Kazoo Kid cannot be explained with mere words. You must follow this link to see him in his full glory. It is just a very odd episode from a '90s children’s show called Special Friends that has been resurfaced. The things the kid says, “I like to sing, dance, pretend, and have fun!” make this strangely hilarious. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/you-on-kazoo

Brain memes
This meme is a series of glowing, scientific images of the brain that are meant to show a level of being mind-blown. The brighter and bigger the brain photo, the more incredible the subject of the meme. Sounds odd but I promise it is ironically funny once you find the right one.

PPAP
"I have a pen, I have pineapple… Pen Pineapple Apple Pen." Do you love the Japanese man in shades and a yellow suit, or do you loathe him for inventing this catchy, obnoxious tune? No one can quite explain why an artist would go to such lengths to produce a song with odd lyrics, and that is why this meme is pretty darn funny.

Jelly Belly Pet Rat Gummy Candy
 Most underrate meme out there. It's a viral video by the Youtube channel runforthecube, in which a narrator intentionally mispronounces words as he opens a package with a gummy rat inside. You must see it to believe it, please do click out of this tab to watch it if you haven’t already.

Harambe
RIP 2016, he was more than just a gorilla. Enough said.

So that’s your 2017 meme count so far, but expect many more to come. My favorite meme of all time is “Bad Luck Brian,” I’d love to read your favorite in the comments!

Post by Katia G., Homework Assistant

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Most Powerful Computer

The computer has become a key element of our future, and especially in our Silicon Valley, they are central to innovation and technology. For example, a computer AI used machine learning to develop its abilities to eventually defeat the world’s best players in both chess and Go. With all the computers that are being made around the world, they have become commonplace in our lives. The processing power of computers is truly mind-blowing, able to do millions of calculations per second. If you can, imagine a computer thousands of times as powerful as the computer you are reading this with. Process that thought for a second, and think about how many thoughts you were able to have compared to the sheer number of calculations a computer like that could do in the same amount of time. The computer that you are imagining is the Sunway TaihuLight: the most powerful computer in the world.




The Sunway TaihuLight, a Chinese supercomputer, was completed in June 2016, completely toppling over the old reigning supercomputer, the Tianhe-2, with its max processing power of 125 petaflops per second, which happens to be several times more powerful than the Tianhe-2. To put that into perspective, a petaflop is 1000 teraflops, or 1 with 15 zeros behind it. That’s how many floating point operations it can do in just one second! As humans, we could probably only do one, maybe two calculations in a second. With the Sunway TaihuLight, China now has the world’s fastest two supercomputers, both of which are more than TWICE as fast as the 3rd fastest computer in the world, the Titan, an American computer.


The TaihuLight has custom-designed SW26010 processor, and compared to older supercomputers computers, which averaged around 2 gigaflops per watt in terms of efficiency, the TaihuLight is able to run at about 6 gigaflops per watt. In other words, the TaihuLight can do three times the work with the same amount of power!

Overall, the TaihuLight took $270 million to make including the research and creation of the supercomputer. Do you think that America will be able to top China’s supercomputer in the coming years? Or will China remain the world’s leader in supercomputers? Write your thoughts in the comments below.





Post Written by Howard W., Homework Assistant

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Haunted Places

Ever been spooked by a creaking in your house, an apparition in the corner of your eye, or something that seems just a little supernatural? As it turns out many spooky local places share their tales of haunted spirits and curses. Which one of these spots will you visit?

     Winchester Mystery House

A widow to a wealthy man, Sarah Winchester was left alone and found comfort in building a mansion, so she ordered for 24/7 construction until her death. The 160 rooms, "doors that lead to nowhere", and odd details were part of the $5.5 million she spent on this spooky place. Sarah’s spirit is said to loom in the halls of this haunted mansion. On Halloween night, you can even tour it in the dark!

      Redwood Road Castro Valley
There is supposedly a preschool at the end of this road where a man stabbed a bunch of people with a single knife in 1980s. Urban legend? Maybe, as I couldn’t find anything really substantial on this occurrence. But get this: the only evidence left of the old preschool is its swingset, that has swings move by themselves with no explanation. Creepy...
                                                                                     City of Colma
Known as the “City of Souls,” Colma is a small town between Daly City and Millbrae that houses more dead than living people. In a span of two square miles, there are 2 million people buried in 17 different cemeteries and only about 1600 residents. San Francisco passed a law against burying people on valuable city space, so the dead folks are now sent to Colma. 

     The Blue Lady of Moss Beach Distillery
70 years ago a woman in a prohibition-era Moss Beach had an affair with a man named Jack and they shared romantic walks alongside the coast by the Distillery. She died tragically by falling off the cliff, and ever since then, multiple people have reported spotting a lady in blue late at night in the vicinity. 

       China Town Ghost Tour
So basically, you can travel through the streets of San Francisco’s China Town at night and go to a lair where a magician supposedly conjures up a Chinese spirit before your eyes. You get a bonus by learning all about the folklore and history of China Town. Just make sure to reserve your tickets in advance!

Which of these places will you visit? Stay safe out there and let me know if you find any supernatural activity.


Post by Katia G., Homework Assistant

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Smallest Warrior on Earth: the Water Bear


Tardigrades, also known as water bears or moss piglets, are one of the most unbelievable animals on Earth. A weird mix of cute and alarming, water bears are 0.5 mm long, short and stubby with eight dainty legs. They are extremely diverse, found on all corners of the planet. Scientists estimate that for every one of us, there are at least a billion of them. But what is most incredible about water bears is their unimaginable resilience.

Water bears can withstand temperatures as scorching as 304° F or as freezing as -458° F. When exposed to the vacuum of space, they were not at all affected by microgravity and cosmic radiation. But perhaps most amazing is the water bear’s ability to survive for more than 30 years without water. Thirty years, or more than 10,950 days, is more than 3650 times longer than the average human can survive without water!


Their incredible resilience is made possible by a very special ability. When sensing an oncoming dry period, the water bear brings its head and limbs into the exoskeleton, making itself into a tiny ball, like a roly poly. It will remain in this stasis, unmoving until it’s reintroduced into water.


Tardigrades are found everywhere, from parking lots to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, very common and accessible. Up until this year, scientists were unable to crack the mystery of the water bear. Some hypothesized that the sugar trehalose was responsible. In other organisms like the brine shrimp, to prevent desiccation, trehalose would be produced to replace water and prevent the degradation of molecular structures. Others even believed that, because of their unique ability to survive in outer space, tardigrades might be extraterrestrial! Only recently was a researcher at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill able to uncover exactly how tardigrades can handle such extreme stresses.


Tardigrades have unique genes that allow them to create a glass matrix to protect their cells, a process known as vitrification. Proteins, TDPs, form a glass coating. The tardigrade remain in a suspended state until re-hydration, when the proteins melt, and the tardigrade can continue on with its little life. In the near future, this discovery might enable scientists to use TDP to freeze-dry vaccines and medication to areas lacking immediate access. In the distant future, this discovery might even enable placing humans in stasis for space travel or when they have a dangerous illness to await a cure.


Post by Swathi P., Homework Assistant