Reclaiming Childhood from Cancer
Jackson is a third year UC Berkeley student, working as an editorial intern for Big Think. He is a double major in Economics and History and is interested in where the two intersect. He strongly believes that economics can benefit from using more history in its analysis, and incorporating the history of intellectual and economic thought to analyze 21st century problems. Jackson is also an avid believer in maintaining a balance between the strength of the mind, and the strength of the body.
Follow him on twitter @jacdalli.
I just got back from counseling at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times (CRMFGT) in southern California. For those of you who are not familiar with CRMFGT, it’s a camp for kids whose lives have been upset, transformed or otherwise rearranged by childhood cancer. Campers are survivors - undergoing treatment, in remission, or cured – siblings of survivors, or children who survived losing a brother or sister to cancer. While it might look like a typical camp, it’s anything but typical. This was my second year at Camp and my second year of an absolutely amazing experience.
It’s hard to articulate absolutely amazing because it's more of a feeling or an idea that can’t quite be translated into words for others to easily access. It's not something physical that you can touch, yet its there, just as tangible - a feeling of elatedness and connectedness, a fullness of the spirit – rather than a set of descriptive bullet points. At Camp, it’s described as filling your “cup until it overflows with love.” I know this sounds like I just time-warped back to the 1960s but I do believe that we occasionally find those experiences that speak to our humanity in ways that take even us by surprise.
CRMFGT brings together kids with common ground and gives them freedom being different. A lot of the time the fact that they have all been through similar experiences remains an unspoken understanding.
However, even without a single word said, these kids are finally able to be free for the week they are at camp. They know that the person across the table, or across the camp, or the person sleeping in the bunk above them truly understands what they feel. They don't have to second-guess themselves at camp. All of the sudden, everything feels easier for these kids, or so they have told me.
But, before the kids even get there the counselors, who are all volunteers, go through two days of training. We don’t get much sleep and are moving from 8:00 AM to midnight. In this period, they teach us what it means to be a counselor, and how to help our kids through camp. There are times when you think to yourself: “How am I going to do this? This is just training and I’m already completely exhausted.” But, then the kids show up, and you feel rejuvenated. This year I was assigned to the youngest cabin full of 9-10 year old boys. It was an adventure. They went to bed late, got up at the crack of dawn, and their energy level could run a small village.
Camp is like home – a comfortable and familiar place that campers look forward to coming back to each year. For the counselors, Camp is like family. We build strong and lifelong friendships with each other as well as the doctors, nurses, and other staff.
Like “regular” kids, while they are at camp, they go through activities that teach them independence, teamwork, and self-reliance. The activities can range from something like archery, to having to complete a given task as a team as fast as possible. You see these kids grow, and start to become more and more comfortable with themselves throughout the week. They start working together with things as simple as passing food around the table, and when you notice, all you can do is smile.
Sometimes it feels like the kids are there for us, and not the other way around. The strength that they exude without meaning to, the willingness to jump in and help others, and the resilience that has become an integral part of who they are, provides us, the counselors, with an incredible sense of hope in our own lives.
As a cancer survivor, I understood the experiences of the campers with cancer, and even developed more insight into, and compassion for my younger self. It was not a journey I anticipated or planned for. In terms of the siblings, I knew that, hard as I tried, I could not know what it felt like to lose a brother or sister to cancer. Their experiences were unfathomable to me even though there was less than one degree of separation. It got me thinking to how often we think we know or understand or somehow feel empowered to speak the experiences of others. But, we don’t, we can’t. CRMFGT creates the space for young children to find their solace, their support, their childhoods, their voice, their normal, in a supportive and safe environment. I feel fortunate to be part of that mission.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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