Beaverton Student Invents Contraption for Poor Air Quality

Beaverton Student Invents Contraption for Poor Air Quality

Every year, students are chosen from around the United States to compete in the nation’s top tier science and math contest. This year, 30 students were chosen from only 14 states, and Washington County’s own high school student in Beaverton is one of them.

Pratik Vangal is a freshmen at Sunset High, but in the eighth-grade at Stoller Middle School, he invented a solution for poor air quality after observing in Bangalore, India at his grandparent’s home the difficult situations many families undergo due to poor ventilation and fires created from wood and trash.

The ventilation system is made out of solar wafers and small desktop computer fans and costs merely $5 per system. When it is wired to the sides of the home, it can clear the air in as short as a minute. Vangal won first place for his fan at the Intel Northwest Science Expo at Portland State University, and it was at this expo that he learned about the prestigious competition.

The competition runs from last Friday through Tuesday and will take into consideration the students’ projects that they will present as well as various scientific and mathematical challenges to test their reasoning and leadership. Winners will be announced this Wednesday.

Read more about Vangal’s project as well as the competition here.

Protein found that might link fitness to memory

Protein found that might link fitness to memory

Researchers have uncovered part of why exercise and brain health are connected.

Henriette van Praag, neuroscience researcher at the National Institute on Aging, says their team’s findings provide “another piece to the puzzle.”  The report released to the journal Cell Metabolism shows that running releases a protein that seemingly generates new cells and connections in the brain’s memory center.

Van Praag and her team had begun searching broadly for factors in the link between fitness and memory to follow up on previous research that had established the connection.  They soon found a protein called cathepsin B while searching for substances produced by the muscles in response to exercise.

Cathepsin B is known to be associated with cell death and some diseases.  Experiments showed that its levels rose in mice that spent increased time on their exercise wheels.  The protein caused new cell growth and connections in the hippocampus of the mice so that they performed more effectively on a memory test.  This test required them to swim to a platform hidden just beneath the surface of a small pool.

Upon broadening their research, the team found out the exercise led to raised levels of cathepsin in Rhesus monkeys as well.

The next step was to test for these results in humans, so the team picked 43 sedentary university students.  Half of the students continued their regular habits while the other half began rigorous treadmill workouts several times a week.  Like the mice, the exercising students had higher levels of cathepsin and improved in a memory task: reproducing a geometric pattern they had seen after several minutes had passed.

Neurologist and team member Dr. Emrah Duzel said, “Those individuals that showed the largest gains in memory also were those that had the largest increase in cathepsin.  Van Praag added that cathepsin is likely just one of several factors behind the connection between exercise and brain function, but that this is a step in the right direction.

Van Praag also cautions that trying to raise cathepsin levels artificially might be dangerous as cathepsin is also produced by tumor cells and has been linked to brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s, but some jogging can be a good way to raise cathepsin levels naturally, promoting the brain’s memory function.

Oregon student competes in Intel Science Talent Search

Oregon student competes in Intel Science Talent Search

Vikual Gupta, a senior at Oregon Episcopal School is one 40 finalists nationwide participating in The Intel Science Talent Search.

The Intel Science Talent Search is considered America’s most prestigious math and science competition for high school students.

Gupta won a spot as a finalist due to a new algorithm he developed for an encryption system which allows computer hardward designers to develop high security through more efficient encryption chips. His project is titled “Parallel Implementation of the Convolution Operation in Quotient Polynomial Rings for the NTRU Cryptosystem.”

This year’s Intel Science Talent Search will take place March 10-15 in Washington D.C. Gupta and the other finalists will have the opportunity to have their project critiqued, meet leading scientists, and display their research at the National Geographic society.

The winning contestants will be competing for more than $1.2 million in awards.

More hugs could mean fewer colds

More hugs could mean fewer colds

The sick bug that comes around during the holiday season can be tamed with an unlikely weapon: a hug.

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University researched whether hugs could combat illness. The research found the more hugs people received; the less likely they were to get sick, even when under stress.

“We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses,” Sheldon Cohen said, a psychology professor at the university. “We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety.”

The researchers hypothesized that hugs would provide protection.

The study looked at 400 healthy adults: their level of social support and frequency of conflict with others. The participants were interviewed by phone for two weeks and asked how many hugs they received each day. To examine the protective power of hugs the participants were exposed to a common cold virus and put in quarantine to monitor signs of illness.

The study concluded that those who experienced more hugs were less likely to become infected. Those who did become infected experienced milder colds, regardless of experienced conflict with others.

“Those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection,” Cohen said.

Pope Francis staunchly pro-life despite reformatory ideals

Pope Francis staunchly pro-life despite reformatory ideals


Amidst last week’s progressive announcement that evolution and the Big Bang Theory are compatible with intelligent design, Pope Francis held firm in his conservative pro-life position.

Known as a reformer of traditional religious ideology, Francis previously challenged views on poverty, interfaith relations, and church formality. Nonetheless, he voiced his strong pro-life viewpoint last week.

The pope told the International Association of Penal Law that “all Christians and people of goodwill” should advocate for “the abolition of the death penalty be it legal or illegal, in all of its forms.”

This statement came days after Pope Francis declared that the theories of evolution and the Big Bang are not incompatible with Christianity. In fact, according to Francis, the scientific theory of evolution necessitates divine intervention.

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

“The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos that owes its origins to something else, but it derives directly from a supreme principle that creates out of love,” he said. “The Big Bang, that today is considered to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the creative intervention of God; on the contrary it requires it. Evolution in nature is not in contrast with the notion of divine creation.”

Francis’s comments build on the progressive views of his predecessors, Pope Pius XII and John Paul II.