The Strange World of the Very Small: A Photo Essay

 

Everything is Made Up of Atoms: Living or non-living things, gargantuan or minute, ordinary or mysterious, everything in this world is made up of atoms, the smallest unit of matter.

Specialized Cell Interiors: The cell is capable of function because of the organelles or small organs in its interiors. Every organelle has its own job.

Early Earth: In the past, the Earth was entirely different. It had violent volcanoes and catastrophic weather conditions. The atmosphere was different. No living thing existed. Early Earth went through a lot before it became the Earth that we know now and live in.

Organic Molecule: The different colors represent Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen and Sulfur. The five are elements that make up living things. Carbon, especially, is the backbone of life.

Volvox: This strange-looking creature is an algae that was first discovered by Anton van Leeuwenhoek, the man who went on to develop the microscope. It has a flagella or whip-like structure for movement.

What struck me the most is the concept “Everything is Made Up of Atoms”. We always marvel at gigantic infrastructures and bigger-than-life sceneries that we forget to appreciate the tiny building blocks that make them: atoms. Atoms are the smallest unit of matter, and they cannot be seen with the naked eye. They behave in different ways, and believe it or not, they always vibrate. All the things around us would not exist without these tiny atoms.

Looking at the exhibit’s large chocolate made me realize that size is a matter of perspective. Its atom figures looked big in the museum, but in reality, it is really tiny to the point that it is hard to visualize them in an actual chocolate. The characteristics of solids is evident when you interact with a chocolate, which is also solid. Understanding chemistry concepts is a way to understand things that can’t be understood by just seeing.

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Try and Try!

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Doing laboratory activities is one thing. An inquiry-based task is another.

In laboratory activities, we are given the list of materials and reagents that we need. A procedure is also given, so the main challenge is to strictly abide by it. Before the actual activity, we are required to write a pre-lab journal about the activity, so we are briefed about what we will do. In the actual experiment, the needed lab tools are prepared, and we just need to know which ones to use based on the procedure. Then, we are given two days to write about our findings and realizations. In short, laboratory activities are mainly governed by the scientific method, a systematic way of investigating phenomena.

An IBT or inquiry-based task is entirely different. We are given a question or challenge, and it is up to us to find the answers. We are given only the materials and the ultimate end goal. To find the answers, one must be creative and knowledgeable of the concepts involved. The last IBT is about the Gas Laws, so we should be familiar with the relationships of gas properties. Activities included transferring an egg inside a flask without physical force, making a coin move on top of a bottle, and karate chopping a wooden stick. Its unpredictable nature is what makes it challenging. You can never know if it works unless you try it. Knowing the concepts is a plus, and actually trying ideas is the icing on the cake.

Being in a group is definitely an advantage. The different ideas from each member mean that there is a higher possibility of getting the solution. At the same time, more challenges can be done through teamwork. In our group, some did the actual testing while others prepared the set-up for another challenge. It felt like a time-trial, competitive, and team-based game. It was like an Amazing Race.

For me, following procedures is good, but it gets dull when it’s often done. Sometimes, we just have to break free from a system and release our inner creativity and knowledge. Ready, get set, go, and try and try!

 

 

Lab Full of Tools

From the discovery of fire, first look at microorganisms, to the emergence of smartphones, scientific discoveries and breakthroughs have always been amazing. They have shaped up how we perceive the world and answered some of the curiosities we had. They defined history and affected humanity in different ways.

In a day, you’ll probably see the fire that cooks your food or the fire in a candle during a brownout. In your biology class, you will study about the tiny things that live among us, microorganisms, which others believe as our ancestors. Then, you will open up your Apple or Android device to check on the latest news or stalk your crush. Indeed, humanity’s discoveries revolve around our lives in so many ways.

However, we are often concerned with the end-product that we often overlook the tools needed to discover or invent them. Rocks were rubbed against each other to make fire. The microscope was first invented before microorganisms were seen. Even the smartphone in your hand or pocket is made up and made with simple tools and machines, combined together to create a complex machine. The most basic of them all, the tools, contribute to the greatest discoveries of mankind.

This holds true for a scientist. His laboratory tools aid him in yielding accurate results he aims for. These tools help him in making complex equations or proving a theory – even disproving one. He spends hours, even years, in his dungeon called the laboratory and plays with his weapons, laboratory tools. We often look at the equation or a concept without knowing how it was derived or what its set-up was. Lab tools help scientists him in arriving, sometimes accidentally, at their main goal. Without these lab tools, there would be no scientist.

Below are infographics about 5 common laboratory tools: triple beam balance, stirring rod, pipet, aspirator, and Bunsen burner. A process called annealing is also posted.

A Whole New Task

We were always the participants in competitions and games, but this time, we were tasked to organize one. Trust me, if the road to winning in a contest is hard, then organizing a contest is harder.

Our project is to come up with a sports event where our schoolmates and teachers will be the participants. Our class decided to have two sports: frisbee and basketball, so we were divided. The plan was actually easy. Katya, our leader, assigned each one of us a role, and we discussed the rules, awards, schedule, and requirements of our sport with others.

Managing the sports event happened a week before term test, so the easily-looking task became accompanied with Performance Tasks from other subjects. Personally, there was a point when I was confused which one to do first. As part of the basketball group, I was tasked to make the poster and certificates, which I thought was easy. In doing it, I realized that it’s hard because I had to know the important details of the event – which I forgot to ask – and I needed to edit a lot of copies, which was tiring. At the same time, three of my groupmates had to leave at times because they had to catch up to their missed studies; I needed to help in the schedule and details of the event.

Communication was partly to blame. If I reminded my groupmates to do the requirements earlier while we were still free, then we could have been less stressed. I also did not do what I could have done the week before, so I rushed my responsibilities in order to accomplish the others.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the games on the first day. From what my groupmates shared, they had difficulties in finding the players. Again, we lacked communication. However, they bounced back as they were able to finish almost all the games.

On the second day, all went well except for a slight delay in the start of the games. I can see that the participants really showed competitiveness in the competition, and they revealed a lot of emotions. At the same time, the referees were attentive and unbiased.

The basketball games ended, so we went to the soccer field to check on the frisbee group. The kids were enjoying, and it was thrilling to see the teachers being taught how to play. We felt like we were the teachers. They spent a good hour or two playing exhibition games with the students.

I still think that the sports event, as a whole, was a success. Though there were flaws, we tried the best we could to make it happen. At the same time, it was a learning experience for us, Grade 11. Being the organizers instead of the players gave us a new perspective. In the end, everyone enjoyed and showed their competitive side.

 

 

More Than Esters

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photo by: wiseGEEK

I learned about the process of Fischer esterification, where a mixture of carboxylic acid and alcohol is heated to create water and esters of different scents. The process is in equilibrium, and esters can go back to its reactant state after a short amount of time. Boiling would signify that an ester has been produced.

I learned that esterification can create scents of fruits. Esters are being utilized by many manufacturers in the production of perfumes, solvents, and preservatives.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, I would give the overall performance of my group a 6. Each of us did our roles; I recorded the data, Paolo prepared and washed the materials, Mikkel performed the experiment, and Sofia assisted Mikkel. We failed the first experiment and determinedly repeated it for the second time. However, we were not efficient with the time given to us. We overlooked the importance of using a sturdy Pyrex glass in heating; two of our beakers broke. In our second experiment, we solved it by using a boiler. We also did not collect all materials required in the beginning; we panicked when we can’t find a needed ingredient or material. As a whole, we only tested two acids. We could have done all acids and tested the products’ pH if we were efficient.

In the future, I will remind my group mates to gather all the materials needed at the beginning of the experiment in order to save time. I will also consider the conditions of the experiment in order to use the more appropriate and safer apparatus or material. When our beakers shattered, I panicked; as advised by Sir Benny, I will stay calm in future experiments.

Trust the #inTENse Process!

As part of SSIS Malarayat’s 10th foundation week themed “inTENsity”, my class of Grade 11 – Egypt was tasked to organize a fitness activity and create dance steps that will make everyone groove and move.

Wearing their green PE pants and black shirt with a text written “TRUST THE PROCESS” in front, my classmates in group 1 took positions on and around the stage. Students and teachers of all ages stared eagerly at the Egyptians as they waited for the song to start. It was sunny and windy, perfectly complimenting the fitness activity of the morning. Finally, the song “Club Can’t Handle Me” by Flo Rida started. Indeed, it was time to trust the process.

Armed with dance routines they practiced over and over, the Grade 11 students started dancing to the beat of the song. It was like a unison, as the SSIS family simultaneously followed the fitness leaders. The participants laughed at each other as they tried to do the upbeat steps presented on stage. Whether they are good in dancing or not, they were enjoying every step amidst the warmth of the gym. The smile and energy of the Egyptians were infectious. The song then faded, and all are now sweating. Another song track followed. It was just the beginning.

The SSIS family burned their unhealthy fats to the tune of “Fire Burning” by Sean Kingston. It was the main song of Group 1, and the moves lived up to the colorful and uptempo beat. It was smooth yet fast, challenging everyone to pump and jump. The song ended, and it was now the time of the talented Ms. Rizchel to show that she’s not just a math wizard and singer but also a dancer. She danced to a mash-up of “Dessert” by Dawin and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake, and she dazzled the crowd with her unique steps. Group 2 then followed with their main song entitled “Trumpets” by Sak Noel. The routine maintained the hype as students and teachers alike wiggled their bodies to the catchy chorus of the song. The ever-energetic teacher and host in Sir Rowel jokingly said that there are much more hours of dancing left. To conclude the event, the Egyptians cooled down to the melody of “All of Me” by John Legend. The tune helped everyone relax their tired bodies. Nothing like an inTENse fitness activity to start the day.

It was a process, a difficult one. First, we divided the class into two groups and made sure that each group is balanced in terms of those who are good in dancing. In each group, the members searched for songs that will complement the routines. At the same time, we agreed upon a shirt design for the class. Then comes the rigorous task of practicing the steps that are meant to be easy yet challenging for the participants. It should be easily followed yet something that will pump everyone. The Grade 11 students practiced their steps over and over until they were able to polish their routines; it was trial and error. Tasked with academic responsibilities in other subjects, the class was still able to find time to practice their steps. They even sacrificed a period for badminton just to perfect their performance. Indeed, the process was not easy.

It was trust. The class trusted each other in order to go beyond the challenge of organizing a fitness activity. They followed the leader and did their roles. Yes, it was tiring, but they enjoyed and pursued the task at hand. More importantly, I believe that the event was a success because the SSIS family trusted and followed the routine leaders as if the latter were actual dance instructors. They surrendered themselves to the fun dose of exercise. With no hesitations, all danced as if it was already the closing program. It was a cooperation not only between Grade 11 but also between the students and teachers.

Trusting the process truly inTENsified the energy of all during Foundation Week. Who knows, maybe a fitness routine will be a part of the regular assembly in the future. After all, we can all be healthy Kings, as much as we can.

A Big Question About the Tiny Building Blocks

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“Atoms Wallpapers” // http://www.shximai.com

 

What is the world made of? This is not only the title of the video my classmates and I watched but also one of the biggest questions that humanity has asked themselves.

It is more than a scientific question. It is also philosophical as it covers a wide range of questions. What makes the resources around us? What builds up the air that we breathe or the water that we drink? What comprises the gigantic structures and statues that mankind has built? What makes you and me? The question about what makes the world is in the same category as asking what is out there or how did we get here. It is something fundamental.

In explaining what the world is made of, the video started not with chemists but with mysterious alchemists. Although much of the significant discoveries was through the former, the latter established the use of laboratory equipment in experiments. Hennig Brand, one of the last alchemists, discovered phosphorus from human urine. Names like Joseph Priestly, Antoine Lavoisier, Humphry Davy, and Sir William Henry Perkins followed Brand in his pursuit of discovering and making use of elements. They armed themselves with the interest of understanding what the world is made of and sometimes, it was their intuition – a sense of feeling rather than reason – that led to their discoveries. Perkins, in particular, aimed to create an artificial quinine to treat malaria. He mixed coal tar, sulfuric acid, and potassium dichromate, and accidentally discovered a synthetic dye. It opened up chemistry to the industrial scale, and it made Perkins the father of industrial chemistry. The film then dived into the use of chemistry in wars. As an example, chlorine was used as a poison gas in battles. Several other gasses were used. The story of chemistry did not end there. The movie explained the next step, which is wondering what the elements were made of. Ironically, it started with William Crookes’s study of spiritualism – about out-of-this-world ghosts. He was able to invent a tube that revealed a green ray that moved in response to magnets. He observed that tiny objects, now called atoms, must be responsible for the movement. JJ Thomson formally discovered the existence of subatomic particles, specifically, electrons. This discovery supported the atomic theory. The educational video concluded with the explanation of the products of quantum physics: transistors, valves, and microprocessors.

Prior to writing this reflection, I played a game of DOTA or Defense of the Ancients. Basically, it is an online game composed of five players against another five in which the goal is to destroy the other team’s Ancient or main tower. Teamed up with a flask-wielding beast named “Alchemist”, I can’t help but notice the resemblance between the hero and the actual alchemists of the past. Through its mighty flask, the hero can poison and paralyze others as well as bolster itself. It symbolizes real alchemists like Hennig Brand in a way that it needed to manipulate and make the most out of its laboratory equipment in order to reach its objectives. Alchemist the hero is important to the game as human alchemists are important to modern-day experiments.

I agree with the host’s statement that scientists are like poets because they both study nature and that they only differ in ways of showing their discoveries. In a mimetic view, poets try to study about nature and imitate it in their own works. They draw inspiration from what they see. In the same way, scientists study about nature by gathering data or observations. They draw conclusions from what they obtain.

The video was very insightful and easy to understand. The question “what is the world made of?” was answered in an orderly way, starting from the things around us and the elements that make them, to the tiny particles that compose these elements. Events were also narrated in a chronological manner, clearly stating the evolution of science through the years. Furthermore, the descriptions and contributions of influential scientists were explicitly explained.

I did well in understanding the importance of alchemists to science. I learned about the past beliefs about the building blocks that make us, like the notion that all things are made of earth, water, air, and fire. It also educated me about significant scientists that made chemistry as it is now. It is amazing to see how great things can be discovered by accident. It just shows the power of what wondering and being intuitive can do to answer humanity’s biggest questions.

The film gave me a wider perspective of the roots of science and chemistry. Indeed, the collective effort of several brilliant minds made quantum physics possible, and thus, technological innovations like transistors, valves, and microprocessors became a reality. Microprocessors, as described by the video’s host, is the ultimate expression of the power that has been unleashed by trying to understand what the world is made of. In the future, I will emphasize on the smallest of details in order to understand the bigger picture. I will never jump into conclusions, and instead, I will focus on the individual parts that make a whole. I will analyze how minute components work together to form something greater than each part. After all, brilliant minds also wondered about the tiny concept, what is the world made of?

 

 

 

Quantum Leap, A Giant Leap for Mankind

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“How Quantum Mechanics Could Even Be Weirder” // source: zeroequalstwo.net

I really like the new addition of video watching as part of an introduction or preparation for a topic. Adding this activity is a good way for us to gain preliminary knowledge about a topic. At the same time, it makes us reflect on our past learnings and present beliefs. For our second film, my classmates and I watched the video entitled “Quantum Leap”.

 

The film started from a description of how we have developed laws to make sense of the mysteries of the universe. It then introduced quantum mechanics, a law that aimed to explain the behavior of atoms, and quantum leap, a belief that when an atom is heated, the electrons become agitated and leap from one energy level to another. One radical hypothesis came from Niels Bohr, who presented that atoms resembled planets in the Solar System in a way that they have fixed orbits around the nucleus. The film then presented another brilliant mind: the legendary Albert Einstein. He believed that we can predict things with certainty, so he challenged the notion of Bohr. Several experiments were done to test the characteristics of atoms, one of which is the double slit experiment. It is a test where electrons are launched at a barrier with two slits. The results showed that electrons do not just hit two areas of a detector screen but all over it; the motion is random. It exposed the wave nature of electrons. Einstein and a great number of scientists did not accept the fact that nature is based on a theory of probability. The film then presented another fascinating fact. The gadgets that we have now, specifically transistors and information technology, are products of quantum mechanics. A scientist in the video even said that quantum mechanics is the most successful theory that physicists discovered. The video dived into another mysterious topic, quantum entanglement. It is the belief that two particles, no matter how far from each other, have a connection; their properties are linked. It presented the concept of teleportation, which is a possibility but is very limited to a protocol. Up until now, scientists are still struggling to grasp quantum mechanics.

If I were asked to choose between certainty and probability, I would go for certainty. Although there is probability in mathematics, I don’t believe in luck or chance in how nature works. I believe that there is always an explanation or formula for a certain phenomenon; we just have to find it. I agree with Einstein’s belief that God does not play dice with the universe. There is a reason for everything, and I don’t want to believe in probability just because we don’t have an answer to a question.

Honestly, quantum mechanics is a topic that I have difficulty comprehending. In my elementary and grade 7 and 8 days, I love studying about biology and anatomy because they presented evidence and facts. When I was grade 10, I also loved physics because I can see it in my surroundings. At the same time, it can be tested through experiments. These topics were believable as opposed to quantum mechanics. How come we don’t know the actual appearance of atoms and sub-particles? It’s hard for me to understand how something works when I don’t even know what it looks like. Even though I gained a lot of insight, I still feel curious and incomplete. I still lack complete evidence and understanding. I feel uncertain.

I did well in understanding the opposing points of Neils Bohr and Albert Einstein. It made me realize why quantum mechanics is still a mystery up until now. I also learned a lot from quantum entanglement. The possibility of teleportation amazed me. Who knows, if we unlock the secrets of quantum mechanics, then it can be a reality. Instead of traveling from one place to another, we can just make our atoms “leap” from our position to a destination in an instant, saving time and resources.

The film made me question a lot of things as much as it educated me. How come we haven’t invented a powerful microscope to observe the behavior of atoms and its sub-particles? Why can’t we teleport test subjects if the benefits outweigh the negativities? Why haven’t we commercialized quantum computers if its computing power will greatly help mankind create more powerful inventions? Is quantum mechanics really a probability? I do have a lot of questions but one thing is for sure: quantum mechanics have made our lives easier. It is the foundation of the technologies that we use in our daily lives. If we stayed uncertain about it, then we’d be stuck in the 19th century. There would be no progress. With this realization, I will strive to learn more about what makes me curious. I will not let myself stay in uncertainty. I will question and search for the truth. Indeed, when we learn more about things, we gain complex understandings. In turn, we become more complex beings.

 

 

 

Big Things Come in Small Packages

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My classmates and I watched the movie “History of the World in Two Hours” as part of an introduction to our course in Physical Science. We were given guide questions about the film in order to check our comprehension and reflect on our learnings.  The motion picture started off from the very beginning: the Big Bang. Despite its short amount of length in two hours, it was very detailed in explaining concepts such as the birth of stars and the production of elements. It then narrated the creation of the Solar System, including the planet where we live in, Earth. Next, it described the changes that the Earth went through to be the planet that we know. It narrated the ancestors of humans, which are not gigantic creatures but microscopic organisms called bacteria. Some of these organisms learned how to consume the Sun’s energy to live. They created a waste product that made life on Earth possible: oxygen. The film then explained biology’s version of the Big Bang, which is the Cambrian explosion. It is the sudden appearance of different creatures on the sea. It made the evolution of major animal groups possible. An ozone layer was formed because of the oxygen. As a result, plants grew in lands. Amphibians learned how to live and lay eggs on land. The movie then explained that a big spike in volcanic activity caused a massive extinction of animals spawned during the Cambrian explosion. Huge dinosaurs then dominated the world. However, like the creatures of the Cambrian explosion, the dinosaurs became extinct as a result of an asteroid’s crash on Earth. It gave other mammals like primates, our early version, a chance to develop. Requiring primates to travel from one place to another in search for food, grasslands suddenly appeared and dominated the trees of the land.

In the beginning, I felt excited in watching the film because we were already introduced to the Big Bang theory in Earth and Life Science. The movie was easily relatable. As I learned more about the formation of celestial bodies, I was thinking about how the materials we use now were made. What makes the buildings we have now? Why do we have jewelry? The film did answer my questions. The materials needed to build things were produced in stars. The people who were interviewed in the film made me wonder at how astonishing the creation of the world is. They were enthusiastic about the history of the world. There are many things that I learned and want to know. In the end, I felt amazed at how the film put it all together in two hours.

The film made me realize the things that my existence went through for it to evolve to what it is now. I feel blessed of my life and the whole humanity. I came from a tiny bundle of energy. I evolved from a tiny organism. I was a product of biological explosion and extinction. There are many stages and events that made me and the entire humanity possible. However, I still feel bad for the species that suffered in the past. If they were living today, then the living things on Earth would be more diverse.

I believed that I did well in listening to the motion picture as well as in answering the guide questions. In order to clarify some questions I have in mind, I watched the film again during the weekend. The discussion of the Big Bang in Earth and Life Science really did help me because it provided a prior knowledge for me before watching the “History of the World in Two Hours”. My interest in watching documentaries about dinosaurs when I was a child also gave me a background.

I gained an in-depth understanding of how the universe formed. I learned about the development of Earth that made the birth of life possible. I was educated about the evolutions of organisms from the tiniest bacteria to the complex mammals including us. By studying about them, I can give importance to all the things that happened before me.

In the future, I will give the best that I can in spreading awareness in animal, plant, and tree conservation. They made humanity possible, and they balance the life on Earth. We should be indebted to them. Through social media, I will post powerful slogans to influence others for the good cause of conservation. I will also preserve the resources we have, which came from the bright stars in outer space. Learning from the film, I will try my best in harnessing energy. In this way, I can efficiently use it to produce complex creations. Most importantly, I will value my life by improving my skills and talents. I will encourage others to reach their full potential. After all, we are all stardusts. We have residues of star explosions inside our bodies. We are meant to shine like stars.

I still need to focus on studying about the elements, the products of stars. I also need to have a better understanding of how the fishes evolved its structure as well as how the vegetation suddenly appeared. How did the fishes develop its body parts? How did they give birth to more complex offsprings? What is the reason why grasses appear? Did they just suddenly grow? Do they look the same as the grasses we have now? How did they spread at a rapid rate?

After questioning my existence, I began to wonder about the origin of the universe. Why is there a creation based on the Bible and several scientific theories? After learning about the Big Bang theory, I observed its similarity to the creation in Genesis. Indeed, it is not directly similar but in a way, it presents concepts that are related. First, I will not question a religion or theory just because they present different perspectives. It made me challenge myself to have a wider perspective. Second, I will make the most out of the educational materials I have in order to learn more about the mysteries of the world. Who knows, maybe I can present a theory of my own in the future. Maybe it will be a groundbreaking discovery that will change our perception of the world.

 

 

 

Contemporaneous

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(from the Museum of Contemporary Photography)

“Discourse of a contemporary, about a contemporary, addressed to contemporaries.”

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, contemporary means “happening, existing, living, or coming into being during the same period of time”. It is “marked by characteristics of the present period”. In literature, contemporary works reflect the trends of the modern times or the time they were written in. I would describe it as mainstream since it mirrors the present and popular culture.

“Discourse of a contemporary” means that contemporary literature communicates its ideas using its own words. It has its own language. Contemporary works speak in words that are reflective of its time.

It is “about a contemporary”. Contemporary works talk about contemporary or current topics of its time. Its main subjects are the trends of the era it was written in. It does not aim to reflect on the past, and instead, it talks about the present.

It is “addressed to contemporaries”. It is written for modern people or the people of its time. Most importantly, it only relates with the people living during the time it was written. If Shakespeare would be reincarnated today, he would be confused if he reads a contemporary work, which usually talks about current trends like technologies and gender equality. Since he came from the past, he would not know what a smartphone is.

In summary, I believe that the prompt is saying that contemporary literature uses its own language style, talks about current trends, and appeals to modern people.