Search This Blog

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Why Can Compost be the Next Recycling?

The idea behind composting is to decompose your organic waste rather than putting it in a landfill. By decomposing it, it will be beneficial both to the environment and to the plants to plants that use the enriched soil the waste decomposed in.

The way that composting works is that organic material decomposes quite quickly, especially in soil where microbes speed up the process. Certain synthetic things take much longer to decompose, like plastics and metals, so they are instead recycled. But many of the things we throw out, like banana peels and apple cores can very easily decompose. In order to compost, you need very little. All you need is the soil in the ground. However, to keep it clean and keep the trash isolated and off your lawn, I reccomend getting a clay pot and some potting soil. This will only cost you a few dollars, and you can feel great that you aren't contributing to land fills and hurting the environment. Whoever said soil was useless was quite wrong!

But actually, there is one benefit of composting I've been holding out on you. The soil you get from this is actually extremely rich in minerals, and it will allow you to begin growing a very successful garden with a few seeds, some water and a little bit of patience. You could grow food from the food you've already eaten!

Explains the cycle of composting and the ideology it. The cycle start with food, to trash, to the composting process, to soil to grow more food.

I'll be posting pictures of the compost box I'm making right now, and I'll leave some instructions on how to build one.

However, I want to relate this back to chemistry, because I want to figure out two things to make the process better. One of the main drawbacks of composting is it can stink up your entire house unless you buy hundreds of dollars of composting equipment. The other is it can take a few weeks to decompose, which means it will most likely fill up faster than the material can decompose.

I want to begin researching the science of smell, and figure out if there is some way to neutralize or at least decrease the odor given off of the system during the reaction. My hypothesis at this point is to add some reactant that bonds with the product that causes smell in the reaction. However, it isn't that simple because I have to make sure that I do not get in the way of the reaction occuring. I've found how small the difference between a reaction occuring and not occuring really is after learning about gibbs free energy and entropy. But trust me, this is a problem if this process os ever going to expand in popularity because it mercilessly stinks up your house, especially if you leave it in your house or don't do something right. I'll be posting more articles about smell the more I learn and experiment with it. 

The other thing I want to figure out is how to speed up this reaction. This increased efficiency would allow compost bags to be sold commercially or even made into boxes similar to recycling containers, especially if I can find out how to decrease the smell given off.

Who knows what the future might be like, but I hope that I can play my part in building it. The part I want to play is figuring out how to solve some of the common problems that has drawn people away from composting in the past. Who knows? Maybe if we can figure this out, there be compost boxes sitting next to every trash can and recycling bin on the corner of every street, saving the environment one banana peel and apple core at a time.

Sorry this isn't the article about kinetics I promised you guys. It is coming soon, so don't worry! But this article I want to talk about composting, what I believe should be as common a word as recycling in the near future.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lab: The Supercooling of Water

This lab is actuall very simple, but it isn great way to learn about how entropy and enthalpy come together in thermodynamics. I have written an article as theory for this lab and as an introduction to these terms, so for the sake of time I will just build off of that.

The supercooling of water is something that occurs when you have water that is still in liquid form under the freezing point, 32°F or 0°C.

This occurs because in order for the reaction to occur, the gibbs free energy of the system must be negative.

The first time I attempted this lab, I failed because the water I used wasn't pure enough, so it froze before I wanted it to. Less pure water has a smaller change in entropy because it has a higher entropy to begin with. The change in entropy generally must be quite great for a reaction to occur, and in this case must be greater than the change in enthalpy times the temperature (~2nd 71K).
Grpah representing the freezing point and the nucleization point of water at the point with high entropy relative to the time of the reaction.

When the lab finally does occur, it happens because the gibbs free energy is not yet negative, because the change in entropy is not great enough. In order to push it over the edge, the bottle must be smashed down, increasing the entropy of the liquid enough to make the gibbs free energy negative, thus allowing the reaction to occur. In this case, the reaction is a physical change, but these thermodynamic laws still apply. The reaction is the freezing of the water in the bottle in front of your eyes, beginning from the hearth of greatest entropy where you hit it.

The change itself is very exciting when you finally get it to occur. Just remember to make sure that your water is pure, and keep in mind that the change in enthalpy doesnt have to be as high if the entropy of the system is great enough, and the more water, the higher the entropy.

I will leave a video of the reaction below, so that you know what to look for. Good luck!

Vinay Konuru

Sunday, November 20, 2016

An Introduction to Thermodynamics and the Gibbs Free Energy Law

I recently learned about the amazing science behind a part of thermodynamics, the bases behind the both the what and why of chemistry. Thermodynamics is one of two principles that defines an experiment, with the other being kinetics. Thermodynaics deals with whether a reaction will occur. Kinetics determines the rate at which a reaction occurs. These principles shouldnt be confused, because althiugh they seem interlocked by definition, they are actually independent of each other. This is why I have decided to keep this article as an intro purely to thermodynamics and principles like Gibbs free energy.

I already told you that the basic definition of thermodynamics is whether a reaction  can occur based on the entropy and enthalpy of the the reactants. Now it's time I start throwing some definitions at you so get ready. Entropy is the so called "order" or "randomness" of the system of the reactant. For example, imagine the molecules inside a cloud of smoke. The molecules in the system are going to be moving very fast and there is a large potential for different possibilities or configurations as they fly past each other. On the other hand, a solid block of ice will have little movement on a molecular scale, mostly vibrating in place based on its known properties as a solid. Entropy can be estimated based on logic, but it is quantitativelt measured in J/K based on the SI system.

A visual to understand  entropy. As the temperature increases, a trend can be noticed of large entropy increases during state changes.

The other important principle to calculate the thermodynamics of a system in a reaction is enthalpy defined as the total heat content if a system. This is measured by the internal energy plus the product pressure and volume. This isnt as easily imagined as entropy, but the easiest way to imagine it is simply state changes. The enthalpy of an ice cube is lower than that of water vapor because the gaseous state of water has greater internal energy. The unit of measurement for this is simply Joules by the SI system.

The graph above models enthalpy and expands upon what I said above. The products of a reaction typically have a lower enthalpy than the reactants. However, sometimes an initial activation energy to kick off this reaction, which is the hump in the graph.

Now for the exciting stuff. Thermodynamics is the key to calculate the Gibbs free energy of a reaction, which determines whether a reaction can happen. In laments terms, a system always wants to obtain a lower energy state, with exceptions of course. So if we had a way to calculate the internal energy in a reaction and find whether it is increasing or decreasing, we use the gibbs free energy equation.


H is the symbol to reference enthalpy. S is the symbol for entropy. T is the symbol for temperature. G is the symbol for Gibbs free energy. If the change is enthalpy minus the change in entropy multiplied by the temperature, measired in K, is less than 0, we know the reaction can occur This is to represent that the energy is lower in the new system, shown by the negative, than before.

Demonstrates the effect of entropy and enthalpy on a reaction. The change in enthalpy(H) must be greater than the change in entropy(S) times the temperature for the change in Gibbs free energy to be negative.

Although this is a very simplified explanation of thermodynamics, it is where Ive decided to start my journey. The laws and science of thermodynamics is immense, and it takes years of study to even get a grasp on it. I have to start at some point though, so I've decided to begin with the gibbs free energy law. I will post the lab I did, the supercooling of water, to understand these certain principles further. and some interesting issues I found to have initiallt with it. It will be exciting, I promise! The theory behind kinetics will come after that but it may be a bit delayed, because I would like to conduct a lab to understand the equations better before I try to write about it.

 Stay tuned!
Vinay Konuru

Link to wikepedia articles:

Thermodynamics equations:

Gibbs Free Energy:



Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bismuth and My Key to the Amazing World of Crystals

Bismuth is quite an overlooked element in comparison to some like iron and gold. Although it may not be used in everyday life as commonly as iron, and although it may not be as beautiful as gold, it's properties are where it's magic is held.

Last Saturday, I did an interesting experiment that sparked my interest about this element. The theory behind it is the fact that bismuth has an extremely low melting point for a metal at 271.4 degrees Celsius and when it oxidizes it creates really amazing colors.

This is the one I made on Saturday, but the liquid took the shape of the soup ladle rather than the shape of the crystal it makes

I originally got the idea to make this from a YouTube video created by nighthawkinlight who creates several DIY videos. However, it wasn't until later that I realized how interesting crystals actually are. 

A crystal by definition is a solid structure that is made up of a repeating geometric pattern. This pattern is called a crystal lattice or a lattice structure. This is the most stable form of ionic compounds, but crystals can also be formed by covalently bonded molecules when all the molecules share their electrons. Common crystals that you see in every day life include ice, snow, minerals, sand and much more. In fact, 90% of solids are crystalline. 

I started off with my experiment by purchasing 100 grams of bismuth off of for about 6 dollars. Although this is quite an expensive rate, the product is worth it. Utilizing its low melting point, I created a molten form of the metal using a soup pot as a crucible. Then I poured the pure molten metal into a soup ladle leaving the impurities behind. As the molten metal cools, it is exposed to the oxygen in the air. By letting it cool, you can create something similar to the picture above. 

However, I wanted to create a full crystal though; not just a mold of the bottom of a soup ladle. This is when I found something called the Czochralski process, and I used it to redo this experiment a few hours ago.

The Czochralski process is one used by the industrial manufacturing of silicon wafers for semiconductors. The process is defined by taking a seed crystal and dipping it into the molten metal until crystal starts forming around it. Then the crystal is slowly taken out as the crystal continues to grow around it. This creates a long crystal.  A seed crystal is a part of the solid crystal that you are trying to create that speeds up the reaction decreasing its kinetics, because the base of the crystal doesn't have to be formed based on random molecular movement. I will leave a link for a further explanation of the idea of a seed crystal at the bottom of this post. 

However, the process of putting the seed crystal into the molten metal while both accounting for the thermal gradient(the idea that you don't want the seed crystal to melt on contact with the hot liquid metal) and the fact that you have to have some way to draw out the seed crystal slowly. In order to solve this, I froze the seed crystal for a few minutes. Then I used a piece of clay that I wedged the seed crystal into. This was my apparatus to slowly draw the crystal out with. Other things that could work include a hot glue gun stick but an iron rod would work best due to the similar crystalline structure between iron and bismuth. 

This process can be used for any metal that can form a crystal, so I decided to try it with the the bismuth. Below shows my attempt. It created a very small crystal, but it's still a start. I could have created a better crystal, but the bismuth cooled very quickly when I poured it into to the soup ladle. I still got the crystal to form around the seed crystal, but the surrounding metal cooled forming a separate crystal that stuck to the soup ladle. 

Crystal that grew off of the seed 

Crystal that stuck to the soup ladle
I may repeat this experiment in the future using a greater amount of bismuth, better equipment, and now a better understanding on how to create a larger crystal based on the mistakes that I made this time. I highly recommend you guys at home trying this same experiment because actually getting to see the melting and cooling, and see the different oxidized layers is something that is much more valuable that simply watching a video or reading an article. I will leave links of all the videos I watched and sources I read so you can get a better understanding of the process that is going on before you conduct the experiment. Good luck and I hope that you end up with some good crystals.

Nighthawkinlight video: "How to Make Bismuth Crystals"

Explanation of seed crystals:

Czochralski process:

Other sources:

Note: I would personally recommend not using any utensils in this experiment that you intend on using later on, because once the bismuth cools on something, it will most likely never come off and never be clean again. Also, you may want to wear gloves whenot dealing with the molten metal so you don't burn yourself if you mess up!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Gels are AMAZING! (and a little bit about Sodium Polyacrylate)

A few days ago, I did an experiment with water gel powder (sodium polyacrylate) I bought online. The special thing about this chemical is that it is a polymer than can absorb over 400 times its volume in water. This causes it to create a gel on contact with water, which is why it is used in diapers and as a thickening agents in detergent. However, this got me interested in gels in general.

A gel by definition is a cross linked polymer that makes up a 3D structure encompassing a liquid and holds it together through surface tension. In laments terms, a cross linked polymer is a complex molecule made up of several covalent and ionic bonds. Then, when a liquid is added to this solid, it "traps" the water around it creating a gel.

Gels are a confusing topic because of the fact that its state and properties all depend on what aspect you are looking at it. If you are talking about the skeleton structure, it is a solid, but the liquid trapped in it is still a liquid. However, gels are still extremely important both in everyday life and on the frontier of science and technology.

You don't have to look very far to find a gel in your everyday life. There are plenty of things made of gels from toys like water beads to things like re-freezable gel packs. However, they are also used NASA shuttles in technology like aerogel.

Aerogel is an invention that was created in the 1930s and was the result of keeping a gels solid structure while dehydrating it. The outcome was the least dense solid known to man to this day. It is used as an insulator of the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel tanks on a space shuttle in order to keep it in liquid form. Without this material, we wouldn't be nearly as successful at getting into space as we are today.

I hope to do further research into gels soon, but for now I'll leave it here. Gels are grosely underestimated for their significance in our every day lives and how amazing they truly are. The next time you see a diaper, just think about the science behind it. A dirty diaper might smell horrid, but it's also amazing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Biuret Reagent Protein Test

Yesterday I conducted an experiment with Biuret Reagent, am indicator of peptide bonds that transmutes into a purple color when in contact with a protein. I did this with a goal to identify if almonds genuinely did have a large amount of protein and was a viable source of it during the day.

In order to conduct the test, I used water the Biuret reagent, protein powder as a positive control, water as a negative control, and crushed almonds.

The first step was create an aqueous solution with the substance being tested in it or water that has been decanted out of it. This can be done by crushing the substance, putting it in water, and after letting it sit, and decanting the water out. This means slowly pouting the water out without letting the substance get in.

Next, you put an equal volume of Biuret reagent in the water. Mix the reagent in until a color change occurs. The concentration of purple in the new solution reflects the concentration of peptide bonds in your substance, and thus it reflects the amount of protein in it. the deeper the purple, the greater the protein content.

The liquids in these beakers are water, dosa batter (Indian bread), almonds, and protein powder
(left to right)

Now back to the test I conducted. The protein powder turned dark purple and the water turned blue as expected. Then, I tested the almonds and I found it turned clear purple. This ascertained that almonds do in fact have a high protein content in them. Along with this, it showed that the protein powder had a even greater amount of protein that almonds.

In the next few days, I plan to conduct an experiment to test for the concentration of sugar in a substance, however this time I will go further by trying to calculate the actual amount of sugar in the substance. I will be testing chocolate syrup because it will be easy to turn into an aqueous solution. I hope you learned a little from this post about the way to measure protein content in food and encourage you to try it yourself

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sodium Silicate

This weekend I conducted an experiment with sodium silicate that I bought online. The product was a rubber like ball that was both bouncy, but brittle after a certain point. The compound was created by reacting 40 ml of sodium silicate with 10 ml of isopropyl alcohol and mixing them created the substance almost immediately. The reaction online involved ethyl alcohol, so I want to further research the reactive properties of different alcoholsizes and test what differences between the products.

Sodium silicate is NOT actually used to create rubber balls due to the fact it can break, however, it is commonly used as an industrial cement to create cardboard. Sodium silicate is also frequently used as a drilling fluid to avoid the collapse of boar walls and is used by builders to decrease the porosity of cement through a reaction that permanently bonds it to the surface. The best use I saw online is as a coagulation  agent in waste water treatment. I will further explore sodium silicate over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The New Frontier: Nano Technology is the Future

When Columbus found America, he uncovered the "American Frontier." When we defied the barrier
of gravity and reached space, that was known as the "Space Frontier." Since Richard Feynman's famous speech in 1959, where he stated, "There's plenty of room at the bottom," the race into the nano-Frontier began. The book The Coming Era of Nanotechnology written in 1986 by Eric Drexler setting up the basis for the decades to come. Now about 30 years after, scientists are on the verge of breaking through and opening up the world a little wider but on a tiny scale. This new nano scale technology is the "New Frontier."

So what is nano technology? Nano technology is a new and budding field that utilizes molecules to create machines, known as molecular machines. that are just are generally between the size of 1 to 100 nano meters long, tall or wide. To put this into perspective, a piece of paper is 100,000 nano meters thick. This means that up to one hundred thousand of these machines stacked up on top of each other to equal the thickness of width of that piece of paper. It's astounding and these machines shouldn't be underestimated.

The importance of this field is obvious and has certainly been recognized in recent years both by world class scientists and the Swedish Academy who award the honorary Nobel prize. The 2016 Nobel prize in chemistry was awarded to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, and Bernard L. Feringa jointly for research on molecular machines. This research is said to make the basics of molecular machines in the future because they showed the world how to connect our understanding of molecules to create engines, conductors, axles, rotors, and much more.   

There is currently research going on in several universities and institutions around the world who are trying to learn how to utilize these machines. For example, they are making remote controlled nano-rockets, nano "carrying packages" that bring necessary drugs and antibiotics to parts of the body that we can't. They are making nano cars, like the one shown in the picture, factories, and even malignant cell removers to fight cancer.  The more research goes into this field, the more it becomes conspicuous that this is where the future lies. But how are these complex machines being created by a few molecules in a lab?

These machines are created by synthetically created bonds that are heavily controlled by the chemist who is making them. However, this is a lot more difficult that it sounds. Molecules are constantly moving and it is very tough to control what it will react with, where it will move, and how it will bond with the other parts of the machine. A few chemists have gotten extremely creative in the last few decades on creating various structures that could come together into the astounding creations I spoke about b. I would recommend watching the videos below to get a better understanding of how everything comes together.

 These same scientists also figured out how to control these machines by using certain switches turned on and off by certain changes in the environment. These changes include triggering a reaction, or interlocking two molecules together to make one that could control the other. One type of engine that has already been created by a team at Rice University in 2006 used carbon molecule's that rotate when exposed to specific frequencies of light. An application of this that has already been implemented and is shown in the video linked below is the nano car that I was talking about earlier. They are amazing, and when I first saw it, it seemed like I was looking at the first step into the future. I believe this is how people felt when they saw the Wright brothers fly into the air or when man first laid foot on the moon. 

 Don't worry if this is still very confusing, and I understand since it is to me too to be honest, but the field is just getting up and running. The more research that goes into it, the clearer everything will become. But why does any of this matter? Why are people dedicating their lives to the research of going small, and how can this lead to dreaming big

The possibilities that were created by the research of these 3 scientists and their innovative way to make nano engines and machines were revolutionary. By using these machines, we could create anything at a smaller scale that ever before. The applications are endless and the future is open. In the next 10 years, scientists predicted, nano factories will have been created to create many machines for every day use. The future is small and it's coming a lot faster that it may seem. This is the new frontier.

Check out:
Research done by Rice University:

Nobel Prize Research Explanation and very amazing things that have been created using nano technology and future ideas including the Nano Car and the antibiotic carrying rockets I talked about! I would highly recommend watching both of these:

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Do you know what makes up the food you're eating? The beans that you ate. Are they really beans? The tomato that you put in your sandwich. Is it really a tomato? The chicken burrito you had for lunch. Can we really even call it chicken? These are the questions that I've been beginning to ask more and more after I read the book Food Inc. It reveals the lies that almost every division of the food division uses to trick you into buying their product while they still make the maximum profit. Almost every single thing that we eat is no longer genetically the same as it was a few decades ago because of the science of genetically modifying crops. Several food companies modify everything we eat regardless of how fresh it looks. Why are they doing this? Simple. By inserting a hormone into a corn crop or a chicken or a cow, like rBGH, they are able to speed up the process of growth by nearly double. But, with the shear amount of antibiotics, hormones, genes, and chemicals they are using, you can't really be sure if you're even eating a chicken sandwich or a pill that you'd normally have to get at a drugstore.  You've gotta ask yourself, are you ok with this?

If you're like me, and want to know what's in your food, then you're going to have a tough time figuring out because the government has made it legal for these multi billion dollar corporations to not have to mark which foods have been genetically modified. Why? Because if they were to have to label every food that they genetically modified, every single thing in the food market would be labeled from the carrots to the pizza to the milk and even the cookies. But for all the people who are wondering why these chemicals, GMO's and overall the current state of the food industry are bad, let me unveil to you something that you may not even want to know.

By a independent study, they found that 88% of all the food that we eat is GMO and we don't even know what food makes up that 88%. The thing is that genetically modified organisms are still somewhat experimental, still have plenty of flaws, and have major drawbacks in the over dosage way that the food industry is using them in. When plants and animals are flooded with antibiotics, this not only harms the animals. No, it also harms us. This overuse allows bacteria to evolve and adapt to become immune to the most modern antibiotics we have. Along with this, a lot of the food we eat isn't being properly investigated for bacteria before they send it off to the consumer, The FDA has been very lenient on this, and because of it the number of food poisoning incidents and recalls have gone up drastically. However, these factories that continue to destroy our immune system, our health, and our ability to live don't receive much more than a warning letter after possibly giving someone a fatal disease.

However, this draws the question, how is it possible that our government agencies aren't upholding to their duty to serve and protect the health of the people. Well, this is because there are several congress men and women, several agency heads, several government workers who are also affiliated with the food industry, and because of it make profit off of the cheap food they're selling you.

On this note, it is also important to tell you how the FDA also doesn't accurately show the nutrition labels on food. According to several sources, about 24% of tests show inaccurate labels on food. Along with this, there are several chemicals in the food that are being used to make it taste sweeter while not having to be recorded as a "sugar" but continues to destroy our bodies from the inside.

It is time that we find out what our food is really made of. It is time that we take the power of CHOICE is brought back into our hands. It is time that we get the right to know what we are eating. It is time that we know if we are eating a tomato or if we are eating something that looks like a tomato but is actually just a slime of chemicals that we have never heard of. It is time that we find out the composition of our foods, the truth about our foods, and the only people who can help use do this is us.

Over the next few years, I intend to break down as many foods as I can to truly figure out what they are made of, where they come from, how far they have traveled to get to our dinner tables, if they are really what they are said to be, if the nutrition label on it is right, and a host of other important details.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

How Long is Pine View Going to Stay Segregated

When I first came to Pine View about seven years ago, I saw something extremely different. It was a gaping hole so apparent even a third grader could see. I saw that there wasn’t a single African American student in my entire class. Actually, there weren’t any African Americans in my entire grade. I didn’t mind it, but it was definitely something everyone noticed.  This past summer I decided to put in a bit of time to figure out if what I saw was really true. It was disconcerting just how right that original observation was.  I found that Pine View had a total of about 17 African American students out of the 2180 total students. This is in a school district that has over 4000 African American students.  No, that is not a typo. There are seventeen African American students at Pine View!

This is a baffling, infuriating and horrifying fact in the 21st century. Students are taught from childhood that they live in a time when segregation has been crushed and schools are no longer segregated but instead separate and equal. So why does it feel like we live in a time that the doors to Pine View are not being opened fairly to all students as if there is some kind of lock on it. There are arguments against this statement saying that there are many schools around the nation that have similar problems, but that does not justify anything! How could it ever be OK to do an injustice to thousands of our own students just because some other schools decided to shun their students? We have to be the ones that other school and districts will look to when they decide it’s time for them to fix this diversity problem too. 

Suppose that there is a hurricane that smashes through your roof, but also happens to break your neighbor’s roof too.  Are you simply not going to fix it until your neighbor does it too? Either way, our neighbors have already started building, so we better get working immediately.

The number one school in America according to US News Rankings is School for the Talented and Gifted. They are very similar to Pine View with a 100% gifted population, and the top test scores in their state. However, there is one thing that separates this school from Pine View. Their minority population is about equal with the minority population of their school district. Along with this 25% of their school is economically disadvantaged and on a free/reduced lunch plan.  

“The root cause is resource and book deprivation,” said Mrs. Kingsley, the superintendent of elementary schools in Sarasota County who is also very passionate about solving this problem. “The problem isn’t being addressed openly. We have to speak about it openly if this problem is ever going to be fixed.”  She went on explaining how the blame begins with parents and schools. It is their job to strive for their kids and students to have the brightest futures possible, but often poor African American kids are given a poor education at sub par pre-k and elementary schools and aren’t ever given the chance to take an IQ test to prove their intelligence. Yet, we can’t simply expect parents to know how and why they should provide their kids with the best education possible or expect teachers to be able to fairly identify kids of all ethnicity as gifted if we have bring it up anywhere.

The chart above portrays how troubling this problem truly is, but the chances are that many people have never been introduced to the data in this chart and many people never will as long as we as a community continue to shun the problem. But every day we continue neglecting it, there are hundreds of talented African American kids not being recognized and are losing out on a chance for brighter futures that Pine View has provided their students for decades.   
A lot of people may be thinking, “This problem doesn’t affect me so why should I have to take any part it fixing it.” Yet that way of thinking is what kept this problem snowballing for generations. Also, it is dead wrong. A lack of diversity is such an important problem for students because they are the future. The efforts thousands of civil rights rallies and hundreds of lives are all in vain if we choose to be separated. That is the road we are taking as we continue to give different levels of opportunity to certain ethnicity. Along with this, the lack of diversity also leads to great loss of bonds and friendship between people of different ethnic backgrounds. The dream of millions of Americans over the last century has been to have a society where people of all ethnicity can share culture and be friends. However, this dream is crushed when we decide to forget about keeping diversity in our schools. For example, I am genuinely saddened to say that I haven’t talked to even five African American kids since I came to Pine View. This is a problem that has to be solved now, or may one day cause us to fall back onto the horrific path that America just crawled off of a few decades ago. If we don’t solve it, who will?

 “It’s a critical issue that needs to be fixed,” told Mr. Largo, the legendary former principal of Pine View. He had been keeping track of this problem and had dealt with it for several years, and thus he had a lot of input on the issue.  He showed the efforts of a few initiatives that occurred over the course of Pine View’s history, but they generally didn’t have much of an effect. This just proves that regardless of what a few people do, it will take the cumulative awareness and hard work of everyone. Nobody can neglect this problem anymore, but instead we must bring it to light and show others the necessity of fixing it. 

Dr. Covert, the current principal of Pine View, is putting his highest efforts into fixing this problem. He has been dedicated to it since the day he became principal three years ago. We should all take this issue with the kind of determination and seriousness as Dr. Covert has in order to fix this problem. 
It is dire that we fix this problem. If we don’t, everybody in the community will be losing out. We will lose out on the acceptance diversity, on brighter futures, and on an overall more successful society. It is our duty to break the lock that is causing an unequal flow of kids and open the gates to Pine View to everyone in order to create a more equal society for the future just as every generation before us has done.  It is a job that is so tough that it can’t be done by a single person even if he spent his entire life time trying. However, it is one that can be accomplished in a few years with just the awareness and the genuine concern of everyone.

Monday, August 1, 2016

What would a Villager do with a Ball of String?

Let’s say I hand you a ball of string and ask you, “Think of the most creative thing that you can create using this.” The first things I think of include the string for a kite, a piece of art, or for the more adept, a nice Christmas sweater. However, about a month ago on a trip to my father's village in India, I was blown away by what the Western world would deem as “uneducated” villagers in India had done with this simple thread. They were able to fashion one of the most comfortable, elegant, and seemingly simple cots I’d ever come across, and these craftsmen did it all in just a couple of hours. Yet, I was about to find out that its simplicity is quite deceiving.

A cot, for anyone who is not familiar, is a type of bed that is made in a similar fashion as a hammock, but can be very convenient in the sense that it can be folded up and moved around very easily. This allows for the capability to sleep among the stars one night and sleep next to the AC unit the next. In the US, they are generally used for camping due to it's versatility and sturdiness, yet in Indian villages, they are commonly used as beds and are used for a variety of other uses also.

Twenty hours. That’s how long I spent creating a cot with my brother. Between the both of us we had spent nearly two straight days building the same cot that should’ve been done in the time it would take to watch a movie. So why did it take so long?  Simply put, it's not as easy as it seems, and I understand if how you're feeling if it seems hard.

An example of a cot (this one is smaller than usual)
My dad pointing out a mistake...again
Made a mistake (the green cot on the left is 50 years old)

As you can see, the creation of a cot is not just the tedious and boring job it appears to be. Instead, it is a skill that has to be trained just like any other skill. The level of mastery over the art that some of the villagers had attained took them hours of time and dedication. The one who taught us, a relative of my dad, had said that he'd made over fifty cots by the time he was eighteen. Incredible.

It was 1 AM when we tied the final string to the cot. Over the longevity of the project, we had gotten better and better and began making fewer and fewer mistakes. Although you may think that I would be ecstatic to have finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel, but instead I was thinking about the trying question of why. Why had we just spent countless hours on building a cot? Why was anyone spending their time building a bed made out of string when they could simply buy a bed of the same quality in the town just 10 km away. However, I was too tired and exhausted to continue thinking about this thought.

As I plopped down onto my own creation, it was as if I had just put on a pair of glasses and everything became clear. It was like an epiphany when I realized that I had just created a cot out of a ball of yarn, a couple twigs I found outside, and an old frame, and it was competitive to my own bed in every sense. It was just as comfortable. It was just as if not more sturdy and equally beautiful. And with the total cost of the entire project coming up to a grand total of $5, the cost was about $1495 cheaper than my bed. Along with this the versatility of the cot that allows people to adopt it for camping significantly increases the size of your bedroom by simply folding it up. This is a luxury that the owner of a conventional bed can never claim. Aside from the inconvenience of creating it, the idea of a cot suddenly seemed ingenious.

The more I looked, the more benefits arose. I noticed how Indian homes generally seem very small with only 2 to 3 rooms for an entire family. In a similar family, there are commonly at least 6 rooms. How? Cots weren't only being used as beds but also as couches in the living room and seats in the dining room.  In every house I went to, there was always at least one cot in almost every room in the house. The space efficiency brought by the convenient ability of cots to be able to be removed after your done with them allows for smaller and less expensive houses.

Along with this, they are also very eco-friendly for those looking to decrease their "footprint" on the world or simply go green. The reason for this is the fact that that they are created without the use of any machinery and not having to be imported from other countries. So for all of the adventurists and risk-takers out there I urge you to try this bed.

But in the end, it's something that you're going to be sleeping on after a hard day's work, so you obviously want something comfortable. Fear not. As I stated earlier, even though they are just made of string, cots are possibly even more comfortable than a conventional bed. Imagine sleeping on a hammock every night. Also, with the holes made by the gaps between the gaps in the strings, it eliminates the common problem of your bed getting too hot decreasing the need for expensive AC charges.The cost efficiency brought by cots not only suits poor farmers in third world villages, but also anyone on a budget who isn't willing to sacrifice a comfortable night.

I will write a tutorial in the next article for anyone who wants to try it out, or you could just buy one online. However, they may be expensive due to import costs, so I recommend building it for both the eco-friendliness and the joy you get from creating your own bed with your own bare hands.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Exterminator of Youth

         At teen court, I constantly get cases about kids who are addicted to marijuana, and have been using it for years prior to the time they were caught. They're completely addicted to it, yet ironically many of them are well versed on the consequences that the drug can have on their body. They realize that it can destroy their entire future and know that it will destroy their aspirations. Yet they continue to illegally waste their money buying marijuana under the counter, and consuming it as if it were a candy bar. This raises the question in my mind of why teens are willing to drop everything in their lives to have something they know isn't right.  I would spend a year designing a social experiment to try to find the answer to this question that floats in my mind without respite.

The reason why I want to get to the bottom of this is because I’ve seen so many kids walk through Teen Court who are gifted and talented, but succumbed to the ruse that is marijuana that lead to their downfall. Imagine a world where drugs didn’t exist. This isn’t the case, but what if it was? We’d be in a world where people with addictive and curious personalities put their genius into their passion rather than into figuring out how they can get their next supply of weed.  This is why I would want to spend a year trying to figure out what the source is for millions of kids to be willing to destroy their lives over a plant.  If we can learn this maybe it would be the first step to day where we can completely end one of the evils that the world presents.

There were 19.8 million people consuming illicit marijuana in a single month in 2013 in the United States according to, so why am I focusing on teens rather than everyone. The reason is that if we want to end marijuana permanently we have to find why kids are abusing it, because if a 15 year old is smoking marijuana once a day, in 10 years there will be yet another adult who is teaching their child bad habits through example. Also kids are a lot more impressionable, so stopping a kid from a future with marijuana will have a much bigger toll on his perception than it will have on a 40 year old addict. Kids are the future. If we find the answer to this question, then the future will get a lot brighter for them.

If given the opportunity, I would spend a year of my life to discover why teens destroy their lives to get an allegedly good feeling for a few minutes. With the answer to this question, we could end the reign of the greatest mass murderer, depressant, and destroyer of millions of families, otherwise known as marijuana. One year of persistent searching is minute in comparison to possibly discovering the first step to the answer to a great problem that tries and haunts all of us every day.

The Heart vs The Brain (Inspired by Exeter Mission Statement:Non Sibi)

What do Malala, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Jefferson, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela have in common? They all follow a common way of life that has inspired me. Non sibi, not for oneself. This phrase brought these people to be the greatest figures in the history of our world. When many people hear of these people they think of them as the figures of intellect and genius. However, none of them accomplished their monumental feats purely with their mind. They were able to do it because of a drive to help others and advance the human race as a whole.  The drive to do things for others instead of for themselves pushes people to new heights. This is the Philips Exeter Academy mission statement, and the drive for millions of doers everyday throughout history.

The American government was the trailblazer of the democratic system in the modern world with Thomas Jefferson as the vanguard of this revolution. He took his pen and wrote word by word a liberation all people that made up something that is still looked at as one of the most important documents in history. He showed the feelings, emotions, struggles, distress, pain and anger for the people who couldn’t do so themselves in a work he called the Declaration of Independence. He wrote every word with his heart as a declaration for the millions of people being oppressed by the king. Thomas Jefferson wrote for the religious freedoms, civil rights and well-being of all people. He didn't think of just himself and the rest of the rich, educated, Christian male population with his words, but also the poor, uneducated Jewish woman who was looking for a better life in the new world. His goal to achieve the freedom of all people caused his words to be immortalized as the core ideals of our country. Thomas Jefferson had a brilliant and well-educated mind, but his heart, that wished for the future of something beyond himself, is what made him the father of the USA.

Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi is the epitome of non sibi. He started off from humble beginnings in India, but he went on to defeat the country, Great Britain, that had an iron grip on them for two centuries; he did this without laying a single punch on anyone.  However, that does not mean he didn't take a few hits himself. He went through hunger strikes, marches, and was put into jail. Gandhi took all of this to stand up for what he believed. He believed in the freedom of India. However, he also genuinely believed that all people should be kind and love one another. He believed in giving what someone can. He was known to be extremely greedy but not for himself; he was greedy for others instead. He loved the people of his country and sacrificed everything he had for people he didn't know.  Gandhi was not trying to free himself from Britain's clutches. He wasn't trying to free India from Britain's clutches.  He was trying to free the people of India from Britain's clutches. Gandhi had once said that we should thank people for giving them the opportunity to give. He had made it his life’s mission to help others in every way he can, and, in turn, he felt that he was helping himself.  He had a sharp mind, but he had an infinite amount of love and passion.

It is conspicuous who made a difference in the world, but it is hard to see why there are so few people who were able to do so. There are millions of smart people in the world, but only some of them are remembered as being a hero of their time. In the fall of 2014, there were 24 million people who attended a university.  It is recorded that 6.4% of the population is gifted intellectually based on their IQ score.  It has been proven time and again that there are myriad intellectual and creative people everywhere, yet the one thing that marks them from the Gandhi's, Malala's, and Tesla's of the world are the goals they seek. When people aim for money, power and their own well-being nothing is accomplished in the grand scheme things. When everyone lives for the happiness of each other, this happiness is found in everybody.

Every day we as a society glorify intellect, education and genius. We encourage kids to learn as much as they can and to challenge their minds. Every day we convince ourselves that being smart will bring us the success we want. Non sibi takes a different stance and teaches us something different. It teaches us that a kind heart is what drives sharp intellect to reach greatness. It teaches us that our brain isn’t the panacea to all of the problems in life. It teaches us that intelligence is overrated while the role of heart is underrated or even completely overlooked. The greatest leaders, the most passionate activists, the most influential vanguards in history all realized their gifts and worked and worked with their kind hearts for the benefit of others and for humanity as a whole. Thomas Jefferson fought passionately for the freedom of Americans. Malala put her life on the line for the girls of her country, and persevered for them in the face of adversity. Nelson Mandela worked tirelessly for the end of apartheid and the safety of millions of South Africans. The leaders of tomorrow can't be judged by their intelligence, but instead they can be judged by what they'll do with the gifts they've been given. Non sibi is not simply another lofty ideal; instead it is a statement that shows us something remarkable. The mind is simply an axe; it can be sharpened infinitely, but it is useless without a compassionate helping hand to guide the way.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Can Donald Trump be Trumped?

Donald Trump seems to be unstoppable at this point. He has the majority of the delegates, and the people are with him. However, the problem arises because the party itself is not. They doubt his ability as a president without any prior political experience. At this point, they are throwing everything they have in their pockets to stop him from winning the candidacy. What will happen if the candidate isn't who the people chose? Well havoc happens.

With the two opinions in the Republican Party, the political leaders of the party are on the losing side of the deal. The voters are on Donald Trump's side, while the other have only have the political powers. If Donald Trump is not given the nomination during the Republican National Convention, the odds are that he will run as a successful third party candidate. With the voters on his side, he will most likely aquire a vast number of electoral votes during the general election. Does this mean Donald Trump is the winner regardless of the outdoors of the Republican primaries?

No, it actually means the opposite is true. A Republican will most likely not win in 2016 if Trump decides to run as a third party candidate, because without the large number of voters who are steadfast Republican voters he will have insuperable odds to beat the Democratic candidate. This leads to the conclusion that the Republican Party must choose between losing the election or winning with a candidate that you don't agree with.

This is a tough choice to make for them because many of the Republicans opposing Trump dislike many of his policies nearly as much as they dislike those of the Democratic Party. Many people are also offended by the sexist and racist stereotypical comments he has made over the last year. With all this, the line between winning and losing becomes much more vague.

Everyone has their own opinion on this issue, but I believe that it would be best for the Republican Party to follow their voters because that is their base. This will allow a stronger hold im the 2020 election compared to having to reunite two different types of voters. The choice simple, but the choice is theirs.

The Horrifying High School Gameshow

            The further I get into high school, the more I realize how similar it is to the game shows I used to watch on...