The pursuit of green energy is a necessity to combat climate change; this much is certain. However, the way we are approaching this transition to renewable energy needs to be reevaluated. Green initiatives across the world tout wind, solar, and a distancing from fossil fuel-based energy production as goals not only in their respective countries, but globally. One green source of energy seems to be missing from this conversation, and that is nuclear. Nuclear energy has become unfavorable in the eyes of climate activists for several reasons, mainly their association to nuclear weapons and the possibility of meltdowns. What these activists have not been studying, however, is new progress in liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR). These reactors are meltdown-resistant via new safety features. LFTRs feature a dump tank sealed off by a salt plug that melts in the case of an emergency. These reactors also cannot meltdown, since the core reaction is already in the molten state. Obtaining weapons-grade uranium from an LFTR is difficult, since these products are in solution with molten salt in the reactor. In addition, these reactors do not produce as much long-lived nuclear waste as traditional uranium-based reactors. Nuclear energy is the only real, efficient solution to our energy crisis, and therefore deserves a front and center place in global discussion.
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Figure 1. Micriscopic image of allium root tip. Root cap (bottom) surrounding apical maristem (center) in allium onion root tip. "Apical Meristem in Allium Root Tip" flickr photo by bccoer https://flickr.com/photos/146824358@N03/34886440510 shared into the public domain using (CC0)
The pursuit of green energy is a necessity to combat climate change; this much is certain. However, the way we are approaching this transition to renewable energy needs to be reevaluated. Green initiatives across the world tout wind, solar, and a distancing from fossil fuel-based energy production as goals not only in their respective countries, but globally. One green source of energy seems to be missing from this list, and that is nuclear. Nuclear energy has become unfavorable in the eyes of climate activists due to two factors; an association to nuclear weapons and the possibility of a meltdown. What these activists have not been studying, however, is new progress in liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR). These reactors are meltdown-resistant via new safety features, and produce contaminated radioactive products which are not ideal for weapons manufacture. In addition, these reactors do not produce as much nuclear waste in general as traditional uranium-based reactors. What results from the implementation of LFTRs is a sustainable, safe, and efficient method of energy production that can out-produce any other form of green energy. Their acceptance by the public will assuredly result in a positive trend for carbon emissions globally.
Public health is a relatively new concern in the history of mankind. This is not due to people simply not caring, but rather their inability to understand how illnesses are spread. Germ theory was essential in order to help contain and prevent transferrable disease. Before this advancement in microbiology, medical professionals had to theorize the cause of illnesses. These doctors proposed humoral and subsequently miasma theory. Humoral theory proposed that imbalances of phlegm, red bile, black bile, and blood. Miasma theory suggested that illness was caused by miasma, or bad air, usually emanating from rotten organic matter. As wrong as miasma theory was, it certainly was a better explanation than humoral theory. The idea that filth, rotten material, and stenches harbored illnesses is still something expressed by people today, and therefore must have some truth.
As the world population continues to grow in size, issues in food growth and distribution arise. Simply focusing on the issue of food growth, all efforts must be made to produce the highest yields as possible in the arable land we currently use. Doing this allows for more efficient farming, and avoids destructive deforestation that decimates biodiversity and the natural carbon capture that our forests and jungles provide. To maximize yields on our current farmland, GMOs must be used responsibly. While GMOs do assist in higher yields, they also come with additional responsibilities to the farmer. Round-Up Ready seed usually requires specific herbicides-chemicals that are currently being investigated as a carcinogen-to be sprayed to eliminate crowding by weeds. The farmer, seed manufacturer, and herbicide manufacturer must all be responsible for the dangers to human health, as well as avoiding resistance among weed populations. GMOs then may seem to be a much more labor intensive option than simple organic farming. However, when used correctly, GMOs are the only way forward to feed our ever growing population.
Vaccinations have been a major advancement in public health, saving countless lives from diseases that once devastated populations. So how has this marvel of modern medicine become such a controversial topic of today's society? How have vaccines gone from life-saving preventative medicine to autism inducing, heavy metal dumping poison shots? People may claim it started with Jenny McCarthy, who cited fraudulent research compiled by ex-physician Andrew Wakefield. That may be a factor, certainly, but the issues are much deeper. The truth is that people simply do not trust conventional medicine anymore. This could be due to many facets of medicine today, such as large government oversight, consolidation of drug companies, or just hesitation to blindly trust medical professionals. It may be easy to simply brandish these vaccine deniers as uneducated, but that simply isn't the case. The fact is that there is a lot of complex chemistry and biology that one must comprehend fully to truly understand the efficacy of vaccines. I believe that every American should have a better understanding of public health, and that includes vaccines. A college or high school requirement of basic public health would, I believe, ease this distrust of conventional medicine and allow people to see the benefits of vaccines and proper preventative care.
I woke up to the sound of my alarm. I quickly reached below my lofted bed to my desk and turned off the phone alarm, since my roomate was still sleeping. I got out of bed and turned on my coffee maker that I had prepped the night before. While the coffee maker was brewing, I showered and dressed, then sat down at my desk to review some last minute work before heading to class. I looked at the weather before I left, and put on a sweater since it appeared to be a bit cold out. I walked to my first class-history 264 in Herter Hall. After class, I ate breakfast at Worcester and returned to my room, and then worked on a paragraph for biology 312.
- Walk to Herter
- Walk to breakfast
- Return to room
- Schoolwork before history
- Paragraph before 312
As a student at UMass Amherst, the sprawling campus and variety of buildings assigned per class requires a decent amount of travel. Just this morning, my day began walking from my dorm room in the northeast residential area to Herter Hall, about a 15 minute walk across campus. After this class had finished, I walked to Worcester dining commons, located fairly close to my dorm. After this, I walked from the dining common to my room. I remained in my room for several hours until it was time for my next class. From my dorm room I walked to Morrill III, where I am currently located. My life as a UMass Amherst student is full of walking on any given day, and I will be walking much more over the remaining year.
The pharmaceutical industry is often vilified in today's society as greedy, cold, and evil. Of course, simply looking at prices of drugs can reinforce this thought. These are life-saving medications, after all, and clearly people aren't able to afford these outrageous costs. To properly understand this pricing absurdity, it is crucial to also understand the process of drug approval by the FDA. The FDA rightfully mandates that drugs go through stages of development-referred as the pipeline in the industry-to ensure efficacy, safety, and reproducibility. Throughout the journey of identification, R&D, and clinical trials, the cost to bring a drug successfully to market is around $2.6 billion. In addition to this, only ~12% of drugs that are presented to the FDA for clinical development are approved. Just this year, only 26 drugs have been approved. Considering the number of drug companies throughout the United States, this number is extremely low. It is only logical that with such a market that these drug companies are forced into, prices of drugs that are actually approved need to be as high as possible to ensure profitability. Instead of the rhetoric heard around the country today that vilifies big pharma, maybe the conversation should be shifted to the broken healthcare system that encourages this kind of behavior in the first place.
The CRISPR-Cas9 system of gene editing seems to be quite a promising treatment for genetic disorders among humans. There are still many roadblocks in the way of this method becoming an actual treatment method anytime soon. Firstly, the accuracy of affected DNA sequences is not entirely precise. Off target edits utilizing CRISPR-Cas9 have plummeted, certainly, but are still not accurate enough for actual human treatment. Additionally, new research has shown that the human body initiates immune responses towards Cas9. This greatly lowers the efficacy of CRISPR-Cas9 treatment, and may delay this treatment's entry into medical treatment even further. With all the fervor currently about this method of gene editing, it is important to assess the challenges associated with CRISPR-Cas9 and to ensure that these treatments are safe and effective when brought to market.
The pharmaceutcal industry is a very widely hated industry among Americans, as they are seen as greedy, evil, and heartless organizations hell bent on making the biggest prophet they can. And while yes, it is true that these copanies are simply in the business for profitability and their responsibilities to investors and shareholders, there are some justifications for the seemingly outrageous pricing of drugs-in the context of the American healthcare system at least. To bring a single drug to market, through all the trials and tests mandated by the FDA, costs around $2.7 billion. Pharmaceutcial companies are not at liberty to be generous, philanthropic, or kind-hearted in this kind of a cut-throat market that the current system has imposed. If we truly want change in the pharmaceutical space, we need to have a real discussion on what we can change about the current healthcare systems, not pointing fingers at the companies themselves.