Monthly Archives: February 2019

An introduction to human vision: How do we see? – Andy

Vision is a prominent part of our sensations. A world that nobody can see will no doubt be chaotic. In fact, visions have been one of the most direct emotional drives in daily life. So how does Nature put everything together so that human beings can see?


First, we can envision objects because there are “lights.” The general mechanism behind is that the starlight (including sunlight) is emitted and reflected by different objects on Earth. And lights, in general, are believed to consist of beads of photons that each contains energy.  Such reflected light (beams of photons) is then captured by our eyes and processed by our brain to form images on our minds. The different wavelength of light will show different colors.


(A possible image of the Photons)


Everyone knows that we see through our eyes. But eyes are complicated organs that are made up of different tissues and parts. Each of those biological segments is crucial for a satisfying visual experience like most of us have today.

The first tissues of our visual system that outside light touches are the cornea. The cornea is made of well-organized fibers and hence transparent. The rich transparent nerves that the cornea contains allow us to close our ours eyes. The transparency is critical here: it guarantees that the outside light can go through the cornea easily with few photons reflected or absorbed. Then, the photons go through a pool of transparent liquid called aqueous humor that biologically facilitates the maintenance for the cornea.

The next stop for the lights would be the pupil, a hole in the muscular structure called Iris. Through a simple stretching mechanism, Iris controls the amount of light that gets into our eyes. When the pupils are enlarged, more lights are allowed in and vice versa. An interesting implication is that people have their pupils enlarged when they face fear. That is because our brains naturally want more pieces of visual information (photons) in to obtain a better image of dangerous situations.

After Pupil, there is an ocean of vitreous humor (much larger volume compared to the aqueous humor) that takes up to 3/4 of the volume of our eyes. Those liquids are close to transparent, and their fibers function to refract the entered light accurately on the retina layer. Hopefully, through all the tissues, we could have the light focused at the retina. In fact, only half of the light begins at the cornea ends up at the retina. The lost lights are usually dissipated through refraction or absorbed by impurities.

Last but not least, the retina ” ‘tells the brain about aspects of light that are related to objects in the world’ ” (Wolfe 28-29). Not until the light reaches the retina would such light turns into the image we see considering all the lost photons on its way.


(Eye structure)

Images are crazily dense information-wise, and hence we have developed cells that can work on different segments of the pieces. Those cells are called the photoreceptors. 

There are two critical photoreceptors on the retina layer that play crucial roles in processing the photons in the first place: the Rods and the Cones, both consist of segments (outer and inner segments that are responsible for filtering specific wavelengths of absorbed lights) and terminals that transmit visual information to the brain via different neurotransmitters. So in a way, the photoreceptors work as bridges between our eyes and our minds.

Fun fact: rods work better at night and cones work better during the day. Most nocturnal animals have developed robust rods network on their retinas. 

The major vision processor of the brain is the primary visual cortex (V1), sometimes referred to the striate cortex. It locates at the back of the brain: that is why damaging the back our heads might cause serious issues with visions. At V1, more complicated structures will start to process and develop the orientation of visual information since the image we see are naturally opposite of what are real (our left eyes see the objects on the right, and our right eyes see the objects on the left). Then, there are detectors at V1 that handle edges and stripes of the forming image, working in a reception-stimulus mechanism.

V1 pathways.jpg

(Pathways to V1)

In a sense, there are different types of visual information that each of those little cells are waiting for. Once they find what they want, they will shout it out to the brain and forms the image collaboratively. For instance, a cell is waiting (responsible) for chairs; it would remain silent when we see no chair, and once we see some chairs, the cells will become active and deliver the signal to the brain. What they usually process, however, are lines and black dots due to their limited size; so it may require thousands of those cells to recognize a chair as each of them recognize a dot or a line segment.

There are more intriguing details about our vision pathways in our brain. If you want to learn more about that (how those visual information gets to V1), I have found a great video that could help you visualize the pathways.

Beauty is one of the significant incentives for us to have visions. I have found a great Ted talk on this topic, and here is a leak of what I would elaborate on my next post: how your brain decides what is beautiful




Bermúdez, J. L. (2014). Cognitive science: An introduction to the science of the mind (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The eye – Blue Cone Monochromacy [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

JFC. (n.d.). What exactly is a photon? Definition, properties, facts [Image]. Retrieved from

KoreaMed Synapse [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Wolfe, J. M. (2006). Sensation & perception. Sunderland, Mass.: Sinauer Associates.

So…I’m Back to Being Stalker…

Last year during our first semester, I wrote a blog titled I’m becoming a professional stalker… where I talk about how I have turned into a stalker trying to accomplish two goals: find extraordinary candidates to interview for The Girl Narrative and find their contact information (creepy I know). Now, in our third semester, I am going back to that as I find new girls to interview while transcribing previous interviews (you’ll see a blog about that later).

The Girl Narrative seeks to find and uplift extraordinary young women, particularly young women who have done grassroots movements and projects that have not been picked up by the greater media (though The Girl Narrative is not only for these types of girls). Because of this, finding their contact information can be difficult and can call for some pretty deep google search holes. My process, though, for finding and gaining their contact information remains similar to how I have done this work in the past.

Here is my process:

Step One: Gather Some Names

Whether it is through a girl reaching out to us, a previous interviewee nominating a girl, or through articles like 31 Extraordinary Women Under 31, I get a list of girls that I believe would lead to fantastic interviews for The Girl Narrative and place them all within a google sheet, organizing them by things like age, country of inhabitance, and reason.

Step Two: Get. Some. Numbers.

Next comes the….interesting part. Once I have their names, I scour the web for an email or a phone number. This process can range from me going to their social media page or website and finding their email, to going digging for hours until I find something on a school website or on a family member’s Facebook page (I go DEEP). Not only, though, does this digging help me get in contact with them, but can also lead to an interesting tangent within their article/interview!

Step Three: Reach Out

So…now that I know WAY too much about them by trying to find their contact info, I reach out to these young women and ask if they (and their parents, as they need their parents to sign our release form) would be interested in being interviewed and having their interview published.


This process is the prologue to a long chapter of work that goes into each interview. From getting their name, to getting their contact, to reaching out, to interviewing them, to getting out legal paperwork filled out, to transcribing, to getting photos, to writing the actual article, to editing, to web designing, to publishing the process for creating our content is extensive, but I am so excited to continue that process for our third semester and share our progress and process with you all!

Sabrina Schoenborn

CEO & Founder of

The Girl Narrative


Team, MAKERS. “31 Extraordinary Women Under 31 for #31Days of Women’s History.” MAKERS, MAKERS, 16 May 2017,

“Google Search.” Wikipedia,

Medicine in China during the Late Modern Era — Yuchen

In the last blog post, I looked at medicine in Europe during the Late Modern Era. It was a time period marked by numerous advances in medical biology, microanatomy, histology and other important subdivisions of medicine that represent the emergence of modern medicine. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, China was forced out of its isolated state. The absolute authority of traditional Chinese medicine was also challenged by the intruding western medical tradition.



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Map of the Qing Dynasty


China in the 17th and the 18th centuries was going through a tumultuous time. The peace and prosperity of its last dynastic era were nearing its end. Early Qing emperors have devoted themselves to resolving the conflicts between the nomadic tribes and the peasant communities and have tripled China’s territory. Many measures were also taken to promote economic growth and cultural unification.

The publishing boom of encyclopedias in the early Qing era encouraged compilation of medical texts and of other academic fields to capture and celebrate Chinese cultural heritage. Gujin Tushu Jicheng (The Collection of Ancient and Modern Works) was published in 1726 under the order of the emperor. This encyclopedia contains an impressive number of 10,000 chapters— 520 of which are on the topic of medicine. Meanwhile, Qing Chinese doctors continued to develop and improve treatment methods to combat the epidemic of febrile diseases (diseases caused by fever or “wenbing 温病” in Chinese). (Cohen) (Shen)




The Industrial Revolution

However, later Qing rulers became increasingly autocratic and despotic, particularly after the Emperor Qianlong. China’s seclusion policy contributed to its further isolation. While the Western world was experiencing great progress during the Industrial Revolution, China remained a feudal country heavily reliant upon agriculture. (Cohen)



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Photo of Christian Missionaries

The rise of Western medicine in China is closely correlated with the increasing influence of the West as well as with the weakening of the Qing dynasty. At the beginning of the 19th century, Christian missionaries and doctors greatly contributed to the spread of Christianity and Western medicine in China. Countless Western medical texts were translated into Chinese, introducing Chinese doctors to Western medical practices. Several medical schools and hospitals were also established with the help of foreign doctors. (Cohen)


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Smokers during the Epidemic of Opium Addiction

The First and Second Opium War further contributed to the invasion of foreign powers. In 1839, in response to the epidemic of opium addiction caused by the opium trade, the Qing government, led by the government official Lin Zexu confiscated and destroyed more than 20,000 chests of opiums— around 1,400 tons. The act angered the British threatened their economic interests since they were the major traders of opium that were exported from India to China. As a result, the First Opium War broke out. After three years of bloodshed, the war ended with the British capturing Nanjing, forcing China to sign the first unequal treaty– the Treaty of Nanjing. The treaty not only demanded the Qing government to pay Britain a large indemnity, to cede Hong Kong for a century, to open new trading ports to Britain, but it also marked the beginning of an era of unequal treaties between Western powers and China. (Pletcher)


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Bilingual Page of the Treaty of Nanjing


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Rudolph Virchow

“Medicine is a social science, and politics nothing but medicine on a grand scale.”                                           

      —- Rudolph Virchow  (“Father of Pathology”)


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Sun Yat-sen 孙中山

This famous adage suitably describes the career and life of Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan)– leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party and the father of modern China. He is not only well known for overthrowing the Qing dynasty and founding the democratic government, but also for his promotion of Western medicine and other essential elements of modernization in China. Sun moved to Hawaii at an early age to live with his older brother. He received education in the Anglican Iolani School and the Oahu College in Hawaii before returning to China to continue his studies. He first attended the Canton Hospital Medical School affiliated with the Boji Hospital– China’s first modern hospital. Later, he transferred to the College of Medicine for Chinese in Hong Kong to complete his doctoral degree. (Young)


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Imperial Threats

Despite great efforts, Western medicine still faced the challenge of Chinese people’s distrust and rooted preference for traditional treatments. Western-trained doctors were mostly practicing at missionary hospitals only established in major cities. The absent of recognition for his medical qualification partly contributed towards Sun’s involvement in politics. As a medical doctor, Sun observed and analyzed China’s problems from a medical perspective. Indeed, China was “the sick man of Asia,” both literally and metaphorically.  He believed that as a physician, he could only save a limited number of lives, but overthrowing the Qing dynasty could save innumerable people. (Lee)


At the conclusion of the 19th century, the relationship between traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine in China was complex– similar to China’s relation with the West. However, the tumultuous era marked the beginning of China’s westernization in various fields and the start of integration of different medical traditions in the country.




Works Cited

Bilingual Pages in the Treaty of Nanjing. 1842. Imperialism in China Webquest, Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

The Cambridge Seven, circa 1885. Lux Mundi, Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

Cohen, Leslie. “Changing Role of Traditional Chinese Medicine During the Qing Dynasty.” Decoded Past, 27 Oct. 2014, Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

Gujin Tushu Jicheng. 18 Oct. 2016. Wikimedia Commons,,_Volume_056_(1700-1725).djvu. Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

Kircher, Athanasius. Athanasii Kircheri China monumentis (1667) “Frontispicio.” Wikimedia Commons,…_China_monumentis_(1667)_%22Frontispicio%22_(22629197626).jpg. Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

Lee, Kam-Hing, et al. “Dr Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925): medical doctor and China’s founding president.” Medical History, vol. 54, no. 6, 2013, pp. 356-58, doi:10.11622/smedj.2013121. Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

Lin Zexu. Pinterest, Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

The Opium War. Civilian Military Intelligence Group,

Pletcher, Kenneth. “Opium Wars.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2 Nov. 2018, Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

Preece, Warren E., and Robert L. Collison. “History of Encyclopaedias.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 8 Sept. 2016, Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

“Qing Dynasty.” Think Link, 2016, Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

Sächsische Maschinenfabrik in Chemnitz, Germany, 1868. 23 Mar. 2008. Wikimedia Commons, Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

The Signing and Sealing of the Treaty of Nanjing. 1842. Imperialism in China Webquest, Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

Sun Yat-sen. 2 Apr. 2017. Wikimedia Commons, Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

Young, Kue-Hing. “Sun Yat-sen: From Medicine to Revolution.” CMAJ.JAMC, vol. 112, no. 5, 8 Mar. 1975, pp. 614-16, Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.

“神农氏” [“Shen Nong”]. 神农, June 2003,



How I Redefine Addition – Baiting


In my last blog, I talked about my plan for the semester, why I want to study abstract algebra, and some basic concepts involving mapping. In this blog, I will first provide some update on Modeling the Future, a team math competition we have been working on, and how I redefine addition in group theory. I will also talk about my plan for the science fair.

Modeling the Future is a competition that requires us to pick a potential cure for a pervasive disease. Then, we need to analyze the impact of the cure on the health insurance industry. After some discussion, we picked gene therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

As the model builder of the team, I decided to find some of the variables, they are:

C: Cost of the Therapy, C>0;

P: Price of the insurance, P>0;

K: Percentage of the cost of the therapy covered by the insurance, 0<k<1. Since gene therapies are expensive, insurance companies are not likely to covered all the costs.

Q: Quantity of insurance sold. Or, the number of people purchase the insurance. We also assume Quantity equals demand as insurance companies sell as many insurance as demanded. There is no shortage. Q>0;

R: Risk of having Alzheimer’s Disease. 0<R<1;

A: Affordability. Given that the person purchases the insurance, has the disease, and the insurance covers only part of the expensive therapy, A indicates the percentage of customers who are willing to cover the uncovered expenses. 0<A<1;

I will not talk about our model in the blog for this time as we are still in the process of finalizing it. The idea is, we need to build a supply curve of the insurance based on all these variables and some data we find, then we need to find a proper demand curve from the internet. Finally, we will use the demand-supply model from economics to decide the quantity and price of the insurance so that the company will make the most profit.

After something about MTF, let’s see what I have done to redefine addition.

Addition is one of the basic operations we use every day. In algebraic numbers, addition makes perfect sense, as we all know 1+1=2. However, the definition in Abstract Algebra or group theory is often unclear. In this more inclusive redefinition of addition, the idea applies to any set, group, or algebraic number.

If you are curious about why we need to prove all these properties, please visit here. The reason in short is we need to make sure our new definition doesn’t contradict with the conventional one. This source is particular helpful for me since it provides both the English and Chinese.


So here are all I did in the past two weeks. Since Word Press does not support some of the math notations, so I decided to write them down in a Word Document and paste them here. In the following blog, I will provide another update for Modeling the Future and talk about how I plan to prove Lagrange’s Theorem and Fermat’s Little Theorem. As you may notice in my redefinition, some concepts in math really get abstract. However, this is the beauty of mathematics, as it is only through these abstract ideas that our knowledge system becomes more and more perfect.


Calder, K. (n.d.). Addition [Image]. Retrieved from

Group-like structures [Illustration]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Herstein, I. (1990). Abstract algebra (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan. (2018, November 14). New Crypto Exchange Security Scoring Model Provides Insurance Rates for Coin Owners [Image]. Retrieved from

“代数结构入门:群、环、域、向量空间” [“An Introduction to the Algebra Structure: Group, Loop, Field, and Vector Space”]. Spark & Shine, 24 Feb. 2015, Accessed 27 Jan. 2019.

Ezra Pound

I’ve decided that the first writer I research to be Ezra Pound, who was referenced in my introduction post. I have always admired his work, for he is known to be the creator of an important movement in writing, Imagism, but I have never had the chance to dive deeper into his history and writing style in relation to his contributions.

Ezra Pound in the 1920s is a photograph by Everett which was uploaded on December 5th, 2011.
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Genitourinary Cancer Research: a new problem


Over the course of the past week, we ran multiple tests on the viability of the cells using NanoEntek’s cell counter. We were hoping for the 20% viability of the cells, previously measured, to rise to an ideal 70%. One hypothesis was that the cell counter was not working properly, however, after upon review in the inverted microscope (manual cell counting), we determined that the cells were far too small to be seen even under 40x magnification.

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Seeking “The Missing Picture” –Nina

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The Opening Scene, “The Missing Picture”

In the past semester, I completed my research on the development of Communism in Cuba and began to study the Cambodian Communist Revolution. Within the Cuba unit, I have had opportunities to understand the impact of the Cuban Revolution on various parties involved: Cuban-Americans, local Cubans, and the U.S. government. My analyses from reference articles, an interview, and a documentary helped me construct my own understanding of the revolution. Similarly, I have gathered information on the Khmer Rouge Movement in Cambodian from reading newspapers published during the revolution, statistical reports on the development of the Cambodian economy, examining case studies of the Cambodian education system, and viewing the last interview with Pol Pot. Continue reading