a prodigal summer.


December 31st, 2018 / Sonali Sanjay, Founder and Editor-in-Chief

It was a sweltering day in Virginia, Prodigal Summer by every definition.


It was 2009; the U.S unemployment rate had just hit nine percent, Beyonce's Single Ladies blessed the world, NASA discovered water on the moon, and Captain Phillips had just been released from the standoff with Somalian pirates.  


I, on the other hand, was seven and three quarters, refused to write in anything other than cursive, and had just received a green and black Huffy bike as an early birthday gift.  The brakes had malfunctioned a week before and I had been given strict orders not to ride it until it was fixed. How could I resist? The air was thick with adventure, the likes of which Tom and Huckleberry excitedly recounted.  I marched outside valiantly, twin brother in tow (so that I wasn't the only one who'd face consequences) and a weird feeling in my stomach, not butterflies or those terrifying Dumbledore-looking moths. It was adrenaline.


My fist-pumping, finger-gun flashing, thrill-seeking second-grader persona had waited its whole life for this moment.  The two of us walked out with the brazenness of two settlers in the frontier, similar to rookie investment bankers entering Wall Street: wholly unprepared for the tempest ahead.


Looking back, I wish I could say that I didn't quite know what prompted me to do it, but in all honesty, I know exactly what my reasons were.  I was fed on a robust diet of adventure, mystery, and realistic fiction novels, ones that trained me to see every lock as a key, every tree as Jack's beanstalk, and every day as an opportunity.  An opportunity I seized on that 2009 afternoon.  


We rolled our bikes to the continental shelf of the yard, which was the part before the earth steepened, flattened out at the very bottom, and then immediately backed off to trees and boulders.  I had a plan. A plan that would stop the very principles of physics and gravity mid-orbit, in that, it disregarded them all. A plan that conveniently left off any modicum of depth perception, momentum, or even an accurate summarization of my bike-riding skills. 


The game plan was that I would ride my brake-less bike down the hill, make a sharp right turn before I hit the trees, and cycle along the flattened bottom.  This I narrated to my brother, received a shrug in return, which I took a


 What I didn't realize, however, was that physics and momentum and gravity weren't big words that floated around aimlessly, rather concrete parts of the universe.  


The calculations, or lack thereof, were done.  The figurative big, red button was pressed. I mounted the bike, repeated the plan in my head, and kicked off the hill, careening towards the trees.  




My epiphany had arrived egregiously late.  I braced for impact. And an impact, it truly was.  


That day, a part of me was lost to the trees.  And by part of me, I mean some of my blood, skin cells, and a few shards of my dignity.  But I did gain something vital, arguably more important than what I lost.


My brother helped me up, and we gingerly made it up to the door.  I won't ever forget my mother's face when she saw the splinters. Needless to say, the last few weeks of second grade were ones of aggressively-applied Neosporin, and a Rite-Aid bandage plastered on my forehead. 


Thomas Edison said, "Failure is the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."  It took him thousands of prototypes to perfect his version of the lightbulb, and when he finally succeeded, he proved the entire world wrong.  Now, I'm not comparing myself to one of the greatest inventors of all time, but I am trying to emphasize that failure is a constant in every individual (even the luminaries of our world).  It shouldn't be a deterrent, rather a catalyst for future, more sensible, attempts.


Now, in the years since, I've still had my fair share of bicycle mishaps.  From crashing onto the rocks next to the path to driving into a dead end, I am truly accustomed to getting back up and trying again (literally).


In the future, I'll inevitably come face-to-face with other failures.  And I may not be able to control the outcome, or apply physics to it, or copious amounts of Neosporin.  But at the end of the day, I can control how I react to it and whether or not I pick myself back up.  

rad-x's role in cosmic ray research.


April 28th, 2018 / Sonali Sanjay, Founder and Editor

The Radiation Dosimetry Experiment (RaD-X) aimed to provide insights into the high levels of ionization energy in the atmosphere using scientific balloons (“About RaD-X,” 2018). The high concentration of ionization energy in the atmosphere emitted from cosmic ray energy, can cause the risk of cancer to pilots and passengers traveling on aircrafts through the harmful radiation-packed atmosphere.  It was launched on September 25, 2018, and was a successful mission. The data contributed greatly to public safety efforts, research in physics, and the payload reached the NASA facilities safely.

The objective of the RaD-X mission is to use scientific balloons to measure cosmic ray energy at different points in the atmosphere.  High cosmic ray energy on Earth is a very relevant problem to today’s world. The high ionization energy on Earth can pose many health risks such as cancer, damage to DNA, and also exposes pilots to large amounts of radiation (“Health Effects,” n.d) .  The objective of the RaD-X mission is to figure out how cosmic rays input ionization energy into Earth’s atmosphere. By collecting data in this energy field, scientists can help to improve airplane safety and lower radiation in the atmosphere.

The mission type of RaD-X is an Earth-based and high altitude mission.  It is executed by using a scientific research balloon to observe the ionization energy in Earth’s atmosphere.  RaD-X was launched in 2015 from Fort Sumter, New Mexico. The payloads safely reached the NASA research facilities and are being analyzed to provide answers to the abundance of ionization energy emitted by cosmic rays in the atmosphere.

RaD-X provides benefits to medical and scientific research, but also to the Nowcast of Atmospheric Ionizing Radiation for Aviation Safety model (NAIRAS).  NAIRAS is an initiative created by NASA to increase public awareness of the radiation exposure to pilots and passengers on planes. It also is making strides to develop a predicting technology to analyze real-time radiation levels and its impact on aircraft pilots and passengers (NAIRAS, 2018).  The duration of RaD-X was 24 hours, as the durations on scientific balloons are very short but effective.  The balloon was launched on September 25, 2015, and the payloads were received the very next day by the recovery crew.  RaD-X flew at an altitude of 110,000 feet during the mission and was an overall success.

The platform used by RaD-X were scientific balloons.  Scientists are using scientific balloons to research and study the producers of high energy matter located in the entirety of the universe.  These scientific balloons are filled with helium, and carries the payload cargo underneath it. After reaching its goal altitude, the balloon moves with the winds in the stratosphere and collects data.  After the data collection is complete, the payload falls from the balloon with a parachute to make sure the data reaches the research facilities safely.  RaD-X had no evident mission constraints, as the entire mission went smoothly in terms of the data collection and payload drop off.  In terms of launch obstacles, the RaD-X launch had to be rescheduled multiple times due to high winds and air conditions (“RaD-X,” 2015).  These problems delayed the launch dates, but they didn’t affect the mission outcome or research.


Overall, the Radiation Dosimetry Experiment was a successful mission.  It helped to provide crucial data on the ionization energy present in the atmosphere and emitted by cosmic ray energies.  The research can help to provide more safety for pilots and passengers exposed to such high levels of radiation in the atmosphere, which can help to lower the risk of cancer from these ionization energies.


About Rad-X. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://science.larc.nasa.gov/radx/about.html

Ionizing radiation, health effects and protective measures. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs371/en/

NAIRAS. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from http://sol.spacenvironment.net/nairas/

RaD-X, N. (2015, October 28). NASA RaD-X (@NASA_RaDX). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://twitter.com/nasa_radx


laissez-faire healthcare?


February 14th, 2018 / Sonali Sanjay, Founder and Editor

Healthcare, specifically its cost and efficiency, has been a reoccurring problem in the United States. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has aimed to provide affordable universal healthcare, but instead, has also resulted in higher clinical prices and has intensified the problem of unaffordable healthcare. Even though the U.S. is the only country without a publicly financed universal health system, it still spends more public dollars on healthcare in the entire world.  Compared to other countries, Americans have relatively few hospital admissions and physician visits, but are greater users of expensive technologies like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. The problem is that incomes of middle class Americans and lower class Americans have been greatly affected by the ACA and its policies because of higher taxes to combat the rising prices of healthcare, which still doesn’t result in positive trends in clinical efficiency. New policies have to be amended to the ACA and/or the ACA needs to be eliminated and revised so that medical care can influence positive patient outcomes without increasing health care prices and taxation.  The restoration of incomes and the strengthening of preventative medical care can save the tax plan and also help increase the positive outcomes for patients.

The first way that I believe that incomes of middle-class Americans can be restored, is to develop new healthcare business models that reward healthcare providers on the basis of their patient population’s health outcomes. Providing incentives such as reduced corporate tax rate to private sector companies who invest in research and development (R&D) and innovating in healthcare fields to improve medical outcomes. In global comparison, the United States spends the most on healthcare per capita, but its medical outcomes and efficiency aren’t as positive as other countries who spend less on healthcare. This means that the gap isn’t necessarily in medical treatment, its in the budget allocation and the institutions/healthcare facilities where American money goes.


Clinical intervention is also one of the factors of skyrocketing medical bills.  In today’s world, every symptom has a medication or pill/drug that is immediately prescribed to the patient. Physicians are getting paid on the basis of the amount of medication prescribed to the patient, not the medical outcomes of the patient.  Drugs and pills increase a patient’s dependency on medication, which means that more money is funneled into overheads, but less money into decreasing a patient’s dependency on medicine. The U.S should motivate healthcare providers to invest in social programs such as wellness (yoga, exercise, etc.), diet, behavior (smoking cessation), and non-clinical interventions that will be more medically cost-effective but also increase positive outcomes for the patient in the long run.


Lastly, I believe that the majority of the money invested by the U.S government in healthcare should be distributed within preventative medical care.  The reason that healthcare is so expensive is because of all the overhead costs, as well as dividends that taxes and patient payment goes to. By lessening our expenditure on insurance companies, we can reduce the disparities between socioeconomic classes in regard to healthcare, and also restore a large amount of the incomes in middle class families. Investing in preventative medical care will result in lower healthcare prices and healthier patients in the long run.  A reduced dependency on hospitals/invasive treatment, equates to less taxation to fund unnecessary drugs/opioids, which could put a stop to the perpetuation of the opioid epidemic.  By minimizing the circulation of drugs and the dependency that patients have on them, other problems such as antibiotic resistant bacteria will start to become less and less prevalent.  Preventative care comes full circle.

In conclusion, the incomes of middle class Americans as well as lower class Americans can be restored by investing in measures that lead to positive medical outcomes, social programs to promote wellness and non-clinical intervention, and preventative medical care.  The world is rapidly innovating, with aims to place the future of medicine on every doorstep.  However, by taking a step back, analyzing the options, and picking the choice that is the most beneficial to the patient, the medical industry will be catalyst in the salvation of family incomes, infrastructure, and also create a more efficient patient outcome service for America.