This blog is a collaborative effort between the Foundation for Student Science and Technology (formerly the Canadian Young Scientist Journal) and Science.gc.ca. Our aim is to offer an interactive platform where Canadian students can talk about their passions, challenges and ideas on how to further pursue scientific interests and education. We welcome new contributors -- if you are interested please contact us at information@science.gc.ca.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Me, myself, and the universe

Originally Published: May 30, 2016
by: Kelvin Zhang

When you look up in the night sky, you see stars.
Hundreds, thousands of them, glimmering and glistening,
each and every one bigger and brighter than our own sun.
A hundred billion stars lie in our galaxy,
and another hundred billion galaxies in our universe.
Our minds are unable to comprehend how large the universe really is.

From that perspective, the Earth is tiny.
But everything you have ever known, everyone you have ever loved
lies on that small dot orbiting the sun.
Everyone that has ever lived.
Every human, every organism.
Every great leader.
Every saint and sinner.
On that small blue planet.

To think of the blood that we shed,
of all the destruction that we caused
just to be temporary leaders of a small place --
It makes you feel small. Insignificant.

Our lives may be a small fraction of the universe,
but you should feel big,
because the Universe is in you.
You are those very atoms that the Big Bang created,
those very atoms scattered by the deaths of stars.
Those atoms, the pieces to a puzzle,
that continuously rearrange themselves -
forming intricate patterns.
Growing in size and complexity
and over billions of years:

You are here.
You are connected to the universe.
Atoms with consciousness.
Matter with curiosity.
a universe of atoms --
an atom in the universe.
That is the beauty of science, the universe, and you.

The Science of Tears

Originally Published: May 30, 2016
Written by: Malvika Agarwal

When was the last you cried? Maybe it was while you were watching a sad movie or when a loved one was leaving you or because you just felt lonely. The next thing you know, you have a lump in your throat, your eyes start to water and tears are running down your cheeks. Considering that crying is an important and common part of everyone's lives, many of us know surprisingly little about it.

What happens when we cry, exactly? While the lacrimal gland produces a watery component, the glands in our eyelids produce an oily component, and other cells produce mucus. These mix together on the upper, outer region of your eye to create a film, which covers the white of the eye and the cornea. When we blink, the film is wiped across the eye by the eyelids. This fluid, better known as tears, drains into the tiny openings in the eyelids, called puncta (one on the inside corner of each lid), and then through ducts to the nasal cavity, where they either become part of nasal fluid or are swallowed. This is why we also get "stuffy" when we cry. If insufficient tears are produced or the constituents are out of balance, it can result in sore, dry eyes.

Over the years, many scientists have researched on how humans cry. Ad Vingerhoets, a professor of psychology at Tilburg University, discovered that there are 3 types of tears. The first type is basal tears, and they lubricate and protect the eyes at all times from damage by incoming air currents and floating debris.

Often, people tend to cry when they are cutting onions. These types of tears are called reflex tears, which are produced when the eyes make contact with wind, sand, insects or rocks. Reflex tears protect the eyes from irritants such as wind, smoke, and chemicals. They also help flush out random specks of dirt or any object that gets into the eye.

The last types of tears are emotional tears, which are secreted in moments of intense feeling - sometimes joy, but more often sorrow. These tears ears are produced in such large quantity that they overflow and fall down our cheeks. This type of crying occurs in response to stress, frustration, sadness, and happiness, and any other motion that evokes tears.

It has been statistically proven crying is beneficial for the health of individuals. Studies show that holding your emotions in can be dangerous over the long-term. In fact, some research indicates that stifling emotional tears can cause elevated risk of heart disease and hypertension. Other studies have shown that people suffering from such conditions as colitis or ulcers tend to have a less positive attitude about crying than their healthier counterparts. Psychologists recommend that people suffering from grief express their emotions through talking and crying, rather than keeping their emotions in check. Many studies also show that women cry 5.3 times a month, while men only cry about 1.3 times a month on an average. The reason is that men produce testosterone, which prevents them to tear up. On the other hand, women have lots of prolactin (a protein found in the body), which stimulates tears.

Tears of joy and tears of exhaustion. Tears of a clown or crocodile tears. Tears caused by chopping onions and death of a loved one. In the end, a tear is a tear, and they help protect and preserve the condition of our eyes. Crying might make your eyes red and puffy, but they won't affect your eyesight. So the next time you have the temptation to cry, go all out! 


Duffin. C. Why do we Cry Tears of Joy?. TMG [Online] 2014, 4.3,22-25.

Mikulak, A; Aragon, O; "Tears of Joy" May Help Us Maintain Emotional Balance. PSA. [Online] 2014, 2.1, 30-35.

Oaklander. M. The Science of Crying. TSA [Online] 2016, Version 4.2, 3-10.

Oskar, S. Why do we cry?. CPJ [Online]. 2013, Version 1. 60-69

Popova, M. The Science of Why We Cry and the Three Types of Tears. [Online] 2012,107, 4-5.


Dear Science

Originally Published: May 30, 2014
Written by: Fayza Sharif

Dear Science,

I am writing to confess to you my feelings of attraction that I had when we first met and still painfully harbor. This might come as a shock to you as first, but I can assure you that it is much more frightening for me to write these words then it is to read them. I hope you will take everything I write to heart and understand the sentiments that I will try to communicate through these lines.

Our first encounter was as memorable as Einstein's equation of relativity. We met at my house where my parents brought you over for a play date. Your concepts were a few centuries old, but that didn't stop me from feeling gravitated towards you. You were presented to me in the form of book. You whispered beautiful numbers and had me at 1+1. From then on, I was hooked. Your equations, your formulas, your logic, all of it was enamoring. I wanted to learn more, see more, and I did.

You spoke of truths about the universe, about this world, and about ourselves. You never hurt me, you never said anything mean and even if you did, there was always a good that came out it. There were times when I wanted to give up on you, to do the unimaginable, but I stuck through it, no matter how hard you played. You would nurse me when I was sick, you held an umbrella for me in the rain, you gave me energy from the glucose sent me, but most importantly, you gave me a passion that I never thought could ever be lit.

I went to summer camps, took classes and clubs with you, just so you could be in my life. I lost sleep over you because I thought about you all the time. Everything just made sense when I was with you, and nothing did without you. You were everywhere at any time and impossible to forget. My love for you grew larger and my knowledge of you expanded.

I remember the days where you talked about the ways cells formed and how the world worked. I remember the days when you talked to me about the absurd, but then I'd realize that it wasn't. I remember the days when we'd be using our MP3s all the time and then you invented the iPod for me when it eventually broke. I remember the days when you changed my life for the better with the never-ending presents you gave me. Without you, I wouldn't be the person I am today.

My feelings can never be fully transcribed on this page, but I just want you to understand that I owe a debt I don't know how to pay back. I plan to see a lot more of you in the future, where we can build more lasting memories.

A fellow scientist,
Fayza Sharif