The Augustana Psychology Club: Building Community and Promoting Mental Health

BY ISCA V. IRANGWE / STAFF WRITER

The main focus of The Augustana Psychology Club is to engage individuals on campus with psychology and bring more awareness to mental health on campus. The club aims to build a community through academic events such as peer tutoring, psych information night, and future opportunities. In addition, non-academic events are done to increase awareness and promote good mental health on campus by having activities such as yoga night, bake sale to raise funds for mental health resources, and movie night.

The ASA

We want to form a community of students who are interested in mental health and psychology outside of classes, where people can come in and enjoy themselves.

Ava Lang, Psychology Club president. Photo submitted.

President of the Psychology club, Ava Lang. Ava is a 4th year psychology student, who, at academic advisor of the club Dr. Paula Marentette’s suggestion, decided to get the club going this year. Photo submitted.

. . .

The Dagligtale sat down with Ava Lang, the president of the Augustana Psychology Club, to chat about the club’s upcoming events and goals for the future.

The Psychology Club, like most clubs on campus, was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the club has not been as active as its members–or potential members–would’ve liked, and they have had few events in the past three years. However, as everything is being held in person this year (so far!), that is all about to change, as the club has a few events planned for this academic year. 

Dag: What kind of events has the club held recently?

Ava: We did an info night about how to apply to grad school. So we had Dr. Rebecca [Purc-Stephenson] come in and she gave a very nice and informative presentation on that. There was lots of great feedback from everyone that went; they loved it. That’s the only one we have had so far. 

D: What upcoming events is the club planning?

A: We have trivia night coming up on [November] 23rd. Anyone can join, come out and learn while having fun–hence the trivia. We are also going to do a Kahoot, and the winner gets a gift card. 

As part of Wellness Week, we have an art therapist coming on December 1st. She is going to give a presentation and talk about how she uses art, colours, and shapes to improve mental and emotional well-being. We are still in the process of planning, but she might even have an activity planned! After the presentation, participants will get to sit down and draw or paint, whatever they want to kind of get the stress out. And lastly, we are planning a movie night on December 7th–there might be a $3 entry fee–where we’ll watch Shutter Island and have people unwind before finals.

(If you are interested in stimulating conversation, there will be a short discussion after the movie, sharing your thoughts and possibly analyzing the movie from a psychological perspective.)

D: Is the club still looking for executive members?

A: At the moment, no we are not. Next semester for sure, as most people on the board right now will be graduating. We will be sending out a notification to club members via email and posting on instagram as well to see if anyone wants to apply to be on the executive board. It is an excellent opportunity to get involved with the school and the psychology professors on campus, plan activities and be there for the community!

(Anyone can apply to be on the executive board, and the club is looking forward to having people from different years be involved in the club as to expand the club’s demographic.)

D: How does the club get involved in the Camrose community? Do you do activities with local charities or organizations?

A: We did want to do a fundraiser for the women’s shelter in town. It probably won’t happen until next year but we would love to give back to the community. It’s hard to find the right charity or shelter or organization to donate to, but we think the women’s shelter would be a good fit.

. . .

The club meets up at least once a month, and you can get in touch with the club through their email: augpsyc@ualberta.ca and follow their instagram page @augpsychclub where they post all of their upcoming events.

Upcoming Psychology Club events:

Nov 23: Trivia night @ 7 pm, AULIB 2-102

Dec 1: Art Therapy @ 7 pm, place TBD

Dec 7: Movie Night @ 6:30 pm, C 167

Cosmic Corner

The Serious Side (Effects) of Space Travel

by CRYSTAL ROSENE

This spectacular age of technology we live in is particularly exciting as it opens up new potential opportunities for manned space exploration. So far, the moon is the only object in outer space (besides the ISS) that has been graced by the presence of humankind, but NASA is continually working to make the dream of a manned Mars mission a reality.

Of course, there are many obstacles standing in the way of this mission, however, professionals from hundreds of practices are working together to make the project a reality. Although a manned mission may be years into the future, the decades of dedicated research being put into it will mean that when the time finally arises for such a mission to take place, we can rest assured that everything will be as safe and efficient as possible.

The biggest concern involving a trip to Mars is obviously the safety of the astronauts involved, and this is an area that requires further attention. Until recently, the longest period of  time spent in space by an astronaut has been the six month intervals on the ISS. Now, however, thanks to the famous ‘NASA Twins Study’, we have gleaned more insight into what longer spans of space travel will be like. This study involved sending one identical twin into space for an entire year, and then comparing any changes in his body and DNA with that of his identical twin brother, who remained on Earth.

The Twins Study was actually geared towards understanding a Mars manned mission, allowing scientists to study longer-term effects of space travel on the human body. The preliminary research results from this study were first debuted on January 23, 2017, however, research analysis is still underway, and the full results are currently incomplete.

Although the experimental data has yet to reveal what changes have occurred, NASA does provide brief documentation on what challenges will face individual astronaut health while on an extended journey through space. Five key elements that contribute to the well being of the astronaut are listed: gravity fields, isolation/confinement, hostile/closed environments, space radiation, and distance from earth.

Isolation and closed environments both contribute to the mental well-being of the person, and are equally as important as physical factors, particularly on such a long journey. Distance from earth provides a different sort of obstacle: it takes twenty minutes for a signal to reach Earth from Mars, which implies a necessary independence in case of unforeseen difficulty. Perhaps the most dangerous aspects of an extended journey are gravity fields and space radiation. The shock on a person’s body from leaving Earth’s gravity, to spending six months weightless on the journey, to then adjusting to the weak gravity of Mars (which is 1/3 that of Earth) is enormous, and has potential negative impacts including intense bone loss, vision problems, kidney stones, and dehydration. Space radiation can cause even worse problems, including an increased risk of cancer, permanent damage to the central nervous system, radiation sickness, and degenerative issues.

NASA is currently working on finding the best ways to minimize the effects of space travel on the human body, so that when the time arises, we can boldly go where no man has gone before!

BIO 338: A Butterfly Horror Story

Based on a True Story

By CAROLYN VENTER

 

A Museum

A snow globe

How much had he fed them?

While he was on the Gameboy

These two played the waiting game

Who would eat the other?

A child who doesn’t know his own strength.

He remembers the first ladybug who’s wings were sacrificed to excitement

 

The Museum remains

He picks up the margarine sized container

After shaken baby syndrome

He’s sure it’s dead

The Museum remains

 

The hum of his laptop calls to the dead

Emerging from the chrysalis

A bastard of a creature

Crippled

The manifestation,

of eating ones own brother

 

He is horrified now

Worse than death,

Life is a reminder,

In death, one can say

It’s over now, but

Life is a reminder

 

He visits the Museum

Evicts its contents

Condemns its only citizen

To die

Lord of the Flies

Remind us,

What is it that Gods do?

 

We Have a “New” Neighbor!

by CRYSTAL ROSENE

2016 proved to be a phenomenal year for breakthroughs and progress in astronomy and astrophysics. While perusing several recaps of the year’s accomplishments, I came across one discovery that resonated with me in particular. A few months ago, I wrote a detailed article about the possibilities of life on other planets, and the necessary conditions for survival. So I was thrilled to find out that a new planet, designated Proxima b, was just discovered in August of 2016.

The finding of new planets isn’t really anything new; in fact, Wikipedia says there are 3560 confirmed exoplanets (planets orbiting stars other than our Sun) and 2671 confirmed planetary systems, as of January 12, 2017. But what is exciting is that Proxima b is very near to us, and could possibly be Earth-like. The planet was discovered by researchers at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, who had been monitoring the ‘wobble’ of its parent star for the last 16 years. It was found to be orbiting the nearest star to Earth, a red dwarf called Proxima Centauri, which is only 4.22 light years away – a ‘small’ distance on the cosmic scale. For reference, the distance from Earth to Pluto is approximately 0.0008 light years, so Proxima b is roughly 5000 times the distance from us to Pluto.

As Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun, Proxima b is very likely the closest ‘neighbour’ that we have, and possibly even within the realm of eventual travel to it. The fastest spacecraft ever launched from Earth has a speed of about 60 000 km/hr, so travelling at this speed, it would take approximately 75 000 years to get to Proxima b. Clearly, we had better get started…

What would we find once we finally get there? This is where there is still some uncertainty. According to one article, scientists still don’t know whether or not the planet is terrestrial or gaseous. However, a different article states that it’s proximity to its parent star likely points to it being rocky like Earth. This proximity also leads researchers to believe that Proxima b is likely ‘tidally locked’ to Proxima Centauri, meaning the same face of the planet is always facing the star.

Proxima b is also about 1.3 times the mass of Earth, and is orbiting Proxima Centauri at a distance that falls within the star’s “habitable zone”, which describes the temperature zone at which liquid or frozen water can remain on the planet. This is an encouraging development, as liquid water is essential for life to survive.

There are still many questions surrounding the planet, as there is only so much detailed

The Science of Love

by BRIANNA LORENTZ and SAMMY LOWE

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, meaning that love is in the air…well, love and pheromones and mating calls. That’s right. What better way to approach the season of love and warm affection than with cold, hard, uncaring science?!

It is worthwhile to look at how love, attraction, and mating work in nature. We can start with the feel-good story of the Waved Albatross, a bird that by all accounts is fully monogamous. The male waits expectantly each year for his long-term mate to return from the open ocean so that they may be reunited and resume their biological duty to reproduce and rear offspring. It’s hard not to impart our own human feelings on this species as upon return the albatrosses seem to celebrate by dancing happily and pressing their faces and body against one another.

David Attenborough, when describing the relationship between Waved Albatross mates, says that “if love, as we understand it, exists in nature, then surely this must be it.” However, for many other species, our human definition of love does not apply. The most extreme example that comes to mind is the sea slug, a hermaphroditic aquatic invertebrate. Being that all sea slugs have the capacity to act as either parent, a pair of sea slugs will fight each other to avoid filling the energetically-expensive role of mom. The fight ends in the winner stabbing the loser with its genitalia; therefore, becoming the deadbeat dad. As an extra special tidbit of information, some species have even dabbled in inter-species relations. Most recently, scientists observed Japanese Macaque males mounting and attempting to mate with a species of small deer called a Sika, presumably due to the lack of female macaques in their area.

When we consider the topic of love, we shouldn’t restrict ourselves to the macroscopic world that we see around us. While the romantic displays and courting behaviors of creatures like humans, macaques and beluga whales are fascinating and complex, there is a lot of romancing going on where we can’t see. If we focus our gaze down to the cellular level beyond what can be perceived by the naked eye (hot), it becomes clear that we aren’t the only ones getting busy!

Microorganisms, which vary greatly in size but are typically smaller than the head of a pin (1.5mm in diameter), have extremely short generation times of hours and even minutes. This quick turnover means that many microbes are constantly reproducing in the soil, on countertops, and even on your skin! If that doesn’t get you all hot and bothered, then I guess you are pretty normal because that actually sounds kinda gross…

If that does spark your interest, however, then you will be pleased to know that microorganisms are expert love-makers. To achieve genetic variance between generations, they can engage in various forms of sexual reproduction such as conjugation and transduction. Bacterial conjugation, romantically referred to as a “cell to cell union’, is a one-way transfer of genetic material from one cell to another through a conjugation tube constructed with sex pili (the bacterial thirst is real). Transduction, on the other hand, involves genetic information being transferred from one bacterial cell to another by a bacteriophage virus. Microbial ménage à trois, anyone?

Despite these forms of ‘multi-partner’ reproduction, most microorganism reproduce asexually to rapidly produce a large number of genetically-identical offspring. They can employ a wide range of these techniques, including binary fission (dividing into two) and budding (buds develop at one end of the cell and breaks off as a daughter cell). Therefore, microbes show us that a little self-lovin’ every now and then isn’t a bad thing!

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and considering that you probably aren’t a single-celled organism, I will shrink down even smaller and discuss some of the molecule drivers for our feelings of love and affection. At each of the three common stages of love, being lust, attraction and finally, attachment, there are specific molecules at play that help us find that special connection.  

When experiencing lust, the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone promotes feelings of raw attraction and physical desire in both men and women. Attraction, on the other hand, is mediated primarily by dopamine and serotonin, which trigger intense rushes of pleasure and explain why our new lover is constantly on our thoughts. Finally, we reach the stage of attachment when oxytocin (the ‘cuddle hormone’) and vasopressin establish strong biological bonds based on commitment and long-term connection.

Based on this molecular information, youramazingbrain.org suggests that the sure-fire way to fall in love can be achieved in 3 simple steps: 1) seek out a complete stranger 2) spend half an hour revealing your most intimate secrets, and 3) spend 4 uninterrupted minutes in silence staring into each other’s eyes. It really is that easy!

And so, as we quickly approach the holiday of love and romance, remember that science has always got your back! If nothing else, treat yourself to a nice session of binary fission or budding.

Cosmic Corner: The Only-Mildly-Terrifying Truth About The DS-1 Orbital Battle Station (a.k.a. the Death Star)

by CRYSTAL ROSENE

December 16, 2016. That was the magnificent day that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was released in Canada, and I hope that by now most of you have made time to go see it. If you haven’t…not to worry, you’ll find no spoilers here. In any event, the release of another Star Wars movie has me thinking about the science behind some of their most fantastic creations- after all, this is what a math/physics degree is for…right?

Henceforth, I will be delving into the physical possibilities (or impossibilities) of the Death Star. According to Wookieepedia, the Death Star was a ‘moon sized deep space mobile battle station’ with the capability of destroying an entire planet with a single pulse of its kyber powered super laser. (I will make this one disclaimer: in an attempt to explain the limitations of the Death Star using known physics, we must conveniently forget that the actual energy source is powerful Force-attuned crystals that grow in the far reaches of the galaxy…)

Moving on. We have a giant sphere of doom flying around the galaxy ready to blow up  entire planets at the touch of a button. Now, take a brief minute to think about the tragic fate of Princess Leia Organa’s home planet, Alderaan: with one laser pulse and under 3 seconds, the entire planet was completely obliterated. This is where the physics fun begins.

First of all, let’s determine the minimum amount of energy required to tear apart the planet. Wookieepedia describes Alderaan as a 4-5 million year old Earth-like planet, so for the sake of calculations, we’ll just pretend it is Earth from here on out. The approximate gravitational binding energy of the Earth (U) is found as follows (where M is the mass of Earth, R is the radius, and G is the gravitational constant):

death-star-equation

This is the minimum energy required to deal any significant damage to the planet. Our sun gives out 3.8×1026 J of energy per second, so it would take approximately 6.8 days for our sun to put out as much energy as the Death Star uses in 3 seconds! However, as we see in A New Hope, there is clearly much more energy than that, as the explosion is aggressive enough to eject chunks of material in all directions at tremendous speeds.

Other scientific inconsistencies surrounding the Death Star are present as well, including the fact that those on board Vader’s ship weren’t either vaporized by the intense heat or ripped apart by shrapnel, given their proximity to the explosion. These points aside, the sheer amount of energy that is needed is so tremendous that it alone is likely enough to disprove the possibility of a real Death Star, at least for now.

From a physical perspective, it therefore seems slightly less worrisome that some Star Wars loving aliens have made their own working Death Star prototype and are now off terrorizing the galaxy…unless they’ve found the kyber crystals…

Cosmic Corner: The Search is On!

by CRYSTAL ROSENE

ALIENS!

Have I got your attention now? One of the most burning questions about the cosmos is ‘Are we alone in the universe?’ Although I cannot definitively provide a solid answer to that (as, currently, no one can), I hope to impart some insight into the prospect of extra-terrestrials. This article will hopefully leave you with a bit more knowledge about where aliens might be found, and what research into their existence is currently underway.

So where could we potentially find aliens? Biology on Earth indicates liquid water is essential for life to flourish – this isn’t to say that all extra-terrestrials necessarily require water, but it’s a good place to start. Particular conditions must be met before liquid water will be retained on a planet: there must be a thick enough atmosphere to prevent evaporation and the planet must fall within a specific range of temperatures, to maintain the liquid state. (This is one drawback of the possibility for life on Mars: frozen water is stored in polar caps during winter and released via sublimation in summer, so it never remains as a liquid on the planet.)

As you can see, it’s not easy to find the perfect ‘Goldilocks’ planet to support life. Currently Mars has been the prime target of our extensive physical search for extraterrestrial life. But our search isn’t limited to physical inspection. In fact, several methods are currently underway to continue the search.

It is not feasible to send unmanned space probes to distant stars, as the travel time alone provides a significant barrier: hundreds of years may pass before the probe reaches its destination, plus the equally long journey of information back to Earth.

A more feasible option is radio transmissions. Astronomers are scanning the skies trying to detect radio waves potentially sent by an intelligent species. This is a promising option for detecting signs of life, as radio waves can travel over large distances without significant degradation of their signal from interstellar debris.  

SETI, or the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, has carried out analysis of radio transmissions from the area of over 60 stars, but have yet to find any binding evidence of alien life.

In the 1960’s, Frank Drake proposed an equation that models how many potentially life-supporting planets exist in our galaxy:

equation

I’ll spare the technical details, but the gist is that the number depends on many variables such as the fraction of Earth-like planets on which life actually evolves, and the fraction of those life-forms that exhibit intelligence. Most of the parameters have significant uncertainty, but by arbitrarily making them one set of possible values, the number we arrive at is 10; i.e. in our entire galaxy, there may be as few as 10 worlds supporting intelligent life.

Infrared telescopes and stellar spectra are also budding technologies in the search. But although we have yet to find any concrete evidence, we mustn’t get discouraged. In a field so vast and so uncertain, our search has really only just begun.

HI-SEAS: A New HAB-itat for Humanity?

by CRYSTAL ROSENE

Earth’s neighbour, the Red Planet, provides us with plentiful research opportunities involving analysis of real data gathered on robotic exploratory missions as well as hypothetical simulations carried out on Earth. The next logical step is a manned mission to Mars, but we must study more about the Martian environment and living conditions there. Good news: this project is currently underway!

We have learned much about the planet from 225 million kilometres away. The physical landscape consists of craters, canyons, channels (evidence of flowing water ~4 billion years ago), and planet-wide dust storms. Polar caps are thought to store water in winter and release it via sublimation in summer.

Mars has volcanoes, the largest of which is 25 km high and 600 km wide, similar to volcanoes in the Hawaiian chain. The atmosphere is 95% CO2, 2.7% nitrogen and 1.6% argon, with traces of oxygen. Although we have clearly learned much, we are by no means ready to set sail to the Red Planet…yet.

Despite all we know, most of Mars remains a mystery to us as there is a limit to the information we can gather via robotic exploration and computer simulations. To understand the planet further, we must commence manned missions.

The future of Mars is exciting, involving space travel, establishing a research base, and perhaps even colonization. Before any of this can happen though, we must learn to survive in an inhospitable environment. But did you know that we can carry out real-life simulations of Mars…on Earth?

This is precisely the goal of a Hawaii-based project known as HI-SEAS. The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation carries out “long duration Mars analog simulations operated by the University of Hawaii at Mānoa,” as described on their website. The HI-SEAS habitat (or Hab) is a 13,570 cubic foot geodesic dome located on the slopes of Mauna Loa at 8000 feet.

The location is crucial: little vegetation and few species make this dusty expanse of barren land their home, thus analogous to the Martian environment.

For anywhere from four months to a year at a time, groups of HI-SEAS researchers live exclusively in and around the Hab, in elaborate simulations of both the flight to Mars and the living conditions for the extended research period while on the planet. The mission’s goal is to determine factors that contribute to physical and mental well-being of the crew members while confined in a small space for extended periods of time.

Everything from living quarters to food is covered including performing ‘duties’ outside the Hab wearing replica spacesuits. The behaviour of individuals and dynamics of the crew as a whole are explored to help ensure the real thing will go smoothly.

Four missions have been completed, each longer than the last. The information gathered from this study is crucial to our future of space exploration. Although no manned missions to Mars have moved past the planning stages, HI-SEAS may help accelerate the process.

For more information on the HI-SEAS project, see the following websites:

 http://hi-seas.org

https://www.nasa.gov/analogs/hi-seas

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HI-SEAS  

Behold the Splendour of the North!

by CRYSTAL ROSENE

This month’s subject is a bit closer to Earth than those of the previous articles, but I felt it was relevant. As you may have heard, this fall has been spectacular for displaying some breathtaking shows courtesy of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to illuminate (excuse the pun!) the inner workings of the Aurora Borealis.

A crucial part of learning how the Northern Lights work is to understand Earth’s magnetic field. A magnetic field is generated by moving electric charges; the liquid layer of the Earth’s core consists of flowing molten iron, which creates electric currents. This is the source of the moving charges that generate the Earth’s magnetic field.

Next is the interaction of the Earth’s magnetic field with protons and electrons ejected from the Sun. This stream of charged particles is known as a solar wind that moves radially outwards from the source.

The Earth’s magnetic field protects us from this stream of particles, the velocity of which is extremely high – almost a million miles per hour! The moment the particles hit the Earth’s magnetic field, they experience a shock wave, where they are drastically slowed down. Next, these particles reach the Earth’s magnetopause (essentially a boundary at which the outwards pressure of the magnetic field is exactly balanced by the inward pressure of the incoming particles). This encounter with the magnetopause is what deflects most of the charged particles that are streaming towards Earth.

However, not all of the particles from the solar wind are deflected which is essentially what creates the lights. Occasionally, some of the particles may sneak through the magnetopause and enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

The atmosphere consists of several elements, including oxygen and nitrogen which are found in the greatest abundance. When the charged particles that have snuck through the magnetic field reach the atmosphere, they may collide with the oxygen or nitrogen which is responsible for the brilliant lights that we see.

The collisions give energy to atoms that they encounter, thus ‘exciting’ them to higher energy levels. As they lose energy in returning to their ground state, the atoms give off a photon  as visible light. These are the Northern Lights that we see.

The colour of the lights depends on the type of collision. In general, when the charged particles collide with oxygen, we see green or yellow lights, while a collision with nitrogen is usually responsible for the reds and purples. It also depends on whether the collision occurs with an atom or a molecule: atomic nitrogen gives the rarer blue colours, whereas the purples and reds tend to come from molecular nitrogen.

So if you find yourself outside on a clear night in the upcoming weeks, be sure to look north, for a chance to experience the splendour for yourself!