Exoplanets and the Transit Method

Have you ever wondered about exoplanets? Exoplanets are the planets outside of our solar system.

There are multiple methods used by astronomers to discover exoplanets. One of them is called the Transit Method. As planets orbit their stars in a mostly circular way, exoplanets will always pass in front of their own star (at least, to our own perspective). During a planet’s transit around its star, its effects will be somewhat similar to an eclipse. The amount of light given off by the star that is visible from Earth will decrease until the planet completes its transit. Using the data like the drop in the star’s brightness and how long the transit was, astronomers are able to make various calculations. Not only are they informed of the exoplanet’s existence, but they also discover the exoplanet’s distance to its star or how long its orbit takes. More than 3000 exoplanets have been discovered using the Transit Method to this date. 

Still, though, there will always be mistakes in using this method as well as any other methods. There may be unseen details or simply missed periods of light differences by astronomers’ telescopes and graphs. There may always be unobservable celestial objects in our universe that may remain undiscovered. All we can do is try to discover as much of it as we possibly can.

I think it is very important that we discover more about this infinitely large universe we live in before other galactic clusters move out of our observable universe. This will eventually happen, as the universe is constantly expanding at an accelerating rate, moving an increasing amount of celestial objects out of our observable universe every moment.

-Peri A.

Fablehaven: The Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

In the fictional novel The Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull, Kendra and Seth Sorenson are back at their grandfather’s house, which is actually a sanctuary for mythical creatures. To begin the story, Seth makes friends with some satyrs, and together they steal some treasure from small, fairy-like creatures called nipsies. Seth and the satyrs notice that some of the nipsies have turned dark, as if they had been infected with some type of evil. It turns out that is the case, and the plague that has been spread is the conflict of the book. 

Although the reading level of this book is comparatively lower, the story, literary elements, and character development are surprisingly advanced. Higher-level readers can find strong themes throughout the pages, and since the story itself is fantastical and enjoyable, The Grip of the Shadow Plague is a very fun read! It is part of a much larger series called Fablehaven, and all of the books of this series are centralized around the mystical adventures of Kendra and Seth. I would give this book a 5/5, and I would recommend it to readers of all ages.

-Ayati M.

Fablehaven: The Grip of the Shadow by Brandon Mull can be downloaded for free from Libby.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The novel, The Catcher in the Rye, is a famous, well-known novel often taught amongst high school English classes. Narrated by a young sixteen year-old and protagonist named Holden Caufield, the novel begins in Pencey prep school of Agerstown, Pennsylvania. Having failed all of his classes except for English, Holden gets expelled from his fourth school and has to return home to Manhattan on Wednesday. He grows afraid of when his parents will find out and decides to leave the campus early and stay in a hotel in New York.

As Holden travels independently for the next few days, he meets different characters ranging from old friends to complete strangers and judges them based on their personalities and sincereness. He gets easily annoyed by those who are “phoney” and struggles with reaching out to those closest to him, even his own family. Throughout the novel, Holden questions his future and clings onto the past before deciding to become a catcher in the rye.

Although the novel was written in the 1950s, it remains a gem because most aspects still relate to young teenagers today—including myself. The book rightfully upholds its reputation as one of the classics. Many aspects of the novel arguably contributes to the authenticity, since it’s difficult to find a book like this one anymore. For instance, the writing style is unique and imitates an individual’s train of thought. Salinger illustrates numerous times in which Holden goes off topic and talks about different random things like the typical human brain.

Salinger also makes the novel as realistic as possible. The characters (especially Holden) and their often spontaneous actions are often relatable to teenagers. Even the plot itself is realistic, as the novel concludes with an open-ending, showing how not all problems are easily nor quickly resolved. It’s fascinating how the author provides such small details that readers may easily overlook.

As a teenager myself, The Catcher in the Rye is an amazing book that should be directed towards more mature, older readers who are willing to understand the book’s true meaning. Although it seems very simple and boring at first, Salinger intentionally wrote the book with room for open interpretation and analysis, diving deep into themes of alienation and the protection of innocence. This story truly reflects the minds of most teenagers and their uncertainty for the future. That being said, I encourage others to read the book, but I cannot promise that everyone will enjoy it.

– Natisha P.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Stroop 1935 Study

Cognitive Psychology is the field of psychology that studies how the human brain works, specifically memory, emotion, and behavior. Within cognitive psychology contains the field of processing, which focuses on how the brain works to produce a response to some situation or dilemma, and interference, what factors may disrupt the ability to process.

A study that explores this is Stroop 1935, and it relates to a theory known as the Stroop Effect. The Stroop Effect relates to how a mismatch between the color of a word and the word itself may lead to a longer time to state the color of the word. For example, if the word “blue” was printed in the color red, it would take longer to identify the color of the word than if it was just printed in the color blue. This theory helps people understand how brain processing works, specifically if words and colors would be processed in different parts of the brain. In Stroop’s study, he aimed at determining whether or not a mismatch of the color of a word and the word itself had any effect in the time it took to determine the color of the word it was printed in. To achieve this, he constructed three lists of words. All of these lists contained words that were colors, but the color that the words were printed in varied. In one of the lists, all the words were printed in black ink, while in the other two lists, the ink color varied. The first of these other two lists contained words that were printed in the color that corresponded to the word. For example, the word “green” would be printed with green ink. The last list contained words that were printed in mismatched colors. For example, the word “Purple” would be printed in red. Once the lists were constructed, the subjects of this experiment, who were 14 males and 56 females, were ordered to either read the word itself (for the list containing only the words printed in black) or state the color of the word that it was printed in (for the other two lists where the words were printed in color) as quickly as they could. From here, the time it took to respond to the lists, whether they were instructed to read the words or state the color of the words, were recorded. The results of the study showed that it took a longer time for the subjects to state the color of the word or read the word when the color printed mismatched the word itself. In addition, the experimenters also observed that there were more errors when the colors were mismatched compared to if they matched. Because of this, the study concluded that the mismatch of the color did indeed have an effect on the time it took to process information about the words, and it also provided evidence that colors and words are processed in different parts of the brain.

-Jeremy L.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Disclaimer: There are two versions of Persepolis: the graphic memoir version and the literary memoir. The graphic memoir version is divided into two parts. I have only read the first graphic memoir book of Persepolis, not the actual memoir. Therefore, there’s still some of Satrapi’s writing that I haven’t been exposed to (yet). I will definitely try to find the second graphic memoir or the actual memoir soon, but for now, this review is based solely on the first graphic memoir.

Persepolis is both a graphic memoir and autobiography published in 2000. With the memoir originally written in French, Satrapi has received numerous awards for her work including the Cannes Jury Prize and the César Award for Best Writing.

The narration is written through the eyes of the main characterMarjane “Marji” Satrapi, the author herselfduring her childhood at the time of the Iranian Revolution. A series of small stories are written in the memoir based on her own experiences, portraying political upheaval and how her own family was affected by the Iranian Revolution, Iraq’s oppressive regime, and the Iran-Iraq War. Marji’s accounts mainly focus on her and her family who live in Tehran, as well as how they attempt to rebel against the regime and take part in Iranian history.

As a daughter of immigrant parents but of non-Middle Eastern descent, I felt like I could connect with aspects of this memoir all while still learning more about Iran’s history. The memoir is a beautiful representation of Islamic and Iranian culture from the first-hand perspective of an Iranian citizen. The illustrations themselves are unique and drawn to perfectly fit the memoir, making Satrapi’s experiences seem more significant.

Although it’s a graphic memoir, I highly recommend Persepolis to high schoolers more than elementary or even middle schoolers. Some topics and drawings can be graphic, making the memoir a difficult read, and there are often parts that simply cannot be taken lightly. However, the book itself is unique at being able to broaden readers’ perspectives on other cultures as a memoir, historical account, and comic book all at once.

– Natisha P.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

All Quiet on the Western Front: Erich Maria Remarque

Cover image for All quiet on the western front / Erich Maria Remarque.

All Quiet on the Western Front, written by Erich Maria Remarque, is regarded to be the finest war novel ever written. 

It starts (and ends) on Germany’s frontlines amid World War I. In this, context and atmosphere are revealed through description (at times quite graphic). However, since the story is told in first person, the most significant soldier is Paul Baumer – a young German who offers his services to his country and the Kaiser. Though most authors choose a main character to narrate their experiences to demonstrate war’s horrors, Remarque does notably well in its execution. This is likely due to the fact that his stories have a touch of personal truth – he was a reluctant participant in both wars, and had to face the cruelties and destruction head on. Thus, the terrors he witnessed (though vile), give new life and unexpected curiosity to his work. To put it simply: to get the full message, every page must be read twice. 

Now, to the plot: it’s fairly simple. Paul and his friends have entered a war in which, without regard to survival, they have been physically and mentally scared beyond recovery. In other words, they can no longer return to innocence and the foolish years they spent as children – they’ve grown old faster in a three to four year span than for most. As such, Remarque is able to illustrate and weave themes still relevant to our time. For one, war’s terrible brutalities. As most novels tend to romanticize war and demonstrate honor and adventure, All Quiet does quite the opposite. To explain, the scenes that aren’t dedicated to hunger and filth depict even harsher conditions – corpses, lice infestation, mice, loss, and so on. Therefore, a more realistic ‘picture’ is represented, which clarifies to readers that war is indeed, not a matter to trifle with. 

Moreover, the message above ties in with yet another lesson: its effect on soldiers. For instance, Remarque illustrates (I won’t spoil though!) war’s overall impact as “ruinous” and “severe.” In turn, his characters (such as Paul) must face emotion suppression and disconnection from reality in order to last the battles. To be entirely aware, Paul claims, would be impossible – there’d be too much to bear and fight through on a physiologic degree. 

In short, All Quiet on the Western Front is, at most, a must read. 

-Emilia D.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

My Personal Opinions on Books Required I Read in High School

The collection of books I have read because I needed to for English has definitely been different in some ways and similar in other ways. They are seen having connections to each other and reflecting upon the same ideology yet are seen to have their own individual themes and connections. First, I will be describing why or why not this book was interesting to me. Then, I will describe the symbolic sentiment behind the book and will elaborate on whether it is useful for me. Then, I will describe whether someone should read the book in total based on these categories and elaborate why I believed reading this book is worth it or a waste of time.

Cover image for Slouching towards Bethlehem : essays / Joan Didion.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion: I am going to be starting with this book first because it is the only nonfiction book I was required to read this year. Based on interest level, it was extremely boring in my opinion. The first chapter was very interesting because it spoke about how a wife was on trial for killing her husband and how it was a huge thing in the news but after that chapter, it became very hard to read without the looming threat of sleep within my proximity. However, the content in the book does make up for how boring it was. The book is a series of essays divided into three sections: Life Styles in the Golden Land, Personals, and Seven Places on the Mind. Each of these sections were informative in their own way. The first section described multiple things occurring in California, including events occurring in her own life. The second section talked more about how humans affect others and why we do what we do. The third section talks more about her and other people’s lives and how they struggle. So, as a book required to read for school, I believe that reading it is worth it as it is very enlightening and definitely allows us to reflect on our actions. If you were to read this book for the purpose of entertainment, you should have stopped right after the first chapter and move onto another book.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Cover image for The grapes of wrath / John Steinbeck.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: My teacher went more in depth in this book when we were discussing it in class, which could be why I have the opinion I do. But altogether, I love this book so much. The beginning was very boring to me but as soon as I reached more the time where the family begins their journey to California, I couldn’t wait to read what would happen next. This book basically describes a family in the era of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl and how they must venture to California from their dear home in Oklahoma because they cannot make any money where they are. Not only did this book capture my attention but it also opened my eyes to the lives of people who I don’t relate to and who struggle so much to survive in our world. This book describes the greed of those who benefit from the desperation of these struggling families, otherwise known as large corporations. It shows how people could become families with anyone if they help each other through their heartbreaks and painful endeavors. And most importantly, it shows that people together in their anger could make a difference, like bundle of grapes filled with wrath. I would recommend anyone to read this if they can and think this book should be discussed more among people.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Cover image for The great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald ; edited by James L. W. West III.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This is probably the book that most people know about and have read in high school. I have known about this book since I was 8 but never really knew what it was about until this year. Basically, it is about a man named Gatsby who is neighbors with a guy named Nick Carraway and wants to be loved by Nick’s cousin named Daisy Buchanan (yes, she is married). The plot of this book interested me but the characters ruined it for me. They basically had no personality whatsoever besides being rich and wanting to be loved but finding it in the wrong ways. Tom Buchanan is one of the few characters I believe is unredeemable when it comes to fixing and saying that is definitely extreme but it is true. This book has so many undertones of misogyny from the epigraph of the book: “Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her; If you can bounce high, bounce for her too, Till she cry ‘Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover, I must have you!'” Of course, we shouldn’t judge a book based on this since it came from another time and era but I believe teachers should definitely and directly tell their students about the more obscured sexism in the book so the students don’t adopt it as a normalcy in our society. There are many symbols and one could definitely make connections on the longing of being better and richer than someone else and competing with time before what you want is gone forever. But personally, I believe that this book doesn’t deserve all of the hype that it gets. It was a waste of time in my opinion and it could be part of the high school curriculum since it does talk a lot about class differences and how the rich use people who are poorer than they are. But I wouldn’t recommend reading until it is required for school.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Cover image for The scarlet letter / Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: This book differs from the ones I have talked about before because it is more outdated and more seen as a classic. Despite this, I really liked the book. This book is about a woman named Hester forced to wear an “A” on her chest because she has committed adultery with someone she doesn’t wish to confess and gave birth to a child as a result. It is set in a Puritan town where couples are to stay together until they die and even then, they must remain a widow and not try to be in a romantic relationship with anyone else as that would be a betrayal to their dead, former spouse. The author, Hawthorne, wishes to exploit the wrongdoings in Puritan society at the time and how they are seen as hypocrites, essentially, when it comes to someone who sins. This book definitely has some more older terms of symbolism shown through transcendentalist and romantic ideology but I found the plot of this book very interesting. The sentences don’t match the standard of grammar that we have today and the author does enforce his ideologies on the readers but I still enjoyed this book very much. I would recommend this book to people who like the forbidden love trope and like nature as a main symbol in a book.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Cover image for A streetcar named desire / Tennessee Williams ; with an introduction by Arthur Miller.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams: The people that have already read this book probably think I am going to say negative things about it and I am, definitely about Stanley Kowalski, but I would first like to highlight the entire book. This book is about a woman named Blanche DuBois who is forced to live with her sister, Stella DuBois, and her abusive husband, Stanley Kowalski, after she loses her childhood home, Bella Reive. This book starts off interesting and I liked the plot. I started to hate the characters and their doings but that means the person writing the book (or play, in this case) is so good at writing that they are evoking an emotion out of me. The characters are definitely bad and good in some ways, which I liked because it added complexity to the story and definitely connected symbols together. For example, Blanche DuBois avoids the light which stands for the truth and we all know her as a notorious liar throughout the story so it connects more. I continue and Stanley is a piece of trash and becomes the one of the other people that I find unredeemable and people who if existed in the real world, I would punch in the face. Then, the ending turns out to be very terrible. Again, one must not judge things in the past but still…I did not like the outcome of this book. I believe the ending should have taken another turn but for the book, it seems reasonable why it would be that way and still, I hate that. Despite my sayings of the book being interesting, I still wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone at all and would never read it a second time. I liked some things about it but the bad things about it outweigh the good things so I wish someone only reads this if they are forced to. However, the ending of the movie is way better and that should have been the ending of the play but alas, it wasn’t.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

I would like to end this article with how these opinions on these books are just that, opinions. You have every right to disagree with whatever I say, especially when it comes to A Streetcar Named Desire and The Great Gatsby. Let me know what you think about a certain book in the comments! Thanks for reading!

-Saanvi V.

Diversifying the English Curriculum: Representation in Literature

If you ask a group of high schoolers what they read in their English Lit. class, you’ll most likely hear very similar answers from all of them: A Tale of Two Cities, Shakespeare, The Great Gatsby, A Christmas Carol, the list goes on. For decades, most of what students read in their English classes has been the same.

While it is important to read and analyze classics such as the ones mentioned, many schools disregard representation in the chosen books for this said motive. When taking a look at the demographics of the authors that have written most of the books in the high school curriculum, you’ll find that almost all of them are men, and almost all of them are white. This results in many students’ English class experience being Euro-centric and lacking in diversity.

In my own high school career, I have only read one book written by a woman (out of 8, currently) and no books written by any POC authors. Writing is my passion, and while I hope to one day be able to use that in my career, it’s discouraging to not see a more diverse range of people representing this career path.

Not only is the diversity of authors important, but also the content that is in these books. A less diverse pool of authors means that the stories read will most likely not contain many different cultures and points of view. One of the main aspects of literature is being able to resonate with the story, and without diverse authors, many high school readers are left feeling disconnected from the lesson and unrepresented in their classroom.

Another important aspect is being introduced to new cultures. This is especially important in schools that are lacking in diversity. Being exposed to different values, religions, and ways of life in general through literature prepares teens for the world, and teaches them to be respectful toward others that have different lifestyles than they do. It helps to be knowledgeable of other beliefs besides one’s own, but this isn’t possible if English classes’ works of literature do not represent a wide variety of cultures.

We live in a world that is quickly changing, a lot for the better. English classes need to reflect this change and update curriculums so that students can learn from and resonate with what they’re reading.

-Luxi B.

Beginners Guide to Boba

Recently, the new trend is boba. Expanded past the Asian American community, boba is a new nationalized sensation. Boba is made from tapioca flour that is then cooked in a sugary syrup. The tiny black balls are then usually placed in various types of teas, slushies, or smoothies.I have grown up drinking boba and even have ratings of all the shops I have been to on my phone. I do not want to call myself obsessed, but it may be true. Nevertheless, the real question is, what is good or bad boba and where should you go?

Brown Sugar Milk

If it is either your first time at a boba shop or first time having boba, a good staple is getting the classic black milk tea with boba. If you dislike super sweet items I would advise lowering the sugar level to 75%. You usually cannot go wrong with classic black milk tea, making it a good sample to try. It is well balanced, sweet but not overpowering. Another good boba for a first timer is Thai milk tea with boba. Do not let the orange color scare you, it is simply strong black tea with various spices that is then sweetened with condensed milk. This drink is very creamy and compliments the boba pearls. If you dislike caffeine, most shops have black sugar milk. This drink is whole milk combined with a brown sugar syrup and boba. The combination is very delicious and does not contain caffeine.

Southern Orange Country is filled with many great boba shops. In the Mission Viejo area, the closest is Ding Tea. Ding Tea has a lot of the classic flavors and is pretty good for what it is. My personal favorite from there is the Wintermelon Milk Tea. If you want to stay as close to Mission Viejo as possible, Ding Tea is a great choice. Also centrally located is ShareTea in Lake Forest. Similarly to Ding Tea, ShareTea has great classics like their Thai Milk Tea. My personal favorite shop is OMOMO in Irvine. Their fruit drinks are made from fresh fruit and their boba is the softest and chewiest you can find. Any drink is a good choice there, especially the fruity drinks. The issue is that the line can be long, so be prepared. Another one of my favorites is Tastea. Also located in Irvine, Tastea has the best slushies compared to any other shop. I usually get the Lychee Freezie, which is a Lychee slush with Lychee jelly and bits combined with honey boba. Their drinks are fresh and their boba is nice and soft.

As a boba enthusiast, I hope this article encourages you to go either get boba or try it for the first time. Happy Boba-ing!

-Lilly G.

Planet 9

Many people know of the planets in our Solar System: Mercury, Venus, our own planet Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. There are also dwarf planets, such as Pluto, Ceres, and Eris. However, there is one planet that is still hypothetical and completely based on mathematics and theory. Planet 9 is a possible 9th planet in our solar system. Hypothetically, it would be located far beyond Neptune, the reason it is currently an unconfirmed planet. If it were existent, however, Planet 9’s orbit around our Sun could take as much as 10,000 to 20,000 years, in comparison to Neptune’s 165-year orbit. However, it is important to remember that these estimates are all based purely on mathematics and theory, and nothing is currently confirmed. The theoretical planet is believed to orbit the Sun more than 10 times further from the Sun than Neptune, which orbits the Sun at a distance of 2.8 billion miles.

Far outside our main solar system, there is a strange gravitational effect on some relatively small celestial objects (like asteroids). The way they orbit the Sun suggests to some scientists that there is yet another large planet orbiting our Sun far beyond Neptune and Pluto. Still, some scientists also say that our perception of the orbits of those objects is simply caused by human error in calculating and ‘viewing’ their orbits. Until enough evidence is discovered, or the planet itself is spotted through telescopes or various other methods, we can’t really claim that it either exists or doesn’t exist. There may be some other explanation for this phenomenon, or perhaps there really is an undiscovered planet somewhere out in the furthest reaches of our solar system.

-Peri A.