Marijuana: Should it be legalized?

Recently, there’s been one topic that my friends and I could never agree on: legalizing marijuana in Canada.

You could probably guess what their arguments are:

  • Drugs are bad!
  • Drugs kill people!
  • Everything’s been going fine now, why change it?

And while those are some quite valid, logical, arguments, the truth is much less simple.

Just to be clear, I agree that it’s unhealthy to smoke marijuana, just like nicotine and alcohol, and that nobody should do it, this is just my opinion on whether or not it should be legal.

Let’s start by comparing numbers: Around how many people are killed from marijuana overdoses every year? What about every day? The answer to both those questions: zero. There have been no reported deaths from marijuana use alone.  Let’s compare that to alcohol, which is immensely popular, and has been legal for a long time: About 30,700 Americans die from alcohol every year. Alcohol is also more addictive than marijuana. According to a study of 8,000 adults, 9% of people who have tried marijuana became addicted, while the figures for alcohol are 15%.

So why then, is alcohol legal and not marijuana? Well, it was. From 1920 to 1933, alcohol was prohibited in the USA. So the number of deaths must have gone down, right? Wrong. During prohibition, alcohol became a black market commodity. Bootleggers like John Torrio and Al Capone profited from the sale of illegal alcohol, and many were killed due to organized crime and police brutality. The worst part is,  alcohol consumption was hardly reduced, due to how easy it was to get illegal alcohol. The exact same thing is happening right now with marijuana, but on a smaller scale. Even worse, the ban on marijuana means less access to medical marijuana, causing even more deaths!

Fortunately, Canada is about to legalize marijuana, and while my friends might not realize it, save hundreds of lives.

PS: Sorry I haven’t posted in a long time, I ‘ve been busy writing my book, which will be published soon(post on that coming up!).

 

Do incentives really work? Exploring behavioral economics

In our class, our teacher gives us the opportunity to study our own topic. For my topic, I chose economics. at first, I wanted to study market economics, but I quickly realized that there was a much more interesting field to dabble in: behavioural economics.

Regular economic theory suggests that all humans are 2 things: incredibly rational and incredibly greedy. Most economic ideas are built around this concept. However, the field of behavioral economics challenges that claim, saying that humans aren’t as rational as we assumed. For example, suppose you’re at the store buying a new case for your phone. There are three cases on the shelf:

A low-quality case for $1

 

 

A medium-quality case for $5

 

 

Or a high-quality case for $10

Most likely, you’d buy the second case, because it’s not as bad as the first one, and not as expensive as the third one.

Now imagine that same scenario, except when you go to the store, there’s a fourth case on the shelf. It’s a high quality, waterproof, gold plated case, which costs $50.

There’s no way you’re going to buy that! Sure, it’s really good, but you can’t even afford the thing! That $10 case is looking really good now. You might not even know it, but in the second scenario, you are likely to buy the $10 case, and in the first scenario, you are more likely to buy the $5 case. Imagine how much power the person arranging the shelves has over you and other customers! Just by placing an expensive case on a certain shelf, they can make customers pay more than they usually would!

This proves that humans aren’t as rational as standard economic theory suggests. There are many more examples of this, including an experiment that I, myself conducted, using my own class as subjects.

I told my entire class that I needed to do a survey for my research. But instead of a survey, I handed everybody a word search puzzle and told them to find as many words as possible, in the span of one minute. However, there were three different sheets. One sheet asked them to do the word search and didn’t offer any sort of reward. Another sheet offered them a small Starburst candy as a reward for attempting the word search. And the third sheet offered them a large Mars bar for attempting the word search.

I collected the sheets of each person(after giving them their reward) and compared their offered reward to the number of words that they found. After I laid all the data out, what I found was surprising. Those offered no reward did the best out of everyone on average. And those offered a high reward, the Mars bar, did the worst out of everyone on average! At first, I was completely baffled by this outcome. Normal economic theory suggests that work should increase if the reward increases! However, normal economic theory was devised during the Industrial Revolution. At the time,  most people worked in factories, and their day job would be to do one thing over and over again on an assembly line, like hammering in nails over and over again or drilling in screws over and… you get the idea. Doing work would require absolutely no mental effort at all.

Now let’s go back to my word search experiment. A word search is quite different from a job at an assembly line because you do have to put some mental effort into finding words. For mindless assembly line work, incentives and rewards help one focus on the task at hand. But for even the slightest of cognitive tasks, rewards constrain one from thinking critically and therefore decrease the output of work.

The thing is, most white-collar work nowadays isn’t mindless assembly-line work, but software development and financial work. These, like the word search, are cognitive tasks, and in theory, should be hindered by rewards. So maybe we need to change our economic thinking, to better adjust to these findings.

The Rohingya Crisis And My Thoughts On Religion

Recently, Bangladesh has seen many refugees come from the neighboring Buddhist-majority country Myanmar. These are Rohingyas, the Muslim minority in Myanmar. Recently, a few Rohingyas started a militia to fight against the Myanmar government. Though the militia is gone and the government is welcoming of all Rohingyas, the army continues to attack them out of xenophobia, despite having to go against the government. Now, Rohingyas are trying to flee to the neighboring Muslim country Bangladesh. The strangest and most worrying thing about this crisis is that many of Myanmar’s army follows Buddhism, a religion that practices love and tolerance for all people, including those of other religions! It’s absurd! And I’m not the only one who thinks so. The Dalai Lama tweeted on the matter:

 

For almost as long as religion was in place, there has been the problem of religions coexisting together. This problem has caused wars, segregation, and hate. Why all of this violence if all religions practice peace and love? Because almost no religious scripture tells of how to deal with those who do not believe in it. The Bible only applies to those who believe in it, so its text makes no note of those who do not believe in it. This same rule applies to every other religious text. Therefore, when religious people are faced with the reality that their religion is not the only one, the natural response is: we are right and they are wrong. Violence and terror all spawn from this response to the problem of multiple religions.

The truth is beyond all the legends, prayers, traditions, dressing, etc, all religions preach the same ideas. They all preach to do good and be kind to others. In this sense, there are no bad religions, but only bad people who misinterpret the religious teachings, or use them as a way to rally the masses.

This does not mean you cannot peacefully criticize other religions. After all, a religion is simply an idea about something. If I told you that I worshiped the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you would act as if you had all right to criticize my belief. Yet if I told you I was Christian, you would act as if you were obliged to respect my ideas. In the end, there is a fine line between a silly-looking cult and a legitimate religion, so all ideas should be treated the same way: you can think what you want, and nobody can discriminate against you or physically harm you for what you think, yet everybody has the right to criticize what you think, and you have the right to criticize what everybody else thinks.

 

Game Update: First Version Released!

It’s been a really long time since I posted a game update, and in that time, I managed to make a fully functioning game for all to learn and enjoy. In fact, you can play it right now with this link.

I figured I should give you some brief instructions on how to play, so here they are.

The premise of the game: You are a single-celled organism trying to thrive and live as long as possible. Unfortunately, nature will throw many obstacles at your course. As players overcome these obstacles, they will learn how cells function in the real world.

First and foremost, you should watch the notification area on the left of the screen. It will tell you when important things happen in the game, and is key to surviving long.

Getting Energy:

The first thing a cell needs is energy. This comes in the form of Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP for short. It makes it in the mitochondrion(seen above) by burning glucose in a chemical reaction. To get ATP in the game, click the mitochondrion, which opens up its menu. On the menu, click the green button which says Burn Glucose. This will give you 40 ATP and subtract 20 Glucose. ATP is needed to create proteins, which are what get stuff done in the cell, like fighting viruses.

Fighting Viruses:

When your cell does get attacked by a virus, a box will appear in the top-right corner showing you how many viruses there are. The number of viruses will multiply every 5 seconds, and when they hit 1000 or over, your cell bursts open. To stop the viruses, you have to kill them with proteins called DICER enzymes. You make proteins inside the menu of a nucleus. When you click on the nucleus and open its menu, you will see a green button which says ‘Create Dicer Enzymes’. When you click this button it will create 5 DICER enzymes. Each DICER enzyme kills one virus. To make a protein, a cell first needs to encode the instructions for making it through RNA, which needs nucleotides to make. The actual protein is made from amino acids. In the game, making a protein like DICER enzymes subtracts from your nucleotides and amino acids. But if you defend yourself from a virus attack, you get some resources in return.

Earning Resources:

There are many ways to earn resources in the game, such as defeating viruses. One way is to enter the menu of the Golgi Body(shown above).  This will show you 3 buttons, each with the names of a resource. In real life, the Golgi Body recycles all the free-floating resources in a cell to perform other tasks. In the game, clicking on any of the Golgi Body’s buttons will give you some of that resource, but you have to wait sometime before you can get more.

I hope you enjoy the game in its current state. I will add more features into the game, such as more challenges for players to face. My hope is that players will learn more about microbiology while playing the game. Remember to follow my game updates for more information.

Game Update: Large Edition!

There has been a lot done since the last game update. For one, I am no longer creating graphics with d3.js. Instead, I have chosen a game library, p5.js, so that things like collision are easier to program.

I have also been reading my textbook, Essential Cell Biology, a lot, and I’m already on Chapter 8.

I’ve decided that every time I  read a new chapter, I will publish a new post explaining something interesting I learned from that chapter. However, since I read 5 chapters of the book and no post, I’m going to have to stuff a lot into this post. Enjoy!

DNA makes RNA. RNA makes proteins. Do proteins make DNA?

Well, they don’t make DNA, but there are enzymes which hold DNA together and make sure it doesn’t mutate. But certain mushrooms of the amanita genus contain chemicals which break these enzymes, meaning that clumps of cells will no longer be able to function. This causes large amounts of brain damage, muscle fatigue, and organ failure. Doesn’t seem like a good salad topping.

So why is DNA a double helix?

Why is DNA double helix, and RNA isn’t? The answer lies in one of the main functions of DNA: copying. DNA’s double helix shape allows it to copy itself.

How? In a DNA strand, there is one string of nucleotides, labeled A, T, G, and C.  But remember, it’s a double helix, so there are two strings of nucleotides. The first string matches up with the second one: A to T and vice versa, G to C and vice versa. When it’s time for DNA to copy, its double helix unfolds and the two strings split apart. Then, nucleotides come in and make new DNA strands out of the separated strings. How? A nucleotides floating around bond to T nucleotides in the string.  T bonds to A.  G bonds to C.  C bonds to G. Just like that, two DNA strands are made from one.

 

 

A better system for choosing voters?

The past few days have been pretty ‘exciting’. Donald Trump has just been inaugurated to be the president of the USA, and he’s made tons of changes already(None of them very good). I keep thinking, so many people who voted for Trump made bad choices for not only themselves but their entire country! I mean, just because 2/3 of a country is unwise with voting, the other sensible 1/3 is being taken down with them! Imagine there was a cliff, and a few idiots were constantly grabbing other people, then jumping off the cliff. Won’t you hate that? Well, that’s what voting is, having people push you off cliffs.

Fortunately, I have a solution.

Behold, the Intelligent Voters course! This online course will help you vote for who is truly the candidate right for you and your country. This course will guide you through the basic principles of politics, like what tariffs really mean, and what it costs to be deported. When you finish this course, you will have a clear view of what candidates are really saying, without commercial-like campaign tactics muddying your choice. If the government agrees, taking the course will be mandatory for voting. Going back to our cliff analogy, imagine this course gating the life-ending cliff.

Is this course biased? You might think that at first, but I am not letting this course become official until it has been looked over by multiple parties.

Who can attend this course? This course is open to anyone, even if you are under 18. And yes, if you are under 18 and you pass the course, you will be able to vote, because why decline a voter if they can make clear decisions.

Okay, so I’m not actually going to establish a course like this(mostly because my country doesn’t need it, being Canadian). But it is a good idea and for anybody willing to reform our old system of democracy, I suggest this.

 

 

I am making a video game!

Okay, that title may have been a little shocking. But yes, I am making a video game on the Rails framework, soon to be published on the web.

The video game is all about the molecular biology of the eukaryotic cell. It may seem lame at first,  but trust me, it will be anything but lame. It also happens to be a school project.

You see, I decided to do an Independent Directed Study (IDS for short) as a school project, and as a topic to study, I chose Molecular Biology. As well as a research component, there is also a project feature in IDS, where students illustrate their research with movies, iBooks, and games. I, being a programmer, decided to make a video game. I also got a textbook to study, entitled: ‘Microbiology Of The Cell’.

In the game, you play as a constantly evolving organism. This organism will face many problems, and it is up to you to command the cells to stop it. If I had to pick a genre for it, it would be a Role Playing Game(RPG for short).

On this blog, I will constantly post logs on how my game was improved, until the game finally launches onto the web(The logs will be part of the IDS category).  Right now, I already have a few of the models, and the home screen is starting to form.

Stay tuned for more updates!

 

Chi-Square Analysis: The Pokemon GO Survey.

My last math assignment was to conduct a survey on a certain topic and population sample. I chose the topic to be Pokemon GO, and the sample to be 2 of the classrooms at my school. After I collected the results, I had to present them to my teacher, along with high-level analysis on the results. For many questions, I had to check whether there was a correlation between 2 facts. For that, I discovered a mathematical way to do it: chi-square analysis.

Chi-square analysis is used to check if there is a correlation between the results of a survey. Here is the formula for it:

chisquare

Let me show you an example directly from the survey I conducted.

One of the things I wanted to find out was how much players liked Pokemon GO, to their level in Pokemon GO. This is the table I used:

0 10 20 30 40 Grand Total
5 2 1 3
6 1 2 3
7 1 1 2
8 1 1
9 2 2 1 1 6
10 1 1 2 4
Grand Total 1 7 8 1 2 19

Each row is the level range(10 is 10-19, 20 is 20-29), and each column is how much they like Pokemon GO.

You must now find the expected value for each cell of the table. To do so, simply multiply the column total with the row total, then dividing it by the grand total. Do this for each cell. Now that you have your expected values, do the formula for each cell, and since there is a sigma, add all of it up. Then, you should get your chi-square. What you need now is your P-value. I haven’t figured out how to calculate the P-value, so just enter your chi-square and degrees of freedom into a P-value calculator. You also need to know what the degrees of freedom are for the table. To find out, do this equation: (rowTotal – 1) * (columnTotal – 1).

I made a Google Slides presentation on the survey results. It is right below this text if you would like to see it.

For a handy chi-square calculator, click this link

Binary search and finding roots.

Binary search is one of my favourite algorithms. If you don’t know what it is, it is a searching algorithm with a logarithmic run-time and very simple logic, but it works only for sorted lists. Simply start in the middle element. If what you’re searching for is smaller then the middle element, go to the middle of the left side. If what you are searching for is bigger than the middle element, go to the middle of the right. Repeat this process until you find what you are looking for.

Surprisingly, this system can be used to find the square root of a number as we are searching for root in a sorted list of numbers on the number line. Suppose you want to find the square root of 9.

  • The middle of 0 and 9 is 4.5.
  • 4.5 squared is 20.25, not 9.
  • 9 is smaller than 20.25, so the square root of  9 should be smaller than 4.5.
  • 2.25, maybe? It is in the middle of 0 and 4.5.
  • However, 2.25 squared is 5.0625.

If you repeat that process over and over again(which I refuse to do), you will eventually reach 3, which is the correct answer.

In fact, you can even do this for cube roots, fourth roots, fifth roots, et cetera. Instead of checking the square of your current number each step, check the cube of the number power of 4, power of 5, power of… you get it.

I even created a program to execute this function, with the same logic I just explained. Down here is the gist for the program:

To use this program, click here.

Behold: The Online 4 Hours programming website!

As you may know, I love programming. And now, I am working on a webiste dedicated to the programs I make. And guess what? It is also a part of Online 4 Hours!

I will be creating connections between programs on my new website, and posts on my blog. For example, I have a blog post on voting systems, and a program that calculates the winner in an alternative vote! I already have the link to the post on my website, and the link to the program on my blog.

The website is up, and if you would like visit, just use this link.