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Top 10 stories from Science Node

With Science Node slowly coming to an end, we wanted to take a look back at some of the best articles we produced in our long history of covering academic news. Our readers mean the world to us, and the metrics on these articles show that they seem to be our audience’s favorites.

To that end, let’s take a look at Science Node’s most popular articles.

10. Secrets of the diatom

Kicking off our list is a discussion about single-celled algae called diatoms. These tiny organisms are unique for several reasons. 

To begin, they’re actually a main producer of the air you breath. Diatoms produce about 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen, which is more than the 16 percent generated by the Amazon Rainforest. On top of that, diatoms form the base of the ocean’s food system. In short, our world cannot function without these algae.

<strong>Diatoms are a single-celled algae</strong> that produce 20 percent of the world’s oxygen. Making their cell walls out of glass, the 200,000+ diatom species form breathtakingly diverse geometric patterns. Courtesy Wipeter (CC BY-SA 3.0)

This particular article views the diatom through the lens of high-performance computing (HPC) research. The researchers wanted to better understand how these vital organisms might adapt to climate change.

9. How the brain rewires

The brain is the only human organ that has the capability to study itself. We’ve spent generations trying to unlock the mysteries of this wrinkly gray mass, but recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are helping to push research along. 

<strong>The future of neuroscience.</strong> A new algorithm that can predict connections in the brain is part of the Human Brain Project, an EU effort to build a cutting-edge research infrastructure for neuroscience and computing.

In this article, we discussed the use of AI to study structural plasticity in the brain. Synapses – or the connections between neurons – aren’t permanent. They can be created and destroyed by something as severe as a stroke or as mild as learning a new skill.

The researchers here developed a new algorithm that helped them better predict how these connections are able to rewire. Although this development is interesting in itself, the scientists also believe that this could help us plan brain surgeries.

8. What puts the super in supercomputer?

Science Node’s original mission was to cover HPC and other high-end computing technologies. While we’ve grown since then, we felt it necessary to spell out what a supercomputer is.

In a certain sense, HPC machines are just computers. Imagine a two-door pickup truck parked next to a diesel-engine semi-truck. Sure, they both have wheels and engines and are designed to move things from Point A to Point B, but their uses differ wildly.

A good example of this is given in the article. A supercomputer from 1998 was able to operate at one trillion floating point operations per second (i.e., 1 teraFLOP.) The modern Intel Core i9 Extreme Edition processor for desktop computers is able to perform as well as this 1998 supercomputer.

<strong>Faster processing speeds,</strong> extra memory, and super-sized storage capacity are what make supercomputers the tools of choice for many researchers.  

If that’s not enough, take a look at random-access memory (RAM), which holds onto information while the processor chews through it.  The average person will have 8 to 16 GB of RAM, while gamers might prefer something closer to 32GB. The Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer has around 1,310,600 GB of memory.

Obviously, the applications of HPC machines differ wildly from desktop computers. What’s more, the architectural differences between these machines make them seem like their completely different animals. But at the end of the day, a computer is a computer. It’s all about what you use it for.

7. Why 5G is safe

Every once in a while, we produce an article on a topic so profound and so nuanced that it reminds us of the beauty and wonder of science. 

This is not one of those articles.

You may remember a few incidents of people burning mobile towers out of the fear of what 5G might do to them. To clear up this misconception, we got Dr. Theodore Rappaport to explain why 5G is not at all harmful to your body. 

<strong>If you’re worried</strong> about dangerous radiation, tanning without sunscreen is a far bigger risk. More than 90% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun’s UV light.

It’s quite an odd experience to ask an intelligent person some of the dumbest questions imaginable, but it’s our job to find the truth. Thankfully, we endeavored not to waste Rappaport’s time. We discussed the real dangers of 5G, which come in the form of data security.

These new 5G networks are so fast because they store content at the base stations. While this translates to greater bandwidth and data rates, it also increases the chances of this data becoming compromised. 

Of course, the people deploying these networks understand these risks, and are taking the steps necessary to mitigate them. Still, it was nice to get a real discussion out of one of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories to surface in recent years.

6. Detecting depression with AI

This article hit a lot harder since the beginning of the pandemic. We’ve come to realize that this horrible event is linked to an increase in depression. With so many people suffering silently, diagnosing depression can often be difficult. 

<strong>The human touch.</strong> Al Hanai says the mood-detecting neural network will assist human clinicians, not replace them. Courtesy Mangionekd. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The researchers here wanted to develop an algorithm that could evaluate a person’s mental health based on their speech and other language clues. The model analyzes a person’s speaking patterns and then makes a prediction of their mental health status. In fact, this model was able to detect if a person was depressed.

Tune in next time to hear about our top 5 articles of all time!  

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