What is spice?

By: Isaac Lund

Image taken from: sciencenewsforstudents.org

Chances are, you’ve tried something spicy before. Be it a spicy potato chip or a ghost pepper, any spicy treat is bound to leave that delicious heat in your mouth. But, have you ever thought about what causes that pain so signature of all hot food? Do you know the science behind what makes something spicy?

Cuisines all over the world—India, Mexico, China, have used the art of implementing spice into food to captivate millions, no, billions of people around the globe. Those who first practiced this culinary technique were putting science to work, whether they knew it or not.

Capsaicin, an organic chemical produced within peppers, is the culprit behind the madness. Pepper plants produce this compound to turn away predators planning on eating their fruit, a deterrent that has completely backfired over the course of history. As soon as the pepper touches your tongue, Capsaicin molecules seek out pain receptors, called VR1s, in your taste buds, and latch on. Your brain is signaled, and the burning ensues. Although it may feel like you will end up shriveled and burnt, no physical damage is really dealt to your mouth and tongue.

While many like to boast about their “spice tolerance”, the heat becomes too much for everyone at a certain point. Oh no! Better get a cool glass of water! Not. Capsaicin, in the form it attacks you in, at least, is an oil. Water and oil don’t mix, and the spice will only be spread around your poor mouth. Grab a glass of milk or some ice cream instead: the oils and fats here will dissolve clingy capsaicin and carry it down your throat.

And anyways, tolerance is no excuse for having an aversion to spice. Although some scaredy-cats may argue that others have built a tolerance for spice through repetitive exposure, this is actually impossible; your VR1s will forever react to capsaicin in the exact same way. So, how do some handle the heat so well? They’ve simply come to enjoy the burn.

For more information, please visit:

  • sciencenewsforstudents.org

How do humpback whales communicate with each other?

By: Sarah VonBerge

Humpback whales are very independent creatures and normally only stay with their mothers for about a year, whereas a lot of other species of whales stay in groups, called pods.

At most, humpbacks normally travel in groups of 3, even though they don’t normally stay that way. They may help a couple other whales hunt or get somewhere, but they only stay with the other whales for a few days at most.

Most known for their shrieks, humpback whales also communicate via grunts and groans and are often called ‘inveterate composers’ because they make noises that can sound like music made by humans.

According to Victoriawhalewatching.com, humpback whales have multiple different kinds of communication techniques and each technique can mean something different. As stated before, they are sometimes called ‘inveterate composers’ because of their songs, which can last up to 30 minutes and travel 100 miles. The songs are believed to be mostly for mating purposes. These songs are mostly sung by the male humpbacks to attract females but also used to let other males whales know that that is their territory.

Although they sing, shriek, groan and more, they are most known for their physical communication. This communication involves spyhopping, lobtailing and breaching. Spyhopping is when a whale sticks most of its head out of the water and either leaves its eye right below the water or right above it for an extended amount of time. Although it is not completely known why they do this, it is suspected that they do it to watch their surroundings.

Another physical communication that they use is lobtailing. This is when a whale lifts its flippers or tail out of the water and slaps it on the water surface making a loud noise. This is known to show aggression but also warn other whales nearby that there is a danger.

Lastly, there’s breaching. Breaching is when a humpback whale lunges itself out of the water, exposing at least 40% of its body. Again, this is believed to be a warning to other whales but it is also suspected that they do this to show dominance.

Even though most physical whale communication is used to show aggression, it can also be used in nurturing ways. Humpback whales sometimes put their fins against each other to show affection and compassion.

Although humans’ understanding of whale communication is limited, it’s interesting to look into how they react to themselves, to their surroundings, and to each other. Whale communication is one of the most complicated and sophisticated forms of communication known.

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A poet’s language

By: Parker Rowen           

Image taken from: “Ideas about Poetry.” Ideas About, https://www.ted.com/topics/poetry.

Language is something that many people take for granted. Language has spent hundreds of years evolving, becoming a complex system for us to describe our world. Words have spent hundreds of years becoming more specific and accurate toward what we experience, with language a medium for these observations.

The communication of ideas is an essential part of human growth, without our peers we would not be able accomplish feats which once seemed impossible.

Language and its specificity create a new medium for an artist, that being poetry. Poetry exists to show the view of the world through an artist’s perspective. Poetry is a medium in which you use linguistic specificity in order to express an emotion, or world view to another. Language makes poetry special.

Paintings aren’t something everyone makes, drawing isn’t either, but everyone uses language to communicate, by default; other art forms create a disconnect in that sense. People can understand poetry much easier than paintings or drawings, because language is something everyone uses.

To be accessible isn’t the point of art, though. Some art can be challenging, others not so much. The use of language is interesting, because as specific as language is, and can be, there are words with double, or more than one meaning. This can give poetry some more challenge, adding to the layers in which an artist can give to their art. 

Poetry uses language, and its uniqueness to create something which expresses an artists’ vision in a relatable, and simplistic way. Using language techniques to create different environments is one way in which the poet expresses their world. Techniques like alliteration, visualization, and metaphors make the poetry feel natural, like things you would naturally come to through the use of these techniques within your own life.

Poetry creates a unique art form, which creates more relatabilty compared to others. Poetry has plenty of variations of phrases, making things more descriptive or accurate to the poet’s vision.