Our global data crisis

By Yasmin Abbas

When asked to write a formal essay, it is very likely that you, whether you are an adult or still a student, have required research to formulate ideas or to gather data. Regardless of which, you’ve been asked to extract this information from a reliable source, to prevent misinformation. The safest bet, for most of you (me included) has for long been scholarly essays. I’m not here to discredit the work that many scholars put into formulating research papers or academic articles, but there are a few key points of information that need to be brought to light.

Firstly, there is the almost god-like hailing of academics. Undoubtedly these people have dedicated a considerable amount of their time towards learning about a certain issue, but they do not hold the absolute truth on the matter. These people are also susceptible to biases, have limitations in their studies and most of the time, aren’t focused in attaining the purest level of truth, in fact, most of the times, they’re trying to prove their point. Not all scholarly articles are peer reviewed, meaning that some articles can be published without anyone looking over it and making sure that this academic didn’t just write whatever they wanted to get published. While it is very tempting to simply cite a source that backs up your claim, I believe it is far more respectable to be willing to change a belief or claim to attend to reality, rather than to knowingly perpetuate a bias.

Secondly, data does not equate facts. The inclusion of numbers, surveys and graphs in an article does not ensure that you are reading a factual analysis of reality. In fact, many times, especially in scientific studies, data can be manipulated or presented in a misleading way to suggest a personal belief held by the author. In the scientific community —  especially in the light of the monetisation of research paper publication — manipulated data has reached an all-time-high as researchers are getting payed to publish misleading data for companies. Once this data is published, not only does it become public and thus people are vulnerable to believing a carefully crafted fib, but this data can now be re-published, cited and used to solidify unreasonable arguments, further perpetuating misinformation.

Alright. So there is fake data floating around — not just in family WhatsApp groups or on my Facebook feed, the sources that I once believed to be the most reliable may not be, so what?

The values of society are built upon our beliefs, ideals and science. The decisions we make politically, economically and ethically depend on scientific breakthroughs and simple experimentations, so if these are tampered with, we begin to lead our society towards a path that becomes progressively more detached from reality, as these can be based on falsified evidence. I may be getting ahead of myself in the sense that this misinformation probably will not result in our society’s doom, as my last sentence suggests, but I do believe it is currently happening in a small scale. Not being able to personally understand why something is a way it is and simply pointing at a piece of evidence that is handed to you is unsettling, almost as if you are slowly losing grasp of reality. How can you understand what is happening in the world if false information is all that you have available? How is society supposed to progress when information, the most basic of rights is being denied to us?

There are projects like that of the self-proclaimed “Data Thugs” that are currently underway to get rid of questionable research and false data, but a strong ethical sense from me and you also goes a long way. When reading an absolutely biased report on a matter, make sure to at least acknowledge other possible perspectives when publishing or talking about an issue. Verify, to the extent possible the validity of your information; if you can, make sure a good part of the scientific papers you are citing are peer reviewed. There is nothing wrong about publishing an opinion, the wrong is in referring to that opinion as a truth. Much like movements of social justice, I believe that data reliability should be our next in vogue issue that gains traction and moves people to protest for more reliable information.

My experience at SPMUN

By Chloé Posthuma

As the clock ticked on indicating the closer we were to beginning the conferences, my heartbeat raced as fast as a race car. I was welled up with emotions: excited, nervous, anxious, curious and most of all, fascinated. Numerous thoughts raced through my mind: “What if I mess up?”, “What if I don’t get an award?”, “What if I provide the crowd with incorrect information and somebody corrects me, leaving me in a deep well of embarrassment?”, and the worst one yet,”what if I don’t get an award?” These reflections always come to a delegate in the initiation of the meetings. However, these actions only help you throughout the course of the trip since you grow out of them. In other words, you develop into a different person in just a couple of days causing each day, hour, minute, second causing them to be significant and that is why every day of the trip will be discussed in this article (in the eyes of a timid person).

On the first day, I glanced at the clock for the thousandth time, awaiting for the opening ceremony that never started. I spot all the new people approaching my eyesight: new delegates, experienced delegates, freshmen, senior etc. After a decade of awaiting, the most amazing, motivational speeches were given to boost confidence in each and every delegate. Afterwards, lobbying session began; not only did this period of the meeting spark new knowledge towards the topic at hand but also friendships with intriguing people from all over Brazil in schools such as Graded, Chapel, PASME, EAB, EABH, EAC, St Paul’s, EARJ and more. Furthermore, instead of just discovering your allies in the conflict, you detect allies for the entire trip and maybe in another period in life. This can be proven by the delegate Jader Barbalho who said,”I loved everyone there, especially my fellow delegates! Everyone was just so nice and caring. It was my first time and I instantly made lots of friends with the other delegates and the chairs, I think I will keep these friends for some time as I can always meet them in MUN and NR. I also really liked my chairs who were serious but also funny! And that is how we terminated our day; a day full of acquaintances.

“Rosy- fingered dawn appeared” marking the second day; the day of debates. Just thinking about it would give me chills since it is so nerve wrecking in the start. However, I was not the only one who felt this apprehension; all of those who spoke would stutter causing a feeling of proximity with delegates I had just met. Though the monster we call fright was strongly present in the dawn of our growth, it gradually decreased throughout the course of only a couple of hours shown by the quantity of times numerous delegations who developed confidence by asking points of information and, through baby steps, going to the podium to answer the points of information. By the end of the day, every single delegation could already classify each other as allies though in the view of the modeled United Nations they were not. In other words, as the closing of the afternoon arrived and the youth of the night replaced it, everyone could consider their peers more as friends. Anyhow, not only had the members of  the American School of Brasilia gotten closer to foreign schools but also developed tight bonds with other EAB members; I met freshmen and seniors I expected I would never share a word with while I reached devoted connections with people I had previously known. Even though we arrived in the city of São Paulo as only acquaintances or friends, we definitely left as a family. In other words, the students of the American School of Brasilia flourished together.

A gloomy thought bloomed in my mind as my body awoke on day three: it was the last day. I had gone through so much with these people in such a short amount of time. Additionally, it was time to see if the hours spent working on the position papers and resolutions were worth it by receiving a prize- the award. As the delegates of our school approached their seats for the general assembly, a tension in the room was felt. Common thoughts pass through every student present, “Who will get the award?” “Will it be fair?” The first minutes were skipped on the clock…  eventually turning into hours. During those hours, one main topic was discussed in the general assembly. Numerous delegates were focused, curious, participating meanwhile others were sending notes to provoke the delegations present. These events helped swallow down the anxiety we all felt, until its conclusion; once the word “awards” was mentioned, every delegation glimpsed at one another displaying apprehension in their eyes. However this action did not stop the handing out of the awards. These prizes provoked the following events such as people crying of joy and sadness. Another event that also followed the awards was the closure of the trip. It felt like it had been a century we had remained in São Paulo, but it also felt like an hour. On the way back to Brasilia, I contemplated at how grateful I was for receiving a prodigious experience with such compelling people because these are one of the various things EAB gives their students.

Top 10 Must-Read Young Adult Books

By Sophie Kane 

Ask which one of these you can get at the EAB library!

In no particular order…

01

Six of Crows

I have yet to meet a single person who has read this high-fantasy heist novel by Leigh Bardugo who didn’t love it. Not only is the world incredible and the plot gripping but the characters are phenomenal. I dare you not to love this book. Trust me, you’ll be racing to the bookstore for the sequel.

02

A Darker Shade of Magic

This is technically an adult book but is read by YA fans everywhere. Little did you know that there was not one London but many alternate versions of London lying in different worlds. Kell is one of the few people who can traverse these worlds, serving as a messenger between alternate Londons. Kell runs into everybody’s favorite cross-dressing pirate, Delilah Bard, and they are put on a mission to save all of their worlds. This book and series by V.E. Schwab are nothing less than brilliant.

03

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys is unlike anything you’ve ever read or anything you ever will read. It’s about the paranormal and psychics and lost kings, featuring a gang of protagonists you wish you were part of. You definitely want these books by Maggie Stiefvater on your shelf.

04

Cinder

So you might be looking at the cover (or covers of this series) and forming a preconceived notion of what this book is going to be about. Well did you get that it features a plague threatening to wipe out the population of the Earth, mind control, and inter-planetary warfare? You’ll fall in love with this cast of characters. Even if you don’t love this first book, keep reading. You won’t regret it. Then pick up Marissa Meyer’s other fairytale retelling Heartless.

05

The Sun is Also a Star

Mixing it up with a contemporary. Thought this one would be a good one to start with because this book made me fall in love with contemporaries. Daniel and Natasha have just one day together because in twelve hours Natasha’s family is going to be deported to Jamaica. But it’s not just a book about them, it’s about the universe. Then read Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon and name her one of your favorite contemporary authors ever.

06

Eleanor and Park

This book is Rainbow Rowell’s masterpiece. It’s set over the course of a school year and takes place in the 80s. You’ll fly through it and wish it would never end. I really can’t say much about this book outside of go read it. You’ll love it forever.

07

I’ll Give You the Sun

This book wasn’t love at first sight, but all its twists and turns and heartbreaking characters make it a must-read. Just give it a chance. It’ll definitely surprise you.

08

The Diviners

This book is not talked about enough for how amazing it is. It’s everything you didn’t know you were looking for in a book. It’s historical fiction, mystery, fantasy, and horror (it will keep you up at night) all at once. Lair of Dreams is a worthy sequel and the third book in the four book series just came out so you definitely want to get on this one.

09

Strange the Dreamer

This book is about a librarian living in a fantasy world who’s obsessed with this lost city called Weep when he’s recruited by a godslayer to solve a mysterious problem in the mythic city. True to its name it is very strange, but it’s also brilliant. And there are blue-skinned people in it which is pretty cool.

10

Harry Potter

You thought I was going to be that one person who doesn’t like Harry Potter? Well you thought wrong. You don’t really need me to explain, do you?

Worried about the PSAT? We’ve got you covered.

By Bruna Abrão

The PSAT is here, and for the ones who are taking it for the first time (myself included), my first tip is don’t freak out. In the end of the day, it is just a practice. The whole intent of the PSAT is for you to figure out where you’re at so that you can set up your game plan and be ready when you have to take the SAT or the ACT. The only thing it really counts for is the National Merit Scholarship Qualification and the National Merit Commended Qualification, which you can be qualified to if you score on the top 2% of students in the United States. However, they are both only available to American citizens. Anyway, here are some tips, tricks and strategies to help you do well on  the PSAT.

Familiarize yourself with the test

The first thing you should do is to take a look at the practice tests. You can find them online, or by looking at the booklet which was given to you a few weeks ago (Mr. Hornbuckle probably has spare ones). If you don’t have three spare hours time to take the entire practice test beforehand, you should at least look over the directions, which are basically the same for every test.

Another thing you should probably figure out before taking the test is how to grid the math problems. If you don’t know how to do that, here’s how. First you write your answer in the boxes at the top of the columns. This is not required, but it might help you. Then, color the circles with your answer. You cannot color more than one circle in each column. Dots and slashes have their own column, and no question have negative answers. If a problem has more than one answer, grid only one of them. Mixed numbers have to be written as either decimals or as fractions. Otherwise, 3½ could be interpreted as 31/2. Lastly, if you have a decimal answer with more digits than the grid can accommodate, you can round it, but you must fill the entire grid.

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Materials you will need

  1. A Number 2 pencil and an eraser. Mechanical pencils are not allowed.
  2. An approved graphing calculator (Ti-84 works).
  3. A watch that doesn’t beep so you can easily time yourself. There will also be a visible clock in the testing room, so this isn’t an absolute requirement.
  4. A water bottle (It’s very dry this time of the year, and the test is very long. Stay hydrated).

Pace yourself

Don’t get too hung up on one or two questions. Otherwise you might spend ten or even fifteen minutes on the same question and then you won’t have time to finish the test. It’s not a very good gauge of what you are capable of if you spend all your time on this question that is only worth one point, and you didn’t even get to the rest of the questions that you could have very well gotten right. So make sure you don’t lose track of time. If you’re having trouble with one question, try putting a giant star right next to it and come back to it after you finish the rest.

Guessing

To make this very clear, I don’t recommend guessing, but if for some reason you didn’t pace yourself or you couldn’t finish in time, make sure you fill in every bubble on that test. There’s no penalty for guessing, and this way you will get at least a probabilistic chance of getting those right.

So these are the tips that I have for you today. And, again, don’t freak out. It’s all good. Good luck!

An Afternoon at the Brasilia Zoo

By Ana Cecilia Oliveira

The Brasilia Zoo may have been forgotten by most Brasilia residents—those without small children in the family, at least—or written off as a decrepit childhood remnant, but it is still a vibrant place! Out of curiosity as to how the zoo had changed in the ten years we hadn’t been there, my family decided to visit last Friday (29). What we found is a place full of helpful volunteers and exquisite animals.

One of the first animals we came across was the zoo’s newest resident, a spectacled bear! Nei, an eight-year-old male, arrived in Brasilia on September 9, having come all the way from the Rio Grande do Sul Zoological Park. He is the zoo’s first bear of this species since it opened its doors in 1957.

The spectacled bear gets its name from the distinctive markings around its eyes, which resemble eyeglasses. It is the only bear species native to South America, and there are two zoos in Brazil with breeding pairs of the species. The zoo in Rio Grande do Sul is one of them, and Nei comes from that lineage. His arrival is part of an exchange between the two zoos; in return, our local zoo sent a male maned wolf.

According to a zoo employee I interviewed, the zoo’s next move will be two acquire two adult females in an attempt to start breeding them. The spectacled bear is an endangered species, and there has recently been a movement in South America zoos to create more breeding pairs and protect the animals’ genetic diversity. The same employee said the zoo is negotiating with other zoos in Bolivia for female spectacled bears.

When I visited him, Nei was pacing his 800-square-meter enclosure and occasionally  playing with his water tank. “You’re lucky to catch him awake!” a zoo volunteer told me, “Spectacled bears are nocturnal, and he usually sleeps during the day. This is unusual behavior for him.”

It seemed to be a very auspicious day all-around, since we were also able to see a black panther and Pantanal jaguar playing, two cougars sunbathing, and two very friendly elephants who came over to the edge of the paddock to say hi.

In addition to the animals in enclosures, all sorts of others roam freely around the zoo: small micos navigate the fences between enclosures; dozens of wildcats move in and out of the paddocks. Even capybaras can be found relaxing with the giraffes and walking through the grounds! “They [the capybaras] like the popcorn,” a vendor told me, laughing at the capybara that approached him hopefully, “That’s why they come!”

The Brasilia Zoo also boasts an enclosed butterfly garden, where butterflies of 14 different species flutter freely, often landing on unsuspecting visitors. As I was entering, a man was kept from leaving because there were three butterflies on his baseball cap that had to be removed! Visiting the butterfly garden is also an educative experience, since it is staffed by friendly volunteers who are more than willing to answer questions.

“Most of us are studying biology in college and know a lot about butterflies!” Sarah, a volunteer, told me. She also explained that, contrary to popular belief, butterflies don’t live solely off of nectar from flowers. Many species feed off of decomposing animal carcasses or rotting fruit. This is why, in some cultures, butterflies are a 
symbol of death. According to Sarah, you can also tell the age of a butterfly by looking at its wings: older butterflies have wings that are more worn or even deformed, missing pieces due to wear and collisions.

“Some of these animals were rescued from the wild, but we can never return them because they’ve become too used to humans,” said a volunteer in the deer area. This is the case with one of the zoo’s red deer, who is blind. After spending years in the zoo, these animals lose their fear of humans and the defense mechanisms developed to survive in nature. This is why many came to greet us when we came close to the enclosure’s fence, instead of fleeing and hiding.

I may have been skeptical about the zoo’s entertainment value when I first arrived, but I learned a lot from its knowledgeable volunteers and the animals I was able to see. The atmosphere is enjoyable, since the grounds are full of wildlife, trees, and small lakes. Friendly volunteers and guards are scattered around the entire perimeter, making it an enjoyable and informative experience for people of all ages, not just families with young children!

As a general tip: do not visit the zoo from the hours of late morning to early afternoon. These are very sunny times so that the animals aren’t likely to come out, and also peak times when the zoo is packed with people—especially on weekends! But, if you are new to Brasilia or haven’t visited in a while, it is a worthwhile trip on a cloudier afternoon or early morning!

Image Source: “Elefantes Do Zoo De Brasília.” Santuário De Elefantes, santuariodeelefantes.org.br/elefantes-zoo-de-brasilia/. 

Exclusive Interview: Get to Know Mr. Fagon

 

By Marina Alves

What’s the most interesting place you have ever lived in?

Japan because I went there when I was very young, I had just graduated university and it was a) an escape from my life b) it was just so different. It was fascinating because you could either master Japan or Japan mastered you. It was that kind of place; it either broke you and you went home hating it or you figured it out and stayed and loved it.

Japan was kind of my grown up test: (…) repackaging and representing of myself. And that’s why I moved so far away from home because you go far away and you can change it all. And the most interesting thing was very internal for me. People didn’t know me, people didn’t know my background or my traditions and suddenly I could just change everything. I could be whoever I decided to design myself to be. And it was interesting to see how far I could push that. And I pushed it pretty far.

What was your most interesting experience?

Repackaging and representing of myself. And that’s why I moved so far away from home because you go far away and you can change it all. And the most interesting thing was very internal for me. People didn’t know me, people didn’t know my background or my traditions and suddenly I could just change everything. I could be whoever I decided to design myself to be. And it was interesting to see how far I could push that. And I pushed it pretty far. And that was fascinating like things that you know my old friends or my family would never believe I would do or try or say or be, I did most of them. And that was fascinating. It wasn’t just one experience, it was more internal.

What have you learned experiences?

Being true to yourself is not as easy as it sounds. It comes at a price and for a long time I was very accommodating to other people and what people expected from me. And I was always a very nice and sustaining young man. Then when I started to be otherwise, my reputation was “tarnished” so to speak. And I had to learn to live with that. I had to learn with people saying “oh you’re not as nice as you used to be,” those kinds of comments. Because I wasn’t.

Because once you sort of break free of certain things, then you just kind of say “well I’m going to do what I need to do for me” and that was liberating and lonely at the same time. And there were family members I didn’t speak to for a long time, and lots of other things because of that price. But I made peace with paying it.

So that for me was the most interesting, like to be the version of yourself that you’re trying to create is not free. And anyone who tells you that it is has not tried it because to do it means some amount of defiance- you’re going to defy somebody.

Parents, some old friends, I lost some friends because I think they’re small minded or they’re boring or they’re just not very engaged with their life. I realize sometimes when I visit them that we have nothing to talk about. Our worlds start to feel very small, it starts to feel like I’m bragging but I’m not bragging, I’m just talking about my life and their life is kind of static and mine is not. So we just stopped being friends and I used to feel bad about it but now I’m like I don’t dislike them… were just different. I think you can either have a really dynamic and interesting life or you can have a stable quiet life. And everything comes at a price. People always say “oh your life is so exciting” but I have to move every year and make new friends. I lose some stability and security and there’s a lot of issues with having a transient life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything… but it has some challenges.