Randeria, 10th - Cypress, TX
You ramp up the throttle as far as it goes and your sleek, shiny spacecraft gains speed. The speedometer becomes a blur of numbers as your ship accelerates. You're pressed into your seat as the g-forces increase exponentially. A special dial switches on that indicates the percent speed of light you are traveling. It climbs from 1% to 20%, then to 50% as your warp engines start warming up. Your craft, "Faster Than Light" (aka FTL), is a state-beyond-the-art spaceship designed to travel faster than light (hence its name). With a roar that you feel in your bones, the warp engines reach full power and the planets, stars, and suns blur by you as you reach and pass the speed of light. Wait a minute, is this really possible?
Isaac Newton was the first to mathematically define gravity as a force between two objects in the empty backdrop of space, which goes on to infinity. A patent office secretary in Germany thought otherwise, and came up with another theory of the universe: General Relativity.
General relativity, along with revolutionizing science and redefining our world, is a theory of gravity, created by the famous physicist Albert Einstein (yes, the one with the crazy hair). In his theory, he concluded two things:
- Time is not constant; it is a dimension, along with height, length, and width, and therefore subject to manipulation. This is called space-time, and makes up the universe.
- Mass is directly proportional to velocity. Meaning, the faster you go, the heavier (denser) you get, and vice versa. This is a MASSIVE idea.
With these in mind, we can start to simplify General Relativity.
Imagine a large blanket, and drop a bowling ball on it. The bowling ball causes a dip in the blanket, and anything that is lighter than the bowling ball will make a smaller dip and roll towards the bowling ball, where it will make a bigger dip. This is analogous to the real world, where the blanket is space-time and the bowling ball is a massive star. The dent (which would be 3D) is gravity, which Einstein argues is just a warping of space-time. Since gravity can bend space-time, and space-time is made up of three spacial dimensions and a fourth dimension time, gravity can bend time. Wait, what? How can that be possible? If gravity can bend time, does that mean that time goes slower near a large object? Yes. It does. In fact, it has actually been proven! Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) today use this effect to pinpoint your location accurately (otherwise they'd be miles off track and you might find yourself very lost).
Einstein has proven that time is relative. Meaning, not only can it bend, but different people experience it differently! In fact, there is another analogy to illustrate this. Say you and your friend are on rockets, and you are traveling faster than your friend. You will find that your watch actually goes slower than your friend's, and that the time difference depends on how fast you are traveling relative to the same object. Yes, relative to the same object. Depending on what you are measuring against, your speed can change.
There's another analogy for this. Say that you are on a train, and you are tossing a ball up and down. To you, that ball would go up and down, while to someone outside the train, the tossing of the ball would trace a wave-like shape. To a person in the train, the world outside is moving, whereas to an observer, the train would be moving.
Going back to our rocket analogy, there's one more thing to be made clear. Why is time slower for the faster one? This is where Einstein's second conclusion, that mass is directly proportional to velocity, comes in. As you go faster, your mass increases, and you bend space-time a little bit more. You would have to be traveling extremely fast, near the speed of light to see this effect, though.
While we're on the topic of light, let me explain one of the most famous things general relativity disproved; faster than light travel (FTL). It is known that FTL is not possible, but why is it so? We saw that as you go faster, your mass increases. Let's assume that you carry energy (fuel) with you. Since you need more energy to propel more mass, your starting mass increases. Since your starting mass increases, your final mass increases too. This will never end. Even if you were externally powered, meaning that you get energy without changing your mass, there is not enough energy in the universe to propel you, and you would end up having infinite mass. Say you had no mass in the first place, though? Could you achieve FTL travel? Well, then you would be light. Light has no mass, and since it can only go at a finite speed, that speed will be the speed limit of the universe; the speed of light in a vacuum, (approximately 3.00 * 10^8 meters per second) more commonly called . Therefore, a scientifically accurate FTL story would end differently.
With a roar that you feel in your bones, the warp engines tune to full power, and you feel a burst of acceleration - that quickly goes away. Confused, you look at the speedometer, see it stop, and then reverse! As you slow down to less than 0.005% the speed of light, you feel like you get lighter. You look at the fuel levels, and see that you have no fuel. Panicked, you look around you, and see nothing. You must have gone beyond the edge of the Milky Way, and, with no fuel, have no hopes of going back. You knew this would happen, because of general relativity, but you decided it was a risk to take. Now here you are. Floating through space-time, sitting in your seat, all alone, doomed to stay till you grow old and die, with no hope left to see any life again, and the vast inky blacker than black darkness of space stretching out in front of you.
Ruby, 10th - Sebastopol, CA
They think they know. They watch us interact. They think we are inanimate objects. They don't realize we have lives and souls, and hearts. They just can't comprehend we are beings with families, hopes, and dreams.
We were born in Petri dishes, held up by acrid fluid. Our families brought us here because they wanted us, more than anything. They didn’t know what would happen. They didn't know the small-well-meaning remarks that would flow towards us at all moments of everyday. They didn't know that every moment would be a constant repetition, explaining our normal to those who don’t understand.
I can only smile and nod for so long, I can only stretch my answers to sound kind for so long, I can only take so much well-meaning curiosity, till my head burns and I want to scream, shout, cry, and lie. I want to lie that no, my family is not this new thing nobody can understand. No, my family isn’t for you to study. No, my family isn’t yours to lock away in a sea of your well-meaning questions.
My family isn’t yours for the taking.
You can think I am rude, you can think I am mean, but I am done caring if you don’t know basic human biology. I am done caring if you are so spineless, you blindly listen to your higher power’s every word until his lies seep into your weak-willed skin.
I understand humans are pulled towards questions, but in what world do people not understand how their questions affect the person? How do they not see our vapid stares back when we have to answer the same ignorant questions over and over, just because we decided not to hide for a single beautiful moment?
Then I remember us, the way our bones were made from the same walnut tree, and carved from the same spear or how our blood was gathered from the same metallic river. I remember how we held our fragile skins together, whispering affirmations through the holes where our ears should be. We roam the earth, and at moments we catch glimpses of each other, seeing a flash of curly hair, or the sound of a flighty laugh.
We all roam the earth, waiting for the moment where we all reunite, and show the world that alone we are like insects, stepped on without a second thought, but together. Together, we can construct flamboyant murals everywhere to remind the world that alone we are brilliant, unique, and extraordinary, but together we are a force, and someday, our cries will be heard. Someday you will understand, your comments don’t just pick away at bits of our hearts, someday we will stop laughing at your ignorance, someday we will shed our skins and you will see the thousands of little gashes that resulted from your unenlightenment. Then maybe our pain will push you out of your world and you will see the scope of the harm you cause.
J.Tran 12th - Oakland, CA
With every person I get to know,
No matter if I’m still in close contact with them or not,
they will always be a part of me in some capacity
Whether that be the way I write my A’s or even the way my name is written cause I like how you wrote it better,
With the way how I like my coffee,
Enjoying the music playlists you sent me,
The books I read cause of how enthusiastic you were when giving me the summary to them,
Cherishing these memories of everyone I’ve gotten the honor to know,
In all different ways.
Though I may not have any photos of you and I,
You will always be remembered
Day by day
As I continue to write
Over and over again.
Emma, 12th - Putney, VT
Under the great, lolling tongue of the ocean;
she keeps her pills: white, shiny and undissolved
like metallic, tiny fish eyes.
Sweet, wilting daisies slip in and out of my dimension
as I wake up again and again but never somatically.
Flashing and mapping and sacrificial capping.
I hold out my arms to grasp all there is
and all there is tumbles past my hands
and into my heart like a hard, glittering stone.
In the spacious, floral air
I pick out specks of light like freckles
and leave kisses, love letters to a temporary home
that is no longer physical.
In my body a garden of painful dearness grows
with every passing layer of ocean
between the beloved and the present.
Whilst dancing I mistook a large, bright butterfly
for the sun
and I could never quite unsee it.
Kgosi M. 9th - Soweto, South Africa
Life is a journey with one traveler, it has many destinations and routes. The route taken is decided by actions made by the traveler and the destination changes with each route taken.
Some people may say life is predetermined and whatever may happen is fate, but just as we look left and right before crossing the street to avoid accidents, we should also look at the consequences and long-term effects of our actions before acting out.
Those are the only words I got.
Audrey Jay, 12th - Mesa, AZ
We looked at each other as we flew home.
All of us were dirty, muddy from where we’d just fought, holding our bags like they were our children. We stopped somewhere, and for a minute I thought I could see the sun.
Captain stepped onboard. He looked at us with dried blood on his forehead and hands. We could even see some seeping thru his white socks since his combat boots were ripped open in different ways on each foot.
He looked at us with this look of love.
We looked at him with a similar look, not quite there yet.
He took his bloody hand and saluted us.
We saluted back.
“Good work.” He told us without a second thought. “You’ve fought the good fight. You’ve won the race.”
Some of the women began crying, not understanding what was happening.
“Sir,” one of the younger ones said, “have we really? It feels like we failed.”
He knelt so he could see eye to eye with her. “Did you do your best?”
“Did you love me and trust me to lead you?”
She nodded again.
“Then I see no failure in your heart. Just a human. Adam’s offspring.”
Captain stood again. He made eye contact with each one of us.
“You did your best?”
“Yes, sir,” we answered.
“You loved me and trusted me to lead you?”
“Yes, sir,” we answered again.
“Then why should I not love you?”
We looked at him with the look he’d given us before. He looked at us with the same.
“Drop your bags,” he said.
We dropped them.
“Why do we need to drop them, sir?” The younger one asked again.
“Because where we’re going, you won’t need them.”
The younger one stared at him.
Our plane landed. We’d arrived home.
I ran through the soft fields, flowers surrounding us. I could finally feel the sun again.
Grey, 10th - Jackson CA
Trigger Warning: addiction, self-harm, and suicide themes that are emotionally challenging.
If you or anyone you know are experiencing this, reach out for help immediately.
Hey, we need to talk
I know you get nervous when I say that
But I promise I’m not mad
Unlike the way you tell people you’re not sad
I can see that you’re spiraling again
As hard as you try to block out the voices, they’re getting louder
You’re addicted to anything that’ll help you forget
Substances that reduce your trauma to a silhouette
You need to feel like you’re in control
The four walls you live in are a prison rather than a home
And everyone who promised that they would stick around
Have helped dig the hole where they’ll bury you in the ground
I know you’ve been to hell and back
Danced with the devil and all of his demons
Then laughed in God’s face
With heavenly grace
You love to carve scarlet designs
And you don’t mind becoming another teen overdose statistic
You spend a lot of time fantasizing about death
And you’ve been in the bathtub a few too many times, praying for your last breath
I’m not here to tell you how to live
We both know you wouldn’t take my advice anyway
But I’m sure you know I wouldn’t be okay if you died
It would be as though I’m an accomplice to your suicide
So when you want to end it all
You’ll go to pick up the pills, the knife, anything to kill the pain screaming in your veins
But you don’t have to go through this alone
I’m here, so please, pick up the phone
Crow, 12th - Oakland, CA
I focus on the lamp
The sky outside.
Gnossienne plays in the wind
My mind is elsewhere, here.
The foam settling in the cup
The pencils gathering dust.
Madame Monet looks on mournfully.
Dreams shift and
flit around the room, just out of reach
and I cry.
What am I, to be nothing but an idea
just out of reach?
Brenda, L. 12th Livermore, CA
It is an odd feeling being fifty. Wrinkles are settled in now, and my body feels more flimsy by the day. An elaborate continuum of forgotten memories hangs by a thread. As time passes, my thirst for spontaneity dissipates. My brain is resistant like dusty cogwheels waiting for a spark. Looking around, many strangers I used to know now rest six feet under with an identical bouquet of flowers adorning an $11,000 gravestone. Some of their bodies were taken by the wind, drowned in the deep blue sea, or kept in generational attics. Looking back, I lost many jobs in my late 20s, but thankfully I had a second chance to restart my life. Today is my 50th birthday. A day I never knew would come so soon. Occasionally, I wonder how differently my life would have played out or ponder on old friends. Even at this instant, I can taste the bittersweet memories of nostalgia in my lukewarm cappuccino.
Reaching into my pocket, I felt a terrible shock enter my body. Like a pinch too sudden and too painful to even breathe. Slowly I pulled out my hand with purple bruises and a pack of sewing needles. A series of flashbacks entered my mind. My mother had sowed, and her mother sewed, and before her, my great-grandmother sewed, and her mother before that. Funny how bits of my past somehow sneak into my present and future. The pain took me back to when I was a little girl sewing patches of all textures and colors onto my corduroy pants. Clothing was scarce then, and most of my blankets were quilted. Sowing became a part of me and followed me through adolescenthood when I joined the Craft Club at my school. During the second meet-up, I noticed a girl named Lila, with hazelnut eyes and brown hair, in the back of the classroom with a croquet kit on her desk. After introducing myself to her, we became instant friends with the everlasting promise of world domination. Our friendship ended abruptly when she told me she would study in Europe. I lost contact with her and thought about her occasionally over the years. Even now, her mystery plagues my mind in times of solitude and reflection.
Today is my Birthday. My kids and grandchildren are waiting for me to come home and celebrate a year more. This morning has been my secret escape into the past, but now I must return to the present and finish my cold cappuccino. I reach the table next to me and grab a few napkins to place my needles in. It is an odd feeling being 50, but now I feel comfortable in my flimsy skin. My life has played out the exact way it should have, and now I must keep telling my tale so that my daughter and her daughter, and her daughter will tell it too.
R.Ali, 10th Oakland, CA
How would you feel if you always dreamed of going to college ever since you were younger but you weren’t able to due to financial problems? Or you're the type that decides to demolish their dreams because they do not want to deal with things such as that stress? This is why I think college should be free. As a result, there will be an increase in people attending college, and stress over financing will decrease.
To begin, an increased amount of people wanting to seek extra knowledge and going to college is a great economic uplift. People who attend college and get a degree usually have a larger income rate rather than not attending college. According to Forbes Advisor comparing college graduates to high school graduates, college graduates have a 75% increase in earnings. So those with higher degrees tend to out-earn those who did not attend college. If seeking higher education optionally will open up more opportunities for people and set people up for the better in the future why wouldn’t people want that for the current and upcoming generations.
In addition, in the US stress levels and other mental health issues have been linked to many reasons including financial problems. According to the American Psychological Association, 65 percent of adults say that money is a significant source of stress for them. A number of studies have demonstrated a cyclical link between financial worries and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Financial problems adversely impact your mental health. Constant stress and worries can take a toll on the body. This long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke. If college was free lots of Americans wouldn't be dealing with the stress of paying student loans. Forty-five million Americans have student loan debt, that's about one in five U.S. adults (17.4%). Now that's a lot of Americans alone that have debt. Free college would lessen the percentage of Americans going through stress and coping through other mental health problems.
This is why I believe college should be free. Free college can drive economic growth and help our economy. Even there will be an increase in helpful things in our economy such as people seeking more education. Also a decrease in hurtful things to our environment such as stress and other mental health problems that Americans have been dealing with. Considering back then students didn’t have to worry about tuition and debt but now it's more about personal gain than contributing to society.
Students 6th-12th Grades