In depth post #2

Progress report

At the beginning of our mentorship, he assigned me two books to read, The Economics Book and Explanation of Economics. The economics book mainly covered the history of economics, and how it went from a mere thought, to social science, and finally became the basis of how every country operates. This book covered many theories, going from the most basic theories about property and debt, all the way to very modern and complicated concepts like the gold standard vs oil-based currency, and how wars can both drive and stifle the economy. The Explanation of Economics was also quite interesting, but as the book was in Chinese I had a bit of trouble understanding some of the concepts, and so I wasn’t able to learn as much from it. I originally planned to finish both books by early February, but as I had extra time I read ahead and finished both books already.

I had two meetings with my mentor, one on Saturday, January 23rd to ask him about several concepts that I couldn’t fully grasp and had another meeting the next day (it was getting late on Saturday) where he gave me some examples, both current and historical, to help me further understand how these concepts can be applied to real life. Both meetings went really smoothly, and our conversations really helped further my understanding.

What went well

The books were very helpful – I mentioned this in the progress report already, but the books that my mentor assigned me were very helpful. Before this, I have always been interested in economics and knew about many of the terms and concepts, but I didn’t really understand any of them. The Economics Book acted like a dictionary, in that it covered every topic, and introduced me to many new ones, helping me make connections I’ve never even thought about before.

My mentor was supportive- My mentor simplified down a lot of the concepts and supported them with real-life examples, which was very helpful to my understanding as I had neither the knowledge nor the vocabulary to understand textbook answers. For example, when we were discussing “invisible factors” such as stability and the importance of a single currency, he gave the example of COVID-19, and gave specific examples and how each situation could have gone differently if something else happened.

My peers were encouraging – I am working together with Joanna for this in-depth project this year, and she helped me a lot. One of the main things she helped me with, was that since her Chinese is better than mine, she would often translate and explain some parts of “Explanation of Economics” that I couldn’t understand to me.

I also had several in-depth discussions with Colby, Evan, and Mel about current political events, especially regarding Biden’s economical policies about raising the minimum wage, and they all presented new and interesting points that I have never thought about before.

Challenges

However, despite these successes, I did also encounter several challenges, especially when communicating with my mentor.

As my mentor taught political economics in China for several years, his stance on some specific economical policies are different from how most Canadian economists view these problems, so I had to avoid discussing these topics when discussing with him, or at the very least take his advice with a grain of salt when we do talk about them. He also viewed most policies from an authoritarian point of view, ignoring the fact that neither the Canadian nor the US government has as much power as the Chinese government, so many of his criticisms, although valid, aren’t really fair, since the government can’t really do anything else.

How to agree, disagree, and differ

I didn’t have too many difficulties conversing with my mentor. If I thought his opinions were valid, I asked questions, expressed my agreement, took notes, and generally just learned from them, and if I thought they were a bit skewed or not the most fitting for our current situation, I would either point it out and discuss it with him or just smile and nod if he’s only mentioning them as a side note.

I also learned a lot through discussions with peers. As none of us were able to convince each other, we had continuous discussions that lasted for days. During these conversations, we were generally (somewhat) polite, and although the debate did get a bit intense on several occasions, we did always manage to calm down and sort through our disagreements. One of the lessons that I learned through these debates was to always remind myself to stay on topic, or go back to the original topic if I realize that the debate was getting off track, as it was extremely easy to get off track when arguing about sensitive social topics and start arguing about something barely relevant to the original topic. Another lesson that I learned was to find the key point of disagreement and talk about that, rather than discuss the entire topic as a whole, to avoid pointless disagreements and actually be able to reason out our disagreements.

Night of the Notables: Huineng

Good evening, I am Huineng, the sixth patriarch of Chan, or as it is known in the west, Zen, and welcome to the Night of the Notables. Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, this year our event is being held online, but this is nothing to be thwarted about. As I once famously said, “One’s body is just a vessel for his mind…”, so what does it matter if we are unable to physically gather, as long as we can converse our understandings?

When people think of Buddhism, the first thing that comes to mind may be Japanese Sōhei monks or Chinese kung fu warriors, however, this impression isn’t entirely true, as these monks are actually not actually traditional Buddhist followers. Rather, they are followers of Zen, or later Shinto Buddhism, neither of which can represent West-Indian Buddhism. Buddhism originated in modern India, spread to China in the second century A.D. Stemming out from China, the religion became dominant in East and Southeast Asia, and now has over 200 million devoted followers and almost two billion believers.

However… this religion hasn’t always been as influential as it is today. When Buddhism was first introduced to eastern Asia during China’s Han dynasty, it was rejected multiple times. Even after it finally broke into the country, the religion only barely managed to stay afloat. So… how did this religion become so influential? Well, that’s where I came in.

Unlike most monks of the time, I came from an extremely poor family. As such, I knew neither how to read nor write, and so had to learn Buddhist scripture through lessons and experiences rather than scriptures or poems. Coming from such a different background, I saw the world from a perspective no other monk could, and with this advantage, I quickly realized why this religion was so unpopular and came up with a list of reforms. The new branch of altered Buddhism will later be known as Southern Zen, as opposed to the more traditional Northern Zen. As you have probably already guessed, my reforms were quite successful. Within a hundred years, Buddhism became the dominant religion of China, and within another century Southern Zen swept across East Asia.The Spread of Buddhism - Ancient india

Now, due to time constraints, we won’t be able to analyze every detail of my reforms, but here’s a general overview.
First, I noted the religion’s biggest problem, which was a lack of support. When I asked other monks why this was, the other monks told me that only those who deserve enlightenment will seek it, and we don’t have more believers since only very few people deserve the pursuit of knowledge. However, I disagreed. If Buddha took pity on the peasants, why only offer them food and shelter, but not enlightenment? “A spark of light can wipe away a century of darkness, a thought of wisdom can clear a life of stupidity”, so what does it matter if someone started with a bad foundation?
After careful consideration, I came to a different conclusion. Having come from a rural village myself, I understood the difficulty it was for information to travel. It wasn’t that no one was interested in Buddhism, but rather that very few people even knew of the religion’s existence. To solve this problem, I encouraged my students to travel and visit others, as opposed to the more traditional method of sitting and waiting for others to seek you. This method proved very effective, and within a year everyone within several hundred miles of our temple knew about Buddhism. However, even though our temple was always full of visitors, very few people actually chose to stay. Most would just come in, ask some questions, and quickly leave again.
At first, I confused as to why no one showed any interest, but soon I saw the problem, illiteracy. Traditionally, Buddhist teachings have always been written in sultras, translated straight from Sanskrit, and was very complex and difficult to understand. Having never understood these sultras my self, I can relate to the frustration of not being able to read, and how discouraging it could be for someone potentially interested in the religion. To solve this problem, I simplified these scriptures, and even rewrote some of them as poems or songs, only covering the essence and scrapping all the irrelevant text, making them very easy to memorize and understand.
After solving these two major problems, I also implemented a variety of smaller changes, and the results were spectacular. As I mentioned above, within fifty years of my death Zen spread across China, and within another century it swept across Asia, influencing the world in a way that only Christianity can compare with.
Some people may have heard about Koans before, but do you understand them? The word Koan originated from the Chinese word, Gong An, meaning official file. These files are stories purposefully left vague and up to the reader’s interpretation, which can often be used in philosophical conversations or quoted in religious debates. Recently, I have been reading through Koans, and several really interesting stories caught my attention. If you are interested in reading these stories or discussing them with me, please scroll down to the comments section.
That was my presentation, thank you for your time, and feel free to comment on any questions. Thank you!

Developing the Leaders Around You

The organization’s growth potential is directly related to its personnel potential.
The Law of Explosive Growth
To add growth, lead followers. To multiply growth, lead leaders.
Any group, team, government, or organization is always both built on and built by its team members. As such, the most important direction for any organization to work towards is growing its personnel potential.
The Law of Explosive Growth explains that if a leader only attempts to lead followers, then he can only recruit the people attracted to him, and can only gain one follower at a time. However, if the leader trains his followers into fellow leaders, then they can each lead their own followers, which increases the growth speed of the organization by an exponential scale.
I chose the Law of Explosive Growth, as I think it is the most important law taught in this session. When I was learning about this law, I compared an organization to a spear. If the leader only trains followers, he can only ever be the tip of the spear. Effective if sharp, but once he fades away the entire group collapses. If he trains other leaders, he can still act as the tip of the spear, but if someone else is more capable than him, he can also choose to become the blade or even the transition, still ready to step up if necessary, but not carrying the entire group.
The law defines the importance of developing fellow leaders as opposed to simply attracting followers, and is the ideal situation for the TALONS community to be in. I will apply this rule to future leadership projects by developing my mentorees into leaders and encouraging them to develop their mentorees into leaders as well.

The Leadership Challenge
Leaders are hard to find.
Leaders are hard to gather.
Leaders are hard to unite.
Leaders are hard to keep.

The biggest challenge with leading leaders is that they also want to lead rather than follow. First, you have to be able to spot a leader. Then, you have to be able to persuade them to join you. After they have joined, you still have to make sure they cooperate with the rest of the group, and if they don’t, it’s hard to keep them in your organization.
I chose this law since I often experience these challenges. In the TALONS program, everyone is meant to work together, and we do, so this isn’t much of a problem. But outside of the school environment, this becomes a challenge. Even if I can identify another leader, why should they join me? Why should they work with me? Why should they work for me? Through the TALONS experience, I found that the best way to lead another leader is by establishing a personal connection with them. If you only lead by position, they do not need to follow you or obey you. However, if you lead through permission they may willingly follow you and be interested in what you have to say.
As stated above, this challenge usually doesn’t apply to the TALONS community, but it still occasionally occurs and so it is important to understand and know how to deal with it.

Five Levels of Leadership
The Five Levels of Leadership states that leaders lead through different kinds of power. The worst kind of leader leads through positional power, as they are only able to lead because someone else told them they could. The next type leads through permission power, as in the followers willingly follow the leader. The third type leads through productional power, as people follow them for what they have done. The fourth type leads through people’s development, as people follow them because of what they have done for them. The highest tier of leader leads through personhood, as in people follow them for who they are.
I picked this law since I think this is a good guideline for what leaders should strive to be.
This applies to the TALONS program, as climbing this pyramid should be a common goal for all of us. We are already unintentionally advancing up the pyramid, but if we begin to intentionally do it the process will be more efficient.
On the first day of grade 9, nobody knew anyone else, and so we were working together because of the position. We were all classmates, so we have to work together. Soon after we reached the permission phase, where we respect each other and so we willingly listen to each other’s comments and suggestions. Some people have already reached the production phase, I haven’t, so that is what I am working towards. Two things I can do to achieve this is to increase momentum and be more willing to express myself. I can increase momentum by relating previous problems with current ones to find a solution, and I can express my self by communicating with my group members more.

Levels of Leadership
Levels of Leadership explains what each level of leadership should look like. Entry-level leaders know where they should be going but have never gone there. Credible leaders know where they should be going and have gone there before. Accepted leaders can take their followers there with them, and the highest level of leaders should be able to take other leaders there with them.
I chose this topic since it accurately describes the journey of a leader. When I first joined the TALONS program I had no idea what a leader was supposed to do. Gradually, by watching the teachers and grade 10s I developed a sense of what a leader should look like, and started working towards that goal. By the end of the year I have achieved my goal, and this year I am trying to take others there with me.
My plan for this year is to be able to take my mentorees there with me, and from that point, I will try to work towards the highest level and take other leaders there with me.

TALONS talk

Does magnetism affect plant growth?

Does magnetism affect plant growth?

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section!

 

(script)

Does magnetism affect plant growth?

Magnetism and magnetic fields influence a lot of things in our lives. From directing the compass to raising and lowering the tide, it shapes how we live our lives. Their effects have been known and used for thousands of years in many fields, including exploration, machinery… and farming! The effects of magnetism in the first two fields are well known, but many people doubt if magnetism has any effect on crop production.

Even before humans learned about magnetism, we noticed that certain patches of land are more productive than others, and plants planted in certain periods tend to grow better than others. This knowledge can be seen in many places, including ancient Egypt, where they timed their planting based on the moon and other astrological signs, and ancient china, which based their entire calendar on the lunar cycle.

Modern-day science is still unable to fully explain how magnetism affects plant growth, but there are many theories. The three main ones being:

magnetic forces alter the membrane structure of the seed

Magnetism purifies water

and

Magnetic fields simulate gravity, which speeds up auxin growth.

The first one is exactly as it sounds. Magnetism affects plants in ways that we still aren’t fully aware of yet, but one of the results is that with certain magnetic fields, plant membrane structures can be altered to absorb more nutrition and water so that the seed would grow faster. This is theorized to be one of the main reasons why ancient civilizations planted based on the moon. 

The second theory is also quite simple. Water is rarely pure. Most of the water that we use to water our plants or hydrate our crops have many minerals that cannot be absorbed. In some cases, exposing this water to a strong magnetic force can change these minerals into ones that the plant can absorb, so when this water is used to water the plant, it provides more useful minerals and leaves less waste.

An example of this would be purifying saltwater. As anyone who has ever watered a plant should know, you have to use fresh water to water plants. Saltwater has many poisonous minerals, which can potentially kill the plant, and the salt will accumulate on the soil surface. This can retard the plants’ ability to absorb nutrients. Magnets can solve this problem. Certain magnetic fields can weaken the bond within hydrated ions, freeing the salt ions from the hydrogen atoms. Further treatments of the water can either separate the salt and other impurities from the water or make them absorbable to the plant.

To summarize, in this situation, the magnetism is not really affecting the plant’s growth, but rather purifying the water that it needs to grow.

Speeding up the auxin growth is much more complicated.

Auxins are growth hormones that are inside of plant cells. It can cause the plant cell to grow elongated. The more auxins that are inside of a plant cell, the longer it grows.

Auxins’ growth rates are affected by a variety of factors, and directly impacts the growth of the plant, so it essentially acts as the information processor for the plant. After it receives and processes information, it acts to this information. An easy way to understand this process would be to compare these auxins to electrons. They move towards certain things, and away from others, causing “positive and negative charges”

An example of this process would be phototropism. This is when the auxins react to light by pointing towards it. This is a perfectly balanced portion of the plant stem. There are two auxins inside of each cell, so they are all equal in length, meaning that the plant grows straight up. When light hits the cells, however, the auxins will “move” away from the light. This results in one side, the one with more auxins, being “negative” and the side with fewer auxins being “positive”. The negative side has more auxins, and as I previously mentioned, more auxins mean more elongated cells. This causes the negative side to being much longer than the positive side, so the entire stem bends towards the positive side.

Now, how does all this relate to our magnetism theory? Well, auxins not only react to light, but they also react to gravity.

Auxins are affected by gravity by going lower, meaning that if the stem isn’t straight, there will be more auxins on the lower part of the stem than there are on the higher part. This means that auxins will always make the plant grow away from the ground. Taking an extreme example, if the stem is horizontal, all the auxins will gather at the bottom, making it take a 90-degree turn and point straight up. Now we can finally relate all this to magnetism. A powerful enough magnetic fields can simulate gravity. A powerful enough magnetic field can simulate gravity, and forces all the auxins to act to nothing but itself, meaning that the plants will ignore “distractions” and grow straight up. This process is known as negative geotropism.

To summarize, this process uses magnetic fields to fool the auxins in a plant to ignore all other factors and grow straight up, speeding up its growth process.

In conclusion, does magnetism affect plant growth? Both yes and no. Placing a fridge-door magnet beside a flower won’t help it grow faster, but using super-charged magnets on entire fields of crops can dramatically increase their growth speed. Magnetism can also be used in a variety of other ways to affect plant growth, including changing a seed’s membrane structure to allow it to absorb more water and minerals, purifying water to make it more useful to plants, and using magnetic fields to create a super-strong gravitational force that tricks plants into only growing straight.

“Pulling Salt Out of Seawater with Magnets.” Khalifa University, 9 Sept. 2019, www.ku.ac.ae/pulling-salt-out-of-seawater-with-magnets/.

“Magnets Help Plants Grow.” Archive – U.S. Agency for International Development, 2012-2017.usaid.gov/news-information/frontlines/feed-future/magnets-help-plants-grow.

“SVS: Ocean Tides and Magnetic Fields.” NASA, NASA, svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4541.

Massimo E. Maffei. “Magnetic Field Effects on Plant Growth, Development, and Evolution.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 18 Aug. 2014, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2014.00445/full.

“Does Planting by the Moon Work?” Garden Myths, 18 Feb. 2018, www.gardenmyths.com/planting-moon-calendars/.

“Cryptochrome and Magnetic Sensing.” Theoretical Biophysics Group, www.ks.uiuc.edu/Research/cryptochrome/.

StackPath, www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/info/magnetism-and-plant-growth.htm.

In-Depth Night!

Welcome to my In-Depth Presentation!

Good evening, I am David Li from the TALONS class, and thank you for joining me here tonight! For my In-Depth project, I chose to do traditional ink-wash painting.

I created a Prezi (<–) presentation as a brief overview for my in-depth year.

As I mentioned in the presentation, I ran out of supplies and was unable to meet with my mentor at all after spring break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so I had to come up with some alternative solutions. In the end, I settled on changing my topic to Chinese calligraphy.

Thanks for joining me here tonight, and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below.