Age of the Chicken

The age of man.  How will we be remembered?  Sometime in the future, long after we are gone, researchers at the University of Leicester predict our rotisserie chicken bones will be all that is left behind to mark our existence on the geological timescale.  How exactly did they calculate this to be our defining moment?  The current epoch, the Anthropocene, began in the 1950s, which the researchers argue is when man started to have a lasting impact on the planet. They then investigated what they felt would be the biggest indicator of our time on the planet through the lens of largest change (evolution) and most remains (fossils).

Previous fossil records began in the Cambrian period (roughly 550 million years ago) when organisms developed hard shells, and ever since then each new epoch and era was marked by a key species indicating a change had occurred (try to visualize the model with the trilobites, dinosaurs, and ice age mammals from your early earth science classes). Currently there are 21 billion chickens in existence worldwide, with roughly 3 times that being consumed annually. With this scale it’s easy to see why these researchers are ready to call this the Age of the Chicken – nothing else exists to this quantity. Add in the traditional landfill model, and the normally brittle bones of the chicken are not subject to decay, preserving them nicely for future generations.

Another reason the scientists argue that chickens may be a good marker for our generation is due to the changes we have done to the species through domestication.  There was a large push starting in the 1940’s for meatier birds which lead to massive breeding efforts. In addition, there is a current push for designer birds (chickens are becoming increasingly popular pets) which have led to many different cross-breeds. This has created a huge change in the bone structure, genetics, and skeleton of the modern-day chicken.

Knapton, S. (2018, December 12). Age of the chicken: why the Anthropocene will be geologically egg-                  ceptional. The Telegraph. Retrieved from:

The Curious Case of Percival Wright

It was 10 AM when Dr. Browning watched the cadaver disappear into a metal tube.

Ten hours later, she was having dinner with him.

“So, what it like?” she asked, leaning forward eagerly.

“Which part?” the former-cadaver in question, Percival Wright, teased. “The dying part, the being dead part, or the coming back to life part?”

“All of it!” Dr. Browning grinned. “Your experience is remarkable.”

“You know, all the details are already in the report Dr. Metrich wrote. Asked me every question under the sun. And wrote down every answer.” Percival shrugged tiredly. Already, fatigue was wearing him down.

“I understand, but I would also like to collect information firsthand.” She smiled. “Excited to get back home?”

Percival nodded eagerly. “My girlfriend. She’ll be so excited to see me. Does she know I’m not dead?”

“She was the one who volunteered you, so she’s most likely been informed.” Dr. Browning looked down at her plate.

Percival’s face lit up. He reached into his pocket, presumably to get his phone, but looked confused when he came up empty-handed.

“Your phone was destroyed in the accident,” she explained.

Percival nodded slowly. “Dr. Metrich said my brother was driving?”

Dr. Browning held back a sigh; of course, Metrich would use the same cause of death each time. Constraints mattered, even if they were dull.

“You know, it’s quite strange. I … I don’t remember much of anything, but whenever someone says something, it feels like it clicks and makes sense.” He looked stricken for a moment. “I can’t remember my girlfriend’s name.”

“Maria,” she supplied.

“That sounds right, but … would it really matter what you told me?” Percival’s fingers danced on the table, making a weak attempt to mask his heavy breathing.

Dr. Browning cocked her head to the side, observing the way Percival’s eyelids seemed to be drooping, despite the fury that swept through the rest of him. “Is everything alright, Mr. Wright?”

“Nothing should make sense, but it does!” He stood up suddenly. “You – “

The table rattled as he fell against it.

Dr. Browning sighed as she watched the man collapse to the floor.

Fourteen hours later, Dr. Browning watched Percival disappear into the metal tube.

Weekly Review – January 7-11

by Claire McGuinness

We are now two weeks into the new year after our winter break, and the Academies is moving full steam ahead. On Monday and Tuesday, Telos Corporation CEO John Wood gave presentations on the internships that will be offered through Telos over the summer. The Virginia National Guard spoke on Monday with students interested in learning more about what being a member of the guard entails. Wednesday saw the visit from the United States Army for all those interested in pursuing a career in this branch of the military. Tours were given every day this week to students who are considering applying to the Academies from Dominion, Riverside, Tuscarora, Potomac Falls, and Woodgrove High Schools.

RoboLoCo Meets to Start Preparing for the FIRST Robotics Competition

The kick-off meeting for the RoboLoCo robotics team was held this past Saturday at the Academies. The team is made up primarily of students from the Academies but also from local high schools and even a few are home schooled students. The team of about 50 students will compete soon in the FIRST Robotics Competition, known informally as “the Ultimate Sport for the Mind.” FIRST is an acronym meaning “For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology.”

The competition rules only allow for a limited number of resources to be used by each team to build a robot, and this must be accomplished during the “Build Season,” an intense six-week period. The teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors.

At the first meeting on Saturday, the RoboLoCo team learned via video release this season’s Challenge. This year’s theme is “Deep Space.” Each robot will be challenged with picking up 13” bouncy balls and then delivering them to and loading them into rockets. The robot will also need to install a panel to keep the bouncy balls in the rocket. Finally, the robot must climb onto one of three levels of platforms for extra points. The RoboLoCo team is already at work now with designing their robot and figuring out how it will accomplish all that it needs to in order to beat out the competition.

Mr. Mike Tomlinson and Mr. Rick Sarr are on board to guide the RoboLoCo team hopefully to the world championship tournament. First, though, the team must compete and triumph within the Chesapeake Division, which fields teams from Maryland, Virginia and DC, about 100 -200 teams in all.

One of the cool things about the FIRST Robotics Competition is that it welcomes all skill levels, technical or non-technical. Teams will need all kinds of skill to succeed in this competition, including programming, electronics, metalworking, graphic design, web creation, public speaking, videography, and many more.

The Last Days of Night, a review by Cher Jiang

Graham Moore’s novel The Last Days of Night, set primarily in New York City of the late 1880s, revolves around a fascinating cast of characters who are all in some form tied to the War of Currents, which will decide who will have the legal rights to sell the spectacular technology humans have recently learned to harness -– electric light. Fame and wealth are at stake for the companies involved, but so is the progression of science and technology for the benefit of humanity. As Moore makes clear, the better-established electrical company Thomas Edison has built up that uses DC may not have the technology most ready for use by consumers when compared to his challenger in the courts, George Westinghouse.

On Team Westinghouse, which boasts the technology to transmit electricity of the AC variety that still powers households today, is the entrepreneur and engineer himself, George Westinghouse. Nikola Tesla, the disgruntled inventor who previously worked with Edison, is also recruited to this side, and a mood of optimism blossoms as this figure, whose name evokes for readers awe-inspiring innovation, is introduced. Indeed, his genius and dedicated efforts in the laboratory offset his eccentric tendencies and prove to be great weapons for Westinghouse in the war. There’s also the protagonist of the book -– Paul Cravath. He’s a young, highly talented lawyer who takes on the colossal task of securing for the side of AC the right to maintain and advance revolutionary technology that aims to illuminate cities across America, a difficult endeavor on its own. As it happens, this war is against Edison, whose resources and reputation among the public are intimidating.

Throughout the book, it seems that even all these men, giants in their respective fields and generations, are not potent enough to stop Edison. To have any chance of winning a future for Westinghouse’s company, Paul Cravath thinks heavily on what angle he can approach the matter of intellectual property and how he can demonstrate that AC is superior from the perspective of safety. His strategy depends on heavy manpower, sifting through thousands of documents for light bulb design records, as well as on luck and chance encounters. Later on, Paul also enlists the help of the charming, well-connected opera singer Agnes Huntington, who remains undaunted in the face of the exhausting obstacle course of wearing down Edison in the patent battles. As she comes to play a major role in the mystery that develops amidst the execution of Paul’s plans stemming from desperation to gain an advantage over Edison, she expands the setting of the novel to exclusive parties of the intellectuals and artists of the era. Moore also focuses on the evolution of Paul’s personal desires as he falls in love with Agnes.

Before the final chapter of the book -– which adeptly serves as reflection on the special flowering of genius and industry in the late 1800s -– there is sabotage and romance as well as expertly researched historical fiction and accurate descriptions of the innovations from the era -– something for everyone. Readers familiar with the story of electricity’s commercial beginnings can anticipate the plot resolution, but they will most likely find something fresh in the author’s imaginative narrative, telling of the struggles, ambitions, and thrills embedded in the process. The writing maintains the suspense; while the different strengths of the characters are quickly apparent, it is difficult to discern which combination of wit, deceit, and charisma will win out in the end. The writing also does much to convey the whimsical and wondrous atmosphere of this time of such radical change, when electrical appliances had the ability to transform workplaces and homes, holding off the incursion of nighttime, but also the ability to kill if mishandled.

The Last Days of Night offers amazing insight into the brilliant characters and all the things that make them tick. What is inviting about the book is that, while it is heavily guided by the author’s secondary research into this exciting time in history, there is also plenty of interpretation of the facts in the form of interesting, imagined interactions between characters through which the author investigates their inner motivations and offers suggestions about how their respective successes and failures came to be. The main characters like Edison and Tesla have invented dialogues and actions that seem so real you get the feeling that you have dropped into one of their offices and have the pleasure of watching them enthralled in their work. By placing them in action in their daily lives, exerting efforts into projects they can feel are on the brink of reaching something revolutionary, Graham Moore also illustrates the different categories of influential people in every time of great innovation. There are those like Tesla who are completely driven by a love for such innovation, who devote all for the advancement of knowledge. Individuals like Edison are crucial to assembling the talents into factories for invention and to kindling the public’s interest in a scientific phenomenon that otherwise might seem like interesting but not immediately practical discoveries.

Reading the novel gives you a good understanding of why America is powered the way it is today, and it can leave you drawing connections between our world and that of Edison and Westinghouse. The book is interspersed with quotes from innovators of our own time, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, making the common threads about business and invention more visible. The message about focusing on the quality of technology and ultimately, of the product, in the midst of legal battles to best serve the consumer is still relevant. Even the smaller connections between past and present, such as Tesla Motors taking its name from the inspirational visionary highlighted in the book, demonstrate that, in parallel times of technological advancement undertaken by massive corporations, the legacy of the former era extends into our own to guide our aspirations.


Copyrighted Works Will Enter the Public Domain for the First Time in More Than 20 Years

When the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, a lot more happened than simply fireworks and staying up late. Along with the dropping of balloons came the release of all copyrighted works first published in the United States in 1923. The public domain has been frozen in time these last 20 years, and suddenly we’ve had an epic thaw.  This release on what is informally known as “Public Domain Day” is set to have a huge impact on our culture and creativity.

So, why has there been a bizarre 20 years since the copyright expired on works published in 1922 and the expiration of works published in 1923?

You can blame Mickey Mouse. At the urging of Disney and others, Congress passed in 1998 the Sony Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which added 20 years to the standard copyright term of 75 years. Thus, this recent release of copyrighted work from 1923 is the first release in 20 years, and the first of its kind in the digital age since the last release in 1998, a time which predates Google.

What this means is that the Internet Archive, Google Books and HathiTrust will now make tens of thousands of books digitally available from 1923, with more to follow. They and others will also add new content to newspapers, magazines, movies and other materials. Going forward now, every January 1st will reveal long-overlooked works from the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, World War II and beyond. The newly released works will potentially change our understanding of these years.

Sample works from 1923 that have now been released?

  • “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost
  • “The Vanishing American” in Ladies Home Journal by Zane Grey (one of the first literary critiques of the treatment of Native Americans)
  • The World Crisis by Winston Churchill
  • A Handbook of Cookery for a Small House by Jessie Conrad (a peek into the life of author Joseph Conrad via his wife’s recipe collection)
  • The Chip Woman’s Fortune by Willis Richardson (the first drama by an African-American author produced on Broadway



Fleishman, G. (2019, January). For the first time in more than 20 years, copyrighted works will enter the public domain. Retrieved from

Holmes, H. (2018, December 31). 2019 will gift us with a huge release of copyrighted works entering the public domain. Retrieved from