Chemical Containments in Our Water: The Silent Killer

Kayla Bertholf

S&E Editor


People who live in Northeast Ohio and along the coast of Lake Erie have grown up hearing the constant rhetoric about how the local bodies of water are polluted, gross, and unsafe to swim in. This region is home to what was considered one of the most polluted streams in America for a number of years. Adding to this rhetoric are the familiar stories of the Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969, due to the dumping of sewage and industrial chemicals into Lake Erie, which contributed to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many individuals have been swimming in Lake Erie or similar bodies of water their whole life. Most of the drinking water around my hometown comes from the lake. There is no doubt that countless bodies of water across the country and in Northeast Ohio are polluted, yet this does not stop Lake Erie from having over 11 million visitors each year. Are these people putting themselves at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals? You might be wondering what makes this contaminated water so dangerous and asking yourself, “am I putting myself at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals?” Looking at what chemicals may be present in our water, where they are located and how long they can persist, professors and postdoctoral researchers at the College are looking into rainwater contaminants and how this may impact our understanding of water contaminants across the nation. 

This work, being conducted in the Faust Lab group in association with Dr. Rebekah Gray, is asking important questions about what chemicals are found in rainwater and how they are able to persist. Dr. Faust, an atmospheric chemist by training, states that she thought “precipitation research would be a great area where Wooster students could contribute to our understanding of chemical transport in the environment.” Dr. Faust uses high-resolution mass spectrometry, instead of typical measurements, at the atmospheric level using aircraft and high-tech equipment to model the origin and movement of the air on days with precipitation events to help track the sources of environmental contaminants in water. Through understanding the source, we may be able to better understand the persistence and ability of certain chemicals to travel, which may be harmful to us and the environment. 

Although she started her work looking at metolachlor, an herbicide often used on grasses, Dr. Faust’s work now focuses on identifying and quantifying per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (P.F.A.S.) and identifying pesticides in rainwater. P.F.A.S. are used to make coatings for consumer products that resist oils, such as fast food containers/wrappers, nonstick cookware and waterproof clothing. If you look out of your car window on the highway, it is likely that you will see a product containing P.F.A.S. on the side of the road. 

It is common knowledge that both pesticides and fast food containers are found littered around the environment. According to Dr. Faust, P.F.A.S. are known as “forever chemicals” because they are long lived and persist in the environment. Why do we care about P.F.A.S.? They have dangerous health effects in humans and they are found everywhere. In her Independent Study, now graduated student Kyndalanne Pike ’20, organized volunteers to collect rainwater at six sites in the Ohio-Indiana region and one in Wyoming. She found P.F.A.S. at all sites, with the greatest concentrations being in our very own Wooster, Ohio, with amounts exceeding the EPA’s health advisory of parts per trillion. 

Knowing that there are potentially harmful chemicals in our rainwater, Dr. Rebekah Gray, postdoctoral researcher in the Faust group at Wooster, asks how long these chemicals can actually persist in our atmosphere. Dr. Gray has been analyzing precipitation samples dating back to 2018 and confirmed the presence of almost 20 pesticides. The more common of these include atrazine—which is largely used on corn fields and golf courses to minimize weeds—metachlore, and simazine which are both used for weed control. The more unusual and exciting finding was organophosphate pesticide, Dimefox, which is related to D.D.T. and has been discontinued by the World Health Organization in the early 2000s. If you have heard of D.D.T. and the D.D.T. – inspired Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, you know that D.D.T.-like chemicals have the potential to cause great harm to the environment, and can also have cancer-causing effects in humans. Although this finding is nerve-wracking, it is a reminder of the importance of studying how long these chemicals can persist in the environment, especially if we are still finding them in water today. 

Why might Ohio have such high quantities of these chemicals? It could be due to manufacturing and agriculture. Many towns along bodies of water popped up due to a rise in factories and good soil conditions for farming. While this is beneficial to the economy of the surrounding area, it has shaped the landscape in more ways than just new buildings. Chemicals released from factories before they were regulated can persist for decades. Dr. Gray states that, “understanding the role of different compounds (whether beneficial, harmful or sometimes both) was really interesting and felt like a fulfilling pursuit.” It is important to study and understand the consequences of pharmaceutical and industrial compounds on our water systems, especially with it being so impactful in the geographical area of Wooster and Northeast Ohio in general. Research in this area is still being done and will continue to increase our knowledge on what is in the water we drink, swim in, and collect in rain gauges.  To learn more about the creation of the EPA, scan this QR code! 

It’s here in link form. -Ed. 


The Intergalactic Battle of Colliding Black Holes

Nazifa Younus

Contributing Writer


Two billion years from now our galaxy is in for a shock. With every hour that passes, the Milky Way galaxy gets half a million kilometers closer to another sizable spiral galaxy called Andromeda, and it is only a matter of time before we collide. Yet, the picture is far from complete. Lying at the center of our galaxy is a giant black hole more than three million times as massive as the Sun. The black hole at the heart of Andromeda is believed to be ten times that size. 

Most, if not all, galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their centers. Everyone thought that these hungry behemoths sat at the heart of their parent galaxies, vacuuming up gas clouds and ripped-apart stars. Similar to the Milky Way, Andromeda is shaped like a giant spiral. When scientists first saw Andromeda, they expected to see a supermassive black hole surrounded by relatively symmetrical clusters in its center. Instead, they found a vast, elongated mass. The orbits of these stars had a strange oval shape. Scientists call this pattern an “eccentric nuclear disc.” A new study led by University of Colorado Boulder has solved a decades-old mystery surrounding a strangely-shaped cluster of stars at the heart of the Andromeda Galaxy. What is the reason behind this deformation?

In the 1970s, scientists launched balloons high into Earth’s atmosphere in order to take a closer look at the ultraviolet light of Andromeda. The Hubble Space Telescope followed up on those initial observations in the 1990s and delivered a surprising finding: the area rich in stars near that spiral’s center doesn’t look as scientists had predicted; the orbits of these stars take on an odd, ovalish shape. Tatsuya Akiba, a lead author of the study and a graduate student in astrophysics, created computer simulations to track what happens when two supermassive black holes go crashing together. This is an area of interest because our own Milky Way black hole and Andromeda’s black hole will probably collide when the galaxies themselves collide.

Their calculations suggest that the force generated by such a merger could bend and pull the orbits of stars near a galactic center; based on team calculations, the forces generated by such unions can turn or draw the star’s trajectory. When two galaxies collide, the black holes at their cores are thought to go into orbit around each other. Gravity pulls them ever closer, so the black holes spiral together until they merge, releasing gravitational waves all the while. The final moments before two black holes collide, when gravity is strongest, have remained obscure.

By far, the most exciting consequence of a black hole merger, though, is the “kick” the merged object can receive. The size of the kick depends crucially on the spin because unequal spins make the merger asymmetric, and that produces asymmetric gravitational waves. These act like rocket exhaust, pushing the black hole in the opposite direction; in the consolidation of galaxies with relatively small black holes, the kick may be only a few hundred kilometers per second, so the merged object may be booted only as far as the outer regions of its parent galaxy before falling back to the center. 

Since the merged object may very well take its super-hot disc of swirling matter and  with it. Thus, it will appear as a very bright, compact object called a quasar, displaced from the center of the galaxy. Mergers may play an essential role in shaping these masses of stars. In the process of collision, they release vast pulses of gravitational waves or literal ripples in the fabric of space and time. Those gravitational waves will carry momentum away from the remaining black hole, and you get a recoil similar to the recoiling of a gun after shooting. Scientists wanted to know what such a recoil could do for a star within a parsec, or about 19 trillion miles of the galactic center. 

Visible to the naked eye from Earth, Andromeda stretches tens of thousands of parsecs from end to end. Using computer models, scientists built models of fake galactic centers containing hundreds of stars. They then kicked the central black hole to simulate the recoil from gravitational waves. Akiba and his team’s findings help to reveal some of the forces that may be driving the diversity of the estimated two trillion galaxies in the universe today. The galactic center creates that distinct elongated pattern of the galaxy as a whole. This explained gravitational waves and their overall effect. 

What is produced by this kind of catastrophic collision does not directly affect the galaxy’s stars. Ann-Marie Madigan, a fellow of JILA, a joint research institute with UC Boulder, said, “the gravitational waves produced by this kind of disastrous collision won’t affect the stars in a galaxy directly. But the recoil will throw the remaining supermassive black hole back through space––at speeds that can reach millions of miles per hour. At that speed, black holes can escape the galaxy they are in. When black holes don’t escape the galaxy they are in, the team discovers they might pull on the orbits of the stars right around them, causing those orbits to stretch out. Madigan and Akiba said they would like to expand the simulation so that computer results can be compared directly with the core of the actual galaxy. They also expressed that their findings might help scientists understand anomalous events around other objects in the universe, such as planets orbiting a neutron star.

“The French Dispatch” is Wes Anderson at His Most Extreme

Collin Tobin

Chief Copy Editor


“The French Dispatch” is the latest project from Wes Anderson and another major release delayed by the pandemic. The film depicts three major stories in the final edition of an internationally distributed newspaper publication in Ennui-sur-Blasé, France, after the death of its editor. Among the ensemble cast are veterans of the director’s filmography like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton as well as first-time collaborators Benicio Del Toro, Timothée Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright and several others.

If you’re familiar with Wes Anderson and his body of work at all, you’ll know that he has probably the most distinct visual style of any filmmaker out there. His nearly symmetrical framing of every scene, pastel color palette, ensemble casts, eccentric characters, and offbeat dialogue make his work instantly recognizable; “The French Dispatch” is certainly no different. This trademark style is turned up to eleven and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down at any point during the hour-and-fifty-minute runtime. There’s just so much going on in every frame that I’m sure I missed a lot the first time. The production design team has a way of making every set feel lived-in and giving them so much personality that they feel like their own characters. The aforementioned members of the ensemble are given their comedic moments through cleverly constructed interactions with their surroundings and the ever-present dry humor of Anderson’s scripts.

For the eighth time, Anderson paired with cinematographer Robert Yeoman to create one of their best-looking collaborations yet. Switching between soft pastel pinks, yellows and blues in the present day and black and white for past events, the pair have made their most visually interesting work to date. For the most part, the film is shot in the 4:3 aspect ratio, which is more box-shaped, making nearly every shot look like a postcard you want to have framed on your wall. Another longtime collaborator, composer Alexandre Desplat, composed another delightful score to match the overall pleasant atmosphere.

This film sets itself apart from Anderson’s other films through its anthology structure, which fits with its overarching ode to journalism. Anderson himself described this as his “love letter to journalists.” The sometimes overly-detailed accounts that can be found in reporting perfectly lend itself to Anderson’s intricate way of telling stories — with an overwhelming amount of precision. Without the need to interconnect these individual stories, he’s able to take off running in whatever bizarre direction he wants and that’s what I think makes this movie so special. The story of this fictitious publication doesn’t quite reach the heights and prestige of The Wooster Voice, but it’s still a pretty great movie about journalism.

I’ve seen this described as not the best Wes Anderson movie, but the most Wes Anderson movie, and I couldn’t agree more. Fans will no doubt be satisfied with “The French Dispatch,” as it’s been garnering Oscar buzz since it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2021. The more I think about it, the more I think that this is my favorite movie of 2021 so far and among “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” as one of the director’s best. I always have a great time watching his movies, but this one felt different than the others, and I hope I get to see it again soon.

A Valentine from Snail Mail: An Album Review

Andy Mockbee

Contributing Writer


In the music video for lead single and title track, “Valentine,” Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan is seen adorning a Victorian-era gown soaked in blood, slouching at a dining table as she gorges on cake by the fistful. “Time tends to pass and make a joke of things,” she reasons on “Forever (Sailing).” The 22-year-old singer has the maturity and wisdom to recognize when it’s appropriate to indulge your aching heart. And on “Valentine”—her sublime, sophomore album—Jordan has every right to indulge. By the end of its 32-minute runtime, crying into cake feels like a necessary response. Expanding the stylistic palette from her indie-rock, 2018 debut, Lindsey Jordan triumphs over her pain by embracing it with grace and maturity.

The most notable development since “Lush” is Jordan’s expansion beyond the jangly indie-rock that she had become known for. Many tracks, like the earworm “Ben Franklin,” fashion her melodies into glittering and funk-driven pop. Album centerpiece, “Forever (Sailing),” sees Snail Mail presented in mournful dream-pop. “Doesn’t obsession just become me?” Even equipped with a new bag of tricks, Jordan’s knack for confessional one-liners is sharp as ever. Her writing is especially potent when delivered over the intimate, acoustic ballads “Headlock,” “Light Blue” and “c. et al.” Her emotive vocals never cease to tighten chests.

Even when Snail Mail returns to the stylings present on “Lush”, such as on the immaculate “Glory,” Jordan shows her growth since that era. “You own me,” she growls over a rush of indie-rock instrumentals. Violin and sparse piano lurch beneath the mix, serving to complicate the song’s ever-present rage. It’s masterful. The only crime here is that it’s the shortest track on the album.

But there’s more than just stylistic changes to Snail Mail’s writing since her debut. “Valentine” sees Jordan stretching her pen into more abstract territories. “Madonna” considers the perils of idolizing the person you love from an evocatively metaphorical lens. “I consecrate my life to kneeling at your altar / My second sin of seven being wanting more.” Only the slightest hint of irony can be detected in her voice as she croons, “Could that have been the smell of roses, backseat lover?” Snail Mail’s trademark directness becomes the song’s Trojan Horse: “I don’t know why but / We’re not really talking now.”

The penultimate track, “Automate,” is also the album’s greatest. Jordan’s tried-and-true indie-rock stylings are adorned with walls of distortion, rich strings, haunting piano and wailing percussion. The Brooklyn singer delivers one of her most complex vocal performances—beautifully lilting and sour—contemplating the failings of passion-fueled love. The scene begins as a bittersweet memory: slow-dancing in her bedroom after a party dissipates. But, much like the party, Jordan realizes that their love is unsustainable. “I guess I couldn’t keep her fire out,” she softly remarks before snarling “I’m like your dog!” Snail Mail perfectly encapsulates the complex emotions of the ending to something never built to last. “Childishly, I’m lonely when it’s time to clear out the party.”

Like any great tragedy, Lindsey Jordan saves the most heart-breaking moment for the end. Singing over a mourning, orchestral swell, closing track “Mia” finds Jordan expressing her grief in its most potent colors. “Mia, don’t cry / I love you forever / But I gotta grow up now.” It’s gutting.

Jordan will pick herself back up—she always does. But on “Valentine,” she’s giving herself the opportunity to feel every ounce of today’s pain. As the album fades out, Jordan delivers her current desires in their most unguarded state: “I wish that I / Could lay down next to you.” Our hearts ache with hers.

Fall Fire Fit Fuel

Brimmer Morrison

Contributing Writer


As the Ohio fall weather gets colder, the athletes go to their freezing night practices and everyone studies until they have heart palpitations. It is certainly hard to put together an outfit for the day or think about how you want to present yourself. The nights have officially transitioned to freezing temperatures, the days are crisp with lip-cracking breezes and when it rains, the brown sludge runs off of the Lowry renovation construction site. I am not going to sugarcoat it, sometimes walking around campus during this point of the semester fills me with dread. With that said, I believe that wearing the right clothes for the occasion has the possibility of changing your mood and even making your day a bit more productive. Dress for success, right? With The College of Wooster having an excellent mix of different individual backgrounds and environments associated with those backgrounds, it is hard to know what to wear at this school when the fall weather starts to turn. Some of us love the availability to layer our sweaters and some of us have a trusty coat that we just put on to go to class.

For everyone on campus, there are a few timeless fall/winter looks and pieces that I think people of all walks of life can keep their eyes out for and maybe buy with the little money that we have from working our campus jobs. All of the items I mention can be picked up on secondhand websites like Depop, Poshmark, The Real Real, Ebay or local thrift spots for a fairly reasonable price. To start out, workwear and hiking gear are always a sustainable and functional way to upgrade your closet. You might want something athletic but stylish, cue waterproof pants. Made from a variety of materials like nylon, GORE-TEX or a synthetic cotton, waterproof pants will help you a lot when you start wanting to walk up the entirety of Beall Ave to get a frozen pizza from the C-store. In addition to waterproof pants, a rain jacket or an insulated parka will have you cozy and dry through even the nastiest of Ohio weather. Too many of you use umbrellas thinking it will allow you to wear an outfit while staying dry, however, that is simply not the right thinking. When it starts hailing on and off for seven hours, your body will still lose excessive heat when you needlessly hold a piece of metal out in front of you thinking it will keep you safe.

Other than simply preparing for bad weather and staying out of the elements, the styles that I would suggest to the College would be described as post-Soviet as well as Japanese prep. I highly suggest looking at what you already have in your closet as reference and try building off of one of these style platforms. Post-Soviet fashion generally mixes track suits and athletic wear with oversized suits, especially oversized suit jackets and whatever shoes you have. A fun addition, if you’d like to show off some muscle, is wearing tight, athletic, long sleeves with baggy, pleated pants and a chunky belt. Many students on campus already wear dark academia and style quite well, so Japanese prep fashion could give an alternative edge to your beloved dark academia look. With more loafers, duck boots, baggy jeans, overcoats in natural tones and fitted hats, Japanese prep adds a bit more of a neutral gender approach in comparison to Western prep because of its ambiguous silhouette. In the QR Code attached, you can find a mood board of outfit inspirations that I mentioned in this article. Go take a look.

PS: Balaclavas are in… I hope to see someone wearing one soon.

Girls’ Night Out (Let’s go GNO! Woohoo!)

Emma Shinker

Chief Copy Editor


On Saturday, Nov. 6, members of Women of Images (WOI) and the Black Women’s Organization (BWO) gathered for their annual Girls’ Night Out. The event began in the afternoon at the Acres of Fun skating rink, Wooster Skateland, in Wooster and finished with an after-party at the UnderGround that was open to all students on campus. “It’s a night for not just girls but everyone on campus to just have fun and come together to skate,” said Raven Reece ’22, who is the alumni liaison for WOI and the event chair for BWO.

The event was first held in 2019, and bringing it back after a year of virtual classes with virtually no opportunity for in-person events was a return to normalcy that was “much needed this year,” according to co-president of WOI Talia Anderson ’22. “We need regular events, just to get back into the groove of being on campus.” 

The theme for the previous Girls’ Night Out was the 80s, and the one occurring this past weekend followed the trend, with students showing up to the roller rink dressed in their best 90s fashion. “The outfits were really cute,” Anderson remarked. “Seeing what people come up with to fit the theme is really cool.”

The outfits may have been one of the best parts of the event, but for Anderson and Reece, even more important is the sense of community the two organizations provide for both themselves and other students on campus. Anderson described WOI as being “a guaranteed community of people I know I can feel at home with and feel safe with.” Reece echoed the sentiment, saying that “Both organizations…are spaces where I can let my hair down.” 

Both organizations strive to empower their members through support, education and community. While Women of Images focuses on being a woman of color in America and the Black Women’s Organization works to “promote self-love” for Black women, they have similar goals for creating cultural awareness on the College’s campus and cultivating the leadership skills of their members.

The collaboration between these two groups that resulted in the Girls’ Night Out  provided an opportunity for members to come together and simply have a good time. Anderson was pleased with the turnout, and noted that this was the first event they had been to in a long time that hadn’t been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic—the first, but hopefully not the last.

Want to get involved with either of these groups? Women of Images meets every other Monday at 6 p.m. in the Images House, and the Black Women’s Organization meets on Mondays at 8 p.m. in Babcock’s formal lounge. You can also follow them on Instagram @womenofimages and @woo_bwo.


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