“Curiosity can be as obsessive as hunger or lechery, swamping the senses.” This quote is straight from Kim Todd’s “Curiosity” and I completely identify with it. I feel this the most when I find a question on a test that I don’t know the answer to. I will remember that question and research exactly what the answer was. Curiosity is the cause of procrastination. The cause of binge watching is curiosity: what happens in the next episode. This feeling can lead us to waste hours upon hours of free time watching a show we don’t even like. At least I’ve done that before. I feel as though the best way to examine a person’s curiosity is by looking at their youtube preferences. My youtube queue always includes channels such as Veritasium and Vsauce. These channels explain obscure science and math topics in a form that anyone can understand. I have watched every single one of the videos on their channels and it’s because I just have to know more about science and about what they explain. Todd’s article goes on to qualify whether or not curiosity is a “vice or virtue.” Often curiosity is seen as the energy that drives scientific inquiry. The article unveils that Darwin, a god of science frowned on curiosity as the purpose of preforming scientific experiments. I agree with this view and with the broader view that curiosity is a vice. All in all, it leads to me wasting my time. Sure I enjoy myself, but I feel that it conflicts with my studies and my goals.
Man does some pretty incredible things in the name of science. Often these incredible things are terrible. Animal testing in particular is one example that is very controversial. We have animal testing to thank for countless advancements in science. In the 1940s and 1950s, Jonas Salk developed his polio vaccine by using monkeys to grow the virus and then killing the virus. It is estimated that the yearly amount of animals used in testing ranges from the tens of millions to the hundreds of millions. This is a large number. A group of a hundred million humans would be the fourteenth largest country by population. Primate experimentation is especial cruel. A professor at Columbia wanted to test the nurture vs nature hypothesis, so he took a chimpanzee and had the chimp raised with a family that began to teach him how to sign. It is amazing that chimpanzees can communicate with humans using sign language. The chimpanzee, Nim, learned more than 100 words. When and what words Nim learned were logged in a book and that is how the data for the scientific trial was kept. After about 3 years, the head professor involved in the study saw no point in continuing the study. Nim’s life deteriorated thereafter. He went from being in a house, wearing clothes every day, eating human food, and sleeping in a bed, to living with a bunch of chimps in the middle of Oklahoma. The first time Nim saw another chimp in his life, he was extremely afraid. It was extremely sad for Nim when the professor left him. Nim did not eat for weeks. It reminds me of holocaust stories, how people who could use language were dehumanized so drastically and so suddenly. This study did almost nothing to progress science; the results were inconclusive. All this study did was ruin Nim’s life. Science can progress the lives of many, but can also ruin lives and be detrimental.
Its 11:19pm Thursday night and I am just starting this blog post that is due in less than twelve hours. Why starting this so late? Well I got back from fall break Tuesday afternoon and spent all of the past 2 days studying for my biology exam today because I completely forgot all of genetics over fall break. After finishing my exam, I headed back to the connector and Mike and I started watching the Martian. Jesus I love that movie. There is so much astronomy in that movie, it makes me want to switch majors to an Aerospace Engineering major. From the start of the movie, it integrates a deep use of scientific measures like Newtons for force and Celsius for temperature (it did also display atmospheric pressure, but that’s not an SI unit so NASA wouldn’t use it). There is an immense attention to detail in the entire film. The crates that the main character Mark Watney interacts with are labeled with warning labels that go on to list the hazards. The trial and error approach that Watney uses that is so pivotal to the scientific method in testing hypotheses. The movie also explains science so that it is much more accessible to a broad audience which is good for the credibility and for the brand of science itself. When Donald Glover’s character explains his theory to the NASA executives, he pretends that a stapler is the Hermes spaceship and that two of the executives are the planets Earth and Mars. This scene is so beautiful because it not only develops Donald Glover’s character as seeming more sporadic and sleep deprived, but makes his theory painstakingly clear so that even a small child could understand it. A true Jet Propulsion Lab physicist would never have to explain changes of trajectory to the executives of NASA; the executives of NASA know their science. The film not only casts Donald Glover, but has a world class cast that the audience is familiar with if they have seen any other movie in the past twenty years. Jeff Daniels, Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, Jessica Chastain from Interstellar, Chiwetel Ejiofor from 12 Years a Slave, and Kate Mara from House of Cards are all household names that through working on this movie, are progressing the image of science in the public’s eye. Science is no longer seen as a far off thing for the public, but as something that these famous actors support and as something they understand a little more. This movie is truly amazing.
Every human on this planet has likes and dislikes. I like football and watching cool robot videos such as the Boston Dynamics videos; you may like ping pong and watching cooking videos for all I know. We know what we like. Our likes are unique and help us develop our personalities. Of course the opposite of likes is dislikes. In all honesty, I hate running. I don’t watch the running during the Olympics, I always groaned when we had to run in soccer practice, and whenever a friend tells me they went running, I say, “poor you.” In our English class, for Friday, we were assigned to read the article “Running is Always Blind” by Sam Shramski. Running is in the title of the piece, this was immediately a red flag. How was I going to chug through 500 or so words of some guy talking about his friend running? I began to slowly poke my toe into the waters of the text. I began to realize that the text wasn’t about any normal kind of running, it was more about what the brain was doing while a person is running. Being a biomedical engineering major and seeing the word “neuromechanics” in an article was music to my ears. The article even had a video of a biped Boston Dynamics robot which I had coincidentally watched the day before looking at the article. I genuinely enjoyed the article and I don’t think I got lucky that it contained some topics that interested me. The author writes well and engages the audience with his informal tone. It’s interesting to hear a first person account of being a science test subject: “For instance, the good doctor asked me to walk on a treadmill in which the belt was split in two lengthwise to drive each leg independently. He moved the two belts at different speeds to try to throw me off balance, and it kind of worked. I stumbled clumsily.” No one who can read can find that uninteresting. Delving into topics that you’re unfamiliar with is a great way to broaden your horizons and surprise yourself. You may even end up liking something you never thought you could.
The “Why Mouse Genetics?” article on the Jackson Laboratory Website has a very funny sentence in it. “As different as they appear, humans and mice are surprisingly similar. We share between 95 and 98 percent of our genomes…” I laughed in my head when I read this. It means there are more mouse-like people than others and that scientifically it varies by 3%. Mouse People: it’s funny.
Browsing the Jackson Laboratory website, I found a lot of interesting things. For instance, anyone can go and buy thousands of mice. Especially at Georgia Tech because it is a research institution. I am just imagining someone ordering thousands of mice to say the CULC as a joke.
In all seriousness, the article is an informative ad in disguise. It has a very catchy title that hooks readers into devouring the text. Who doesn’t want to know about mice and why their always used in test labs? Everyone has heard of the lab rat and would love to know more. I understand some people can find mice or rats disgusting, but in this case they are helping humanity progress in the medical field. The article manages to very lightly touch on the subject of death indirectly by saying, “This allows scientists to conduct experiments that would be ethically impossible in people.” Well of course it would be ethically impossible to strip newborns of some genes and see if they survive, but these are animals. I remember that this French philosopher (Rene Descartes) in the 18th century used to believe that animals lacked consciousness, and could not feel true pain. He would torture animals and believe their demonstrations of pain to be purely mechanical. Even in the US until 1989, veterinarians were told to ignore animal pain altogether. I guess we have a deep history of lowering animals and their biological process to a different level from ours.
This week I will explore the technique and purpose of the article “Into the Maelstrom” by Eli Kintisch, which is meant to inform on the process of science and what it’s like to have a controversial hypothesis. Note that we also read 2 comics by Cunningham that I will be comparing some aspects of how these two authors convey their messages and to what effect: essentially comparing the purposes. At first glance, the title, “Into the Maelstrom” truly catches the eye, and alludes to Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “A Descent into the Maelstrom”. To understand why the Poe story is relevant to the article, one needn’t truly delve into the article. After one read it is clear that the Kintisch article is about a scientist and her unproved hypothesis being extremely controversial and with it being extremely controversial, people may not believe it. In Poe’s story, an old man is telling the narrator a story of a shipwreck in a storm with no hope that the narrator will believe it. The naming of the article, “Into the Maelstrom,” implies that the main scientist in the article, Jennifer Francis, is quite like the old man. When she tells of her observations, many lash out and interrupt. It seems as though opinions on her hypothesis are very polarized and her hypothesis is up against extreme scrutiny. The two Cunningham comics on the other hand had a very different approach and seemingly a very different purpose. While the Kintisch article is an article, the comics are comics which are much easier to digest and process quickly. The audience of the comics seems to be more widespread. The article was published in science, a massive science magazine that publishes all kinds of science papers, findings, and news. Adding to the different audiences, Kintisch is trying to inform on what it’s like to have a controversial theory go mainstream. Cunningham tries to open up a dialogue on controversial theories relevant to the public like fracking and global warming. Overall both are good reads. Cunningham’s book of comics are available on amazon and I will post a link to the Kintisch article below. Comment with thoughts below. Thank you 🙂