“The Really Big One” Reflection

In the sixth grade, I remember watching a documentary about Yellowstone; more specifically, the Yellowstone super-volcano. When I was 11, the idea that such catastrophic damage could be imminent terrified me. I was able to find hope in the fact Yellowstone would only directly impact the West Coast, and I would be safe in Massachusetts. Also, since this event only happened once every 70,000 years I thought I’d have nothing to worry about, since the odds are in my favor.

Katherine Schulz’s “The Really Big One” described a different, but equally as terrifying and devastating natural disaster, the rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone. Natural disasters are inevitable and occur often, yet it seems even the best science can’t predict them all. But is this true? Schulz touches upon this idea as she described the devastating the Japanese 9.0 earthquake and tsunami of 2011. The loss Japan faced was inconceivable and left survivors thinking why wasn’t Japan more prepared? However, Japan could have been. Japanese geologist Yasutaka Ikeda suggested their would be a earthquake of this magnitude in the coming future, back in 2005, but his research and science was largely ignored. This is similar to what I felt when I watched the Yellowstone documentary. Since I did not, and still do not, want to believe such destruction could occur in the coming future, I try tried to put it out of my mind and worry about it later.

Governments are often inclined to focus on the pressing issues at any given moment, not on a volcano that may or may not explode in the next 2,000 years. And people, including me, try to avoid unnecessary worry, even when science says we should be concerned about something. The rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone is the same idea. While Schulz described the possible devastation something of this magnitude could cause, she leaves it up to our interpretations. Obviously, nobody wants this kind of destruction to occur. But then what? What should we do when the science is telling us there is this threat? Should we just ignore it, hoping it won’t affect our lifetime? Or take action and recognize the value in the science?

Advertisements

Project Nim Reflection

The film “Project Nim” tells the compelling yet heart-breaking story of how an innocent chimpanzee baby was taken from its mother and raised in a new world, the human world. It showcased the research of psychologist Herb Terrace as he attempted to determine if chimpanzees could learn human language. Human language is so unique and far more complex than traits of other animals, or so it seems. The research that went on with Nim attempted to break the barrier and possibly open up a new door in communicating with other species.

You may have heard people say things like “dogs are people too,” but what about other animals? This documentary definitely opened my eyes into the lives of chimpanzees and I grew a new sense of compassion for the species. Stephanie, who “raised” Nim through his early years, said to have “fallen in love” with him and the endearing things Nim did. However, it also showed the negative side of animal research on chimpanzees. Laura, a teacher of Nim, said that Nim “wasn’t my child, wasn’t my baby, and you can’t give human nurturing to an animal that could kill you.” While the project attempted to realize the similarities between our two species, the differences were and still are grave, and when completing scientific research, they should be accounted for.

A question I would have for the team of researchers that worked on this project was, Was it worth it? I know that scientific research of any kind involves sacrifices, but when it  negatively impacts the livelihood of a living animal, has it gone too far? To what extent is animal research justifiable? What Nim had gone through was unbearable and unfair, and also Herb suggested that the results of the language he acquired were inconclusive, so was it all for nothing? As stated in the documentary, “there is no way to carry out research on animals and for it to be humane, it starts when you put them in a cage.”

 

 

“Curious” Reflection

Authors often incorporate certain aspects into their writing to intrigue readers and spark interest in the piece, so they will go on reading. They may  use techniques like metaphors, imagery, word choice, or try to appeal to a viewer’s ethos, logos, and pathos. The piece “Curious” by Kim Todd was unlike any piece of writing, especially science writing, that I’ve ever seen before.

The opening sentence of this piece reads “flat head, lidless eyes, body dirt brown, the Surinam toad slithers through the pond like animated mud, amphibian golem.” The strong imagery and descriptions immediately grabbed my attention and I knew this wouldn’t be the typical, research-oriented article I had been accustomed to seeing or what would fit the science writing stereotype.

At first, I thought this article would solely provide information on the Surinam toad, and while I was interested from what I read on the first page, as I got deeper into the article, I realized my first impression was wrong. On the fourth page of the piece, the author describes what she asks of her own students when they write and she states “the opening of essays should make an irresistible offer to the reader.” This exemplifies exactly what the author did. The beginning of the article proposed a perplexing creature of nature, which for me offered something irresistible. I had never heard of this strange animal, and the author does a good job of sparking my curiosity with this example.

Curiosity is described as a “strong desire to know something.” While previously I would not have considered curiosity a topic science, this article changed my perspective. Psychology is a science and is often forgotten, or some believe it lacks legitimacy compared to other branches of science. However, just like any other field, psychology requires experiments and research. It compels us to investigate certain things and deepen our knowledge of the world. This article demonstrates the importance of curiosity and how it affects all of our lives. Most every scientific discovery was made by those who were curious. We as a society have need for curiosity and this article made me curious about curiosity.

Running is Blind Reflection

Who ever knew running was so complicated? This idea is what author Schramski addressed in the article Running is Always Blind: How your brain keeps you from falling on your face. Running, or even walking, requires the use of subconscious parts of our brain that occur during every single step. Walking is something that comes so naturally to us, we don’t think twice about it. And yet as this article suggests, we really aren’t thinking about it, or rather we just don’t know we are thinking about it.

As a cross country and track runner in high school, I especially found both this article and the author’s purpose interesting. When I would run in trails, in the sand at the beach, or just on the pavement of the road, I never really considered how my legs were moving in relation to the terrain and where they were going to step next. This probably is true of many people and the article is addressing a universal concept of walking, but giving more context and background to how the scientific phenomenon actually works. The author also engaged readers by including an interesting storyline of his friend and pro-runner Scott Jurek, who is used to introduce the topic he will discuss. People want to be able to relate to what they’re reading, and find it more interesting and worthwhile when they can see part of themselves in a text.

With easy to follow quotes, definitions, and explanations, the author facilitates the sharing of his ideas about this topic in a manner that can be easily understand. Including a list of “Additional Readings” at the conclusion of the article allows viewers who have interest in the topic to further pursue it. Running is Blind doesn’t seek to validate the author’s research or discoveries, but rather highlight research of others and relate the content to us readers.

“Life in the Googleplex” Reflection

The text “Life in the Googleplex” was an engaging piece of literature, of a genre I’m not very familiar with: photo-essays. This photo essay interested me because its different from the ordinary TIME magazine article. It gives an opportunity for you to form your own opinion on the topic rather than just swallow whatever the author is telling you.

Life in the Googleplex had photos of Google employees enjoying themselves at work. For many people, the idea may seem absurd. Since the photo essay was published in TIME magazine and on TIME’s website, the content is easily accessible and attracts people of all ages and interests. Some of these people may even be at work at the very moment they are viewing the article. They could be falling asleep from boredom, stuck in a dull, crammed cubicle waiting for the clock to hit 5, just so they can go home and be back at it at 9 am the following day. According to the article published in Forbes, “Most Americans are Unhappy at Work” by Susan Adams, 52.3% of Americans claim to be dissatisfied with their job. I know I want to enjoy whatever my future career is, rather than waste my life being miserable at a job I hate. I think Hoagland shows through the piece that one can enjoy their work and does this by including photos of employees playing volleyball, shooting pool, and even playing with children’s toys. While these do not depict the hard work that must go into being a Google employee, they show the laid-back, inviting, and open atmosphere Google has. The fourth image in the photo essay, includes two men who are sitting in front of a white board with what seems to be a project they are working on. The whiteboard is very colorful and full of interesting images. This depicts the work ethic and character of the employees at Google. They are able to enjoy the amenities and community at the Google complex that fosters the development of the novel, colorful ideas shown. This could provide the audience an opportunity to compare their own work experience with that of Google. These photos can get the public inspired to change their career, pursue a goal or passion, or try something new in their daily life to realize they can enjoy working if they want to and determine if they are in the right career path for themselves.

Also, Hoagland’s piece includes something I’m very fond of: humor. Hoagland includes comical photos, accompanied by humorous descriptions of them. I think this appeals to a wider audience because I know I am more interested in a subject when I can relate to something about it, even if it is its jokes. I think this is a positive way to generate more interest in the content of the photo essay and for individuals to appreciate the work more if they have a sense of humor. Also, it embodies the company, as Google proves itself to be a relaxed, open community with humor obviously a part of it.

“Into the Maelstrom” Reflection

The article “Into the Maelstrom” by Eli Kintisch supplies an in-depth description of a scientist’s novel hypothesis as well as telling the story of this scientist, Jennifer Francis. The author of this article, Eli Kintisch, allows the readers to gain a more personal connection with Francis by giving insight into her experiences, thoughts, and overall journey as a person and a scientist.

In this article, it seems Kintisch is trying to send a more universal message about the scientific community. When Francis introduced her new hypothesis to her colleagues, some were intrigued by and supported her, while others immediately shot down the idea. The general public, as I had been previously, is probably unaware of what goes into scientific discovery, where the reality is the scientific community is divided about many topics. While a reader may have assumed the scientific community may is 100% in agreement because “science is science” and “facts are facts”, they don’t realize there is much more that goes into a scientific discovery than just one piece of evidence in its favor. Scientific “facts” that are now widely believed to be true, have faced opposition in the past and haven taken years of experiments and research to get the scientific community to generally agree on them. Francis’ situation is no different. She has a hypothesis, as many scientists have had before her, and she faces criticism and disapproval, but she continues to defend her hypothesis in hopes one day the scientific community and public can agree on what she believes.

While making the article more relatable and enjoyable to read, Kintisch also informed us about climate change and how it is and will be affecting us, stating, “it’s a day-to-day reality affecting billions of people—and a challenge to policymakers responsible for assessing and reducing the risks”(Kintisch). By including arguments like this one, Kintisch is encouraging the reader to get involved in the political aspect of an issue like this, as this topic is affecting everyone’s life and in order to preserve the natural world for our generation and future generations, actions must be taken.

I also admire that the article is focused on the achievements of a woman in science. Historically, men have dominated the STEM field, having made some of the most well-known scientific achievements of all time. As a society, when we think of the great contributors to the science community, our minds usually jump to Isaac Newton, or Albert Einstein, or even Nikola Tesla. Women, however, have often been discouraged from pursuing these fields, with the media, and lines directed at young girls like “math is hard, Let’s go shopping!” Texts like Kintisch’s “Into the Maelstrom”, that allow the woman’s voice in science to be heard, are empowering, especially for younger girls, interested in STEM fields, to see the hardships, opposition a women faced in her ideas, but pulled through, not giving up, making a strong impression and legacy in the science community.

Overall, the article was more than just explaining and analyzing a scientific idea, rather it followed the real life circumstances that lead to scientific discovery, while igniting interest in readers and giving insight into the real life behind a scientific hypothesis. An inspiring work, it shows that anyone can face opposition and criticism from their peers, but eventually their  innovation will allow them to be one of the most influential, praised, and controversial scientists of all time.