Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Where have all the Scientists gone?

I'm currently in a History of Microbiology class where I have the fun opportunity to learn where all the science I have been studying for the last couple of years has come from. One of the most interesting things I have noticed, not that we are studying the later microbiologists is how little is known about them.
Most people have hear of Pasteur and his vaccinations, or John Snow and the Broad Street pump, and if I were to mention Salk or Sabin many people's ears would still perk up. However as time goes forward we no longer see scientists in the forefront. If you were to ask the typical American today to name one famous scientist I bet you they would all mention Einstein... and he lived ages ago, did amazing things, but lived long ago. We forget about the scientists who save our lives every day... take for example Maurice Hilliman, no one's heard of him...but everyone who has been through the American school system has taken at least 6 of his vaccinations. Someone who helped stop deadly diseases like mumps, measles, and hepatitis B has never been mentioned in one substantial news broadcast...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What's the Point?

OK, so I've had a couple of questions for myself recently and since Professors said that I should publish this random musing of a post I shall.
Why am I writing? What am I writing about? Do I really care about what I am saying? How am I making a digital fingerprint in life? Does making a digital fingerprint even matter for what is most important to me?

As I've perused my previous postings I have discovered some things...
1. I seem to have a psychological need to relate everything to science
2. My grammar needs a little more work to be professional grade.
3. I'm rather optimistic about the new possibilities available to us via new technology and such
4. I don't have any idea what my theme actually is.

Those discoveries aside, what am I actually interested in?

Is it open science? Studying how many different scientists can get together to accomplish more through cooperation. It intrigues me, but I'm still not sold on it.

Is it interconnections? Is is how life, the universe, and everything is connected via thousands of connections kind-of like own own biosystems? I have always been interested in understanding hw tying all of your subjects together would be a way of helping you learn better.

Is it the future? Well, I'm obviously interested in the future just about as much as everyone else, but it's not enough for me to write about the future... maybe in a creative writing blog or sommat.

But when I re-looked at my blogs I noticed an interesting little tendril of a underlying theme there... how action and more importantly participation improves life in general. I'll now have to get to work and beat the apathy out of my system, because as I treat this as a class assignment that no one will ever return to I become apathetic and don't care about what I am writing.

And it's like that with life, if you are posed with a problem that doesn't seem to make a difference if you solve it or just let it be. I want to look more into the benefits of participation, especially with the sciences because regular sciences do not allow for the general populace to take part, or even understand. I want to work on how science and technology can be made more open to the general populace to help them decrease their apathy towards life in general. Maybe I can awake the sheeple and help them become the future scientists of tomorrow.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ideas from class brainstorm yesterday

1.     Main Topics
a.     Copyright—what it is what limits to openness
b.     Profits from digital content
                                               i.     Creating things for free
c.      Advantages and disadvantages of digital openness
d.     Organizations that choose to go open and how that has impacted everything
e.     How to make more thing open
f.      Fun theory and gamification
g.     Build up the good and scope trying to find broken things to fix
h.     How to get information that is accurate
2.     Digital Topic alongside with digital topics
a.     Russian revolution—limiting the rights of the people—closed societies—not right to own things and it fell apart
b.     French revolution—the lack of order in a society
c.      Open science and the scientists who made it possible what societal openness has to do with progression in science
d.     Internet—access to information from all over the world… what if the internet wasn’t free
e.     Exploration of new medium—for the crazy or the genius
3.     Why Should I care about my major
a.     Everything is built across the backs of giants
b.     Reach--- topic to a larger audience
c.      Approaches to education--- how we can open education even more in reform professors… and form freshmen

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Ostrich Effect: Apathy in an increasingly complex world

 An ostrich with it's head in the sand is a ridiculous image, not connected with an equally ridiculous idea: if you hide your head in the sand then your problem will magically vanish.  History is full of apathy, from the reluctant United States refusing to enter World War II until after Pearl Harbor to the Chinese and Japanese Isolationists who refused to accept any outside interference... Humans just seem to have a tendency to ignore what dosen't suit them. One of my favorite political cartoonists of all time was Dr. Seuss, who worked against the apathy of the United States populace and attempted to get people to move forward and learn more about the war that was going in the western world. The government quite enjoyed their position of selling ammunition and guns to either side, and everyone seemed glad that they were out of their little friends silly conflict. Little did they know that their apathy made them a perfect target for the Japanese kamakazis, who took Pearl Harbor with hardly any resistance. Now it is dangerous, but what exactly is it?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Well I see your point, but we discussed this in class..."

What Biology education needs to function properly.

Let us take a case study:
Take a typical biology class and your professor is talking about enzyme kinematics. He tells you that the optimum output is found when the system stays constantly at half its K and shows you the equation to solve for output.
The professor then writes the exam with the poorly written question:
What is the optimum output of this chemical reaction?

What happens when the typical biology student meets poorly written question?
They scratch their heads and assume the professor is silly for asking something outside the scope of the class and put down K/2

What happens when the self-directed learner meets poorly written question?
They answer the question that the professor asked, spending 45 min deriving an equation to solve for the optimum output of the reaction.

Who gets full points?
The student who puts down K/2
Because actually solving for the optimum output is beyond the scope of the class.

We see situations like this in many classes around campus... where classes no longer are places where you learn to use problem solving skills to resolve questions, they are places where you absorb vast amounts of information and then spit it back out again on exams, only to forget that knowledge in a couple of weeks. How can we foster the problem solving skills that are necessary for us to become useful in society? As much as we'd like to have a life where memorizing vast amounts of information and dispensing it at the appropriate time could be a fulltime occupation, the real world needs problem solvers, not information dispensers.
My suggestion? Get rid of 'info dump' exams. If you want to have an ecology class where the students truly understand what it is like to be an ecologist, then get them out in the "field" and have them analyze a proper ecosystem in the way a true ecologist would. Have them come to conclusions about the status of the ecosystem and explain their reasoning. You have to understand the same amount of information as you did for the multiple choice exam with short answer questions, but you learn how to use that information to solve a problem in the way a true scientist would understand it.
In the 1800's you didn't have to go to a school and dispense information to a teacher for people to know that you were good at something, you had to actually go out into the field and do things. If you wanted to be a carpenter, you went to apprenticeship with a master carpenter and you learned the skills of the trade on the job and as you go... so that by the end of your apprenticeship you were able to creatively solve the problems that your chosen profession required you to do. Today we do have Internships and REU's that help scientists learn what they will actually be doing for the rest of their lives... but we need more than just a couple of summers of experiences to really stoke the creative juices so that the information stays useful instead of useless.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Disruptions in the Force

What if I were to tell you that at the beginning of the creation of the earth there was a life-force that permeates everything and gives life to dead things. You can leave them alone for a few days and then you will see life where there was death and destruction, where only dead bull horns were buried in the ground you find a thriving community of bees, or where there was a pot of dirty laundry and wheat you have mice. This force gave life to inanimate objects, from inorganic things you could have life organizing. Disease is caused when these life-forces are out of balance, too much blood? You have a fever. Too much   bile? Your stomach hurts. These imbalances can be caused by deadly life-forces traveling on air... many scientists are now studying these miasmas to stop the run of these diseases that afflict society today.

The swan neck flask experimentSounds like something from a creation myth or Star Wars... this mysterious life-force was termed "the Vegitative Force" and was first explained by Aristotle and tested by John Needham in the early 1800's. But this was where the greatest breakthroughs were being made in science, men working to discover how to free this vegitative force for the good of mankind. However despite some experiments from minds like Francesco Redi and Louis Pasteur on meat and beer and wine, the populace and scientific world continued researching in that way until abiogenesis was disproved by Louis Pasteur with this experiment, where he proved that microbes come from other microbes, not this Vegitative Force.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Change and Self-Healing

In class we have been talking a lot about changes... in technology, in governments, in art. Everything about the past centuries seems to be in a constant flux. Revolutions come and go, scientific break throughs are made, parroted, and die within a few short years. I makes me wonder about how vital change is to a society and to the world itself.

What would happen if there was no change or alteration?
I think of China and Japan, when they tried to keep their world the same and their culture unsullied by western influences. Their insistance on keeping things the same and not changing led them to be crippled economically and leave them vulnerable when western wars became world conflicts. All this because of a refusal to accept change. I think of the water in the ditch behind the house I grew up in in Florida, the water vermillion green with the algae that was killing off the little fish that lived in that ditch because there was no change in the water itself. Or maybe I think of the first commercial fishermen, who were so interested in getting a good harvest they failed to account for the changes in the population of the fish they were catching and the sardines became extinct. Sitting under a rock or a wall and not recognizing change seems to be a deadly thing.

The real world changes on "Wings of Lightening" as one poet put it. And accepting and working with the change is often the best option. The Founding fathers of the United States of America put into the constitution of the country a clause that enabled it to change with the people it governed, with a controlled rate of growth to keep the evolution from becoming too rapid, and altering the meaning of the document. You can see communities and ecosystems die and regenerate as conditions change. In the deep sea vents you can have the collapse of an entire ecosystem in a few short years only to form in a completely different place. Coral reefs that have been decimated by pollution have rejuvenated with cleaner water... as change comes the earth seems well equipped to heal herself. I wonder if we Humans understand exactly what this Earth is capable. I know that we are the ultimate predators, with the ability and resources to wipe out entire species in a few years (passenger pigeons anyone?), but the earth is more resilient that we seem to give her credit for. Mother Earth has seen more mass extinctions than we have, and that was before humans were even in the picture. Acts of God and Meterors didn't stop anything, they actually helped mammals become the dominant life form.

The same thing with societies in general. Yes there is chaos and there is always a need for control. But naysayers like Thomas Malthus said that the earth could only hold so many people because it was incapable of producing any more than current thought. We've long since over shot his proposed population cap for the earth and still growing.

Great bloody civil wars have come and gone, over 1/3 of the population at one time succumbed to a deadly plague, yet society recuperated... and life continued even better than it was before. I think that change enables society to have more opportunities to learn and grow. Perhaps we could use this opportunity to enable us to grow to our full potentials as human beings and more importantly, as Children of God.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Revolutionary Trollers

Once upon a time there were some people trying to make a point about a group of people who they felt was taking too much away from their liberties without giving them a chance to represent their ideas. They gathered an enormous group together and disrupted the normal business of the company that had caused their problems... if they succede in their quest we call them Revolutionaries.

TrollingI was recently pondering about some of the neat experiences that I have had in my life, including the chance to work on for a while. Among the amazing people that I met I also met a new group of individuals that I had heard of but never encountered. They called themselves trollers and seemed to tie every conversation to Magnets, Top Hats, or Rick Astley...or conversely they would ignore answers and continue to ask questions about why we believe in God and ignoring our answers.
By going to Wikipedia you can get a basic understanding of what a troll is: someone who purposefully tries to post something to get someone to comment on it. Be it an inaccurate statement, or an obviously inflammatory remark, or even a ludicrous question repeated over and over and over.
The ones I typically encountered were jokers. If you got past their punch line, sometimes they would tell you about why they were doing what they were doing. Some talked about how they were disappointed about the church's stance on Proposition 8, some just wanted us to understand how silly religion was, others were mad because of a recent break up with a member of the church...and most were just bored 15 or 16 year olds who had nothing better to do on a Saturday evening than to ask inflammatory or silly questions online. However, every now and again you would not get one or two trollers in a day you would get an organized group of thousands coming on with the intent of keeping us from talking to people who really wanted to use the site for it's own purposes. When they became organized, then they can accomplish things. (like take out entire websites)

But it made me wonder... were there other organized trollers in earlier centuries, or are they  merely an internet meme?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Media Marriage: Remixes and Mashups

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.

You've probably heard this rhyme before, typically in regard to marriage. This isn't about rings or things, rather the marriage of the medias. I was thinking about the presentations today on music and how those songs are ones that I grew up on. My mother kept me fed on a great number of those great Baroque composers... Vivaldi and Handel being her favorite (still to this day we make christmas cookies to Handel's Messiah) . Music in the 17th century seems to be that marriage between the old form based pieces of music to the more fluid compositions that we are more familiar with today. 

One of the themes that I am noticing as I see what I see with the 17th century is how the new musical techniques enabled some of the old forms to be remixed into something entirely new and different... from patron based music sets we see the composers taking new techniques that would be unthinkable essentially taking the old and making it new, something that people are doing today with new artforms like digital media, taking the old themes and making them their own with new innovations. I thought I'd compare it to the remix culture that we have today with the multitude of creators that we see blossoming in the internet today