Did Curiosity Kill the Cat?

Curiosity is often regarded as the fundamental bedrock of science. Science is seen as the force that changes everything that we have ever known or thought about society, but what impact do we have on science? Through our curiosity, revelations in technology, science, art, and all manners of new ideas have been created, but it is imperative that we ask ourselves why? Why do we desire to explore the unknown? Why do we seek to know more about the surrounding earth, it’s past and future.

Naturally, the first explanation can be seen to link curiosity to survivability. Of course it would only seem logical that primordial human populations would seek to know more about the thunder that is above them or the multitudes of animals and vegetation that surround them. When approached from a practical point of view, curiosity seems less like an irregularity and more like general progression as we seek to better our lives and extend our influence by always wandering what is over the horizon.

What if, however, curiosity is far more than that? Scientist Min Jeong Kang in conjunction with Cal Tek discovered that sparks of curiosity caused a sensation of processes in the brain, ranging from dilated pupils to increased prefrontal cortex activity. Is it possible that we are wired on a physiological level to naturally seek and desire information beyond what relates to simple survival and replication? Is curiosity our method of breaking free from the “status quo” we feel that we have been assigned by nature or society in order to become something more?

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Project Nim- Can We alter Nature?

It is the work of human optimism and hubris to try to believe that other organisms will think, feel, and act precisely as we will them to if only we modify the environment in which they were raised and spent many impactful years. This point is illustrated thoroughly in the film Project Nim where a group of researchers tear an infant chimpanzee from its mother at a young age and seek to raise it a new environment in the hope that it will grow and learn to both act and communicate in a manner closely resembling that of a human. At first, the project seemed to be relatively successful as Nim, the chimpanzee, began to grow and metabolize his new environment, allowing him to learn new forms of communication, mainly sign language, as a method of expressing of communication.

Nim’s subsequent growth, however, shed light onto the mental and physiological deprivation that the chimp was forced to undergo as a lack of his ability to express the innate nature of his species led to outbursts of violence as he attacked researchers, often drawing blood to cope with the anguish of the lifestyle that was forced onto him. The final revelation of the experiment, also, helped to prove the point concerning man’s inability to alter the innate nature of other species as it was found that all of the signs that Nim was able to learn were not meant for the purpose of communication but, rather, as a means of obtaining different objects which he desired. In other words, teaching Nim sign language enabled him to beg but not so much to communicate. The overall experiment, though insightful and enlightening, saw Nim treated more as a casualty or an expendable object of experimentation as his true nature, desires, and needs were sacrificed for the idea of being able to have chimps that could communicate and entertain the general human populace.

Culture or Computers?

 

“Are you going to feel happy after visiting this village?”

 

This question posed by Bhawana Singh towards Jake Abrahamson in his article, “Waiting for Light,” echoes deeply throughout the field of science and, one could argue, the world in general. It brings up an intricate point concerning to what extent science has in the creation of happiness and purpose for those who select to engage in the multitudes of benefits science has to offer. For some, science has created purpose, for others reason, and for everyone relative ease and a facilitation of general life. Science has raised many above the socio-economic standards imposed on them by previous occurrences or set standards. This same science that has raised so many from poverty has, also, worked to bring goods and services from all around the world to be conveniently accessed by almost all. Science was quite literally responsible for the global transformation in the economic system that saw the price of commodities systematically fall while living standards for all rose dramatically and access to cleaner, more reliable sources of food, water, fuel, shelter, and more became completely normal.

 

“We love to study. We love to do embroidery.”

 

This same science which has uncovered the boundless bounties of the earth has, however, left many in want as the rapidly streamlining and demanding requests of technology set in deeper and deeper, often on a cultural level as tradition and generational practice must give way to the global demands of a global market. I have always been of the opinion that there can be a solution as seen in the quote above where a unique balance can be obtained between the global and the local. It is through this quote which depicts a balance between the demands of globalization with what is held culturally sacred by a people that the true nature of science can be seen by means of improving life while allowing us to retain uniqueness and identity. But the question remains: is science responsible for giving us identity?

 

Feel free to read Jake Abrahamson’s article for more information: http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2014-5-september-october/feature/waiting-light.

Rhetoric in Action-The Importance of Audience

When composing any sort of writing, whether it is a note on the refrigerator or a scientific paper, it is of the utmost importance to understand who the writing is meant to target. A message can only be conveyed if those who the message is being targeted towards are willing to receive it, and there is no exception in the realm of technology and scientific innovation. This idea is personified in both John Toon’s article for the Georgia Tech news center and Samantha Cole’s article for the popsci website which both regard an experiment seeking to replicate early land animal evolutionary movement by means of using a robot based on the mudskipper fish.

At a glance, it can be easily noticed that Cole is seeking to appeal to a more general audience who is seeking information more out of a desire to be entertained than to further build off of what is known and seek further innovation. This idea can be seen through the briefness of the article which simply states the goal of the experiment while glossing over the painstaking detail that was innate with regards to the construction and formation of this project. The briefness of this article is meant to keep the attention of the reader by not requiring too much critical thinking in order to observe the result of the lab. In addition to this, the presence of a gif in the article further helps to convey the ideas behind what is being written about by openly displaying the shocking similarities between the mudskipper fish and the robot. This helps to draw the eye of a more casual audience by using motion instead of words to explain the importance of the robot and its movement.

Toon’s article, however, more accurately reflects the academic nature of the institute it represents. This idea is made clear through Toon’s explanations behind all of the different branches of science that went into the creation of this work and how it borrowed ideas and concepts from physics, biology, and robotic science in order to mimic the movements of the mudskipper fish as well as the movements of early terrestrial life forms. The direct quotes from professors and those working on the project help to add validity to their work by explaining the approaches used in the creation of the project and the importance of their work. In addition, the listing of the numerous sources of funding for the creation of the project display the support that this work has from a multitude of credible organizations which appeals drastically to the academic community which is always seeking credible sources of reliable information.

Of R.A.T.S. and Rats

 

So we’ve all grown up hearing about the positive effects of testing new medicines, products, and chemicals on lab rats and mice, right? These two organisms are so engrained in the academic community and in labs across the world that even just the thought of having them permanently removed from such environments seems like a near impossible task. Even my first science-fair project utilized mice and not once during my numerous presentations to both the judges and scientists of the community did anyone bother to ask why I made the choice to use what I did. Whether it is the fact that they are, generally, more cost effective than many other animal species or the fact that they, simply, have an enormous, often overwhelming population size, mice make up the general back-bone of research in studies ranging from biology to psychology and everything in between, but as R.A.T.S., recently acquired tech students, it is imperative that we ask why such an organism as the rat or the mouse plays such a vital role in these fields and why they may continue to do so.

Naturally, it can be easily noted that there are many differences between a rat and a person such as weight, height, social structure, and much more, but as the article from the Jackson Laboratory webpage called, “Why Mouse Genetics,” outlines, we share between 95 and 98 percent of our genomes with these tiny creatures and can contract many of the same diseases. The more incredible fact is that the Jackson is responsible for the creation of a particular breed of mouse, known commonly as “Lenny’s Mouse” which has an altered immune system to allow for the introduction and testing of human tissues inside of the mouse, a task which was formally difficult. Then again, this new type of mouse is the product of work from scientists at the Jackson Laboratory, so it is only natural that they praise the effectiveness and efficacy of mouse studies.

We have seen the scientific effectiveness of utilizing both rats and mice in the laboratory setting but what about the legal effectiveness of using such organisms. According to the article called “Mice and Rats in Research” from the National Anti-Vivisection Society legislation meant to protect animal species from excessive testing, such as the Animal Wellness Act, has recently been undermined by the sheer genetic convenience of rats and mice through initiatives such as the “Knock Out Mouse Project” which seeks to turn on and off genetic features of mice in order to have the side-effects of the testing be more similar to those that humans would be expected to face. It should, also, be noted that according to this article, organisms such as mice are not protected under the animal wellness act as such an effort to categorize the different kinds of mice would unnecessarily drain the funds away from the USDA. This fact has led many labs to seek either the mouse or the rat as their de facto test subject.

Let’s face it; these two common test-subjects are not going anywhere anytime soon. The rat and mouse are far too convenient to give up and there are just too few substitutes that have both the scientific viability and the legal protection to create a species that is a “One-stop-shop” for a great deal of academic needs.

 

Want to know more? Check out these links:

http://www.navs.org/what-we-do/keep-you-informed/science-corner/animals-used-in-research/mice-and-rats/, https://www.jax.org/genetics-and-healthcare/genetics-and-genomics/why-mouse-genetics

Citations:

By Using Our Website You Agree to Our Use of Cookies in Accordance with Our Cookie Policy. “Why Mouse Genetics?” The Jackson Laboratory. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2016. <https://www.jax.org/genetics-and-healthcare/genetics-and-genomics/why-mouse-genetics&gt;.

@navs_us. “Mice and Rats in Research | National Anti-Vivisection Society.” National AntiVivisection Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2016. <http://www.navs.org/what-we-do/keep-you-informed/science-corner/animals-used-in-research/mice-and-rats/&gt;.

Rhetoric in Action-The UCS

Rhetoric, whether one likes it or not, is alive and well within the scientific community; it does not take much by today’s standards for science to become sensationalized and popularized to fit with the concepts and stimuli faced by the world at the time. But is that necessarily improper? To what extent is it the function of science and scientists in general to force a particular issue into question as opposed to simply reporting the facts? There are numerous outlets where these ideas can be tested and observed, but we will be focusing on the website for the Union of Concerned Scientists, the UCS, as an example focusing on how science and rhetoric are truly intertwined.

When first addressing rhetoric, one may find it most beneficial to address why the text in question exists. By doing so, one can clearly identify the express purpose of the text and fully understand the intention of the creators of the text. Should one visit the website for the Union of Concerned Scientists, it can be seen that the first and almost inescapable detail located on almost every page is a plea for donations and descriptions concerning how beneficial these donations are to the scientific community and the world at large. These requests certainly outline the fact that one of the primary purposes for the website is to act as a fundraiser and provide the necessary capital for operations within the organization. However, the collection of funds is not the only purpose of the website as seen through the “Stay Informed” widget and “Take Action” page which enforces the fact that part of the function of the website is to educate people and inspire them to take action.

As previously stated, it is evident that the Union of Concerned Scientists desires to inspire a sort of reaction out of their audience, but who is their audience? Naturally, the sections allowing viewers of the site to search for and find lab reports and network with other scientists suggests that the primary audience that this site was intended to reach included professionals in the scientific field. However, their pages regarding such items as legislature passed in California and how to create a recipe that aids in the creation of a fairer food system displays their willingness and desire to appeal to a larger audience of individuals who generally care for the world and want to see the planet thrive.

When considering the formation and distribution of a message, one should also note one of the most important features of rhetoric which is to consider the overall setting and culture of the environment where the particular idea is being showcased. The Union of Concerned Scientists seems to understand this concept very well as they presenting and distributing their findings in a time that is seeing controversy over climate change and a major shift towards trying to preserve the environment. This idea is one of the most important features of establishing rhetoric as it ensures that the topic the Union of Concerned Scientists is trying to present to the public remains relevant and is subject to gain attention from the general public.

WELCOME

Hello and welcome to Due Diligence with Dylan! Together we will seek to expand our knowledge regarding science and communication within a world dominated increasingly by globalization and interaction that has occurred on a scale never before seen in history. Science can be argued to be and is, many times, seen as the primary pillar that our society and, even, the world in general relies on to solve a multitude of issues ranging from the environment to human health to finding newer, cleaner forms of sustainable energy. We all hear about the wonders and creations that the labs and researchers provide us with on a daily basis, but why is that? Science has provided us with means of living longer, happier, more fulfilled, and certainly more convenient lives but have you ever considered how you happened to hear about these new innovations? Have you considered how these innovations were able to reach such a massive audience and change the lives of so many? Have you considered why you support or believe in these findings? Join me, Dylan, as we delve into the processes and confluences behind how science and facts in general intersect with culture and communication skills to develop from a simple spark of enlightenment to a far-flung flame of development as we seek to do our due diligence.

Common First Week Video Reflection

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The process of creating my common first week video was largely the result of free writing and testing the limitations of the software I had on my computer for video editing; after I had finished compiling all of my ideas in the form of a free write, I was able to remove the excess details and descriptions so that the script would fit within the required timeframe. I felt that the initial step of free writiing proved highly effective as it allowed me to truly focus on all of my previous communication experiences and discover the similarities between those experiences and  where I seemed to be having the most trouble. My next step, however, I felt was the least effective because I was more focused on trying to utilize the features of the video editing software on my computer rather than just, simply, keeping the plans I had for the creation of the video which greatly increased the amount of time it took to film the video adn get it submitted.

I was most satisfied with the beginning of my project as I am a firm believer that if an individual is able to attract the attention of the audience at the beginning of a video or presentation, then, the overall message and theme will be more likely to be remembered by the viewers. I felt that my ability to provide concrete examples, narration, and pictures truly displayed and helped the audience to visualize my challenge. I was, also, satisfied with the anecdote that I was able to deliver in the video as I feel that it allowed the audience to further understand my communication challenge by providing a personal aspect to it.

If I could redo any part of my common first week video project, I would have chosen to film the video in a different setting. I filmed the video in the lounge of my residence hall which had poor lighting and a backgroung that was reletively bare and did not contribute to the overall message of my video.