FALL, 2002

Getting started ... from wherever one is

Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  Welcome
Date:  2002-08-31 14:57:02
Message Id:  2463
Glad you're here, looking forward to an interesting semester thinking about life, hope you are too.

This is a place for conversation, not "formal" writing but thoughts, ideas, questions as they come to mind. Your quick reactions and thoughts in progress are valuable to others as they think things through themselves. And theirs can be valuable to you as you do the same thing.

So don't worry about getting things "right". The forum is a place to talk, and help each other get things less wrong. Enjoy.

Name:  Erin Myers
Subject:  Allergies
Date:  2002-09-04 23:45:34
Message Id:  2502
I woke up early this morning with a scratchy throat. I hate that. I'm hardly allergic to anything. I have to sleep on a stack of hay for two hours before I sneeze, it takes 15 peaches or 1/2 lbs of pistacios for my throat to feel itchy, and I have to inhale nearly all the fur on a large cat before my eyes water and my nose acts up. I know hystamines cause allergic reations but I didn't know how or why so I looked it up on the Complementary Medical Association's website.
It turns out an allergy can occur anytime after the first exposure to a provocant or allergen and are much more common after a "trigger event" such as an infection (especially viral), a shock or accident, or a massive exposure to chemicals or radiation. Allergies are often inherited. If neither of your parents have allergies there is a 10-20% chance you have allergies. If just one of your parents has allergies there is a 30-50% chance you have allergies. If both parents have allergies, the chance that you do is upwards of 50-75%.
There are 4 sources of provocants or allergies, biological, chemical, physical, and stress. Biological provocants or allergens include food and drink allergies, animal and plant proteins, and infections. One can be allergic to any of the 60,000 chemicals in common use. Physical provocants or allergens include radio and microwaves; infared, visible and UV light; X-rays and atomic radiation. Stress can also cause an allergic reaction.
Allergy occurs for one of two reasons. Either the total load of provocants or allergens is too high and overwhelms the abilitis of the immune system to cope, or one particular provocant or allergen to which the body is particularly susceptible is at a dangerous level for that person.
So I figure last night the total load of provocants or allergens in my room was too high for my immune system, because I don't think there is any one provocant or allergen in the world that could have been at a high enough level in my tiny room to affect me.

Name:  Laura Bang!
Subject:  Why am I taking bio?
Date:  2002-09-05 09:55:06
Message Id:  2507
Thanks to Erin for explaining allergies! My allergies have been pretty annoying this week, and I'm almost out of my medicine, but that's okay...


To be perfectly honest, the main reason I signed up for this class was to fulfill my lab requirement. I took bio in high school, but didn't do so well in the class. I also took chem and AP chem. I liked chem, but my problem there is that I hate actually performing the experiments (I'm deathly afraid of doing something wrong and exploding the lab), but I liked observing the experiments and explaining in the write-ups what I had observed and why it happened that way. I liked finding out how the various chemicals in our world react. (Although my favorite experiments were always the ones that didn't involve any scary explosive reactions, but the ones where the reaction between various chemicals would turn them pretty colors.) So I didn't want to take chem in college because I knew I'd have to perform the experiments at some point. Physics is definitely not my thing, and geology is interesting but I didn't feel particularly thrilled at the thought of taking it. I would have loved to have taken astronomy because I love the night sky, but the math involved in astronomy is way too scary -- and besides, the wonder of the night sky (for me at least) is in its mystery, and if I took astronomy a lot of that mystery would be gone. So then I came to bio. I remembered my high school class being interesting, just not quite my style. I had Prof. Grobstein for my freshman C-Sem last year and he seemed like he would teach bio differently. And I am glad I decided to take this class.

I don't want to memorize facts that various teachers have been trying to chisel into my brain since elementary school, and I don't want to just hear the teacher talk at me about various things of little or no interest to me. The fact that this course is more discussion-oriented makes me think that this class will be all right, maybe even ... fun.

I like science in general -- I like learning about the world/universe around us. But the most fascinating thing to me is life itself. I love learning about the origin of life in general and the origin of humans, I think it is a fascinating subject. I like asking questions about the past.

I am not a person who enjoys science in depth, so don't talk to me about cells and other things that I can't see with my own eyes, but I do like learning about the things I can see. The fact that the things I can see are made up of tiny cells is amazing to me, but I find how these things go about living from day to day to be much more interesting.

Name:  Chelsea Phillips
Subject:  Who needs sleep?
Date:  2002-09-05 09:57:39
Message Id:  2508
Tuesday night I was very excited- not only was my homework done by 11, but even after a little joking around in the hall, I was lying down for a great night's sleep at the astonishingly early hour of 12 midnight. But NO, 1, 2, 3, was 5am before I fell asleep, and 10 before I woke up, effectively missing my first class. This got me thinking about sleep, so I went to WebMD and poked around for a bit. Did you guys know there is acutally a name for leg and arm spasms that happen as you are dozing off? It's called periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS) and can occur for some people hundreds of times a night every 10 to 60 seconds. Other people experience it once or twice as they are falling asleep but are able to sleep through the night. PLMS is also associated with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) in which the person has the sensation of creeping, crawling, pulling or tingling along their legs (and sometimes arms) when they go through any prolonged period of inactivity, but is relieved (temporarily) by stretching, walking and massaging. Unfortunately, the worst times of day tend to be in the evening and at night when trying to fall asleep, so it's a huge disruption to normal sleep cycles. According to the article I read, lessening caffiene intake and applying hot or cold packs to legs and arms helps to decrease the symptoms. Ok, so that doesn't tell me why I couldn't sleep, but it was more interesting.
Name:  Brie Farley
Subject:  Wash up!
Date:  2002-09-05 14:57:11
Message Id:  2516
Today, I watched a daytime TV show that focused on germs. Frankly, I was disgusted. The show hired doctors to go into public and private places (a grocery store, an airplane, and several homes) and take small samples everywhere possible. Things I learned include:

1. You should only flush the toilet with the lid DOWN, because spray from flushing can actually travel 20 feet away. (A doctor on the show discovered fecal matter on one woman's toothbrush)
2. 90% of people do NOT wash their hands correctly. (The correct way to wash your hands is to use soap and warm water, and carefully wash your palms, nail beds, inbetween your fingers, and tops of hands, for at least 20 seconds.)
3. Bars of Soap harbor many germs. Soap dispensers are the best bet.
4. Moisture sustains bacteria. Be aware of wet towels, sponges, dish strainers, etc.
5. E Coli Bacteria was found on the handles of grocery carts, possibly from children sitting there.
6. Be careful eating commercial fried chicken. (You may have heard the rat story, but just recently a fried whole chicken head was mixed in with a bunch of chicken wings.)

I have always been interested in biology. I think I enjoy biology because it allows me to become more aware. Although the information above is disturbing, I think it is good to know. Now, this doesn't mean that we should walk around with rubber gloves and face masks, and shun fried chicken. But, maybe we should all just practice a little extra caution.

Name:  Adrienne Wardy
Subject:  You may never eat fries again
Date:  2002-09-05 17:11:38
Message Id:  2519
Recently I came across an article that really scared me about my eating habits. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)has reported that many fried and baked starchy foods contain a known carcinogen called acrylamine. Some of these foods include snack chips, taco shells, breakfast cereals, and, above all, french fries. The FDA has known about the presence of this carcinogen but has failed to make any formal statements on it.
According to the CSPI, it is estimated that acrylamine causes several thousand cancer deaths each year. The EPA limit of acrylamine in water is .12 units, whereas large McDonald's fries contain 82 units. For this reason, a California attorney has formally demanded that McDonald's and Burger King place a formal cancer warning on their fries.
I, for one, am shocked because I never would have thought a happy meal could cause cancer. This simply shows the importance of science in that new research can help to prevent disease.
Name:  Anastasia Michals
Subject:  Affecting your body
Date:  2002-09-05 19:08:42
Message Id:  2522
You always hear that "you are what you eat," but I never actually believed it until recently. I am an athlete. I play soccer and lacrosse all year round, and if I am not doing that there is some other physical activity that I am involved in. Last weekend there was a soccer tournament that BMC attended in Maryland. We basically had to eat all of our meals out. We ate at Ruby Tuesdays, McDonalds, and Ground Rounds. Every type of food offered was something with cheese, bread, ketchup, and anything you could fry. After two days of eating like this, I, along with many of my teammates, felt physically tired and drained. It actually took a couple days to recover from eating food that my body wasn't used to. I couldn't believe that what I was eating affected me that much. I researched a few medical websites and found that doctors stressed the importance of vegetables and fruit and fueling your body with the right food. Drinking water and eating right is the most important thing to keep you functioning day to day. I guess you really are what you eat.
Name:  Roma
Subject:  jet-lag
Date:  2002-09-05 20:19:17
Message Id:  2524
hi guys, it was interesting to read all your comments....i have been recently experiencing quite a bit of jet-lag: missing flights, having to stay in airport hotels and an eight hour trip from london back to philly right b4 the first day of classes have taken their toll on me....i have been having the most random sleeping patterns ever, as well as appetite fluctuations, the usual good stuff that's part and parcel of long flights..... i was doing a bit of research on that and i came up with a very interesting web-article on tips for a comfortable flight where they tell you what happens to our bodies during such flights and how we can make the best of it... here it is have fun reading! :)
Name:  Diana DiMuro
Subject:  What do you have ADD or something?
Date:  2002-09-05 20:48:02
Message Id:  2525
So it's the first week of school and already I'm restless. I know I'm not the only one, when I see other people in my classes checking their watches, tapping pencils or constantly shifting in their seats. I've joked around about having ADD but I don't actually know much about it. I recently read some information put out by the National Institute of Mental Health that answers some commonly asked questions about ADD and ADHD.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is one of a family of related chronic neurobiological disorders. People suffering from this disorder along with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) may have an inability to concentrate or focus one's attention on one task. People with ADHD can often be easily distracted, frequently bored or even have difficulty completing routine tasks. Hyperactivity is also a frequent symptom of ADD and ADHD. When someone is hyperactive, they may not be able to sit still, talk incessantly, or do anything from tap their pencil on a desk or shake their leg during a period when they are forced to sit or pay attention. Another trait linked to ADD and ADHD is impulsivity. By impulsivity I mean that often people suffering from ADD and ADHD are unable to control their immediate desires or actions. They may blurt out whatever comes to mind without thinking about it until after it is said. Impulsive actions may also lead to lack of patience or inattention. Children with ADD or ADHD may have a harder time waiting for things they want or waiting to take their turn with others. They may be more compelled to act out by hitting or crying than children who do not suffer from ADD or ADHD.
Treatment for this condition is varied, covering everything from diet to prescription medication to behavioral therapy. More and more schools are taking this disorder more seriously by beginning to implement special education services for students with ADD and ADHD. These new programs are available for a variety of students spanning children in kindergarten up through to students in college.

Name:  kathryn bailey
Date:  2002-09-05 20:57:32
Message Id:  2526
I was just checking out the website for this course and came across an article about and asteroid that could hit earth in 2019. The first thought that came to me the movie Armageddon, about an asteroid that barely misses hitting us. Then I freaked out and thought for a few seconds that we were all going to be in serious trouble in 17 years until I actually read the article. The odds of the asteroid, named 2002 NT7, hitting us are 1-in-200,000 (which decreases over time) hardly merits me being too concerned about being alive in 2019. This made me think about the impact that science, with the help of the media, can have on us. It is easy to gloss over a title or summary about a new scientific finding, like an asteroid, and come to some wild conclusion that is pretty far from the truth. This article reminded me not to believe what science may suggest on the surface because more often than not, what I initially think the finding implicates deserves more consideration to understand the real truth.
Name:  Margaret Hoyt
Subject:  PMDD
Date:  2002-09-06 00:55:59
Message Id:  2528
So glad to be discussing Biology with women . . .

My doctor recently cleared up years of menstrual confusion with the diagnosis of PMDD or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (a.k.a. PMS from hell). I remember a boy in high school claiming the condition is made up and there's no such thing. I beg to differ. After 4 or 5 birth control pills and continued PMS and other such menstural symptoms, the diagnosis has peaked my interest about what is going on with my hormones.

PMDD is very rare - 3%-5% of women are diagnosed as having the disorder. Things clicked for me when I realized my mood swings, depression, crankiness, tiredness, and stress levels were directly linked to ovulation. According to WedMD and the Cleveland Clinic, this is exactly the best method of diagnosis. These web resources reccommend maintaing regular eating, sleeping and excercise schedules. Stress management is also reccommended.

However, (lol, lol) suggests that PMDD may be linked to low levels of serotonin in women's bodies. The drug Sarafem is thought to regulate an imbalance of serotonin.

In Psychiatric news, the range of women with PMDD broadens between 3 - 8% and the newsletter also reports the FDA approval of a new drug, Fluoxetine. Further research indicates that PMDD could be caused by an abnormal biochemical response to normal hormonal changes. Routine changes in estrogen and progesterone associated with menses may, in vulnerable women, induce a serotonin deficiency that could trigger the symptoms of PMDD.

However, says the treatment for PMDD is similar to that for major depression: the use of antidepressants and psychotherapy. Antidepressants should be taken on an ongoing basis. Psychotherapy can help *me* cope with the symptoms and with other challenges in *my* life.

Now, explains how antidepressents can help with PMDD: Studies show some women with PMDD may benefit from treatment with antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications also are prescribed commonly for depression, but for women with PMDD they usually work more quickly and are prescribed in lower dosages to be taken for just part of each month. Also turns out the other drugs (Sarafem and Fluoxetine) are also SSRIs.

As in many medicinal fields, PMDD deserves further attention and study. Hopefully my doctor and I can find a solution that works for me. I hope this wasn't too personal for everyone.

Name:  Maggie
Subject:  anti-bacterial soap and speaking w/ gestures
Date:  2002-09-06 09:40:54
Message Id:  2529
Hi everyone, it was interesting to read your comments/observations. Brie's recently learned lessons reminded me that this would be a good place to post my feelings about anti-bacterial soap. I admit that my only source for this is my brother, but he is a genuine science nerd (complete with the white lab coat and pocket protector) so I think he is a safe source. The type of anti-bacterial products that we use on a daily basis are usually un-warranted, and only help strengthen bacteria against the ways we do have to kill it. So all that this anti-bacterial soap, body wash, dish soap, etc does is kill bacteria when we don't really need to be worrying about it, and help build up bacteria's immune system. Kind of like how people thought penicilin was a wonder "drug" until stuff because immune to it, I guess. So if you feel the dire need to kill bacteria, use rubbing alcohol instead of buying the anti-bacterial soap.

I was reading some of the articles that are posted on the class website. I thought 'Some Language Experts Think Humans Spoke First With Gestures' was interesting. What irritated me about the people who disagreed with M.C. Corballis was that they didn't have much of an argument themselves. They discredited his theory because he wasn't a linguist, but then said in the next sentence that the field was unanswered and everyone had a theory. So what was wrong with Corballis having one too?

Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  my two bits
Date:  2002-09-06 10:04:52
Message Id:  2530
You all have the pot boiling well. Nice work. The last thing I want to do is to get in the way. Here though are a few general questions which occur to me from what's appeared so far that might be worth some discussion ...

All good science begins with the personal. And no, it can't be TOO personal. Maybe we can sort of flip back and forth between the personal and the general? what people's own experiences are and the broader issues to which they relate?

Name:  Diana La Femina
Subject:  Biology = Life
Date:  2002-09-06 13:04:42
Message Id:  2531
Well, I've never really been big on science. Geology class put me to sleep, and I am still amazed that I didn't end up blowing up my school when I was in chemistry class (I did, however, find out that Hydrochloric Acid and Sodium Hydroxide do not necessarily hurt when they first come in contact with skin). This all changed when I first realized that science was pretty much pure theory, regardless of the fact that my high school teachers never taught it as such. Now, science makes me way too philisophical.

I think we look for scientific evidence in our lives because of what we were taught in high school. Science was always presented as facts, absolute truth. While many people know this isn't true the basic conviction that whatever someone in a lab says is true MUST be true is still pretty much assumed. I myself am guilty of this. I think, though, that this isn't completely false. While a cure for the common cold has not yet been found there are certain things that science has found to help prevent symptoms from getting out of hand. Most people have to admit, drinking a glass of orange juice makes you feel healthier, even if it is just psycologically. So why not go looking for "scientific" information? The very fact that it hasn't been disproven yet doesn't mean it won't work, and if it makes you feel healthier to eat chicken because becoming more vegetarian is supposedly bad for you, then eat chicken. Doesn't mean it's true, but it doesn't mean it's false.

Everyone's different. I have a friend who can eat anything she wants and stay as thin as a stick, and another friend who gains five pounds just looking at a cookie. Some things work better for some people than for others, so science will never find a complete cure for something because someone will always be pretty much immune to a pill or whatnot. As for men and women's biologies being different, it's true and false. As I said, everyone's different on some levels just as everyone's the same in others (we all have lungs, don't we?). At the same time, Men and women do differ physically. For instance, if a guy starts menstruating...he really should get that checked out.

That's all I'll say for right now, but I have one last question. I know we're supposed to want to be wrong, but is anyone else contradicting themselves before they state something, or ask a question?

Name:  Roma
Subject:  Vaccines: Good and Bad
Date:  2002-09-07 12:28:42
Message Id:  2537
From the common chickenpox to the new and dangerous anthrax, the medical world has usually been successful in developing vaccines for the prevention and control of these diseases. We are introduced to vaccines in our infancy and this relationship usually lasts well into adulthood. Vaccines have reduced preventable infectious diseases to an all-time low and now few people experience the devastating effects of measles, pertussis and other illnesses. We usually associate the word "vaccine" to be beneficial. However it has been recently heard that the Hemophilus vaccine, a common pediatric vaccine, causes type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes. An article on this. Adverse reactions to vaccines are greatly under reported because the methods of tracking vaccine side effects are designed to only detect reactions occurring within a few weeks of immunization. Clinical trials performed before vaccines are approved for marketing generally include a small population of healthy children and follow these children less than 3 weeks for adverse reactions. These studies detect events such as fever and seizures. It is very important to learn about vaccine safety since human health and vaccines are so intertwined. Seems like every good thing in life comes with side effects.....
Name:  Mer Stoll
Subject:  Philosophy of Biology
Date:  2002-09-07 17:25:48
Message Id:  2542
I have always been wary of science. For the past twenty years, we have been told so many contradictory stories about how to be healthy that it is understandable why so many people (like me) are not sure what to believe. Scientist always "discover" that something causes cancer or heart disease, only to realize in yet another study that they may have jumped to conclusions.

The search for knowledge is at the base of science. We all know that. But why should scientists be afraid of admitting that they do not know all the answers. I am more reassured by those people who admit that they only have the best of their knowledge to rely on, and that they could in fact be wrong.

No one ever gets everything completely "right," and science is the most fallible of all. By trying to come to a conclusion that summarizes the observations which have been seen, scientists really try to fit the laws of nature into words which we can understand, rather than trying to phrase our words to fit nature's rules. While many people might think that these two actions are one and the same, the real difference is that scientists now assume that they can completely understand everything given their "laws" of today. That assumption is erroneous.

As proven in the world of physics and the example of the expansion of the galaxy, it is erroneous to assume that all "laws" are steadfast. Science would have a greater following among those of us who are "not science" people if man's fallibility were admitted and embraced.

Name:  stephanie lane
Subject:  scientific definitions
Date:  2002-09-08 09:13:50
Message Id:  2543
While reading through Chapter One of our Biology book, I came across a sentence that struck me as, well, noteworthy. In a paragraph about "Emergent Properties," was the line:

And an organism is a living whole greater than the sum of its parts.

This was sort of a concept that I hadn't really gone into great depth thinking about until it coincided perfectly with a CSEM discussion later in the week. While talking about the evolution of the world and its species, we constructed a timeline of major (r)evolutionary events. The earth, as believed by a majority of scientists, is around 4.65 billion years old. The first evidence of bacteria dates back to around 3.5 billion years; the first plants around 1 billion and the first insects around 400 million. However, the first evidence of human-like characteristics (bid-pedal, opposable thumb, etc.) did not occur until around 100,000 years ago. In perspective, while the evolution of a single-celled organism took more than a billion years (!), humans have evolved in the past one-hundred-thousand--1/10,000th of the time. From an even greater mind-boggling standpoint, the past century has seen the advancement of human technology snowball at an astonishing rate. A hundred years ago, the automobile was still being perfected, child labor laws were only just beginning their movement, and Einstein hadn't even begun his theory of relativity.

The point is, a LOT has happened in such a short amount of time. Technologically, we have advanced as a people in unthinkable ways and at unthinkable rates. When I think back to the statement about an organism being "greater than the sum of its parts" I realize that it is so true. Humans are a perfect example. By definition, humans could in fact be a mere list of body parts, organs and cells but are more than those things singly. At the beginning of our CSEM class that day, we were asked to answer the question, "Who are you?" and my instructor noted, after everyone had read their answer, that never in the many years he has asked that question has anyone ever responded with something having to do with the actual chemical make-up of a human. More than by what we are made-up of, the label of Human or any being for that matter, encompasses more than just parts. We are defined not only by our biological make-up but also by what we do, achieve and how we live.

In this same way, science in general encompasses not just the "mundane facts" but the way those facts and terms combine to work from/with each other in an astonishing and extremely creative ways. The true definition of an organism (and more broadly, science) is reliant on the amazing interaction of its "parts".

Name:  Laura
Subject:  Fast Food
Date:  2002-09-08 10:32:16
Message Id:  2544
I noticed someone was talking about the disgusting habits which some fast food places aquire and it reminded me of this book my roomate was reading last year called "Fast Food Nation", one which goes thoroughly into the deplorable and sickening ways in which McDonald's, Burger King, and even my all-time favorite fast food place, Del Taco (how you east-coasterners live without a Del Taco is completely beyond me) cook their food. You might be interested in taking a look at it.

I signed up for the class because, frankly, I need to get my lab out of the way before JYA next year and my friend Chelsea said that she was already enrolled. So I figured, if I'm going to go through hell (my picture of hell is one in which I'm stuck doing science and math forever, with voices yelling stuff like, "You suck! You'll never be able to do any of this!"), I might as well go through it with a friend. I was actually surprised in the first week of classes - maybe it won't be as bad as I thought!

I personally am interested in breast cancer. My grandmother was diagnosed last year and though she's doing well, I simply don't know anything about it and that doesn't make me feel good. I'd like to go into the causes of breast cancer, why it happens, who is more likely to get it and why, how it works, et cetera...

Okay, I'm done. Happy Sunday, everyone!

Name:  Chelsea
Subject:  Ummm...
Date:  2002-09-08 11:21:28
Message Id:  2546
Hey guys! I was doing the reading for monday, and I was just wondering...did anyone else notice that in chapter 25 it says that leopards lay eggs? The chart on 497 says that leopards share the characteristic of an Amniotic, or shelled, egg with the turtle. Ok, so first I thought that maybe I was reading it wrong, so I looked up the definition of amniotic egg: (and I quote) "a shelled, water-retaining egg that enables reptiles, birds and EGG-LAYING MAMMALS to complete their life-cycles on dry land." I said to myself, correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't I always been taught that one criteria for a mammal is a LIVE birth? However, as science is generally, in my experience, dumbed-down to the level of a 2-year-old in high school, perhaps it was all a lie. So, I looked up the characteristics of mammals according to this book. Lo and behold, on pg 702-705, there IS an exception to the "rule"- the order Monotremata, which includes Platypuses and echidnas, lays eggs and has no nipples and is found in Australia and New Guinea. HOWEVER, if you will notice...the Leopard is not included in this order- so why oh why did the book say they laid eggs? Someone, anyone, please explain this to me- I can't find a website, news journal or anything else to explain the logic behind that statement :(
Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  leopards, eggs, and textbooks
Date:  2002-09-08 12:17:59
Message Id:  2547
Yep, p 497 is confusing/misleading. That page, and definition, notwithstanding, it ain't the SHELL that defines an "amniotic" egg but rather a surrounding membrane, the amnion (hence "amniotic" egg). See p 693 in textbook (Chapter 34, Amniotes, in sixth edition). Yep, some mammals do have SHELLED amniotic eggs. But not leopards.

Maybe even textbooks sometimes get it wrong? And so we ... ? Nice work. Want to write the authors?

Name:  Chelsea
Date:  2002-09-08 12:42:47
Message Id:  2548
Yay!! I'm not crazy, it wasn't all a lie! Thank you! I was wondering if they meant something else...something to do with amniotic fluid and why it's amniocentesis... Yes, I think it's important for someone to tell the authors that leopards don't lay eggs, that could cause some problems.
Name:  Lydia
Subject:  Science and Creativity
Date:  2002-09-08 12:45:37
Message Id:  2549
I have never thought of science in terms of being a highly charged and creative subject, as young students we are always taught to follow a specific equation in order to reach a final answer (which was always the final answer). However after this weeks discussion it would be hard to deny that science is one of the most creative outlets there is. It is too bad that those studing the humanities seem to have such great disdain towards the sciences and vice versa, as these two subjects are invaribly intertwined. A larger question though is how can one use science to explain creativity, can we use science to discover what motivates a person to strum out a tune on their guitar or dabble on a canvas? In other words, how can science be used to explain how one percieves the world and how does one begin to place abstract emotions into words and motion? How can science begin to describe how people have different ways of viewing life and different inclinations towards various things?
Name:  Katie
Subject:  Touch
Date:  2002-09-08 13:03:37
Message Id:  2550
So now as my humanities driven mind is prompted to think of life as related to science and, in particular, biology, pretty random things have crossed my mind. Last night I began to think of the human sense of touch. Biologically I would assume (though I have not quited learned the mechanics) sense of touch has a defined sequence involving the physical act of touch, the transmission of this action through the nervous system and finally to the brain that makes some sense of that sensation. My inquiry lies however in what specifics change what exactly is felt by different touches. For example, why is it that the grasp of one persons hand does not relay the same pleasure as taking the hand of a small child or the comfort of holding the hand of someone you love. It seems to me that in combination with the chemicals produced by the brain (endorphins, seritonin, whatever...) the "regular" sense of touch is enhanced to give those separate and different feelings that come with touch from different people. For me as someone who thinks in emotions and acts based on feelings it's interesting to think that there is a scientific rhyme or reason behind these things. It's like the new study of chaos science, attmepting to define the unexplainable and understand it. I never really considered that there is a process in which we develop certain feelings, etc. That's all I'm really contemplating at the moment...
Name:  Sarah Tan
Subject:  Human error
Date:  2002-09-08 14:42:02
Message Id:  2552
I was reading the NY Times for a post inspiration, and sure enough, I found this gem of an article. This is a classic example of scientists finding evidence for certain theories solely becaus they're looking for it specifically. In this case, this lepidopterist, Kettlewell, went searching for results supporting natural selection and found them not because they were there but because he wanted them to be there, and "there are subtle ways to seduce yourself."

We've already discussed that the scientific information we have toniday cannot be taken as "truth," but the reason for that has largely been the lack of knowledge and continued discoveries in the field. I don't recall anyone mentioning that scientists themselves can be to blame for at least some of the inaccuracies because the observations they make and the experiments they perform to test the observations are all still based on unavoidable personal bias.

Even science nerds have to deal with internal politics. Status and reputations are at stake, funding depends on previous research, and critics and enemies can break a career for personal gain or just for sport. Not to make this sound excessively like a soap opera, but the point is that since scientists are human, they will inevitable make mistakes, and the data collected and analyzed by them will not and cannot be completely accurate, especially in a more subjective field like biology, which has less do to with math and formulas than other areas of science.

Name:  Jodie
Subject:  Flavor
Date:  2002-09-08 20:05:04
Message Id:  2556
Laura's posting mentioning Fast Food Nation reminded me of something in the book (which is a wonderful read, by the way, and comes highly recommended) about factories that produce flavor. They have all these scientists working with different chemicals to produce flavor--natural and artificial. Both are produced at the flavor factories--most of which are found in New Jersey. I actually can't find any of the information online right now, but i will follow this up when i get my copy of fast food nation--my mom should be sending it to me. But it's really interesting that a lot of the flavors we completely ignore are chemical compounds that scientists just threw together. Well they threw them together scientifically but still. There was a lawsuit a few years ago against McDonalds for not having vegetarian fries (yeah, that's right). A woman had written in, I think in Florida, asking whether the fries were vegetarian. She was assured that they were, but guess what? There is beef tallow in them and also the artificial or natural flavor in them is made with beef. So really vegetarians and vegans can never be careful enough when eating processed food.
Here are some definitions...
The exact definition of natural flavorings & flavors from Title 21, Section 101, part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations is as follows:

"The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."

In other words, natural flavors can be pretty much anything approved for use in food.

(a)(1) The term artificial flavor or artificial flavoring means any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof. (

Name:  Heather Price
Subject:  it's forum time
Date:  2002-09-08 20:23:39
Message Id:  2557
I couldn't really think of a topic, so I started thinking about class on Friday, and the question of how we distinguish living things from inanimate objects. At first, I jumped to the usual conclusion that it's because the living thing thing moves. But then again, not all living things can be seen moving with the naked eye (honestly, have you ever watched a tree move on its own?) and plus there are many things that are inanimate that seem to move on their own.

So I've come to the conclusion that it could possibly be defined not simply by movement, but more by reaction. Every living thing reacts to stimulus of somesort. If you knock over a tree it will either die or keep growing as is. It has some sort of response. When you ask a prof a question, he responds. The desk does not. That's one of the main ways we distinguish between livning and non-living things.

Name:  Tegan Georges
Subject:  Science and Creativity 2
Date:  2002-09-08 22:28:07
Message Id:  2559
Pardon me if this seems a bit of an unrelated tangent, but reading Lydia's message about science and creativity reminded me of a play I'd read once, Picasso at the Lapine Agile, by Steve Martin.

The play is set up like the premise of a bad joke: Picasso and Einstein wind up in a bar in Paris in 1904. They have a bit of an on-going arguement about whose contributions to the world are more important, that of the artist or that of the scientist. It's a rather funny play, I highly recommend it: but in the interest of only taking up as much of your time, my fellow students, as vaguely relates to the topic at hand, I'd like to just post a small bit of the dialogue. I think it relates to the question of science and art's realtions to one another, and to the creative process, which in my opinion is what binds them together.

Picasso (P from here on out): ...And what the hell do know about it anyway? You're a scientist! You just want theories...
Einstein (E):Yes, and like you, the theories must be beautiful. You know why the sun doesn't revolve around the earth? Because it isn't beautiful enough. If you're trying to prove that the sun revolves around the earth, in order to make the theory fit the facts, you have to have the planets moving backwards, and the sun doing loop-the-loops. Too ugly. Way too ugly.
P: So you're saying you bring a beautiful idea into being?
E: Yes. We create a system and then check to see if our observations fit it..
P: So you're not just describing the world as it is?
E: No! We are creating a new way of looking at the world!

And by the end of the play, the two realize that their respective fields are closely enough related and relavent to the other that they can call each other brother.

So I posted this mostly because I really like this play, and reference it whenever I've got even a marginal excuse to do so, I think, but also because I think that drive to find a new and better way of looking at the world is the essence of science. And Lydia, as far as your question about whether or not science can be used to explain creativity, I offer the notion that it is actually a creative drive that explains science: with a guitar, you create an ordered series of notes in some sort of harmonious arrangement. Painting, you create an ordered image on a canvas when there was none before. And in science, we create systems to bring order to the world as we observe it. Those observations are ever increasing and changing; and since we do them as individuals, no two people's perceptions are ever exactly alike, we all have something to contribute. Science and scientists must always be striving to create the next best system, the next best summary of all observations, just as it is said that a writer must write, a dancer must dance. What causes one woman to create in a symphony and another to create in a laboratory, and why these urges are stronger in some people and not in others would be an interesting scientific study: I am personally inclined, through my observation, to just add the 'creative urge' to the list of qualities possessed inherently by human beings, and differences in strength and ethod of expression of creativity to the vastly different experiences people have from one another. Goodness, that was really long. Sorry about that.

Name:  Christine Traversi
Subject:  What is Life?
Date:  2002-09-08 23:18:58
Message Id:  2561
What is life? Easy question, but a difficult one to answer. I searched the web for an answer and encountered different definitions, some more scientific than others. One of the more scientific ones I came across included seven characteristics of life that distinguish biological entities from non-living things:

1. Organisms tend to be complex and highly organized. Chemicals found within their bodies are synthesized through metabolic processes into structures that have defined purposes.
2. Living things have the ability to take energy from their environment and change it from one form to another. This energy is usually used to facilitate their growth and reproduction.
3. Organisms regulate their bodies and other internal structures to certain normal parameters.
4. Living creatures respond to stimuli. Cues in their environment cause them to react through behavior, metabolism, and physiological change.
5. Living things reproduce themselves by making copies of themselves.
6. Organisms tend to grow and develop. Growth involves the conversion of consumed materials into biomass, new individuals, and waste.
7. Life adapts and evolves in step with external changes in the environment through mutation and natural selection.

Almost all of the definitions just examined material components and the interactions that can be analyzed with physical means, but can life be described in such strictly scientific terms? No definition touched the subject of consciousness and none examined life as a force. Can there be more than one definition of life?

Name:  Annie Sullivan
Subject:  caffeine
Date:  2002-09-08 23:20:08
Message Id:  2562
I am definitely a slave to caffeine—I thrive on pop and coffee. Despite my efforts to decrease my intake, I still crave caffeinated beverages. I actually hadn't even considered caffeine a drug until one of my friends in high school had a caffeine overdose (fortunately, she recovered soon after). But I honestly didn't even know that was possible! Then later, when I tried to reduce my own caffeine intake, I noticed drowsiness and headaches, etc. Although I don't think any of us would classify caffeine with drugs like nicotine, marijuana, and heroin, it is indeed true that this drug poses a danger to the heavy user.
Many people tend to first think of the many benefits of caffeine consumption (to which most sleep deprived college students can attest). Most of us enjoy the rush of energy, increased clarity and concentration, and the more rapid stream of thoughts and ideas which caffeine causes. How wonderful that there exists a socially accepted drug that can provide these benefits!
But I recently began reading up on this drug, discovering just how it influences the nervous system. What I found is that caffeine affects each person differently (a lot has to do with an individual's tolerance) and that it is relatively harmless when consumed in small doses. For those of us that are coffee addicts, however, more attention should be paid to the consequences of high usage. Caffeine first stimulates the upper portion of the CNS, but as dosage increases, it begins to move down the spinal cord. High dosage causes insomnia, anxiety, trembling, flashes of light and even small fevers and delirium. Surprisingly, several studies have shown that caffeinism (that is the actual term) causes symptoms that are often confused with those of psychosis! This presents the problem of misdiagnosis and the psychiatric community now ponders the possibility that high caffeine consumption stimulates psychosis. The after effects of caffeine include depression, fatigue, and agitation.
Another interesting fact is that a disorder called Restless Legs syndrome—a state related to anxiety and depression—is caused chiefly by caffeine. When this drug stimulates the nervous system, it produces bouts of nervousness, panic, insomnia, and uncontrolled shaking and movement in the legs—symptoms which are particularly severe during the night.
That most people hardly consider caffeine a "drug" allows for such uncontrolled usage (and I am no one to preach!) Another problem is that the consumption of caffeine, particularly coffee, has become such a social practice. The huge increase of coffee houses and of delicious specialty drinks has made coffee drinking a habitual and social ritual. Students, working adults, even children now include that trip to starbucks as an integral part of their day. And then, as it goes with any other drug, our tolerance rises and the addiction worsens.
In reality, I don't really know where this exploration has taken me—I will still consume my '"x" cups of coffee each day.... I guess it's just important that we start to view caffeine for what it really is and realize that we are actually altering our physiology with each cup of coffee.

Source of discussion:

Name:  Chelsea
Subject:  Vegetarianism
Date:  2002-09-09 00:02:12
Message Id:  2564
Hi everyone

I've noticed that a bunch of you were talking about issues related to health. So, I thought I'd comment on a related issue that I have something of a vested interest in -- vegetarianism and veganism. I'm currently a vegan and I was raised as a vegetarian (three cheers for being the child of ex-hippies!). Although a lot of the reasons I eat the way I do have to do w/ morality issues (a thought: just because we're biologically capable of doing something, such as eating meat, does that mean we should?), I also feel that it can be a healthier diet (can be ... um, if you eat nothing but potato chips it will probably be a bad idea ... just as eating meat can be made healthier or less healthy depending on the specifics of what you're actually doing). Anyway, I guess I'm also something of a living response to people who wonder if it's OK to raise children as vegetarians (*waves* I'm here, I'm 18, and I'm, knock on wood, doing well). I'm also likely to raise my children vegetarian (quite possibly vegan) so I tend to be interested in issues related to how best to do so, etc. Now, I'm reading this over and worrying that it somehow sounds preachy (not the intention) ... if it does, I apologize. Also, here's a website with more information if anyone is interested:
Take care!

Name:  Will
Subject:  life elsewhere
Date:  2002-09-09 03:15:45
Message Id:  2565
I've been thinking about the tangent we took in class on Friday about the possibility of life on Mars or Europa. Prof. Grobstein asked us, "Wouldn't it be significant if there was life other than on Earth?" and we all avoided eye contact or shrugged or gave a whisper of consent. Later on, however, I was thinking more seriously about it. I've always been interested in astronomy and space exploration - I was a token 12 year-old who wanted to be an astronaut. Thinking a little more critically I began to wonder what impact extraterrestrial life would have on me, personally. I'm talking microorganisms, or even a sign of extinct organisms on Mars or Europa. What benefits does it bring our society? Scientists could study the way life came to be in those environments, and perhaps answer some of the questions we have about how life came to be on Earth. Perhaps there would be new extreme environments that life adapted to that were never present on Earth. There are others, but one reason I'm not a scientist is because I can't come up with them. But all of this knowledge gained from such research remains in the scientific world. It'll be published, and maybe Campbell's 10th edition would be even more complete, but only eager science students such as ourselves would learn about it. The average Joe/Jane could continue on with his/her life not losing anything for not knowing the newest type of extremophile. Perhaps I'm cynical about this right now beacuse it's late. I actually do love biology, but in the context that Prof. Grobstein brought up earlier - I care about it in the way that it affects me, even in detail. The endless lists of types of bacteria and protists and how the reproduce bores the hell out of me becuase I never feel the need to know how the millions of things inside my mouth are reproducing. However, I love to be able to walk around knowing why the trees are turning, look at my feet and know what's happening inside my brain and body that's moving them, and even how life originated. I don't think it's important to know those things, but I think that it makes my life a lot more enjoyable for some weird, twisted, nerdy reason. So is the life of a Haverford student.

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