FALL, 2002

From color and bipolarity to creativity and complexity and ... the nature of understanding

Name:  Chelsea
Subject:  beasts and other wooley things
Date:  2002-11-11 16:15:28
Message Id:  3672
ok, just wanted to reiterate that "beauty/beast" is not necessarily an improbable relationship, it would depend on the person and was just intended to be an example...I'm quite fond of beasts, actually...nice and fuzzy:) I always think prince charming looks like fabio and if I had the choice, I'd go for the beast any day. Not that I'm saying I'm a beauty and would have the choice- oh, never mind.

On a different note, I thought the conversation was really interesting in class today, even though we didn't get past the forum. The discussion regarding emotions and whether they are a product of culture or biology or both is really interesting. I personally think both, but wasn't there a web paper or two about emotion? What do those of you who did research think?

Name:  Annie Sullivan
Subject:  perception
Date:  2002-11-12 00:31:49
Message Id:  3689
Discussion in class today was lively and pretty interesting. Many of us seemed fascinated by the statements made about our sensory organs in relation to the true nature of the world around us. It is in fact, difficult to grasp the concept that the world as we perceive it is just that: a perception. Blueness, for example, is not an inherent quality of Professor Grobstein's shirt—is only the interaction between the shirt's molecules, light, and the organization of our eyes that creates the illusion of Blue. This reality raises an interesting, and perhaps philosophical question. Can we ever really know what IS, what the true nature of an object is, or how the world as we know it is distorted by our senses? Everything that we know about the nature of any object must be filtered through our senses. Does this process present us, human beings, with a realistic perception of the world? What is sound, color, taste, etc? These seem to be merely reactions, even opinions that can never deliver the truth. This puzzle will probably never find concrete answers, but it may be worthwhile to consider our own limitations in drawing conclusions and establishing the "facts" as we know them.
Name:  Laura Bang!
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  still MORE about emotions...
Date:  2002-11-12 17:29:42
Message Id:  3704

     In response to Chelsea's question about whether emotions are biologically or culturally based...

     I did my web paper on emotions, and one of the things that I learned was that there is a place in the brain where emotions originate from. This place is called the prefrontal cortex and is located in the right hemisphere of the brain. I'm sure most of you know about the different attributes of the right and left hemispheres of the brain, but just in case you don't, here's a quick reminder (but just as a warning, I'm remembering this stuff from an 8th grade science project I did): for starters, the right hemisphere of the brain is in charge of the left side of your body, and the left hemisphere is in charge of the right side of your body. Secondly, the right hemisphere is associated with creative, aesthetic, artistic, and visual thinking as well as memories, whereas the left hemisphere is associated with logical, rational, and textual thinking. So since the center of emotions is located in the right hemisphere of the brain, it makes sense that the right hemisphere is the more "touchy-feely" half of the brain. Usually one of the brain's hemispheres is dominant, and usually the dominant hemisphere corresponds to which hand you use, so that someone who is right-handed is usually left-brain dominant and someone who is left-handed is usually right-brain dominant. So that's why left-handed people are usually more creative and artistic, and some famous examples are Mark Twain, M.C. Escher, Jimi Hendrix, Lewis Carroll, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Paul Simon, and me (though I'm not actually famous, at least not yet...). In reality, though, it doesn't really matter what hand you use, since I have a bunch of creative right-handed friends.

     So, what can we draw from this? That emotions are biologically based? Nope. I'm not done rambling yet...

     In spite of the fact that there is an emotional center in the brain, emotions are still influenced by what happens around us, by which I mean to say that culture influences emotions as well. Emotions are responses to external stimuli, and culture is definitely an external stimulus.

     If you want to learn more about whether emotions are biologically or culturally based, or both, then don't read my web paper. In my web paper I focused on how society says that emotional thinking is bad and we should use rational thought instead, but as it turns out emotions are a necessary part of rational thought. So if you want to know more about that, then read my web paper.

Smile! :-)

Name:  Elizabeth Damore
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Senses
Date:  2002-11-12 22:07:40
Message Id:  3711
Like Annie, I have wondered whether or not our experiences are colored by our individual senses. It's hard to tell if colors or other things look the same to all people, as we cannot see through other's eyes. A more concrete example of how varied our senses are: not everyone likes the same foods, as some meals just "taste bad" to individuals. But another person may enjoy the same taste. The same applies to music. Not everyone finds the same notes pleasing to their ears.
Name:  Wil Franklin
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  "Reality"
Date:  2002-11-13 10:06:43
Message Id:  3714
Is there reality outside/beyond personal perception? And if culture and society influence what is "personal", is there such a thing as personal or is there only an individually unique facet of culture? Here is a little thought experiment that is interesting, if not horrifically morbid. At birth, take two genetically different individuals and place them in complete isolation from others and even go so far as to place them in an environment devoid of any external object. Suppose that they grow up their entire lives without going completely insane. What is their "reality"? Now just ask yourself: is there any component of self that is not actually a conglomeration of the external. Thus, let's assume once and for all each individual person is nothing more than a unique amalgam of external experiences both cultural and environmental. Furthermore, let us assume that each of us is a unique set of genes (or unique organization of many bags within bags of molecules), which influences the way we interpret external experiences and subsequently making our personal perceptions that much more unique. Therefore, we can now agree that we are all unique because of the sum total of all our varied molecules and varied experiences. Yet we are all fundamentally defined by each other (shared culture and shared environments). Finally, back to my original question: Is there reality outside/beyond personal perception? And I would say, NO! Just consider the two locked in isolation. Now, you may want to argue that we can never know if there is "reality" outside of our perception, but I argue if we can never know it, then it is the same as if there is no "reality" outside our collective interpretations.
Name:  Laura Bang!
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  I just thought this was interesting...
Date:  2002-11-13 19:57:46
Message Id:  3727

     This doesn't have anything to do with what we've been talking about lately (although it is about the mind/brain), but I just happened upon this poem the other day and thought it was worth sharing...


A theory if you hold it hard enough
And long enough gets rated as a creed:
Such as that flesh is something we can slough
So that the mind can be entirely freed.
Then when the arms and legs have atrophied,
And brain is all that's left of mortal stuff,
We can lie on the beach with the seaweed
And take our daily tide baths smooth and rough.
There once we lay as blobs of jellyfish
At evolution's opposite extreme.
But now as blobs of brain we'll lie and dream,
With only one vestigial creature wish:
Oh, may the tide be soon enough at high
To keep our abstract verse from being dry.

~ Robert Frost

Name:  Margaret Hoyt
Subject:  Hegel
Date:  2002-11-14 01:51:53
Message Id:  3729
Well, imagine my surprise when I came across this passage in my Political Philosophy reading: "The notion of what is "better," the more perfect condition at which the "perfectible" is to aim, remains quite indeterminate."
Hegel has more to say on the subject. "Perfectability, indeed, is something almost as indefinite as the concempt of mutability in general - it is without purpose or end, or without a standard for judging change." What do you know? Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (please say with a German accent) agrees with Professor Grobstein!! (Or is it the other way around?) Now, I realize many of our professors are very intelligent beings, but I was so psyched to find this in "The Philosophy of History," that I had to share it with our class.
Hegel has many other intresting points, such as using the term development suggests that there is an inner determination in the organism. Relating specifically to natural organisms, Hegel writes, "theirs is an existence that proceeds from an immutable inner principle- a simple essence . . . Natural organisms live in a continuous process of change . . producing itself, making itself into what it implicity is." Personally, it takes me a few hours and a bottle of Advil to understand what philosophers are saying. Since we've disucssed this before in class, I was able to comprehend Hegel's larger issues of History and the Universal Spirit. There have been a few select times where I have had information overlap in two or more classes, and it is so exciting.
Hopefully, this will remind us that science is more than test tubes and the periodic table. As Professor Grobstein said once in class, value judgements have no place in science. (I really really hope he said that. I apologize if I heard incorrectly.) And although Hegel seems to agree with Prof. Grobstein, what philosophy really teaches us is to examine the world around us. I'm glad the forum is here for us to share our continuous findings with each other.
Name:  Erin Myers
Subject:  Fatal alleles
Date:  2002-11-14 11:37:57
Message Id:  3730
I overheard some people having a hard time understanding fatal recessive alleles yesterday in lab, it seems because they couldn't think of an example of a fatal recessive allele in humans. It's hard to think of examples because we never see prenatal lethal examples -- they don't survive.

While I was researching my web paper I discovered that 15% of pregnancies are miscarried in the embryonic stage (the first days of pregnancy). It is likely that some of these pregnancies end because of lethal alleles.

Dominant lethal alleles are quickly eliminated from the population, because they usually cause death before the individual can reproduce. But recessive lethal alleles can be passeed on from generation to generation because they only cause death in the homozygous recessive condition.

I've found an example of a human prenatal-lethal allele: Brachydactyly is a genetic condition in which the fingers are abnormally short in heterozygotes, but in homozygous recessive the condition is fatal due to major skeletal defects. Most fatal genetic disorders are the result of lethal alleles whether or not the death occurs in utero or later in life. Sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis (there is a rockin' cystic fibrosis essay in the web paper archive) are two such disorders considered to be caused by lethal recessive alleles that do not usually result in death until after birth.

I hope this has helped.

I hope that helped.

Name:  Erin Myers
Subject:  creativity and bi-polar
Date:  2002-11-14 11:49:23
Message Id:  3731
It was mentioned in class that there seems to be a correlation between bi-polar disorder and creativity. This is total speculation, but perhaps because the right side of the brain controls both creativity and emotion, the chemical imbalance that causes bi-polar somehow increases creativity. Hmmm...
Name:  amanda maclay
Subject:  beyond us
Date:  2002-11-14 14:18:29
Message Id:  3734
responding to will's question about is there a reality beyond us? I think it is important to note that we have five sense, only five senses. Doesn't anyone ever consider the fact that there are other realities that don't exist to us due our limited amounted of senses? I always picture aliens to have different senses therefore causing them to live in different realities than we do. what if we can't percieve other elements that are occuring all the time? of course these are going to personal, we percieve the world through personal attributes.
Name:  Wil Franklin
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  5 Senses & Reality
Date:  2002-11-14 15:38:58
Message Id:  3735
I think Amanda has a very good point about how sense limits and shapes your reality and speaks directly to my thought experiment. Bees see ultra-violet light, we don't - they have a different reality. I can imagine that an alternate reality exist, but can I never know it. Therefore, imaging other realities and "knowing" them experencially are not really the same. On the other hand, two people from vastly diffent cultures also have slightly different realities and I would hope that they could imagine each other's so they would be tolerant of each other. Do democrats and rebulicans have different realities?
Name:  Erin Myers
Username:  emyers
Subject:  Fatal alleles continued
Date:  2002-11-14 16:31:15
Message Id:  3739
Oops, big mistake (I think). . . I've thought about this all day and the lethal alleles we identified in lab must have been lethal dominant alleles, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to identify them. Lethal recessive allele's phenotypes are hard to identify if they kill the individual before birth.

So I've found an example of a human lethal dominant allele: Achondrplasia (dwarfism) is condition that is caused by a dominant allele that lethal when homozygous.

Name:  Brenda
Subject:  Bi-Polar = Creativity?
Date:  2002-11-14 22:36:27
Message Id:  3741
I was thinking about what was said in class on Monday (I believe someone already mentioned this briefly), but I really cannot see how bi-polar disease is related to "creativity". I mean, what is creativity? Things are only creative when society or an individual sees something as such. So what is it that makes someone see something in such a way (and make something of it) and then have lots of other people see it in the same way as the artist (once it is finished) but not have the ability to see the piece themselves (why could they not have been the artist)?
So, what makes something art? What is creativity? I have seen acclaimed paintings which are nothing more than a black canvas with a single colored line through it. How is this creative, and something else not? How do our brains evolve to tell us what is creative, new, and what will become popular? Or is "inventing" going on all the time, and we only see the positive products, while the "failures" are shoved behind a curtain? Is this process 100% cultural, or is some of it biological? Is the brain involved, or just the sensory organs? Or none of the above?
Name:  Brie Farley
Subject:  X Recessive
Date:  2002-11-15 09:40:06
Message Id:  3742
During the fly lab on Wednesday, Diana and I discovered that body color yellow is X-linked recessive. The process of discovering this perplexed us. Then, we learned that genes on the X can be recessive or dominant, and their expression in females and males is not the same because the genes on the Y chromosome do not exactly pair up with the genes on the X.

Thus, Yellow body color is expressed in females only if there are two Yellow color genes on their XX. Males only need one gene for Yellow on their X chromosome to appear yellow. So, a woman can carry a recessive gene on just one of her X chromosomes and not know it. Her son can be born expressing the recessive trait.

Diana and I believed that colorblindness in humans is a result of the same thing. I decided to check this out.

Apparently, Red-Green color blindness and Hemophilia A are X-linked recessive. Red-green color blindness means that a person cannot distinguish shades of red and green. Their ability to see is normal and there are no serious complications; however, affected individuals may not be considered for certain occupations involving transportation or the Armed Forces where color recognition is required. Because the gene is located on the X chromosome, males are affected 16 times more often than females.

Hemophilia A is a disorder where the blood cannot clot properly due to a deficiency of a clotting factor. This results in abnormally heavy bleeding that will not stop, even from a small cut. People with hemophilia A bruise easily and can have internal bleeding into their joints and muscles. Hemophilia A is seen in one in 10,000 live male births. Treatment is available by blood transfusion. Female carriers of the gene may show some mild signs such as bruising easily or taking longer than usual to stop bleeding when cut. However, not all female carriers present these symptoms. One third of all cases are thought to be new mutations in the family (not inherited from the mother).

Look at what new discoveries having forced flies to mate leads to!

You can check out the information above at :

Have a great weekend!

Name:  Adrienne
Subject:  Bi-Polar and Creativity
Date:  2002-11-15 18:45:57
Message Id:  3748
That's a good point Erin, I hadn't thought of that as a cause of increased creativity. From my understanding of bi-polar disorder, it's almost as if the person has a split personality: their highs and lows can be so dramatic, they seem like a different person entirely. From what I have read, during the highs, there's also the feeling that they are unstoppable and a feeling of euphoria. I feel that these things contribute to the creative process because they put the person outside of themselves in a certain sense. In this other state they probably have access to different types of thoughts that can be more creative than normal.
Name:  Diana La Femina
Subject:  Uneasy
Date:  2002-11-16 09:25:46
Message Id:  3755
In class of Friday something I thought was very interesting happened. For anyone who wasn't in class, I will explain. We went over some of the web papers and he people who were present gave a brief summery of what they thought were the main points of their paper. Grobstein tied my paper on tacit knoweldge (knowledge we don't know we have) to another paper on advretising and sex (the biological reasons behind what advertisers do). One of the things that was brought up was that when you are attracted to someone your pupils dialate. At this, everyone started looking around the room. Besides the two people sitting directly next to me NO ONE from class would make eye contact with me afterwards. Now, I'm not saying I'm trying to find out if anyone in class is attracted to me or not. I just have a strange habit of making eye contact with most everyone, or at least trying to. Even people I was talking to wouldn't make eye contact with me. Why was everyone so uncomfortable after that point? I would think that we instinctively should want people to know we are attracted to them, something like akin to the instinct of flight-or-fight: it's a survival technique in a way, only not for us to stay living but for us to continue the species. Why was everyone so uncomfortable after class?

*Oh, and Chelsea, I do love you...but only as a friend :-P

Name:  kathryn bailey
Date:  2002-11-16 21:19:45
Message Id:  3758
Amanda's point that our five senses limit us to certain realities is very interesting. I was reading an article about how people may have multiple intelligences. The authors says that recent data supports the notion of mental modules, defined as, "fast-operating, relexlike, information-processing devices that seem impervious to the influence of other modules." He goes on to say, "The discovery of these modules has given rise to the view that there may be separate analytic devices involved in tasks like syntactic parsing, tonal recognition, or facial perception." I was wondering if the limits our five senses impose on us have anything to do with the different mental modules. Are the separate analytic devices a result of our five senses? Is a task such as facial perception influenced by the people have varying degrees of facial perception because of differences in the senses? More broadly, is the spectrum of intelligence directly related to the effectiveness of one's sensory input?
Name:  Billy the Kid
Subject:  Brain malfunctions
Date:  2002-11-17 01:29:58
Message Id:  3761
Sitting in class one day I had one of those little pricks that you get for no apparent reason on the bottom of my thigh. I'm always puzzled by those types of shocks or tweaks you feel when there seems to be nothing that would have caused it. Then I thought about discussions that always come up about whether anything around us is real or if it's just a large dream, etc., etc., etc. When you think about all of our sensory organs, the only way we detect things is through impulses in our brain. So these little pricks that I feel could easily be "dreamed up" in my brain, triggered but nothing more than some mis-communication in my brain, triggering my pain response in response to nothing other than a chemical malfunction in my brain. Does our brain screw up? It must, there are mutations in DNA, so something as large as our brain, made up of all that DNA, must have malfunctions every now and then. It's just really strange to think about that prick and think "Maybe nothing actually happened to my leg, but my brain just screwed up and made me think that." For anyone who's interested in that dream/life debate I highly suggest the movie "Waking Life", it's a fantastic collection of philosophical monologues done in really trippy animation based on the idea that brain activity continues for 6-8 minutes after death, so you can still think you're living after you die. Crazy stuff. Don't watch it high either, the animation will screw with your head.
Name:  kate amlin
Subject:  heart cells
Date:  2002-11-17 11:29:27
Message Id:  3764
One of my roommates told me that each individual heart cell beats by itself and that if you put two individual heart cells near each other in a petri dish they will coordinate their beats. Now i'll admit that i know almost nothing about this type of biology, and from class it would make sense since cells are semi-autonomous and semi-homeostatic, but can anyone else confirm this?
Name:  Diana Fernandez
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2002-11-17 18:53:04
Message Id:  3767
After the fly lab, I became interested in genetics and how certain traits get passed on. At found an article where a mouse embryo developed from a cloned mouse tumor. The cancerous gene was not passed on to the mouse embryo. How does this occur? How do some genes get passed on and others become part of a individuals genetic makeup.
Name:  Diana La Femina
Subject:  messed up brain
Date:  2002-11-17 19:39:12
Message Id:  3768
Just wanted to reply to Will's question of if the brain can screw up. Remember, I'm the freak in the class who sees white lights flying through the air all the time: Yes, the brain can mess up.
Name:  Diana DiMuro
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2002-11-17 20:32:10
Message Id:  3770
Although I realize it's completely speculation, I thought Erin's idea that there might be a correlation between creativity and bi-polarness due to them both being on the right side of the brain is really interesting. I wonder how many things we do daily that are all directly correlated by being on the same side of the brain. Diseases of various kinds have the potential to change or affect our motor functions or general well-being. Why not then consider that mental illness or disorders affect our emotions, abilities, or even creativity? I'm not sure I agree with Brenda's assertion that things are only creative when society or an individual sees them as such. While everyone has the ability to create, part of being creative is making or doing something that is new or hasn't been done before, or maybe goes against previous beliefs or notions of what is accepted by society. For example, I hear Brenda on modern art. I remember seeing a lot of it when I was little and thinking "I can do that." But that wasn't the point, what made that art creative was that it was going against the already conceived notions of what art was supposed to be. Sure a lot of what gets into galleries or museums is what becomes popular, but there were plenty of artists that were not famous at all during their lifetimes and were still creative. Plenty of movements in art and literature were creating something different from what was perceived as popular or the norm. Most of those movements were famous because initially they were NOT popular by society. Does that make them failures or any less creative? There are millions of creative people out there who are making things you'll never see in a museum or store, but I don't think that makes creativity entirely dependent on society or popularity. Humans are by nature inquisitive and creative. But this is really getting off topic of my original ideas associated with Erin's idea about creativity and bi-polarness. I think it would be a really interesting argument or research endeavor to be able to determine whether some of the well-known artists were infact depressed or bi-polar. Take into consideration how many artists or writers committed suicide or were alcoholics or severely depressed. One of my favorite painters, Van Gogh, for instance painted some very beautiful but very foreboding paintings before he committed suicide. Sorry this is a sad note to end on, but hey I think it's worth considering.
Name:  stephanie
Date:  2002-11-17 21:33:44
Message Id:  3771
I was thinking about a lecture this week about how things fall apart and their move to different states of probability. Just thinking about all of the intricacies involved in something as simple as a breakdown of molecules makes you realize that things are far more complex than you could ever imagine. It strikes me that everything is so connected and that every single movement/change in your body is going to connect to something else and perhaps cause a chemical reaction in some other way. This goes back to another lecture given a while back on cholesterol levels and their relationship to behavior--something that (without investigation) would seemingly have ABSOLUTELY no relationship to cholesterol. It's almost scary knowing that every little thing you do affects the biological processes in your body, but I guess it makes complete sense. Life systems wouldn't exist unless these intricacies did and so its only fitting that any one change in your body will, inevitably, change something somewhere else. Wow, it's scary that biology really does make sense.
Name:  Catherine
Date:  2002-11-18 01:41:02
Message Id:  3772
I was thinking about someone's webpaper we discussed in class on Friday... we mentioned that people naturally respond to others they like by enlarging their pupils? I'm guessing that their pupils become smaller if they don't like someone? Is this at ALL controllable (I don't dislike anyone in the class, I am just wondering)?
Name:  Mer
Date:  2002-11-18 02:58:23
Message Id:  3773
I think that we are continually limited not only by our five senses, but also the language what we use to express these ideas. The phrase 'house' means different things to different people, based on personal experience. We are all taught that words serve as a metaphor for reality. How else can we even try to express our thoughts, wishes, or feelings. That being said, what is felt within the mind cannot ever be fully expressed without the other person actually being 'within' the mind. Since that unity with each other is not at the present available, we must do what we can with words and motions, realizing that even the best attempts at comprehesively conveying ourselves will ultimately fail.

Thus in terms of color as we have been discussing in class, it is impossible to know not only if we see the same color, but how close the two colors that we see are. The best thing that we can do is institutionalize the transaction of knowledge, otherwise known as schooling. Without some form of 'education,' be it official or a social education, we would never be able to attain the near-closeness of understanding each other that is available today.

Name:  Sarah Tan
Username:  stan@bmc
Date:  2002-11-18 03:10:08
Message Id:  3774
As Mer said. I believe that the language used to express ideas is vitally important to the effective communication. The realities that we experience tend to be conveyed better by certain terminologies than other. In particular, there are multifarious examples of certain expressions which are easily expressed by one language that cannot be conceived by speakers of another one. Idioms and idiomatic expressions are one of the main problems in language translations because the connotation that accompanies one phrase may not be accurately conveyed by the translation. This is one of the problems in globalization, with diplomats understanding each other via another person. The realities of what each person hears and therefore experiences is different, and this is affected not only by language but by simply the fact that three different people are trying to talk together about the same thing without the appropriate means to do so.
Name:  Tegan
Subject:  Unintetional Ode to Science
Date:  2002-11-18 08:56:00
Message Id:  3775
So I was reading Stephanie's message about the intricate interrelations all biological processes, how everything seems to affect everything else, in more complex ways than a person might at first imagine. And she's right: life wouldn't exist if these improbable assemblies we keep looking at didn't all connect to one another, in some way. I think it's one of the reasons I like science, even if I don't exactly consider myself a great scientist. There's a real beauty in the complexity of it, in observing seemingly unrelated phenomena interact and making some sense of what might look like chaos otherwise, knowing that is isn't chaos at all but rather a complex entity with parts interacting in ways one person couldn't begin to understand all on her own. Building on and refuting the observations of others before you to somehow contribute to a greater understanding of the world as we are able to perceive it.
Pardon the poetic ramblings. I've been up all night: my lack of sleep is facilitating an ode to science I don't think I intended, when I sat down here.

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