FALL, 2002

Science, life, the universe, food, sleep, and depression (among other things)

Name:  Anastasia Michals
Username:  amichals
Subject:  Frustrations
Date:  2002-09-09 22:40:10
Message Id:  2578
At times life can be so easy. Everything just seems to fall into place. The things that you hope will work out, somehow do, and things that you never thought possible develop in front of your very eyes. You can go to school all day to come home with little to no work to do, decide since you have all this free time that you will go to the mall with your best friend, find the perfect skirt in your favorite store and find out when you are standing at the register ready to dish out $75 that it has just been marked down to $9.99. After a couple of these miracles, you decide that you are all shopped out. When you get home, as you enter the kitchen you find that mom has just cooked eggplant rolatinni, which happens to be your favorite food. It is amazing to think that you could run into frustrations after a day like that. Well it happens. It seems that sometimes no matter what you do, everything goes wrong. Sometimes there is always a problem that can't be solved easily. How can life throw you such curve balls and yet be so easy at times? I wonder, when thinking about life and what it means to be alive, if we will ever really know all the answers? Does life really throw you curve balls, or do you just make it harder on yourself by trying to be happy all the time? When things don't fall into place, why is it so hard for us to accept the turn out? Should we get frustrated or just go on like nothing happened? It seems to me that maybe human beings are extremely stubborn and when something seems to go wrong we need to fight against it instead of just trying to see the positive side of this curve ball. Through all this, I ask you to ask yourself a simple question, "Would I be better off if I didn't care as much?" Would you be happier if you accepted everything the way it was or is it necessary for us as individuals to get frustrated at times in order to be happy?
Name:  Wil Franklin
Subject:  Life=Science?
Date:  2002-09-11 12:21:12
Message Id:  2610
I do not feel comfortable with the assertion that "science equals life". Yes, in many interesting and curious ways they are similar. However, in one extremely significant way, they do not – unless...well, first hear me out. Science is a process that is most commonly understood to be carried out by humans. Thus, making the assertion that life is science, leads me to the uncomfortable conclusion that life is carried out by "Someone". Is there "Someone" or "Something" making more and more inclusive summaries about life? The evolution of science is witnessed by humans. Is the evolution of life witnessed by ....? Does a falling tree make a sound in the woods if there is no one around to hear it? Do animals "do" science? Do plants "do" science? They certainly are alive, so maybe life is science. All of this notwithstanding, I still feel uncomfortable in my reluctant atheism.
Name:  Annie Sullivan
Subject:  vegan diet
Date:  2002-09-11 21:50:04
Message Id:  2634
I have always viewed my older sister as a model for good health and nutrition (essentially, she's a health nut!) She exercises religiously and has been on the vegan diet for the last three years. Although I admire her discipline, I have never truly understood all the logistics of this diet: the reasons for adopting this lifestyle, benefits, drawbacks, things to watch out for, etc. Recently, I have been reading more about food and nutrition and I have since learned a great deal about the diet by which my sister lives.
It seems that most people who become vegans (because the majority does not assume this diet at birth) do so primarily for health reasons. Without question, the vegan diet provides enormous benefits to a person's physical, and to some extent, psychological well-being. Among the advantages unanimously reported are improved sleeping habits/patterns (and less sleep needed), higher energy levels, enhanced complexion, decreased appetite, better immune system, low body fat, increased lifespan, and stronger resistance to serious diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Vegans tend to agree that human beings are designed to thrive under this diet—that it is more natural than a diet which includes animal products. [Source used: ]
Yet there are drawbacks to this diet. It is potentially dangerous when not administered correctly—a person should be educated about veganism before adopting the lifestyle. Because this diet cuts out a large range of foods, it is important that she substitute the nutrients not provided by her diet. Many researchers argue that vegans do not get enough vitamin B12, for example (since plant foods hardly contain this vitamin). A supplement is therefore necessary. Also, many vegans should make en effort to include fat in their diets (since typical vegan foods usually do not contain appreciable amounts of fat). Some studies, in addition, show that this diet can be harmful for those who require larger amounts of nutrients such as pregnant women and teenagers. In short, this diet is clearly positive in most respects, but it does require a conscious effort to maintain good health.
Name:  Chelsea
Date:  2002-09-11 22:57:05
Message Id:  2637
I've been thinking of my topic for the first web paper, which will be something along the lines of "Evolution of Human Pregnancy". If you think about it, in relation to other mammals and taking into account that humans did not always have hospitals, midwives, sterilization and (at least to the best of my knowledge) were nomadic for quite a few million years, our pregnancy and birth cycles make absolutely no sense!! Why in the world would humans evolve to have a birth lasting 24, 48 or more hours? Under circumstances realistic to those surrounding early humans, natural selection would have gotten rid of those individuals, so are humans DE-volving? Has all our "advancement" to build cities, invent modes of transportation, and generally take ourselves OUT of nature increased the time it takes for human females to give birth? Speaking as one, that SUCKS!!! Seriously, guys...

Ok, sorry I ranted. Also wanted to comment on Chapter 34 in the book, specifically the assertion that Gorillas are herbivores. This is not entirely accurate of either gorillas, or indeed any primate. Most primates also have insects, frogs or other small animals in their diet. Also, an interesting note on Gorillas, studying male behavior has revealed a disturbing trend toward infanticide. While sometimes this appears to be because a new group of males has taken control of the group, it also happens in groups in which the leaders have been established for some time, many times with reasons unknown to those observing. Perhaps most disturbing is the practice of playing with and torturing the infant before actually killing and devouring it. In contrast, Bonobos release there violent aggression through sexual stimulation, regardless of age, sex, or heirarchy.

Name:  Elizabeth Damore
Subject:  Human Pregnancy
Date:  2002-09-12 14:18:56
Message Id:  2642
Chelsea really got me thinking about the inconvenience of human pregnancy and birth...I guess I'd always just accepted the process and never thought twice about what birth was like for those who lived a long time ago. As "developments" in hospital births came along, humans probably became less concerned with delivering their own babies, neglecting to pass on knowledge of the birth process to younger generations, save for doctors, nurses and midwives.
Name:  Amanda Maclay
Subject:  lemongrass
Date:  2002-09-12 15:42:24
Message Id:  2644
After staying up late last night, I wearily skipped my nightly routine and crawled into bed. You would figure that because I was so tired a good night's rest would immediately follow, but after lying in bed for about an hour with terribly puffy eyes and very incoherent thoughts I was still awake. Frustrated, I decided to get up and make the cup of tea that I had skipped out on earlier. Finally, the warmth of the lemongrass soothed my stomach and put my body to rest. I got to bed late, but did receive the normal sleep that I usually obtain after drinking my nightly tea.
After pondering over this event, I began to wonder if the lemongrass in my tea permitted my body to relax and even induce sleepiness. So, I went over to my "Healing Plants" book and looked up lemongrass. I discovered that lemongrass is best known for its sedative and analgesic qualities. It is a plant found throughout Mexico and around the U.S. border. The tea itself may be applied to skin to treat acne and athlete's foot or it can be orally taken to help with diarrhea, fevers and the flu. Over time, if a pregnant woman drinks the tea, it may be helpful in reducing mutations during the formation of human embryos. So, if you are having trouble sleeping just boil some water, drop in some lemon grass (I normally put some mint in too, it's goooood) and let it steep for ten minutes. It helps enormously and provides many remedies for everyday bodily inconsistancies.
Name:  kathryn bailey
Subject:  herbs
Date:  2002-09-12 18:54:35
Message Id:  2647
Amanda's comment about the usefulness of lemongrass got me thinking about herbal remedies in general, specifically the trend toward "natural" treatments versus opting for traditional medical treatments. Growing up with a doctor in the family, I was always taught that herbal remedies, excuse my language, are a bunch of crap and are being used to the detriment of the "ignorant" people who ignore sound medical practice. For whatever reason, I slowly became interested in herbal remedies and began to question if herbs really do cure medical problems. After coming from the extreme anti-herbal side and eventually going to the opposite extreme, I now find myself in the middle. I have a hard time accepting some claims that a particular herb will reduce aging, enlarge your breasts, or some other far-fetched claim. However, I agree with Amanda that some herbs, like lemongrass, do provide relief of some kind. I worry that other people will buy into the craze of "natural" treatments that promise to cure all ills without thinking everything through, and might end up avoiding going to the doctor's office in favor of trusting the label on a small plastic bottle of herbs.
Name:  Diana DiMuro
Subject:  Insomnia
Date:  2002-09-12 21:30:50
Message Id:  2650
At Bryn Mawr plenty of kids get so busy during the course of the year that the priority of a "good night's sleep" quickly falls to the bottom of one's priority list. Not everyone needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, some people do well with less, while others need more. However, for those of you out there that actually want to get some sleep but find that you just can't, you may be suffering from some form of insomnia. Stress and anxiety can both factor into why you may be having trouble sleeping. Maybe it's just back to school jitters, but if you're not sure, here are a few suggestions of things that may help you get a better night's rest:

1. Try to cut back on taking naps. They may disrupt your sleeping pattern at night.
2. If you find you are having an especially hard time falling asleep, try going to bed the same time every night to establish a pattern of sleep.
3. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol late in the day. While caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, alcohol may also cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
4. Regular exercise promotes good sleep, however, don't exercise at least 3 hours before going to sleep because it may stimulate your body and make it hard to fall asleep.
5. Don't eat heavy meals too late in the day. (I guess ordering food at 1AM isn't such a good idea.)
6. Try to follow a routine to help you wind down at the end of the day. Listen to music, read a book or take a shower.
7. If you find you are worrying too much about what you have to do the next day, then make yourself a "to do" list. This might actually help relax and let go of some of your worries for the time being.
If you think your problem is more serious there are many internet sites to read more about insomnia and whether you should consult a doctor.
One website is the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research:
or the National Sleep Foundation :

Name:  melissa
Subject:  sleeping and eating
Date:  2002-09-12 23:40:21
Message Id:  2651
I think that Diana's comment are really suitable for the time of year. At school we do not really think about proper sleep or proper eating habits.
What exactly is enough sleep? How do we know that we are getting enough sleep?
Does eating properly mean that we must eat all food groups at every meal? Or are we allowed to skip a few food groups during the day?
I think that some of these questions should be addressed and the information displayed so it makes encourages me to go to sleep although I have a paper to write or to eat anything green and leafy which I hate.
Name:  Margaret Bevin
Subject:  Pain
Date:  2002-09-13 00:27:36
Message Id:  2652
I have saved a particular edition of the science section of the NYTimes from over the summer. It's an entire section dealing with women and pain. The article documents how women are undertreated for pain in the United States. One study accessed hospital records from a few years back and checked the amount/frequency of pain killers administered after routine appendectomys for both male and female patients. Compared to the levels men got, women recieved FAR less medicine to aid them in their post surgery pain. Granted this is one study, there have been several of this nature. These studies reflect a new surge in the study of medicinal malpractice.

Across the nation, doctors (particularly women doctors) and female patients are realizing that the pain of women is underrated, underdiagnosed, and undertreated. The real upset is that women are usually more upfront and specific about their pain. Studies and interviews suggest doctors don't take women's complaints seriously, or they feel women over exagerate the level of pain they have, or women are over-emotional and even have psychological issues instead of physical ones.

The only good thing about this article, is that it suggests that the country is recgonizing the bias in treating women's pain. Other than that, I find it very upsetting.


Name:  Adrienne Wardy
Subject:  herbal remedies
Date:  2002-09-13 00:35:16
Message Id:  2653
I would like to add a little more to Amanda and Kathryn's discussion on herbs. I have been known to look to natural cures for ailments, such as the herb Echinacea to treat a cold. In my personal experience, I have found that herbal remedies work. However, there is a danger in them that many people are unaware of: they can sometimes cause serious drug interactions when taken with other medication. I recently read that Echinacea can cause blood clots when taken with oral contraceptives. My mother found that an herb she was taking, KavaKava could cause serious health problems when combined with a medication she was taking. I feel that, since the herbal medication industry has grown, there should be more research done on side effects and drug interactions. I also feel that there should be more MDs and pharmacists with homeopathic knowledge if this industry continues to grow. If we treat these cures like actual medication the medical community and the FDA should treat it just as seriously.
Name:  Tegan Georges
Subject:  Re: Science=Life
Date:  2002-09-13 02:33:23
Message Id:  2654
Will (and everyone else, I guess): You posted an interesting series of comments that have had me thinking for a while now. After reading your comments, and being for the most part agnostic myself, I too became sort of uncomfortable with our collective equating of science to life, if that in some way necessitated a grand Someone to be summarizing the observations. I've decided not to give up on our definition, though. Here's how I'm reconciling it: perhaps my thoughts will be of some use to you.

Science is a process of inductive reasoning: through the learning of particulars, people make generalizations about what is going on in the world, and continually gather new information, to test and affirm their inductions. Every creature with any sort of capacity to think does this: those that don't think in a traditional sense still operate on the same sort of inductive plane (i.e., plants sensing a source of light and growing in that direction), in a way gathering through observation the knowledge necessary to live. If all life does demonstrate--as it seems to me that it does--this capacity for inductive reasoning, then I am fine with the assertion that life is science.

Also, just because there are observations and summaries to be made doesn't mean that anyone is making them: the evolution of science may be being witnessed by humans, but were all the records to suddenly be erased, science would continue. And it wouldn't mean that science hadn't gone on before, that the observations hadn't been made. Science is not an operation carried out by one singular human race but more of a unifying method of reasoning common to all individuals. It doesn't follow from the definition of science as life that life is being carried out by one Someone: the model doesn't require Someone because science is carried out through a multitude of someones.

Name:  Erin Myers
Subject:  Diversity
Date:  2002-09-13 13:46:22
Message Id:  2660
I remember learning that viruses aren't alive, but we didn't discuss why. We established in class that there are six properties of living organisms:
* highly improbable assembly
* bounded
* energy dependent
* semi-homeostatic
* semi-autonomous
* reproduces with variation

Viruses are obviously highly improbable assemblies of DNA and a protein coating. They are bounded and reproduce with variation. But to reproduce viruses must use another organism, injecting their DNA or RNA into a host cell. The virus DNA/RNA is replicated and new viruses are formed. Evenually the host cell bursts and the new viruses are released to reproduce. Because viruses can change and adapt, some consider them semi-homeostatic and semi-autonomous. Viruses are only dependent on host cells energy to reproduce.
The means by which viruses reproduce separate viruses from living organisms. Living organisms depend on energy to live not just to repruduce. Living organisms can reproduce by themselves or within their species.

Name:  Laura Bang!
Subject:  Is the Sun ... alive?
Date:  2002-09-13 15:14:51
Message Id:  2662
I found a very interesting article that argued that the Sun is a living organism, and also sort of deified the Sun. (Okay, the article is from 1975, but it's still a really interesting argument; or maybe I just don't know enough about what modern science says about the Sun...)

Anyway, I didn't really follow too much of what the guy was saying about the Sun being alive because it was a rather complicated argument. But part of the argument was that the Sun breathes. What?!? Well, according to the article, the sun has a bunch of pores on its surface that emit gases, and this is sort of like humans sweating. Also, the article mentioned that like humans breathe the air of our Earth, the Sun breathes the gases of its own Milky Way galaxy and uses the gases in its own chemical reactions etc. I'm not doing a very good job of explaining this part of it, so I suggest you read the article instead. :-)

The other part of the article, in which the author argued that the Sun is a kind of deity, was much more interesting. The article states that on earth all elements remain what they are: carbon stays carbon, hydrogen stays hydrogen, etc. The elements all have the potential to be part of many different things (eg: a table, a pillow, butter, ...) but they remain individual elements making up part of a whole. On the Sun, however, the elements have the ability to change: carbon can change into oxygen can change into nitrogen, etc. And therefore the Sun contains all possibilities, which is more or less the human conception of God. And, "... while the world of Nature contains Man's time and the world of Earth his recurrence, the Solar World must represent the sixth dimension for him, that is, the Sun contains all possibilities for man. ... Go out and stare at the sun in the sky." (Personally, I don't recommend actually doing this.) "Why are you blinded? Why are you unable to define or describe what you see? Why is the impression incomparable with anything else you know? It is because you are looking through a hole in our three-dimensional scenery, out into the six-dimensional world."

It may not be true, but it's still something to think about...

Here's the link to the article: The Physical Being of the Sun from The Theory of Celestial Influence by Rodney Collin

I just read most of the first part (called "The Physical Being of the Sun") and the last part (called "Possibilities in the Sun") and skipped the part in the middle (called "Hydrogen into Light"). The last part is the most interesting (and the shortest). :-)

Name:  Catherine
Subject:  class
Date:  2002-09-13 21:05:02
Message Id:  2668
During class today, I realized how "un-curious" I was about life outside of my own small bubble. Now, I have been forced to think about how trivial my life is in comparison to the huge picture. I wonder whether mankind will ever explore all of space, and whether we will always even want to. We have not come very far, it seems. And who knows how many more questions will arise with each answer we discover?
Name:  Diana La Femina
Subject:  second posting
Date:  2002-09-14 02:17:11
Message Id:  2676
Well, I want to write about two points that have been brought up on this forum so far.

First off, sleep. I know most college students don't think about getting a good night sleep, or at least that's a stigma. I do, however, know many people who are very aware of their sleep patterns. I have one friend who gets 8 hours of sleep every night, regardless of how much work she has left. Yes, she does the occasional all nighter, but it's not a common occurance with her, and she's healthier for it. She's the person who, during midterms and finals, you want to smack because she has so much energy. I myself know my own limits. I can't go too long with bad sleep patterns because I have Epstein Barr. I don't know how to explain how I know how much sleep I need, but I do. When I feel myself start to get run down the first thing I do is change my diet and make sure I get enough sleep. If I don't, I basically get a bad bout of mono. So people can get enough sleep if they just listen to their bodies.

The second thing I wanted to comment on was being interested in life outside our sphere of knowledge. I don't know, maybe I'm a strange person, but hasn't anyone else been kept up at night wondering what's really out there? I remember doing an astronomy section in my earth science, it must be six years ago now. Anyway, during that section my teacher put up a poster with a picture of a galaxy. The galaxy had an arrow pointing to the edge, with words saying, "You Are Here" written by it. Seriously, that week I must have gotten like three hours of sleep a night because I would think about that.

Like I said, I'm probably just abnormal on that count. This class is messing with my mind worse than any philosophy class ever could.

Name:  Brie Farley
Subject:  health and gender
Date:  2002-09-15 01:16:28
Message Id:  2682
In response to Margaret's posting, I am curious to know what issue of the NY Times your article comes from. I am in the process of beginning a paper proposal, part of which deals with women and medicine. I am considering the idea that ailments and diseases suffered only by women would already have a cure, if men were equally afflicted. I think it is interesting that women receive less attention, as your article states, despite the fact that we are more vocal in describing our pain. My post is not so scientific or biological, but yours caught my attention. If you read this, could you send me the date of your article?? I guess we can only hope that women will soon receive the attention we deserve to stay healthy and pain-free.
Name:  Michele Doughty
Subject:  kidnappers and child molesters
Date:  2002-09-15 05:38:57
Message Id:  2684
My sister, who currently lives in New York and is studying psychology, came to visit me this weekend. Somehow we got on the subject of the recent news events of kidnappings and child molestations. Whether it is the priest scandals or the R kelly case, there was also large coverage on the kidnappings of little girls this summer. It seems that the offenders follow a general background and profile. Are the kidnappers genetically predisposed to these psychotic behaviors? In one of her psychology courses, she learned that warning signals are present in early childhood. Violent behavior with pets, bullying, extreme moodiness are some tempermantal warning signs. Are these profiles biologically constructed through DNA? How much of our biological make up is responsible for controlling our social and psychological responses?
Name:  Katie Campbell
Subject:  Rountine
Date:  2002-09-15 09:17:40
Message Id:  2685
As I read through some of the previously posted comments this week, I was not so surprised to find the issues on my mind already voiced by many of my peers. Frustrations, sleep, and my routine have weighed heavily on my mind during this past week. Is it that I haven't gotten enough sleep so my frustrations are ampliphied and therefore I can't seem to find my routine? I guess part of it could just be that I am a freshman in college...High School was four years long and I had all that time to adjust in my own house with a family I could be upset at or cry to, and I could figure out how to balance my routine of schoolwork, community service, work, cross country practic, and SLEEP. Now it seems slightly impossible, even BIOLOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE. I don't understand how I'm expected to do so many things in such little time and do them so well. But then I have moments when I remember what we discuss in Biology every day and I realize that not only in the classroom but outside, in life, we should be wrong AT LEAST three times a week. And being wrong could include accidently forgetting a part of the reading assignment, finding myself weary at Tuesday's practice, or putting off preperation of my fourth hour French assignment until dinner time before. In the end I suppose it all comes together, whether biologically or in some similar way of life. With all of the frustrations about getting enough sleep, doing enough work, trying too hard to find my rountine of balance I figure I should just thrust myself into it all and what will come of that are a few wrong turns and some right ones that all add up. Just like in biology...right? I'll get a summary of observations that must be tweaked to each new circumstance and change with every day, just like life. Nothing stays constant, not even the frustrations or not getting enough sleep...I got almost nine hours last night and so what if I skipped my morning run...I'll run this afternoon!
Name:  Mer
Subject:  Humans and evolution
Date:  2002-09-15 09:48:30
Message Id:  2686
Reading about Pangea in Chapter 25 was very interesting. But one line that I noticed that seemed somewhat unexplained was the sentences Australia. "On Australia, marsupials evolved and diversified, while placental mammals evolved and diversified on other continents," (pg. 470)

Over the summer, I read a book entitled "Guns, Germs, and Steel" (by Jared Diamond). His theory was that the world was a massive Pangea, but then after the break up, humans were also split apart from each other on these different continents. As a result, they grew and evolved in different climates, making them very different peoples after thousands of year.

But Diamond also mentioned the affect that humans had on their different environments. He claims that the reason there are no large mammals on Australia is because they were all decimated by humans. And since Australia is relatively small in comparison to Eurasia or the Americas, it seems reasonable (to me at least) that humans caused large Australian mammals to "go extinct."

So what are the implications? I am not sure. But it does (in my mind) render Australia less "unique" as a biological entity and more victimized by the evolution of man.

Name:  Chelsea
Username:  clphilli@bmc
Subject:  Fire!
Date:  2002-09-15 10:13:40
Message Id:  2687
Hey everyone:) I was just about to use some antibacterial stuff on my hands, when I remembered that someone (sorry, I don't know who!) wrote about the fact that it only makes the bacteria MORE resistant. Well, I have something fun you can do with all that wasted hand gel...

1) Find matches, a lighter, etc...LEAVE YOUR DORM
2) Pour the gel (or make pretty patterns) on a sidewalk
3) Light
4) Enjoy!

It burns blue, and for a reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally long time too, lots of fun!! Not that I'm a pyromanic or anything... hehe

Name:  Margot
Subject:  questions about the lab
Date:  2002-09-15 10:55:29
Message Id:  2688
The lab that we did this past week really did make me think about the importance of organization that we bring to the notion of science. I found the experience of cataloging plant life far more frustrating than I had presupposed simply for the reason that I didn't feel as though looking at weeds in a small courtyard would be of much interest. The questions that came to me after observing things are as follows. When it gets right down to it, can you really make distinctions between two very similar looking small plants through just sight and touch or can these distinctions only be formalized when looking at things from a smaller scale? Are all types of science so conscious of using a human's ability and need to organize the natural world? Will we ever be able to use organization as intensely as we do on small scales on large ones?
Name:  Lawral Wornek
Username:  lwornek
Subject:  Women's Health
Date:  2002-09-15 11:01:45
Message Id:  2689
I want to further comment on the issue that both Margaret and Brie have brought up. Women's health issues, it would seem, have always gotten less attention that more traditionally men's diseases. It's good that people are finally discussing seriously the different treatment women and men receive.

This is a funny article that Gloria Steinem wrote in the 80's about women's health and how things would be different if men had more of the "problems" that we have. Enjoy!

I know less than none html, so I think you're going to have to copy and past the link if you want to read the article. Sorry.

Name:  virginia
Subject:  the universe
Date:  2002-09-15 11:05:58
Message Id:  2690
hey everyone, i think i'm not the only one who was totally fascinated by friday's class. it was so amazing to see the relativity and really feel just how small we are... but the whole process got me thinking. now, i'm not an advocate of htis theory, personally, but i really strongly think that the universe displays some interesting characteristics here that are worth noting...

1) although things seem like random order up close (much like examining a sample of human blood under a microscope might seem like random order, with cells strewn all over in no particular visible pattern) but as we pan out and look "closer" i.e. further, we start to see patterns every few screens.

2) it's a pretty commonly accepted scientific theory (as far as i know) that the universe was created from the big bang - that is, it was a miraculous explosion that lead to a body full of seemingly infinite planet/etc content that began to grow and expand, and is ever continuing to do so.

3) i've heard it said in a not entirely un-scientific context that scientists wonder if there aren't parallel universes, all experiencing hte same thing ours is in their own realm or whatever. i dont know much about this but i know it's a theory, or at least that it makes it into cheesy sci-fi productions.

what do these three things suggest, you ask? well.... #1 shows that, even at great distances, and it could be argued ESPECIALLY at great distances, the universe seems to display the same IMPROBABLE ASSEMBLY that is so typical of LIFE.

#2 shows that the universe is undergoing a constant GROWTH, most likely dependent on some form of ENERGY as most traditional movement is according to our laws of physics, which is pretty darn similar to ANY LIFE FORM.

#3 (the slightly wishy-washy one, i suppose) could suggest that the universe is in fact in a NETWORK of other living breathing moving growing organisms like itself, and that perhaps htey are some sort of interdependent species in a larger still ecosystem...

now i'm not ACTUALLY saying the universe is some big living breathing growing organism, but i'd love to challenge all the hotshot cosmologists and astronomers to prove that it isn't.

Name:  Kate Amlin
Subject:  The implications of a "Fast-food Nation"
Date:  2002-09-15 11:48:24
Message Id:  2691
Yesterday I had an overly long conversation about the epidemic of obesity that the United States faces due to over-consumption at fast-food restaurants. Apparently, some man has initiated a class-action suit against one of the major fast-food chains because he insists that the restaurant made him fat. This case interests me for several reasons. First, the fast-food industry does willingly contribute towards the growing waistlines of our nation by marketing high-calorie food to the general population. Come on, the industry wants to make money. They don't care what's in their products as long as they can make a profit. But at the same time, can the industry really be blamed for an individual's irresponsible eating habits? The restaurants do post nutritional information if you hunt around for it and no one is under the illusion that fast food is in fact a healthy meal choice. Unfortunately, some people don't have the time or money to eat anywhere else so they keep biting into Big Macs since McDonald's does always make you smile. I think the industry is at fault at the point that it privileges advertisements that show how big and juicy their burgers are and not how sick you'll feel after you eat one. Except for that salad deal in a cup...when was the last time that anyone saw an ad for a "healthy-choice" at a fast-food restaurant? The industry needs to take responsibility for marketing unhealthy food but it's also time for individuals to realize how much that quick bite to eat will add to your dress size.
Name:  heidi
Subject:  suicide
Date:  2002-09-15 12:09:30
Message Id:  2692
I was surfing the web yesterday and came upon the topic of suicide. It fascinated me to read about the reasons and attempts to help. I want to share some of these thoughts with you.

Why do people kill themselves?
Most of the time people who kill themselves are very sick with depression or one of the other types of depressive illnesses, which occur when the chemicals in a person's brain get out of balance or become disrupted in some way. Healthy people do not kill themselves. A person who has depression does not think like a typical person who is feeling good. Their illness prevents them from being able to look forward to anything. They can only think about NOW and have lost the ability to imagine into the future. Many times they don't realize they are suffering from a treatable illness and they feel they can't be helped. Seeking help may not even enter their mind. They do not think of the people around them, family or friends, because of their illness. They are consumed with emotional, and many times, physical pain that becomes unbearable. They don't see any way out. They feel hopeless and helpless. They don't want to die, but it's the only way they feel their pain will end. It is a non-rational choice. Getting depression is involuntary - no one asks for it, just like people don't ask to get cancer or diabetes. But, we do know that depression is a treatable illness.

Depression is a disease that affects the entire body. Changes int he brain chemistry make it happen. It´s a brain disease. According to Joseph H. Talley, M.D. no one knows what causes depression although I will make sure to look into that some more. He does say however that depression can strike normal healthy happy people, people that have "no reason" to be depressed.
I would like to leave you with some interresting stats.
The number one cause of suicide in untreated depression.
30,000 suicide deaths occur nationlly in one year and that number is rising.

Name:  Sarah Tan
Subject:  Back to the topic of sleep
Date:  2002-09-15 12:13:26
Message Id:  2693
Sleep, to me, is one of the great pleasures in life. Given my self-imposed hectic schedule, it's also not generally something I get a whole lot of. My frustration this year comes not only from having absurdly early morning classes but direct sunlight shining into my room around 7:30 a.m. My window shade this year is translucent as opposed to last year's opaque, so this year, on the few days when I haven't had to wake up early, I ended up waking up around 8 anyway because of the light. Last night I decided that I was going to sleep until my body woke itself up, so I turned off my alarm and put on the eye shades that airlines give out. Result: I slept until 11. And even though I'm still somewhat tired (why?!), at least I did manage to deny the sun the satisfaction of waking me up again in stealing a few more precious hours.
Name:  Will
Subject:  Gaia
Date:  2002-09-15 12:55:46
Message Id:  2694
The Gaia Principle really intrigued me in class the other day so I decided to read a little more about at
The idea of Earth as a living organism is an incredible thought, one that I'm still struggling with. It does seem to fit our requirements for life, even one of the ones we discarded in class: Earth is one living organism without others to interact with therefore eliminating the idea of "Life" as a whole. But much of the website that I read explained how Earth has been evolving atmospherically and temperature-wise throughout all of its existence. This was caused by (or causing?) the different forms of life such as algae, that created an over-oxidation during one period of time which was then regulated by the earth and toned down to a level in which life thrived. The other argument that the Earth is not alive is that it doesn't reproduce, which seems valid. But imagine a one-generation species. Reproduction isn't a pre-requisite for life, it's a characteristic of life, and if Earth is a one-generation species then that species will just die out after it's lifespan, and so be it, it was still a living organism while it existed. The website gives a good history of the argument, some of the criticism (which include lack of evolution, generations, etc) and defends the Gaia principle against the critics. Below is a quote from James Lovelock, the man who came up with the Gaia principle in the 1960s.

"For me, the personal revelation of Gaia came quite suddenly - like a flash of enlightenment. I was in a small room on the top floor of a building at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. It was the autumn of 1965 ... and I was talking with a colleague, Dian Hitchcock, about a paper we were preparing ... It was at that moment that I glimpsed Gaia. An awesome thought came to me. The Earth's atmosphere was an extraordinary and unstable mixture of gases, yet I knew that it was constant in composition over quite long periods of time. Could it be that life on Earth not only made the atmosphere, but also regulated it - keeping it at a constant composition, and at a level favourable for organisms?" (1991)

Name:  Roma
Date:  2002-09-15 13:31:06
Message Id:  2696
Kate's comments on "the implications of a fast-food nation" caught my eye and I realized how much my friends and I talk about food, eating disorders, weight gain and weight loss. After every summer break when we come back to college, general comments about everyone's appearance becomes part of that first conversation when we see each other after 3 long months. And who hasn't heard about the (in)famous *freshman 15*? Every college fresh(wo)man's nightmare!
It is true that America is perhaps the leading fast-food nation but the world as a whole is increasingly becoming hooked to the idea of fast-food, no matter where you go; London, Delhi, Singapore City... fast food places are everywhere.
But it is not just the matter of eating healthy. With the pace at which technology is growing life is becoming much easier, there is less activity in our daily lives and hence less exercise.
The media is not helping people foster confidence in themselves either. Having waifer-thin models on the cover of every magazine or commercials will not promote a good body image among those who actually have a healthy body.
Unhealthy food, not enough exercise, negative media, obese/anorexic citizens of the's a vicious circle.
Name:  Chelsea W. Rosenthal
Subject:  Hydrogen Peroxide
Date:  2002-09-15 13:31:32
Message Id:  2697
The other day, while reaching across the mail room counter for my package, I cut my hand on a tape dispenser (yes, I know this sounds like an absurd way to get injured). Once I was back in my dorm, I washed the cut and poured hydrogen peroxide over it. I used hydrogen peroxide mostly because this is what I had always been told to do, but this incident got me wondering about why, exactly, hydrogen peroxide works in this situation (and also why does it foam on the cut). I looked it up online, I found information about using hydrogen peroxide in doing everything from treating contaminated water to fueling rockets to growing mushrooms. As it turns out, apparently it foams on cuts because the hydrogen peroxide undergoes a chemical reaction which splits it into water and oxygen when it comes in contact with catalase (an enzyme in my blood and cells). And, it seems that the purpose of pouring hydrogen peroxide over a cut is supposed to be to expose it to high concentrations of oxygen (released in the chemical reaction) which is said to kill some germs -- but there also is supposedly some debate over how effective this is. (See and
Name:  stephanie lane
Subject:  Does life require diversity?
Date:  2002-09-15 14:18:35
Message Id:  2698
While discussing the properties of a living organism in class, we stumbled upon the question : Can we have life without diversity? In a sense, can life occur in an environment with just one type of organism? It seemed obvious to me that of course life could not sustain itself without the help of other living things because everything is so interdependent on each other. This implies that organisms are in fact specialized and each has its own niche to fill in order for life to occur.

However, I later got to thinking about some readings from my old environmental science class in high school. In one of the text books were chapters on r- and k-strategist species. K-strategist species, as I recall, are those which reproduce at slower rates with fewer offspring, are generally larger in size and have a longer life span.. Examples include humans, elephants, horses, etc... R-strategist species are those which constantly reproduce, have large numbers of offspring, reach maturity levels faster, and have a shorter life-span. Examples include most insects like cockroaches, mosquitoes, etc.

With this in mind, if ever the diversity of an environment were endangered and wiped out (through fire, drought, nuclear bomb, etc..) the specialized species (mainly k-strategists) would not survive and in effect, only the cockroaches would roam the earth. Because they are very adaptable and generalized to their environment, and also hold the properties of an r-strategist, it would be significantly easier for them to survive and endure. It would take a considerable amount of destruction in order to kill off "pests" such as cockroaches. They are such a generalized and highly adaptable species that bug killing toxins and pesticides are constantly being altered in order to keep up with their adaptability.

The question then becomes, If an environment were destroyed and mass extinction occurred, only leaving such animals as the cockroach, how long could such an organism sustain itself? It almost seems that some living things were "created" for this very reason, to withstand homogeny and adapt themselves to live without diversity; making the property not so essential to life after all.

Name:  Christine Traversi
Subject:  Bioart
Date:  2002-09-15 15:49:47
Message Id:  2700
I found an interesting website about a new force in the artworld called bioart, which aims to represent the artistic side of scientists. One scientist/artist, Dr. Hunter O'Reilly, caught my attention with her 2001 collection called "The Art of Death: Viruses are Beautiful!" She took electron micrographs of viruses, enlarged and colored them, then illuminated them to illustrated their beauty. Check them out at
Name:  Diana Fernadez
Subject:  universe theory
Date:  2002-09-15 16:17:40
Message Id:  2701
this is a belated reply to a problem that professor Grobstein made the first week of class regarding the issue of physicists being in a bind trying to figure out why the universe is expanding so quickly. I asked my dad who is a physicist how scientists were accounting for this disparity in the laws of graity. He said that they theorized that there was some force within the universe that is pushing out, for example some dark matter, or some sort of black hole. The emmisions from darkmatter could overcome the force of gravity, such as electro magnetic waves(well not exactly electro magentic waves because they could account for that, but perhaps something similiar). I just thought that it was an interesting problem and i wonder what exactly is causeing the expansion, I hope we find out in my lifetime.
Name:  Carrie
Date:  2002-09-15 16:39:32
Message Id:  2702
Well, since it is a grey, humid, Sunday seemed like the perfect time to contemplate some of this biology business we've all been discussing. And, to echo the sentiments of other comments here, I enjoyed the direction that Friday's class took as well. The recognition- or even just the attempt to realize- how small our lives are, how our existence is only one manifestation of life...that perspective has always given me a sense of personal reprieve. Our smallness (I hesitate to use insignificance...) can be our freedom as well. It can give us a sense of humor about this whole "life" thing; rather than becoming absorbed with our own personal anxieties, we're welcome to question people, listen to their stories, and simply explore.

So...yeah. That was my awkward moment of affirmation for the day. And, now back to more lazy Sunday activities. Maybe next Sunday, I'll try a more "scientific" approach to this forum.

Name:  Diana La Femina
Subject:  suicide and depression
Date:  2002-09-15 19:41:44
Message Id:  2703
While looking over the comments posted since Friday I came over the one on suicide and depression. While it was actually really well thought out and put forward nicely, I wanted to clear up some things that most people usually think about depression and suicide.

People who are depressed do not ask for it, as was already stated. They're affected by both internal chemicals (or lack thereof) and outside influences. Every one has been, or will be, depressed at some point in their life, but not to a horrible extent if you're lucky.

When someone's depressed they do know that there are ways to cure it. However, this is where most people become confused. If it can be treated, why don't some people get treatment? It's the nature of the beast, really. They think people will look down on them if they admit to being depressed. They feel ashamed that they are depressed and that they can't take care of it themselves. Most people don't know why they're depressed so they don't think they have any reason to be so. It feeds the depression even more, an I'm-not-worthy attitude that feeds insecurity. Add this to the fact that therapy doesn't work fast and is up to the patient more than the therapist, and you have what's seemingly a dead end.

Suicide directly feeds off of this. Most people who are suicidal are scared that they are. The dead end of their emotions gets to be too much, and it's like being in a stagnant pool. SOMETHING has to happen, they don't want to stay in that place anymore but they don't know how to change anything. So they try to kill themselves. For the most part, attempts will thankfully not be successful and can sometimes lead to others finding out. This solves a problem: Others know and can now help and the suicidal person didn't need to tell them.

But suicide attempts do succeed. One of the worst parts is that these people are showing signs, trying to tell those around them whats going on in the only way they can, but the people around them don't want to admit that it could happen.

I believe there's more to biology than the facts we're given. The thoughts of someone who is depressed affects them as much if not more than the chemical factors that help to cause the depression. But how do we explain thoughts in biology? How are we supposed to deal with the grey areas that are so hard to explain but that really matter the most?

Name:  Laura Silvius
Subject:  Depression
Date:  2002-09-16 01:05:32
Message Id:  2705
I was reading what Diana posted about depression and I just have to say that I think that was a wonderful statement. I mean, if we were able to cure all cases of depression, that would be wonderful, but before we can do that, we have to be able to get the people with these symptoms of depression to come forward and seek treatment, which is difficult because of the social implications of admitting to depression are, as Diana said, somewhat pressuring. I mean, people treat you differently when you admit that you're taking depression meds, as if the slightest thing that they say or do wrong will force you to kill someone - maybe yourself. It's not always easy to get people to step forward. Okay that's all it's one o'clock in the morning and I'M GOING TO BED. Goodnight all,


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