FALL, 2002

Dinosaurs, cultural influences on science, DNA ... and world affairs

Name:  Annie Sullivan
Subject:  random thoughts
Date:  2002-10-22 00:27:53
Message Id:  3305
In light of current international conflicts, there has been much focus on the United States' public image—how the country appears to other nations. Not surprisingly, it is unusual to encounter a positive vision of the U.S. We are most commonly seen as arrogant, greedy, ignorant, and vulgar, to name a few. In fact, I recently read an article in the Tribune which opened with the statement: "There are 192 countries in the world. One is America. The remaining 191 are mostly countries that hate America." What followed was scathing criticism of the U.S.'s "fluffy" notion of multiculturalism—that by simply "agreeing" that all cultures are equal can somehow excuse one from knowing anything about them. Other countries "hate" us (in part) because we find it absolutely unnecessary to learn the first thing about their cultures.

This mindset applies even in the scientific world. I recently went to a lecture about dinosaurs in Argentina and learned that even my knowledge in this area has been distorted by an egocentric attitude. The dinosaurs, for example, that the average person imagines (i.e. the t-rex and triceratops) are dinosaurs which roamed only North America. When thinking of the largest meat-eater, most picture the t-rex. It is the giganotosaurus (literally meaning "giant of the south"), in actuality, that claims this title. The media—from which most people receive information—presents a very limited illustration of the vast array of dinosaurs which existed. Argentina is one of the richest places on earth for dinosaur excavation. Is it difficult for Americans to think of any other place as the original center for life?

This is pretty random.... I just found it interesting because when thinking about distortion of the truth, or selectiveness of the "facts" (as delivered to the public), I am usually thinking in political, cultural, or historical terms. Apparently, I need to make some additions to this list.

Name:  Roma
Subject:  ramblings...
Date:  2002-10-23 22:24:04
Message Id:  3332
What exactly is the basis of biology? There has been a lot of talk on atoms, molecules etc in class and in lab and it can be safely said that the physical and chemical basis of biology is exactly that: atoms, molecules, elements, compounds, mixtures etc. As we have progressed through covalent bonding, hydrocarbons, stereoisomers, one thing leaps to mind, all this is chemistry, chemistry and more chemistry, so to answer Catherine's question belatedly, seems like we will be doing quite a bit of chemistry in this course.
On a slightly different note, how are all the sciences related to each other? How do we link physics, chemistry and biology? Math must be integrated in all of the natural sciences since probability, statistics etc always seem to pop up in science classes.
A friend of mine was telling me the other day that philosophers are frustrated biologists, biologists are frustrated chemists, chemists are frustrated physicists, physicists are frustrated mathematicians and mathematicians are frustrated philosophers. Interesting how that works, no?
Name:  Elizabeth Damore
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2002-10-24 17:36:33
Message Id:  3339
I, like Annie, have spent a fair amount of time thinking about the skewed cultural perspective of America in historical, political, and artistic matters, but had never even thought twice about the biases in science. Because science and math are such fact based subjects, it had never occured to me that the areas researched and the theories developed by scientists may be influenced by issues of national supremacy and other biases in American culture. For an example, it seems like the push for AIDS research came about after the disease began affecting Americans directly, years after AIDS first began to afflict third world population. Medical history is full of such instances of cultural scientific discrimination.
Name:  Anastasia Michals
Date:  2002-10-24 20:14:53
Message Id:  3340
It is really interesting to hear that many of us think that it is America's fault for certian beliefs that we many have. After 9/11 I remember attending a gathering on the green outside the Campus Center and I will never forget the comments that I heard. There was a professor on the pannel that was stressing the point that this tragedy was our fault. America had done this and that, which caused other countries to hate us, which in turn cuased a terrorist attack. That entire mentality, I believe is so far off from reality and to hear a professor lecturing these points was terrible. America is one of the most powerful countries in the world. If a smaller country was to have a problem and America stepped in, at what point does it become wrong? Are we just supposed to sit back and not do anything? And what if that one small problem turned into some really big problem. Would it be our fault because we had not stepped in when the problem was small? When making decisions and acting on beliefs it is impossible to make everyone happy. There is always someone who is going to think that we are wrong, no matter what we do. But
I can't believe that because an individual didn't know that dinosaurs lived outside North America, America is to blame. I agree with Annie to some extent, but at what point do we take responsibilities for our own actions. In a situation like 9/11 and the recent sniper incidents, why does America divide itself based on individual's opinions. I guess I am kind of rambling, but I am so tired of hearing that everything is America's fault. We don't ask for horrible things to happen to us, they just do because we are such a huge power in the world. Instead of blaming everything on us, why can't we just understand that no matter what we do, it is impossible to please everyone. We need to have a little more faith in ourselves.
Name:  diana dimuro
Date:  2002-10-25 00:47:29
Message Id:  3342
After being abroad last year after 9/11 I definitely came into contact with many cultures and people who were "anti-American" and although I agree that there are many consequences for being a capitalist nation and major power nothing excuses or merits extreme acts of violence or terror. I don't agree that "Americans brought this on themselves" but on the other hand I am far from the blind intolerant patriotism of waving a flag and not really understanding what we are getting ourselves into by attacking other nations or groups of people. I felt by being in another country I was more pro-America and patriotic than I had ever felt before, but in the same sense I was very humbled by hearing the opinions of others. I feel like 9/11 was a very sobering experience for many people and there has to be some kind of middle ground where we can be patriotic and support eachother and at the same time remain tolerant of other cultures and religions and countries. We need to be more educated about our opinions. Annie is right there are definite spins and slants to the media, to politics, cultural interpretation, history, but I feel like you can be a moral person and still be a good citizen. You don't have to hate America and capitalism in order to be against oppression and intolerance. Whereas I agree, there are so many countries that fear or hate the United States, there are still many that are still extremely grateful for help from the U.S. The U.S. has certainly done some good and needs to do more. I agree with Anastasia, we need to have more faith in ourselves and we need to continue to take action to help those in need. I realize this may seem off topic but I feel that after all that has happened this past year, that the US more than ever needs to get its act together and watch out for itself some too. The fact that it took so long to find someone related to the sniper attacks and that so many people were injured or killed within our own nations scares me beyond belief. Where do we, as a nation, get off thinking we can protect ourselves from future terrorist attacks when we can't stop extreme acts of violence and bloodshed within our own country? All the while this is happening, our President is planning attacks on the Middle East. I really just don't know what is the right direction to go in.
Name:  Diana Fernandez
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2002-10-25 02:15:55
Message Id:  3343
Hey so to get back to Space and cool things like black holes, I found a section on NASA's website that shows you footage of what it would look like to approach and view a black hole from different angles. The site is go check it out. They also have things like virtual trips to neutron stars and whatnot.
Name:  Will
Subject:  scientific bias
Date:  2002-10-25 10:25:37
Message Id:  3345
I enjoyed the posting about a scientific bias, particularly the example given. I had always known that most of the dinosaurs I had learned about could be found in North America, but it never occured to me that there would be different ones outside of North America. The scientific bias presented itself to me in an interesting, slightly slanted way the past couple of weeks. I've been looking at places to study abroad and have been checking out what courses are offered at all these schools. Turns out that Haverford and Bryn Mawr offer a much wider range of scientific classes than every school I've seen so far. Hebrew University in Jerusalem only had one Organic Chemistry course on its website for the entire science department. Interesting to think about what kind of impact that has on a society, and what kind of scientific bias they grow up with.
Name:  kathryn bailey
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2002-10-25 15:24:20
Message Id:  3348
The forum discussion about scientific bias is very interesting, and important. The formation of a bias in any field is, unfortunately, inevitable. How can a scientist, politician, reporter, etc dissociate the ideas of his or her culture from new scientific evidence, law, piece of news, etc? The notion that this is even remotely possible I feel is quite naive. One's culture is reflected in everything he or she does, including the way in which new ideas are discussed, how new data is collected, and the interpretation of new data. I don't mean to sound pessimistic about the probability of separating discussion, etc. with cultural bias, but I believe that it is impossible and an unfortunate consequence of culture with which we must continue to live.
Name:  kate
Subject:  question
Date:  2002-10-26 17:08:19
Message Id:  3359
I don't understand why nucleic acids play a key role in the understandig of reproduction with varience...Can anyone help me out? Thanks.
Name:  Adrienne Wardy
Subject:  scientific bias
Date:  2002-10-26 19:55:46
Message Id:  3360
I think that the idea of scientific bias is very interesting. I agree that bias is inevitable in any situation, that is human nature. I think that scientists conducting research are often swayed by their personal experiences. For example, a scientist who has loved ones with cancer may choose to focus on cancer research.
Name:  Catherine
Subject:  Lab
Date:  2002-10-27 01:45:23
Message Id:  3361
So this past week in Lab, I tested my heart rate and tested some of the different factors that go into the change in rate. I wish I had had the time and resources to test extreme temperature factors on my heart rate; although I tried to dip my hands (I wanted to do feet, actually) in ice water and then extremely hot water to test my heart rate, the water in the classroom was not nearly as cold or hot as I needed. My heart rate barely fluctuated.
I was wondering if anyone else could give me a scientific overview of what would happen to my body and heart rate?
Name:  Mer
Subject:  Nationalism
Date:  2002-10-27 08:41:52
Message Id:  3363
I think that a being "American-centric" is not a crime, not should anyone feel pangs of guilty for such thoughts. Geographically, America is almost an entire continent by itself. Given its sheer size and the lack of "improvement" of South America in comparision to the United States, it is no wonder that many Americans do not take the time to learn about our neighbors, especially in S. America.

All that being said, it is the duty of Americans, as it is the duty of the rest of the world to learn about and understand different cultures and peoples. We should not act selfishly, thinking about how our actions affect only us, but how they affect the rest of the world. Being nationalist is only a crime when the rest of the world suffers from our excusionary acts.

Name:  Sarah Tan
Date:  2002-10-27 11:06:16
Message Id:  3364
My HA posts articles from the Wall Street Journal on the wall outside her room, and one of them is about the development of the brain in adults. Conventional theory has said that if certain skills aren't developed at a young age, they're lost forever. It's the kind of "can't teach an old dog new tricks" mentality, and also, for humans, it is quite widely accepted that playing musical instruments or learning foreign languages to the point of fluency are imposssible if they aren't started by the teenage years, if not earlier. However, this article says that according to new research, the brain will develop if it is stiumulated, no matter what the age of the person. Most interestingly, it proposes that the mind can affect brain growth, i.e. you can make your brain grow and develop further simply by thinking.

This also goes along with our lab this week, where in some groups, people experimented with whether they can change their heart rates simply by thinking about it, and if I remember correctly, for people who thought about slowing it down, their heart rates actually did slow down (I don't know or anyone who tried to speed it up by thinking, but that would be interesting, too). I think this goes to show that we can control how we are more than we thought with our minds alone, even things that are generally thought to be set and unchangeable.

Name:  Katie
Subject:  Looking at it all
Date:  2002-10-27 11:35:43
Message Id:  3366
I think Mer hit the idea of destructive nationalism on the spot. Yes, it's important to have things that bring groups of people together and unify them. After all, some of us talked much about human nature including the desire of everyone to be loved, to love one another, and form meaningful relationships. Therefore nationalism isn't necessarily bad, but I think that with anything you have to keep in mind that its effects and such all of it funnel into whether it's a good or bad invention. And so if others (countries, people within the nation-state, minorities, etc) suffer from the nationalism of one group then that contributes to it being either bad or good. It's kinda the idea that "the ends justify the means," that if it's good for that one group of people then it's fine and justified, but in actuality, how it effects others in relation to that group really makes it what it is...and if it's destructive then that nationalism is not a good thing.
You have to look at the whole picture...and not just what it is for part of who's involved.
Name:  heidi
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  painful lessons
Date:  2002-10-27 11:57:16
Message Id:  3367
I play volleyball from BMC and we recently had a tri-match at Dickinson College. We went there with the confident expectation to win. We lost to both Dickinson and Washington. They were the matches you really DON'T want to lose because you know you are better and all that good stuff.
The first thing coach asked us afterwards was: "What did you learn from this?" We came up with all sorts of lessons we had learned like one should never be too confident, simply keeping the ball in play is crucial, you cannot win individually, and some other volleyball related points. As upset as we were, she simply said: "then today has not been wasted."
It was this realization that I feel can and MUST be applied to almost any situation and that brings me tot he point I would like to make about International Realizations, events like Sept. 11 and this forum.
Diana expressed in this forum that "[She] feel like 9/11 was a very sobering experience for many people and there has to be some kind of middle ground where we can be patriotic and [supportive]". I personally could not agree more.
The people who concern me most are the ones that don't seem to learn anything from these tragedies. People that continue to walk through life saying: "We don't ask for horrible things to happen to us, they just do because we are such a huge power in the world." We cannot let anger blind us especially in issues that, as we have discussed in this forum, affect each of us individually.
Ultimately, my point is that we must learn something from these events, however small the lesson may be. It must give us more insight into the conflict or else we are being selfish. How is anything ever going to improve if we say that we're not involved in the problem? However you look at it, that's not constructive and chances are, widespread ignorance will make it will happen again.
Ah yes...Volleyball.
Just like in volleyball, if you want to get better and it you want to stop loosing, you have to change something that YOU are doing and you start winning. That will most likely make the other team frustrated and you keep winning and they keep loosing but you cant change the other team's mentality if you don't change yours first. Unless hurting
Username:  heidi
Subject:  missing ending
Date:  2002-10-27 12:00:38
Message Id:  3368
Unless hurting them is an option for you...?
Name:  Diana
Date:  2002-10-27 12:10:41
Message Id:  3369
Does having a varied scientific background create more scientific bias or less? I haven't been able to figure this out. On the one hand, having an understanding of many different areas of science (i.e. chemistry and biology and genetics and physics...) could make parallels between the areas more apparant and more easily understood. Kind of like thinking out of the box. On the other hand, having this knowledge might lead people to jump to conclusions a little too fast, or as fast as is possible with science. They could see something that reminds them of a phenomenon in physics and attribute it to that when physics might not actually have an effect, it could just be a coincidence. What does everyone else think?
Name:  Erin Myers
Subject:  Kate's question
Date:  2002-10-27 13:44:15
Message Id:  3371
I'm going to attempt to answer Kate's question. For more info you can visit PBS or Campbell. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the recipe for life. Cells reproduce when the DNA's double helix splits into two strands. New neucleotides match up with the "unzipped" DNA. Because each neucleotide is very particlar about who they match up with (A with G, T with C) the result is two identical DNA strands, each with one side of the original DNA. Next the cell splits in two with a DNA strand in each daughter cells.

This process explaines reproduction with variance when you consider what happens when neucleotides match up with the unzipped DNA incorrectly. When the cell spits with the two resultantant DNA one of the daughter cells is different from the other. Hope that helps. Do visit PBS.

Name:  Jodie
Subject:  more american thoughts
Date:  2002-10-27 21:12:18
Message Id:  3376
The media presents us with a view of the world that is skewed. Of course. Within the media there are different opinions. The Wall Stree Journal, for example, leans a bit to the right, while the New York Times leans a bit to the left. American political parties, well, the democrats and republicans, do not differ extremely from each other. It is hard to find a different view of what is going on, but it is possible. It is up to us to discover things like dinosaurs in South America. What Meredith said about Americans not taking the time to learn these things is true. There is also the problem of the public school system, which does not usually offer many world history classes. (In my years in public school, we had world history in seventh grade, and then world geography in ninth grade. In "world" geography, a nine week course, we spent two weeks on the world, and nine weeks on the United States.) We are taught about America and taught as though America is the center of the world. Think about maps. America is the center of the maps we see. Doesn't it seem obvious that it would be? As Americans, don't you want it to be? If you were given a map that had Europe as its center, and were taught from a European point of view, you would rebel...we fought the British and now have nothing to do with them or their contitent, right? We are all intelligent people...we have the ability and perhaps the desire to think outside America, and to try to think from another point of view. There are many magazines available to us in which we can read the opinions of people in many other countries. We have the resources available to combat this ethnocentricism we are so "guilty" of. I personally think schools should attempt to teach more world history, but at the same time I know that it is hard to get students interested in subject they think have nothing to do with them. It is really hard to convince a fifteen year old boy in New Hampshire that the history of Mozambique in anyway relates to him. America is at the center of our minds because it relates directly to us. We teach it more because it has to do with us. America, in many ways, is us. Every American citizen, I don't care how liberal and "not part of the system" you think you are, is America and is influenced by the "American culture." And to perhaps relate this to biology, it might be biologically inherent to be interested in things that relate to us. We seek connections all the time. We look at pictures a friend took and are more interested in the ones of our friends, and most interested in the ones of ourselves. We like ourselves. And really, it's not that bad. Being aware of this is what is important. Other people's opinions matter. America does not have the last say of what goes on in the world. Neither do I. =)

To follow up Erin's answer to Kate's question...the DNA is a code for the strands of amino acids that make up proteins, which are essentially the building blocks of life. Well all of it is, really, but still. Visit what Erin said to visit. =)

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