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Simona's blog

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From Hypothesis to Home: the insider/outsider dynamic of science and society

I have often wondered why I gravitate toward science, why this way of interpreting the world speaks to me. And yet, I have often wondered why despite being given the tools to dive right into the nucleus of science—research—I instead prefer to circumnavigate the nucleus in a quick-paced orbit like an electron, buzzing around but never quite finding home in the heart of scientific investigation.

Reading The Hungry Tide, I immediately connected with Piya’s character. A scientist, and marine biologist at that—a field I have explored many a day and night during my Sea Semester as I collected phytoplankton data aboard a rocking ship in the middle of the Pacific. New data was exciting, especially with the thrill of acquiring it in such dynamic and challenging conditions. The excitement Piya felt when seeing her first dolphin aboard Fokir’s boat resonated with me deeply—I have felt so similarly. But in this excitement lies tension too: when does science cross into the realm of self, community, and place? When does it grow from the act of forming a hypothesis to an act of building a home?

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Reading the world and reading the word?

I found myself really struck the other day about our conversation of Kanai and Piya reading the world versus reading the word, and their similarities and differences and interconnections. “Minutes later, she was back in position with her binoculars fixed to her eyes, watching the water with a closeness of attention that reminded Kanai of a textual scholar poring over a yet undeciphered manuscript: it was as though she were puzzling over a codex that had been authored by the earth itself” (222). Kanai as a reader of the word, Piya as a reader of the world: from Kanai’s perspective, Piya as “a language made flesh” (223). But I also want to push against my attachment to this binary of reading the world versus reading the word, as if there were no intersections. Piya doesn’t totally know how to read the tide country as a world yet, and neither does Kanai, as they both trip in the mud. And, as the book progresses and Kanai is faced with challenges and contradictions to his norms and paradigms, he looses his words. When faced with a tiger, words don’t exist anymore, he almost can’t function. Maybe this is sort of a disconnection, but maybe it is more closely tied to his ultra-connected experiences as a translator: “the act of interpretation had given him the momentary sensation of being transported out of his body and into another.

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The Science Binary: Objective, Subjective, or somewhere in between?

  • Science is based on facts and observations, and thus is objective.
  • There is science, and then there is faith. Science is testable while faith is not, thus, science is better.
  • There is no empathy allowed in science, never get too attached to any idea. Disprove everything until something is left.
  • Science is truth. Everything else is meaningless opinion.


“Expert opinion changed significantly during the process, even in the absence of new information” (Curtis 95). 

Growing up with a mathematician mother and an artist father, I’ve been heavily exposed to two seemingly opposite modes of perception. Objective science and math versus subjective art and history, a binary that has been drilled into me since before I can remember. Interestingly enough, I’ve never felt “good enough” to be on either side of this binary—climate science (my specialty) is too provocative and human for me to remain unbiased and unempathetic, thus compromising my “objective” scientific approach. But visual art, which was my major in high school, always felt too empathetic and unreal to have true meaning, too based in perception to adequately explain how the earth works. But by breaking down this binary, I’ve realized they both have one main goal and one main tool: explaining/interpreting/investigating the world, and our human perception. 

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Space and sense of place--outside inside

As I write this, I am sitting outside on Batten House’s back porch, looking at our “jungle” and a group of about six deer, comically crunching away at these bare-boned sticks of early spring. I heard there’s a three-legged deer who hangs out in these parts, I watch for her.

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Wissahickon, lost in the rain, content.

I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the Wissahickon State park on Friday. One particular aspect of it that fascinated me was how we dealt with unexpected situations (sometimes they would be considered problems, but I don’t think many of us viewed them as such)—getting lost, and rain. As an outdoorsy person, I love the rain and don’t often shy away from being out in it. Even as I sit here in my bedroom typing, my two windows are open and the sound of the heavy raindrops and bird songs, mixed with the fast-moving flooded creek below is calming. Being in the light rain at Wissahickon made me feel more connected to the park, like part of the ecosystem that is involved by choice, but also involved by simply being, because at the end of the day humans are part of these modern ecosystems too. I was out in the rain, just like all the other animals present in the space. Also on a more practical note, I loved how I didn’t hear anyone in our group complain about the rain, I instead noticed how we all approached it as an adventure.

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Apocalypse, New Jersey

It is strange--I just reflected on how hopeful, joyful, and warm the folks in Camden were the other day. But then, this article on Camden portrayed nothing but hopelessness, anger, and violence. Such contradictory impressions of a place. It makes me wonder just how individuals judge a place, how they make those distinctions. Perhaps it has to do with who you talk to and what you experience. I felt like this article was quite problematic—it only portrayed one way of perceiving Camden. Yes, there is a lot of crime. But that doesn’t always have to define a place, right? But I also don’t want to trivialize the serious issues in Camden. It’s a hard balance to find. And also, if you’re only ever told you are a dangerous person and you live in a dangerous hopeless place, will you ever grow up feeling like you can achieve? Will the kids we worked with the other day get caught in this system of oppression? I hope they hold on to the joy and ambition they found in that greenhouse, regardless of both the physical danger they may face in Camden, and the mental danger they face of being told they are hopeless.  

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Reflections-- camden trip 2

There is sometimes a stigma that urban city kids aren’t into “the environment” or “nature.” Going to an urban city school in Boston myself, I know that this isn’t the case because of the students themselves, but sometimes can be forced onto them because of accessibility. While in the Boston Public School system, I loved learning about the environment in my science classroom for all of the 3 short weeks we spent on it during senior year. But I never had access to a greenhouse. Far too many urban students don’t have access to spaces like this, and I think the stigma stems from that lack of environmental accessibility. It was heartwarming to see the students engaged and excited about the dirt and seeds and nature in the greenhouse, and such a wonderful contradiction to that stigma. My partner knew so much about planting and gardening, and was also genuinely passionate about it, which was great to see that this wasn’t just a boring class project day, but something they wanted to be doing. Hopefully they’ll continue with that interest, and maybe even be like the other older students we met months ago working/volunteering for the organization. And, maybe even some of these students will end up at BMC doing a 360, like the boy said during our go-around in Camden on MLK day—“I want to do this 360 thing too someday.” A lot of hope.

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Limits of Porosity?

When I first entered this class weeks ago, I wrote an essay defining “home” as “self,” not a structure or a contained space, not family or friends. Home, within my own spirit. In some ways, this demonstrates just how porous a mindset I live with—pushing against the confinement of stability and instead reaching for fluidity. Yet in retrospect, I have come to realize just how bounded my view of “self” in fact was. In separating “self” from place and community, I failed to recognize that these crucial aspects of my life, in fact, create self.

“The material that passes through a body also transforms that body,” so described of the trans-corporeal self (Alaimo 3). Self is, in essence, the reflection of past experiences, relationships, and places. Self might not be inherent or fixed, but instead porous and dynamic. Occasionally my dad notices similar characteristics that delineate parallels between all of my aunts and I, hidden genetic connections dotting our identities of self. At least part of my self may stem from birth, but much of it grows throughout life.

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Ditches and Mirrors in Narnia

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe swept me away with each read, immersing my childood imagination in enchanted lands full of talking creatures, magic, and a few kids just like me. I grew up engaging with this classic story, but I hadn’t realized just how important it may have been in cultivating curiosity about my very own ecological world. Narnia, while acting as a “ditch” for many readers like myself over the years, may have also been a “ditch” within the story itself for the four Pevensie children. The ecological thought presented in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia is complex and crucial to the plot—the environment almost acts as a character that grows and changes throughout the story. Through an interpretive reading of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the role of the environment in this classic tale can be further unpacked.

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On the idea of interconnectedness and representation

This isn't directly connected to any class assignment-- but I thought this TED talk was super interesting, considering our recent discussions about interconnectedness and nature/society/world, and considering our artistic approaches to representing the environment. Many of us seemed to photograph the ice at Tinicum, and this is one artists approach!

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