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Bio 103, week 5

Paul Grobstein's picture

Welcome to the on-line forum for Biology 103.  This is a place for thoughts in progress, a place to leave thoughts and questions that others may find useful and find ones that you might find useful, a place for conversation.  Join in, and let's see what we can make of life together.  If you're registered for the course, be sure to sign in before posting.  Others are welcome to join in as well but posting of comments will be delayed to check for spam.  You're free to write about whatever has struck you.  If you need something to get you started though what do think about evolution as a way to make sense of both clustered diversity and change over time,  of life as always changing exploration, like science? 

xhan's picture


 “The part that I am most interested in isn't so much the whole constant change/motion part, but more how we're adapting to these changes. I guess what I mean is how we're choosing when to adapt and when to react” Mfmiranda’s comment really interests me because it is true, the world is constantly changing, but does that necessarily mean we are changing with it, and if so at what speed, and degree do we also change? Do we decide when we should change, and the extent to which we should change, or do certain circumstances/nature(survival of the fittest), determine whether we change and the degree to which we change?  In other words, do we change, so that we are more “fit” members of society-become more capable individuals, or do we change as a part of a natural, evolutionary process?



mfmiranda's picture

Class Discussion Paragraph

Even though this motion may be invisible to the human eye, we accept that things are constantly changing. We know this from our observations during the lab and from every day life. It's important to recognize the presence of this constant change but it's also important that we don't let it obstruct new observations. For example, if we're studying any organism we should take into consideration that change exists in the past, and that there may be further changes in the future, but our observations should concentrate on the current aspects of the organism. Individually, each person should choose one perspective, but in order to communicate with each other and work together, we need to respect that other perspectives exist. We can accept random motion as an initial cause, because it what we have observed thus far, however we know that this could change, and if we made further/different observations our theory could be adjusted. These observations, in our view, seem to function together and not exclusively. 


mfmiranda, jen pierre, Yashaswini, jmstuart

achiles's picture


 I would like to bring up our conversation regarding hierarchy. I feel that, as humans, we've developed to the point where we can survive by manipulating other living things-- we eat other animals, we kill bacteria and parasites to stay healthy, we radiate cancer cells. Other animals fight and do primarily for their survival. Why is it unethical for us but not for other species? We do have the ability to assign value and emotion to death and to life, whereas other living things do not. But, which is more important? Our survival or humanity towards the non-human? Is it immoral simply because we have the power of knowledge and the products of that knowledge-- the tools of technology?If we are all stardust and we will return to stardust, value of life is a social construct and hierarchy seems to be the luck of the draw. The more improbable the assembly, the higher up in the chain. Or so it seems. 

c.k.koech's picture

shaken not stirred

its really hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that everything is in motion, i guess its because my everyday idea of motion is just on a bigger scale. having to thing that there are billions of particles constantly moving but I just cant see it is kinda crazy. its kinda gives life to things that i didnt really consider to be alive. the desk is always moving but to me its not doing anything its just there..but now i am starting to wonder that if the desk isnt "alive" ,which its not, but its made up of particles that are always moving...wait a sec why are the particles moving all the time in the first place? what the difference between my particles and a desks particles...its the whole improbable assembly thing right?

mfmiranda's picture

Week 5

This week we talked so much about how everything is always changing. The part that I am most interested in isn't so much the whole constant change/motion part, but more how we're adapting to these changes. I guess what I mean is how we're choosing when to adapt and when to react. How are we choosing when there's a need to recognize change and when we can ignore it? I think it's interesting because then it's almost like we're limiting the existence of certain motion even when it's so present that it seems unlikely that we'd be able to stop it.



sophie b.'s picture

 I think this is a really

 I think this is a really interesting point because in terms of scale, as a whole we tend to think about adaptation as something that occurs slowly but surely, over periods of thousands of years. I think it's also interesting to "zoom in" and take a look at how we adapt on a smaller scale. I also found it interesting when Professor Grobstein was discussing how reactions from millions of years ago are the basis for molecules today. Again, in most of the science classes that I've been in evolution has bee taught as a slow moving process- and for the most part the occurrences of the past remained in the past, I've never thought how things that happened so long ago effect us now. 

heatherl18's picture

Brownian motion

The idea that everything is made up primarily of space as you go down the size scale is hard to conceive of, since we typically think of ourselves and other bounded "improbable assemblies" as solid. The idea that these particles are constantly moving and changing components of what seems like an unyielding surface is harder to grasp still. What is it that keeps these particles in an improbable assembly, then, if the movement is random? I'm also curious about the idea of "random" motion. Not to be overly deterministic, but couldn't "random movement" just mean that we haven't discovered the purpose behind the movement yet? Here, we're taking other people's observations (perhaps lack thereof) for granted. After all, the movement of the sun and the moon would have seemed random too, before we discovered the setup of our galaxy and the rules of gravity. I think that the lab on Wednesday for instance, demonstrated that although there is only one widely accepted scientific explanation for certain things, there are still other stories that are interesting and worth at least thinking about.

jingber's picture

Need for limiting scale

Our discussion earlier in the week on scale struck a chord with me, since I've been re-reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. (Douglas Adams)  In one section, one of the characters is forced to enter the "Total Perspective Vortex".  The vortex shows you for a brief moment the entirety of creation, and your place in regards to it all.  The effect of this is the complete annihilation of the victim's brain.  While obviously hyperbolic, there is an important point.  While having a sense of perspective can be good, at times we really do need to narrow our focus down to one specific level.  Without looking at things through a certain fixed perspective, we'd be paralyzed.  To use David's example of motion, where would we sit on a constantly moving chair?  A sense of scale is important.  So is knowing when to limit it.

drichard's picture

stability as a story

Of all the topics discussed this week, I am most interested in the idea of motion as a first principle. If the world is in constant motion (and it is increasingly apparent that it is) then we certainly don't notice it. We see a table as a stable object. Indeed, we base our notion of physicality (a large part of our identity) on the relative stability of the world around us. I propose that this sense of stability is a story that originates entirely in the brain so as to facilitate our day to day lives. Were the brain to process every instance of motion we would be constantly occupied, rendered helpless in a world constantly changing. In other words, the brain only accounts for motion that it deems necessary (i.e. a dodgeball careening toward your nose... objects in motion that pose an imminent threat to our environment or our body).

This idea speaks to our general aversion to change. Though we exhibit an unparalleled ability to adapt to harsh climates, for example, we strive for continuity and stability within these climates.

Terrible2s's picture

No free lunch.

I am still having trouble with the idea that "purely statistically" entities have motion as one of their properties. I struggle with this idea because of the theory that there is "no free lunch." As I shared in class, this theory means that every action has a cause--nothing happens without it originating from somewhere. The metaphor comes from the idea that if you get lunch for free, someone has paid for it. It can be extended past just that one step if the person who was the benefactor for the lunch go it for free herself. But then the chef is paying for it. And if the chef is not then the restaurant is. And if the restaurant is then the grocery store is. And if the grocery store is not then the farmer is. And if the farmer is not the earth is paying for the multitude of crop. And the earth is paying in energy. It all always ends in payment in energy. 

So if it call comes down to energy, where does it come from? Is this just like asking the question why are we alive? Does it all get back to the Big Question of creation and god? Why don't we have an answer? How is it possible that energy can just be a property?

cejensen's picture

Evolution, Motion, Constant Change, and Scale

This week we discussed evolution, motion, and constant change. What I find interesting is that our discussions this week were really discussions of constant change at different scales. Evolution represents constant change on a large scale, while the idea that "everything is in constant motion" (even things we perceive as still, or not in motion) represents constant change on a small scale. I am really fascinated by the fact that almost everything we observe is related to the scale at which we observe it. Sort of obvious, I know, but I think the act of finding similarities an differences in the different scales at which we view life will be key in defining it.

JJ's picture

 I agree with what cejensen

 I agree with what cejensen wrote, that "almost everything we observe is related to the scale at which we observe it". This reminds me of the first few days of class, when we discussed subjectivity in science and if there could be Truth(s) in scientific study. I think that much of the reason for us not being able to have any definite Truths or one-sided views of a scientific question is because of the issue of scale and thus perspective.  We could make an observation about something on a very small scale and observe what seem to be solid "facts" about that something, yet those "facts" could appear very wrong once observed from a larger scale. Added to the differences in scale we have the idea that things in general are always changing. This points back to never being able to have Truths- even if a new story appears correct and is verified by many people, it will never be always true because eventually the observed things in the story will change, even if it takes millions of years.  

Kalyn's picture

Random Change


My first lab experience in this class made me think about what our class witnessed with the food coloring and water based on temperature. I thought about how the Earth itself has layers. Some things are visible at the top and others are arranged at the bottom. When the Earth first formed it went through the Ice Age. The sun eventually melted the ice and the increase in temperature allowed certain sediments and meteorite compositions to arrange within the Earth, thereby forming the Earth's core, mantle and crust. This change was introduced through random events and therefore the continuous creation of life is a product of randomness. The diversity on Earth that we as humans wish to organize is probably never ending. I think it says more about humanity in terms of our need to find a place for everything and feeling the need to explain it.

lcorhan's picture

ever changing life

I have always thought of life as always changing but then I realized I never REALLY thought about it. It's just so weird to me to think of it as the oposite: we would live in the same house our whole lives, we would like the same foods we did when we were infants, we would have the same family pet for our whole lives, etc... The basis for this idea is unnatural because we as humans change every day! I can't think of one thing in the world that stays the same, unchanged. Even the solar system is changing! Earth changes daily if not more. Think about it.

cejensen's picture

Humans and change

I really like the way that you expressed this concept. As humans, we search for constants in our lives, like our homes, our pets, our family members...however, we live in a world that is, as you say, "ever changing." I think that perhaps our need for "constants" in our lives may come from the fact that everything is always changing; maybe it's our way of dealing with change, or alternatively, denying it. I think we also may choose the scale at which we view change in order to see it less.