Group Writing–for better or worse?

May 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Hey guys!

So as we are finishing up with our group papers, I was thinking about how our group went about the writing process, and was wondering if other groups were similar or different. Professor Myers suggested to our group that we write together, by sitting down and talking aloud while assigning one person to dictate what’s being said. And to be honest, we tried that and it didn’t work. With four people talking, thinking, and trying to organize thoughts into a coherent essay, there’s no way it’s not going to be messy. We had our best success by each writing separate sections, then putting them together and editing it then. I know that runs the risk of it seeming a bit “choppy”, but I just don’t see how a twenty page paper can be written together. Do any other groups write pieces separately, or was anyone able to successfully group write? And if so, how did you go about doing it?

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What few Darwinists realize: There’s more than just natural selection

I was recently pursuing a book store and happened across a book with a particularly provocative title, “What Darwin Got Wrong”. After reading the synopsis, I found myself quite agreeing with the book’s hypothesis: there’s more to the creation of organisms than just the process of natural selection. Indeed, natural selection is just one of a whole host of explanations that are be valid.

You can find a helpful summary and review of the book here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/06/what-darwin-got-wrong

Consider this: why can’t pigs fly? Under the theory of natural selection alone, pigs probably should fly. Under natural selection alone, somewhere over the course of millions of years, pigs would have mutated to the point where some would have wings, and those wings would help winged pigs survive better than others without wings. Thus the pigs with wings would be more likely to procreate, and soon the whole species would have wings. But pigs don’t have wings. The explanation: laws of statistics, physics, and chemistry, according to the article. Pigs don’t have wings because these laws entail pig bone structure is ordered in a very precise, organized fashion that does not allow for wings, but works fine for pigs otherwise.  (unfortunately, the article does not make mention of how these laws contribute to pig bone structure).

Furthermore, the process of mutation and transmission of genes is more random and complicated than originally thought. So, it is probable that there are many other reasons as to how animals became so organized and complex. Truly random mutations cannot account for the ultra-complexities of the human brain, for instance. There must be other factors that contribute in addition to the process of natural selection, factors that more or less guide in the process and disallow for things like, pigs with wings.Image

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The Straw That Brings Life

May 1, 2012 1 comment

I don’t know about everyone else, but I have found that I am almost disconnected to the real world when I am at school.  It’s like I am in my own little world, because whenever I am reconnected with my family I always seem to be out of the loop of what is happening in the world.  For example, my parents came to visit me this weekend and at dinner one night I found out about this straw that completely extracts water out of any substance.  I was so amazed at this new founding I had to blog about it.

Water is the number one resource that every human needs, but for less fortunate people water supply is not as abundant as we believe it is based on our own lifestyles. Lifestraw is the solution to increasing water supply to desolate villages and improving life.  Implemented by the Rotary Club of Brynmawr, the Lifestraw is a portable water filter that prevents any diarrhoeal diseases through filtering all bacteria and parasites from watering holes, lakes, any water source in general.  When I first heard about the Lifestraw, I was told that it filters water from substances even mud. That is when my jaw dropped.

Finding about the LifeStraw actually made me so incredibly happy because it is an innovation that clearly can make a difference and bring water to suffering children and adults that truly need it. I really think LifeStraws can change the world, what do you guys think? Are you as excited for the LifeStraw as I am?

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Early Warm Weather? Could Mean Danger for Some Areas

Low water levels on the Colorado River.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/warm-spring-drought-wildfires-water-shortages/

Some of you may have noticed those few warm days in March this year, and perhaps one or two even as early as February! Where I’m from, Alabama, it’s easily 85 degrees by March, but I’m told that up here, it was unusually warm. People have posted several articles about climate change and environmental impact, and I thought this was an interesting follow-up and relation. This article from National Geographic talks about some of the impacts of this warmer than normal weather. As illustrated in the above picture, water levels are dropping in large amounts, especially in Western states.

On April 10th, 61% of the lower 48 states in America were listed by the U.S. Drought Monitor to be in abnormally dry or drought conditions. 61%, in April! That’s pretty early, and points to rough next few summer months. And the Southwest, which largely relies on ice melt into the Colorado River Basin from the Rocky Mountains and previous years’ melt stored in the Lake Powell and Lake Mead Reservoirs for its water supply, is poised for a dry, hot summer, because those areas received less than 70 percent of the average snowfall according to the USDA National Water & Climate Center.

These reservoirs are already at just 64% capacity, after a decade long drought from 2000-2010, with the upcoming drought looking worse. Climate change poses a threat of increased drought in a region with a long climatological record of natural drought. According to the article,”In a 2010 report on the county-level effects of climate change on U.S. water supplies, an analysis by consulting firm Tetra Tech and NRDC projected that by 2050, 27 out of 64 counties in Colorado will face high or extreme risks of water shortages, as well as 13 out of 29 in Utah, 19 out of 33 in New Mexico, 36 out of 58 in California, and a startling 13 out of 15 in Arizona.”

These numbers are frightening, as with all of these droughts comes wildfires. In May 1996, the Buffalo Creek fire burned 11,900 acres within the watershed of the South Platte River, a major source of Denver’s municipal water. Two months later, heavy rains washed tons of sediment into the Strontia Springs Reservoir, which holds approximately 80 percent of Denver’s water supply. In one day, the reservoir lost 30 years of its 50-year lifespan. And, most people should remember the March 26 fire in the Lower North Fork region of southeast Colorado killed three people, destroyed 27 homes, and blazed through 4,000 acres. And, with population numbers increasingly rapidly each year, this water shortage can only mean trouble for the future.

If these rapidly depleting water supplies are not addressed and replenished soon, it could have devastating effects on areas of the United States. Do you guys think that the United States local and federal governments should do more to solve these issues? Should more focus be placed on these impending problems?

The Final Frontier?

April 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Celestial findings have always held a strange fascination for me; in a world that is rapidly shrinking in its exposure and proximity, where better for one to turn to when it comes to daydreaming of adventure and the great unknown. As a humble Star Trek fanatic, I’ve been meaning to do a post all semester about space exploration but nothing quite relevant nor worthy of the topic caught my eye until this past week. 

US space entrepreneurs have just announced a venture to launch robotic prospectors in the hopes of bringing water and other precious minerals back to earth from certain asteroids. My initial reaction was one of overwhelming excitement, and I thought this would be plenty of inspiration for a post. The aftermath of this announcement however, turned out to be even more thought-provoking.

Frans von der Dunk, (quite the name) a professor of space-law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has publicly announced his opinion that the applicable legal-system, both in the US and internationally, must be further developed to catch up to this sort of technological innovation. Although there are certain treatises and pieces of legislative work that address the legalities of space-initiatives, such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which says that outer space constitutes a “global commons”, it is a field that is far too underdeveloped for this kind of mission.

My initial, admittedly not mature reaction, was not a positive one. Who is this Frans von der Dunk to limit the genius of today’s space cowboys? Having given it some thought though, I realize that his words of caution may be in our best interest. It is so tempting to throw caution to the wind and jump into an idea, a new project, so overwhelmed are we by the thrill of seeing inspiration materialize through hard work. This often blinds us to the repercussions of our actions, and disasters that could have been prevented by more careful planning have a way of coming out of the woodwork. The space race has been an area of contention for decades, and its parameters remain vaguely undefined. In the article I read, the authors compared this sort of project to deep-sea mining- what jurisdiction is applicable in such an alien environment? Who is responsible for the projects that go on there and the products they send back home? Should this be part of the public or private sector? Who can determine ownership and rights in a place that is physically beyond the realm of human control? 

I think that this is fascinating because it is one of the issues that our generation is going to have to contend with. Although I’ve accepted that I will probably never get to co-captain the USS Enterprise, I still value the importance of questions that bridge our life on Earth with the adventures and possibilities that outer space has to offer. What do you guys think? Where are our responsibilities in terms of this?

Here’s the link to the article to read more!http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120426134927.htm 

 

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Brain freeze sheds light on animal rights

April 30, 2012 2 comments

Any real fan of House will remember that episode when the protagonist induced a headache in a comatose patient in order to test a new medication. Later on, he did the same to himself, in the noblest of self-sacrifices for the sake of science. 

In the same vein, this article from the Huffington Post that deals with brain freeze briefly discusses the ethics of inducing migraines in patients to test medications and to observe the affliction itself. Surely, though, our standards for how we treat ourselves–the members of our own species–should have some implications on how we treat other species. A rat, for example, stands to lose far more when injected with cancer cells than a human does when injected with nitroglycerin, no? What other argument is there except the antiquated Great Chain of Being one to justify practices in which our morals seem inconsistent? Unless we accept that God granted humans dominion over ever living thing, where do we look to justify the speciesism that dominates our worldview? 

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Thinking in a Foreign Language Helps Economic Decision-Making

April 30, 2012 2 comments

In this article http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120425093938.htm research supported by the National Science Foundation has presented evidence that runs contrary to establish economic theory.  In this study researchers studied the difference between when someone makes a decision in a foreign language as opposed to their mother tongue. As it turns out people have a better chance of making more advantageous if they consider their options in a foreign language. This is due to the fact that when someone thinks in a foreign language their brain functions in a more deliberate manner which makes way for better decision making. Image

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