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Archive for September, 2011

Self Control…Get Some.

September 30, 2011 10 comments

As I sat here in the library as I have been for 3 hours, trying to finish this essay that was “due” a week ago, I began wondering why I procrastinate as much as I do – I mean yes mostly because I have the attention span of a 4th grader, but I wanted to understand procrastination from a more scientific perspective. I started doing some Google searches and found a stockpile of psychology articles, all giving lists of reasons why people procrastinate, many of which included: poor impulse control, poor planning skills, lack of self-confidence, and reduced use of meta-cognitive skills; none of which are all too flattering. But personally, I don’t really see too many of those qualities in myself, so I searched on. I came across a blog titled “Procrastination: A Basic Human Interest”, in which the author discusses his procrastination of writing a memoir, and while doing so he presents a question that I think pretty much summarizes the issue of procrastination. He asks, “Are there some things that aren’t really worth doing?”

Now in no way am I trying to say that this paper specifically isn’t worth doing, but do you guys think that the reason we procrastinate is be cause we don’t see a point in the assignment? Are we just being lazy teenagers? Or something more?  I would love to hear what you guys have to say … why do you think we procrastinate?

P.S. How do you all feel about this idea of no late penalties?  Personally I think it might be the death of me.

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Renewable Energy

September 29, 2011 4 comments

I am very passionate about renewable energy, especially regarding its potential in the United States. While browsing Reddit I came upon a cartoon by Joe Heller: Arguments Against… I really enjoyed this cartoon, because it showed many Americans’ reluctance toward wind power. Yes, wind power is not practical in every part of the US, but if we could implement things such as offshore wind farms rather than offshore oil drills, for example, we will most likely be able to cut our dependence on coal, natural gas, and oil. If we were to focus more on wind and even solar power rather than oil, coal, and nuclear power, we could make the world a cleaner and better place in my opinion.

About 20 percent of the United States’ energy comes from nuclear power, but nuclear power can be expensive with a great risk involved. On June 27, 1954 the Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant became the first plant to generate electricity for a power grid. Since then, the world has seen many nuclear disasters. The most famous would be the Chernobyl disaster, Three Mile Island’s core meltdown, and most recently the Fukushima nuclear disaster. There have been many more over the years, and it is hard for me to see how nuclear power is worth it when I put these disasters in perspective. And the nuclear waste that amasses from these plants does not simply go away when disposed of. It can have profound and long lasting effects on the environment.

In my opinion, I think the US government should focus more on wind and solar power and scale down spending on research for nuclear power. So what do you guys think about renewable energy in the United States? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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Faster Than the Speed of Light?

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

The only thing that I ever thought traveled faster than the speed of light was Superman. Apparently, I was wrong.  Or not.

Last week CERN, a European group that conducts nuclear research, claimed that they flung particles through their underground test facility at speeds twenty parts per million faster than light. If these neutrino particles really did travel at these speeds, it would be a breakthrough. The speed of light was supposed to be the fastest in the universe. I’m sure many of us learned in high school that nothing travels faster than the speed of light. The particles would overturn the laws of physics, including the prolific e=mc^2.

Not so fast.  Naysayers popped up almost as quickly, proclaiming that the 60 nanosecond difference that it took a beam of light and the neutrinos was attributed to bad timing. As one of the skeptics said, “This is quite a shake up…the correct attitude is to ask oneself what went wrong.” Now that both sides have stated their views, CERN and other laboratories will run further research on the neutrinos.

I think that these articles (and yes, I’ll find a way to hyperlink all of the ones I read) touch upon a point that we’ve been mulling over in class- what science do we believe? Is one side more credible than the other? As one of the articles mentioned, the speed of light has been a cornerstone of physics for more than a century, but does that mean that it’s an ironclad theory? Or could this new theory be the one that has been true all along?

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Sub-atomic particles possibly break the speed of light – Einstein’s Relativity may be broken.

September 28, 2011 2 comments

Did any of you here about the particles at Cern last week?

Cern, the largest physics lab in the world, has been troubled lately by disturbing data from its Neutrino detectors. They have routinely found the particles going slightly and unexpectedly over the speed of light.

Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles much smaller than the protons, neutrons and electrons that we learned about in our high school science classes. Cern routinely detects them in a lab in Italy after they smash together particles at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) in Switzerland. This is possible because neutrinos are incredibly small neutral particles that pass through matter almost unnoticeably. This also means that amount of neutrinos that are actually detected in Italy is much smaller than the amount that passes through the detectors.

As far as I can remember, according to Einstein’s Relativity, nothing breaks the speed of light; only light even goes the speed of light. At a speed that high, it’s not like pressing down the accelerator in your car to go faster: the energy it takes you to go from 10 to 20 m/s is much, much smaller than the energy it takes to go from 200,000,010 to 200,000,020 m/s. It takes an inconceivable amount of energy to actually get to the speed of light, not to mention break it.

But if these particles did break the speed limit, they could cause dilemmas for scientists. Since these preliminary findings suggest a significant problem with Einstein’s relativity – the backbone of modern physics – they could mean that another physics revolution is expected. But to put this back into context, this revolution may have nothing to do with or ever affect our lives in any way, so it probably won’t be as big or as influential as Einstein’s revolution over Newton’s laws, but the possibilities are still very interesting. One of which is that anything going faster than the speed of light can supposedly break through the space-time structure of our universe and possibly time-travel backwards.

Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely. These results seem impossible and that’s why Cern has released the results to the public so someone can find the error in their calculations. Still, if the largest physics lab in the world can’t find an error in the data, does it make it less likely that there is one?

I only found out about this Friday night during a completely unrelated conversation. I took a class on Modern Physics (relativity, subatomic particles, etc.) in high school so this interested me a lot. But I know most of the class isn’t in love/like with science, so I was wondering what the rest of you thought of this?

And a quote from Futurama a friend recently reminded me of:

Professor Hubert Farnsworth: These are the dark matter engines I invented. They allow my starship to travel between galaxies in mere hours.
Cubert J. Farnsworth: That’s impossible. You can’t go faster than the speed of light.
Professor Hubert Farnsworth: Of course not. That’s why scientists increased the speed of light in 2208.

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Is this fact?

September 26, 2011 2 comments

Today, while sitting in my two and half hour lecture, a blog on my Google Reader caught my eye. It is titled Explosions in Argentina following a “ball of fire from the sky.” It discusses how last night in Argentina, there was a deadly explosion and fire that caused a large amount of damage in a concentrated area. The post discusses how there is no known cause for this explosion. One theory is that it could have been a small plane crash, yet the author doesn’t think there is any plane remnants. Other people suggest it could be a meteorite, but there is no impact crater which probably would have formed considering the amount of damage. The author then says that he believes it was something terrestrial.

This blog post got me thinking about things not completely related to the post content itself. First, I realized that every blog post you read, you must take with a grain of salt. All posts, as well as anything on the internet, have authors, but we don’t necessarily know what the author’s background is. Especially important in the scientific world of blogging and sources, we don’t know what the credentials for a certain writer are that allow the readers to take what they say as fact. After reading the article, I thought the author seemed to making assumptions with minimal information. For example, he commented that he did not believe the fire was caused by a plane crash but he based this off of a YouTube video that is blurry and difficult to see individual things. Therefore after reading the article I search the author’s name and found out that he is actually the creator of the BadScience blog site and a scientist. Knowing this made me feel better about the content of the article, but this is not true for all blogs. I am pretty sure there is probably a blog site out there that comes off as fact but in reality may not be true.

So knowing that we all are following different blogs, I  just wanted to throw this idea out there, as we are all readers that could fall into a trap of believing sketchy information. Any thoughts?

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Scientific blogging: Good or bad?

September 26, 2011 5 comments

While reading one of the blogs that is recommended for us to follow, I came across a brief piece from the summer that I figured tied in closely to our class topic. Titled, Is Science Communication Returning to Its Roots?, it goes in to talk about how in the 18th century scientists would gather together to judge what was a winning idea before publishing to the world. But blogs and current social media are allowing for papers and reports to be published to the world first before being reviewed and judged by peers. This new form allows for the reader to take part in deciding about what is good and what is bad; and that it allows scientists to share ideas much faster and more efficiently. The author believes that this is a much better approach then the scientific journals that still dominate scientific publishing. I personally feel that the old method, where they judged then published is better because it allows for error checking before announcing a supposed new discovery to the world. Currently a scientist could blog about his new discovery and it could spread around the world before the scientist realizes he calculated something wrong. There is much more potential for error in the system now than before. What do you think? Which system is better: Judging before publishing or publishing then waiting for judgement?

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Writing Imitation Practice and Discussion

September 26, 2011 2 comments

I have been enjoying imitating different pieces of writing in class, and have decided to post another example of this. I thought it could be good practice for all of us to imitate a passage from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I will also post a sample imitation, and you’re welcome to write your own! I would suggest writing about science (an artifact, article, fact, random piece of information etc.), our class, the Scientifically Speaking essay or any other topic of your choice!

Passage from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks:

“The rest of the day was a blur. As we drove to clover, each time we stopped, Deborah leapt from her car, clutching the new photo of her sister and thrusting it into the face of every person we met; a woman on a street corner, the man pumping our gas, a pastor at a small church, our waitresses. Each time, she said, ‘Hi, my name’s Deborah and this is my reporter, you probably heard of us, my mama’s in history with cells and we just found this picture of my sister!’” (277)

My imitation, written about writing our first essay: Scientifically Speaking.

The whole essay was just confusing. As soon as I got an idea, which wasn’t often, I tried to write, using all of the skills I’ve acquired and all of the sources I could think of; memories, books, articles, personal stories. Every time, I thought, “I hope I can put all of this together, while implying a thesis, so that I have written a good first essay in college!”

 

There’s my example, I hope that you won’t be too harsh in judging my writing skills and just look at this as a fun practice! I think it’s interesting to try on different styles of writing and see what you can do with them. What do you think of imitating other peoples’ writing styles?