Values of Science Supported Argument

Science as a Conveyor of Wonder

As humanity has progressed over the millennia, more and more of the world we live in and the nature of our existence has become comprehensible to us thanks to leaps in science and technology. The mythology that was once used to explain events such as sunrises and earthquakes has given way to knowledge about planetary orbits and tectonic plates, and in some ways the mystery that once accompanied such events is gone. However, scientific progress does not always make life duller; in many ways real life can be more shocking than any story man could contrive.  Two texts which illustrate how science actually advances and perpetuates human wonderment are “Running is Always Blind” by Sam Schramski and “The Fermi Paradox” by Tim Urban.

An example of progress in scientific knowledge. 2,000 years ago it was believed that the sun god Apollo rode a horse drawn carriage across the sky to cause the sunrise and sunset. 

Schramski and Urban cover entirely different topics, but both texts illustrate how scientific fact can also be awe inspiring. Schramski discusses how the human brain and body deal with the task of running on uneven surfaces. A seemingly mundane topic becomes amazing when one learns the various functions that must occur in infinitesimal amounts of time in order to allow the body to traverse such terrain. A combination of unconscious reflexive action, conscious movement, and automatic adjustments by muscles and tendons in the leg combine to produce an action that seems commonplace. “Never mind trail running: even walking is a minor miracle”, Schramski argues. The word choice here is indicative of his attempt to convey how improbable our ability to run is, and instill a sense of wonder in the reader. The inclusion of the section on robotics serves the same purpose. We have today machines that can outwit grandmasters in games of chess or solve complex math problems, but the act of walking can be done by many two year olds better than our best robots. The gap is made even clearer when one compares the awkward, jerky motions of the robot in the video to the ease with which Scott Jurek, a professional trail runner interviewed for the article, claims to run. ‘“Well, you just do it,’” Jurek is quoted as saying when asked how he runs so effortlessly on rocky trails. The robot, however shows us that there is a lot more to it than just doing it; when attempted by a machine it necessitates the use of complex coding algorithms and cutting edge modern technology. This shows what uniquely powerful and speedy machines the human brain and nervous system are, especially as used in the act of running. Running is a perfect illustration, then, of how scientific progress can reveal wondrous things all around us. What was taken for granted for thousands of years can suddenly become an incomprehensible feat when its difficulty is quantified and explored.

Urban explores an area much more known for inciting a sense of reverence, outer space. “The Fermi Paradox” deals with the age old question of whether or not humans are alone in their existence as an intelligent species. It opens by acknowledging the existential questions that pondering the vastness of the universe can raise, then proceeds to quantify what this vastness means: there should be someone else out there. While many might think of the night sky as containing an infinite number of stars, Urban points out that, as small as we can feel when we look up at the stars, what we are seeing is only a miniscule fraction of what is out there. We see about 2,500 stars on a clear night, but there are according to our best estimates, “between 10^22, and 10^24 total stars” in the universe according to Urban.

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A visual portrayal of what a small portion of our own galaxy we see in the night sky.

This means that “for every grain of sand on earth, there are 10,000 stars out there”. So while looking at the night sky was cool even for our ancestors when they thought that they were looking at a celestial sphere which contained the entire universe, how much more amazing is it to know that what we can see right now is negligible compared to what we have yet to see? Additionally, given what we know about the frequency with which earth like planets occur, there should be roughly 100 earth-like planets for every grain of sand. Given these odds, it is highly probable that somewhere out there, there are other intelligent life forms. This is the paradox that gave its name to the article; the enormous likelihood that there is intelligent life (or at least life of some form) elsewhere, and the complete lack of evidence that we have of such beings. As Urban succinctly puts it, the question raised by the Fermi Paradox is “Where is everybody?”.

Confirmation of either the lack or presence of other intelligent life will have enormous implications for what our future as a species may hold, and such revered thinkers as Carl Sagan and Elon Musk have weighed in on the topic. The potential answers are explained in the original article in depth, but are too numerous and lengthy to be worth reproducing here. More important to this piece is the fact that because of new information brought to us by science, we are left with even weightier questions than before. Our own advancement has not left us with a bleaker, duller view of existence, but instead “opens the door just a crack that maybe, maybe, there’s a whole lot more to this story than what we realize.”

Both of my texts approached their topics in an analytical manner that allows the reader to appreciate the sheer impressiveness of their subject matter. Schramski, however, took a subject that is not normally thought of as awe inspiring and made the reader see that it was by breaking down what is occurring when we run. Urban tackled a topic that many people already find inspiration in, and by further exploring it, made it even more stunning. While an article on running has to prove that running is worth the readers wonder, an article on outer space starts with the reader’s sense of wonder already engaged. So while Schramski set out to earn running our respect, Urban did not have to exert as much effort in that direction, instead focusing on why the new information available to us about space is even more exciting than what we already knew. By presenting these two texts together, I hoped to prove that no matter the topic, and how common, or how breathtaking it may be, scientific progress and exploration can always increase our sense of wonder in it.

In class presentation: https://prezi.com/embed/9wjfnd0iye4u/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=1&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0&landing_data=bHVZZmNaNDBIWnNjdEVENDRhZDFNZGNIUE43MHdLNWpsdFJLb2ZHanI0c3ExTDRaaS9vd1JOYnU1Q2VuNTZ3Y2dnPT0&landing_sign=DVz6XZUQQYcqfta_FQiDAlP6DrwYsyJ_i2i0UZgimtU 

Works Cited

 1 Schramski, Sam. “Running Is Always Blind.” Nautilus. N.p., 7 July 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016

2 Urban, Tim. “The Fermi Paradox.” Wait But Why. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

3 Quintin, Walter Plitt. Apollo’s Chariot. N.p.: n.p., n.d.

 4 Author Unknown. Earth’s Orbit. N.p.: n.p., n.d. JPG. http://pics-about-space.com/earth-sun-orbit-seasons?p=5

5 Risinger, Nick. Milky Way Galaxy. N.p.: n.p., n.d. JPG.

6 Atlas, The Next GenerationYouTube. Boston Dynamics, 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Topic and Genre Declaration-Values of Science Project

10/31/16

Topic/genre Declaration-Values of Science Project

My Values of Science project will be analyzing Running is Always Blind by Sam Schramski as my in-class text, as well as The Fermi Paradox by Tim Urban. I will try to give my analysis using an essay or written article format with some visuals included when helpful and a powerpoint or similar presentation aid when giving my class presentation. My project will explore the value of wonder as featured in these two articles. I chose these two texts partly because I thoroughly enjoyed reading them both, which I hope will translate to making the project more fun to complete. I also felt that while they discuss totally different topics, they share the common value of wonder that science can often imbue us with, whether it is through a rocket launch or surprising knowledge of the inner workings of our own cells. I know that I certainly felt it while reading both articles, and I think I can find many examples to draw on from both texts. I will be working alone on this project.

The Really Big One

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Kathryn Shulz’s Pulitzer Prize winning article, The Really Big One, is a breakdown of the Cascadia fault line in America’s Pacific Northwest and its implications for the region. If there was one theme that the article seemed to want to communicate, it was the disparity between how severe of an earthquake (and subsequent tsunami) this fault line is almost certain to unleash at some point, and the total lack of preparedness on the part of those living there. Schulz was able to do this using the full spectrum of rhetorical devices. She interviewed respected geologists to establish ethos, gave in depth descriptions of what will occur (even allowing the reader to visualize it using their hands as tectonic plates) to establish logos, and included some awe inducing statistics and dramatic quotes about the fallout of the disaster to establish pathos. My personal favorite use of pathos was the declaration of an actual FEMA officer that the area would be “toast” after the quake. While far from a credible scientific term, it imbued the reader with the officer’s real sense of worry and fear over the situation. It is not a huge mental leap to suppose that Schulz put such effort into convincing the reader of this preparedness gap, and the dangers it poses, because she wants to see something done about it. By informing the public of this imposing threat, we can assume she hopes to trigger some action, although she acknowledges that it “is no longer a problem of information; we know very well what the Cascadia fault line will do.” It has simply become a problem of human unwillingness to do anything about it, the common human problem of ignoring or hiding ugly events that are huge or far off in favor of inventing our own reality. Schulz captures this eloquently when she notes that “the brevity of our lives breeds a kind of temporal parochialism-an ignorance or indifference to those planetary gears which turn more slowly than our own.” For the sake of those living in the danger zone, however, we can only hope she succeeds.

Project Nim

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Project Nim, directed by James Marsh, is a documentary film which tells the story of a male chimpanzee taken from his mother at birth and raised by humans as part of an experiment. The central idea of this strange arrangement was to determine whether primates could learn to communicate like humans if they were to be raised like one. From the start, I felt that the film did nothing but present Nim’s story in a bare and frank way. While most pieces we have written or watched this year had a clear message or mission on how I should feel about the information presented, Project Nim simply laid out the facts along with testimony and opinion from those involved in the project. Because of this, I believe that the main purpose of the film was simply to bring Nim’s story to the public in an interesting and entertaining format. Of course, once one has heard the story it is impossible not to feel emotion or have an opinion about it, but the film did not have a consistent or overriding message about how I should feel. It left me to figure out what I thought about what I’d just watched, and I felt sad about the way Nim’s life story progressed. I also felt ashamed of the human callousness involved in the project and the lack of results associated it. Although I suspect that that is how most feel after the film, this is more a product of the story itself than how it was told, in my opinion. So, I guess it is possible that by simply telling the story how it was, Marsh was actually asking the viewer to feel for Nim and recognize the consequences of human callousness, arrogance, and disrupting the natural processes of nature.

Waiting For Light

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Science and technology are often viewed as fields for those who think of the world in terms of mechanical pieces, each person, obstacle, and experience simply another cog or piston in the engine of their life. Jake Abrahamson’s article “Waiting for Light” takes a more human based approach to one of the world’s most important and fastest growing technologies, solar power. Abrahamson briefly tells the story of rural India and its inhabitants, many of whom live in abject poverty and are forced by the setting of the sun to stop what they are doing for lack of something that we take for granted: light. By introducing the reader to a number of the villagers that he met over the course of researching the article, Abrahamson takes a distinctly pathos driven approach to answering the all important “Why should I care?” question inherent to all science writing. We should care about solar power, and specifically the dozens of local companies trying to bring it to rural India, because there are millions of people whose lives could be changed “in an instant” simply by having the ability to see after dark. Again, care is taken to make sure the reader sees the image of what a village looks like with and without solar power. On the first page a busy town which has received solar lanterns is depicted with children doing homework, women cooking, and various villagers plying their trades under the “precise white spheres” of solar lanterns. In stark contrast to this is Aat, another hamlet which Abrahamson visits, and “the darkest place [his guide] has ever seen”. Personal opinions and hopes are included from Aat’s inhabitants, who are forced to operate entirely on the schedule of the sun. By taking a more emotionally charged approach to his article than any that we have previously read, Abrahamson made his writing more appealing as a story, a tale of the struggle of millions of the world’s most disadvantaged people. This is a tactic that is sure to bring in many readers who might not have even glanced at a weighty, academic treatise on the benefits of solar power.

Topic Declaration

  • Food Deserts
    My group has picked the above article from GT news for our project. We found the genre to be science for general public consumption, medium online article or blog, and rhetorical purpose to invoke ethos and pathos to convince the reader of the importance of food deserts.
  • We plan to transform the article into a photo essay with the same genre and rhetorical purpose. Through the use of photos we think it will be possible to more effectively demonstrate to our audience what a food desert and its effects look like, and why they are important.

Grow a Pair (of legs)

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This week’s combination of reading was perhaps my favorite of the semester thus far. The first two articles discussed the very first life forms to ever walk on land, and the last provided insight into just how amazing our ability to run, developed over millions of years, truly is. The articles focusing on one of our first ancestors to walk on land, the mudskipper, and current research surrounding its means of locomotion, were interesting in their own right. The idea that we can still learn from, and even struggle to understand, something as simple as a small fish thrusting forward with its tail is fascinating. But when re-read after reading Schramski’s “Running is Always Blind” piece, they inspired a sense of awe. I couldn’t help but shake my head at the disconnect between our own ability to move and that of Muddybot, a robot designed to mimic the movement of mudskippers. After reading about our ability to subconsciously adjust to changes in terrain and incline, the idea that we originate from something that struggled to move up a 20º incline was all the more astonishing. Schramski’s article also helped to answer many of the questions that I had as a cross country runner throughout my highschool career. Cross country is a sport run exclusively on unpaved surfaces, and I always marveled at how running on gravel or other surfaces that give slightly when stepped on did not significantly impact the speed or balance of a runner. The section which discussed guineaufowl and the way their legs reacted mechanically, entirely independently of the nervous system, made sense to me as an explanation for this phenomenon. By providing a historical contrast to the almost miraculous level at which our bodies now function, the reading selection this week should spark an internal dialogue within the reader of how we got from point A to point B.

Robot Replicates How Our Ancestors First Walked on Land

Robot Helps Study How Our First Ancestors Moved

Running is Always Blind

 

 

 

Spinning Science Project

shred360

Advertisers are always looking for new ways to market their product more effectively, and the use of scientific claims has recently become more prevalent than ever. Given the massive amounts of money large corporations spend on marketing and marketing research, there is obviously some effectiveness in using science to sell a product. By analyzing an advertisement for ASR’s SHRED360, a weight loss supplement, this project will examine the rhetorical appeals that corporations use when making scientific and technological claims, and why they appeal to the modern consumer.
fat_guy_on_treadmill

In this age of American obesity, there are thousands of products vying for the attention of customers that desperately want a cure for their ills, whether they are a serious weight problem or fifteen pounds that make them feel insecure in a swim suit. In the ad I selected, ASR chose to pursue consumers mainly through the rhetorical appeal of logos, and accordingly, the use of scientific claims. The white banner which runs across the middle of the advertisement introduces this theme by advising the customer that their product was “originally formulated for fitness professionals”. This appeals to the customer’s logic because it is assumed that something which was “formulated” (a word which brings to mind the image of researchers in lab coats, carefully mixing ingredients) for someone who maintains fitness for a living must be better than anything designed for the average joe. These thoughts are reinforced by bullet points claiming that the product contains “potent fat burning technology” and “breaks up fat cells for use as energy”. While dieting and exercise together can also burn fat to create energy, the idea that their pill contains special technology which does it better than natural methods ever could is extremely tempting. Why put in the effort to lose the weight through exercise when that same scientist who “formulated” this pill back in the lab is telling you that this product will do it better than you ever could, and with less effort on your part? This is the magic of technology in advertising. By making claims that we as consumers don’t have the scientific knowledge to refute, it encourages us to simply lean on the understanding of the suave voice over or jargon filled bullet points and their assurances that we need this product.

ASR-logo_full.png

In order for the consumer to believe that what they are being told about the product is true, however, they must first believe in the credibility of the person or company presenting it to them. This is where the rhetorical appeal of ethos comes in. In a thousand subtle ways, ASR tries to convince the person reading this ad that they are to be trusted when it comes to weight loss science. It begins simply with the naming of their company. Obviously the company is ASR, but the only letter of the acronym that is ever spelled out is the R for Research. This is not unintentional; they want you to know that they study and make products dealing with health science for a living. When they make scientific claims, they have people in a laboratory somewhere who did the research first. Their choice of tagline, “The Science of Strength”, is geared towards the same purpose. They don’t deal with the art of strength or the hobby of strength, but the precise and serious science. Even the font and name used for the product, “Shred360”, is reminiscent of something you might see on a piece of construction machinery rather than a pharmacy or grocery store. Through these stylistic choices, ASR establishes the credibility to then tell you, as a consumer, why the science behind their product will help you lose weight.

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It benefits consumers to be aware of the techniques that companies are using to sell their product so that they can separate substance from style. While not all science used in commercials is false or misleading, it is all designed to sway consumer opinion using rhetorical strategies that appeal specifically to a target demographic and their senses of logic and credibility.

Pictures (in order) Courtesy of:

 

 

Rodent Research: Opposing Viewpoints

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As a hunter, fisherman, and omnivore, it is hard for me to be objective in a debate about the harming of animals for the purpose of human gain. My views on the use of rodents such as mice for lab research that can lead to scientific breakthroughs follows my general views on the subject: as long as it is done ethically and with a clear purpose, I have no problem with it. It just wouldn’t make any sense for me to personally kill several animals a year for my own personal consumption, as well as eat many other that were raised and killed in slaughterhouses, and then turn around and say that it is wrong to harm animals for the purpose of research.
After reading two articles on the use of rodents in lab research, “Why Mouse Genetics?” and “Mice and Rats in Research”, my opinions were unchanged but I did become more informed on why rodents are used in research and what concerns some have on the subject. “Why Mouse Genetics?” made an argument for the use of mice in research by pointing their usefulness due to genetic similarities, cost effectiveness, and rapid reproductive cycles, none of which I had considered. “Mice and Rats in Research” raised valid concerns about the possible underreporting of how many rodents are being used by the industry and whether what applies to mice actually applies to humans. The latter claim had more impact on my views, as one of the highest creeds of a hunter is not to kill or harm what you won’t actually use. If mice research is not truly applicable to humans, then I would take moral issue with the harming of mice for little or no benefit. While I don’t know enough about mammal genetics or lab research to speculate on who is right about the comparability of mice and humans, my intuition tells me that their use would not be so widespread if there was not some substantial benefit.
Why Mouse Genetics
Mice and Rats in Research

Works in Progress Page

Pencil on paper

11/28/16

Sample Final Reflection

My blog post on Jake Abrahamson’s article “Waiting for Light” demonstrates a number of the skills I developed while in this class, most notably my ability to analyze a piece of writing for its use of rhetorical appeals. My analysis of the article included an identification of the main rhetorical appeal at work, pathos, as well as specific examples of its usage in the article and hypotheses as to why Abrahamson employed pathos and its potential effect on the reader. By taking a “human based approach” to the use of solar light in rural India, I argued, Abrahamson undoubtedly focused more on pathos than ethos or logos, honing on the reader’s human empathy. I then opined Abrahamson was probably intending to expand his audience past those deeply involved in the power industry or India’s socioeconomic progress. “Abrahamson made his writing more appealing as story, a tale of the struggle of millions of the worlds most disadvantaged people”.

10/18/2016

Values of Science Project Reflection

The values of science project was my favorite assignment this year and I feel that that my interest allowed me to do a great job on it. I was most happy with my presentation, which I did through Prezi. I had never used Prezi before but definitely will in the future because to me it held the audience’s interest and conveyed my message better than a traditional powerpoint. I was happy with the visual aspect provided by Prezi, but I also felt after presenting that I was coherent and made my points strongly, and that I had correctly timed my project to the assigned 5 minute interval. I learned a number of things through my work on this project, including strengthened rhetorical analysis skills, how to best select texts for projects such as this,  and of course how to make a Prezi. If I could change anything I would probably change the format of my supported argument. I do not think I paid enough attention to its “status as a rhetorical text” as stated in the assignment sheet, and putting it up as an article on my blog feels lazy in hindsight after seeing what some of the other students did with their supported arguments. Overall, however, I feel good about how I connected and analyzed the texts and presented my argument, and I enjoyed learning through this project.

10/28/16

The Value of Curiosity-Emily Graslie

Graslie agrees with many of the points made by Todd, but naturally, as someone who works for a museum, is concerned with how curiosity can be triggered. To me, she did not make any contentious points. She showed her audience some fascinating objects from her museum and discussed their origins, ending by saying that curiosity requires a start and that it’s something of intrinsic value that has merit.

“Curious” by Kim Todd Reflection

I believe that Todd initially investigates the nature of curiosity and what it means to be curious, but ends by arguing that we should be more than just curious. When something truly interests us, we should dig deeper as Darwin did, looking at the entire picture. When we do this, we discover patterns and information that are helpful and relevant to our lives.

“For curiosity to have value… we have to allow it to be the beginning of something larger.” (Todd 10)

Todd believes that curiosity does not have intrinsic value unless we follow through on our initial urge to explore. We have to mine for more information and hold up what we find against the backdrop of everything we know, leading us to surprising discoveries.

September 26, 2016
Stating Applications of Transforming Tech Science Project

This research has real world consequences in demonstrating that geographical and socioeconomic factors are important in determining people’s diets. This is especially important in explaining why a much higher percentage of Americans who live in poverty or in impoverished neighborhoods are obese, and gets conversation started on how we might improve on this situation.

September 16, 2016
Peer Review on Spinning Science

I read and made suggestions for Eli Kessler’s project, which focused on an advertisement from Exxon Mobile.

Rhetorical Awareness: Mature. I felt that the project addressed the issue in all of its scope and depth and gave me insight that I did not have simply from watching the ad.

Stance: Competent. Eli showed why we should care about how science is used in advertising by demonstrating that Exxon mobile uses it to reshape public opinion of themselves.

Development of Ideas: Competent. Each idea touched upon was explored to reasonable depth and followed a rational, coherent course.

Organization: Competent. The ordering and connection from point to point and paragraph to paragraph made sense to me and the project flowed well.

Conventions: Mature. Was able to find only one small grammatical error and one awkward sentence in my editing.

Design for Medium: Competent. Eli’s blog and page for his project were visually pleasing and easy to use. He selected good screenshots from his chosen advertisement to include in his project.

Through the peer review process I learned twice as much as I expected. In addition to the feedback I got from Ishrat’s review of my project, I picked up on many areas where my project could be improved through my review of Eli’s project. The general gist of what I took away from this review was that I could definitely improve some of the phrasing in my article, as well as find higher quality pictures.

Reflections on Spinning Science Project
September 15, 2016
The first step in my process for this project was finding an ad, which took far longer than expected. After an hour and a half of sifting through images online, I found my ad for SHRED360. I then analyzed the ad to determine which parts I wanted to use in my project, drew up an outline, and found more images to fill out my photo essay. I then turned my outline into a draft. I was most pleased with my selection of ad and outlining processes because I feel that I searched hard and found an ad that had a lot of material to work with and made the most out of that material with my outline. I was least happy with the amount of time I spent searching for the ad and writing my draft because I feel that I could’ve gotten the work done quicker, which hopefully will come with practice.

Spinning Science Intro Group Edit
September 12, 2016

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September 11, 2016
Spinning Science Intro

 

shred360

Advertisers are always looking for new ways to market their product more effectively, and the use of scientific claims has recently become more prevalent than ever in advertising. Given the massive amounts of money large corporations spend on marketing and marketing research, there is obviously some effectiveness in using science to sell a product. By analyzing an advertisement for ASR’s SHRED360, a weight loss supplement, this project will examine the rhetorical appeals that corporations use when making scientific and technological claims, and why they appeal to the modern consumer.

-maybe elaborate on which rhetorical appeals are being used
-find some more things to fill out intro

August 29, 2016
Reflection on Video

  • My process for the creation of my video included a brainstorming session, the writing of a script, revision, practice rehearsing the script, and then several tries filming. I found my brainstorming and draft writing processes most effective; I was pleased with what I thought of and was able to write down through my methods. I was least pleased with my rehearsal process as it did not seem to help me retain my script.
  • I am most satisfied with my script because I feel that it captures what I am trying to say, flows well, and does so with good grammar. I was least satisfied with my delivery of the script on video because I wasn’t able to recite the script as smoothly as I had hoped.
  • Going along with my earlier expressions of frustration with my rehearsal process, I would probably try to make changes there. It might be helpful to have a friend or friends stand in front of me and recite my script to them to practice having a small amount of pressure or to come up with some trick or system for remembering which part of my speech comes next.