Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Anti-Matter Questions

Question 1

Do you think using antimatter as a weapon or an energy source is realistic? Should we be concerned about "mad scientists"?


As a fan of Star Trek I would have to say the idea of a warp core sounds fascinating. The ability to have a power source that could take a star ship to warp speeds and across the galaxy sounds amazing. Of course, that's just science fiction and the near term possibilities of anything even remotely worthwhile happening in the field of antimatter science during my current lifetime seems very unlikely whether that means harnessing it as a power source or using it as some kind of weapon. It's hard to know or guess the future, after all breakthroughs do occur that have potentially widespread repercussions in the field of science research and development, but I say that with my current understanding of where we are in energy source research we might as well keep working at stuff that has more near term benefit than something with far off, questionable, and possibly currently unfeasible potential.

"Mad scientists," though, are a slightly different matter that I would consider not so much an individual using science to cause trouble, but rather a small group of scientists who might not have as much concern for ethics or modern scientific procedure. These groups might just go ahead and follow dangerous practices or research that would typically be at the center of major discussions and arguments. Even worse than someone brilliant, yet crazy, though is the person responsible for making use of anything that scientists develop. The scientists who created the first atomic bomb aren't exactly the ones that people are afraid of as that belongs to those individuals in either the military or civilian government who are responsible for using the shiny new toys that scientists have developed. "Mad scientists" might be brilliant, but unless they are crazy and bent on some kind of human or world extermination I recon they might just spend their time mostly harmlessly occupying their time with other things like one Professor Hubert Farnsworth. It's only when mad genius combines with terrible ambitions does someone need to start being worried and, mostly, those don't go hand in hand in ways that matter much nowadays.

Armageddon Science (The Best Science)

Disasters, whether natural, from outer space, or just man made, are a subject that fascinates the minds and thoughts of many people who might wonder how this whole thing might come to end. This thing being life and civilization as we know it. History tells us that contemporary people are certainly not the first to conceptualize, debate, dream, and speculate on how, or even when, the world will come crashing down in a reign of destruction so it might as well be a universal human past time up there with hunting, eating, and having babies. The amount of effort that contemporary society has put towards creating different visions of apocalypse and Armageddon scenarios in popular media is pretty astonishing since we seem to have even created a specific genre for such films. 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, the aptly named Armageddon, The Core, The Happening, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek (2009), Titan A.E., I Am Legend, and so many others make up only a tiny sample of what Hollywood alone has envisioned as possible doomsday scenarios.

This is all to say that, there is a real chance that things are just going to suddenly come crashing down and the world as we know it will just suddenly cease to function or exist the way that it has up until that moment. A meteor doesn't burn up in the atmosphere and crashes onto the planet, global warming melts the ice caps, nuclear weapons start launching across the world, the oceans rise over the land, or aliens suddenly appear and decide it's not worth it to keep humanity around are all possibilities, however remote, that could happen in an instant.

The benefit of this book, though, isn't that it essentially condenses a topic better suited to a series of History Channel specials into a single volume, but that it attempts to provide real and meaningful answers to such questions that some people might not otherwise get or understand. For instance, the more that people understand what the Large Hadron Collider actually does, the less they will probably fear the remote doomsday scenarios that people dream up and maybe actually appreciate the science that is going on. Learning about the cost of nuclear weapons and the theory of mutually assured destruction are certainly worth examining in a social studies classroom, but the book seems to go into topics that really lack substance or relevance to students such as antimatter weapons and energy along with crazy theoretically possible doomsday weapons like carbon weapons and its hard to tell how much it concentrates on more "down to earth" subjects like the effects of climate change on the world. While these subjects surely add flair and maybe a status as a comprehensive resource, it doesn't seem to be something that students should read unless they really want a kick to their Armageddon imaginations.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Blog V.V (5.5)

Question 1

“In a superglobal world, where many coastal twenty- to thirty- year-old urbanites don’t live down the street from our parents, have anything in common with our coworkers, or attend the same events as our neighbors, celebrity offers an adhesive that binds us together.”

Do you believe that celebrity binds society together? Do celebrities allow people to relate and interact with each other?

Short Response

Yes and Yes, respectively

Reasoned Response

Coming from a person who has learned to use sports as a conversation starter and as a kind of topic of last resort, I have to believe that if there is one thing that people have in common it is the knowledge of male athletes and professional sports teams. Think about how easy sports are to identity with for any person because:

1. Sports are based on geography so just living or being in a geographic area automatically qualifies a person to support or know about a sports team.
2. Sports almost inherently require some kind of spectacular event/circumstance that can impress most people just by watching. Think of touchdowns, soccer goals, and whatever people do in curling.
3. Athletes are attractive.

I'm sure there are more reasons that I could include as well, but I think the point is clear. Anyone, child to retiree, can probably talk about sports and it brings people together in person and on the internet. People relate to each other because they hate certain teams or people and the high five and chest bump when admired players score goals, catch TDs, or hit homers. I was sitting at a soccer game and started chatting with the guys next to me just because, hey, we could talk about the players on the field. Did I know his name, where he came from, or his political philosophy? No. Did that stop me from giving him a high-five after we scored a goal? No. I shook his hand after the game and said it was great talking to him. I think he understood why.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Blog V (5) (Starstrukkkkkkk)

I'm not much for celebrities and following their antics, whether for a good cause or just for attention, so when it comes to talking about them I tend to leave the conversation to other people. I do like talking about sports though, or at least pretending like I know what I'm talking about when talking about sports, so I can't say I'm immune to the phenomenon that the author talks about where people spend most of the time talking about someone else in conversation. Even though I don't typically follow celebrity news, outside of reading magazine titles in line at the store, one thing that I found extremely interesting from hearing about this book was this idea of a democratic celebrity.

A democratic celebrity is a celebrity that is created basically by general consensus by society. Whether that means people voted for them in a national election or they had a bunch of views/hits on some internet video or social networking site on the internet, these are celebrities who weren't created by some traditional celebrity making machine, but by the will of the people. That's not hard to imagine, of course, but the piece of information I thought really telling about the fleeting nature of celebrity is how the majority of democratic celebrities never maintain or regain their celebrity status after the initial celebrity creating experience has passed. American Idol winners haven't had nearly the celebrity status that one would think considering the maintained success of Kelly Clarkson and internet celebrity status hasn't exactly landed most people an invitation onto the red carpet. I guess it's certainly more of a flash in the pan mentality where everyone feels they can get lucky with that One Hit Wonder, but afterwards will never find the magic again.

One reason reason that democratic celebrities might lack the same sustained success possibilities as other celebrities might be just the fickleness of crowds. A crowd will flock to something and then just as quickly abandon that something for the newest something that catches the eyes/ears/hearts of the crowd. Self-promotion is also difficult and I would assume most people think of it as a plain grab for attention and tend to tune it out. Compare this to "real" or "classic" celebrities who have full teams of people to manage their careers and provide the publicity and advertisement. Strangely it feels more rational and less like someone trying to shove him or herself into our collective faces.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Post 4.5 (Gadget Question)

6.“The baby boom isn’t over yet, and the 1960s still provide the dominant reference points in pop culture. This is in part, I believe, because of the phenomena of Retropolis and youthiness, but it is also because the boomers are not merely plentiful and alive but still vigorous and contributing to society.  People live longer as technology improves, so cultural change actually slows, because it is tied more to the outgoing generational clock than the incoming one (181-2).”

Although the latest and greatest forms of technology are available to our society, do you think that the current generation is reluctant to excel with these new technologies because so much influence currently comes from the previous generational culture?  


Baby boomers get a lot of the blame for the problems of society, especially when it comes to cultural values and social legislation, but one thing that I would say isn't being held back by this older generation is the advance and adoption of new gadgets. Not that the older generation is running out to buy the latest and greatest or are quickly latching onto new technology and innovations, but rather they aren't actively trying to stem the deluge of new stuff that keeps coming out year after year.

It's not necessary the older people keeping the past alive, but young people looking to the past and trying to maybe recapture it in a way. This is where hipsters come into play. They  didn't exist that long ago probably because what we know about the past is greater today than at any point in the past. They look to the past for influences, clothing, music, styles, but they still love those iPhones and whatever. So gadgets are a universal kind of thing and the underlying technology that comes along with it isn't slowing down as long as people keep buying into it. At the moment, technology has allowed us to create culture, but who's to say what might happen in the future if/when technology is our culture. We would all be geeks and nerds. Scary.

Post 4 (You Are Not A Gagdet...but what if I like gadgets?)

While I was initially a little more than frustrated with trying to understand exactly what Mr. Jaron Lanier was trying to say in his book, it's no coincidence that his words strike a chord with people in the modern age who have so quickly engrossed themselves in the world of social media technology and whatever web 2.0 is supposed to mean. His book, from what little I've admittedly seen of it, works more like a warning of things to come, like this ever vigilant fear that he has that we are losing our humanity, than some kind of treatise on how to stop the world from being sucked into some kind of Facebook/social media black hole never to return.

I remember watching an episode of the Outer Limits where the entire population of the world was connected together through some kind of computer network. Everyone could access information whenever they needed it in an instant. Except the protagonist, who through some kind of fateful accident was unable to be implanted with the device or whatever. Unlike his peers he had to learn to read and teach himself things instead of relying on the collective knowledge of the world. In the end the computer goes crazy in some misguided attempt to attain all possible knowledge and as a result people start to die until our hero successfully shuts it down. The end of the show has our hero teaching grown adults, no longer connected to all knowledge or whatever, how to read a word like cat. Basically what I'm saying is that Mr. Lanier is probably really afraid of something like this happening and is prescient enough to realize that we might be heading in such a direction.

Of course, Mr. Lanier is from the old guard of technology people who were around before technology became "cool" or whatever. He's seen the nature of technology and the internet change for much longer than most people even realize. Maybe, by writing this book and making a big deal, he's offering wisdom and guidance to the younger generation who are all too willing to look up everything on Wikipedia and read Facebook every waking hour as a warning against what could be in the future. He isn't much of a Luddite so it would be wrong to say he is against technology, but it's a fair warning. Whether or not people see him as a potential source of insight or just a bitter old guy wishing the internet wasn't so big and confusing, like a crotchety old geriatric, we'll just have to wait and find out.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blog 3.5 (Question and Answer)

Discussion Question 2:
How does geography play a role in America's continuous use of the death penalty? How do state and local issues, values, and circumstances affect whether or not a state adopts pro or anti-death penalty legislation?

America is a large nation that has its fair share of both large metropolitan centers as well as tiny towns that serve the widespread unincorporated rural communities around them. This divide between urban and rural communities, as well as the values that each of the two hold, I feel has a major impact on why the death penalty remains in the position that it currently holds in the United States as the ultimate penalty for a crime.

Let's start with the cities and big urban centers. They have huge populations where not knowing someone else nearby is probably the norm and having a strict and uniform value system is almost impossible due to the sheer amount of opinions that exist. This creates a pluralism of people and opinions all around. Maybe it is in this environment that people best develop a feeling of tolerance, or thick skin, towards others that forces them to get along with those around them at a certain level as to not make living in such close quarters too unbearable.

On the other hand, those living in small local communities might be tempted to conform so as to not stand out from the norm. Differences can be magnified in small communities, especially those concerned with the survival of their way of life, so it's better to just go along with the crowd than risk becoming a pariah since everyone probably knows everyone else. With less points of view, it's possible that the consequences can be greater since agreement and conformity are prized heavily and voicing differently may lead to a loss of status or position in the community.

From a percentage point of view think of it like this. It's easier to get a bigger percentage of a small population to agree on something than with a bigger population so, in a small town, it might be easier to convince others of the rightness of a harsh punishment for a crime. The death penalty has existed for a long time and I can probably say that it is more established in the popular mindset than not having the death penalty. In a small town a person would probably not challenge the notion if it ran contrary to the opinions of others out of a sense of harmony, but in a big city with so many view points already it's much easier to change your opinions.