BIOLOGY 103
FALL, 2000
FORUM, WRAP-UP



Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: two weeks to go ...
Date: Sun Dec 3 17:46:14 EST 2000
Comments:
Yep, forum area cleaned up. But never fear. Everything is archived, and can be reached by clicking here

So ... where are we? and where should we be sure we get to before ... ? Yes, we're never going to get all of it "right", but what do we think we know at this point, so we can try and get a few last things "less wrong"? With molecules, and the second law, and macromolecules, and cells, and tissues/organs what do we think we CAN make sense of about life, and what are the remaining uncertainties/things we're not sure we can, even in principle, account for? What SHOULD we spend our last two weeks talking about?


Name: joe santini
Username: jsantini
Subject: the sundered molecules...
Date: Tue Dec 5 09:51:56 EST 2000
Comments:
I've become really interested in how science can be a philosophy and art all in one. I mean if you study literary theory (English major talking here) you find out how a poem for example is a construction made up of smaller constructions and so on and so on... so in a way a poem resembles the improbable assembly of life. The same thing goes for novels, and maybe paintings although I havent studied them enough to know. The big difference between a poet and a scientist is the poet's admission, however, that he might not be "right" and that anyone in fact can be a poet, whereas science tends to be an enclosed community only breached by the public intervention of people like Stephen J Gould and Carl Sagan. Anyway, I think we should be "sure to get to" at least a working definition of what life could be like. I think we have something like that, but its scary to put a name to it...
Name: leila
Username: lghaznav@brynmawr.edu
Subject: remaining confusion
Date: Wed Dec 6 13:46:27 EST 2000
Comments:
The thing I'm still banging my head about is why would atoms coming together to form molecules would become energy dependent. We look at the body in class and see all these cells working together and the evolution that they've all taken which is wonderous to behold but understandable. It's just hard to understand how something that's not energy dependent would become energy dependent. L.
Name: jeanne braha
Username: jbraha@brynmawr.edu
Subject: energy
Date: Wed Dec 6 15:18:16 EST 2000
Comments:
leila - i don't think that atoms get together for any special reason (christmas and hannukah are probably bad guesses)except that charges attract them to each other. then, once chance gets them close enough to become molecules, i guess they would stay together because of all the advantages it offers selectively, even if they become energy-dependent creatures. think about the massive increase of possibilities at each level of organization: atoms form molecules that can be part of proteins or some other macromolecules, or even their own substance like water. these get together and make cells, which can reproduce and be organisms and communicate with other cells. then you get multicellular organisms, which can do all sorts of stuff. all atoms do is bounce around, while you, a human can bounce while singing and thinking about a dream you've had and tons of other stuff that atoms can't even think about. in terms of selective advantages, i've never really considered atoms as affected by natural selection, but once you hit life (the cell), it kicks in. for atoms, i guess it's just chance, but it certainly makes a nicer theory if it works all the way from one end to the other of the spectrum.
Name: allison h-c
Username: ahayesco
Subject: more on atoms
Date: Wed Dec 6 23:20:27 EST 2000
Comments:
I was reading leila's question (and Jeanne's answer), and it struck me how odd it is that life can be explained by randomness. What I mean is, the possibility for atoms coming together, as leila said, to form molocules, and then those molecules coming together in even more complex ways, seems almost impossible.....impossible until, that is, we think about the infinite variety allowed by randomness. Out of the universe's original randomness, there comes the possibility, among the many in an infinite variety of possibilities, for atoms (etc) to come together in a way that will result in life. Of course, this possibility is statistically very very low on our time scale. But, hey, we're talking light years here not the next 15 days 'till break. 15.............14...............13...............12.............11 ................10...............9...............8..............7.......... .....6............5............4............3............2...........1..... ..
Name: anonymous
Username:
Subject:
Date: Wed Dec 6 23:21:55 EST 2000
Comments:
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Name: Katie k
Username: kkennedy@brynmawr.edu
Subject: never getting it right, reflecting
Date: Fri Dec 8 05:45:06 EST 2000
Comments:
We began the semester talking about how what we know (what anyone knows) about science is not right- just less wrong. Thats a hard way to begin- thank god we don't have a final because studying would get me nowhere. What we have talked about in class I feel I almost understand, in fact, had we not started the way we did, I would almost say I knew it. But now I'm sitting under a cloud of self-doubt. I understand molecules, macromolecules, celles, tissues and organs, but am continually intrigued by all of the things I do not understand, or even know exist.
Name: the other Katie K
Username: kkaczmar@brynmawr.edu
Subject: making connections
Date: Fri Dec 8 14:07:38 EST 2000
Comments:
I agree with Katie that the more we know, the less we understand. But this course is not really about teaching something new (although I hope everyone has learned something new over the course!) but on making connections between the facts that we know and the rest of the world. This happens not just in this class but in every class that I'm taking, but I'm only realizing this now. Hopefully we can finish out the 15 days we have left in making our comprehension of life even less wrong.
Name: Rachel (Piachel the wonder pickle) Hochberg
Username: Garg0yle99@hotmail.com
Subject: the chicken or the egg?
Date: Fri Dec 8 14:13:15 EST 2000
Comments:
I apologize for going totally off-topic, but...I'm going to go totally off-topic. How is it possible for the chicken embryos to still be alive after the egg is broken? If they did have a nervous system at that stage of development, would they be in pain? I'm not asking because I have anything against studying the embryos, and I understand that they don't have a nervous system yet, but I guess I just want to know what would happen if you let them keep developing. I also didn't quite follow the argument in favor of the chicken coming first....
Name: Naomy
Username: nlim@brynmawr.edu
Subject: autonomy and functional systems
Date: Sat Dec 9 11:11:19 EST 2000
Comments:
I'm thinking about why I took this class- and like most of you, I'm in here to fulfill my lab requirement. As for what I've gotten from this class, I guess it's pretty abstract- I haven't really learned any new concepts about biology, but I have (re)learned new concepts from biology. The infinite possibilities that exist within the randomness of this universe (thanx Allison) are everywhere and it's interesting to see this concept play out in all aspects of life. Like the connectedness of the various systems within our bodies, there is a connectedness of the various systems within the universe. While we tend to view so many of these systems individually, can they really exist in autonomy? Or like the heart that can be taken out and continue beating with enough oxygen, how "real" is its autonomy? I think, looking at many systems, whether they are biological or social, we serve certain functions, but these functions are always relative to how we work with others. Just as there is a need for all parts to work together in coordination, autonomy hinges on relationships with others. Okay, I'm gonna stop now cuz I'm not sure I make sense...:) 14 days to go (not counting today of course :) 14 - 13 - 12 - 11 - 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 - 0
Name: joe santini
Username: jsantini@haverford.edu
Subject: jsantini@haverford.edu
Date: Wed Dec 13 10:02:00 EST 2000
Comments:
I chose not to do the whole chicken experiment thing because of the animal rights issues involved - the egg may not have a nervous system, but the chicken it was taken from did, and besides don't we have enough pictures of this sort of thing? I didn't think it was like the abortion process at all - the chicken laid the egg fully expecting a hatched baby, and the egg was taken away from her. It's more like kidnapping and mutiliation. I understand that we need to see and understand how a nervous system develops, but couldn't we just poke people with sharp sticks or something? This has been bothering me for a week. joe
Name: Robinowitz
Username: rreinek@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Chickens...
Date: Wed Dec 13 20:10:23 EST 2000
Comments:
I felt odd about the lab last week too. I just felt uncomfortable that hte fetus was still alive (part of the excitement was supposed to be that you could see its heart beating). I also had a hard time finding the point to the lab--there was no experiment involved, no comparison to anything, no alternative projects...I guess this is a problem for scientists today. What part of learning should be based on what has already be done, and what part should be done over and over again (ie was it necessary to kill 10 more chickens for this or could we have learned adequately from a computer simulation?) I understand that it was a "hands-on experience" but I just question whether its worth it when it comes to life.
Name: Naomi
Username: nlim@brynmawr.edu
Subject: today's lab
Date: Wed Dec 13 20:24:01 EST 2000
Comments:
I don't know about everyone else but I really liked today's lab. I thought it was interesting and fun :) The experiment with the blind spot kind of reminded me of something one of my science teachers did in junior high school. He wrote on the the chalkboard and asked us to read what was written. He wrote one word twice (on purpose) and what happenned is that everyone pretty much read the sentence as if it had been written normally (without the duplication of the word). Is it possible that this could be a kind of blind spot too? did anyone catch the repeated word in this posting? I wonder...hmm :)
Name: Meghan
Username: mmccabe@brynmawr.edu
Subject: chicken embryos
Date: Wed Dec 13 23:21:49 EST 2000
Comments:
I also felt uncomfortable about the chicken embryo experiment. I know it's important to see "the wonders of life" and all that, but I agree with Joe--the chicks were taken away from their mothers for us to poke at them. I also would have preferred a computer program.
Name: Sarah Naimzadeh
Username: snaimzad@brynmawr.edu
Subject: chickens
Date: Fri Dec 15 14:16:05 EST 2000
Comments:
I also completely agree with Joe and I am really glad you brought this up. I feel as though the abortion analogy was inappropriate and not reall connected to anything we were doing. The mother chicken did not give consent; the eggs were taken from her. How is that related to choice? I would have gotten a lot more from a computer program as I would not have felt so squimish about looking at the beating heart.
Name: allison
Username: ahayesco
Subject: class today......
Date: Fri Dec 15 19:45:09 EST 2000
Comments:
An interesting topic was brought up in class today. That is, how humans actually use energy to make food. If you think about it, it really is strange how we are the only species that do this -- or do this to such a great extent (as far as I know). I learned about some interesting facts about energy and food production in a class on "sustainability" last year. There were interesting little tidbits like the fact that it takes way more energy to produce and get a mango to a Londoner so that he may eat it than the mango is actually worth in calories. (That includes the labor to pick the mangoes and the fuel that is used to ship mangoes half way across the world) Anyway, it just goes to show you how much energy humans use up on ridiculous little things. How are we ever going to stop the increase of carbon in our atmosphere if we have to use tons of energy, fuel, etc to support our "lifestyles." good luck on your exams and have good breaks!!!!
Name: Jakki
Username: jakkirowlett@hotmail.com
Subject: Once more unto the forum, dear friends, once more...
Date: Tue Dec 19 18:27:31 EST 2000
Comments:
Well. So, it turns out that life is science, and science is life. This certainly takes the edge off the "science anxiety" that I have been carrying around with me since, ummm, well, the dinosaurs roamed the earth. I, for one, am not the kind of person who fears life (I mean, think of the alternative!): I love to meet knew people, travel to new places, try new things, and then to write about my experiences. In short, I have been experimenting and making observations all my life. That is the central lesson I've learned this semester. And, I take away from this class a firm belief that it is all about "getting it less wrong." To that end I make a solemn vow to get it wrong, a minimum of three times a week, for the rest of my life!

Now, could somebody warn the Math Department that I am coming? I still have to fulfill my quantitative!

(Thank you Jeff and Prof. G. for making science less scary. Once the fear left me, I was able to relax and actually enjoy it, and dare I say, even learn something!)

Happy holidays and/or break all!


Name: jeanne
Username: jbraha
Subject: entropy
Date: Thu Dec 21 10:29:00 EST 2000
Comments:
I think the best thing about this connection/parallel between science and life is the entropy thing. If life is headed towards entropy all the time, so is science. I feel much better about my entire experience taking finals this last week knowing that chaos is just a part of life and that perhaps it will go somewhere else when i rest up a bit and have the energy to overcome it. So now I must go clean my room....
Name: Promise Partner
Username: ppartner@brynmawr.edu
Subject: final thoughts
Date: Fri Dec 22 02:50:49 EST 2000
Comments:

Before this class I did not consciously understand the connection between science and life. But from the new paradigm of Bio 103, I have realized that I have always been a scientist, even if I never was any good at memorizing the Periodic Table. Any questioning, experimenting, exploring is science. It's not something to be in awe of, it's natural, a daily occurrence.

Science interprets life and like life it is evolving. The contradicting headlines are not a sign that life itself is changing but that our understanding is growing, our interpretation expanding. The more we explore, the more we realize how little we know about all aspects of existence. It's exciting, it's creative, it's never-ending. Doubt and opposition are essential to science and to life. How frightening would it be for someone to claim that they had discovered THE answer? We must always be open to new explanations.

Because this class has purposely not been about memorization, I don't feel bad admitting that I haven't learned any new technical scientific theories or processes from this class, except the best term of all: "clumpiness." But I do have a different outlook on life in general, science in particular. I definitely have a greater appreciation for the unending improbable assemblies of improbable assemblies, especially as part of the amazing processes that occurred to bring us to this moment and that are occurring in this moment to bring us to the next.

Most importantly, instead of looking for answers, I'll ask more questions. There's no rush. It's taken us five billion years so far. Thank you for contributing to my continual scientific journey and may we all continue to make mistakes.


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