Biology -> Science of life
Science = life?
Science as "summary of observations", "getting it less wrong"
Life is ... ?
Practical issue related to really major "getting it less wrong"
my picture of hell is one in which I'm stuck doing science and math forever, with voices yelling stuff like, "You suck! You'll never be able to do any of this!" ... I was actually surprised in the first week of classes - maybe it won't be as bad as I thought! ... Laura
I don't want to memorize facts that various teachers have been trying to chisel into my brain since elementary school, and I don't want to just hear the teacher talk at me about various things of little or no interest to me. The fact that this course is more discussion-oriented makes me think that this class will be all right, maybe even ... fun. ... Laura
As proven in the world of physics and the example of the expansion of the galaxy, it is erroneous to assume that all "laws" are steadfast. Science would have a greater following among those of us who are "not science" people if man's fallibility were admitted and embraced. ... Mer
While reading through Chapter One of our Biology book, I came across a sentence that struck me as, well, noteworthy. In a paragraph about "Emergent Properties," was the line:
And an organism is a living whole greater than the sum of its parts.
In this same way, science in general encompasses not just the "mundane facts" but the way those facts and terms combine to work from/with each other in an astonishing and extremely creative ways. The true definition of an organism (and more broadly, science) is reliant on the amazing interaction of its "parts". ... Stephanie
Seems like every good thing in life comes with side effects ... Roma
I guess you really are what you eat. ... Anastasia
A living organism ... ? "walks/talks"?
Defines some of the phenomena that need to be accounted for in course (or, at least, by biologists over time). But not ALL of them .... what needed beyond characteristics of a living organism to define "life"?
Interdependent diversity, change over time
Similarities between science and life?
And ... ?
How "make sense" of diversity? patterns of order in improbable assemblies or random distribution?
Arrange in order of size
Human perspective relevant: Technology dependence of observations
Limited range of observations? of sizes of organisms?
Size scales- at what levels do improbable assemblies exist and how do they relate to one another?
Would you be happier if you accepted everything the way it was ... ? ... Anastasia
Amanda's comment about the usefulness of lemongrass got me thinking about herbal remedies in general, specifically the trend toward "natural" treatments versus opting for traditional medical treatments ... Kathryn
Chelsea really got me thinking about the inconvenience of human pregnancy and birth ... Elizabeth
I think that Diana's comment are really suitable for the time of year. At school we do not really think about proper sleep or proper eating habits. ... Melissa
I want to further comment on the issue that both Margaret and Brie have brought up. Women's health issues, it would seem, have always gotten less attention that more traditionally men's diseases ... Lawral
How much of our biological make up is responsible for controlling our social and psychological responses? ... Michele
I was reading what Diana posted about depression and I just have to say that I think that was a wonderful statement. I mean, if we were able to cure all cases of depression, that would be wonderful, but before we can do that, we have to be able to get the people with these symptoms of depression to come forward ... Laura .... (see Depression, or (better?) Thinking About Mood)
With all of the frustrations about getting enough sleep, doing enough work, trying too hard to find my rountine of balance I figure I should just thrust myself into it all and what will come of that are a few wrong turns and some right ones that all add up. Just like in biology...right? I'll get a summary of observations that must be tweaked to each new circumstance and change with every day, just like life. ... Katie
Do plants "do" science? ... Wil
Every creature with any sort of capacity to think does this: those that don't think in a traditional sense still operate on the same sort of inductive plane (i.e., plants sensing a source of light and growing in that direction), in a way gathering through observation the knowledge necessary to live. ... Tegan
I remember learning that viruses aren't alive, but we didn't discuss why. ... Erin
The idea of Earth as a living organism is an incredible thought, one that I'm still struggling with ... Wil C.
I found a very interesting article that argued that the Sun is a living organism ... Laura ...... (see The Physical and the Spiritual: A Conversation ... )
now i'm not ACTUALLY saying the universe is some big living breathing growing organism, but i'd love to challenge all the hotshot cosmologists and astronomers to prove that it isn't ... Virginia
The second thing I wanted to comment on was being interested in life outside our sphere of knowledge. I don't know, maybe I'm a strange person, but hasn't anyone else been kept up at night wondering what's really out there? ... Diana
Our smallness (I hesitate to use insignificance...) can be our freedom as well. It can give us a sense of humor about this whole "life" thing; rather than becoming absorbed with our own personal anxieties, we're welcome to question people, listen to their stories, and simply explore ... Carrie
The questions that came to me after observing things are as follows. When it gets right down to it, can you really make distinctions between two very similar looking small plants through just sight and touch or can these distinctions only be formalized when looking at things from a smaller scale? Are all types of science so conscious of using a human's ability and need to organize the natural world? Will we ever be able to use organization as intensely as we do on small scales on large ones? ... Margot
While discussing the properties of a living organism in class, we stumbled upon the question : Can we have life without diversity? ... The question then becomes, If an environment were destroyed and mass extinction occurred, only leaving such animals as the cockroach, how long could such an organism sustain itself? It almost seems that some living things were "created" for this very reason, to withstand homogeny and adapt themselves to live without diversity; making the property not so essential to life after all ... Stephanie
Lessons from working up in scale from human ...
Let's go back, work DOWN in scale, see what more there is to learn ...
1. Larger things are improbable assemblies of smaller things
2. Improbable assemblies exist at a most scales (though see Alvarez)
3. Different features apparent at different scales; at larger scales, smaller wholes become invisible parts
4. Both very small and very large scales are important for understanding life.
5. There exist lower and upper(?) bounds for living organisms ... as we currently know them
6. Existing observations are greater than in past, but clearly incomplete
7. Can distinguish smaller, single-celled from larger, multicellular organisms (Why no big unicellular organisms? - need for communication/integration?) 8. Size is not, in general, a good way to classify ... no natural divisions (gaps, spaces, clumps)
Have sense of spatial scale, existence/potential of life, size (not so good for categorizing), multicell versus single cell (better, why?)- are there other ways of making sense of diversity (is categorization/classification totally arbitrary, simply a "social construction", or does it reflect to some extent characteristics of what is under investigation? are there "natural" categories? and, if so, what does that imply about life?).
Starting with intuitions (as we did with "life", as one always should, in science and elsewhere): what things LOOK like and do
Are there "discontinuities" (is there "clumpiness"?) in life's diversity?
Plants versus animals versus fungi(?)
Autotrophs versus heterotrophs (interdependence)
With correlates (e.g. cell wall versus no cell wall)
Fungi have cell walls, but different molecular constituents (chitin versus cellulose), are heterotrophs but with external digestion
Can use molecules, like any other feature, to evaluate similarities/differences
Get discontinuities/"clumpiness" (diversity itself an "improbable assembly", not either all possibilities of improbable assemblies nor random assortment of them but lots of variants one some kinds of improbable assemblies, none of others)(Why no autotrophs without cell walls?)
Taking advantage of technology: Eukaryotes (Protists) vs Prokaryotes (Monerans: eubacteria and archaea) (Why no multicellular prokaryotes?)
Five (or six, or more) Kingdoms:
Why "clumpiness"? Things like small number of other things, some kinds of things absent?
Look more carefully at animals (metazoans)
More patterns within patterns (level of internal complexity, embryology)
Why no ventral nervous system with endoskeleton?
Humans a small part of life, as life (as we know it) a small part of universe (but humans also steadily, perhaps even explosively, experiencing more and more of universe - is that distinctive of humans?
How make sense of diversity, clumpiness?
Great chain of being - ordering of organisms along some scale?
Evolution ... ? Go on to time, and its scales.
Just like us being someone's toe, we might not know all there is to know about how our world is really run ... Anastasia
I'm really glad to hear that other people have these thoughts, or understand where I'm coming from. It's reassuring to know I'm not the only person who will write something so crazy on this forum ... Diana
Today's class discussion made me think about the ephemeral nature of scientific theories. In 2002, the "Great Chain of Being" theory for diversity seems extremely out-dated and simple (even if we do assume that it holds some small residual fleck of truth). We (ok, at least some of us...) take the tenets of Evolution as absolute truth and scoff at the idea that an alternate hypothesis for diversity exist. I think it's fascinating that what we believe is "true" today will probably be refuted in the future ... Kate
The question of why there aren't multi-cellular organisms made of prokaryotic cells is also definitely worth thinking about, but I'd rather understand how the single-celled ones work first ... Sarah
Since humans created the categories that things fall into, it is hard for us to know if clumpy diversity is or isn't due to our preconceptions ... Maggie
In response to Maggie's comment about drawing a distinction between what is natural and what is contrived and how we can assume that the categories we make are not just preconceptions based on a limited view of perception, I just want to say that I think it is important to note that while we are making assumptions on a limited view of perceptions, these perceptions do exist and therefore allow for a fair amount of credibility ... Amanda
Plants are autotrophic and animals are heterotrophic; but does it matter that the little bugs help out the autotrophic plant? ... Jodie
At one point in everyone's life, they will suffer of be affected by depression ... what causes the abrupt moodiness and extreme change in personality? ... Michele
Michele's completely right about the stigma surrounding depression, and mental illness in general. We're all perfectly comfortable with treating emotional imbalances as legitimate illness when it involves another party, but rarely comfortable claiming ourselves as sufferers. And, I count myself as guilty of the same prejudice as well. Part of me cannot rationalize that "depression" truly exists, that it's a legitimate chemical disorder ... Carrie
I was thinking about the issue of insomnia and it sounded like a good argument that certain people can function well on very little sleep. However, even though you might feel fine on the outside, I was thinking that there must be some repercussions inside of the body that you do not see ... Adrienne
I think I'll go with the topic closest to myself on this Sunday morning which is stress, which then relates to sleep and exercise ... Katie
So, maybe just realizing that Bryn Mawr turns us all into a bunch of guilty, stressed-out, sleep-deprived masochits could all help us get a little more perspective on what we're doing, and maybe make us worry a little less about catching some sleep ... Heather
A very interesting topic was raised in class today. We were talking about evolution and I believe the question which arose was, "So, are things getting better and better?" Although our class seemed to unanimously and whole-heartedly disagree with this assertion, I think many people would instinctively feel otherwise. We tend to associate the word "evolution" with the idea of "progress--" which is a dangerous assumption. Because humans are the most recent development in evolution--the closest thing to an "end product"--it is tempting to see the course of evolution as "progress" rather than simply "change" ... Annie Sullivan|
Do organisms get "better" over the course of "evolution"?
Observations/interpretations to date:
Human natural time scale - seconds to years, perhaps three generations (100 years)
Longer time scales important for biological systems (change where not aware of it):
Evolution helps to account for diversity/clumpiness, also for ... ordering?
Long, slow, inexorable, inevitable continuous change, progressive improvement?
Fossil record - Observations
Earliest life (?) - prokaryotes (> 3 billion years, and getting older)
Consistent with progression, but changing what adapted to, and persisting
Next steps? How soon?
Eukaryotes - 1-2 billion years ago (last quarter of life's history to date)
much more improbable than prokaryotes? evolve from prokaryotes? - Endosymbiosis - illustration
Multicellular Organisms - ~600 million years ago (last sixteenth of life's history to date)
The stress thing, especially at Bryn Mawr has definately set in for me.... Jen
Laura and others are right in mentioning how stressful life can be at Bryn Mawr, especially considering all the tasks we undertake at once. However, I have to agree with Anastasia that enjoying your time in college is more important than doing everything perfectly. One of the tricks to functioning at Bryn Mawr (and as an adult in the "real world") is to learn how to strike a proper balance between what one has to do and what one wants to do. If your "have to" list greatly outweighs your "want to" one, then perhaps lightening up a bit would be helpful. ... Elizabeth
I also wanted to send a big hug to everyone who is feeling stressed and overwhelmed; fall break is only two weeks away, just keep telling yourself that, and make sure you look out for yourself FIRST and your homework second. If anyone wants/needs a real hug, just ask:) ... Chelsea
Hello all - I am new to the board and was prompted to participate because of several questions concerning plate tectonics and why continents drift. ... Brenda Zera did a very nice job at explaining how the Earth's magnetic field helps geologists understand how tectonic plates move over the surface of the Earth. A side note about stress - I agree with several of the comments made on this board that balance is the key to happiness. One must learn to balance their work with their play - otherwise what is the point??? College is one of the glorious times in a young persons life, and if you don't enjoy it now you are guaranteed to regret it later in life because you can never get this time back. ... Arlo Weil
I just wanted to respond to a comment about a planet with no sun. I believe the question was "would we survive if the sun died?" well, thinking about just plants, plants use the sun as a their source for energy and therefore depend on the sun for life. Animals of course depend on plants for food/energy, oxygen, ... Amanda
So if the sun were to cease existence, wouldn't that just be a change in environment for life evolve into? If it's a matter of "will we survive" as one of my peers suggested before, then that assumes a possibility of evolving so we (or life in more general terms I suppose) could live in such conditions. ... Katie
I did a bit of thinking about a better organism and evolutionary progress after class today ... Therefore, I'm willing to throw it out there that organisms with shorter generation periods are better than those with longer ones. ... Will
I agree to a point. Yes, in that sense bacteria are "better" than humans, but how do we know that this adaptation is the correct definition? Some people could see a more complex society as being better, and the last time I look there wasn't a bacteria metropolis. ... Mippi
It's interesting to compare the comments posted about the idea that some organisms are better than others. Just this week, we introduced a similar topic in my class, History of Anthropological Theory. We have been discussing the theories of anthropologists who believe that cultures are constantly aspiring to become 'better.' Anthropologists in the early 1900s argued that primitive cultures were less intelligent, that cultural evolution and moral evolution were connected, and that all primitive cultures are progressing towards a common goal; to become as 'advanced' as American and European society. In my anthropology class, we tend to criticize this perspective, and we have deemed it unfair, incorrect, and selfish. We have also related this feeling of superiority to theories such as the bell curve, and race ... Brie
I think that Hei's points are valid and they did make me think. But nature has no value system, and even on the same planet works at different paces in different areas. All of these factors should be taken into consideration, not only for this class, but for all scientists ... Mer
No value system in nature? What about survival of the fittest? Nature placing more value on those individuals best suited to their environment. Or mate selection, isn't that rooted in nature? ... Chelsea
Stasis and change - THEN slow progressive improvement?
Nope, continued fits and starts
Well then ... humans at least?
Nope - diversification and extinction here too
Though there are here, as elsewhere, some reasonably slow, continuous changes
Different time scales reveal different patterns, just as different space scales do
Clumpiness understandable in terms of evolution, but (and) raises new questions
Evolution includes both slow, continuous change and rapid change
Evolution involves "chance", and hence likely to proceed somewhat differently elsewhere or if repeated
Evolution does include some directionality, but is not toward "perfection" or "better" but rather toward having explored more (increased "complexity"?)
Shorter time scales ALSO important for biological systems - milliseconds, nanoseconds (change where not aware of it)
Have at small scales, beginnings of an explanation of one fundamental characteristic of life: change, exploration? Have also, at large time scales, some explanation of "adaptiveness", and of "clumpiness"/diversity
Have also sense of life as increasing complexity, improbable assemblies of improbable assemblies .... Need to underestand origins of improbable assemblies, of diversity, as well as boundedness, energy dependence, reproduction with variance, homeostasis, autonomy
Will work our way from small scales to large, seeing how much we can account for at each level of organization (improbable assembly)
Need to account for patterns in space and time at multiple scales
Improbable assemblies, adaptiveness, diversity, change
Can get that from improbable assemblies of physical elements (atoms)?
Remarkable generalization - dissociate ANYTHING, get out elements = atoms
|Element||Symbol||Atomic number||Percent in universe||Percent in earth||Percent in human|
Living, non-living assemblies not distinguishable by identity of constituents at atomic level
Nor are different kinds of living things
Living assemblies are distinctive in proportions of atomic constituents (improbable assemblies)
Fewer kinds of constituents than of assemblies
What are atoms? How get more from less?
Atoms -themelves combinations of still smaller and fewer constituents
"Assembly rules" as a concept
I thought Adrienne's comment that since humans don't evolve in a clearly sequential order, there is the possiblitly that different types of humans exist right now, was interesting. I don't know for sure, but I doubt that humans have exactly the same brain size. In that case, I wonder what the range of human brain size is. Where do scientists collect data to measure brain size? Do they measure human brains from different regions or ethnicities? I can also see how this topic could lead to extreme prejudice .... it might lead some people to say, "this group has bigger brains than that group, therefore the first group must be "better" (whatever "better" means). If significant differences in brain size do exist, I hope that the scientific community would use caution when revealing their data in order to avoid such a close-minded attitude. ... Kathryn
Looking at some of the previous posts this week and remembering the pictures of brain sizes for various animals that we saw in class on Friday -- I think it is important to keep in mind that "bigger" does not mean better. ... Will
I was thinking about evolution and remembered that Prof. Grobstein was talking about how it changes toward greater complexity. Does this mean that we are changing as we live? It would of course be a minimal and insignificant change. What I'm trying to say is does the change occur in each new born child? How are they different from the parents? It's interesting though to think about evolution and what it means looking at each one of us in relation to our parents and grand parents and even people that lived centuries ago. ... Heidi
The idea that certain behaviors are, genetically, part of human nature, and that we even have a 'human nature,' is extremely interesting to me. I've always assumed that humans have changed themselves and their environment so dramatically that any kind of human nature wouldn't be able to exist. We've been going over the fact in class that humans have evolved so much and changed so much in such a short amount of time ... Stephanie
In the past five hundred years, the different philosophies by which people live have changes - it was once thought that black women were inferior to white people; women are just gaining (and in some cases still fighting for) thier rights of equality. If we assume that these philosophies are (even) in part because of our "natural instinct," by changing these philosophies over time, we are actually going against out instinct. ... Mer
But I guess my random question now is that Game of Life reached a certain point when it didn't change any more. It reached that "perfect" stage or complete point. So is that how life is proceeding now? Is there a time when the process of life and trying out new things will stop because it has found that final order? That would be assuming that there is a final order to reach...So where exactly is this all going and what will we become? ... Katie
Actually, in many ways you could make the argument that what conditions humans need to be adapted to has simply changed -- with modern medicine in some sense being one of the resources of our current environment. ... Chelsea
I thought that what we talked about on Friday was very interesting -- about how everything, living or not, is made up of atoms, which aren't alive. So why are we alive? I don't understand why we are alive and, say, a rock isn't alive. ... Laura
Vastly more possible different molecules than numbers of different atoms -
Diversity by combinatorial explosion
Electron, electron affinities key to many biological processes
Water, central to living system as known, example of "emergent properties"
combinations of simple parts (atoms, elements) yield in assemblies (molecules) new properties
|I know that, personally, I get awfully lonely when I'm not around people who I love, or who (I think, at least:) love me. And isn't it funny that we want certain people to love us, and anyone else just isn't quite the same? ... Chelsea
I think there is such a thing as human nature. I mean, doesn't every type of species have characteristics specific to them or actions that are specific to them? ... Anastasia
... much of what is categorized as "human nature" is the result of learning. I am still not clear about "love"...can love be learned? I tend to think not, but I know that social interaction can be. Does social interaction lead to the feeling of love? ... Kathryn
Class discussion coincides with my Anthropology Class once again! ... Although it is "unromantic," it's possible that the feelings of love are culturally constructed, as well. Thus, I am in favor of the concept that culture creates who we are, and that there is no such thing as the commonly referred to, "human nature." ... Brie
Well, although I am a firm believer that we (humans) are mostly created by the culture in which we are raised and live, I do think that there are some aspects of our lives which could be considered natural instinct. ... someone was talking earlier about serial killers - if the chemical balances in your brain are off, it can cause an individual to act strangely (but strange is only relative to what "normal" is considered). Unless you come from an entire family of killers, it's hardly likely that you 'learned' it anywhere --- I don't think that even television or video games can accomplish that! (although I do admit that they have some neurological and behavioral impacts) ... Brenda
So, is human nature generally good but corrupted by society or is it basically bad and kept in line by society? Probably a little of both. Society, I believe, makes us more "civilized" and forces us to gauge our reactions. So, instead of pure animal instinct we're forced to think on a larger scale about the effects of our actions. Society doesn't always pose a good model for us, though, and so it corrupts us. ... Diana
Once I did a presentation to a group of adults on the peace camps I do during the summer, working with high school students from places like South Africa, Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, and US on communication skills and diversity issues, etc to promote more peaceful communities. It's clear when I talk about my work and the experiences I've had that I believe in the innate nature of humans to be kind and good towards one another and as brought up by Anastasia, crave love and affection from others. ... Katie
I think that the idea of "human nature" overlaps with the study of psychology. It relates to the idea of nature vs. nurture. For those of you who don't know, this is the question whether humans develop as a result of their innate nature ie. biological causes, or if they develop as a result of the environment they were raised in. As a a person in the teaching certification program, I've taken a few courses on human development and this question has always fascinated me. I believe that our personalities are a result of the two causes together. There are most definitely biological reasons that influence who we are ... Adrienne
During the mad rush to finish everything before fall break, I actually learned something about biology. Let me tell you, amazing things happen when you actually OPEN and READ the Biology text! ... Kate
Why then are the enzymes reacting faster? ... Amanda
I was wondering, how much do biology and chemistry overlap, and so how much chemistry are we going to learn in this biology class? ... Catherine
on occasion, what's more interesting about this course is not the biology, but the method ... i wish that college on the whole was more in the spirit of education and not the spirit of schooling.Carrie
Overwhelming diversity of molecules (like life)
Any way to make sense of it? Any other useful things to learn at this level?
"Inorganic" versus "organic" molecules?
Carbon based versus non-carbon based, but no longer a good distinction for small molecules (large?)
Classes of biological(?) macromolecules (and related constituents): lipids, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, proteins ... polymerization, dehydration reactions
Proteins, from amino acids
Nucleic acids , from nucleotides
I recently read an article in the Tribune which opened with the statement: "There are 192 countries in the world. One is America. The remaining 191 are mostly countries that hate America." What followed was scathing criticism of the U.S.'s "fluffy" notion of multiculturalism—that by simply "agreeing" that all cultures are equal can somehow excuse one from knowing anything about them. Other countries "hate" us (in part) because we find it absolutely unnecessary to learn the first thing about their cultures. ...
This mindset applies even in the scientific world. ... The media—from which most people receive information—presents a very limited illustration of the vast array of dinosaurs which existed. Argentina is one of the richest places on earth for dinosaur excavation. Is it difficult for Americans to think of any other place as the original center for life? .... I just found it interesting because when thinking about distortion of the truth, or selectiveness of the "facts" (as delivered to the public), I am usually thinking in political, cultural, or historical terms. Apparently, I need to make some additions to this list ... Annie
it had never occured to me that the areas researched and the theories developed by scientists may be influenced by issues of national supremacy and other biases in American culture. For an example, it seems like the push for AIDS research came about after the disease began affecting Americans directly, years after AIDS first began to afflict third world population. Medical history is full of such instances of cultural scientific discrimination ... Elizabeth
All that being said, it is the duty of Americans, as it is the duty of the rest of the world to learn about and understand different cultures and peoples. We should not act selfishly, thinking about how our actions affect only us, but how they affect the rest of the world. Being nationalist is only a crime when the rest of the world suffers from our excusionary acts. ... Mer
Every American citizen, I don't care how liberal and "not part of the system" you think you are, is America and is influenced by the "American culture." And to perhaps relate this to biology, it might be biologically inherent to be interested in things that relate to us. We seek connections all the time. We look at pictures a friend took and are more interested in the ones of our friends, and most interested in the ones of ourselves. We like ourselves. And really, it's not that bad. Being aware of this is what is important. Other people's opinions matter. America does not have the last say of what goes on in the world. Neither do I. =) ... Jodie
What exactly is the basis of biology? ... As we have progressed through covalent bonding, hydrocarbons, stereoisomers, one thing leaps to mind, all this is chemistry, chemistry and more chemistry, so to answer Catherine's question belatedly, seems like we will be doing quite a bit of chemistry in this course. ... On a slightly different note, how are all the sciences related to each other? How do we link physics, chemistry and biology? ... Roma
I think this goes to show that we can control how we are more than we thought with our minds alone, even things that are generally thought to be set and unchangeable ... Sarah
I don't understand why nucleic acids play a key role in the understanding of reproduction with variance...Can anyone help me out? Thanks ... Kate
From hydrocarbons to lipids
Large macromolecules, improbable assemblies ("energy rich"), useable as "food" ("combustible" ... proteins, carbohydrates, lipids) - How get created? Why don't fall apart? .... cellulose? starch? hydrogen peroxide?
Macromolecules: Beginning to account for change, diversity, reproduction with variance, improbable assemblies. Assembly rules define possible things that can be, not what IS, nor what leads to change from one thing to another ... For that, need to take about energy, energy dependence
Matter: what one can feel/touch, what IS (down to levels of atoms, molecules)
Energy: everything else (almost), including what accounts for change
Energy = motion/change (kinetic energy), capacity to cause motion/change (potential energy)
Today in class (10/28) we were talking about whether or not science (and scientists) are biased by their culture. Well, I say that even if scientists were not ethnocentric towards themselves, their work may appear to be so because they must cater to the whims and political views of their patrons. Without their funds, they would be out of a job...so it's easier, in some cases, for the scientists to use their patrons' view-points rather than their own (it ensures that they'll be funded in the future!) So, I propose that it is not always the fault of the scientists if their theories appear to be biased towards one culture or another ... Brenda
The other day when we were talking about whether or not scientists were biased, I got a little confused. I don't understand how a scientist can be biased. If someone was doing AIDS researche, how could they be biased? I don't get how science can be biased toward a culture or someone's background. It doesn't make sense. ... Anastasia
Going back to the question of whether or not culture affects scientists and the way think, I think that it is impossible to escape your own background and therefore your own culture when dealing with any topic of research. I was reading in my philosophy class the other an essay by Roland Barthes, an incredibly intelligent guy, about the interpretation of texts. He basically said that there is no single right interpretation because not only do texts change over time, but we read a text the way we have learned to read a text. That is to say that we see an interpretation in a text that we have already experienced. It is impossible to escape our own knowledge because there must be some basis for comparison or question. thus, when applying this to scientists, it woudl be valid to say that scientists read science or data wih the knowledge that they already know or have learned from their own culture. So, it is impossible to escape culture when discussing science due to the inablity to detach both topics. ... Amanda
Amanda's post really caught my eye because she mentioned literary scholar Roland Barthes. I agree completely and I would like to add to the discussion on scientific bias. Bias does not exist only in the field of science, it exists in all aspects of academia. In fact, it probably permeates all aspects of our lives. In fields such as English literature, literary critics are biased in what they choose to study. Often, this means that they only study literature that is in vogue, such as memoir or African-American literature. Since they are the authorities that create the canon, it means that their bias makes them over look good pieces of literature ... Adrienne
Science says that the thinking center of the human body is the brain or the head but our environment/society shows that there are other thoughts we can follow, those of our hearts and our instincts.Most people have at least once in their lives followed their gut feelings ... Roma
A friend and I were talking, and she asserted that people have more control over their emotions than they admit. She thinks that if you're in a bad mood, you have the ability to stop being in a bad mood. ... I'm also not sure if I agree that we can all exert complete control over our emotions if we have the will to do so. ... Maggie
Emotions, Control, hmm. Many people are controlled by their moods while others have managed to master the art of controlling their emotional variances. Why do we have mood swings? PMS can be a factor and so can fluctuations in blood sugar level. Exercise releases endomorphins in the blood system which gives us that distinct energized *good* feeling. Hence many different factors stimulate different mood swings which in turn can make us irritable, sad, happy or spaced out. ... So I would say that having control over one's emotions and moods mostly depends on the individual concerned ... Roma
I do not believe that humans are capable of controlling their emotions ... One cannot decide to cease being depressed if a chemical imbalance is the cause of depression. If a person wakes up in a grouchy mood for no apparent reason, how can she overcome the cause of her mood when it is not obvious? The notion that one can make an effort to be happy may be possible, but the transformation from depression to a better mood is gradual. A depression off/ happy on light switch does not exist. Rather, one must attempt to discover what is causing her glum mood before re-evaluating the state of her emotions ... Kathryn
I agree with Maggie that it is not always possible to control your emotions. Sometimes I just feel "blue" and I have no idea why, so telling myself to stop doesn't help. But I also think that our emotions are influenced by other people. ... The way I look at my emotions and how they correlate to the presence of other humans around me, it seems to me that my emotions are dependent on other humans and not just myself, and so perhaps all humans are somewhat connected to each other through their emotions and the emotional influence they hold over one another ... Laura
To add on to previous comments about emotions, I believe that they are controllable. But they are not meant to be commanded; that is, one with a strong will can decide not to feel what he wants to feel, but if he blocks emotions or attempts to sway them, this can be detrimental to his health: physically, psychologically, and thus cumulatively ... Catherine
We should remember that when we do experience saddness or anger or joy that we have every right to feel it, we just have to be careful about the way in which it is expressed ... Stephanie
While talking about feelings or sentiments can be embarrassing, it is also a way of working with your feelings so that they do not become bottled up. It is also a great way to communicate and telling people how you actually feel can be a life-altering act ... You cannot completely control your mood. Many times small things can be overcome and you can master your emotions. But sometimes life gives you situations that are beyond your control and saying, "this is silly" is not enough. It is sad that is this society is frowned upon for a man to cry or more importantly, for both men and women to try to talk to each other about feelings. I think that our society would be much happier overall if it was accepted that talking about these and other aspects of the life that prove to be a challenge is part of a healthy life ... Mer
In fact, the sharing of emotions can change society as whole, and the cultural taboo may eventually get lifted. Right now, even going to therapy is looked down upon, when it is possibly one of the best things that a person can do for himself. As Mer said, part of being healthy is talking through the difficult times in our lives. It is only by making these small advancements that human society will rise to greater heights as together we surmount ever greater challeneges ... Sarah
Are emotions really the only factor in determining our actions? I think that when one chooses to "follow their heart" rationality is included in that decision. So how much do cultural influences affect our gut reactions? It seems that if society defines right v. wrong, our emotions reflect (sub-consciously or otherwise) cultural biases to some degree ... Kate
One thing I neglected to mention in my earlier post is that tests have shown that when a person watches television, his brain wave data is a flat line; in other words, there is no THOUGHT process occurring. People tend not to think when they watch television; they don't reason things out, because the story-lines are simple enough for the ideal target age audience, 12 year olds, to understand the plots. Thus the only facet of us that is affected is emotions ... Catherine
it's really amazing how the chemistry of the macromolecules we're learning about and the biological rules we discuss in class fit together so well, it was really interesting to understand exactly how the phospholipids are the reason for boundedness in our systems ... Finally, a note about emotions ... Katie
"Knowing is objective in the sense of establishing contact with a hidden reality." ... After thinking for a few minutes to try to figure out what it was saying, it really hit home. What does everyone else think? ... Diana
|If carbon dioxide and water in sunlight gives sugar, why doesn't sugar fall from the sky?
*/*: in the presence of light AND organized spatial arrays of other molecules
How come glucose (cellulose, peroxide) doesn't fall apart spontaneously?
*/* in the presence of organized spatial arrays of other molecules, including enzymes AND simultaneously ADP -> ATP
Can "trap" improbability in chemical bonds ("potential energy")
Carbohydrates (all macromolecules) high order/improbability/"free energy" - why doesn't cellulose fall apart without enzymes?
Anabolic and catabolic processes coupled, break things down to build things up, always create "waste"
Can do same thing in the absence of light (Alexis Hilts), which also raises an interesting issue with regard to circadian rhythms (Susanna Jones).
Fit enzymes into picture, as regulatable chemical reaction controllers and couplers
Why doesn't cellulose fall apart?
Enzymes and reaction rate
Enzymes don't CAUSE chemical reactions, they PERMIT/ACCLERATE/CONTROL them, and are themselves controllable
Metabolism - life as linked/controlled creation, destruction of molecules
So, for the past 24 hours, I've been thinking about the theory that one can completely control her emotions ... My biggest questions are, is our ability to feel certain emotions culturally or biologically constructed? Does everyone have the same feeling for Jealously, for example. ... Similarly, where does the expression of emotion come from? ... Brie
Can you yourself move out of your depression? I feel that in some cases yes. Excluding cases in which people have serious chemical imbalances either either from drugs or hereditary stuff or whatever, for people who are, let's say, down on their luck ... for example, my dog dies, i am sad, then i convince myself that he is better of dead becaus he was so sick. so essentially i am creating a way for me to cope with it ... Amanda
You may not be able to control your emotions, but you usually can control how well you cope with them. ... Elizabeth
There are certain actions and events that spark our emotions. They are almost instinctive, or back to a previous topic, could they be considered human nature? ... You become sad because of the things that happen to you in life, which are mostly uncontrollable, therefore your emotions are as well ... Anastasia
Emotions seem to be a part of the abstract in our bags of chemicals. Yes, the production of certain chemicals and presence of different reactions results in different feelings (like the endorphins from exercise producing a "high" feeling, etc) but how do these chemical reactions relate to the burning pain in your heart when you feel so alone ... Is it that specific chemical reactions that result in different emotional feelings are targeted at specific physical feelings and responses from the rest of the body or is it different for each person, then implying that there isn't really order or rythym to the whole emotional thing ... We all are different people with separate genetics but is there something in emotions that is connected by us all being human?? ... Katie
when you are really nervous or stressed, you often have more blood pumped to your lungs to help you breathe, or less to your stomach, giving you the sensation of "butterflies." So I guess no matter what cultural or genetic make-up someone has, there are some very basic physical reactions that everyone can have just by being human. It's pretty crazy to think about ... I have one friend who has tried to explain to me that taking anti-depressants often makes his general mood "more stable" but that it doesn't eliminate feelings of sadness or depression altogether. Many of my friends have also explained that medication alone is often not enough to help cure depression, even in cases when it is attributed to some sort of severe chemical imbalance. Often some kind of counselling or psychotherapy is needed in addition to medication to help solve the problem. So I think counselling in a way is just like a "buddy-system" for helping people cope with their emotions. Diana
Going back to Brie's comment, (again) I liked her question about if our ability to feel certain emotions culturally or biologically constructed. I think it comes from both, partly ... Kyla
So I've been thinking about the conversations in class regarding the fact that the breakdown of improbable systems to probable systems allows for the creation of more improbable systems...and then I was watching Queer as Folk and there was an episode where three of the main characters are in a sort of love triangley thing. Ted loves Michael, Michael loves Brian, and Brian doesn't love anyone. Brian and Ted are talking about their impossible situations- Brian tells Ted to give Michael up and says that the only reason Ted loves Michael (and Michael loves Brian) is that it is an impossible situation, and Ted is intentionally inflicting pain upon himself because he believes subconsciously that he is unworthy of love and therefore doomed to pine away for all eternity. And the whole point of that was: does love, then, mirror life? For every "beauty/beast" relationship that breaks down and becomes "boy/girl next door" is there a cosmic meeting of the souls somewhere? Is it the number of "improbable" relationships that don't work and become "probable" relationships that make the successful improbable ones possible? ... Chelsea
From the beginning of the course I felt like using the terms "improbable" and "probable assemblies" wasn't the way to go about it. I originally thought that it was just becuase I had been used to other terms for it, "unstable" and "stable" or talking in terms of free energy, so I came to accept the idea. But then I was thinking a couple of classes about it and I decided I still didn't like the use of those terms. ... So pretty much, all of our atoms in our body are supposed to fit together. If we randomized our body parts, threw them out of a bag and put them together the way they fell, our bodies wouldn't work that way. It's not improbable that our head would be where our foot was, it's impossible - merely for the sake that evolution would weed out someone like that within one generation. In that sense, evolution and chemical bonding have combined to create a species well adapted to its environment. If you look at our world, where do you see something that's not an improbable assembly? The most probable assembly it seems, is heat, which I only see when i see heat waves rising from a stove or a fire. Everywhere else I look I see things that fall under our category of improbable assembly. How can the world be mostly improbable? ... Anyway, I'm not telling Prof. Grobstein he's wrong, cause I can see why he uses those terms. I just wanted to put my views out there, cause we like diversity, yay.Will
I was thinking about the discussion in class today about color. I am puzzled by the hypothesis that organisms have molecules that absorb certain wavelengths, which in turn cause other organisms to see color, for a reason. What difference does it make if a human has molecules that reflect black, blond, brown, or red light from hair, or blue, green, brown from the eyes. Why is it important for some people to have blue eyes and others to have green? I understand that humans who live in warms climates developed dark skin and eye color to protect against the harmful effects of strong sunlight, but what purpose do the variations have within such a population? Can't organisms have a particular color for no reason? Why must there be a purpose to everything? ... Kathryn
What I am having difficulty getting a grip on is what happens if there is no light? Because I think most people would agree that a green t-shirt, sitting in a well-lit room, would still be green even if there was no one there to see it. (Kind of like the old 'if a tree falls in the woods' thing.) ... If the room with the green t-shirt becomes completely dark, is the t-shirt still green? Or does it just have the ability (thanks to the handy-dandy molecules) to become green? ... Maggie
What do we gain from the colors of the earth? We gain from the oxygen plants produce but do we gain from their green color? Are the colors really for use? Maybe the colors only exist in our minds, at least the way we see them, and if so, does it matter who/what they exist for? Do colors exist if we can't see them? ... Heidi
Just the fact that some people are color blind proves that not everyone sees colors the same way ... Diana
I wonder if we necessarily see color differently in the way Diana is thinking... perhaps we all see color slightly differently because no two people stand in the same light, see color from the same angle or perspective. ... Catherine
This class rocks! I love the discussions we have in this forum, they are so interesting. Diversity of opinion is a very interesting and fun thing. ... Laura
The other topic that got me thinking is the sun becoming a less improbable assembly as time goes by. The sun is creating more and more improbable assemblies as it itself becomes more probable, but to what end? Eventually the sun will explode. There cannot be life on the earth without the sun as we have determined (except for the few chemo-autotrophic organisms) so isn't nature killing itself in effect? What is the point of having very wide diversity if its all going to die in the end? What's the point... Heidi
The "cell theory" - All living organisms are either cells or assemblies of cells
What are cells? Why needed fundamental level of organization for life? Why minimum/maxium size?
Cells as energy-dependent, semi-autonomous, semi-homeostatic, reproducing, bounded improbable assemblies of molecules/macromolecules
The discussion regarding emotions and whether they are a product of culture or biology or both is really interesting. I personally think both, but wasn't there a web paper or two about emotion? What do those of you who did research think? ... Chelsea
If you want to learn more about whether emotions are biologically or culturally based, or both, then don't read my web paper. In my web paper I focused on how society says that emotional thinking is bad and we should use rational thought instead, but as it turns out emotions are a necessary part of rational thought. So if you want to know more about that, then read my web paper. Laura
Many of us seemed fascinated by the statements made about our sensory organs in relation to the true nature of the world around us. It is in fact, difficult to grasp the concept that the world as we perceive it is just that: a perception. ... Can we ever really know what IS, what the true nature of an object is, or how the world as we know it is distorted by our senses? ... This puzzle will probably never find concrete answers, but it may be worthwhile to consider our own limitations in drawing conclusions and establishing the "facts" as we know them. ... Annie
responding to will's question about is there a reality beyond us? I think it is important to note that we have five sense, only five senses. Doesn't anyone ever consider the fact that there are other realities that don't exist to us due our limited amounted of senses? ... Amanda
A theory if you hold it hard enough
two people from vastly diffent cultures also have slightly different realities and I would hope that they could imagine each other's so they would be tolerant of each other. Do democrats and republicans have different realities? ... Will F.
Well, imagine my surprise when I came across this passage in my Political Philosophy reading: "The notion of what is "better," the more perfect condition at which the "perfectible" is to aim, remains quite indeterminate."
I was thinking about a lecture this week about how things fall apart and their move to different states of probability. Just thinking about all of the intricacies involved in something as simple as a breakdown of molecules makes you realize that things are far more complex than you could ever imagine. It strikes me that everything is so connected and that every single movement/change in your body is going to connect to something else and perhaps cause a chemical reaction in some other way ,,, Life systems wouldn't exist unless these intricacies did and so its only fitting that any one change in your body will, inevitably, change something somewhere else. Wow, it's scary that biology really does make sense ... Stephanie
I think it's one of the reasons I like science, even if I don't exactly consider myself a great scientist. There's a real beauty in the complexity of it, in observing seemingly unrelated phenomena interact and making some sense of what might look like chaos otherwise, knowing that is isn't chaos at all but rather a complex entity with parts interacting in ways one person couldn't begin to understand all on her own. ... Tegan
One of my roommates told me that each individual heart cell beats by itself and that if you put two individual heart cells near each other in a petri dish they will coordinate their beats. Now i'll admit that i know almost nothing about this type of biology, and from class it would make sense since cells are semi-autonomous and semi-homeostatic, but can anyone else confirm this? ... Kate
Sitting in class one day I had one of those little pricks that you get for no apparent reason on the bottom of my thigh. I'm always puzzled by those types of shocks or tweaks you feel when there seems to be nothing that would have caused it. Then I thought about discussions that always come up about whether anything around us is real or if it's just a large dream, etc., etc., etc. When you think about all of our sensory organs, the only way we detect things is through impulses in our brain. So these little pricks that I feel could easily be "dreamed up" in my brain, triggered but nothing more than some mis-communication in my brain, triggering my pain response in response to nothing other than a chemical malfunction in my brain. Does our brain screw up? ... Will C
Just wanted to reply to Will's question of if the brain can screw up. Remember, I'm the freak in the class who sees white lights flying through the air all the time: Yes, the brain can mess up. ... Diana L.
I was thinking about someone's webpaper we discussed in class on Friday... we mentioned that people naturally respond to others they like by enlarging their pupils? I'm guessing that their pupils become smaller if they don't like someone? Is this at ALL controllable (I don't dislike anyone in the class, I am just wondering)? ... Catherine
Plenty of movements in art and literature were creating something different from what was perceived as popular or the norm. Most of those movements were famous because initially they were NOT popular by society. Does that make them failures or any less creative? ... Diana D.
How do our brains evolve to tell us what is creative, new, and what will become popular? Or is "inventing" going on all the time, and we only see the positive products, while the "failures" are shoved behind a curtain? Is this process 100% cultural, or is some of it biological? Is the brain involved, or just the sensory organs? Or none of the above? ... Brenda
Thus in terms of color as we have been discussing in class, it is impossible to know not only if we see the same color, but how close the two colors that we see are. The best thing that we can do is institutionalize the transaction of knowledge, otherwise known as schooling. Without some form of 'education,' be it official or a social education, we would never be able to attain the near-closeness of understanding each other that is available today ... Mer
This is one of the problems in globalization, with diplomats understanding each other via another person. The realities of what each person hears and therefore experiences is different, and this is affected not only by language but by simply the fact that three different people are trying to talk together about the same thing without the appropriate means to do so. ... Sarah
Membranes the key to boundedness, both of cell and within cell (are also important framework elements, organizing other macromolecules)
Gene regulation - More on responsiveness/autonomy at the single cell level
Humans and monkeys (chimpanzees I believe) share 98.6% of the same DNA sequence, pretty much meaning we're almost identical in genetic code. But we obviously don't look the same, or at least not 98.6% the same. Learning about activation proteins that turn certain genes on and off has made this statistic more understandable ... Will C
The thing thats bothering me is this: When genes were passed on to offspring in the flies, the parents' traits were never "mixed"; for instance, a mother's yellow eye was never mixed with a father's red eye to make an orange eye. The traits were passed on as a whole so that the offspring either had red eyes or yellow eyes. However, this doesn't happen with humans and skin color. When, for example, a black mother and white father have a child, it is never either black or white, the skin color is a mixture of both. It seems way too unlikely, but does this actually mean that the genes are "mixing"? What's going on here? ... Stephanie
Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system. Sleep deprivation also causes stress which in turn weakens the immune system--two strikes for the immune system. In additon to effects on the immune system, a reduced capacity for metabolic functions has been observed as have memory difficulties, poor performance at work, and problems concentrating. It seems that sleep deprevation just slows everything down making your whole body less efficient. Ironically, you probably stayed up late trying to increase efficiency ... Erin
I was thinking that one of the contributing factors to stress on this campus is this perverse pride that a lot of Mawrters have in how much they suffer for their studies. There is a definite sense of accomplishment in telling other people how little sleep we've gotten or how long it's been since we last slept. ... there's definitely competition in vying over who has more work to do in the shortest period of time. It's almost like people under the most stress get admiration instead of sympathy, which may or may not be healthy. I tend to think that it's more unhealthy than healthy ... In short, I think that we're putting the wrong issues as priorities, which is detrimental to the overall sanity of the students at this college ... Sarah
I had a professor say to our class once, "You're setting precedent for your whole life here, live a little." I think that's great advice ... Adrienne
it is the skills that you have learned (academic, social, etc.) and not that one paper you wrote that kept you up all night that is of the most importance. College is about bettering the mind AND soul, not just getting good grades ... Mer
I don't know what the exact solution to the "work load" or stress problem is, but I think Bryn Mawr would be a much happier place if we all put more value on "fun" or just simply relaxation. In doing so, I think we would all find a positive change in not only ourselves, but in the quality our work as well ... Annie
Why are most people afraid to take chances? Seriously, why is there something that creates that flight-or-fight feeling when you talk to the person you're interested in, or that holds you back from saying something because you think people will laugh at you? ... Diana
Responsiveness/autonomy depend on energy - Where/how does that get in game?
Looking back and forward - link(s) between life and the second law
|Or ... on "why doesn't sugar fall from the sky?"|
|Bonus lecture: Color |
OR "ANOTHER use of photopigments"
OR "Why a tree falling in the forest DOESN'T make a sound unless ..."
General principles, beyond energy per se
Cellular reproduction - mitosis
Lessons from cells about life:
South American Army Ants live in bivouacs, forming superorganisms that act communally. These colossal amalgamations of ants work together to find food, construct shelter and maintain their societies. What if humans focused more on the community and less on the individual? Would there be less hunger? Less conflict? ... Kate
I just want to comment on what we talked about in class yesterday. I can't believe that our bodies perform stuff like the Krebs Cycle. It seems so complicated and it is only one of the things our body does. I just think that is pretty impressive ... Anastasia
When you sing, you can hear the nervousness in the voice, so not being nervous at all would greatly improve my performance. I'm trying to figure out why my body felt so nervous even though I really wasn't? How can this be? ... Diana
it's really scary sometimes what our subconscious can convince the rest of our brain and body is real and what isn't- how would we ever know? ... Chelsea
Just another reminder that we have to pay attention to how we treat the earth and the things that live on it because everything is interdependent ( although, I will recognize the ability of things to adapt in some cases) and thus everything is inherently gravely important. ... Sarah
and sleep, eye-twitching, colds, ...
Multicellular organisms as improbable assemblies of cells having three-dimensional structure, boundaries, internal boundaries/spaces, energy dependence, autonomous/homostatic properties, reproduction with variance
Making sense of diversity - morphological tissues as intermediate level of organization between cells and organs/organ systems
How get elaborate, three-dimensional assemblies of diverse elements? Development as guide, further insight into diversity, background for "cloning" issues ... see also Cloning: Past, Present, and ..."
Where does zygote come from?
Fusion of two genetically different cells, themselves the product of improbable assemblies of specialized cells
Importance of diversity generation - "sex" independent of reproduction - practical considerations: antibiotic resistance Playful exploration as an adaptation/characteristic of life and ... science
Bottom line (for now) ...
To be continued
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