Friday, March 28, 2014

Scientists Images

            The standard operating image of a scientist is that of an introspect.  The scientist is often times a loner.  When he does have a supporting cast they are often times just as quirky, if not more, than he.  The scientist keeps to himself, most of the time, unless his work requires him to venture outside.  He prefers to work in a laboratory with few or no distractions.  These labs, it appears, usually lack any sort of window to the outside unless applicable to the work, even further reinforcing the scientist isolationism.  In the images, the scientist is often times doing chemistry related work; perhaps even alchemy!  White lab coats seem to be the clothing of choice among our scientists, however those without lab coats are not well dressed; perhaps because they’d rather spend time with their work over extra time dressing in the morning.  In half of the images our scientists appear to have spiked or greatly disheveled hair, maybe because they haven’t had time for anything other than work or sleep in quite a long while.  Eye glasses are also a common theme throughout many of the images, and of course spectacles have long be associated with educated persons.  So from these images we can conclude that at least the common University of Oklahoma student has the following common ideas of a scientist doing science:  They keep to themselves while working, feel that their work is much more important than their looks and hygiene and sometimes sleep, and can sometimes be driven mad.  Their experiments often involve chemistry and they are almost all very learned individuals. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Planes, Stains, and Cattle Brains

            People are doing more today than ever before in our history that is having a negative impact on our environment.  The most worrisome effect of them all is the recent, rapid increase in the number of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.  Agriculture, land use and development, and mass globalization are all playing significant roles in this recent trend. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Geber's Alchemy

            Jabir ibn Hayyan, or Geber as he is more commonly known in the Latin west, was, according to Henderson, the first practical alchemist (11).  It has been speculated by many scholars that Geber, if he existed, did not actually complete most of the works that have been attributed to him because there is too much disparity in the style and content of them, but that writers of the Ismaili group may have themselves created much or all of the work under the Geber pen name (Linden 80).  If the Geber of alchemical fame did indeed exist, it is believed he was born in modern-day Iran around 721 C.E. and eventually died while under house arrest in Iraq around 815 C.E. (“Abu Musa”). 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pole in the Barn Paradox

            According to the special theory of relativity an object that is in motion relative to a givenframe of reference contracts – becomes shorter in length – along the direction in which it is moving.  But this seems to lead to a paradox.  Consider a pole that is 15 meters long when at rest, and consider a barn that is 10 meters long when at rest.  Suppose that the barn has a door at each end.  Clearly the pole should not fit inside the barn with both doors closed.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Radioactive Boy Scout

The following is an analysis of the book The Radioactive Boy Scout
            David’s most well used source for what it meant to do science was The Golden Book of Chemistry of Experiments.  While decades outdated and full of potentially dangerous experiments it did not fail to provide David with the instruction in how to do science.  The Golden Book  also provided David with his first image of what it means to be a scientist.  The book painted a romantic picture of the Curies working day in and day out to find answers to the questions which perplexed them.  David grew up imagining the scientist as an entrepreneur of knowledge.  He wished to see himself in tomes of history next to the Curies, Otto Hahn, and Van Brahn.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


            The ideal world, for me, lacks most of the conveniences of modern life that permeate western society.  No cars, fast food restaurants, telephones, etcetera.  Cars pollute our air with their exhaust and our homes with the noise of their engines.  Fast food pollutes the health of our society with their quick fix hamburgers and milkshakes.  The telephone and other modern forms of communication are destroying the personalization that has evolved through the interaction of man amongst himself over the past three millennia.  My ideal life is myself living alone in a cabin in the wilderness far from modern civilization, minus electricity and telecommunications.  I have an infinite library of books, grow my own food, and my only contact with the outside world is through letter writing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Experiments on Blood, Air and the Brain

In A Treatise on the Heart Richard Lower attempts to posit explanations for the movement and color of the blood in the body and for the mechanisms for which chyle passes into the blood from the ingestion of food, as well as defining the transfusion of blood and its potential uses.  His goal is to further explain the makeup and difference between the venous and arterial blood, specifically how, and with what functions, they acquire their differing colors, how transfusion of blood can be most easily and efficiently obtained between two, living beings, and what path the chyle makes from the stomach to the blood.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Hunter and Cynicism

Dio’s The Hunter promotes an ascetic lifestyle congruent with the Cynic philosophy of Antisthenes and Diogenes and criticizes the materialist and hedonist lifestyle of contemporary Roman society.  The Hunter does not strictly mention the gods, how knowledge should be obtained, or what makes up the universe (religion, epistemology, and cosmology respectively); it is solely an outline for what makes up the ethical life.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Island of Dr Moreau

            From the beginning of the novel Wells is attempting to address what the nature of humanity is.  The attempts at cannibalism that take place after the shipwreck between Prendick and the two other men reveal the baser animal instincts within the human mind.  When they have been driven to the edge they must revert back to the oldest, simplest part of their cognitive systems.  “The lot fell upon the sailor; but he was the strongest of us and would not abide by it, and attacked Helmar with his hands.  They grappled together and almost stood up.  I crawled along the boat to the, intending to help Helmar by grasping the sailor’s leg; but the sailor stumbled with the swaying of the boat, and the two fell upon the gunwale and rolled overboard together.  They sank like stones.  I remember laughing at that, and wondering why I laughed.”  Even though the sailor’s human side agreed that one of the three of them dying was the better for the whole, his animal side would not allow him to sacrifice his own life. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Environmentalism Ethnography

The following is the analysis of a pair of interviews conducted on environmentalism and culture.

            Mankind lived in partnership with nature for millennia.  Not until he began to move from small tribes or clans into large gatherings did he start considering nature as something that needed to be dominated.  Cities inherently conquer their surroundings.  Manhattan began as a mere town on a big island, but eventually filled the entire island edge to edge.  It is inevitable that as long as the builders remain blissfully unaware of the consequences they will continue to build.  Though cities do more harm than good: “It is always possible to go from the natural to the civilized state, but it is never possible to go from the civilized to the natural state.  The reason is that man in a natural state, subsisting by hunting, requires ten times the quantity of land to range over to procure himself sustenance, than would support him in a civilized state, where the earth is cultivated.” (Paine 1797)  When America was discovered by Columbus the area supported less than a million natives; the same area now supports more than 250 million.  Tribes can still be seen today where nature is cared for and in all actions the consequences for nature are first considered.  Although small, these groups of people allow us to see how all of man once behaved.  From the first agrarians to the dawn of the age of cities man existed in relative harmony with his environment.  He was not yet large enough and powerful enough to have much of an affect on it.  The advance of technology by humans has allowed for the natural resources to be exploited more and has eased the risk from natural hazards.  Despite the progress made by man in this field, civilization is still closely connected to change in the environment.  There is a very complicated feedback-loop between the advance of technology and changes to the environment. (Torn 2006)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Technological Innovation: Of Abundance and Want

The existence of a leisure class and the want for change are two key societal factors necessary for technological innovation. There are surely other things that factor in, such as the availability of materials, relative usefulness, and supranational interactions among many others, but the most important for the evolution of technology are the creative minds provided by a leisured class and the lesser limits that are imposed by a society open to change.

A leisure class is any group of people, within a society, who do not labor for a living: either in the fields or in the market. Therefore, farmers, merchants, and artisans do not strictly qualify as existing within the leisure class; however they may make their own contributions to technological innovation given enough free time from their daily work. While aristocrats may fall within this sect in the strictest sense of the definition, since they do not labor in the fields or the market, their main focus is often times a labor of social duty; they spend much of their time, and money, being social and fulfilling their social obligations, either to the court or to other aristocrats. The scholars are the people of leisure that we are looking for. In Medieval Europe the scholar would be found below the royalty and aristocracy and above the artisans, merchants, and farmers in the social pyramid. At times the scholar performs the duties of the merchant, the artisan, and the aristocrat, in marketing his ideas and creating them, but the majority of his time would be spent as a philosopher, mathematician, engineer, or astronomer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" Review

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is akin to the comedic satirical reimaginings of archetypal theatrical and romanticized situations that were commonplace in both Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” and “Monty Python & the Holy Grail”, et al. of the 1970s popular cinema.  With a plot based upon Plautus’ Pseudolus of early Roman dramatic theatre, Richard Lester manages to incorporate modern stereotypes into a quite ancient setting.  However, as Dr. Kyle Harper has mentioned, comedy is, in essence, sex and poop jokes from its invention in circa fourth century B.C.E. Greece through to modern times.  Therefore much of the leg work has already been done by Plautus in the early script with merely a modern spin put on the otherwise wholly complete play.  Of the changes which occurred in the modern reimagining of the Pseudolus what stands out are: 1. The conversion of many lines of dialogue into musical format, 2. The creation of many additional speaking roles, most importantly the removal of the leading ladies muteness, 3. The shift in plot emphasis from the three main characters: the boy, the slave, and the pimp, to the group of characters as a whole.  In the end the movie manages to garner a few laughs while still getting the original plot across in whole.  However, a part of this viewer is left feeling as if the original musical, which the movie’s screenplay was adapted from, would have been much more satisfying and that Pseudolus performed in its original contextual situation holds much more than water.

Originally written February 16, 2010 for OU C LC 2613 - Survey of Roman Civilization

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bone Wars

The following is an analysis of Bone Wars: The Excavation of Andrew Carnegie's Dinosaur.

Value as described by Webster is the relative worth, utility or importance of an object or ideal. The dinosaur bones of the nineteenth century had educational, social, political, religious and obviously economic value. The $22,000 that Carnegie offered the University of Wyoming for the rights to its Diplodocus bones would be around $500,000 today. So in the grand scheme of business it doesn’t really seem as though Carnegie’s offer was really all that substantial when we are able to look back and see the great effect that these bones have had on the lives of so many people most especially those in the scientific community.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Alternate Food Sources

Living in Norman, a college town, albeit a large one, I have many choices for how and where to obtain organic, natural, or otherwise non-commercial food. To begin with, up to this point the majority of my food related shopping has taken place at large corporate supermarkets, mostly Wal-Marts. Since I viewed the documentary The High Cost of Low Price, a detailed investigation into the practices of the world’s biggest corporation, I have cringed a bit each time I thought about doing my shopping there. Even with this I have continued to give over my money to the monsters: this is for the most part due to the fact that my bonuses I receive from my job are paid out in Wal-Mart gift cards. Until recently I was unaware of the many alternatives that abound my small city and the great benefits to my body, my community, and most importantly to my environment that come with doing my shopping in them.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Colonial Reformation and Science

How did the social and political reforms instituted by European powers influence the progress of science in Southeast Asia?

Invading European powers into Southeast Asian nations employed a consistent set of social and political reforms on the local inhabitants’ culture which were intended to make for a transition of power requiring the least amount of military force and which had, in some cases, a significant impact on the development of scientific endeavors. Reforms included were social, political, cultural, academic, economic, and geographical in nature and what is listed here should not be considered a complete list by any means, nor is it the case that any particular method described is standard or requisite for every colony within the region.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Final Decree of the Senate

senatus consultum de re publica defendenda

The senatus consultum ultimum initiated by Cicero against Catiline was a necessary action for the preservation of the status quo, but was not justified as it violated the constitution of the Roman Republic. The core purpose of the republic in ancient Rome was to protect against the rule of a foreign government. By issuing senatus consultum ultimum the Senate gives the ultimate power, unchecked, to a single individual, Cicero, who may as well be acting as a foreign ruler by his membership in the aristocracy. The checks that remain in the standard republican rule of Rome, specifically the power of the tribunes, which had in fact been reduced by Sulla prior to Cicero’s ascension to the consul, are intended to protect the proletariat against the aristocracy. The institution of martial law necessarily prevents any but the elite from making a change within the government. Further, the elimination of the opposition can only lead to a greater divide between the aristocracy and the proletariat. The opposition is necessary for the advancement of the state in the direction which is for the good of the nation. Any action which is conducted against the core principles of the republic and is given legal precedent allows for the same action to be taken later without the consent, or issuing of legality, from the state, as Julius made so abundantly clear in his speech to the senate on the topic of the war with Catiline.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Religious Pluralism for the Modern Christian

Today’s Christian is bombarded with the existence of alternative faiths to his own through modern communications technology. While most adherents to the faith have little theological knowledge of the beliefs and practices of others, the relative closeness and openness with which they operate is strikingly new. From the foundation of the church up until the last century Christians, unlike Muslims and Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, have operated, in the most part, in ignorance of the other faiths and their followers. It has been seen for centuries, by Christians, that the only way to salvation is through Christ and that those who practice amongst the other religions are in need of spiritual instruction to overcome their geographical deficiencies. However, the explosion of world-wide communications, especially through the Internet most recently, paired with the religious freedom movement experienced throughout much of the western world has opened the eyes of many Christian practitioners to the existence of other religions and to the idea that perhaps there are sufficient, quality alternatives to the Christian method.