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Sandra's Journal


The three most significant challenges (in order of importance) I think society faces include utilizing more sustainable energy sources, controlling and eventually eliminating diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cholera, malaria and dengue fever throughout the world and finally,modifying devices in order for them to last longer while maintaining peak performance.

In my view the challenge of utilizing more sustainable energy sources arises out of the rapidly growing numbers of middle-class families in newly industrialized countries like China and India. Demographers have pointed out that India’s population could well surpass that of China in the next 30 or so years and what this means is that we can expect more families seeking out the general comforts in life such as televisions, refrigerators, cars and iPods. These are all materials that produce considerable amounts of waste that end up having catastrophic effects on our environment. I do not think this world has enough room for more countries like America, in terms of nonrenewable energy that is consumed and returned to the environment as waste, thus I think it would be very wise of today’s world leaders to actively invest and support research into sustainable energy resources. Much debate has taken place regarding the precarious state of our planet’s nonrenewable resources (oil in particular) and how the status quo benefits the few at the expense of the many in the long-term. However, I think that science has an extremely important role to play in providing this debate with a definite direction. Hazen and Trefil write "Science is one way of knowing about the world (p 4)"and when facing this challenge, I think that science can provide valuable data, not only detailing the negative impacts that humans have had on the planet but some positive impacts as well that can be augmented or modified. An example of what scientific research can bring about is New Zealand's Auckland airport which boasts one of the largest photovoltaic panels in the world, low energy way finding signage and high efficiency chillers for air conditioning. Basically, science with regard to this challenge does not solve the problem by providing a "one-fit-for-all" solution, rather it is a combination of seemingly little solutions that ultimately serve to increase the quality of human existence.

In many sub-Saharan African countries HIV/AIDS still remains a pandemic that affects large chunks of the working-age(21-55) demographic within populations. This in turn has an effect on the productivity of a countries economy whose repercussions can be felt by the wealth and education that many of its citizens may have. I think that science provides a realistic solution to the challenge of finding cures and vaccines for diseases that still claim millions of lives today. In our first class we talked about scientific method and how it presented a model of sorts that show how scientists begin to ask the right questions about what they want to find out as how to build and integrate previous research that has been carried out on similar experiments. Given the nature of viruses such as HIV which continues to mutate thus rendering antibiotics ineffective after sometime, science in this case plays a particularly crucial role in that observations made in the past can help with future solutions. While some may argue that cures and vaccines do exist but are being held onto by corporations desperate to make a profit of them, or perhaps the transportation of these vaccines is what hinders much of the populations that need it from receiving it, I think these two problems are externalities-easily sovable to the precedents set forth by science.

Lastly, I think that working on devices which last longer and still maintain the same levels performance is a challenge that will catch up with the human race within the next 50 years--if it has not begun to do so already. Our social lives are becoming increasingly connected to devices that utilize power i.e laptops, cellphones, iPods, iPads, and Kindles. The more we have devices like these, the more we find ourselves dependent on them- I for one use my Blackberry for everything from texting, to Facebooking to getting directions on Google-maps, and not surprisingly I find myself always seeking out a socket at whatever restaurant I find myself in (something that restaurant managers do not seem to lik-in the UK at least). While one answer to the challenge of longer lasting devices would be to use them for a shorter time, there are no indicators that this will be a trend quick to catch on in the near future. Thus it is not so much science as it is with technology that one may find one of many solutions to this challenge. If technology can find a way to make one's life easier, I think that it can equally find a way to make it more energy efficient. Although I was old enough to have a pager when those were the "in-thing" to have, I think they were very efficient in that they lasted long and you did what you needed to do- which was communicate with person B in location X. Today, we are literally spoilt for choice with how we choose to communicate and somehow we rarely think "This is the more energy efficient route to communicate therefore I will choose this" and end up becoming part of the never-ending cycle of constantly trashing the old and getting the new when we have overused and exhausted these devices.


The overall exhibition focused on climate science and how humans interact within that realm. The designers emphasized a fundamental understanding of how our climate has worked over the years and how it might work in the future. Although I did not manage to try all the interactive models they had, I found the demonstration on how different parts of the Earth experience different climates to be extremely helpful. The exhibition also focused on advancements that have been made in technology that use more sustainable energy sources and have a marginally lesser effect on the Earth’s environment.

I would say that the information presented at the various stations throughout the gallery was very well sourced for two main reasons. First, much of the information covered topics that I have learnt about in previous classes and as far as I know it was not contrary to what I read in textbooks or discussed lectures. An example of this was the graph that showed the increase of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 50 years or so, I recognized this from a climate and energy policy class that I took last spring with Thor. Secondly, on the science museum website it was noted that most of the information displayed in the exhibition was received from the Met Office, a “trading fund”(a department established within government using special funds) under the Ministry of Defense. They have state of the art equipment that is funded by the government and have been heralded with the success of the D-Day landings in 1944. In my opinion, that is enough to convince me that the information presented is well-sourced (in the narrow sense of the word-information derived from a reliable, renowned source).

I would not use the word surprising to describe the experience I had at the exhibition, I would use the word “intriguing” instead simply because climate change has been an ongoing topic whose content has been seen across all fields (science and humanities). That being said, there were two things I found intriguing throughout the exhibition simply because I felt like I walked away with some valuable knowledge after seeing/interacting with them which were the demonstration on how different climates in the world are formed and research that is currently going into batteries with renewable power storage. This is mostly because I talked about longer lasting devices in my first journal and think that batteries with renewable power storage present a much better alternative in that we, as humans, would still be able to use the same amount of energy if not more while having a greater positive impact on the environment. However, the slideshow I saw talked about solar energy in batteries being at 29% efficiency at the moment, which is much higher than previous attempts in the past.

The interactive kiosk I found most engaging was one that asked you to be build a model of the environment in order to help explain the various mechanics of how climate can be influenced and what effect it has on land and water. This was very engaging because it was challenging especially after each successive level. Figuring out what to put in the model was not arbitrary and one really needed to consider what was scientists would want to show using that model and what elements would be most important if featured in the model.

I found the interactive kiosk about London and how much it contributed to global warming a lot less engaging than other presentations because it conveyed information that was fairly general in a monotonous slideshow format which came off as extremely passive and unstimulating.


Greenland- the territory that belongs to Denmark? Not quite. This is the title of a play that was the culmination of four individuals finding a way to communicate the subject of climate change to us- plastic consuming, environment polluting, Blackberry using humans. Before the play began, a handful of quotations were projected on the theatre’s version of curtains made mechanical. I commented to Mckayla and Gillian that statements like that including phrases like “the time is now; it is already happening; population; unsustainable” were wearing thin on my fairly progressive conscience- because everywhere you look that seems to be the message being pummeled into your eardrums. At this point, it is safe to safe I understand the gravity of the situation that mankind is in. Watching this play turned the delivery of this message from pummeling into something more reflective and self-directed, in that I had the choice of which how I chose to understand climate change.

This play was extremely effective because it portrayed the flawed human and our tendency to create and perpetuate a self-fulfilling paradigm, whereby our lifestyles and what we are willing to give up in the name of our beloved environment is nowhere near how much is done to push the message of making a change now because it is already "too late." Although the play begun in a rather eclectic fashion that took a while to get used to, I felt represented both as one of the characters struggling with the question of what to do as well as an audience member watching the show and criticizing their approach to the topic. The set was incredible and masterfully materialized through each scene serving to keep the play lively and entertaining. Their use of the projector to display numbers, graphs, video clips and statistics was a modern twist to theatre I have never experienced before, but nonetheless appreciated greatly. I believe the intention of the writers who wrote this play was to probe at the question of what our role as human beings is in the face of climate change without the unnerving feeling of having a moral at the end of the story with scary figures and statements. In addition, I thought it prompted the audience to critically examine how their role could be affected given factors such as television, technology and growing inequality playing such a tremendous role in how we think about climate change and what ends up being done about it.


Based on all the experiences I have had including reading Science Matters, visiting the Science museum, watching Greenland at the National Theatre and walking around Kew Garden, the take-home message to me seems fairly infallible. Know how your world works and then you might start to have an idea as to how to help preserve it and understand why scientists study what they do. A book like Science Matters should be compulsory reading for every freshman in every college around the world because it provides a fundamental and user-friendly glimpse into the world of science. This has been an important foundation for understanding the value of places such as the Science Museum and Kew Gardens because instead of looking at the wealth of objects they have on display as aesthetic elements, merely for our pleasure at their novelty, everything from the smallest fossil to the tallest tree serves to increase our knowledge of the Earth, even if one does not feel like it in the moment.

What I believe to be the take-home message is indeed very broad as there are different ways one can know about our Earth as well as different ways of interpreting that knowledge. However, the fundamental element in knowing how our world works comes from the ever-increasing evasiveness of technology and how fast it is (in theory) to gain knowledge on anything from how to build a bomb to how to belly dance. Having gone on the excursions for this course, I firmly believe that knowing about how our world works not about ‘googling’ the greenhouse effect and skimming paragraphs on Wiki- it is about learning something through experiencing it and having it mean something to you.

Quite honestly, I think that a combination of all three has been very effective in sensitizing the importance of being scientifically literate and understanding the implications of climate change. However, if I had to pick one I would lean toward the museum experience as the most effective means of communication because it relies on the individual’s agency in seeking information and knowledge about how our Earth works. Theatre and reading also include some degree of autonomy however one cannot skip to the middle of play because they suddenly become curious about issues addressed at the point, nor can one read a book in a sequence in which new ideas pop into one’s mind. At the museum, I have found that certain facts and concepts were revealed to me in a very calm and unstructured environment making me more receptive to information and less likely to assume that I would not understand it. Sometimes effective communication does not lie within how the information being communicated is packaged i.e. how in a book or in a play, it more dependent on how willing a person is to receive that information and past experience dictates that this is most likely to occur when someone does not feel compelled or coerced into receiving that information.

In Kenya climate change is not a policy that has a priority as high as increasing MPs allowances. Students usually receive information about climate change in Geography classes early on in their education, however there aren’t separate programmes that emphasize sustainability and environmentally friendly practices. One of the more famous movements led by Nobel Prize winner, Wangari Maathai the Green Belt Movement is one of the only well-known and establishments in Kenya relating to climate change. While Maathai did excellent work in organizing large numbers of women and planting as many trees as they did, they only served to single her out as a political threat and resulted in much harrasment (beatings, arrests and unfair treatment) when raising awareness about climate change and preserving Kenya’s resources. Hearing about climate change is an option that is available to an elite few with enough sense and education to actively seek it out and take it seriously. I think that the message in England differs from that at Earlham in that the issue of climate change is not treated as a social signifier indicating lifestyle and character. Here everybody is somehow forced to be aware of the implications of climate change because recycling is compulsory and everybody that has a car pay a congestion tax. At Earlham nothing necessarily exists to unify our ideas that identify climate change as a problem affecting all of us requiring a collective effort. Instead you see extreme ends of the spectrum visible in that you have the few who dry their clothes on lines of rope on Barrett’s balcony and recycle almost everything and you have those that not only leave their lights on and laptops plugged in, but never recycle because they consider it a “hippie” thing to do and something that they, and those they identify with would never do.


What science do they do at Kew? Kew’s mission talks about “delivering science-based plant conservation,” and what I believe this to mean is that they use science to discover plants, study them and take note of their characteristics in their specific habitats in order to preserve their existence. The botanical and horticultural science that is done at Kew is largely driven by discovery and perpetuated by investigation that leads to useful information about what a plant’s genus(for example) is and how it could be useful to humans. Behind the scenes at Kew, scientists discover new species of plant and work to accurately name and classify them- of the 2000 new plant species discovered each year, Kew is responsible for naming about 10% of those. Conservation is also a part of the science they do at Kew, having something they call Kew’s Millenium Seed Bank basically acting as a storage system for over 27000 seed species that are at high risk of extinction from around the world.

What evidence of scientific underpinnings did you find in the displays? A lot the displays contained the scientific names of all the plants as well as how those plants have helped in other fields of science such as medicine.

Why is it important to society, that is why should society support the work Kew does? Kew's work is important to society because it serves to document a significant component of the Earth's system, in that about 10% of plant species have been discovered leaving a hefty 90% yet to be discovered, classified and identified. It also affords the opportunity to anyone who is willing the ability to find out more about plant science (something that is more pervasive in our lives than we think) and how they could be used to improve or enhance our existence. Society should continue to support the work that Kew does not only for the aesthetic qualities visible in exhibitions such as the Orchid Extravganza, but research purposes as well- as discovering new species and investigating what characteristics they possess enables us to find more ways to preserve their existence and furthermore find applications in different fields of science and technology.

What are the principle near-term and long-term benefits that are likely to accrue from their work? Another way to ask this question is who benefits from their research and why? (Hint, they provide good information about these topics in their exhibits and on-line materials.)' The main benefits of the work they do at Kew in the near-term include a recreational space that provides a relaxing and educational experience to those who visit; providing jobs for the hundreds of scientists and groundskeepers who are responsible for all the plants (and information on them) on display. Furthermore, I think that Kew Gardens has historical value because as well as extensive information on plants, there are displays on important people who made contributions to plant and horticultural science, an example being traveler and artisit, Marianne North who helped botanists discover some of the plants in the early 18th century because of the very detailed paintings she did on her travels all over the world. Some long-term benefits include scientists being able to trace the progress of discoveries over time, as a result of them being recorded , thus having a more comprehensive understanding of plant and horticultural life. Scientists will then be able to make significant leaps especially concerning medicine.An example of the great implications on the world of medicine and plant life is the Balloon Pea (Sutherlandia frutescens) which is a weedy plant plant from South Africa noted for its use as a herbal tonic to improve the lives of HIV/AIDS and cancer patients.


1. How does DNA work as evidence in crime investigations?

1. The jar analogy does well to show that evolution is a fact, however it does not explain how the elements(lightening and the Sun) that were used to create the Earth-like environment evolved themselves. Is this a scientific or philosophical question?

2. What explanations preempt theories of the first living cell, in order to explain the existence of the elements and condition that caused the universe to form?

3.Are there any arguments that explain how non-life became life? Was non-life considered a chaotic system?


It is now possible to induce and control fertilization thanks to new reproductive technologies. In Science Matters, Hazen and Trefil explain how sex cells can be combined outside the mother's uterus and then implanted where a pregnancy can then proceed in its regular manner (Hazen and Trefil 2009, 194). In this paper, I aim to discuss the process of in-vitro fertilization, including various innovations that have been made including preimplantation diagnosis which allows scientists to essentially recognize and subsequently avoid genetic diseases and understand the viability of zygotes and embryonic defects in the early stages of pregnancy. While in-vitro fertilization poses benefits to couples/individuals who want to have children but cannot due to mechanical defects in their reproductive systems, this form of reproductive technology also faces some challenges. According to articles published in the NewScientist from 2007, IVF babies were reported to be at higher risk of possessing defects at birth and greater chances of developing cancer later on in life. Furthermore, the ability to control fertilization has resulted in groundbreaking research in new fertility techniques such as the three-parent IVF (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12708858). This paper will attempt to evaluate the current research on recent IVF techniques by summarizing the implications of these new innovations on a scientific and ethical level.

I think this is a good topic with lots of interesting material in the areas of science, technology and society; make sure to cover all three. There is science in the how this is done, the technology that makes it possible, and (lots of) societal issues in terms of who can afford it, why it's done, who gets to choose which embryos are used, etc. Carry on!



Technological advance has often undermined established businesses. Most recently, the growth of Internet-based e-commerce has posed a threat to conventional retail firms. Can you think of other business enterprises that the Internet may damage or even destroy? Should anything be done to prevent this from happening?

The rise of Apple’s iTunes and various online music retail sites pose an imminent and inevitable threat to the conventional retail firm that is the traditional music store.

When my mum was young she used to love arranging her LP records in chronological order and storing them in boxes that are now gathering dust in our home. Today, I have an iPod that automatically sorts my 984 songs alphabetically by artist, song title, album and genre. Somewhere between gramophones and Zunes, a huge technological leap took place in the form of the mp3- a patented digital encoding format that uses lossy data compression to make downloading and streaming possible. Lossy data compression minimizes the amount of data that is handled or transmitted to a computer by discarding some data. Typically, a substantial amount of data can be disposed of before the result is reduced enough to be noticed by the user. This form of data compression is widely used with multimedia.

Apple’s iTunes is an online digital media store where you can find songs, television shows and movies, purchase them and download them straight to your computer. In 8 years Apple’s iTunes sold over 1 billion songs. These are numbers that many retail stores would not even dream of. Because iTunes has made acquiring music faster, cheaper and open to a much wider consumer base this has led to many small music retail stores going out of business and larger companies closing stores in order to counteract the effects of poor sales. According to an article in the BBC, HMV (a British music retail company) plans to close 60 stores due to poor sales. Apart from poor spending caused by contracting economies, retail analyst Nick Bubb cites a shift in technology from CDs and DVDs towards downloads as HMV’s prime challenge in managing to retain viable profits from its sales.

Should anything be done to prevent music retail companies such as HMV from closing down? I think this question is best answered by the mechanisms of a self-regulated market. Nothing should be done in the form of regulations, taxes and/or subsidies for conventional retail stores. Instead, retail stores should accept their peripheral role in the provision of recorded music and become like the neighbourhood convenience store: a secondary choice- used when looking for items of particular fancy or when they cannot be found in larger supermarket chains.


Just like some political thinkers have questioned whether man has found the final form of government in democracy because nothing better has been as widely accepted, the same goes for the dull prominence of modern inventors. People simply feel like the most important inventions have already been made and the future of inventing lies in building on previous inventions. Furthermore, inventions in the past served to greatly increase the quality of living for the majority of populations, a classic example being the telephone. Contemporary inventions tend to be manifestations of the gross inequalities between the world’s rich and poor, with developed countries having more inventions than developing countries. This could be why inventors are no longer as prominent as they used to be, since their inventions only change the lives of a relatively privileged few. I did some basic research and found that the examples demonstrated this to be the case most of the time.

Some contemporary (anything after 2000) inventions that aren’t very prominent (to the general masses):

Some contemporary inventions that are:

If you asked me if I knew any contemporary inventors- I probably could not give you an answer because a lot of new inventions emphasize the product rather than the inventor nowadays.


At first I thought that the patent system would discourage technological innovation overall because of the undeniable incentive of reaping monetary benefits and prominence- I changed my mind however, upon critically looking at how the patent system works. Remembering one particular aspect of scientific method (Science Matters) which emphasized the integration/correction of previous investigations instead of competing to disprove the work of other researchers -the patent system suddenly made more sense. It encourages technological innovation without making the risks of keeping certain inventions secret higher and the benefits much less appealing. Why I say this is because Volti noted that sometimes companies withhold new inventions because they pose a threat to their business. However, if someone were to get their hands on a blueprint of that company's new technology/innovation then they would have no legal standing to take the entity that stole their 'ideas' to court due to the absence of a patent. On the other hand, because an invention becomes public when it is patented then there is a better chance of regulation of who can copy it and how. Furthermore, it might offer insight into other technologies in completely different fields without having any credit taken away from the inventor. Although Volti also points out that the patent system does not entirely protect the inventor and probably costs him more than the profits his actual invention might give him the fact that the “monopoly position” is quickly lost due to the rate of technological diffusion only encourages innovation- because every person believes they have a shot. How the patent system works somehow reminds me of one of Picasso’s quotes which says, “Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.” Nothing about the world is fair, and if one inventor can get credit for cleverly applying elements of a previous invention made (because he had access to it thanks to the patent system) then there are two ultimate winners- the inventor him/herself and society (in general) which I believe works out pretty well for everyone except the inventor whose work he/she believed was stolen- and even then, wouldn't that inventor want to do better- if not for the sake of technological advancement then for their ego?


The demand for new technologies has definitely exceeded supply, and I think that this deficit between supply and demand will only continue to grow given the rate of technological diffusion particularly in medicine. When considering what should be used in determining who gets to benefit from these new technologies, one factor plays an undeniable role in the entire process. The cost of new technologies seem to be getting higher and the resources dedicated to producing them do not seem to be getting any more philanthropic either. Therefore since this cost has to be incurred by someone- it is usually placed on the patient. While it is not fair to put a price tag on one’s life, it is the only way that these technologies can afford to be sustained and further improved. The morality behind giving treatment to someone who can afford the technology over some who can’t is clearly reprehensible. However, it is the only way that a standard can continue to be systematically reinforced. Attempting to quantitatively assess the “merit” of a patient’s need for treatment requiring expensive medical technology could take years if everybody got their say since someone would inevitably have a reason why their patient is more deserving than any other. While I might sound a tad bit insensitive for saying that only those that have the ability to pay should have access to what is potentially better medical care, I also think that our governments have a huge role to play in subsidizing the costs of these technologies, thus increasing more (not all) people’s chances at receiving high-end treatment using the newest technologies available.


I think the longstanding “nature vs. nurture” debate continues to be a hot topic because it fundamentally tries to answer the question “what makes me ‘me’?” Living in the 21st century puts the 'me' in question in more of a predicament because science is opening up so many more possibilities than could ever have been imagined. My research survey paper topic covers a technique that is a good example of this called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) which allows for embryos to be screened for genetic disease very early in the fertilization process. Juxtaposing this technology with overarching societal values that disproportionately reward people with certain genetic traits and further gives others (and their offspring) the choice to possess those traits and you really begin to wonder which would trump which- genetic endowments or environmental influences. From countless studies done investigating the presence of genes that dictate the number of cigarettes a person smokes (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8643803.stm) to the genetic variant that allows sprinters’ bones to contract more powerfully at high speeds thus making them genetically inclined to run, there are so many places one can look to find evidence leaning toward one side of the debate more than the other. However, there is resounding truth to be found in how Volti describes the relationship between genetic and environmental factors as a dialogue involving two entities, "each bringing necessary information to [the] conversation.” I more inclined to support his view just because I do not think that we are shackled to whatever genetic predispositions we are born with. Essentially, researchers have not been able to prove that genetic endowments can absolutely receive credit for what specific human traits humans possess throughout various developmental stages. Instead I think that as a result of environmental factors we only learn how to take advantage of certain traits especially where behavior and personality are concerned.


The medium I rely on most for coverage of current events is definitely the Internet. I personally find this interesting because I know that both my parent’s still depend on daily newspapers and television for the most up-to date news. While I do enjoy catching up with news on television once in a while, the Internet is so much more dynamic and further allows more autonomy in seeking information about more specific events. My reliance on the Internet does affect the information and analysis that I receive depending on where I go looking for news on current events. Many of my peers also depend on the Internet as much as I do, however some of the sources they use tend to provoke certain biases about what information and analysis their sources provide. While this might still exist with radio stations, newspapers and television networks I think that there are more drastic consequences when the Internet is involved- just because of the rate at which information can be passed along. Somehow, I find it harder to believe/trust a friend that tells me Japan is sinking if he/she read it on worldstarhiphop.com- because what expertise can a hip hop website offer in reporting about something like tectonic plate movement in the Pacific Ocean? In addition, my reliance on the Internet also raises concerns about formal and informal sources of information- which does not tend to be the case with the other mediums. Many times, I have been sent a link to a mobile recording of some protest/shooting taking place which has been featured on an obscure website with lots of sketchy advertisements asking if I want to date Russian girls. While this recording might be legitimate, how it is being presented isn't, which leads one to doubt the reliability of its source. My reliance on the Internet reaches the extent that I would at least open that link and watch it regardless of whether the source is reputable or not. While my better judgement might allow me to critically understand the implications of the recording, the same does not go for others who might have access to it. once information has been posted online, anybody can access it and there is no telling they will digest it which makes the Internet such a problematic medium for imparting news on current events.

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