HRS177|Spring2014

The Essence of Dirt

When we think of dirt, we usally think of the negative connotations associated with it. It's unsanitary, it ruins our clothes and it can make us sick. Everything about dirt is dirty to say the least; however, one must realize how important dirt is to our culture and to our very existence. Dirt is a symbol of the cycle of life--- so much so that biblical scriptures have used it as a means of creating life and taking life away. The image below illustrates this point, as Adam is shown to be conjured up via the dirt by this white being (presumably G-d).

Dirt Rules Everything Around Me (D.R.E.A.M.)

Last week’s presentation at CNSI enlightened a perspective on dirt that I really never thought about before. The two artists really did a good job of portraying dirt and science in an artistic way, and I especially found the bacterial DNA sequences they displayed to be pretty interesting. I thought I’d take the time to describe and define what dirt really is since it really is all around us and helps maintain life on earth.

Bacteria in the Rhizosphere

As a microbiology major here at UCLA, last week’s exhibit was not only super interesting, but also super relevant to me. I am currently enrolled in the two quarter microbiology lab pair that is required for my major, and our project is pretty much exactly the same as what we saw in the exhibit. At the beginning of last quarter my team selected a plant and obtained a soil sample that we had to extract metagenomic DNA from. In addition, we cultured isolates on different types of media and extracted genomic DNA from them as well.

Combating Our iDisorders: Disconnect to Reconnect

Dirt is defined as the “matter out of place” by anthropologists. But when we look at piles of dirt next to, say, our iPhones, which is more out of place? iPhones are novel inventions completely unheard-of throughout our evolutionary history; whereas dirt was there all along since the very beginning, even before we were around. So which is more out of place, really? If our ancestors were to see our world today, they would be utterly overwhelmed by the countless things that are out of place.

The Data Does Not Speak for Itself!: Science communication and the need for clarity in modern science

One thing this week’s exhibit showed me was the power of graphics to communicate data.  I cannot agree enough with Christina’s assertion that it is not enough to “let the data speak for itself”.  One has to consider effective means to condense and communicate one’s findings.  The “tree of life” is probably the best example I know of.  It takes a huge amount of data, spread across billions of years and creates something readable, understandable and, in my opinion, beautiful.

Soil Contamination

Last week’s seminar on soil reminded me of an environmental science project I had in high school. The project dealt with the contamination of local water reservoirs with human waste products, particularly spice compounds such as vanillin and cinnamaldehyde that become common in our waste during the holiday season. Though having no direct harm to humans, these compounds can have detrimental effects on smaller organisms such as daphnia (water fleas).

Mindful Awareness

The concept of entanglement and mindful awareness is one of much interest to me. This was one of the first full-fledged experiences I have had with such concepts, such as the mind flex duel game. While it seemed a little far fetched to me, I was hesitant to believe there is a way to communicate to another, without direct communication such as talking or even non verbal behavior, but when one of the students was able to draw the exact car we all were thinking about and drawing was completely and utterly mind blowing to me.

Make It Contagious!

We are social creatures innately wired to connect. We exist as social units and our abilities to form reciprocal relationships determine our survival fitness throughout evolution. Given such interdependence, it is necessary that we develop an effective system of communication. Written or spoken language allows for documentation but they are not universal; body language can be universal but it is purely visual. We need a system that is pervasive, instantaneous, and applicable across all sensory modalities.

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