HRS177|Spring2016

Ordered Chaos

From what I remember from high school physics, electricity and magnetism both involved charges to some degree and were related somehow, but for the most part were two distinct topics. I was surprised to learn in college that the two are essentially different sides of the same coin and are constantly influencing each other. As I read more about magnetic flux ropes and the plasma released from them “breaking,” I realized that the parlor tricks driven by magnets and electrons are actually a powerful and dangerous force in the universe.

Plasma and Invisible Strings

Walter Gekelman's talk was a really interesting and exciting to listen to. He took what could have been an incredibly overwhelming topic and made it approachable and simple. But that did not make any of what he said any less impressive and humbling. Just the sheer scale of what he was describing was so overwhelming to me, so beyond the scope of the every day human experiences.

Something Out of This World

Listening to Dr. Walter Gekelman speak last week, I was in awe. I am a Geography major, so most of the terms, concepts and ideas he brought up were all unfamiliar to me. It was difficult to keep up at times and try to follow what he was saying, but I managed to write down key words that stood out to me so I could follow up and do further research on them.

The Plasma Project

Even though I am a science major, understanding Walter Gekelman’s presentation was incredibly difficult. I’ve heard the phrase “plasma” mentioned before, but it was never really explained to me. After Dr. Gekelman’s lecture, I was only vaguely more informed about the nature of this fourth state of matter. I learned that matter becomes plasma when it is heated and the plasma forms rope-like structures that can interact with each other and can be measured and plotted when under the influence of a magnetic field.

Life Bringing Plasma

This week we were able to learn a little bit on plasma from a foremost expert, Dr. Gekelman. We learned about the different qualities of plasma, and what characteristics are featured by this elusive 4th state of matter. He began with a physical description of plasma as a superheated gas in which the electrons are given so much energy that they can dissociate and reassociate with their respective atoms freely, which requires a massive amount of energy. How much energy? Well Dr. Gekelman's lab alone uses more energy than the entire city of Westwood combined!

Understanding the fourth matter

I really enjoyed last Thursday’s lecture! As we listened to Dr. Gekelman’s discussion I couldn’t help but to remember the feeling I had when I first attended our BioArt lecture. I came in with no prior knowledge of the two existing worlds (Biotech and Art) and I felt like I knew nothing to contribute. Learning about plasmas, I felt the same way but just like how our class intrigued me, so did his lecture! In my science classes we’ve always discussed plasma, but we never really delve into it. It was just kind of there.

Is Reality Beyond Our Perception?

What struck me the most during Dr. Gekelman’s talk was the time in which his reactions took place.  A billionth of second is such an abstract concept to us that is it quite unfathomable. Yet, I find it interesting that the concept of time itself is almost unfathomable. Time as we know it is so inorganically constructed with an arbitrary 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute. Yet it is so ingrained in our society and in our biological clocks.

Biosecurity or Anti-Immigration?

For this week's blog, I read Gwen D'Arcangelis' article, "Chinese Chickens, Ducks, Pig, and Human, and the Technoscientific Discourses of the Global U.S. Empire." I am currently also enrolled in another Honors course entitled Plague Culture, in which we have been investigating the various images and discourses surrounding plague and other devastating epidemics.

Surveillance Society and the Future of Robots

Fear is one of our most innate human drives. It’s a natural feeling meant to protect us from potential danger. But is fear controlling our lives? While the article “Bioparanoia and the Culture of Control” focuses on our excess fear of germs, diseases, and biowarfare as central to our culture of control, I find the main of idea of fear relevant to our discussion of drones, robots, humanoids, and Gemini’s as a part of our shift towards a surveillance society.

DNA "Fingerprinting"

I learned about restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLP) in my life science class last quarter. It amazed me that a one-nucleotide change in DNA can help distinguish people with certain characteristics. A RFLP is a single base pair change in the DNA sequence that varies greatly among individuals. This change overlaps with regions of the DNA that code for a restriction site, or a specific palindromic sequence where a specific enzyme cuts the DNA, thus changes in this site determine if that fragment of DNA is cut.

The Ethics of Bio-Art & Technology

When skimming through the countless essays that constitute the given reading we were given to select an essay from, one distinctly stood out to me. It started of with the title, “The Ethics of Experiential Engagement with the Manipulation of Life.” Studying biology and years of humane and inhumane research, one really begins to wonder when ethics falls in line to what is right and what is wrong in research. There are many perspectives to this. There is of course the biological perspective of life as well the cultural beliefs we created as a society.

Genetic Drift and Contemporary Phenotypes

This week’s reading titled The Biopolitics of Human Genetics Research and Its Application brought up many concepts based in evolutionary theory of homo sapien sapien phylogeny, and the scientific field as a means of consumer exploitation.  The population of the United States is heterogeneous, and with such diversity comes dynamics of inequality.  Due to the colonization of the Americas, the indigenous Native Americans were subjected to systematic extermination, while the African diaspora were forced into slavery.

Week 6: A Compilation of My Experiences

Sitting in on last week’s class presentations was truly a remarkable experience. I did not expect to see that many innovative proposals that could one day be brought into fruition for the betterment of mankind. Moreover, it was great seeing the source of inspiration for each project, with most stemming from personal experiences and passions. 

Common Knowledge and Political Love

The article I chose to write about is called “Common Knowledge and Political Love”. This article brought in all the necessities of a good read, as it discussed witch-hunting, capitalism, and of course, the biological aspect of a female reproductive system. Once I read the word “witch-hunt” I knew I had to read into! The article discusses the many ways females have been exploited generations through generations of time.

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