The Really Big One

When reading “The Really Big One”, it made me realize what a fast paced society we live in today. I could not imagine worrying about preserving the earth for future generations when I don’t even know what my day will be like tomorrow. Society lives day to day, worrying about the problems currently at hand, without vision into the future. Will my actions today leave an impact tomorrow? What can I do right now so that a problem does not occur later on? These are questions that our society should be asking, but aren’t. Is this surprising? To me, it isn’t. It is human nature to be selfish, to only worry about yourself. Many people struggle to support themselves and live day to day, so worrying about future generations is out of the question. This article also made me think that minimal preparation is also not necessarily a bad thing. If we were constantly preparing for a catastrophic event, people would live in fear. Every day, we would wonder if today was the day, and fear would drive relentless preparation for something that we could never predict will happen for certain. It is hard to decide which is better. Preparation for the worst possible outcome could pay off, but what are the chances of it actually happening? “Help yourself before helping others” is a common saying that I agree with. Our world today has more than enough problems that are current and real. I believe that is the reason the government does not put more emphasis on future generations and possible catastrophes. If we are already struggling, we must use all resources to support the current generation. It makes logical sense, but still, it does not seem right. The challenge is finding the right spot in the middle. Both sides can be argued for, but which is the right choice?

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Project Nim

The curiosity of the human race is stronger than most people realize. When we want to learn, there are often very few things that get in our way, and even if there are obstacles, loop holes are often found. This has occurred numerous times in the past. Human experimentation used to be very common in the past, especially during world war II, where horrible human experimentation was conducted by the Nazis. When human experimentation was seen as horribly inhumane, we turned to animals instead, which apparently is much better. In Project Nim, a chimp was taken at birth and raised by only humans. He only communicated with humans, ate like a human, even dressed like one. My reaction to this film was disbelief because although I understand the reasoning behind the experiment, I do not understand how the scientists did not predict the end result. Even though chimps are similar to us on an evolutionary level, they are still chimps, not humans. Chimps cannot be forced into acting like humans; in the end, their chimp nature will always be there, no matter how much time they spend with humans. In the film, Nim bites and scratches people violently when people least expect it. A quote that stood out to me was, “they exploited his human nature with no regard for his natural chimp nature.” There were many examples of Nim’s chimp nature breaking through the façade that the scientists created. The façade that Nim could be trained to communicate like a human. This experiment was a failure, which once again proves that curiosity can be dangerous.

Waiting for Light

Before reading the article, “Waiting for Light”, I was not familiar with energy poverty. I knew India struggled with poverty, but when I think of poverty, I think of lack of food, water, and shelter. But energy? It has never come to mind when I have thought about poverty around the world. Maybe it is because I have been privileged enough to never have to live without energy, or even carefully rationing it. It has always just been there. Flip the switch, lights on. Flip the switch, lights off. This article opened my eyes to another important resource that millions do not live without: energy. It is sad how the lack of energy causes the sun to dictate when a person can work or read, or when a person has to close their shop. The lack of energy in India cripples the ability to do every day tasks that I have never had any restrictions on. The style of the article is very effective in communicating the purpose. I believe the purpose it to inform a western audience about the lives of people in India who struggle with a lack of energy. It explains how something as a little as a solar lantern can completely change the lives of these people. I enjoyed how the article began with background information about the situation in India and LED lanterns. In addition, the quotes from the conversations were effective because it expressed the voice of the people struggling in India. For example, one man asks: “How is there electricity 24 hours in the United States?” This made me realize how lucky I am to not even have to think when I use electricity. This man is in just as much shock as I am, only we are in opposite situations. After reading this article, I am definitely going to be more aware of my energy consumption. I am going to make an effort to always shut off anything that I do not need to use at the moment to conserve as much energy as possible.

Same Robot, Different Targets

After reading about how a new robot, which replicates the african mudskipper and helps understand how animals transitioned from water to land, I noticed some differences in the style of each article. I first read about the robot on Georgia Tech News, which went very in depth and described what happened, why it happened, and how it happened. From an abundance of quotes from PhD students and professors, to references to science journals and Nobel prize winners, the article expressed a very mature and scientific style. There is a video in the beginning of the article, which explains the robot and experiment visually. Following the video, there is a lengthy article with no pictures or diagrams. It is evident that the target audience is people with interest in science and technology, and people who are already proficient in scientific terminology. In contrast, the article on Popular Science wrote about the exact same topic; however, if the Tech News article was compared to a scientific journal, then the Popular science would be compared to a “Chemistry for Dummies” study book. In short, the popular science article described what the robot was, and that was it. The article did not go into depth about how the robot was tested, or where the ideas originated from, or who contributed to the project. The article was organized so that there were not many words clumped together. Most of the article space was taken up by videos or pictures of the mudskipper fish and the robot. This shows that the target audience is an average person surfing the web. This person does not need to know a lot about science or have any amount of baseline knowledge about the topic. It makes sense that the article is simple and easy to understand, because it is formatted that way to meet the needs of the audience. A person reading the article on Tech News probably prefers a very in depth, science approach. However, an average person surfing the web would much rather have a short news flash about a new robot that resembles movements in a fish.

Mouse Genetics

Which is more important? Ethical considerations regarding mice, or advances in science? I am a firm believer of strict ethics regarding animals. I believe animal cruelty is an offense that is treated far too lightly in the United States. I am also a firm believer in the need for constant scientific advances. However, after reading both sides of the argument, I could not find a reason for me to argue against mice testing. The Jackson Laboratory clearly explained the uses of mice and how beneficial it is for disease research to help humans. Logos and ethos were abundant in every paragraph. Quotes from accredited scientists explained the breakthroughs that would not have been possible without the use of mice genetics. On the other hand, the National Anti-Vivisection Society relied heavily on pathos and lacked the critical logos and ethos elements in their argument. The examples used were very vague and it was hard to determine what was being talked about. One paragraph talked about companies that test their products on animals to make sure they are safe to give to humans. The phrase “many companies” was used 3 times in a single paragraph. No specific examples were used, and not an ounce of ethos was included to make the argument seem credible. I am all for ethical treatment of animals; however, there is a difference between animal cruelty and testing for treatment that can save millions of human lives. As much as I care about animals, I would rather have an experimental drug test be done on a mouse than on a human. Mice have proven to have a genetic code that is almost identical to that of a human. This allows possibilities to find cures for diseases that would not have been possible otherwise. All in all, the Jackson Laboratory website had a far more superior website than the NAVS, which made me take the side of pro-mice testing.

UCS

My first impression of the Union of Concerned Scientists was that is was just another organization that wanted to me to cough up some donation money and then continue on with my day. After browsing the front page, I saw numerous widgets with the option to donate or subscribe; however, after exploring more pages, my opinion completely changed. The “take action” page offers a real chance for an average person to voice his or her opinion without having to send money. For example, for climate change, people have the option to act by sending a letter to the CEO of ExxonMobil, who mockingly announced his disagreement with statements about fuel emissions contributing to climate change. I think that this method to allow the public to express a voice is extremely effective because it allows ordinary people at home to express their discontent with climate change. Of course, donating money can also help the organization since they depend on donations from the public, but having the ability to directly act on a situation sparks something that cannot happen by just donating money alone. UCS clearly demonstrates its purpose by informing the public about the multiple problems including energy, climate change, food, and many more. In addition to information, UCS provides easy ways for the public to contribute to their cause, either by donating money or directly voicing an opinion by sending electronic letters. The setting is depicted as urgent, which encourages the public to act fast. Global warming, alternative fuel, deforestation, etc. have all been on the rise in the past few years, resulting in more attention from the media and news. I believe the website fulfills the context since environmental issues are currently a serious topic in the media.