Author: Kate Kerin

Have We Never Been Modern?

Bruno Latour presented some very interesting concepts that also may question the entire theme of the course we all are currently taking. This is an important because we should always question what we are doing and not just take things at face value. I often forget that most of the lectures we are attending are opinions (well researched ones) of different professors. In Latours book “We Have Never Been Modern” is an investigation into modern times wile concluding that modernity creates a great divide between us.

I dont believe that we question things enough in this day in age. I am personally someone that thinks that science it something set in stone and compleatly true. The years of researce into scientific laws and theries are what make me believe in what I have been taught since grade school. I would never question the laws of gravity that have been proven time and time again. My major as a geologist has

The Necessity of Data

In this evenings lecture, Professor Aaron Hanlon spoke about data and its evolution to what we see today. Apparently, much of what we know about data and the scientific method comes from the Royal Society and Francis Bacon. Data became a necessity  in order to understand more about society than what was posed by individual scholars that made generalization. Data came about because there was such a need of real proof of different theories and sufficient evidence to back these ideas.

 

It is so interesting for me to try to think of a world without data. As a science major most of what I know has been thoroughly supported by data set after data set. When we are young we are taught the scientific method in grade school that helps up to understand how we know what we know about the world. The key step of the scientific method is data collection. It reminds me of my first science fair experiment where I looked at a series of different mixes that caused either endothermic or exothermic reactions. I used a thermometer to test if there was a temperature drop or increase while I mixed together different things in our kitchen. I got very excited about this experiment and collecting data as a whole. I mixed together almost everything in our kitchen to see if there was a reaction. To this day I think that this is one of the reasons I am a science major. I learned to like the scientific process and with that the process of collecting data, to this day I love experimenting.

I dont think I had any idea about how hard it is to collect unbiased data until this semester. I am currently in a statistics class to compliment my geology major and one of our assignments is this huge project we do throughout the semester. In this project we could decide to find a data set online or we could have decided to collect our own data. My group decided to collect our own data and we decided on surveying the student population about what extra curriculars they do and how happy they are ar Colby. Some of the variables we are also collecting data on are how many hours of extra curriculars people do a week, what gender each person is and what class year they are in. I never knew how hard it is to collect unbiased data for the most accurate data set we can get to. One of the problems we’re are running into is how to hand out the surveys without bias as the data can be locationaly biased. People that go through the Colby College spa is not an accurate representation of the population because not every student walks through our student center. When I was a sophomore I was someone that actually never walked through the spa because I lived on the other side of campus and never had the need to. We are still working to get past this bias.

 

The Haitian Revolution and Spartacus

Before I attended the lecture this evening, I’m not sure that I had ever heard of the Haitian Revolution. At some point it might have been mentioned in a class or conversation, but there is no way that the information stuck. This is the importance of this seminar, because I am able to expand my my horizons and learn about important events in history that should never be forgotten. What makes the Haitian Revolution so special is that it was forgotten. It is interesting that an entire revolution can be basically “erased” from history. Professor Jeremy Popkin from the University of Kentucky  gave an interesting lecture on this forgotten revolution. He choose to compare this revolution to the French and American Revolutions. This intrigued me to go look more into the revolution to learn about how it is recorded in history. I expanded my knowledge about this event in history by reading about the Haitian Revolution and by attending the lecture by Professor Jeremy Popkin from the University of Kentucky.

First off, the Haitian Revolution happened in part because of people uprising against slavery and colonialism. Not only was this uprising very successful, but it also impacted other countries revolutions, including but not limited to the United States. In my readings I saw interesting parallels drawn between the Haitian revolution and the uprising lead by Spartacus against the Roman Empire. Apparently the Haitian Revolution was the largest slave uprising since the one led by Spartacus 2000 years prior to it. This uprising in the Roman Republic was led by the respected military leader and former Gladiator, Spartacus. History is not completely sure about all the exact events, but it is well known that the uprising occurred because people in Rome were tired of being oppressed by the oligarchy. After years of oppression, Spartacus came along and was the strong leader needed to lead the rebellion. Although it is not clear that Sparticus actually intended to abolish slavery in the Roman Republic, that is what he accomplished. Even if his intent was just to liberate many of the oppresses people such as gladiators, he was able to set the entire republic into a revolution that there was no coming back from. Just like Haiti, Rome was never the same again once there was a unified uprising of the oppressed against the oppressors. These revolutions changed the course of history even though it is better remembered in rome.

This is a classic example about how Revolutions can move in cycles that are destined to repeat themselves. It is so interesting to hear about haw anti-slavery revolutions that occurred all the way in Europe also happened all the way across the Atlantic ocean under very similar circumstances but 2000 years later than the prior. What was once revolted against has occurred more than once and is destined to occur again in the future. Revolutions rarely stand on their own and may even be repeated against the wishes of those that try to erase them from the record of history.

 

 

Consequences of Coastal Living

Professor Kerry Emanuel of MIT was an interesting view from a very committed climate scientist. I found his work very interesting and look forward to what he continues to publish about climate change and hurricanes. The most interesting parts of his talk for me were about the coastal living. As someone that has a family house on Cape Cod, I have always been on the look out for sea level rise predictions for the area, as it is in such a vulnerable location on the coast. Not only is it exposed, it is also entirely on a pile of sand instead of bedrock.

Professor Emanuel spoke to the coastal destruction that was executed in areas such as Florida and Louisiana. It was interesting to hear why these places are continuously destroyed and rebuilt. I have never understood d why people would remain in a place that they had had their house destroyed. This is because coast are a place where culture seems to grow and thrive. Little thought is put into building somewhere it is safer inland. Along the coast of Florida and Louisiana, houses are constantly being destroyed and rebuilt in the wake of devastating Hurricanes. People still decide to take the chance of building in those locations, which seems extremely risky to me as someone who lives in New Hampshire (not at risk of getting a hurricane anytime soon).

I guess that even though hurricanes can destroy and devastate entire coastal developments, sea level rise is even more of a risk that we will be forced to face in the coming years. There is no rebuilding after sea levels rise, you can only move further inland to prevent further flooding and destruction of your home. There are also unforeseen consequences with sea level rise that are not just the flooding of settlements. One of these consequences is the contamination of the water supply. Even houses that are inland can be effected by this because their water supply may be effected from water table changes. Houses on the Cape that currently have clean drinking water from wells and underground water sources may struggle with contamination from salt water. Contamination from salt water will then render the water sources unusable by contamination from salt water.

These are some of the scary realities that Professor Kerry Emanuel of MIT made my think about. I think that being a climate scientist sounds extremely  interesting and useful in the coming years as we see our planet greatly effected by climate change. This is something that we will have to address in the coming years as the coast lines will be drastically changing. People will have to move, entire families will loose their homes. Many people will not be able to sell their houses for profit because no one will want to buy them. Climate change has many, many unforeseen consequences we will have to adress as a country in  order to make sure it does not continue at the rate it is currently going at.

The Internet- Should we be worried?

Sometimes I get worried when I think about the internet and everything that I post on it. Everything that I put out there is truly a permanent record that I hardly realize the extent of. Every post, every picture, every comment is forever out there on the internet. A simple delete does not suffice to erase the record of it. You have to be conscious and careful about what you put out there. Even simple blog post like these are permanent record of our opinions and feelings at the time. If someone was to search my name, these posts could potentially be pulled up and be used to create a view of me. That can be a scary thought because I have the potential of saying something that I don’t mean as I usually write these posts in an hour and rarely proofread them.  This is one of the great drawbacks that comes with the use of the internet.

On the other hand, the internet has some huge positives. It really does connect us to each other in the great global network. We can go places that we never went before through connecting with people on many platforms. One of these platforms is facebook. Facebook is so much more than social media at this point. For example, during the Arab Spring facebook was used for protests and organization. Facebook may have even been the cause of the uprisings. The Egyptian revolution may very well have been caused by social media, especially facebook for several reasons. Facebook used the internet to spread the word around about what was going on in Egypt and needed to be brought to the attention of people in order to unite the people against the government. Videos of injustice and killings were posted. People were able to say what they wanted to get the word out there and make their opinion public. People were able to unify and protest through organized events on facebook. It is a controversial topic and some experts may disagree, but it is widely argued that the Egyptian Revolution did indeed start on facebook.

Something that is currently going on on facebook is protests of the Keystone XL pipeline as proposed pipeline that runs across america. This is being widely protested for many reasons. One of these problems is the idea that the pipeline poses many environmental hazards. The Keystone XL pipelines completely goes against the idea that we need to stop our dependency on fossil fuels. It is the symbol linked with the current climate change we can see all around us and need to stop rather than continue to add to. A current movement that is happening on facebook is the checking in of people at Standing Rock, ND. This is in solidarity with the people that are protesting the pipeline and putting their lives at risk to protect their land. Who knows if this will actually be able to work in the way that it did for the Arab Spring, but it is worth the try.

Khalid Albaih

In this talk we heard from Khalid Albaih, the famous political cartoonist from Sudan. Albaih’s cartoons rose to prominence during the Arab Spring. He continues to create comics that are controversial and eye opening. Looking through the comics that have made Khalid the most famous, I see that they speak the truth that no one likes to hear. I also see why they can be criticized because of their brutal honesty. One of the most startling comics I looked at was a comic commenting on the involvement of America and Isis in Iraq. In the comic Iraq is represented as a woman tied up with a terrorist and Uncle Sam standing over her. The terrorist is unbuttoning his pants as if to rape her while Uncle Sam holds a sword to the terrorist, saying “Hey! Its my turn again.” Such a cartoon can be shocking to see and I was taken aback at first. It is awful to see a rape portrayed in a cartoon, but this is exactly what makes Albaih’s cartoons so powerful. He is representing how terrorism and America have repeatedly terrorized Iraq over and over again. Iraq appears helpless in the cartoon, just as it is in real life. The country is stationary and helpless in defending its self. What makes Albaih so great is that he does not stray away from harsh realities, he embraces them. His cartoons can be shocking, with images of dead children, violence and rape, but he is only telling the truth of current situations.

It is interesting to see what a great influence cartoons can have over people, but I do understand why that is. Albaih said in the talk that he has very little time to grab the attention of people on the internet. He said that there is so much crap and nonsense that people have to sort through on the internet, that he needs to create something that will grab the attention of people in a second. Cartoons can be effective because they take about 10 seconds to read. If they have managed to pull you in in those 10 seconds they can take even longer to truly understand what they are saying. One cartoon that did this to me was a cartoon of an old, impoverished man with his hand extended outward (what I interpret as begging for help). Walking past him is a business man looking only at his cell phone. As if an after thought the business man has his hand extended behind him, dropping a face book “like” into the other mans outstretched hand. This sad exchange brings to life the idea that many people think it is enough just to share and like things on facebook. Many people nave go beyond social media to actually help, I myself am guilty of this. It is not enough just to share and like posts on faceboook, it can be somewhat helpful but not if you are missing what is directly in front of your face .

Creativity

The talk given by Gillen Wood took us back to a different time and place, one which produced the iconic novel Frankenstein. I was surprised to hear that this novel was written in a summer that was spent indoors because it was “the year without summer.” it is surprising to think that one sumer is all it took to write such a masterpiece. Mary Shelly really put her time to good use that summer, at only 18 she would end up changing literature forever.

I was so interested in what was mentioned in Wood’s talk that I decided to do more research into the novel, Frankenstein. As wood had said, this novel was written by Mary Shelly during the rainy summer of 1815. She and her lover had spent the summer in switzerland because of the Mt. Tombora eruption. This massive eruption effected so much of Europe by making the summer rainy, as if there was no summer at all. Crops failed, people starved, sickness was rampant, adn Mary Shelly was not able to enjoy the quintessential summer activities she normally would have. Shelly’s initial reason for writing a story was when a group was all at Lord Byrons villa one night, reading ghost stories translated from German to French. The group decided that a good way to pass the time would be to write ghost stories of their own. Shelly at first found it very difficult to come up with a good idea, it was a source of stress for her. One night she got an idea when they were talking about what life was. She decided to write a story about a corpse that came back to life. What was once a short story written to entertain later became an actual novel we still read today.

Thinking about all of this I wonder if something similar would ever happen now a days. If we were to not have a summer, everyone would just be inside on technology. We have endless means to entertain ourselves when weather is bad, I believe that what happen back in 1815 would never happen. This realization makes me sad because I wonder where most of our spontaneous creativity has gone. I often wonder if there are so many top[ics that have been covered in art, literature, film, photography, etc. that there is no longer much room for original ideas. When was there a last time that an idea was completely new, never been touched before. As a film minor I always wonder what will come next in the film industry? How hard is it to come up with and idea that hasn’t been executed on the screen. With every film that has already been created, is it getting harder and harder to be creative? and if so will a new medium have to be created in order to maintain interest in entertainment.

I guess that even today we are still using stories of corpses to entertain ourselves. TV shows such as the Walking Dead and izombie and movies like zombieland keep the Genre alive even 200 years later. I just wonder when this topic might be exhausted.