Author: Phillip Kim (page 1 of 2)

Celebration of Research

This week was the final week of the course. All the students had to present their research that they were working on for the whole semester. During class, we had a pre-presentation to make sure all the students’ presentations were in good order. We were advised by professors and students on what needed to be altered so that the actual presentation goes smoothly. In the actual presentation time, we had three classes all from the STS Origins theme to present on their research projects.
The projects done for our class were vastly different from the projects done by the other classes. I had a chance to look at the artist book class projects. I met one presenter named Sage Bailin, who worked on photographs of sprinters. In his book, there were photographs of him sprinting from all different angles and sprinting positions. It was interesting to see how he was able to take all the photos from different positions from different angles. Sage also had many photographs of many professional athletes, one was the notable Usain Bolt. He had a photograph of Usain doing his famous celebration pose and as well as photographs of Usain while sprinting. The photographs he took were not ordinary photos; It is noticeable that the artist wanted the photos to capture specific different angles and positions of the subjects as well as capture and focus in on the main point of the photo. Another work was relatable to me and fascinating was a work done by Stephanie. Her book contained hand drawings portraits of her friends and family, but mostly K-Pop celebrities. K-Pop celebrities are a significant part of the contemporary culture in South Korea where I am from. K-pop celebrities are a main source of entertainment for not only South Korea but Southeast Asian and East Asian countries worldwide. I am personally not a fan of K-pop. However I got to know the celebrities through my relationships with my Korean friends who were avid fans, but also, I have made personal investments in the Korean record label/entertainment/management companies that manage these Korean celebrities. Many foreigners, don’t recognize South Korea, however through a positive association with k-pop has given South Korea and its culture a worldwide recognition. It is always a pleasure to meet K-pop fans because they are usually not only a fan of the music but also deeply aware of the Korean culture as well.
The presentation day went very well; most students were able to present their project concisely and directly. It was nice to be informed about such wide-ranging topics such as financial crises, bitcoin/currency, transgression/superheroes, academic scholarships, Kenyan tribes, Chinese/ Eastern medicine, a modern form of journalism, and ethnic migration. All these topics were related to the theme of origins or the theme of order versus chaos.
The course was truly inter-disciplinary since it had students who had different fields of expertise. The course had taught me to look at ideas and concepts from a broad perspective and incorporating other disciplines into research as well.

The Origins of Science and the History of Science

This week we had Professor Elena Aronova come to Colby to speak about the history of science in the Soviet Union and the West. She talked about how the progress of scientific knowledge was immensely impacted by technology.  In the lecture, she first mentioned about the scientific revolution that took place in the 17th century. She also talked about how the Darwinism theory was not really about progress, but a change in science. She questions where did the historiography of science started, and she believes that it was modern history where science gains much of its momentum. Professor Elena Aronova believes that after the World War II that the progress of science has been growing exponentially.  She mentions that the acceleration in arts and science was in the 18th and 20th century, which is astounding because it is relatively recent to the broader spectrum of world history.

Professor Elena Aronova connects the scientific revolution with political revolution. In the Soviet Union, the main ideology is born which is Marxism and under this ideology the fraction the Bolshevik. The second International Congress of the History of Science and Technology was held in London in 1931. Soviet Union intellectuals related Isaac Newton’s science to the emergence of bourgeois capitalism in England. This caused a political upheaval during this time in Europe. Another scientific revolution that came out of the Soviet Union as the Vavilov scientific expedition where Nikolai Vavilov went to different countries to collect food products to improve agriculture, but he was later arrested because he was thought to be a British spy. During the Cold War, there was an exponential growth in information science and technology in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union created an institute called the All-Union Institute of Scientific and Technical information. This was the start of the information revolution, and the All-Union Institute became a threat to the United States. During this time, United States were lagging behind in science.  However, in the end, United States won the space race, and for the better, the world has benefitted enormously from the Soviet Union and United States race for new scientific knowledge and technology. It seems as though competition between the two world superpowers at the time has driven the progress of new scientific knowledge and technology. The new technologies that came from the Cold War are the satellite, manned spaceflight, advances in computers, the programming language called BASIC needed for every personal computer, long distance calling, and DARPA the predecessor to the internet. Although there was much destructive warfare technology that has been created during this time, such as advancement in the nuclear program, long-range bomber, lasers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, I believe the good outweighs the bad in this case. The technology like the satellite and the predecessors for computers and internet have been the bedrock of the information revolution we have today. There would be no personal computers or the internet, and nevertheless, cell phones if it weren’t for technologies like the satellite, the BASIC language, and DARPA. This technological competition between two superpower nations had some negative sides to it, but the benefits that came from innovations in technology has surpassed the negative impact of the Cold War.


Origins of Superheroes

This week we had, Professor Chris Gavaler from Washington and Lee University speak to us about the origins of superheroes. The origins of superheroes is a fascinating topic since American comic books and superheroes were essential to my early childhood development. The comic books I read were all about beings who had super abilities fighting villains, which I believe, subconsciously, embed a sense of duty to do social good in me. Frankly, serving the community with social good wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do, in my childish and naïve mind I thought I could develop superpowers within the boundaries of today’s science.

Professor Chris Gavaler’s book “Origins of Superheroes,” intertwined the ideas of eugenics, evolution, sports, and superheroes. Similar to the comic books I read during my childhood, in his book the superheroes he talks about are super beings who are good people that were providing outside justice for the society against villains. These super beings were thought to have very desirable traits and that these traits were only inheritable. This les to eugenics in the United States in the early 20th century.  Eugenics in the United States was led by wealthy Caucasians who believed that genetic quality of the human population would improve if they stopped reproduction of non-white children. People who led the eugenics in the United States believed white genes were superior and did not like the idea of diluting the white desired characteristics. The main idea that was widely accepted was that a superhuman would be created after generations of selective breeding. People believed that if they create superhuman, it will end all social problems like crime, poverty, epidemics, etc… idea of eugenics was more popularized in Nazi Germany when Hitler believed in the same ideology of superior Aryan race. Hitler wanted to make Europe with superior Aryan genes and thought eugenics would produce a pure Caucasian superhuman. Hitler believed that a new superhuman would bring greatness to Germany to the likes of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, however through eugenics and human testing led to deaths of millions of people.

In the lecture, Professor Chris Gavaler also mentions that in the superhero universe superheroes share the same trait and the root of all other superheroes could stem from the first superhero. However, the first superhero isn’t the origin of superheroes since there are many different factors such as, cultures, religion, and eugenics that came before the first superhero. We can conclude that superheroes came from different cultures and religions from all around the world creating its own unique superhero culture.

It is not surprising people want to become extraordinary. It is human nature to become better in all aspects of life and wants change within oneself. However, eugenics or any form of testing on humans or any living thing which can lead to harm should be avoided. Today, there are many breakthroughs, in the biotechnology industry and in the fields of artificial intelligence and genetic manipulation which has promising results that can improve human traits. We should look to always progress but at the cost of negatively affecting others.

Charles Darwin and Origin of Species

Janet Browne, from Harvard University, came to Colby this week to talk about Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species. Janet Browne in class discussed how her work is involved in studying about Darwin’s work especially about his works on different species. Her book “Origin of Species,” informed me, in depth, about Darwin’s early childhood, early works, and how his early works have been the root for all his later studies done about his thesis.

A fascinating fact I learned about Darwin was that he had a very religious background. I thought Darwin would be a scientist who would have questioned the widely accepted religious idea that God created Earth and all living things. In the book, “Origins of Species” it mainly focuses on Victorian science, which has a strong relationship with religion and science which had a strong influence on Darwin’s career.

According to Janet Browne, Darwin merged theology and natural science. One of the most significant decision by Darwin for his career and his life was going on the Beagle Voyage. Darwin could not have achieved any of his life’s work if he had not boarded on the Beagle Voyage. From Browne, it sounded as if Darwin was too comfortable with his surroundings at the time and he couldn’t explore the anything outside his realm is he did not leave England. Darwin was also not fond of using humans in his experiment. He decided to look more into the geology. He looked at volcanoes erupting, earthquakes, and shapes of coral reefs which were instrumental in confirming his later studies. He took all these notes about his observations of different animals, plant, and geology. Darwin also encountered Fuegians in his voyage. The captain of the voyage, as well as Darwin himself, thought the Fuegians were savages and thought Christianity was a way to civilize them. Darwin noticed that the indigenous Fuegians and the Europeanized Fuegians were vastly different. Darwin in cases of this could be seen as a racist by many. Darwin later went to the Galapagos and noticed different organisms looked so similar to each other. Darwin categorized these animals as different varieties, however, he later realized that the reason why the animals were different was that of adaptation evolution these animals went through. After coming back from Britain, Darwin thought hard about his research he linked geology and biology. He also attempted to visualize the evolutionary change.

I believe that following your passion and having a wide perspective on any matter is extremely important. Darwin was very enclosed to his specific community in England; he couldn’t have done his research on evolution if he didn’t travel to other parts of the world and observed all the different geological and animal subjects. If Darwin did stay in England, he might have been a priest which his parents wanted him to be. Without Darwin’s work, most people today will not know that natural selection was what made evolution possible and still believe that God created new species. It is indisputable that Darwin eliminated god from science which made it possible for scientific explanations for all natural phenomena and created an intellectual and religious revolution.

Origins of Southeast Asian National Identity

Professor Arnout Van der Meer came to our class to speak to us today about the Indonesian nationalism. Van der Meer talked about how the Southeast Asian countries are overlooked but considers these countries such as for as Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Borneo, and etc…as one of the most diverse and crucial areas for trade, religion, and culture. Various religions, cultures, technology, and commodities from the West, the Middle East, and East Asia came to all one place which was located in the countries that were bordering the Java Sea. Professor Van der Meer mentions how colonialism was the start of how it made the Southeast Asian region a multi-cultural hub.

In the lecture, Professor Arnout Van der Meer talks about the national identity of Indonesia from colonialism. He talks about Soemarsono, as an instrumental figure in looking at Indonesian identity. He famously said that lighting the oil lamp represents Indonesia. Wick is like our Buddhist Heritage. Lamp oil is like Islam and Islamic modernism. The lampshade is like Dutch Wester culture (Science & Technology). He says we need to one last thing which is too light the oil lamp which represents regaining Indonesian national identity. Soemarsono was the one who sparked the socio-political emancipation of Javanese. Soemarsono’s revolt overhauled the system of cultural hegemony. This sociological revolution can be considered the origins of national awakening in Indonesia.

Personally, a fascinating part of the lecture was Soemarsono’s biography and how he came to embody his own metaphor. He helped spark the national awakening in Indonesia. He also comes from a well-respected, wealthy, and well-educated family. He was from an aristocratic family of the Javanese. He is also a practicing Muslim. Soemarsono surprisingly had a western education, and he was one of four Indonesians to go to a foreign international school of high privilege. Soemarsono grew up with foreign and Dutch students. Soemarsono’s political ideology for Indonesian national identity is the Asian Modernity, which is to maintain own traditions rooted in Hindu-Buddhist past meanwhile, adopting western science and technology. The second was to have Islamic morality which is a proper form of behavior such as, no alcohol, opium, and gambling. Finally, he believed in democracy and equality and a modern form of government. Later on, he ended up having a civil service career in Batavia, Indonesia.

Professor Arnout Van der Meer mentions that “The Onion Theory, ” can explain for the national identity and culture of Indonesia. The Onion theory states that layers of cultural identity can be stripped away to pinpoint the core and the root of the national identity of the indigenous people, however, this theory doesn’t account for changes in time. Professor Arnout Van der Meer, again, mentions that the Dutch colonialism and the religion of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism all created layers of that mixed through the Indonesian national identity.

The view of having new layers of culture to make it your own culture is indeed a plausible theory. However, the theory must consider changes in tim., There will always be a root for every national identity, and every nation should have the right to protect their core national identity. However, through time and history, new layers of culture and religion will be added on and with changes in time these new layers of culture and religion will be added to the root of the national identity and other cultures that don’t fit with the core national identity will be discarded.

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