Category: September 26 (page 1 of 4)

The Origin of an Environmental Solution: Jen Wilcox

At the beginning of the semester, Jen Wilcox visited both the STS senior seminar and the afternoon origins seminar (I believe) as well to discuss her research on carbon capture and reliable storage methods. Although she was not one of the evening seminar presenters, she spent our class discussing the origin of the problem increasing carbon emission levels have presented our society with today, and how carbon capture and dilution can be a potential solution.

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Origin and Evolution Earth


Basic reasons why our planet earth was habitable, presence of liquid water, habitable climate and complex life, and other planets are not, were the main things I knew about earth and other planets. Questions that lingers my mind is that were we lucky that the conditions for life existed in our planet or we are special to some extend that only we have these conditions and do we really have these conditions on earth only or could there be other places where these conditions are but only that we have not found them? The Yale professor David Bercovic, shaded more light on the origin and evolution of the earth to where we are now.

Professor Bercovic introduced us to the Big Bang theory. This theory states that the universe was one thing, expanded and eventually exploded. The singularity was in form of hot dense plasma, which had free electrons. As time passed on, the universe cooled enough to form helium. From the heat, helium formed bigger elements that were needed for complex life.  He shared with us the evidence of the Big Bang. Gallactic “Red Shift”, by Hubble Expansion, that the other galaxies are expanding away from each other. Cosmic microwave background as well remains to be evidence that Big Bang happened. After exploding, clouds collapsed to form stars. Stars as well differ in size, how much light it produced and its life.  Big stars burn faster, produced more light and last for a shorter period while the smaller ones burn slowly, emit less light and last longer. Through this burning of stars is when elements necessary for life were formed. Elements heavier than iron like uranium need external energy to form. Presence of heavy elements which entails everything that we need in life were formed because of the big bang.

This lecture made me think about my religious background about creation. In the Book of Genesis, we are told of God spending six days creating the earth and all that was in it. His words of mouth, creating things like his famous one “let there be light”, which happened and him molding Adam from soil then creating Eve from Adam’s rib while asleep, have been what I believed based on my religion since I was a child. I have never had opportunity to question it. When I think about it now, I ask myself where did he get the soil to create the earth and also how real can it be that he created Adam using soil.  However, I have not seen evidence of God’s universe creation as we have seen evidence from Big Bang theory. Whether or not Genesis way or the Big Bang way was where we have our planet, both still holds a lot that we would like to know. In both cases, we can agree that it is still a mystery that we only have habitable earth and we do not know for certain where all this started.

I might not have one theory that I can cling on now, but I think it was great to have professor Bercovic that I get diverse possible explanations to the origin and the evolution of the earth.

It’s what you don’t know you don’t know

As a die-hard humanities academic, I have always strayed away from the complexities and conundrums of physical science. However, the idea of the Big Bang, and the origin of the universe has always fascinated me. Having never understood the true theory beyond an explanation a couple sentences long and what I can infer from the title of the theory. As such, this lecture was a fascinating and invigorating ride. I found myself simultaneously understanding the topic more deeply than I ever had, but also having more questions that I never had even thought to wonder about. This led to a simultaneously satisfying, but frustrating experience of learning a great deal, while also becoming aware of how much I don’t understand. As I have found with many of these lectures, I leave with more questions than when I arrive. Having known very little about the origin of anything from the universe to Italian Poetry or Novel Writing, I am repeatedly exposed to a new corner of the world which I know little to nothing about. In the brief time, it is impossible to learn the origins of anything to a satisfactory level. However, opening up these corners of the world, and shedding a bit of light on them makes me more curious, and I find myself wondering about the finer points of origins often. Can we prove the big bang? If we can prove that it happened, but we can’t prove how or why, then is this finding really significant? Does investigating this idea bring us more answers or will it lead to more questions, as the brief lecture on it has for me? How is is possible to define the first novel except by the definition used at the time when it was written? Is it possible to define the boundaries between poetry and music, or does doing so pigeon-hole a broad art form into a claustrophobically tight academic category? I found that I was most perplexed by the idea of what happened before the big bang. I was drawn in by the mirrored image of the big bang, with its inverse expanding before the small blip in time that was labeled the big bang. The concept that on the other side of this origin was a vast and large universe than for reasons that are not yet understood contracted into a small mass and then began to expand again. It demonstrated to me the sheer vastness of the universe, both in time and space, and how small our planet is in comparison with the remainder of the universe. If we are so small in the map of space and time, then how could we possibly understand our true origins. If we are just a small dot for a short period on the map of time and space, then how could we even begin to understand the reasons that the universe acts the way that it does? Understanding the possibility of the origins of the universe makes believing the possibilities that are proposed exponentially more difficult.

The Earth Amongst Others.

The Big Bang produced a spectacle, the universe was birthed and inside it contained a marvel of complex systems. Astronomers have different theories on the origin of our solar system.  David Berovici focused more on the Nebula theory, which believes that the solar system was formed from a cloud of gases. The cloud whirled, cooled and condensed. There was a gravitational attraction within the materials,which caused the particles to compact. Particles broke off and collided with larger chunks which cooled and solidified to form planets. Our earth was one of the planets.

The Earth has proved to be the sole planet  to have conditions for a habitable world.  Endless research and missions to other planets are ongoing to find a planet with similar characteristics to Earth. Berovici’s plate tectonics research continues to affirm how unique the Earth is.  All solar systems are cooling and condensing but only Earth’s continental crust floats on underlying hot molten weaker mantle rocks resulting in plate formation.  Professor Berovici illustrated video comparisons of  the fracturing between Earth, Mars and Venus.  His visual evidence of the convectional currents in the asthenosphere led to the fracturing of the Earth’s crust and never ‘healed’ unlike other planets whose scars healed themselves overtime was thrilling.

Berovici’s research elaborates on further unique characteristics of Earth through explanation about the formation of boundaries on its crust. His research focuses on the movements of the Earth through extension, Compressional boundaries and transform faults.  His research connects to the origins of fold mountains, block mountains, fault steps, the Rift Valley, volcanoes, plateaus and earthquakes.  In the wake of several disasters resulting chaos, such research of original Earth studies can give rise to long-term solutions on how to cope with the ever-changing Earth.  Hypothesis and theories resulting from plate tectonic research may explain the shaking crust resulting to landslides and mudslides like the recent occurrence in Sierra Leone.  This is a subject that the public should be more invested in, understand the planet to maximize the best it has to offer and to minimize potential disaster sparking off from its natural movements.

History has played a major role to progress and perfect such research. Histoigraphical reports have ensured a continued flow of findings, hypothesis and theories from past centuries and generations. Even though Berovici has coined his own research question, he is basing all his facts from the early pioneers of the field. The History of failed sciences has also driven such astronomical studies to perfection. In an effort to avoid past mistakes, modern scientists are engaging in peer review activities hence perfecting their findings.



The Scientific Method

After our lecture with  Bercovici I began to think about who decides what is a fact versus what is a theory. While years of study and education gives an individual a better ability to speak on a subject with authority, there is no one true test in what differentiates a theory from fact.

At a young age society is taught about science and the scientific method, an attempt to test your hypothesis. The scientific method itself contains six main steps. The first step of the scientific method is to propose or as a question. Simply it requires someone to be curious about a concept which they do not understand. The second step is to conduct background research in attempt to make sense of something. In other words, trying to make order out of something which an individual may view as chaotic. Thirdly it to hypothesis. This idea of an hypothesis is the early grounds of a theory. It asks that one predicts what they believe might be the outcome of the experiment in which they will perform. The next step of the scientific method is record data regarding your hypothesis and then to later analyze the data. While this is something can be done in many cases, there are certain aspects in which it cannot be applied to. For example, when looking at the very very first moments of life, we have not been able to collect data from the very first moments and therefore we cannot analyze them. As a result there is still a lot for us as a society to learn about our own universe. The final step of the method is to draw a conclusion based on your findings. It is the belief that such a conclusion will help you to either support and reject your hypothesis. However, this is an impossible task because hypothesizes are constantly changing. Which leads me to my next point.

In a world where technology is constantly changing as well as beliefs it is hard to say for certain what the concrete facts of life are. For example when looking back in history we as a society one believed that the earth was the center of our universe. Obviously we no longer believe that because our culture and lifestyle no longer revolves around the bible and we as a people are no longer unitedly practice the teachings of the Pope and The Vatican. Galileo, for example, was put under house arrest and forced to recant his findings because they conflicted with the teachings of the Pope. It was not until after Galileo’s death that society began to accept his findings as the truth. When looking at this scenario it causes a sense of uncertainty. If one moment Galileo was wrong but the next moment he was right, how can we ever know for sure what to believe? The answer is that there will never be one hard truth. We as a people have evolved from a very simple lifestyle and we will continue to evolve. We will come to a point in which we are more sure in our findings both scientifically and culturally, however, there will always remain an underlying sense of uncertainty in life’s largest questions.

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