Tag: origins (page 2 of 5)

Innovation and Possibilities

“Possibilities” has been a constant theme in our previous lecture series as many guests categorized it as a source of the origins of their research objects. This week, Professor Vittorio Loreto from Sapienza University of Rome came to Colby to give a talk on the origins of innovation and novelties, in which he provided new insights on the meaning of possibilities through his study on the “adjacent possible.”

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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.


The Point of Popularity

This past week, Chris Gavaler came to speak with us about the origins of superheroes. While we spoke at great length, both during and after class, my response to his ideas on transgression and the literary tradition of eugenics in Superheros will be intertwined with my final essay. As for this post, I want to address his idea of a ‘point of popularity’ in relation to my ongoing development of the tree of origins.


If you have read any of my previous posts (you most likely haven’t), you may notice my fascination with the organization of origins. Specifically, I believe that each origin is a node on a hierarchical tree of all origins. The parent origin is unknown to us, but we can see how the origin of American short fiction traces to the origin of fiction writing which traces back to the written tradition of literature etc. etc. Gavaler mentioned something new to this theory: perception of origins construed by popularity. His theory is that we, as consumers and the uninformed, see Superman as his own entity. In reality, the origins of Superman is actually the summations of previous fictional characters, eugenics, and American diction circa 1938. We, as the uninformed consumer, do not notice the cultural influence, and instead focus on the cultural significance — we forget everything that led to this point.


I argue that this bottleneck of sorts fits into my hierarchical model quite well, and that we have a rather limited view of the tree of origins. For example, we are so struck by the invention of computers that we fail to recognize its predecessor: Alan Turing’s Bombe machine. Of course, with the creation of ‘The Imitation Game’ we ALL know that story. But what about the distant predecessor of computers? We often forget the importance of Ada Lovelace and diagram for the computation of Bernoulli numbers. Lovelace is credited by some to be the original ‘computer programmer’, but her work is often — dare I say, rightfully — overlooked, because… well… computers! That is to say, we — and I repeat –, as the uninformed consumer, are only aware of an impactful origin as long as it’s popular. When the next great thing rolls around, we are quick to move on. Granted, we all see the name Nintendo and think of the N64; but can we name all the summands that led to the creation of the SNES… probably not.


Of course this has a great impact on the public perception of the term ‘original’. In previous posts, I have noted that the ‘original’ is actually only the first origin — the thing which has been around since the beginning. Yet, if we lose sight of the influential factors of an origin, as Gavaler argued, we understand that lone origin to be the original. Take a moment to look at a term in pop culture: ‘OG’ or ‘original gangster’. Often times, OG refers to Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., but that’s because society has largely moved past Lucky Luciano and Bugs Moran.


If you’re looking for a grand conclusion, which I’m sure you are, take away this: nothing (except one thing) is the true original. Everything we interact with every second of every day, is a summation of predecessors and past influencers. Everything (except one thing) is an iteration.

The complexity of nationality

As a student growing up in East Asia, other regions in this continent always seem both mysterious and somehow connected to me. Therefore, it was a great pleasure to have Prof. Arnout van der Meer from the history department to come to our class and talk about the origins and history of national identity in Southeast Asia. Particularly, I found his onion model and his analysis on the relationship between world history and regional history very inspiring, both of which reflect the complexity of the origins of national identity.

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The origins of “the origins”

Last week, Prof. Janet Browne from the Harvard University came to Colby to attend the seminar and give a lecture on the origins of Darwin’s origins of the species theory. While her talk mainly provided a bibliographical introduction of Darwin and his findings, I found the seminar discussion very inspiring for me to think about the word “origins” from different perspectives.

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