Tag: science

Science and Politics

Soviet Union and the West/

History of science

A day passes not here at Colby before I can see people acting superior to others because they are taking a number of science classes per semester, having a number of science labs where they will have to write a report each week on some hardcore science class. You are taking those five science classes, I am taking four social science classes so who is better that the other one? Do we need one without the other? These are the questions that I ask myself while trespassing the Colby’s campus every day. One field can’t be important without the other and all fields needs to be embraced.

This week we had Professor Elena Aronova come to Colby to speak about the history of science in the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War. She talked about emphasize of science in the East and the West as they try to clinch the lead in scientific revolution and supremacy. Neither the Soviet nor the United States would want to be seen as the lesser one in Science. The Society had communist Academy which was Marxist research and study. By the mid-twenties, the Communist Academy was transformed into the Scientific-methodological center. Later the same institute petition for an establishment of the Institute for History of Science. This was in line of fostering the science culture in the East. The successful testing of hydrogen bomb gained more prestige. This was in some way showed some level of technological advancements in the east.

Professor Elena said that the scientific revolution started around the 17th century. She corroborated what we had been talking about origin that most of the things that we might be looking at is more of like an advancement from what has been there before. Professor Elena considered the Darwinian Theory as not really progress but she call it change. She thinks that the effects of the Second World War, Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never be forgotten in our history where thousands of people died from than Bomb attack.

She drew our attention to the scientific revolution and the political evolution that came with this. Each country would want to have power by being technologically advanced by employing a lot of sciences to be seen as advanced. From the scientific supremacy that the two regions wanted to be seen as one which was a head, I was reflecting in the need of people with specific skills in the world today. Countries have different policies on immigrants depending on the kind of skills that the country needs. I was asked the professor Aronova in class if she thought we are still in that state of trying to see who has advanced a lot from the scientific world now between the East and the West. I was thinking of varying amount of time international students taking different courses get to practice here in the US after graduation. The students who graduated from the STEM subjects gets around three years to practice in the stem field, which is mostly Science and computer science and Math which none-stem, international students only have one year to practice what they have learnt. This discrepancy then I think is still the need to advance the country in the scientific field that makes countries to have different policies to meet their needs.

This was an interesting topic to end the lecture series of the year. It has been great getting faculty from different field to come talk to us.


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.


Abbreviations of Modern Science

A few words of Aaron Hanlon surrounding the origin of novels really stuck with me. The first being that early 17th century novels made a significant effort to simplify names and plots. Instead of “Hunt for the Red October”, they wrote “David Simple, the Adventures of, in Search of a Real friend. They connected with the reader, yet were didactic in nature. They taught, not through sophomoric monologues, but through an overwhelming sense of realism and great attention to the particulars. They created a discerning reader, and, above all, they produced rational expectations for rational thought. As Hanlon argued, they led to observational science linked to previous contextual understanding. In a ways, Hanlon argued, novelist helped shape the face of modern science.

Now, I care to argue that, through the birth of social media and ‘listicles’, society will begin to trend science towards the abbreviated and summarized. With forums and chats littered with acronyms like ‘rtfm’(read the friggin manual), ‘inb4’(before the obvious…), and ‘tldr’(too long didn’t read), previous research will be supplanted by ‘see above’ and ongoing research will gravitate to concise / abbreviated diction. Do note: I do not mean to say the modern science will deviate to improper, expedited methods abandoning due diligence. I DO mean to say I believe that the literature of modern science will follow the trends towards truncated and condensed writing — often referred to in academia as concise and controlled diction.

Twitter, limited to 140 character blurbs, is currently the foremost engine of contextualized observations. Daily, millions of individuals observe their surroundings and publish their findings for all to comment and react to — almost a peer review of twisted sorts. Facebook, with slightly larger posts, releases mass amounts of social and personal commentary into the public sphere for general consumption and scrutiny, often with abbreviated ‘Internet speak’. Even the diction we use in these posts have been reformed by this ‘literary revolution’, and words like ‘google’ have entered our dictionaries.

Will this inspire a new format for modern literature? I sure hope not. Will this impact how we perceive literature? The seems more likely. I wouldn’t argue that our attentions spans are on the chopping block, but it seems likely that our notions of a ‘long’ or ‘dense’ article may be shifting. Even in my own experiences in computer science, ‘man pages’ (terminal based plain-text documents explaining a command’s functionality in exhaustive detail and length) have been pushed aside by the now trendy ‘tutorials’. While, yes this does raise questions about work ethics in modern developers (myself included), I notice a clear shift away from all-encompassing bodies of knowledge, and towards easily digestible tid-bits of critical information.

That said, similar to Aaron’s assessment of how observational science marked by discerning observations of the particular impacted and informed 17th century literature, I argue that laconic diction in 21st century science may validate and promote our abbreviated communications. Call it impatience, but we seek a healthy serving of pertinent, applicable information without all the side-fixings; and modern science will soon follow suit.