Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Final Self Evaluation

I have written 10 (or 11) blog posts since the last evaluation period.  I have written 2 every week.  I didn’t know that the purpose of the video was to have us speak in front of the camera so I asked Casey from the ORC to help me create that post.  I posted 26 comments on other posts.  My goal for this period was to write a little riskier posts to try to get conversations going.  It seemed that I was a little late on trying this because I think that people got sick of commenting by the end of the semester.  It was still a good learning experience to put my opinion out to the public.  The religion one is a very controversial topic and I get the feeling that most of the people in our class don’t believe in anything at all so it was scary to put my beliefs on the line.  I also had the writer of Dean’s Corner post on my blog!! I know that many others had many outside people posting on their blogs but I’m glad I got at least one outsider to find my post. 

This was a good experience.  I think we should’ve started reading the Don’t Be Such a Scientist earlier in the semester instead of some of the less useful readings that we did.  I don’t like the writer because he has a little bit of an annoying style of writing but overall I think we can learn a lot from the book. 

This class has probably been one of the most frustrating classes that I have taken so far but I hope that it’ll turn out to be a good “learning experience”.  Although I don’t think I will ever blog about science, I might do it for my personal use.  I’m glad I’ve learned what a blog is and how to set one up.  Goodbye blog

So long for now...

This blog was originally created to talk about the brain and happiness.  It kinda was hard to find exactly what I was looking for and envisioning so it ended up turning to a lot more health related topics because those are so abundant. I did like researching several of the topics that I wrote about because they were fun to read about.  I don’t think it was fun enough to do it without having to for a grade though.  So the bioterrorism was my last topic related post on this blog.

What I learned from this class:
1)    What a blog is
2)    What they are sometimes used for
3)    That people can make a living in the blog world (for news stations etc)
4)    That I definitely chose the right career path as an engineer (not in communication or even a scientist because I would hate to do this as a career)
5)    That communication is hard

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bioterrorism... how safe are we?

Bin Laden is dead.  Many worry about what is next.  Could there be an attack planned against the US?  If so, what is the target?  What will be the means?

24 is my all time favorite show.  Out of the 8 seasons, 2 of them focus on bio weapon attacks.  Maybe I’m brainwashed but I think this is something that is a very real threat. 

What is bioterrorism and what are bioweapons?  Bioterrorism is the deliberate release of a virus, bacteria or other agents that cause illness or death.  Many of these microorganisms can be found in nature and then are genetically manipulated so that they are more resistant to medicines, spread easier and faster, or worsen the symptoms.

The main advantage of bioweapons is that the terrorist will most likely not be able to be traced back to the attack.  People will be infected and not show symptoms for several hours or days, making it nearly impossible to determine where the bioagents were released.

There are several ways to release the bioweapons to the public.  Artilleries, missiles, and bombs can be launched that have the agents in them.  The problem with these devices is that almost all the agents are destroyed in the blast leaving only about 5-10% alive and capable of spreading disease.  Another way is by aerosols.  The agent is breathed in and the infection begins in the lungs.  The use of the water system is another way.  This is difficult because of all the precautions that are taken by the EPA and water agencies to prevent this.  The agent needs to be delivered into the water supply after the water treatment.  There also needs to be a large amount in order to be effective at all.  Food has also been used.  There was a salmonella attack in Oregon in 1984 that killed 751 people. 

Many of these deadly viruses can be treated with antibiotics and other medications; the problem is that usually they go undetected and cause mass spread before they are noticed.  Federal agencies have been working on plans for years and the local governments and agencies are slowly following suit.  It is important that every hospital and medical facility have a plan for a bioterrorism attack.  As DNA technology becomes better and is easily accessible, we should expect that more bioterrorism attacks will be eminent in our country and around the world.

See Federation of American Scientists for more info

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kiss me, I'm stressed

A lot of times relationships are the first things that suffer when we get stressed.  We don’t make time to hang out with friends, call our mom, or tell our significant other that we love him/her.  It seems weird to me that we shut out the things that make us happy. 

What can we do to heal our stressed mind and heart?  There have been studies that suggest that kissing does a lot more than just show affection.  The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips are Telling Us is a book that was written to help explain what exactly kisses to for the mind, heart, and body.  This article gives an overview of some of the studies that Kirshenbaum, the writer of the book, uses. 

Kissing boosts levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.  The amount of oxytocin, the “love hormone” increases.  The release of this drug triggers attachment; whether it be between a couple or a mother and a child.

According to a psychologist Gordon Gallup of the University of Albany, associates that a subconscious sense of smell gives clues about the other person’s DNA or reproductive status.  Women are more attracted to men who have a very different genetic code immune system than their own.  This may be because potential children would have a higher level of genetic diversity, making them healthier and more likely to survive.  So while men use kissing as a means of gaining sexual favors, women kiss more as a mate-assessment device.

Men were found to initiate tongue contact.  One theory behind this is that men have trace amounts of testosterone in their saliva.  Over a period of months or years, the testosterone could raise the woman’s levels and potentially increase her libido. 

So kissing for humans is a little like a peacock showing its colors to the female.  Men show off their DNA and kissing skills and women determine whether he is a suitable mate.  Who knew that kissing had so much biological importance behind it?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Religion AND Science; Not Religion vs. Science

I ran across another article in Dean’s Corner that discussed science communication along the lines of the Flock of Dodos.  Since we have not discussed that movie much yet, or Randy Olson’s book in general, I don’t have a feel for what the classes’ thoughts are yet.  As for me, I think the evolution vs. creationism vs. intelligent design controversy comes largely from the lack of knowledge.  I know that we have discussed this before; the people that were in the Flock of Dodos movie were mostly extremely well educated so that doesn’t solve all problems.  In the movie when he was interviewing one of the ladies on the school board (in a harassing way in my opinion) he got people’s emotions going because he pointed out the fact that she didn’t know all the details or facts behind the debate.

In the article given by Dr. Toney, he shows his frustration that teachers won’t accept science when it conflicts with religion (with respect to evolution).  The comments are the interesting part.  I have gone to Catholic school for all 12 years of my pre-college education and many of the things that are said in the comments are nothing that I have ever heard before. 

The first comment was: “Christians view Genesis as a literal history of the earth and all its inhabitants. Then when schoolboards demand that students dump that belief to worship an idol (darwin), parents become upset.”

In response, another said, The bible also says that the world is flat. Is this something you want your children to learn as well? How about the part about slavery being okay? Or the part about stoning your children to death for disobedience?” 

A huge part of the religious community have no idea what they are talking about.  The world of religion obviously needs to be better at communicating science and their agreement with it.  Everywhere I looked online, (legit Catholic websites with reference to church doctrines and teachings) showed no hint of resistance to science.

BP Oil Spill: One-year anniversary

When we were assigned to choose our favorite blog in the first weeks of class, I chose Dean's Corner.  I occasionally looked at it if I ran out of ideas for my blogs but I just recently read the author’s profile again.  The author, Dr. Jeffrey H. Toney is the dean at the College of Natural, Applied and Heath Sciences at Kean University.  The next sentence says, “He is dedicated to strengthening public appreciation of the beauty and impact of science in our daily lives.”  Wow!! Little did I know this was what we were going to be focusing on this whole semester.  He has published articles in several newspapers (including the New York Times) and blog news sites.  I’m not sure if he does any public speaking but he is definitely good at writing his articles to make people interested.  In addition to trying to communicate science, he has 60 peer-reviewed scientific publications and holds six US patents.  He finds little tid-bits of science stories that are interesting and relatable.  No wonder his blog caught my eye even when I was untrained in looking for blogs.
Sputnik I
BP Oil Spill: 2010

He re-posted an article he wrote about the BP oil spill last summer (published in OpEdNews on June 29 2010).  He stated that we should use this oil spill like we used Sputnik I: to promote an explosion in science and mathematics education in the US.  It could also foster support for research and development of alternative fuels. 

Has this happened?  Personally, I don’t know.  I don’t have the time (or TV) to follow politics so I’m not sure what kind of policies are going circling in DC.  If anyone cares to read the article and tell me your thoughts about this I would be interested to hear what you think.  Were his observations and predictions correct or just wishful thinking?