The Zooniverse

The two projects I participated in were studying explosions on the sun in the solar storm watch and analyzing real life cancer data using cell slider. I really enjoyed the concepts of the projects. I liked analyzing the cancer data It made me feel involved in something bigger than myself. I was involved in eradicating the dreadful disease once and for all. It is true that some may find this project very minimal and unnecessary but by looking at these slides we improve efficiency and leave more time for analysis.  I consider this a very useful and important venture. It may even spark curiosity among the users who then delve further into the topic of cancer. They may even wish to become more involved and get an education in the field. The bigger picture gives a sense of fulfillment and being a part of something extraordinary. The littlest things are sometimes the most important and by taking the time to look at the cells, it saves a chunk of time that the scientists can devote to figuring out a cure.

In the solar storm watch project was much more interactive than the cancer analysis. There was a training process the you had to go through that taught you about all the controls and what exactly you were looking for. Identifying what was considered a solar storm was not easy as the surface of the sun is very active. You also had to pinpoint the time when the storm started or was first seen. You are told that many people look at the same videos and each person’s data is analyzed to get the most accurate data possible. This was more complex than the cancer project as everything looked so similar, especially in the black and white videos. I felt more pressure when doing this project as I was never completely sure that I was identifying and classifying objects accurately.

From the two projects it can be seen that different projects require different degrees of participation and they have different degrees of difficulties and complexities. There are projects available for many interests and each one allows you to gain new knowledge on the topic. You get a small glimpse of what scientists and researchers do and I believe these projects are meant to excite the users, leading them  to do their own research on the topic and gain knowledge. I believe this site would be very useful in classrooms, to expose students to the different fields that exists in science. This site promotes the culture of ‘do-it-yourself’ science that is emerging in society today and I believe this should be encouraged. Many hands make light work and this approach can lead to new discoveries faster.

Man In Space.

In Disney’s man in space it talk about the technology of Rockets. I believe that was made to help the masses understand appreciate what the scientists were trying to do and how they were going to achieve it. The main theme that arose was that of exploring the unknown worlds outside of our own and how we were to achieve that. My favorite part of the film was when they showed how rocket technology had been used many times in the past in cars, trains and even bicycles. On that small scale however the results were not that great. All the examples worked on the principal of newton’s third law. Ironically although the film was about America’s flight in space, most of the technology that was being used was formulated by German scientists, because they had the technology and blue prints. Apart from that, i really liked all the visuals as well as cartoons they used to explain how flight into space would be made possible. I think this gave people a better understanding of what was going on so that they would more likely support the project.

Science Fiction and Society

The three stories that I have looked at are The Veldt (1950), The Nine Billion Names of God (1953) and The Gernsback Continuum (1981). All of these look at various science fiction scenarios which speak a lot about what society was expected to become. It does serve as a catalyst, bringing to the forefront many popular beliefs of those time periods. In the Veldt the George and Lydia’s house was fully automated. One did not have to raise a finger. Meals were prepare and presented to you. You didn’t even have to tie your shoes for yourself. They were happy to provide all this for their Children including a Nursery that worked via the power of imagination or thought. At first it was seen as an ideal addition to the house, for the children’s’ entertainment but it soon became a problem. This automated life was slowly backfiring on the family as the basic morals and values that were once taught and came like second nature were completely absent from their children’s lives. The children were spoilt and even worse they were addicted to this virtual reality. When it was threatened to be taken away from them they were very distraught, and their thoughts became more violent to the point where the Nursery itself began to attack the threat which were the parents. Intelligent technology always has some sort of power and always has some sort of disadvantage or consequence. The house was being threatened by the parents and the children, through their own thoughts, helped the house and the Nursery defend itself in a very gruesome and thought-provoking way. In the 50’s there was this thought that everything would be automated but that also gave rise to thought of machinery rising against humanity in the process. Is technological advancement really worth losing your life?

In The Nine Billion Names of God, you see the popular topics of science and religion emerge. There is a long-standing belief that science and religion are at opposite ends of the spectrum and cannot mix. Science tries to disprove religion and hence religious bodies protect themselves or shield themselves from the wrath of science and technology. In this story, however, the Tibetan monks call upon the use of a computer, the same technology that is usually cast away, to aid them in accomplishing God’s work. This here shows how Science and technology and Religion can stand side by side. It can be advantageous and used to achieve a greater purpose. It doesn’t always have to end badly for Society. The end of the story seems to show the sky going black but according to the monk, the result  would be nothing as trivial as the end of the world.

In the Gernsback Continuum it seems to me that this shows how the future did not develop as was imagined back in the 30’s and 50’s. There were cars and highways and innovation but society was not is a post modern society filed with chrome and geometric structures. It seemed that all the thoughts that were put on paper in America manifested itself into the minds of some of the British and other people around the world. They believed this world did exist and that it was just hiding in between the normal world that we know. Sometimes the two worlds crossed paths almost like a glitch in some sort of time continuum and people saw the flying machines and chrome structures that should have been in a future that never was. People seem to be blind to this alternate universe due to filling their brain with useless trivial things such as pron and television. When the protagonists of the story sees this alternate universe emerge he is frightened and does not accept it. He would much rather live in the imperfect world that he knows and immerse himself in the mundane trivialities of television etc. This epitomizes the popular view that it is better that the future of the 30’s and 50’s didn’t exist. Living in a world where everything was clean and pristine and where everything ran perfectly could be daunting. Imperfections are comforting since no human being is actually perfect.

Thoughts From a Time Gone by.

When looking at the thoughts of people from the 1930s, about what the future would be like, many themes seemed to stand out. One was that of robots and mechanization or automation. People believed that life would be much more productive in the future as well as fast-paced with many processes not needing humans anymore.  The future was to bring about drastic changes in the realm of technology. While pondering this train of thought, some concerns also seemed to arise. This is seen in the post “Will humanity annihilate itself.” With the advancements that was supposedly going to happen, there were people who worried about its implications. When people play with fire they are bound to get burned. They were afraid of robots or machines turning against their creators and they were afraid of the theoretical aftermath of radioactive mishaps.  All these things were reasonable concerns and some have panned out. For example, look at the mishap at Fukushima in Japan after the earthquake. Nuclear energy can have serious effects on our planet. Also the burning of fossil fuels at an exponential rate, as well as all the other pollutants entering the atmosphere and contributing to Global Warming. The fears that people had about the future are proving to be real concerns. We may well lead to our own annihilation.

On a more positive note, they seemed to believe that communication would make the world smaller. This thought was also very accurate in sense. They talked of the “Super Highway of Tomorrow,” as well as, “The real picturephone,” and the ” Radio-newspaper receiver for home use.” All of these are found in our world today, and without them I dare say we would be lost. Through the internet and various programs such as Skype and Oovoo the picture phone is as real as can be. You can both see and hear the person you are conversing with. This has formed much closer bonds with societies and countries. Imagine today it is possible to hold a meeting with clients in China instantaneously, as if they were in the same room as you. Our transport networks today span for thousand s of miles connecting various places. The super highways that were thought about in the 30’s are seen nearly everywhere today, making traveling to various places easy and direct.

It seems that the purpose of the future was to break barriers and reach further than was thought possible. The future, due to the rapid rate of innovation that occurred in the 30’s and beyond, should have been transformed into an extra terrestrial place. It should have been different. It was to be a place that people of the 30s would have discoverd and been awestruck by. It was the culture of invention and discovery during that time period that lead to the genesis all these thoughts.

Past Expectations in the Present World.

The first futuristic invention that caught my eye was the “push button farm of the year 2000.” In 1958 it was believed that farms could be operated by the push of a button in a mere 42 years. It was a very interesting assumption and too a large extent I believe that it did become a reality in some sort. This was a foresight of mechanization. Today farms are basically fully automated. There are devices that can milk cows automatically and machines that can harvest crops with practically no man power needed. They may just need guidance by a human. In these persons’ thoughts, there was a foreshadowing of the mechanization that was to take place in society. It was even thought that one day humans would be able to control the weather. Though this has not blossomed into total control we can manipulate the weather in a way through seeding the atmosphere. These is a process whereby silver iodide is added to atmosphere in order to affect a cloud’s development to make it rain. This is only successful to the extent that there is some water vapor in the atmosphere already. Even this small advancement shows that the assumptions of what our present time would have been like were not that far off.

The second assumption that caught my eye was “Marriage 100 years from now;” with the ‘now’ referring to 1933. In essence it seemed people believed that in the future everything would be down to a science. People’s personalities and lives would be analyzed and through this analysis, they would receive the perfect match and perfect partner. They would get married to ‘Mr. Right.’ This to me is very funny as this assumption has come to pass today. The description, to me, basically describes all modern dating sites, especially the most popular ones of ‘E-Harmony’ and ‘’. On these sites you have to answer, hopefully truthfully, questions about yourself and livelihood and what you expect from your partner. After this you get personally tailored matches just for you based on the analysis of the profile you put forward. It essentially finds you the perfect match. The expansion of the internet is responsible for the emergence of dating sites as a way to take the stress out of dating. It made finding a love life simpler since you already knew how much you have in common. Many times people end up marrying people they meet on these sites and hence it fits the past assumption of future marriage pretty well.

Some questions to ponder.

Based on dream machines:

If a person can drive a car with just basic understanding of its operations why was the early computer considered to be too complex for the layman? The layman does not know the specific engineering of a car and why it is built the way it is, yet they still have the capacity to use one. Why then was it thought that computers were out of reach for the layman?

Just like how scientists are held in high esteem, did the computer programmers or creators feel like they had earned that type of position? Not everyone can use the Hadron Collider in Switzerland so, with this train of thought, should everyone have been allowed to use a computer?

Nelson feared that at worst the computer would lock us in and at best, it would further individualistic traditions and create the highest ideals. It is evident by looking at today’s society that both has happened. If his theory was taken seriously when first published would the popular or preferred uses of the computer be different? Would it be solely educational and not seen as a novelty?


The Missing Link?

After reading a few of the articles about chimpanzees being used as research specimens I have a number of thoughts. Firstly, Project Nim Stands out significantly in mind.  The fact that researchers tried to prove that a chimpanzee could obtain a language is quite an astounding venture.  Many people had already denied this premise, stating that only human beings had the ability to develop a language. The fact that Nim did in his own way, using American Sign Language, speak, is evidence that primates are truly the closet living things to humans.  Maybe it is impossible for a primate to develop impeccable syntax, but the fact that Nim knew how to sign over 100 words and make some sort of sentence is proof of their capacity and ability.

If a human is immersed in a particular environment from birth or an early age, they become assimilated into this environment.  There are stories of children who, due to certain circumstances, were abandoned and raised by animals. (see link below) They lived like the animals and had developed no sort of language. Where do these ‘feral’ children fit in the bigger picture. It is said that language is the defining characteristic, that sets humans apart from animals. If this is so, then shouldn’t the feral child just be considered an animal? Shouldn’t a chimpanzee who can actually form a sentence and speak its needs be regarded as a human? As more research is done, it merely blurs the line between the human world and the animal kingdom and this is unsettling to many, even scientists. I guess this just epitomizes the saying “ignorance is bliss.”