Friday, August 14, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
This is a paper I wrote for my 12pm class Scientific Controversies. I made a grade of 16/20 on it.
February 26, 2009
Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions introduced to the history of science community a way of examining past scientific thought from a historical perspective. His ideas were so versatile that they have been used within other disciplines. Kuhn states that paradigms are the basic ideas of a discipline. They comprise the general knowledge known and accepted by the community as a whole.
A paradigm can be broad or narrow depending on the amount of information available. The paradigm gives the starting block from which science is practiced by assisting scientists to make useful and vital observations. It guides the research done by setting distinct rules to solve the “puzzle.” Kuhn calls these observations and researches the practice of “normal science.”
Normal science is the everyday activities of a scientist. It may include the data collected, observations, the application of theory to a system, or any other everyday procedures. When scientists encounter a situation or data that does not fit into the current paradigm, it is called an “anomaly.”
An anomaly is often unexpected and unwanted. When scientists encounter more than one anomaly or an anomaly that is repeated, a crisis happens. If a crisis should occur, scientists must reanalyze their paradigm. They often question whether the anomalies are just a glitch in the data or if they reveal something major for the discipline. The end result of a crisis is often the formation of a new paradigm that fits with the newly accrued data and the anomalies.
This new paradigm then replaces the old paradigm. Scientists never abandon an old paradigm unless they have a new paradigm to replace it. So the paradigm guides normal science. And if normal science finds one or more anomalies, there comes to pass a crisis. Should the crisis become so bad that it threatens the paradigm; a new paradigm is formed to replace the previous paradigm.
The rotation of new paradigms replacing old paradigms shows that science is progressing. Successful theories are based on paradigms and as these paradigms are replaced with new paradigms, the theories begin to change as well. The paradigms insure that the goal of science, to have as few missing pieces as possible, is retained. That is why theories of astronomy changed so much between the time of the Babylonians and Isaac Newton.
The Babylonians were onto something when they began to look at the celestial bodies and wonder how they worked or if there was a pattern to their movement. Around 1000 BCE the Babylonians conducted systematic observations of the heavenly bodies by noting their patterns of movement, position, and the number of heavenly bodies. By 300 BCE, the Babylonians created thousands of tables of accurate representations of planetary motions.
These tables were used by the Greek astronomers to philosophize about the planetary motion and structure of the Universe. The Greeks however found anomalies in the observations of the Babylonians. The planet Mars seemed to back track in its journey across the sky. This created a crisis with the Babylonian paradigm of celestial movement.
Aristotle, a 4th century BCE Greek philosopher, believed observation was the key to understanding motion on Earth and in the heavens. He was the first to put together a working model of planetary motion. He theorized that the Universe was single and eternal with a boundary beyond which nothing else existed. At the center of his model was the Earth. He believed the Earth was immobile and the planets orbited around the Earth.
His Universe consisted of heavenly bodies comprised of Aether with circular movement. These bodies where on crystalline spheres and any abnormality in movement could be explained by slippage due to nesting of the spheres. This system was inaccurate in predicting the movement of the heavenly bodies across the sky yet, philosophers clung to the paradigm for many centuries afterward.
Around 140 CE a new philosophy emerged. This philosophy was created by Ptolemy. Ptolemy yearned for a more accurate and complete system to describe the movement of the planets. He wished to accurately predict the positions of the celestial bodies and explain their irregular movements. His Universe, like that of Aristotle, was based on circular motion.
But unlike Aristotle, he believed the planets do not move on simple orbits. He comprised a model which was very complex but, accurate none the less.
These ideas were accepted and even merged with the ideas of Aristotle until during the 16th century; a problem with the calendar arose. The calendar in use was inaccurate and based on theories that were adequate at predicting planetary movement and position. But the calendar was still in need of more accurate data in order to accurately make predictions.
Philosophers and astronomers needed more accurate information. They had been using the ancient texts of the Greeks but it was believed there were inaccuracies in the translation of the texts. But even after the texts were translated as close as they could possibly get, the problems with Ptolemy’s system still lingered. A new line of thought was taking hold in the intellectual community. This new idea, Neo-Platonism, urged that math was central to the description of nature.
Neo-Platonists believed that God was a self-duplicating deity. One of God’s duplicates was the Sun. Nicholas Copernicus was a follower of Neo-Platonism and developed a heliocentric model of the Universe backed by simple mathematics. Copernicus took the anomaly concerning Mars’ orbit, noticed by the Greeks, and attempted to rationalize its dance across the sky. He stated that the reason Mars looked as if it was reversing its path is because the Earth orbits faster than Mars. He also theorized that the Universe is much larger than previously assumed and consists of seven spheres resting on the Sun.
In Copernicus’ opinion, there is not difference between the motion of objects on Earth and the motion of objects in the heavens. All matter aggregates into spheres. But Copernicus’ system does not provide the accurate information needed by philosophers. The biggest downfall of Copernicus’ ideas, stem from his lack of new data. So once again, the paradigm is found to be lacking and the search for a new system continues.
It was not long until new data became available to the astronomical community. Tycho Brahne was an observational astronomer. He increased the size of the instruments used to observe celestial motion. Besides these modifications of scientific tools, Brahne also noted events that brought forth a new understanding of the Universe.
Brahne observed a nova, an exploding star; this anomaly refutes the previous paradigms that stated the Universe was unchanging. The Universe changes through the creation and destruction of celestial bodies. Next Brahne observes a comet and according to its position, it is within Earth’s planetary realm. So this refutes the idea that the Universe consists of crystalline spheres.
With this new found information, Brahne formulates a new system. This heliocentric system consisted of a central, stationary Earth with other planets orbiting the Sun as well. The only problem with Brahne’s paradigm, it doesn’t use mathematics to prove its findings. Notably, Brahne’s assistant was Johannes Kepler, who would go on to become the next revolutionary philosopher.
Kepler abandons the idea of circular motion after attempting to use them and finding no accuracy. He focuses on the orbit of Mars to mathematically describe planetary motion. Kepler tries to create a model of Mars’ orbit but finds no uniformity. He asks himself why Mars would appear to go faster and then slower. After much contemplation, he substitutes the circular motion for elliptical motion. And Mars fits on this new elliptical orbit. Kepler changed the system, to fit the data.
The final two philosophers of renown are Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton. Galileo was a strong supporter of Copernicus’ theories and published documents explaining how Copernicus’ ideas were right and Ptolemy’s were wrong. He rejects the elliptical orbits proposed by Kepler and applies the theory of Circular Inertia to the planetary system. Newton takes a less controversial approach to astronomy and puts forward a mixture of Copernicus and Kepler. His laws of motion support the ideas of Kepler and his observations support the ideas of Copernicus.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I just awoke from a very powerful dream. In my dream there was a halo around the moon. Then I began to see red around the moon. Objects began to fall from the sky. Strange objects like ocean liners and parts of automobiles. There was fire coming from the sky and it appeared that somehow the moon was being destroyed.I told my family that the Moon was being destroyed and they did not believe me. Then they looked out the window and saw for themselves. I told my family to cover themselves with the bed mattresses to protect themselves from the falling objects. My mattress was far more light than it would be in reality.
Things were falling rapidly from the sky. Then the influx of sky borne objects slowed and eventually stopped. I was really looking at the sky now and I saw many, many red/orange lights around the moon. I began to realize that some extra-terrestrial organization was responsible for the destruction of the moon. It then look like the moon collapsed in upon itself. You know like a supernova does. Then there was a bright orange light and the moon was no more. I had been on the internet in the beginning of the dream and after I saw the moon implode I tried to type out to the people in the chatroom "THE MOON WAS JUST DESTROYED" but somehome I was unable to send this message.
Now my brothers and I began running toward the middle bedroom to climb into the upper crawlspace and see if the roof was on fire because the house was very smoky. The roof was on fire and my brother BJ gave me a pitcher of water and paper towels. I wet the towel and began to apply it to the inner roof. But the fire was too widespread. So I told them to call the fire department and I ran outside to put the fire out myself. When I got outside I looked at the ground and it looked like rain had fallen and frozen but it was not cold cause my mother was wearing a T-shirt and Shorts with a bandana on her head. Somehow the fire department already knew and arrived as soon as I got the hose turned on. So I started to spray the roof and they began wetting the various flaming objects on the ground. I pondered how Earth would survive without the moon to reflect the sun's warmth and light onto our planet.
As this was going on I told my mother that the moon was no more and she said yes it is, and pointed at an object in the sky. It was moving and I realized it was a UFO. There were still stars in the sky but due to the lack of a moon they appeared more brightly now. After I saw the UFO I ran inside to grab my digital camera. But everytime I would turn the camera on it would turn itself off. I noticed that my brother BJ had my mother's camera and was taking a picture of the UFO. I suddenly got the feeling that the UFO was the reason my camera was malfunctioning and we would be in big trouble if the UFO saw us taking a picture of it. At this point I awakened from the dream.
This dream sat me upright in my bed and I looked around to make sure it was just a dream. I was looking for little alien beings but I did not dare go to the window to see if the moon was still there. I was too scared. As soon as I was assured it was a dream...I grabbed my Moleskine journal and began to write down this dream.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was assigned Walpole's tale "The Castle of Otranto" for my Gothic Tale of Terror class. I enjoyed the story although the dialogue was a little hard to follow. The story reminded me of the Knights of the Round Table stories and I couldn't help but see a glimpse of Henry VIII in there as well. This story set the mold for future Gothic tales. The giant helmet bit hooked me from the beginning.
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Monday, January 12, 2009
If you haven't been to this site. Then I suggest you try it. Just like it says in the description....you see one word...then you have sixty seconds to write about it. You can be creative...you can be obvious...or you can be totally off the wall.
Today's word was: now
Here's what I wrote:
Now is the time I can't decide to cry or laugh or maybe hide, and where is the time where confidence blooms? where is the light to exit this room? Now is the feeling I get when you're gone, now is the ceiling I live where you've gone.
They have some really nifty looking shirts as well.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Beyond the Household: Women's Place in the Early South, 1700-1835 by Cynthia A. Kierner
rating: 2 of 5 stars
Kierner spent a majority of this book restating the obvious. Women did more than just sit home. Instead of adding new evidence for her argument she spend 2/3 of the monograph name dropping and restating her thesis.
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From Calabar to Carter's Grove: The History of a Virginia Slave Community by Lorena S. Walsh
rating: 3 of 5 stars
It is difficult for historians to pinpoint and tell the story of individual slaves in the American colonies. Most slaves were not given the educational opportunities to allow them to document their daily lives. And there are few journals available to adequately illustrate individual slave histories. But by looking at the archaeological evidence collected from former slave enclaves, Lorena S. Walsh was able to give a hypothetical illustration of the lives of slaves who lived in Carter’s Grove in the colony of Virginia during the early colonial period. Due to the small quantity of evidence available, she is often reduced to using already documented occurrences and generalizations about the daily life of a Virginia slave.
Walsh uses ledger books, transaction notes, and inventories of slaves to trace the extended family unit of the slaves of Carter’s Grove. She shows how their lives changed through the years, going from bound slaves working back breaking work on a tobacco plantation, to being separated and scattered throughout the United States.
The slaves she chose to examine originate from the Burwell labor force. They worked in close contact with indentured servants and newly arrived slaves from Africa. Walsh gives a background on the areas that these new slaves most likely came prior to captivity. She describes the kind of conflicts they might have had with slaves who were more adapted and accustomed to the slave life. These new and old slaves were placed together by masters, in the hopes that they would thrive and prosper without falling ill from the harsh conditions of slavery.
Many of these groups intertwined their beliefs, customs, and language to form a new slave identity. Evidence presented by artifacts such as handmade pottery, glass beads, and tobacco pipes lead to the conclusion that these groups intermixed culturally because they show features spanning from African cultures and incorporating American art forms. Although the slave life imprisoned them, these groups were able to inadvertent ways to express their identity and exercise their limited freedom in a way in which was empowering to future generations and to their own emotional well being.
The book is very beneficial in proposing possible explanations and hypothetical answers on slave life. But due to the lack of concrete evidence, Walsh is often reduced to beginning to these explanations with “possibly,” “mostly likely,” and other phrases which would reduce the validity of the statements. T.H. Breen of Northwestern University states in his review (Journal of Interdisciplinary History vol. 30, 1999 pp. 135-136) that “Walsh’s bold claims for a multigenerational group analysis seem unfilled.”
The sources she used consisted mainly of primary documentation and archaeological findings. She traces the family units and the group as an extended family unit itself through the different generations and where they lived, died, and created families of their own. Her secondary sources seem to be used to restate to the reader a proposed idea of how they lived. Overall, the book is adequate in showing the changes within the group, but it does not appear to inform the reader of anything they could not in a general history book.
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New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America by Colin G. Calloway
rating: 3 of 5 stars
In his book New Worlds For All, Colin Calloway pulls together the information provided by multiple scholars in interdisciplinary fields, to form a framework illustrating the radical changes in Indian and European life during the early years of American settlement. He states in the preface that his purpose is to show how the Native American assisted in the formation of the American identity without painting them as some “exotic subcategory in American history.” (xiv)
Calloway pulls information from many well documented scholars in academia to support the influence on American culture by the Native American and European inhabitants of colonial America. Much of the information provided to the young students in American textbooks paints a picture of the Native American as a helpless victim to the tyrannical oppression of the invading Europeans. This book is one of many that shed a new light on the battle of cultures between the native inhabitants and invading colonists.
Calloway stresses that the American revolutionists maintained that their culture and that of the Native American was not as different as it appeared. The Europeans adopted the customs, attire, farming, and hunting techniques of the Native American. As they became more Indians, they began to transform themselves into what would be the early prototype of the American identity. Essentially, the European was no longer a man of his birth country, but became someone not quite wild and yet still far from his civilized former identity. The amount of mixture between the European and Native American cultures depended on the region in which they lived. Spanish settlers were less resistant to the absorption of Indian customs into their society. The definition of “American” was also different depending on the era of colonization in which a settler lived. In the early settlement time period, Native Americans were the sole individuals identified with the term “American.” By the early nineteenth century, colonists had formed their own political identity which classified them as “American.”
In explaining how the Native Americans arrived on the continent, Calloway uses the Bering Strait theory which states that the Native Americans migrated to America via the Bering Strait land bridge. Then they began an adaptation to their respective climates that would lead to “a diverse array of lifestyles.” (9) Each group molded it’s lifestyle in accordance to the area in which it resided. When Europeans encountered this land of multiple cultures on a seemingly untouched landscape, they were forced to rethink the world as they knew it. To them the mere existence of this land went against everything they knew about geology. However, some of their old world could not be left behind. Europeans often renamed New World regions with names that they were familiar with in the old world; they often tacked on the world “new” at the beginning of the place name. This method of renaming allowed the Europeans to retain a part of their old world in their new landscape.
Calloway notes that the Europeans took advantage of the depopulation of Indians due to disease. The Europeans would often take over previous Indian villages. They would replant crops or introduce new plants from their native country, build fences to border their land and hold in livestock, and begin other measures to “civilize” the area. The introduction of these new plants and animals changed the land itself by increasing erosion, depleting the soil of important nutrients, and changing the visual aspect of the land. Their hunting of animals to be skinned and the furs sold had a great impact on the ecosystem of the area. Without beavers building dams and wolves controlling the animal population the land itself began to change through erosion and an over abundance of creatures that would consume their crops.
The Native American way of life was centered on a religion that valued nature and respected animals as equals. The Indians hunted only what they needed to survive. When the Europeans arrived they began a commercialized eradication of animals for their skins. Their religion, Christianity, stated that man was superior to the animal kingdom. The Europeans presented this concept to the Indians and pushed them to conform to their lifestyle and religious beliefs. Many Native Americans rebelled against this, but many conformed out of dependence on the Europeans for items such as weapons, textiles, and cooking utensils. Conforming also made it easier to live on a day to day basis in a world that was no longer entirely theirs.
The Europeans and Native Americans borrowed warfare tactics from each other. The Native American warfare was based on weaponry that took advantage of the silent ambush; European weaponry consisted of guns which would make an ambush incapable. Native Americans also used the terrain of the land to their advantage when engaging in warfare. This method came in handy for the Europeans when they battled the British for their independence during the American Revolution. But Calloway does not mention the interactions between the European and African slaves. This missing piece would be of great importance in illustrating how the American identity was formed through cultural exchange between all cultures involved in the early American record and give evidence of the Native Americans racially mixing with the African slaves.
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The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol F. Karlsen
rating: 3 of 5 stars
In the book, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, Carol F. Karlsen discusses the role and position of women in Puritan society during the witchcraft trials of New England. Karlsen pulled together research from several different sources, most notably the Essex court records and various histories of the New England colonies. She uses first hand accounts of witch trials, Cotton Mather’s personal writings, and court records. These sources showed in detail court proceedings, testimonies, and judgments against the accused. This book was well received among historians and stands a close second to the later works on the subject.
Karlsen examines witchcraft on a social, demographic, and anthropological level that brings new insight into the role of the female witch during the persecutions. She narrows down the accused by age, income and marital status. Many of these women were victims of a world in which women were expected to serve men and bear heirs to the family inheritance. These women were vulnerable socially to the male-dominated society in which they lived. The Puritan ideals surrounding women boxed them into the role of the virtuous helper to their male benefactor.
Karlsen paints a richly detailed portrait of the accused and states that most of the witchcraft suspicions in colonial New England originated as a result of conflicts between people who knew one another. Accusers singled out women who they felt were a threat to the social order in Puritan society. Accusations were made against women who, by inheriting property and status, took for the male populous that which he deserved. Wives, mothers, and children were not immune to these communial struggle against the restrains of society.
Karlsen exposes the economic and social undertones beneath the accusations. Karlsen states that the single most salient characteristic of witches was their sex. “At least 344 persons were accused of witchcraft in New England between 1620 and 1725. Of the 342 who can be identified by sex, 267 (78 percent) were female.” (47) Women were expected to be subservient to their husband, yet women who actually succeeded in running their husband’s business were liable to accusations of witchcraft because they stepped beyond their gender role.
Karlsen narrows down the accused by age, income, and marital status. Many of the women accused were married. Often quarrels among the husbands boiled over into accusations of the wives. Katherine Harrison was the wife of John Harrison, who was a wealthy landowner. Karlsen states that it is unclear what event lead to Harrison’s accusation of being a witch. It is believed that she was first accused as a witch in 1668, but the jury was unable to come to a decision on her guilt. Somehow she was released from prison and returned home. Then “several of the town’s most prominent citizens” (85) signed a petition attesting to her guilt. One of the petitioners, John Chester, was “involved in a legal controversy with Harrison concerning a parcel of land.” (85) Her husband had died in 1666 and left Harrison with a considerable amount of wealth. Her neighbors testified that she was a witch and under the pressure of losing her life she dispensed her holdings to others.
Karlsen states that “most witches in New England were middle aged or old women eligible for inheritance because they had no brothers or sons.” (117) In the witch stereotype the presence of the traditional female gender role is evident. Women accused of witchcraft were described as “disagreeable women, at best aggressive and abrasive, at worst ill-tempered, quarrelsome, and spiteful.” (118) These women bucked the norms of society and failed to adhere to the standards of their class. To the Puritans “gender issues were religious issues” (119) and women who deviated from their prescribed role were seen as being opponents of God’s command.
This stereotype of the witch stemmed from the widely distributed Malleus Maleficarum and Tratado de las Supersticiones y Hechicherias. Both works note that “women were by nature more evil than men” (155) and that because they were “subject to deeper affections and passions, harbored more uncontrollable appetites, and were more susceptible to deception” (155) they switched their allegiance from God to Satan to “fulfill their needs and to provide them with the power to avenge themselves.” (155) But why would women need avenging unless they were being encroached upon by unrighteous practices? The answer to this question was unimportant to the patriarchal society of Europe and New England. But there is no doubt that this question resided in the mind of every accused witch.
Karlsen fulfills her purpose in Devil in the Shape of a Woman. By providing accounts of individual women and the extent to which they were accused, Karlsen provides a detail look into the underlying reasons behind the witch accusations. She exhibits to the reader a hidden agenda that reaches far beyond the scope of good versus evil. The agenda she reveals is a campaign against women who were perched precariously on a difficult balance between their idealized social and economic positions.
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Friday, January 2, 2009
The Gothic Tale of Terror
- This is an English class and we will be analyzing the art of Gothic writing. We are going to be reviewing works of literature such as; Poe, Dracula, House of Seven Gables.
- I hope I enjoy this class as I have a deep interest in the literary arts. But sadly, I am afraid I will find myself going more toward my dark side because of this class. Ah the Duality of Man!
- I was hoping to take a history class dealing with the Ancients or Fuedal eras. However, seeing as how studying the Modern history of England will give me a greater grasp on former England (and seeing as how it's the only class that interested me this semester) I hope to enjoy this class.
- Ahh fun fun. This class is a history class but it will substitute for one of my Science credits. (I'm going for a BA of Science in History.)
- We are going to be looking at the Darwin controversy (hell yea!), the significance of Dinosaur findings (double hell yea!), and many other interesting scientific accomplishments. Oh boy am I excited.
- I'm not big on politics but...I'm gonna give it the old college try.
So that being said. Here's to hoping this year will be a better year.
Oh and I have decided that I actually need friends to keep my sanity so I'm gonna try to weasel my way into making some friends to hang out with.