The Seed 2006 Writing Contest

What is the future of science in America? What should the US do to preserve and build upon its role as a leader in scientific innovation?

http://seedmagazine.com/writingcontest/ 

This is an important question, and I would like to write something about it, as it pertains greatly to my blog.  I'll be considering it throughout this week, and hopefully publish something on Friday.  Some thoughts for now:

  • How can we maintain the level of scientific innovation?
  • What should be do about declining engineers and scientists?
  • What can better science education do to solve this?
  • What can better public awareness of science do?
  • How can we make grade school teaching a more prestigious and rewarding occupation?
  • How do get our government to make scientifically sound decisions?

 There are a lot of things to consider, but I think we can and we will do it.

PS I watched some videos of Al Gore on the 2000 campaign.  Just broke my heart, especially after seeing An Inconvenient Truth.  God I wish he had become president. 

How to Not Get Alzheimer's Disease

Old people depress me.

I find that many people over the age of 70 are boring, slow in speech and in movement, stuck in the past, forgetful, unwilling to think critically or change their habits. This depresses me because

1) I might be there someday and 2) Much of this is preventable. Some of the depressing features of old age are due to the biological effects of aging: your muscles and most aspects of your brain don’t work as well because your body is breaking down. But many features are caused by the decisions that most people make that lead to this depressing old age.

Adults, at least of the last few generations, after schooling, get a job. They learn everything they need to do well at this job and then they pretty much stop learning. The next 30-50 years are spent doing the same activities over and over. It may not be easy, but its just applying the same knowledge and the same way of thinking on a new situation. Then these people retire, and they find themselves spiraling into dementia, senility and often Alzheimer’s Disease.

Now I did say that not all older people have these conditions. One example is university professors. Many professors are very old, 70s, 80s and yet they are nothing like the average nursing home person. Why is this? One reason might be that they are surrounded by students who listen to their lectures and take their tests (something that is proven to boost life expentancy). However, I think a lot it is also because professors are engaged in research. They are actively trying to create NEW KNOWLEDGE. This activity requires the brain to think, a lot. The maxim comes to mind: Use it or lose it. In the case of the brain, this maxim applies to the utmost.

The takeaway: learn new things throughout your life and you will find old age not as depressing as you imagined.

Abstract on Leisure activities and reduce risk of dementia:

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/348/25/2508

The Knock of God

*Knock at the Door*

Two Well Dressed Men (TWDM) : Hi, my name is ___, and I'm ____. We're from the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Me: Hi…

TWDM: And your name is?

Me: I'm Jason

*we shake hands*

TWDM: We were just hoping we could talk with you about the Bible and share the message of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Me: Oh, well I'm afraid I'm not interested. But have a good day.

TWDM: Do you know if you could point us to someone who would be interested?

Me: Uh, I don't know. I just moved here so I don't really know anyone…

TWDM: Well, thank you anyway. Continue reading…

One With Nineveh

One With Nineveh : Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future (Paperback)
by
Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich

Paul and Anne Ehrlich are professors in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford. I was enrolled in Paul Elrich's course "Human Biology and the Environment", unofficially known as "The world in 18 lectures". It was a fascinating class based on this book and another book he wrote called Human Natures. Unfortunately, I had to drop the class because I didn't have time in my schedule. But I promised myself I would read the book over the summer.

Synopsis: Earth's resources are being consumed much faster than they are being replaced – this is causing world wide issues of poverty, energy shortages and climate change (among other things).

Summary: Basically what the authors are saying is that we as a country (America) and as a planet have overpopulated and overconsumed the planet. Greenhouse gases from agriculture and transportation is causing global warming. The burning of fossil fuels is leading to energy shortages. Increasing population rates in developing countries is causing the poor to get poorer. The destruction of rainforests is causing the loss of biodiversity. Continue reading…

Saying You're Sorry

Today I found myself waiting for almost two hours for someone. Granted, she was at dinner with friends, but I really needed to get something from her before I went home. I tried calling her cell phone, but it would just ring and then go to voice mail. I was a little frustrated. I knew it wasn't her fault: I couldn't even let her know that I needed something, and I know she wasn't the one driving.

She finally called me from a friend's phone to tell me that they were just wrapping up dinner and would be back in a little while. She sounded happy and that just made me more angry.  I knew I shouldn't be angry because she deserved some fun with her friends, but it seemed like she didn't understand how long I had been waiting or what I was feeling at the time.

When I finally saw her, the first words she said to me were "sorry, I know it took a really long time, but I couldn't really do anything. I'm sorry". Almost instantly my frustration dissapated. That one word, really, was all I needed. To me, sorry meant so much more to me, the same way "oops" sometimes conveys something a lot more serious than the word sounds. To me, sorry meant "I know you've been waiting a long time and I wish I could have gotten here soon and thank you for being patient and not getting really angry". And it made me feel a lot better.

The words "I'm sorry" are powerful. I'm not suggesting you start apologizing to everyone all the time, but these two words are not heard often enough because people are often unwilling to say it. Japan's WWII war crimes to China. George Bush to the country. An angry parent to a child. When the time calls for it, say you're sorry. It means so much.