Friday, February 27, 2009

Things discovered by accident

Thanks to Mike Blake for these links.

These links pertain to the discussion in class I though you might find them interesting

look at the The vulcanization process that is what I was talking about in class

Some other Discoveries
Polyethylene (PE) was invented by accident 75 years ago

Imagine breaking a bone and not having your doctor perform an X-ray to show where the fracture occurred. That could have been the case had German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen never accidentally discovered that X-rays can be seen through solid objects. Roentgen was experimenting at the time with cathode-ray tubes (CRT), which are now most commonly known for their use in TV screens. During his experiments, Roentgen noticed that some light was able to penetrate cardboard, wood, and even his hand. He took early X-rays of the bones of his wife's hand and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1901 for his work.

Alexander Fleming's unexpected discovery of penicillin is possibly one of the most famous. Fleming was conducting research on the flu and notice that mold was growing in one of his petri dishes. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the area with the mold had no bacteria. After further tests, Fleming determined that penicillin could be used to fight bacterial infections, and it is still used today to treat pneumonia, and ear, skin, and throat infections.

Smallpox vaccine:
Over the centuries, smallpox may have killed more people than all other contagious diseases combined, according to the National Institutes of Health. It was a particularly deadly disease in the 18th century--until British scientist Edward Jenner stumbled upon the vaccine. Jenner had overheard a milkmaid say the people who had cowpox, which was relatively harmless, never contracted smallpox. Armed with this information, Jenner experimented by infecting an 8-year-old boy with cowpox and then exposing him to smallpox. Thanks to Jenner's vaccine, smallpox has been virtually eliminated today.

The blood thinner warfarin, also known by its brand name Coumadin, has an interesting history. It was once also used in rat poisons, discovered when farmers noticed that their cows were dying after eating a type of clover. It was later realized that a particular chemical in the plant prevented their blood from clotting and caused them to hemorrhage. Since the chemical was capable of killing cows, they began using it to kill rats. However, it was later discovered that in proper doses, warfarin could be beneficial to people who are at risk of blood clots, and in 1952, it was first used as a blood thinning agent on humans.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Colbert Nation takes on Evolution

Stephen Colbert and scientist Kenneth Miller discuss evolution.


2008. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blog #16 - 4 Questions on profit and salaries

Please pick one of the following questions that we discussed in class on Wednesday:

1. Marx believed that profit = exploitation, b/c the people who took the profit didn't necessarily earn it. The workers never get a share of the profit (or rarely do like the Big 3's profit sharing checks), so Marx believed that the owners didn't deserve those profits.
- Do you agree with Marx? Why or why not?

A Swedish website explains profit = exploitation better than I did:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's take on Marx:

2. One of the qualifications for taking federal bailout funds is that CEOs' salaries are limited to $500,000 / year. Do you think that this limitation on CEOs' salaries is a good or bad idea? Why?

"Why CEOs Are Overpaid" article -

Top TARP handouts, top CEOs salaries, CNN -

3. Some people look at the expenses that companies have spent and feel that certain people are extremely overpaid. Why do some CEOs get paid millions even while their company is failing? Forbes magazine ranks the best-performing CEOs and the most overpaid leaders of failing companies. Some people have been talking about limiting all salaries, regardless of industry. What do you think about that? Why?

New York Times' article, "You Try To Live on $500K in This Town."

4. Do you think the gap / disparity between salaries (for example, between entertainers or sports figures and doctors, lawyers, etc.) is justifiable, especially in today's economy?

Russell Bishop's article, "What Myth Are You Stuck In?"

Debate: atheism (Christopher Hitchens) vs. religion (Dinesh D'Souza)

What's so great about God? is the subject of this video debate posted on Feb. 23, 2009.

There's an intro to the debate between famous atheist writer, Christopher Hitchens, and Dinesh D'Souza, best-selling conservative writer, that lasts about 12 minutes -if you want to skip it. The format goes 15 minutes for D'Souza, 15 for Hitchens, and then 5 each for rebuttal. Last, there's 15-20 minutes of direct debate and then 40 minutes of Q and A. This is a very fascinating and interesting debate that is in fashion today.

Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D'Souza at CU Boulder from Justin Leddick on Vimeo.

Check it out when you have some time. NOT REQUIRED!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Reading Assignments for the rest of the semester

Here's the semester's HW list.

Enlightenment for Monday 2/9

Romanticism for Wednesday 2/11

Blog #15 2/12

Kierkegaard for Friday 2/13 + fill in the blank notes.

Over break, read Marx and Darwin + read Newsweek Darwin article and answer questions.
Questions are due on Monday you get back, 2/23.

If you look at the class’s website or go to previous blog posts, you’ll see both of these either posted or links to them.

Freud for Wednesday 2/25

Our Own Time for Friday 2/27

Garden Party for Monday 3/2

Quiz on Tuesday, 3/3.

3rd Hour exam Thursday 3/5
4th Hour exam Friday 3/6
Review session Tuesday, 7:45 a.m. and Wednesday 2:50 p.m.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Modern critique of urban sophistication

Rousseau had mistrusted urban sophistication. Much of this comes from his view of mankind; when they leave a state of nature and move into civilization, they become corrupted because of competition over resources.

A modern example of Rousseau's critique of urban sophistication is a website called Stuff White People Like. Though it may sound like a website that supposedly paints with a broad paint brush, it actually goes after "a very specific demographic sliver of left-leaning, city-dwelling white folk" (Sternbergh, TNR). This demographic has been called yuppies or most recently grups. SWPL itself says that its website is "a scientific approach to highlight and explain stuff white people like. They are pretty predictable."

As with any critique, it may be insightful. It may offend. I hope it makes you laugh.

CNN's story on Christian Lander, author of SWPL -
NPR's Feb. 2008 story on SWPL -
The full list of what white people like -
The New Republic's take on SWPL -

Monday, February 9, 2009

Alternative Blog #15 - Is Science Taking Away All of Life's Mystery?

The creator of the X-Files, Chris Carter, once said in an interview that science has become the new religion because it seems to have all of the answers today. Want to know how something works? Look it up. Now, you can find out how just about anything works by searching for it on the internet - something as straight forward as changing the pull rope on a lawn mower engine (which I did this summer by myself but paid somebody $40 to do 5 years ago) to learning how to build a rocket engine (out of all different kinds of material -DISCLAIMER -DON'T BE STUPID AND DO THIS!).

The questions for you:
1. Do you agree that science has taken life's mysteries away or solved them? Why or why not?
2. Give me an example of an area of life that science will probably never be able to answer fully or completely.

Minimum 250 words. Due Thursday, 2/12. Thanks.

X-Files montague

Interview w/ Chris Carter and Frank Sponitz about the 2nd X-Files movie

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Blog #15 - Question for a higher power - ask anything

So I'm sitting in the car and I hear the opening lines of a song by the Fray go like this...

"I found God on the corner of First and Amistad
Where the West was all but won
All alone, smoking his last cigarette
I said, 'Where you been?' He said, 'Ask anything.'"

Since we had been talking a lot about fate and free will and a lot about God's purpose in life lately and about how the empiricists and rationalists viewed it all, I figured that this would be the premise for a great blog question.

Suspend all disbelief, don't try to weasel out of it by looking for a loophole like you did with the trolley experiment; for the purpose of this experiment, please assume that a higher power exists. You don't have to believe in the higher power in order to ask it a question.

Every society and culture tries to answer the burning eternal questions. Every generation tries to find a new interpretation of the same answers and come up with a unique way of asking the same eternal questions in a different way. We see that with The Matrix, Lost, the Golden Compass, Heroes, and now (as I watch) the new Battlestar Galactica. So why would music be any different an expression of this yearning for understanding? It wouldn't, and I'm glad I found a contemporary song that captured one of those questions.

Think long and hard about it, because you only get one question to ask.

So please answer the following:
1. What would it be?
2. Why would you ask that question?
3. And what do you think the answer might be?

Minimum of 250 words total. Due by Thursday 2/12.