One of my favorite things about getting out of the city is being able to look up at the evening sky, and see the free show of stars and constellations. I find stargazing to be incredibly peaceful, and oddly thought provoking. It is interesting to think about how these stars I am seeing are light years away, and the fact that some of them may already be dead and gone is amazing. Centuries ago early astronomers looked up to the stars and mapped out constellations based on the figures they saw in the stars. There are 88 constellations officially recognized by the IAU, but I am sure anyone can look up at the sky and find a formation that looks like something interesting. I like to treat stargazing like cloud watching, I like to try and see if I can make my own constellations out of the lights I’ve been given. Looking up at the stars is definitely an enjoyable way to relax after a long day, hopefully tonight the sky is clear enough to enjoy the show.
I am starting a series in which I will discuss some of my favorite people in history and why they made the list. I will not be ranking these people since they could all go into different categories, and it would be too difficult to accurately place them on a “favorite” scale. I currently have about four people in mind, but the list may be as large as ten individuals and even possibly a couple of groups. The first person on my list is Sir Isaac Newton, also known as the guy with the apple falling in his head. Isaac Newton revolutionized the way we look at motion and the way we look at the universe at large. Newton’s laws of motion are one of the first things we learn in physics, and a solid explanation for why our toy cars rolled down hills when we were children. It is amazing how Newton had the boldness and intelligence to make such an assertion about gravity in the era in which he lived, and the fact that his laws are still being held up and studied today it is a testament to his persistence in proving his hypothesis. Newton is one of my favorite people mainly due to his work in mathematics and science. I would consider myself as something of a “nerd,” and I was always interested in the works of Newton. While Sir Isaac is best known for the laws of motion, he actually had quite a few other interesting ideas in science, some of which didn’t pan out as well as gravity did though. Isaac Newton was truly a trailblazer in his time, and his interesting life and his informative studies have landed him on my list of favorite people in history.
Tumbleweeds are more interesting than they are generally portrayed. If you have ever watched an old western, a cartoon, or even read a picture book as a child, you might have noticed that tumble weeds often show up in boring or dull situations. The plants are usually shown to amplify the lack of action or excitement in any given situation. I have never really wondered much about tumbleweeds since they were always just part of the scenery, but these rolling balls of crabgrass are actually in a sense the fruit of a plant. Tumbleweeds are a part of a plant that breaks off at the stem, and rolls about with some help from the wind. These rolling weeds spread about seeds or spores in order to propagate its species over a large area. Tumbleweeds are interesting because of the fact that, unlike many other plants, they are a group that is quite active in its reproduction process. Tumbleweeds aren’t the only plants that use wind to aid their reproduction, but the way spread over vast regions with their rolling methods, is an ingenious way to stretch the usefulness of a gust. Tumbleweeds are probably not the most interesting types of plants, but they are certainly not as boring as they are regularly shown to be. As a child, I always thought a tumbleweed was just a big useless ball of dirt and grass rolling in the desert, I now know that, while they may not be much, they are still useful, and very important to the life of a plant.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a famous astrophysicist who has seemingly brought the exciting world of physics to a generation that no longer cares for the subject. In this era of pop culture kings and queens, it is important to have a voice that provides education while the rest of the world seems to be running from it. Today I read an article from about a year ago, in which Tyson was asked about his stance on religion, a topic he generally stays away from. He basically stated that he is fine with it, but he just doesn’t want it taught in science classrooms. I respect the answer Tyson gave, since to be honest, science is much easier to understand than faith, but the author of the article seemed to miss the point. The article was written by an atheist writer, who would be considered a “militant atheist,” these individuals attack faith and religion as though it is hurting them, rather than ignore it like other atheists. The author stated he wanted Tyson to completely denounce the idea of religion and take a stance against it, rather than give his non combative opinion on the mater. I think Tyson gave the best response that he could have, since he doesn’t study religion, and he doesn’t want to make it his job to tell others what not to believe. The author of the article ended up sounding like an upset man looking for others to join his crusade against people who are not fighting with him. I have not read many of Tyson’s works, but I am fully aware of his contributions to physics. Tyson considers himself an educator, and the primary job of an educator is to enlighten and foster discovery by experimentation. I hope Tyson continues to educate in the same non combative way he has in the past, since there really is no reason to alienate an entire group due to small differences.
A talent is a special ability that allows an individual to masterfully complete a task. Often times it seems as though talents are simply given, and that people with specific talents excel in their art effortlessly, but talents take molding and can be easily lost when they are taken for granted. When I listen to the works of some of history’s most talented musicians, I realize they were not born playing as beautifully as they did, they had to learn an art and tap into the talent necessary to perfect the skill. It is often said that everyone has talents, and while I fully agree with that statement, I believe it comes with certain conditions. Everyone has talents, but many people never get a chance to actually learn the source of their talents. There are many reasons people never learn their talents, the most common reason is a lack of confidence. A talented singer or dancer would never have learn about their abilities of they were too concerned with the opinions of others. Anybody who effectively taps into their talent either found it at a young age, or confidently went after their passion in spite of doubters. Talents are special abilities that every human being holds, I think everyone who has yet to find their talents should try out new things in order to reach their untapped potential.
Science is actually more fun than what is being taught in school theses days. I understand that students need the building blocks in order to fully grasp a topic, but science is much more than names of rocks and classifications of animals. As I was growing up I had the ability to discover science differently from my peers, since my mother is a science teacher everything I did had some base in science, and I was taught in a practical way. Many people see science as a chore or a task that has to be completed in order to graduate, but for me it was always presented as a chance to discover how things work. A big part in my love of science and in any person’s love of science is how it is presented. I remember when I was first taught physics, I was given the basics of the subject, pretty much just enough to bore me and keep me uninterested, but when I took it in college I really got a chance to put my studies in motion and learn the subject as more than just words on a page. I think science should be taught differently in elementary schools, since there is so much fun to be had in the subject. Recent statistics have shown that American schools are failing when it comes to the sciences, in my opinion, the best way to actually get kids interested in science is to show them the best practical uses of the subject to entice them into getting far enough to recreate the experiments. There are many teachers out there who use the approach to teaching that I endorse, and I applaud them and thank them for raising a generation of student who love science. I would love to see the educational system shift over to more practical studies, since science is very important to the future of any nation and students need a chance to be able to enjoy the subject.
Growing up I was always taught of nine planets, we even had a clever mnemonic used to remember them, “My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.” The first letter in each word denotes the name of one of our solar system’s planets in order: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. In the year 2006 the International Astronomical Union ruled that Pluto should be categorized as a dwarf planet and is no longer to be recognized with the larger planets. I have been upset about the ruling on Pluto for years, since it means my “mother serves us nothing,” but recent debates look to change how we see our planets. Over the past year there has been a push to revise the way we classify planets, which would effectively add Pluto back to our teachable solar system. I love the idea of bringing Pluto back into the list of planets, but it seems like the changes to our planetary classification system would also add several other planets to our solar system. Three of the largest “trans-Neptunian objects” aside from Pluto are Eris, Haumea, and Makemake, these celestial bodies are just a few of what may become the newest planets in our solar system. I will be eagerly following these planetary developments, hopefully we end up with a few new planets. I will start working on a mnemonic for the poor children who will soon be forced to memorize this new list of 17 or more planets in our solar system.
I am a huge fan of exotic plants, especially carnivorous ones. There is just something intriguing about how an organism that is at the bottom of almost every food chain can still be a predator. Plants in general are known to thrive on water and sunlight. Most animals that are eaten, eat plants or seeds, so being a plant is quite a disadvantage, but carnivorous plants such as the Venus Flytrap and the Pitcher Plant, have adapted in such a way that they can no longer be considered the bottom of the totem pole. Carnivorous plants grow in soil that is lacking in nutrition since they generally get most of their nutrition from the bugs and animals that they eat. These plants use the major weakness of their prey, a desire to find sustenance, to devour them. It is an awesome sight to see, when the Venus Flytrap closes on its prey and begins the process of digestion, I was so enamored with these plants that I actually purchased a few just so I could observe them more closely. These remarkable carnivorous plants grow in wetlands and bogs of the United States, and around the world, so if you are interested in seeing one in person, check out your nearest park or nature preserve.
GMOs or genetically modified organisms are completely overused in this country. They are being used for feeding livestock, growing the size of crops, and even getting more desirable shade of color in crops. I am not one who is wary of the side effects of ingesting GMOs, but I am concerned that they may be irreparably harming the Ecosystem. There are people who would rather not pay for GMOs so they try to shop in only organic supermarkets, but the fact that these crops are being grown in fields instead of just labs increase the chance that they can pollinate non modified plants. The FDA recently approved the sale of a genetically modified apple that does not turn brown, it is absurd that the vast advancements humanity has made in genetics, is now being used to make a fruit that will soon be eaten more aesthetically pleasing. Genetically modified organisms need more testing, or need to be more clearly labeled. While I would still eat these crops, the public needs to have the right to refuse to eat them if they so choose. I would love to see more government regulation on GMOs and their growth before they become the norm, and while side effects due to GMO consumption have not been found, there should be a thorough process of testing these crops before they are approved for sale and consumption.
How did it get so late so soon?
– Dr. Seuss
Time is a topic that I could probably ramble on about forever, but for the sake of sanity and time itself, I will limit this posting to merely one of times many aspects. If you have ever had fun at any point in your life, you will have noticed how quickly time passes, it is almost as if time itself is sped up by enjoyment. On the other hand, time seems to be stretched and slowed in times of peril or turmoil. It is interesting that time is the same for everyone, no matter how it is calculated, but time is still relative to the individual in the moment. A practical example of the relativity of time can be seen in a car accident, for an observer a car can spin out in an instant and three seconds will seem as such, but for an individual in the car it will feel like slow motion, and three seconds can seem much longer. I am always reminded of the theory of relativity when I think about time, more precisely time dilation, time dilation basically explains how a change in time recorded by two observers for the same event can differ, based on their relative movement. While time dilation is pretty advanced and won’t be observed while driving a car, it does help explain the relativity of time itself. I believe time dilation can be observed in the human brain, our thoughts move extremely fast, and it is not completely absurd to say two people can experience time differently while sitting in the same room. Overall the best way to look at time is as an object that is always moving. Make the most of time, because no matter how it is being perceived, it is finite to those in each moment.