On Containers

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Why is the astronaut in a space suit?

I always enjoyed asking that question to biology students. Knowing the knew the answer is one thing, but the question and the crafted discussion was a setup of what was to come. After all, I wanted to expand their view of the situation and use the discussion throughout the entire unit (3 chapters).

The space suit serves as a barrier between two environments – one suitable for the human body, and the other quite harsh – therefore, the space suit is a container similar to a can of vegetables on the grocery self.

The body within the space suit is also a container with a barrier separating different environments on each side of the barrier. Within the human body are several cavities – open spaces that are sealed spaces for organs. For instance, the chest cavity is sealed with a protective barrier to play an important role in inhaling and exhaling. Yes, another container within a container that is inside the protective space suit.

Tissues and organs (composed of tissues) are not only within the cavities, but throughout the body. Tissues are composed of two or more different types of cells working together in a common function. Surprise, surprise, surprise – cells are also containers because each cell has a protective barrier (cell membrane) separating two environments. It is through these membranes that essential materials pass through to reach their site of need for processing. Through these same membranes, the waste removal process occurs.

Cells contain individual parts with specialized functions. Are you surprised to know that many of these parts are covered with protective barriers separating two distinct environments?

Substances continually pass in and out of the cell through the membrane. Some of these movements occur naturally without the cell expending energy. On the other hand, some movements require energy to occur.

Cells are the reason we take in oxygen from the atmosphere and return carbon dioxide. Cells are the reason we eat. Cells are the reason the heart pumps blood throughout the body to transport nutrients and carry away wastes. Cells are the reason we go to the bathroom. Cells are the reason all vital activities exist.

Cells have to survive in order to reproduce. Cells require food and eliminate wastes. Cells must interact with their surrounding environment. Cells require amino acids to produce proteins. Cells contain DNA to serve as the code of life not only for itself, but for the organism as a whole. As Bruce Lipton (scientist) states, “In reality, a cell is a biological mini-me compared to the human body. A cell has every biological system that you have.” …. now, that is quite the container.

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On Perception

Look at the images below. Which image do you see first in each of four images in the gallery below? (To help, there is a question below each image.)

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Look at them again. Can you see the other?

Perception: The recognition and interpretation of sensory information mainly on memory

Perception: The nerve processes of recognition and interpretation

Perception: The insight, intuition, or knowledge gained by perceiving

Perception: The capacity for such insight

Watch the video below.

As humans we encounter many things each day as our senses are constantly processing data. For example, the bottom of our feet can simultaneously distinguish contact with a sock, the inside of the shoe, the surface on which one is standing or moving.

Our senses allow us to experience the world around us. Take a moment to think of all the things you perceive on a daily basis.

Perception is about our sensory experience of the world around us and involves both the recognition of environmental stimuli and actions in response to these stimuli.

Perceptions include the organization, identification and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment.

What the short video below.

All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs.

Perception depends on complex functions of the nervous system, but subjectively seems mostly effortless because this processing happens outside conscious awareness.

Perception is influenced by past experiences, the situation, the expectation, and the intensity of the perception.

Watch the last video for the final test.

What do you think?

On Clarifying Science

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Did you know …. 

Science is not an opinion.

Science is not democratic.

Science is not an ideology.

Science is not a theology.

Science is not a belief system.

Science is not a theory.

Science is not a political view.

Science is not a trend.

But ….

Science is a human endeavor.

Science is a way of knowing.

Science is impersonal.

Science is limited to the human perspective.

Science is a methodology.

Science involves verifying.

Science finds patterns and connections.

Science is a search for explanations of what we observe in nature.

Think about it – Disagreement around scientific topics is common in our lives. Whether it be evolution, climate change, vaccines deforestation, energy resources, or environmental standards (to name a few), a sizable number of people reject aspects of science for a variety of reasons – especially political, theological, and/or other ideological views … all reasons that are not science.

On Environmental Costs

Recently, President Obama overruled the EPA and ordered the EPA director to withdraw a proposal regulating health-based standards for smog-forming ozone. Pro-business people are delighted and pro-environment constituents aren’t happy.

The Setting: If no environmental controls existed, we pay a lot for environmental damage. If we had a life free from environmental damages, we pay a lot for environmental control.

The Key Questions: How much are we willing to pay in cost of damages? How much are will willing to pay in cost of controls?

Whenever costs are involved, human nature wanting the lowest possible cost is quite predictable – which is one reason why I appreciate this graph. Not only does it illustrate the lowest possible cost, but it also identifies the amount of accepted pollution (thus environmental costs) associated with that cost. May I also note that the cost lines are curved, not linear.

(Tietenberg, Tom, and Lewis Lynne. Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, 8th edition. New York. Pearson Education, Inc, 2009, pg 358-362)

The US EPA is the regulatory agency responsible for developing, implementing, and enforcing the regulations to comply with legislation passed by Congress. Interestingly, the White House directly controls the EPA, thus enforcement directly correlates to the party in power and subject to political pressure. Some presidential administrations use Executive Orders to get around the guidelines by reducing EPA enforcement or to increase enforcement. Meanwhile, some candidates campaign to eliminate the EPA.

Without the EPA, our society would rely on the thoughtful nature of the business community to maintain quality air, water, soil, and all other natural resources. Let us not forget the years of burning rivers, poor visibility, waterways with limited life, and other aspects of poor environmental quality. Yes, those of us of a certain age remember those times – but anyone watching the 2008 Summer Olympics from Beijing can recall the images of their atmosphere.

There is no question that environmental controls can be expensive to business – and the stricter the regulation, the higher the preventative cost. However, I end this with these difficult questions: If control costs are too expensive, can control costs become prohibitive to the business? Is there a reasonable balance point regarding preventative costs and acceptable damage? Should the White House continue to control the EPA?