Sunday, December 6, 2009

Kolbert and her last words

Of course, my attention certainly peaked when she began writing about the advances Burlington, Vermont has made when it comes to reducing carbon admissions. I know for a fact that I am certainly guilty of the idling violation that would get me a ticket there. I think I may have even done that in Burlington before, but luckily enough I was not caught. It is also interesting that she brought up that China has been known to follow in our footsteps. After the Olympics, I do know that the country was forced to fix their standards, but other than that they haven't really done anything to change. In fact, they have refused to do anything at all. Even though they may become the most advanced country in the world and will be number one, their own environment will tear them apart if they don't get their shit together.

Chapter 10 basically went along the lines of what she does through the rest of the book. She can't really seem to discuss the facts without having to give her own two cents on the topic. If anything, chapters like these make her seem very self-involved and to be honest, I stop listening to people like her because the way she presents facts is very off putting. It is evident that she is a very good reporter, but she let's her own opinions get in the way of that.

I like though that she would at least acknowledged what has happened since she had written the book. What she wrote here was straight facts, something that was very absent in the rest of the book. So to be honest, she had presented nothing new to be in this book. I really think I wouldn't have had to read this, it was just another way for someone advocating against global warming to make money. If anything, she is working against herself in that aspect.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kolbert and her plea for Global Warming

Our discussions have gone along the lines of describing Kolbert's writing as very convoluted, as she goes on off on rants that add nothing to the discussion of Global warming. Another flaw in her writing is her lack of continuity. Most of the time she describes images created by the destruction of Global Warming, or the many journeys she goes on and the people she meets. In chapter 5, she decides to all of a sudden break out the science of it all on us. As much as it is helpful in describing the grid based observations in certain regions. To be honest, she almost seems to throw in the towel when she suggests that even we did start doing something about climate changes, the chances of us being in a situation of, "There's no going back," could still be a possibility.

In the film called the Global Warming Swindle, they make the suggestion that the earth is just going through a cycle, that we are just going through a warm period. During the Vikings era, the climate was exponentially higher than normal, and then there was a cooling period. At one point, recently, there was fear there would be a cooling period and that things would get too cold. So what gives? Kolbert makes the comparisons to civilizations before us, basically hurting her theory that global warming is man made. Again, lacking consistency.

In chapter 6, she goes back to the image based examples. She creates the image of amphibious houses due to the fact that the ocean levels are rising because of the expansion of the water when it does get warm. This again is not introducing anything new to the conversation. It is something that regular can people can visually see on a regular basis, and it is information that is constantly in the news. The only thing she adds that is new are odd comparisons to different images, which adds nothing to her argument. She is basically trying to entertain everyone.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Global warming and its happenings

Elizabeth Kolbert is fantastic at what she does. She is very passionate about what she is writing about and it can be seen in her work. It is what retains my attention and keeps me reading on. She is able to really set in the scenery as she goes from town to town, discussing how hunting is used for necessary purposes, and then describing how the melting glaciers effects the every day people as they look out from their homes. The different words used to describe the condition of the ice and how it is softening much sooner than normal..

She also introduces the topic of permafrost with Romanovsky. I was actually unaware that the shrinking of permafrost is what gives way to huge gaps in the ice. It is also interesting to note that the warming of permafrost is a good indicator that global warming has occurred because while the top layer of permaforst is supposed to be the coldest, it is warm while the middle is colder.

Albedo, which is the division of incident light and reflected light, is apparently a large cause of the Arctic circle warming very quickly. More specifically the ice-albedo which is the open water that is exposed when the snow melts. This to me, was a very interesting process that was explained, and that the open water transfers a lot of heat the goes into the ocean because of the process. Kolbert is able to make something that could be very complicated and simplify the process for many people's understanding.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Don't Care If I Lose My Hearing, I Want It Loud!

Every time my mother asks for me to wear ear plugs when I'm going to a concert, or when I'm practicing with my band in a tiny, cramped basement, or when she asks me that the music in my headphones, I just never listened (that could be a bit of a pun, maybe?) Of course when I don't listen, I'm bitching for the next few days that there is a constant ringing in my ears that I can't get rid of.

In my foolish opinion, music needs to be turned up, it needs to be vibrating throughout your entire body in order for you to be able to capture the true essence of it. What I am also learning at too young of an age is that it is a fast and easy way to lose your hearing. Sure, I am in complete and total denial that I'm going to want to have the ability to hear at age 50, but at the rate my hearing is diminishing, it is a daily concern that I won't be able to rock out to "A Certain Shade of Green" any longer.

Where is this heading, ah yes, the ringing in the ears. What I always ask myself while it is irritating me, is how in the world the noise is created. Turns out, there is a bit of science behind it (who would have thought?). On the website for the Cornell Center for Material Research, a reader asked the question, "Why Do your Ears Ring?" When your ears receive an excessive amount of punishment from the speakers blaring heavy metal right next to your head, "delicate cells inside your ear" push through what are called "sound messages" to the brain. This is called tinnitus.

These delicate cells have things sticking out of them that look like tiny hairs, basically cells with beards (not basically, but that's what I would like to think.) Soon your brain is interpreting sound when pressure waves travel through the air into your ear, making your ears vibrate. This whole process then begins to effect the fluid inside of your ears, and once the fluid is effected, their movement will bend those hairs. The bending of these hairs soon cause your brain to think there is more sound, since there are "electrical signals" being sent to the "auditory nerve." This would be the reason why it may sound like a hear monitor is flat lining inside your ears.

This is supposed to only last for a short period of time, but if you are like me and 44 million other Americans, the ringing tends to be a bit more persistent. the article suggests that it is too loud if you have to shout over the noise. Thank god they don't know that I'm constantly stuck in the situation of someone shouting something to me, and all I get is that their mouth is moving.

All right, I'm in trouble.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Never do I want to think about Halle Berry and my Grandmother at the same time...

I've decided after reading a few of the articles in Discover magazine, the headlines do a fantastic job of tricking you into reading a story. What I mean by this is that I identify with a very well written lede , I think it is one of the most important parts of the story. it shows whether you can write on your own rather than spew a bunch of quotes from various sources. There is so much more that goes into a story, but the lede could be the one thing that has you throwing your computer out the window even though you have a full fleshed out article in your possession.

Coming away from that ridiculous tangent, when you read the headline "Can a Single Neuron Tell Halle Berry from Grandma Ester" you're probably expecting a gut-splitting, or at the most clever, lede. Luckily for them, the first thing I saw was the headline. The headline was the reason I decided to read it, and fortunately for author CarlZimmer, I was interested enough in the subject to read the whole thing. His lede reflects his whole writing style, bland and unoriginal. The lede jumps right into technical informati0n that would lead any other reader to search for Perez Hilton's Twitter page.

What is difficult for a story like this is trying to write the information in an enjoyable manner. What he does very well is covering all sides of the argument over the presence of the "grandma cell", a group of processors, or a "sparse coding network." he went in full detail about Jerry Lettvin's theory of "grandma cells" as they are neurons responding to a certain stimuli, such as Halle Berry or your Grandmother. Rodrigo Quian Quiroga of the University of Leicester in England tested this theory by showing several pictures to participants and marking the responses to a photo of Halle Berry he gathered from some neurons. There have been several disputes of this from other scientists saying that while that neuron may be responding so strongly to one image does not mean it will not do the same for another.

The rest of the article all describes different theories with no true conclusive evidence to declare any of the arguments true. Quiroga himself even admits that the "grandmother cell" theory is not an exact one, feeling that he may have missed millions of other neurons that could be firing off at other photos while only collecting 100. If anything, Zimmer's scientific research is very well done, the results themselves are what is lacking.

Much of what Zimmer discusses does not require much metaphor usage. The writing is pretty straight forward and very easy to understand. For example, it was easy to understand the description of the computer programming using processors to identify a certain individual by giving random guesses, but eventually narrowing it down to give a more perfect identification system.

Overall, the article is very interesting and poses some interesting questions. The purpose of the article seemed to be just a means of rasing those questions, not giving any conclusive evidence. What was missing were a few more interesting examples of how the "grandmother cell" is put into action. The flow of the article was fluid, as each paragraph had no problem transitioning from one to the other. All I have to say for Zimmer is, well, he needs to get working on lede writing.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How is Music Remastered You Ask?

Recalling the sound of a chainsaw revving its engine, Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, the legendary guitarists of Pearl Jam, slide their fingers down the fret of their guitars to open one of the most prolific PJ songs known as "Even Flow." When it was first released on vinyl/cassette/CD, producer Rick Parashar did the best with what was available to him when it came to recording PJ's first ever full-length album, Ten. What it lacked was some serious low-end. The bass was almost non-existent, and after seeing bassist Jeff Ament perform live several times I knew there was some crunch in that bass that has never been heard before on CD.

I became immensely jubilant upon hearing the news that producer Brendan O'Brien was tapped to do the remastering and remixing of the tracks on Ten because of his work on albums such as Yield where songs like "Brain Of J" had the deep vibration I've been wanting. I never knew the intricacies of Ament's performance on the album until I heard the remastered version, and the levels of McCready and Gossard made their riffs more prominent.

Some bands prefer the analog approach because they feel it might add character to the music, or it is just a more natural way of doing things. The Beatles discography is getting a digital treatment. In an article in Fast Company, they discuss how the original Beatles discography is now being converted into digital files. The way it was originally executed was by taking the analog recording and putting it straight onto compact discs. While trying to "keep the integrity" of the original recordings, with digital remastering producers are able to take out some microphone pops, electrical clicks, that hissing sound on some recordings. What it is doing is giving the recording a much more polished sound and relevant sound.

In an interview I did with the band Barefoot Truth, they discussed how it is a "digital world" in the music industry these days and the only way to compete is by going digital. They use the process of recording in Pro-Tools, a recording software, and then transferring those tracks onto analog tapes. They are still able to keep their organic sound while keeping things a bit more professional sounding.

It just shows that everyone is trying to keep up with the times, even if its Pearl Jam, who are known to be set in their ways, or The Beatles, who don't even exist anymore. Barefoot Truth said it best though, "We live in a digital world."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If we're on the topic of interesting ledes

While reading all the different ledes on Discovery Magazine's website, the story "For Proteins, Evolution is a One Way Street" (though "Toothy Sea Monsters Need Sanctuary, Too" was a very close second), had a very interesting first paragraph that had me drawn to read the rest of the story. It reads:

"Organisms evolve to fit the world around them–but if the changes don’t work out, can a creature reverse the process? Say, for example, an insect originally eats a wide variety of tree leaves, but then evolves to live exclusively on the leaves from one type of tree that is abundant in its habitat; if that tree goes extinct, can the bug reverse course? A new study in Nature sheds some light on such questions, which have perplexed evolutionary biologists for many decades."

It wasn't so much that the lede was mind-blowingly compelling, it posed a question that tickled my curiosity and led me to find out if the process of evolution can be reversed. Well, the headline itself does not lie, they have proven due to constant mutations in evolution. They had performed tests by reversing 7 mutations in order to see if its "ancestral functions" would present themselves, but the case subject inevitably did not pull through with what they wanted.