Posts Tagged ‘science’

  • 2004-05 Winner: “Understanding the Science Gender Gap” by Matt Olson

    Date: 2005.09.15 | Category: Selected Essays | Response: 0

    “Understanding the Science Gender Gap” by Matt Olson PDF

    “A young boy and his father were in a car accident. Both were injured and rushed to the hospital.  They were wheeled into separate operating rooms and two doctors prepped up to work on them, but the doctor assigned to the young boy stared at him in surprise.  “I can’t operate on him!” the doctor exclaimed to the staff, “That child is my son!”

    This is a classic riddle that was once used in an episode of the T.V. series All in the Family.  Its ability to stump intelligent, educated people speaks volumes of the expectations people have for the sex of certain professionals.  It is difficult because when we hear the word “doctor”, we reflexively picture a male, because as we see on T.V., in books, on commercials, and our own experiences in the doctor’s office, doctors are men while nurses are women. The connection is never made that the doctor could be female and the boy’s mother.

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  • 2003-04 Winner: “Constructing Knowledge: The Role of Human Limitations in Scientific Reasoning” by Katherine Liu

    Date: 2004.07.08 | Category: Selected Essays | Response: 0

    “Constructing Knowledge” by Katherine Liu PDF

    Humans have always relished organizing the world into neat and definite quantities, to which they can easily relate.  It is a pursuit that has consumed man throughout the ages.  Modern scientists feverishly search for the governing laws of the universe, just as Chinese scholars once scanned the stars, and Greek philosophers debated the meaning of life.  Science is born out of speculation and observation. It provides a means for mankind to grasp at the divine, and explain the inexplicable.  Like an artist molds a work of art from a formless wedge of clay, so science seeks to press the universe into quantitative models.  These models reflect the complex interactions within nature, as the artist’s sculpture attempts to embody emotion.  However, no artist possesses the skill to define ‘devotion’ or ‘grief into physical depiction.  An artist is limited by the nature of the medium, and the complexity of the concept. The emotion is too intricate, and although it may be copied, it can never be fully replicated.  It follows that in this way no scientific model can be completely accurate.  A model is simply “an object of imitation . . . an idealized description or conception of a particular system” (Oxford).  Science is built upon the strength of its models in approximating the universe.  So although science may provide a good representation of the way things are, it provides nothing more, and may not be taken as an absolute.  Models are applied to the world in attempts to understand it. Sir Isaac Newton utilized models in his attempt to understand the complicated concept of gravity. He took the force and described it simply and concisely, in a way we as humans could understand.  Yet it eventually fell short of describing the full properties of the force, and it has been long since replaced.

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  • 2002-03 Winner (Third Place): “The Science of Science”* by Nicholas Astete

    Date: 2003.07.13 | Category: Selected Essays | Response: 0

    “The Science of Science” by Nicholas Astete PDF

    “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

    Isaac Newton, who in 1676 wrote this sentence to colleague Robert Hooke, has himself become a giant in the eyes of the scientific community.  With keen intellectual insight, Newton made huge advances in the sciences—particularly by developing the particle theory of light and discovering the laws of physical motion and universal gravitation.  Alan Gross, however, would object to Newton’s “insight,” contesting his purported “discovery.”  While discovery implies apprehending the objective workings of nature, Gross in “Rhetorical Analysis” argues that “the claims of science are solely the products of persuasion” (389).  Newton is a giant, he would say, because of his eloquent yet invented arguments.  However, the act of rendering all scientific endeavors to rhetoric and persuasion is not something uncontroversial.  Though science is certainly linked with argumentation, this doesn’t give it license for speculation.  A scientific theory is not a stick man supported solely by its proponents’ glib tongues.  Rather, even the most beautifully constructed theories must cede to experimental data because science at its core demands rigor and specific, testable claims.

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