Discussion Post: Week 2
Hello, everyone! I hope you’re enjoying this Labor Day weekend. Did anyone go out of town over the three-day break?
As our first presentations approach, be thinking about how you can apply the lessons from the textbook to your own delivery. Are you thinking about trying anything different based on what we’ve discussed in class? What ideas seem best for your particular topic and audience — and what standards, if any, do you think you’ll want to break this time around?
Anyone here who is interested in astroaeronautics has undoubtedly been watching news on the recent Russian Soyuz rocket crash. In case you’re not up to speed on the issue, earlier this year NASA conducted its final manned space flights; that aspect of America’s space program has been shut down by the Obama administration. In its place, American astronauts were expected to have access to space through the Russian space program or private entrepreneurs. (The latter group has yet to start operating on a large scale.) However, a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) crashed in Siberia on August 25, and the noxious fumes left in its wake purportedly causing a slew of health problems for indigenous Siberians and local villagers. Since the food and other supplies being carted to the ISS never reached their intended destination — and since Russia will surely ground its rockets until the problem has been resolved on its other Soyuz rockets — the ISS crew may be forced to evacuate, presumably leaving the outpost abandoned until October. Russia uses a similar Soyuz model to send astronauts into space, so the entire incident only highlights skeptics’ concerns about the idea of outsourcing U.S. space flights. What do you think about all this? Did the U.S. government make the right move in the midst of a budget crisis, or will we come to regret the dissolution of NASA’s manned space flight program? Will the outsourcing system be successful? How can future incidents be prevented, and what do such disasters say about space flights and their technology in general?
Those of you in my sections know that I’m a sucker for a good debate, so let’s tackle the climate change issue this week, shall we? I’d like to showcase two alternative views on the issue. The first, presented by Bloomberg, focuses on insurance pricing. As the business magazine’s editors argue, insurers already factor climate change into their models, and they “have no incentive to lie. If they are more scared than they should be in pricing risk, shareholders will punish them. If they aren’t scared enough, nature will do the job.” The article slams Republican presidential candidates for hesitating to concede what insurers have long since accepted as fact: that unless carbon emissions are curtailed, the temperature will continue to rise, which directly contributes to the sort of extreme weather phenomena like what we witnessed with Hurricane Irene last weekend.
As an indirect rebuttal, the International Business Times reports that a recent study by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, shows such climate changes are not a result of human activities. The article, published in scientific journal Nature, suggests instead that cosmic rays and the sun are responsible for the recent temperature and weather shifts around the world. The article scoffs at recent charges by “Nobel Prize winner and leading climate change ‘alarmist’ Al Gore” that global warming denyers are “akin to ‘racists,’ and ‘pseudo-scientists,'” as well as his accusations that the media manipulated global warming evidence to cast doubt on the theories he supports.
What do you believe? Is either side right, or is there a third viewpoint that you believe is correct? How will domestic and international policies directed toward climate change develop in the foreseeable future? Just as importantly, what does this exceedingly public debate among scientists, policymakers, celebrities, and the world at large tell us about the state of scientific research today? Does this have any ramifications for your own work?
With the tenth anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 attacks looming next Sunday, it’s only fitting that we start considering the issue now. A number of the rescue workers at the World Trade Center and other affected areas have experienced an unusual degree of illness in the decade since, suggesting that they may have paid the price for their heroic efforts. One study indicates that firefighters exposed to the dust and smoke surrounding the terrorist attack have since experienced a higher incidence of cancer than their colleagues, as well as a slew of other conditions ranging from asthma and gastroesophageal reflux disease to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. While local and federal programs have been established to help rescue workers and local residents, funding has been slow, and many still do not know about the program or believe that they escaped any ill effects from the airborne dust by waiting until the evening to return to their homes. What do you think about this unfortunate situation? What about the attacks themselves? Where were you when the World Trade Center was hit, and what meaning (or meanings) did it hold for the U.S. and the world then and today?
On the financial side of things, the U.S. created a whopping zero new jobs in August. Republicans jumped on the opportunity to criticize Obama for the weak jobs report, which left the unemployment rate stuck at 9.1%, while President Obama blamed Republicans for Congress’ unwillingness to accept his fiscal proposals. U.S. stocks plunged following the weak jobs report, and the White House predicted that the unemployment rate will remain high, averaging 9% throughout 2012. What are your thoughts on the economic crisis? Who do you feel is most at fault, and what needs to be done in the future to resolve it? More importantly, what will be done in the current political climate, and what will that mean for the U.S. in the future?
Let’s brighten up this post just a little bit. On Thursday, I promised one of my classes that I would add a specific article on the proliferation of gaming to this week’s blog post. It’s a much older article than others cited here (this one was published December 13, 2010), but it’s still highly relevant. Plus, you just can’t beat this quote:
The massive multiplayer online game World of Warcraft boasts 12 million registered users paying $15 a month to spend an average of 80 hours a month inside the game. Since the game’s release in 2004, users have racked up some 50 billion hours of playing time — the equivalent of 5.93 million years.
I shouldn’t even need to prompt you on that one. Discuss!
As always, any of the above or below articles is fair game, as is anything else that I may have missed this week. I look forward to seeing what you think!
Other articles of interest:
After 17 years, Germany OK’s sale of “Doom”
Sony’s new products doomed to mediocrity
Who released the trove of unredacted WikiLeaks documents?
Fraudulent Google certificate points to Internet attack
Federal Judge to Monitor Comcast Merger’s Impact on Online Video Distributors
Domino’s to serve pizzas on the Moon, apparently
Domino’s Pizza Moon Plan is All Topping, No Base
Time to think about cleaning up space junk, study says
Space junk littering orbit; might need cleaning up
New Mars samples ‘unlike any seen before’
Atom-smashing hype faces reality
Higgs particle could be found by Christmas
DePaul makes ACT and SAT scores optional for high school seniors
Obama halts controversial EPA regulation
Deadline for Libyan Loyalists to Surrender Is Extended
Forecasters: Gulf system could be next billion-dollar disaster
High cost of insomnia may be a wake-up call
Lizard Genome Promises Great Advances in Understanding Evolution
Suit charges Windows 7 smartphones track users
Apple Cited as Adding to Pollution in China
Tags: Al Gore, America, asthma, carbon emissions, CERN, climate, depression, European Organization for Nuclear Research, firefighters, gaming, gastroesophageal reflux disease, Hurricane Irene, insurers, International Space Station, NASA, Nobel Prize, Obama, post-traumatic stress disorder, Republicans, Russia, September 11th attacks, Siberia, Soyuz, World of Warcraft, World Trade Center