Discussion Post: Week 5
As we transition into the more applied part of the class — we’ll be working on our web portfolios in iTaP labs throughout this week — how do you feel about your efforts so far? Are you ready to take these presentations to the next level, to simulate to a greater degree what you’ll be doing in the workplace? Looking into the immediate future, what are your thoughts about our upcoming web portfolio projects?
Let’s start with an old-fashioned scientific debate. The speed of light, approximately 186,282 miles per second, has long been recognized as the “speed limit” of the universe, the upper bound of velocity that no particle can exceed. This postulate is among Albert Einstein’s most famous conjectures, and it stands at the heart of his special relativity theory. However, on Thursday, a group of physicists working for CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, said that they had recorded sub-atomic particles travelling faster than light. While these results have not yet been verified by independent peers in the field, Antonio Ereditato, the research team’s spokesperson, said that “We have checked and rechecked for anything that could have distorted our measurements but we found nothing” over the course of the three-year study. Understandably, though, others in the field are not quite so confident, particularly given the respect that Einstein and special relativity theory hold in the field. Alvaro De Rujula, another CERN physicist, has speculated that the anomaly came about due to still-undetected human error, and others think that the particles may have taken a shortcut through extradimensional space — in other words, moving beyond three-dimensional space as expressed by string theory. Put another way, it is “[s]ort of the equivalent of a 2D Londoner living on the surface of the globe taking a short cut to Sydney via the Earth’s core.” We can, and we should, consider and discuss this study’s potential effects on science and on researchers’ understanding of the world. Beyond that, it is also important for us in particular to reflect on the public nature of modern science. The media didn’t jump on scientific findings in centuries past, so how does this trend change the way in which scientific inquiry and debate are conducted? Further, what does it mean for the populace’s understanding of the world, especially when such questions are still under constant debate? What other examples of public science have you witnessed in recent years? Do you think that the development is a good thing, or does it have more negative effects?
On the domestic stage, let’s focus on the presidential campaign this week. Republican candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry is struggling to hold his lead over the other GOP candidates, particularly as criticism increases from both sides of the political aisle. Perry appears to have a stronger grip on Republican-leaning voters, while former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has been stronger with swing voters. Still, during Friday’s debate Romney detailed his strict anti-illegal immigration stance, going to great lengths to highlight an issue on which he leans further to the right wing than Perry. As Romney put it, “if you’re opposed to illegal immigration, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a heart. It means that you have a heart and a brain.” These intensifying attacks come as the primary increasingly turns into a two-candidate race: a USA Today/Gallup poll that concluded last Sunday shows Perry with 31% of the Republican vote and Romney with 24%. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann sit in a distant third and fourth, respectively.
Of course, Republicans have hardly been the only candidates active this week. President Barack Obama announced Friday that he is altering the No Child Left Behind law, which was arguably the legislation for which former President George W. Bush was most famous. The law, which has been less-than-effective since passing with bipartisan support almost ten years ago, initially called for all states to prove students’ proficiency in reading and math by 2014. Many claim, however, that the policy ultimately strengthened the push for teachers to “teach to the test” rather than developing students’ comprehension skills and deep knowledge bases. Obama’s new policy would permit states to request the Education Department to request exemption from certain policies, provided that they meet certain conditions indicative of “good-faith efforts.” Obama announced this policy despite Congress’ failure to pass an update to the law, effectively bypassing the legislative hurdle. This, of course, has prompted a rash of criticisms from his political opponents, who claim that not only is circumventing the legislature an abuse of Obama’s executive power, but that the waiver plan will do nothing to reduce the “teaching to the test” trend. Still, Connecticut Governor Daniel P. Malloy has already announced his intent to utilize Obama’s waiver program, and Obama continues to push his education plan, saying in his weekly address that fostering a strong education system is also the key to resolving the U.S.’ current financial crisis: “If we’re serious about building an economy that lasts, an economy in which hard work pays off with the opportunity for solid middle-class jobs, we had better be serious about education.”
What are your thoughts on the political campaign, as well as the issues highlighted here? How might the country look with each of the contenders sitting in office on January 20? For that matter, how will these developments change our country right now?
In world news, on Friday Palestinians formally requested membership in the United Nations (U.N.). Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas said that, as part of his efforts to push the Palestinian National Authority into official statehood, he is prepared to resume negotiation with Israel over borders between Palestine and Israel , as long as those talks are based on the lines as they stood in 1967; this would result in Jerusalem standing as the capital of Palestine. (For those unfamiliar with the issue, Palestinians and Israel have been fighting intermittently for many years. One of the most significant turning points in the conflict was the 1967 Palestinian exodus, during which the Israeli government overtook a portion of Palestine territory and drove out the Palestines living there.)
Prior to the official request, Obama voiced opposition to the Palestinian bid, saying that such an arrangement would more appropriately arise from negotiations with Israel than from a U.N. declaration. Israel, for its part, flatly rejected Palestine’s bid on the grounds that, as Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times explained, “the Palestinians and their Arab allies gave up the right to the United Nations resolutions detailing a two state solution by rejecting that original plan and waging war against Israel for six decades.” It appears that the U.S. will use its veto power to block full U.N. membership for Palestine, effectively siding with Israel, one of the country’s closest allies, although that might not stop an alternative policy pushed by President Nicholas Sarkozy of France which would transition Palestine from its status as an observer entity to that of a non-member observer state — implicitly granting Palestine statehood, even without U.N. membership. What are your thoughts on this development? How will the U.N. as a whole respond, and what do you feel should be done about the continuing fight between Israel and the Palestinians?
Other articles of interest:
NASA Says Satellite Fell to Earth Over Pacific Ocean
China moves ahead with space station plans
Quitting Smoking Improves Memory
Could Socializing Help Keep You Thin?
Google cozies up to GOP
Your Guide To Today’s Google Grilling
Twitter to launch political advertising
Facebook changes prompting some users to leave
Apple Sued by Via Technologies Over Microprocessor Patents
iPhone 5 launch expected on 4 October
NBA postpones training camps, scraps some preseason games
Want to Succeed? Stop Trying So Hard
Should Mothers Be Sued for Bad Parenting?
Caveman Diet Gains Popularity
Hair Shows Aborigine Ancestors Were First to Explore World
Senate rejects House spending bill, leaving open possibility of government shutdown
U.S. Walks Out as Ahmadinejad Speaks