Category Archives: Student Contributions

The Time Machine

The Time Machine 

I chose to write about The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I decided to read this book because Wells writes about two scientific themes that have always interested me. As the name of the book implies, one of the themes that Wells delves into is time travel. The other theme is human evolution. In the book, the main character, whose name is never mentioned, creates a time machine and travels to 802, 701 AD. While in the future, he encounters a group of humans called Eloi. The Time Traveller spends time with the Elois and learns much about them. I enjoyed this book, and I personally loved Wells’s view on how he believes human evolution will be like in the future. Although the book mentions two major themes of science, I will focus on the evolution part of this book. I am particularly fascinated with human evolution because humans can evolve at so many levels. We are able to evolve at the molecular level as well as on a societal level. In the book, Wells mentions that Eloi are physically different than humans today, but the biggest change was the way Eloi behaved. I think that the topic of human evolution is something that fascinates many people, and I believe that Wells paints an excellent picture of what he sees the future of humans may be like.

Biography: 

downloadHerbert George Wells was and English writer born on September 21, 1866. Wells is most known for War of the Worlds, Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The Time Machine. Although he was best known for his fiction writings, Wells also wrote books in other genres such as history and politics.

Wells was the last of four children of Joseph Wells and Sarah Neal. Wells’s father was a shopkeeper and professional cricket player, and his mother was a lady’s maid. As you can tell, Wells did not live in a life of luxury. Wells’s mother placed very strict puritanical religious views on him. His mother fed him scary ideas of burning in hell. Wells’s quickly stopped believing in God and religion. Wells became a draper’s apprentice whenever his family was experiencing financial burdens. He disliked being a draper and eventually quit, and went on to pursue an education. He was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to the Normal School in London.

His professor Thomas Huxley heavily influenced Well’s life. Huxley’s views on Darwinian evolution shaped the foundation of Wells’s beliefs. Wells also said, “that year I spent in Huxley’s class was beyond all questions, the most educations year of my life.” (WellsExper) Although it seemed that Wells would have gone on to be a scientist, H.G Wells went on to the literature route. However, Wells ended up dropping out of the Normal School of Science after his third year. Wells had to make a way to earn money, and he ended up finding a teaching job at a boarding school in Wales (Harris 19). While teaching at the boarding school, Wells was hit by a student during a game of soccer, which caused damage to his kidney and also crushed a blood vessel in his lung (Harris 19). Wells was diagnosed with Tuberculosis while he was recovering from his accident. He did not die, but while recovering, he had the chance to read a lot of literature from a library. The exposure he had to the literature helped develop his own ideas for writing.

Wells’s first big hit was The Time Machine. This book was very successful, and his career as a writer took off from this first book. His science background had much to do with his writing style and his views on certain issues. In the book The Time Machine, Wells writes about evolution and time travel. Wells also incorporates issues faced during his time. For example, in his book The Island of Doctor Moreau, Wells brings to light the issue of vivisection. During his time vivisection was seenimages as unnecessary cruelty. Wells’s work has had much influence on other works of fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

Summary:

The story begins with the Time Traveller, an English scientist, discussing with his weekly dinner guests about the fourth time-machine-papercraftdimension, which is time. The Time Traveller tells his dinner guest that it is possible to move through time. His guests are skeptical at first, but then show his guests a model of his time

machine. He informs his guests that we will travel through time, and then his guest leave after the evening has concluded. He invites his dinner guests over again the next week, and then he tells them all about his time traveling adventure.

The Time Traveller goes to the year 802,701 AD. While in the future he meets a group of humans that call themselves the Eloi. The Eloi live in small communities within the ruins of fallen cities. The Eloi are a very carefree people. The Time Traveller notices that the Eloi lack curiosity and discipline. He believes that they are a communist society. He has difficulty communicating with the Eloi because they are not interested in learning about him, and he thinks that in their society being intellectual is not an advantageous trait.

When the Time Traveller is done speaking to the Eloi, he is unable to find his time machine. The Time Traveller soon realizes that the machine was taken by a group of ape-like creatures known as the Morlocks. The Time Traveller speculates that humans evolved into two different species, the Elois and the Morlocks. The Morlocks live underground, and they seem to be the ones who make life enjoyable for the Eloi.

While the Time Traveller is finding his time machine, he saves an Eloi girl named Weena from drowning. He takes Weena with him on a trip to the remains of an old museum. At the museum, he finds a supply of matches and weapons, which he feels he will have to use in order to retrieve his machine. On the way to Weena’s home, they are both overcome by Morlocks, but they are able to escape because of a forest fire set by the Time Traveller. Although the Time Traveller 1803311-morlock1escapes, Weena is lost in the fire. The Morlocks use the Time Machine to lure the Time Travller back to them, but the Morlocks did not seem to understand that we would just use it to escape. The Time Traveller escapes and ends up going 30 million years into the future. While in very distant future he sees the earth slowly erode, and becomes very overwhelmed and returns home to tell his story.

 

Human Evolution:

human-evolution-david-gifford

In this book, the topic of human evolutions is heavily presented. The main character travels into the distant future and encounters two distinct groups of humans. Not only did the humans change physically, but also the way they behaved was different. When H.G Wells wrote this book, he was heavily influenced by major scientists of his time. One person in particular was Charles Darwin.

Darwin’s main idea was evolution by natural selection. During an expedition to the Galapagos, Darwin observed finches and noticed that certain fiimagesnches were better adapted to certain environments. This observation led Darwin to his theory of Natural Selection. His theory stated that if a certain adaptation were successful, then that trait would get passed on. Darwin also believed that animals descended from common ancestors. Darwin’s ideas on evolution influenced HG Wells’s writing. For example in the book, the main character stated that humans evolved into two species, the Morlocks and the Eloi. This idea is similar to Darwin’s theory of animals having common ancestors.

Today evolution is seen as changes in allele frequencies in population overtime (Britannica. However during Wells’s time, not much was known about DNA and the factors that affected it that could lead to evolution. When thinking in terms of human evolution, there are several levels in which one must look at. H.G Wells not only described the physical differences seen in the Morlocks and the Eloi, but also the behavioral differences. Wells’s describes the Eloi as people who were carefree and people who lacked curiosity. I think that Wells’s was illustrating that not only will humans evolve physically, but also at a societal level. It is uncertain what the future holds, but Wells’s does an excellent job at getting one’s imagination going.

Conclusion:

time-machine-dvd-cover-28

 

In this book, HG Wells does an excellent job at looking into the future. As mentioned before, he was heavily influenced by the science of his time. For example, Darwin’s theory of evolution influenced how Wells’s approached evolution in his books. I would recommend this book for any science fiction lover because the book makes one think about what the future holds.

Works Cited

“Introduction.” The Island of Doctor Moreau Edited by Mason Harris. Ed. Mason Harris. Toronto: Broadview Editions, 2009. Page 19-22.

Wells,H.G., Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866). 2 Vols. London: Gollancz and Cresset Press, 1934

http://www.online-literature.com/wellshg/

“evolution.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 18 Jun. 2014.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/197367/evolutio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nuclear Medicine

Someone in class mentioned how nuclear technology and radiation where used in the medical field, and I wanted to know more about it. I knew radiation was used, but radioisotopes are also used in the medical field. Radioisotopes allow doctors to detect tumors or fractures, measure blood flow, or determine thyroid and pulmonary functions in patients. Not only are radioisotopes used, but idione-131, a fission product, is used in diagnostics test for certain thyroid disorders.

So after skimming through The Giant’s Shoulders #72 I found nothing particularly interesting, however, I did find something sort of interesting in the 35th one.

Near the very start of the class we discussed how, in the past, scientific debate consisted mostly of ridicule, and this site has an example of this; an entire book ridiculing Athanasius Kircher and other predecessors of Newton.

The Journey of I, Robot

Science cannot only be explored through experiments or venturing out in the field but also through literature. Scientific novels allow us to see science through a fictionalized story such as I, Robot. I, Robot is a science fiction that was written by Isaac Asimov in 1950. Along with I, Robot, Asimov has also written several other award winning scientific novels. In I, Robot, several different scientific discoveries, such as expeditions to other planets and creation of robots, are mentioned along with underlying messages on ethics in scientific experiments and psychology.
Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov was born on January 2, 1920 in Petrovichi, Russia to proud parents Juda and Anna Asimov. His family moved to Brooklyn, New York in 1923 where his family owned a candy store (Gunn, 1982). Asimov taught himself how to read at the age five, and he skipped a total of one and a half years of grade school during elementary. He completed junior high school in two years instead of the usual three and graduated high school at the age of fifteen. Asimov had the ability to retain information really well, but soon noticed that he lacked ability to grasp mathematics or economics. He began to write a series of books at the age of eleven. Being the elderly son, Asimov’s father wanted him to become a physician rather then writing books. Getting into medical school for Asimov was not easy. Medical schools back then had quotas on the number of Jewish students they could allow, thus Asimov never applied to medical school. He graduated with a bachelors of science degree in chemistry from Columbia University. Then he tried to reapply to medical school again but got rejected again, so he obtained his M. A. in 1941. World War II broke out when he was trying to get his doctorate, so he put a halt to his education to become a chemist at the United States Navy Yard in Philadelphia. In 1948, Asimov finally earned his degree and was offered to work at Boston University School of Medicine as an instructor in biochemistry. His passion to write scientific novels never really left him, and once again began to write. He published his first story Marooned of Vesta in April 1940 in the Amazing Stories.

Best of Isaac Asimov books all in one.

Asimov’s writing carrier started to take off to the point were he was making more from his books then his job at Boston University School of Medicine (Gunn, 1982). Originally, Asimov had published several individual stories about robots in the 1940’s, and it was not until 1950 that he combined Robbie, Runaround, Reason, Catch that Rabbit, Liar!, Little Lost Robot, Escape!, Evidence, and The Evitable Conflict into what is known today as I, Robot. He made these individual stories to be a part of a whole story depicting Susan Calvin’s life. By the end of his career, Asimov had received eight Hugo awards and two Nebulas. In 1983, everything came to halt when Asimov had to receive a heart bypass. A blood transfusion

Isaac Asimov won sever Hugos and Nebulas

had taken place during the procedure, and the blood used had been tainted with HIV. In 1992, Asimov died of AIDS.

 

 

 

 

Summary

I, Robot

I, Robot is essentially nine short stories blended together to seem like events that occurred in Doctor Susan Calvin’s life time while working at United States Robot and Mechanical Men Incorporation. The introduction starts out by giving a brief background of Dr. Calvin. An interview (who’s name never gets mentioned) wanted to know more about Dr. Calvin’s life while working for U. S. Robots to feature an article in Interplanetary Press. Susan goes on telling the interviewer nine different stories about robots all revolving around the ethics on creating and using robots. The first story is about the first robot ever made in 1996. His name was Robbie and was sold to be a nursemaid. In this story, the mother is afraid Robbie will get “some little jiggers” and “will go berserk” hurting her daughter Gloria (Asimov, p. 25). Mr. Weston reminds his wife “that it is impossible for a robot to harm a human being” thus Gloria is perfectly fine playing with Robbie. Eventually the Weston’s get rid of Robbie, and Susan continues to talk about U. S. Robots. She then mentions the Second Mercury Expeditions led by Michael Donovan and Gregory Powell with the help of robots. The next chapter is called Runaround, and Dr. Susan talks about the accident Powell and Donavan ran into with a robot called Speedy. Donavan had told Speedy to get selenium without putting urgency into the order. Certain terrains on Mercury were harmful to both humans and robots, so when Speedy went to collect selenium he ran into a dilemma. The third law would not allow him to get close enough to the selenium pool, but the second law made him obey Donavan’s order. Powell and Donavan eventually figure out how to make Speedy get selenium back to the station in a timely fashion.
The third chapter mentions another run in Powell and Donavan have with a robot called Cutie. Cutie believed he had a higher intellectual Master who had built him and would only obey to the Master. Powell figured out Cutie is a reasoning robot and there was not getting through to Cutie. The two men leave the station after knowing Cutie could handle the station alone and go back home to a six month vacation. Upon arriving back to U. S. Robots, a new robot had been created. The new robot was one big robot with six tinier robots working underneath named Dave. Dave malfunctioned and could not control six robots at a time decreasing his initiative. Gregory figures out that Dave can only be in charge of five robots at a time in order to fully function properly. The interview stops Susan from mentioning any other robots in space and asked her about robots on Earth.
She mentions her own run in with Herbie the “lying robot”. Herbie was the first mind reading robot ever created due to an error during the creation of his positronic brain. Dr. Susan, who is also a robopsychologists, figured out that Herbie was just obeying the first law of robotics, and thus would lie about things when questioned.

Various I, Robot covers

Herbie could read what people were thinking and what they wanted, so he would lie to them to make sure he would not hurt them.
In the next chapter, Dr. Susan mentions the creation of a ship from The Brain at U. S. Robots. Consolidated Robots approached them wanting to know what was wrong with their ship design, so they had The Brain replicate a new ship. The Brain was told to look at all the paper work , and to reject anything back with discrepancies. However, The Brain just fixed whatever was wrong and built a new ship. Powell and Donavan get stuck in the ship, and The Brain send the ship off into space. Not knowing where the two had been, Dr. Susan and others started to worry, but she knew The Brain had to still abide by the first law thus The Brain would keep the two scientist out of harms way. With this mishap, the government perfected the Jump through hyperspace allowing human colonies on other planets.
Dr. Calvin mentioned all the new discoviries that had occurred along with the several mishaps, but she told the interview that what happened on Earth in the last fifty years was what really mattered. She mentions how Stephen Byerley changed the public’s view on robots. The world has split up into Regions with Byerley as the World Co-ordinator and each region having a Vice-Co-ordinator. Each region focused on different aspects of the economy with robots along side humans. The robots would help calculate things such as how long it would take to finish a canal, how long it would take to grow crops, or how many resources were available to grow crops. The Machines were running the future of the world according to Dr. Calvin, and she believed that the “Society for Humanity” was right when they said that The Machines were taking over humans. The book ends by stating
“It never had any, really. It was always at the mercy of economic and sociological forces it did not understand-at the whims of climate, and the fortunes of war. Not the Machines understand them; and no one can stop them, since the Machines will deal with them as they are dealing with the Society,-having, as they do, the greatest of weapons at their disposal, the absolute control of our economy (Asimov, 1950).”
Dr. Calvin saw everything form the beginning of creating the robots to them standing between mankind and destruction. At the end she tells the interviewer she will see no more and resigned.
Robotics

Early models of robots

 
Asimov mentioned several robots throughout his novel. Robotics in the 1940s and 1950s was based on two technologies: mathematical control and teleoperators (“World-Information”). In 1940, Asimov released his first short story called “A Strange Playfellow” stating the three laws of robotics (Isom).
1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.


In I, Robot, Asimov mentions his first robot called Robbie who worked through mathematical inputs as well. As time went on, the robots became more intelligent as they did in Asimov’s stories. Alen

Artificial Intelligence was the basis in I, Robot the movie.

Newell and Herber Simon created the Logic Theorist, which was the first expert system that was used to solve difficult math problems (Isom). More research started to take place in artificial intelligence in 1949 (World-Information), which led to the development of the first industrialized used robots. In 1954, George Devol and Joe Enleberger created the first robot ‘arm’ (Isom). With the increase in development of technology in the 1950s, history changed on

The Sputnik

October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union launched their very first spaceship, the Sputnik (Garber, 2007). The space race had begun, and the United States started to create robots and spaceship to be sent into space to study the moon and other plants. On August 20, 1975, the United States launched the Viking equipped with the first space robot (Viking 01). Robotics further advanced from not only being used for expeditions or industrial prototypes, but as well in medicine. In 1998, Dr. David Gow created the first bionic arm called the Edinburgh Modular Arm System to allow disabled individuals to perform independent daily activities (Patel).
With more advancements that had occurred in science, Asimov created more stories such as “Lair!,” “Reason,” “Little Lost Robot,” etc. The robots in his stories also progressively became more advanced, and he also included sever voyages to different planets with these robots. He even went beyond his time era and mentioned humans living on other planets with Machines along their sides guiding their future. I believe that newer discoveries in robotics and space expeditions during Asimov’s time influenced each one of his robot stories, but one key aspect in Asimov’s stories was the ethics behind all these experiments.
Ethics
Asimov’s whole book is based on the ethics behind robotics. He was the first person to create the three laws of robotics. The first robot Asimov talked about was Robbie.
“Robbie was constructed for one one purpose really-to be the companion of a little child. His entire ‘mentality’ has been created for the purpose.”
This quote reveals how Asimov believed ethically robots are created with a sole purpose and will do just so. He later went on discussing how Robbie will always uphold the three laws engraved into him further solidifying how ethically Robbie was created. When robots began to become more complicated and further advance, Asimov creates stories about robots that malfunctioned. For example, when

NS-2 Robot model

the First Law was not impression in the NS-2 model robots in the chapter “Little Lost Robot”, the robots lost the capability to protect humans as their number one priority. I believe the underlying message Asimov is trying to state is that you should not tamper with things far past their limits especially when the knowledge is no present. He was the first person to even come up with the idea of robots, but he knew some laws had to be created in order to keep things in line.

Conclusion
Asimov at his time was the father of science fiction novels publishing over a hundred sci-fi novels. He took his knowledge of current scientific discoveries into play when writing his books, but he also tried to predict the future in robotics. Asimov depicted his story in such way to reveal not only the different aspects of robotics and expeditions but also the key role of ethics (a.k.a. his three laws of robotics) in scientific experiments and discoveries.

A few interviews with Isaac Asimov that are worth watching.


 

Works Cited

Asimov, Isaac. I, robot. New York: Bantam Books, 1950. Print.

Garber, Steve . “Sputnik.” Sputnik. N.p., 10 Oct. 2007. Web. 30 June 2014. <http://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/&gt;.

Gunn, James E.. Isaac Asimov, the foundations of science fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982. Print.

“Isaac Asimov.” Isaac Asimov. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 July 2014. <http://www.nndb.com/people/702/000023633/&gt;.

Patel, V. R., M. F. Chammas, and S. Shah. “Robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy: a review of the current state of affairs.” International Journal of Clinical Practice 61.2 (2007): 309-314. Print.

“Viking 01.” Solar System Exploration. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 July 2014. <http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/profile.cfm?Sort=Alpha&Letter=V&Alias=Viking%2001&gt;.

“World Biography.” Isaac Asimov Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 July 2014. <http://www.notablebiographies.com/An-Ba/Asimov-Isaac.html&gt;.

“World-Information.Org.” World-Information.Org. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 July 2014. <http://world-information.org/wio/infostructure/100437611663/100
438659348?opmode=contents>.

My Sister’s Keeper

Jasmine Denton
My Sister’s Keeper

By: Jodi Picoult

When you think of the expression, “My sister’s keeper” a general thought of an older sibling providing nurturing care to a younger sibling automatically comes into mind. A teenager that soothes their upset pre-teen sibling because the heart throb crush of the opposite sex does not share the same feelings, or the idea of an older sibling teaching the younger one the ways of life and proving encouraging words to influence good behavior in school, basically the general concept behind being a normal sibling. In the case of Anna and Kate Fitzgerald however this concept is out of the ordinary because Anna was born with the sole purpose of keeping her older sister Kate alive, “her sister’s keeper”. The book My Sister’s Keeper is a captivating novel that discusses moral conflict, family values, genetic makeup, designer babies, cancer and cancer treatment. This book by author Jodi Picoult is among the top best sellers because it discusses controversial topics such as stem cell research and designer babies in relation to a medical situation that will grab the reader and leave them searching through scholarly journals for more information on the science behind this book. Jodi Picoult did a great job with interesting the everyday reader while also involving science, medicine, and ethics. My Sister’s Keeper was used to raise the question of whether or not it is morally acceptable to create a life and use it to save another life, and also when if ever is it ok to subject someone to medical procedures against their will.


About the authorj
Jodi Lynn Picoult was born May 19, 1966 in Long island. She is an American author who has written numerous books featured on the New York Time’s, Best Sellers list. Jodi Picoult was interested in writing at a young age. When she was old enough to read and write she authored her first work known as “The lobster which Misunderstood”. (Journal) Jodi took her love for writing to college. Jodi attended Princeton where she majored in creative writing (picoult). While attending college she published work in Seventeen Magazine, and throughout college worked for a few companies as a writer to pay the bills (picoult). After College, Jodi began a career as a writer for Wall Street, a copywriter for an ad agency, and also as a middle school teacher. She then took her education to the next level and attended grad school to get a master’s degree in education at Harvard University (picoult). Jodi continued to write, and was later married to Tim Van Leer and started a family. A short time after she was married, Jodi published her first novel titled The Songs of a Humpback Whale in 1992, followed by several other novels that charted the top of the best sellers list. In later years Jodi Picoult was given several awards such as, The New England Bookseller Award for Fiction, the Book Browse Diamond Award for novel of the year, and even a lifetime achievement award (picoult). She has also been recognized for countless achievements for several other novels she has published. The work Jodi Picoult has done is inspiring to her fan base because it deals with so many interesting topics, and because of her skillful writing style. Jodi Picoult is an author, wife, mother, and a member of numerous charities (picoult). Jodi Picoult’s Novel My sister’s Keeper had so much success after it was published that it was made into a major motion film. My Sister’s Keeper the movie was released in 2009 (wikipedia). The film stared Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, and Joan Cusack. When the movie was released there were some major changes in the plot, but it was still a hit in the box office (wikipedia).

 


The story of My Sister’ Keepermy-sisters-keeper-lg
The Book is structured around the Fitzgerald Family. The members are parents, Sara and Brian. The kids are Jesse, Kate, and Anna. The book starts out with background information about the family and the issues they are all dealing with. Brian and Sara have a son named Jesse who is healthy as a young child. When he is a few years old he gets a new little sister named Kate. Unlike Jesse, Kate is not so lucky when it comes to health. When she is around the age of two she begins to get sick often, and Kate develops mysterious bruises. The parents take her to the doctor to get some test done. Sara and Brian find out that Kate has developed a serious illness, and is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The cancer is Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia, APL for short (organization). APL is a rare form of leukemia, and it affects an estimated 1 in every 250,000 people (genetics home reference, the guide to understanding genetic conditions). APL is a cancer of the blood forming system due to a translocation of cells in the body. APL is diagnosed by blood testing. Symptoms of this cancer include abnormal bruising and bleeding, such as blood in the urine and nose bleeds (genetics home reference, the guide to understanding genetic conditions). The symptoms related to APL are exactly the symptoms Kate experienced in the novel. After Kate was diagnosed with APL the plan of treatment was discussed.
The first plan was to have the family tested to determine if there was a donor match to assist in the treatment of Kate. There were no matches, so chemotherapy radiation, and several other medications were the next plan of action. Over the course of a few years the treatments worked, but due to the rarity of this cancer a repeat in treatment proved to be ineffective. The family seemed to be running out of options, and then a doctor that specializes in genetics gave them a new option. The doctor basically told them that even though none of the current family members were matches for Kate, there could still be a chance that another member can be. The doctor told the family that the increase in genetic studies has provided information on designing babies. The family could consult with a geneticist and embryologist to produce a perfect donor match for their sick daughter Kate. With the help of fertility treatment and specialist the family was able to create Anna. Anna was born and immediately became a donor for her sister. She underwent extensive amounts of procedures to donate blood, bone marrow, and platelets to her sister. It isn’t until Anna turns 13 that she no longer wants to be a donor for her sister. Anna decides she does not want to be a donor any more when her parents suggest that she should donate one of her kidneys to her sister. A young girl giving up a kidney means giving up the possibility of ever having a normal life. Research has shown that a person can live a normal life with one kidney. However things that could potentially harm the remaining kidney must be eliminated, for example drinking alcoholic beverages and major contact sports. There is also a chance that the remaining kidney fails on its own and then that person has to begin Dialysis (john hopkins what kidney donors need to know). There are several other complications associated with kidney donation that can lead to a troubled life down the road, and as a result to that Anna decides she will file a lawsuit against her parents for medical emancipation.
A medically emancipated minor, is a person who is found suitable to make their own medical decisions in the court of law. The minor can consult with their parent or other guardian for advice, but the ultimate decision is up to the minor (minor rights vs parent right). Anna hires a lawyer by the name of Campbell Alexander to take on her case. The court appoints a third party person named Julia who is to help the court decide what is medically best for Anna. The case goes to trial, and the truth behind the lawsuit is revealed. Kate asked Anna to stop being a donor for her so she could die. Kate has no desire to go on fighting the battle against her cancer. The court ruled in Anna’s favor to emancipate her. After the trial is over, Anna is on her way to see her family at the hospital when she gets into a terrible car accident. The doctors pronounce her brain dead. Sara and Brian make the decision to take the kidney out of Anna and give it to Kate. The surgery is a success, and Kate goes on to live a life cancer free (Picoult, 2004).


The book as a film


The book was made into a film and there were some major changes. The characters were different; some that were in the book were not in the movie. The major difference would have to be the ending. In the book Anna dies tragically in a car accident. In the movie Kate dies after Anna is granted medical emancipation. The overall plot line was still very similar.

968full-my-sisters-keeper-screenshot


Science and medicine
Without science, there would be no medicine, and without medicine, there would not be a demand for continued scientific research. Science and medicine make up the never ending cycle of life improvement. As time progresses new research is done to find a faster more affective cure for everything. This book discusses genetics, anatomy and physiology, medical research, chemotherapy, and several other topics in science because it is important on getting the point of the book across, but how important are these topics in a real life situation?


Genetics is the study of genes. Geneticists study how traits are passed on from person to person. A person’s physical traits like eye color, hair color, and height are all things that can be determined with genetic studies. Inheritable diseases can also be found with the study of genetics (genes in life, genetics 101). Genetics was founded by Gregor Mendel in the early 1800’s. He performed an experiment with pea plants. The experiment provided information on the rules of heredity (deciphering the genetic code). Mendel used pea plants of different sizes and color and bred them. He found that when he bred certain plants together the plant would have characteristics of one of the plants. This finding gave way to the terms dominant and recessive gene traits (deciphering the genetic code). Genetics are used today to test for diseases like Down syndrome, cancer, Marfan syndrome, and several others. All of these diseases are inherited, and without the study of genetics information of these diseases would not exist (specific genetic disorders). A recent headline about the genetic disease Marfan syndrome was in the news. A young basketball player entering the 2014 NBA draft was diagnosed with having the gene that indicated Marfan syndrome.


Marfan syndrome and how it affects every day people

http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2014/6/22/5832132/isaiah-austin-marfan-syndrome-nba-draft


Stem cell research is another science discussed in this book. Stem cell research is a controversial topic because of how the stem cells are collected. Human stem cells have to be isolated from embryos (stem cell research ). This means that a person has to donate their embryos to science, and that is an ethical issue for some people because it can be considered as killing a life. This is because tissue from a fetus is collected. The fetus will most likely never be brought to term because it is for scientific study, so that can be considered as murder. Despite the ethical issue of stem cell research it has proved to be beneficial because so many different tests can be performed with them (stem cell research ). Stem cells have the ability to regenerate into several different things. A form of stem cells can be isolated from bone marrow and injected into another person to help their blood cells regenerate new blood cells. This is brought up in the book, when Anna was born the doctor took blood from the umbilical cord and used it to inject into Kate to help boost the creation of more blood cells and platelets. Anna also underwent bone marrow aspirations to collect bone marrow to donate to Kate (Picoult, 2004). Bone marrow aspiration and umbilical cord blood are examples of stem cell research because they are stem cells, and they were taken out of one person, and injected into another in hopes of improving a medical condition. After the injection the stem cells were able to repair tissue and regenerate as new tissue (stem cell research ). This put Kate into remission. Without research on stem cells, the doctors would have not known to try this as a form of cancer treatment. Stem cell research will benefit in the long run because it has the potential to help the medical field find out how a person got a certain disease, and then find out how to fix the problem, and cure the patient (stem cell research ).
Designing babies is also a form of science discussed in this book. Designing babies with specific genetic traits is a thing now, but is it moral. The scientific term for designing babies is called “The Principle of Procreative beneficence”; it discusses the rights a parent has to select a baby with the best expected outcome. (SAVULESCU, 2009) This is a complicated process but it can happen. Generally it is not used to pick out a baby that can grow up to be the best looking person in the world, it should be used to select a baby that is maybe predisposed to a genetic disorder, but may have the chance of not having the issue (SAVULESCU, 2009). Go to http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8519.2008.00687.x/full and read the article about designer babies.
Science is all around and it influences a lot of daily activity. The Book my Sister’s keeper is a book that discusses science in relation to medicine, while also throwing a mixture of ethical issues in as well. Without the science research we have today, we will not be able to find a cure for diseases of tomorrow. Science and medicine go hand in hand, and will continue to do so for years to come.


Works Cited
bone marrow and sickle cell. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from science news: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/bone-marrow-transplant-could-reverse-sickle-cell-adults
deciphering the genetic code. (n.d.). Retrieved July 2, 2014, from office of NIH history: http://history.nih.gov/exhibits/nirenberg/HS1_mendel.htm
genes in life, genetics 101. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from Genes.org: http://www.genesinlife.org/genetics-101
genetics home reference, the guide to understanding genetic conditions. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from genetics home reference: http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/acute-promyelocytic-leukemia
john hopkins what kidney donors need to know. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from john hopkins: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/transplant/news_events/media/transcripts/kidney_pancreas/what_kidney_donors_need_to_know.html
Journal, W. (n.d.). Wikipedia on jodi picoult. Retrieved July 2, 2014, from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jodi_Picoult
minor rights vs parent right. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from medscape: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/456472_5
Oransky, I. (2004). Books: born with a mission. The Lancet, 1743.
organization, C. (n.d.). Cancer.gov. Retrieved July 2, 2014, from APL cancer organization: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/childAML/HealthProfessional/page7
Picoult, J. (2004). My sister’s Keeper. New York City, New York: A division of Simon and Schuster.
picoult, J. (n.d.). Jodi Picoult. Retrieved july 2, 2014, from Jodi picoult.com: http://www.jodipicoult.com/JodiPicoult.html
SAVULESCU, J. a. (2009). the moral obligation. Retrieved july 2, 2014, from wiley online library: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8519.2008.00687.x/full
specific genetic disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from http://www.genome.gov/10001204
stem cell research . (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from national institute of health: http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/pages/basics1.aspx
wikipedia. (n.d.). wikipedia film my sisters keeper. Retrieved July 2, 2014, from wikipedia.com: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Sister%27s_Keeper_(film)

Calculating God

Who is God? What is God? Is there a God? Is God an entity who not only created the world, but is also an active participant as religions would like us to believe? Can God be determined through the study of science and mathematics, or do the atheist scientists like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, and Sigmund Freud have the right answer? These are just a few of the questions brought up in Robert J Sawyer’s 2000 book Calculating God.Calculating God A book described by the Toronto Star Newspaper as a “highly philosophical, theological and ethical story,” (R. J. Sawyer, Interview with Robert Sawyer 2010). Calculating God explores these questions and provides scientific reasons to support the theory of intelligent design.

Calculating God is rightly classified as a science fiction because the story revolves around an alien landing near a museum and wanting to study earth’s paleontological history. It could also be classified as a work of science-based philosophical fiction, as many of the discussions between the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) Thomas Jericho and the alien Hollus are a debate about the existence of a God.

The Royal Ontario Museum

Is God a creator who designed the universe or does the universe just exist? The life-long atheist Jericho can’t believe that a fellow scientist, albeit an alien one, believes in the notion of intelligent design, and is again stunned to discover the second alien species brought by Hollus’s people are also believers. This stunned feeling is reciprocated by the aliens because of Jericho’s lack of belief, (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 34)

Sawyer uses the back and fourth between the humans and the aliens to argue the theories of Darwin, the big bang, DNA, the anthropic principal, and many of the fundamental scientific constants to provoke the reader into thinking about the design of the universe. For example this exchange on page 61:

‘How do you know,’ I said to him, ‘that the universe had a creator?, Hollus’s eyestalks curved to look at me. ‘The universe was clearly designed; if it had a design, it must therefore have a designer.’ (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 61)

And Sawyer himself said of the book in a 2010 interview with Philosophy Now Magazine “if the designer did exist though, he was a scientist, pure and simple,” (R. J. Sawyer, Interview with Robert Sawyer 2010). It is with this quote in mind, the reader gets to think about the science of the world with a different view than is often given in other scientific approaches to explaining the history of the world.

Biography of Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer is a Canadian science fiction writer of 21 published novels and other short stories. He is an award winning writer, and according to his biography on his website is also “the only writer in history to win the top science fiction awards in the United States, China, Japan, France, and Spain,” (R. J. Sawyer, Short Bio n.d.).

Calculating God Summary

Calculating God is the story of an alien named Hollus who arrives one day at the ROM in Toronto asking to work with a paleontologist about the earth’s five mass extinctions and their effects on the Earth’s evolution. Hollus’s landing changes the life and work of the books protagonist Thomas Jericho, a ROM paleontologist who just discovered that he is dying of lung cancer.

Jericho is surprised by the alien’s mastery of the English language, as Hollus tells Jericho she is from “the third planet of the star you call Beta Hydri,” (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 25). Beta Hydri

The Hydrus Constellation

is a star approximately 24.3 light years away from earth and the brightest star in the Hydrus constellation, (Wikipedia Beta Hydri n.d.). This galaxy is the ninth star system she and those traveling with her have visited, and the third with intelligent life on it. She tells the staff at the ROM she has arrived with 33 other scientists, half of whom are Forhilnors (Hollus’s race) and the other half are Wreeds, another intelligent alien spices from the second planet of star Delta Pavonis.

The Pavo Constellation

Delta Pavonis is located in the constellation Pavo, and is roughly 20 light years away from earth, (Wikipedia Delta Pavonis n.d.).

Upon her arrival to the museum, Hollus asks to be treated as a normal visiting scholar and have access to the museum’s fossils and specimens in exchange for data about the aliens and their knowledge of the universe. The unexpected arrival of an alien triggers the museum, government and media to come together to learn more about the Hollus and her intentions. After the initial shock and media spectacle dies down, the two begin discussing the extinctions and working together. The interest in the five mass extinctions is due to the fact that five similar extinctions occurred at roughly the same time on both the Beta Hydri and Delta Pavonis planets. For Hollus, the study of the fossils and the earth’s history as well as their study of the Wreeds helps her and her people to better understand the history of their planet and the universe, (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 28-33).

A drawing of Hollus and Thomas Jericho

Hollus is described as looking similar to a large spider with six legs and two arms. “His torso was no bigger around than the circle I could make with my arms…[it] was covered by a long strip of blue cloth. But his hide was visible on the six legs and two arms. It looked a bit like bubble wrap, although the individual domes were of varying sizes,” (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 23). Jericho determines that Hollus is endothermic, similar to mammals on earth; he also mistakenly identifies the alien as a male and is not until much later in the book Jericho finds out that Hollus is a female.

During their work together at the museum the two learn that despite the differences in appearance and planets, they are both made up of similar DNA structures. It is also explained by Hollus that all three planets have roughly the same technological advances, give or take a few decades, and the same basic life needs. To both the Forhilnors and the Wreeds, this is one of the indications of intelligent design, (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 85).

Although much of the book is a dialog between Hollus and Jericho about science and God, there are other subplots supporting the main themes. Jericho’s struggle with his terminal illness, and how it impacts both his family life and work. He is challenged to think about how God, if being real, could give him (and others) suffering and pain. Does God take an active part, a puppet master perhaps, in the ways of the world? The answer from the Forhilnors and the Wreeds is that God is merely the creator; not the God of religion and there to listen and answer prayers. However, they argue that God did play a role in the mass extinctions and paved the way for intelligent life to come about on all three planets.

An example of a space ship traveling at the speed of light

Near the end of the book, the Earth and the alien’s planets face a possible sixth extinction; the universe is threatened by a star going supernova. Something intervenes, and destruction is averted. After what the aliens and Jericho believe was the earth’s salvation by God, Jericho accepts an offer from Hollus to travel with them to the creator’s known location. Instead of spending his last days on earth suffering, he is cryogenically frozen for space-travel by the aliens and they embark upon a journey to find God. The last chapter of the book is the aliens and Jericho meeting and communicating, though in an unlikely way, with God.

Intelligent Design and Calculating God

There is a great deal of science discussed in Calculating God. Sawyer uses the five fundamental forces: gravitation, electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and (according to Sawyer) the yet undiscovered repulsive fifth force to disavow the random nature of life and to promote the idea of a creator, (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 72). Though Jericho remains skeptical, Hollus argues, “there is no indisputable proof for the big bang and there is none for evolution. And yet you accept those. Why hold the question of whether there is a creator to a higher standard,” (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 101).

Hollus explains on pages 62-64 that if gravity was just different by just a few orders of magnitude on each side that the earth would have either never been created or collapsed under the extra gravitational weight.

Gravity acting on a star

Another example is that of the balance between gravitational and electromagnetism for the creation and balance of stars. According to Hollus, there aren’t many ways to do this mathematically and if their gravitational strength was different by one in 1040 that no yellow suns could exist in the universe (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 62). He continues with the example that if the nuclear forces which hold the atoms nuclei together was just slightly smaller, the protons would not allow for atoms to exist. If larger, only the hydrogen element would be formed.

This argument is similar to what is now known as the weak anthropic principal (WAP), which was introduced in Poland at the 500-year celebration of Copernicus’ birthday (Physics SFSU n.d.). The principal was presented by Brandon Carter,

Brandon Carter

the Australian theoretical physicist, and it’s underlying theory was that “humanity did indeed hold a special place in the Universe,” (Physics SFSU n.d.). It follows the works of the early Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, who argued for the case of a designer or creator because of the complexities of man. These early men when they made the illustration for intelligent design, did not do so with the notion of the Juedo-Christian God, a feeling that both the Wreeds and the Forhilnors agree with.

The weak anthropic principal also follows along with William Paley and his analogy of the eye and the telescope which was summed up as, “the eye is like a telescope; telescopes have telescope makers; therefore eyes must have eye makers,” (Ruse 2006). As it is now defined, the WAP states:

The observed values of all physical and cosmological quantities are not equally probable but they take on the values restricted by the requirement that there exist sites where carbon-based life can evolve and by the requirement that the universe be old enough for it to have already done so. (Physics SFSU n.d.)

Another scientific argument for the idea of a creator is based on water. Hollus in the book talks about the importance of water because unlike most compounds; water does not contract when it cools and again does not expand when it is heated, but the opposite. If it acted differently, ice could not float because it would be denser as a solid. If ice can’t float then the oceans would freeze solid, and as Hollus explains, no life would be able to live in the ocean and the underwater currents would not give way to spring thawing, (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 68). These properties are explained in greater detail by the University of Idaho’s Ground Water Hydrology website, which agrees with the logic in Calculating God about the opposite thermal property of water, “the importance of this property cannot be overemphasized for its role on the ecosystem of earth,” (University of Idaho n.d.).

Through Hollus, Sawyer also uses evolution and DNA to make the case for intelligent design. The scientists in the book take samples of both Hollus and the Wreeds blood for a DNA test, and they are surprised to find how similar they are to human DNA. Upon learning this, Jericho tells Hollus that the geneticist “was expecting something more – well alien,” (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 97). But if the same designer created all of the life forms, not just those of earth, Hollus explained it made sense to have similar genetic code.

A drawing of DNA

When looking into DNA, there are only four letters A, C, G, and T that make up the sequences of nucleotides. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s Design Arguments for the Existence of God, there are four possibilities “for origin of biological information. (1) chance; (2) a pre-biotic form of natural selection; (3) chemical necessity; and (4) intelligent design,” (Himma n.d.). The author, Kenneth Himma argues that intelligent design is most likely because it “is logically possible to obtain functioning sequences of amino acids through purely random processes, some researchers have estimated the probability of doing so under the most favorable of assumptions at approximately 1 in 1065.” While Jericho is thinking about DNA in relation to cancer and his conversations with Hollus, the reader is given arguments on the precision of the DNA code and the arguments for this being a creator, (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 167-170).

Throughout the many scientific arguments in the book, the reader as well as Thomas Jericho can argue that this is just one large coincidence, yet Hollus counters with, “It’s either coincidence piled on top of coincidence or it is a deliberate design,” (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 67).

Conclusion

While the bulk of the science in this book are based around the questions of God and intelligent design, not all of the science is about that. Calculating God is full of classic science fiction ideas, including aliens, space travel, cryogenic freezing, and fusion powered space ships.

An artist’s drawing of Hollus

For many readers, the assumption that we are not alone in the universe is not a large step from their imaginations, but an alien showing up in Toronto has not yet happened in the history of science or the earth. Also the technology used to power the Forhilnor’s ship is clearly Sawyer’s inventiveness at work.

However, it is the compelling arguments about intelligent design that provoke the reader to contemplate how science and God can move together. Sawyer himself has stated about the book that, “the science is carefully researched, and as we travel through the plot we explore issues in evolutionary biology, cosmology, quantum physics, astronomy, and biochemistry” (R. J. Sawyer, On Writing Calculating God 2000). His research is clear with the in-depth arguments made by Hollus about the nature of the universe and life as we know it.

The arguments made by Hollus for God do not give the reader the impression that the God of this book is the God of religion; but however, the God of the beginning of the universe. “Look, I’m not a mystic. I believe in God because it makes scientific sense for me to do so; indeed, I suspect God exists in this universe because of science, “ (R. J. Sawyer 2000, 98).

Adam and the Creator

Works Cited

Himma, Kenneth Einar. “Design Arguments for the Existence of God.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Physics SFSU . The Anthropic Principal. http://www.physics.sfsu.edu/~lwilliam/sota/anth/anthropic_principle_index.html (accessed July 2, 2014).

Ruse, Michael. Religion and the Biological Sciences. Vol. 2, in Encyclopedia of Philosophy, by Donald M. Borchert, 393-397. Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006.

Sawyer, Robert J, interview by Nick DiChario. Interview with Robert Sawyer Philosophy Now Magazine Issue 80, (Aug/Sep 2010).

—. On Writing Calculating God. 2000. http://www.sfwriter.com/cgbn.htm (accessed July 2, 2014).

Sawyer, Robert J. Calculating God. Edited by David G Hartwell. New York, NY: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 2000.

University of Idaho. Water. http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/geol309/new_page_4.htm (accessed July 2, 2014).

Wikipedia Beta Hydri. Beta Hydri. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_Hydri (accessed July 2, 2104).

Wikipedia Delta Pavonis. Delta Pavonis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_Pavonis (accessed July 2, 2014).