Friday, March 21, 2014

Group Project: The Applications of Nanotechnology

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As nanotechnology continues to develop, numerous fields have integrated the advancements that it has produced into their own innovations, resulting in unique, "small-but-terrible" solutions for significant problems. In line with this, this project takes a look at how nanotechnology plays a role in three critical fields- - namely, electronics, the environment, and medicine.

FOUR the Win
De Guzman, De Luna, Dungca, Evangelista, Fabula,
Galunan, Garcia, Lejano, Perea, Rillo

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Mind Museum

It was interesting to see the different experiments that can be conducted at home using only household products which you use every day. In my opinion, it would be very effective if science was taught in a lively and enjoyable manner like what we experienced during the lecture where activities were done by the speakers which included the participation of the students.

It will give the chance for students to learn science from a different perspective other than only through a series of lectures. It will also give the chance for the students to participate more or be more interested in the lectures.

I haven’t been able to go to the Mind Museum, but based on the background/information given by the speakers, I think that it would become a wonderful experience for children/students to go there because of the activities which they do and the inventions they showcase.

I am intrigued by the classes they conduct which allow anyone who is interested to join such as summer science camps where you can learn how to investigate and the like. When I get the chance to, I would love to visit the Mind Museum so I can explore what else they offer myself.

The Bride of Frankenstein

Since “The Bride of Frankenstein” is a film from 1935, the quality of the movie isn’t as good as compared to the movies in the present time. The supposedly “horror” film came out as a comedy film to some of us students because of how “Frankenstein” or the monster acted such as smoking a cigar, drinking a beer, and being all friendly or “lovey-dovey” with the blind man who befriended him.

One of the lessons I’ve learned from the film is how science and technology can be used in a dangerous way by using it to tamper with life and death. There is a reason why the dead remains dead and what was shown was that the effect of resurrecting the dead can make what used to be a human into a monster.

Although the movie showed that “Frankenstein” can be friendly or become a good monster when approached in a calm and nice manner, what people seem to fail to notice is that it’s also possible that one of the effects of this experiment is creating something which cannot be controlled or even harm the human civilization.

Science and what it can do both amazes and scares me since I have seen in the film, even though it is fiction, that it has no boundaries. Also, the ability of people, scientists, inventors, etc. to continue on experimenting and inventing things beyond their grasp will never stop as long they have curiosity in their minds and can wait as long as it takes to prove their theories or achieve their goals.

Imelda Romualdez

When the Marcoses were in power, I was still inexistent, my mother was only 10 years old and my grandfather worked in a government people see as both progressive and corrupt. I’ve only heard stories during their time and have a lot of questions as to which side to believe in. Based on the documentary we watched, a side of the Marcoses were shown through Imelda Marcos.

Imelda Romualdez Marcos is a woman who appreciates beauty whether it is the physical or inner aspect of beauty. Even in the “ternos” that were custom-made for Imelda, each design was unique and carefully embroidered to suit her taste.

It was seen in the documentary how much Imelda appreciated the culture of the Philippines and saw how little attention Filipinos are giving to cultural arts. I was able to see how much priority she gave to the construction of cultural and health institutions for the need of the public, although there were still some issues as to how much sacrifices were made for the completion of each.

In my opinion, Imelda was a remarkable person in her own way. She appreciated the beauty of our culture and how important it was for our culture to grow and be noticed more by our fellow Filipinos and even foreigners. So maybe she was a little (or too much?) narcissistic, but aren’t we also like that sometimes?


Reaction Paper on Imelda

          Imelda Marcos is a mythical figure. The Filipino consciousness has blown her up to herculean proportions, as Ferdinand has also been. The documentary Imelda, which the lady herself has tried to censor, provides a straightforward account on the character and history of Imelda as both the myth and the reality.
          Her youth was not short of spectacular as her later years were. She was acquainted with some of the most preeminent historical figures, including Douglas MacArthur. She was the epitome of beauty, grace, and talent. The people who surrounded her were no less convinced that she was, in fact, perfect.
          More so were her life as Mrs. Marcos, when she graced Ferdinand’s presidential campaign and led him to win by landslide. There was no doubt that she was used as a mechanism for the win, but she was immediately paid in power, ruling beside (and not behind) her husband.
          Everything she’s done in the Marcos Regime – from the manifestation of her so-called edifice complex to controlling the birth rate – had a massive impact, even after they had fled to exile. Imelda saw life from the point of view of beauty, and even her perception of Martial Law was such.
          When asked before what the biggest contribution of Martial Law was, Imelda answered that it was the ‘restoration of democracy,’ sincerely and charismatically, as if she believes it. This is what surprised me most: Imelda saw history differently, she absolved her family of any guilt, and chose to blur out the not-beauty, when the whole world saw a dictatorship and the destruction of democracy.

          All in all, Imelda painted a picture of the Steel Butterfly with all her beauty and crooked edges, realistically bringing to life the myth that is Imelda Marcos to the mortal comprehension.

Christine Joy L. Galunan

Reaction Paper on Mind Museum Lecture

          If you ask children what their favourite subject is, most would answer science. However, as they enter primary school towards high school, there seems to be a decline in their interest, particularly because science instruction has transformed from magic to concepts and theories to memorize.
          This is what the Mind Museum is trying to revive – science as magic. I was genuinely surprised when the speakers revealed that they were actual science practitioners and not merely runners of kiddie shows because we grown-ups basically believe that science is locked up in labs, exclusive only to those who can, if not locked away in textbooks.
          When they showed us a few experiments, after such a long time, the science-curious child in me came out, anticipating the magic, and there it was as we all watched wide-eyed. That attempt to bring science down from its ivory tower was successful without undermining the actual understanding and appreciation that near-adults could get.

          This is actually a manifestation of the larger problem that disciplines are in, most especially science. It is almost automatic that once higher education comes into the picture, science becomes less accessible, less stimulating, less comprehensible not because it is but the current educational system frames it so. I do admire those who opt to study the natural sciences for further study, but as long as it does not foster a more resonant call for younger students to take consistent interest, the future of science is uncertain.

Christine Joy L. Galunan

Reaction Paper on the Time Travel Documentary

To what reason do we owe man’s struggle to master time?
          Being an ardent follower of several science fiction essentials related to time travel (i.e. Doctor Who, 12 Monkeys, HG Wells’ The Time Machine, etc.), the details in the documentary were not of general surprise. Fiction has already transcended the facts of time travel’s physical possibility; that we are continually amazed by the hard science and continue to speculate the what if of controlling past, present, and future.
          What was surprising, though, was the interest with which these physicists explained and convinced their audience, as if it assumed that we were already hooked in the first place – and we were. Time travel is as attractive to man as is the thought of immortality. The fact that it is one of the most commonly used science fiction tropes only confirms man’s obsession with this phenomenon.
          Is our attachment to life tantamount to our attachment to time? As humans, most certainly, we are bound to our mortality as we are to the normalcy of the ticking second. Our lives are governed by time as we are by the prospect of death; we are all going to die someday, as we are supposed to wake up at a certain time the next day.
          Both are proofs of our limited humanity, and time actually bears the heavier scale because the course of our lives (towards death) is linear, defined by time. Our being death-bound is dependent on our being time-bound.
          What does time travel have to do with all this? Like most developments in science and technology, time travel is an attempt to tip over the scales of humanity, to overcome these limits that keeps man chained to the laws of nature regarding his life and how he travels through it. Additionally, if time travel were possible, man would overcome the struggle of not knowing certain things like the backdoors of history or what he is bound to be in the future. He can even save himself from a certain direction of fate if only he knows where he’s heading; he can live a life that spans a million years with just one visit to the past, and another to the future. He can immortalize himself, leaving a mark all through the universe, that man the unlimited has done what he thought he cannot.

          But one of the reasons why we still continue to struggle for it is not because we cannot, but because the laws of nature themselves are restraining humans from exploiting the most organic forces of the universe. Order will be disrupted as every change causes ripples through the time-space continuum, and knowing this, we ask ourselves: were we really meant to control time, or is this the universe’s way of controlling us and reminding us that after all, we still are humans?

Christine Joy L. Galunan

Reaction Paper on Bride of Frankenstein

The adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Bride of Frankenstein came to me as a shock. It was not so much the effects, the black-and-white, or the acting that was out of the ordinary, but it was the characterization.
          We are plagued with movies that are anthropomorphic in nature, but the Bride of Frankenstein posits a very unique case. We all know of the Monster’s history, from Dr. Frankenstein’s creation of him to his capture and eventual escape. It is this perception of the character as an untamed, un-human monster that permeates popular opinion. However, the movie gave us another side of him – the one that is only looking for a companion. Is that not a human need?
          When the blind man took him in, I was afraid for the man but the Monster, if he is still to be called so, exceeded my expectations. He did not only welcome the man’s companionship; he tried to please the man in the simplest of things. Is it not a human act to feel empathy? To me, this genuine othering, leading up to his longing for a friend when Dr. Pretorious offered him, is enough sign of his humanity. Especially when rejection came, his reaction was that of a human in actual despair and loneliness.
          This says so much about society’s conception of right and wrong, of normal and abnormal. Should anyone (or anything) fail to meet its standards, it is immediately ostracized, without aiming to understand or dig beyond the surface of apparent monsterhood. The movie made the monster dumb because ostracizing the Monster would require a lack of communication between him and the humans. It worked, because the more human side of the Monster came out only when he was already communicated to by someone patient enough to see him more than a monster.

          As a whole, The Bride of Frankenstein gives us a clear representation of man, both at his most brilliant (as in the scientists’ feats) and at his most desperate (the Monster), and how Monster transforms into man through love.

Christine Joy L. Galunan

Reaction Paper on Rhetoric of Cancer

Too often, we take for granted the value of discourse in our approaches to situations, conditions, and state of affairs that warrant words to describe them. Andrew Graystone attempts to clarify the roots of this underlying problem in our language regarding cancer. According to him, the war rhetoric dominates in our everyday approach to cancer, and this is problematic because as a survivor from three years back, he knows his body well enough to remember his cooperation with cancer cells instead of the popular metaphor of battling against them.
St. Francis of Assisi is said to have treated cancer as a sister illness, which were as much a part of his body’s family as were other body parts. This is a reflection of his religious perspective, in which bodies are not our own, and whatever occurs to it out of surprise is not in our control; living harmoniously with it is the only choice possible.
‘Winning the fight against cancer,’ therefore, is dominantly liberal in the modern view of cancer. In this light, man is highly charged with being ‘master of [his] fate, captain of [his] soul,’ as William Ernest Henley puts it in his poem Invictus. Cancer cells are then treated as foreign objects to the human body, as man did not choose to grow them; it is in his choice, however, to kill these alien cancer cells through his own courage and persistence.
This aversion to submitting to fatalism and to cooperation greatly highlights the power of human agency versus that of the structure in which he is present. Although cancer is treated as a structure in which the ill are subjected to, the liberal perspective treats the ill conversely as highly capable human agents who can change the structure or overcome it.
And what’s problematic with this, as later discussed by Graystone, is its misunderstanding of the human body – as separate mind and body entities. This manifestation of Cartesian dualism creates a border between the controller (mind) and the controlled (body). However, this cannot hold true, as especially in sickness, the body functions as one. There is also a limit to what the mind can voluntarily control, and this includes cancer cells.

If we keep going with the prevalent cancer discourse, we are disempowering patients from cooperating with their own bodies and giving them, instead, a false sense of power over their illness, which may ultimately lead them to frustration and in time, a sense of powerlessness if their bodies fail to ‘cooperate.’

Christine Joy L. Galunan

Reaction Paper on All the Time in the World

In Greek mythology, Kronos was the ferocious destroyer of worlds, a Titan who fathered Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. In etymological roots, kronos is a Greek word that carries the meaning time. In these classical accounts, there seems to be a connection between time and the destroyer. This cannot be more apparent than in the fate of the hero in the Twilight Zone episode All the Time in the World.
Here, we find a man burdened by ordinary life, masquerading as a bank clerk while hiding a secret identity as a bibliophile. Too often, he lands himself in reprimand over neglect of the most basic duties. He is the quintessential escapist, who was lucky enough to hide himself during a massive (nuclear) wipeout. Everything was destroyed, except for his most coveted objects – books from a nearby library. Piling them up by year, he was already starting to read when the universe decided to tip the scales over once again. He lifted the cracked frame from the ground, lenses dropping piece by piece. He had all the time in the world, but he could read no more.
Although I did observe certain facts of life such as ‘you can’t have it all,’ or dependence on technology (i.e. glasses), what was more striking was the role of time in the story. Neither was it passive nor merely in the background. It was time the destroyer, who had man in his clutches. At first, it was selfish against man, very present in the struggle for escape; in the end, being (cunningly) generous with him, then conspiring with Fortuna to destroy man.

The episode was unorthodox in its approach to battling out conflict of the character, because the destruction of his enemies (relationships, work, etc.) was not brought about by the character, which is also the reason why in the end, he cannot be able to go around the ultimate conflict that came upon him.

Christine Joy L. Galunan

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rhetoric of Cancer

In the documentary-podcast Rhetoric of Cancer, Andrew Graystone explains how cancer changed his life. He said that for the 3 years he had cancer, he learned how to live with it, to go to bed with it, and to wake up with it. Because of this, he learned to love his body all the more, because he didn't want his body to experience more stress than what it is already experiencing. He didn't want to have a war in his body. He learned to accept it, that these bad cells were already a part of him. He also said that some people had a military style in dealing with his cancer. They were saying "you're gonna fight this thing" and the like which made him worry about it since he wasn't really the brave kind of person.

There is also an existing metaphor for cancer. Like the term "warheads", relating it to an experimental drug that targets the bad cells. Another one is "he lost his battle to cancer". It is obvious that military metaphors are what's always used for cancer. This may be problematic because some people are treating cancer as an enemy, which maybe it is, but sometimes you should know how to live alongside cancer.

Andrew Graystone, in the end, said that cancer is somehow a gift as well. It made him change his perception about it and it made his religion stronger. Of course he said that cancer and illness is a bad thing, but he said that it isn't necessarily evil. He said that it is normal in this world. There's a badness to it, but there is no wrongness to it.

This woke me up. All of my grandmother's siblings had cancer, which makes me a possible candidate as well. I've been worrying about cancer all my life, even if I don't have it. Andrew Graystone's perception about it is refreshing and for me, right. He said that you shouldn't hate or despise cancer, since it's already a part of you. You should just know how to live with it, and hope that it goes away. Your hatred won't do you any good. Look at the bright side of things, even if it is easier said than done. Try not to stress yourself to much by associating military language to cancer, but just do your best in making your body as healthy as possible. This, for me, is a good way to live with and alongside cancer.

Anna Isabelle R. Lejano

Isaac Asimov's Nightfall

Isaac Asimov's Nightfall is a sci-fi dystopian story wherein the people reached a tragic end upon discovering that their universe is much bigger than what they had expected. At first, the scientists thought that the darkness itself resulting from the eclipse was what will make the people burn the cities in the hopes of having a light source because of the fact that they haven't experienced darkness ever in their entire life. But it turns out that when the eclipse came about, they saw so many stars, and so they realized that their universe is much more vast than they had known. And the bizarre thing is, this realization drove them insane.

Relating this to reality, many people are afraid of what's out there. We all know that we are only a part of one galaxy, and there are still billions and billions of galaxies out there. Some people cannot fathom the idea that the place they know now isn't the only place that exists, and so they choose not to believe in it. They choose not to believe in Science altogether because they are afraid to know the truth behind certain things, behind certain ideologies that have been popularized over time despite it being a lie. They choose to be blind to the truth because they are scared that their beliefs are different from what's real. I think that Science is a tool for making us see what is real and what is not, and so people shouldn't be afraid of it. Instead, they should embrace it. We should use science to earn knowledge about the world, and not oppose it. Whatever we discover with science, we should accept wholeheartedly, and use it to make ourselves ask more, to be more curious, and to question things that need to be questioned.

Anna Isabelle R. Lejano

Music and Science

Even though music and science might be two completely different and diverse concepts, there already had been several instances in our history wherein the two were combined together, actually complimenting each other well. First person who we discussed was William Herschel, an astronomer and at the same time a composer. His interest in music also led him to his interest in mathematics, and in turn, astronomy. Another person we discussed was Gustav Holst, who composed The Planets. Apparently, each movement of the suite is named after a planet of the Solar System and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst. We also discussed the Aquarium and the Fossils by Camille Saint-SaensSpace Exploration from Frank Sinatra, Elton John to Glam Rock, the Cold War and Sting to Thomas Dolby, Evolution and Fat Boy Slim's Right here Right Now, The Big Bang Theory. All these are songs having science as their main topic.

I think that these various songs exhibit and represent science very well. Science is very frustrating and tiring to understand at certain times, and so incorporating it into music is a good way for keeping it light and for remembering various information about science better. Even though at first it might seem weird and corny to make a song about science, it actually is effective and is a better way than teaching science in the traditional manner. Maybe nowadays science is not really the conventional choice when it comes to picking a subject for a song, but I think that it will be beneficial, especially for young kids, to learn science in a more creative way, which is through music. Music is essential in our lives and it is listened to by many. Science is also essential in our lives and is studied by many. Judging from these, I honestly think that combining science and music is not only entertaining and fun, but it could also make us learn more about science in a way that we won't get bored easily and it could make a big difference in our perception about science. 

Anna Isabelle R. Lejano


I'm pretty sure everyone knows who Imelda Marcos is. Probably, some know her because of the fact that she's the former first lady of the late Ferdinand Marcos. Maybe others know here because of her frugality and aristocracy. Even in other countries, she is known because of her fantastic jewelry, tremendous shoe collection, and fabulous fashion statement. But really, who is Imelda Marcos?

For me, what I know about her is that she's hated by many because according to some people, she is the reason for the downfall and for the bad decisions Ferdinand Marcos made. Also, many people despise her because of her arrogance when it comes to her wealth. Apparently she likes showing off and making people see how nice her things are. Although this is the case, there are also a lot of people who downright adore her. Marcos loyalists still worship her at her feet. Why? Let's find out through the documentary that sir made us watch.

The documentary showed the past Imelda Marcos, and the present one. It is said that she was really pretty when she was a teenager, and many handsome young men wanted to court her. Nonetheless, she still chose Ferdinand Marcos. They haven't know each other for that long, but they immediately got married. People said this marriage is solely for politics, but Imelda Marcos said otherwise. According to her, she really loved him and they had a fantastic relationship. Some people who were close or who knew Imelda were interviewed upon this matter, and a few of them said that Imelda was pressured into being this perfect lady, just so she could impress Marcos. They said that Marcos controlled Imelda. Signs of an imperfect marriage came to the surface. One further said that Marcos was not really loyal, he had no mistresses, but he had casual flings.

I think that regarding this matter, maybe this really was a political marriage. Because of the fact that they've only known each other for a week or two before getting married, it was too hasty and I think this was because of political reasons.

At first, the people really like her because she had this certain appeal. She was really pretty, she dressed nice, and she could sing very well. But then when martial law came, many people turned against her, saying that she and her husband were evil. Many people began to notice that she was too frugal, and so they started to really despise her.

When Imelda was being interviewed about this, she said that beauty is important. I think that self-image is very essential to her, and probably she thinks outward appearance is as important as the inside. She even said that the outside reflects what's on the inside.

She also has a seemingly different philosophy/religion in life. In the documentary, when she started drawing and mapping out several stuff and information about life/happiness/love, I really thought she was making it up? I applaud her for her creativity, but even the priest who was interviewed was weirded out.

Summing it all up, I think Imelda Marcos is really a complex person. It depends to you what side of her you will believe in, but one thing's for sure: it is not easy to understand her whole persona.

Anna Isabelle R. Lejano

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Birth of the Instant Camera

In early times before the invention of digital cameras, film cameras were used by photographers and the pictures had to be processed or developed before you can get the photo itself. Because of this, the Polaroid was created. The Polaroid is a type of camera with internal processing that produces a finished print rapidly after each exposure.

The man behind the idea of the Polaroid was Edwin Land, an inventor and a physicist who was inspired by his 3-year-old daughter’s confusion on why pictures cannot be produced right away after they were taken. By 1937, he found the Polaroid Corporation which came to be known for developing the world’s first instant camera which was called the Polaroid Land camera. The first few films, which were introduced later in the 1950’s, were in sepia and black & white. The colored film only appeared later on during 1963.

By 1977, another model was made by the Polaroid Corporation called the OneStep Land Camera which became a huge hit; it was also the biggest-selling camera of any type for four years during that time. Throughout the 1990’s, the Polaroid Corporation has already made 600 series of instant cameras. Every camera has a little difference in its outward appearance but all have the similar basic design and has always been priced the same regardless of economic conditions.

Similar to the present situation where companies send free items to sponsors or celebrities for feedback on their products, the Polaroid has also done the same for their instant cameras. They gave resources to photographers or artists in exchange for feedback about their products. One of these was Ansel Adams, a landscape photographer, who was hired by Edwin land as a consultant for the company back in 1948. For Adams, “Land was convinced that images can be as effective as words and that every person has a latent ability to make effective contact with another through visual statements.” (Adams, 1985)

New innovations for the Polaroid began in 1998 when the Polaroid Company decided to make cheap disposable cameras which the people can use and then send back to the Polaroid Company to be recycled. In 1999, the Polaroid JoyCam was introduced which was cheaper and the price of the films were cheaper as well. The size of the camera was smaller than the regular size of a Polaroid camera and was good for outdoor portraits.

At present, a brand of instant cameras called Instax is very popular among the public. Instax, which is a brand of instant cameras and films, is marketed by Fujiflim since the late 1980’s. You can see a big difference towards the old-styled instant cameras and the new ones.

 Lots of features can be seen in the new instant cameras produced by Fujifil like the different appearance and design. The Instax can be bought in different colors and has a wide range of models. The latest model which was released last September 2013 was the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. This instant camera was made with a full range of camera functions including the double exposure and macro mode.

In my opinion, it is great that there are more and more innovations in these kinds of gadgets so inventions like these wouldn’t be forgotten. The concept of having a photo processed after it is captured is great for those who still love keeping photographs in albums, frames, etc. Since there are already a lot of social networking sites in the internet where you can just upload your photo and the need for developing them in shops is seldom seen, the instant camera is very useful for those who enjoy taking pictures and wanting them to be developed right away to be kept or given out to their friends, family, etc.

References: The Man Behind the Camera. March 9, 2014

Gauntlett, David. Some things about art and cities.

Bellis, Mary. Investors. Edwin Land - Polaroid Photography - Instant Photography.

Boston University. A Brief Timeline of Polaroid. March 9, 2014

Harvard Business School. Polaroid Instant Camera.

Fujifilm. Fujifilm Showcases Latest Instax Instant Film Camera Models. March 9, 2014

Individual Project: Biomimetic Architecture

From the Greek words bios (“life”) and mimesis (“imitate”), biomimicry is a form of study that seeks to integrate processes and patterns present in nature into designs and methods that serve as answers to man’s problems in different fields such as architecture, agriculture, and electronics. This concept sees various organisms- - animals, plants, insects, and the like- - as the Earth’s ultimate “engineers”, seeing as how they unknowingly struggled to figure out what works for the environment for 3.8 billion years. In line with this, concepts learned through biomimicry find their application in built environments through biomimetic architecture. In this discipline, architects adopt the behaviour promoted by biomimicry by analysing nature and its many inhabitants - - be they animals, plants, ecosystems, or whatnot- - and incorporating how these organisms respond to and live with their environments into solutions for structure-related problems.

In its practice, biomimetic architecture occurs on three different levels: The organism level, the behaviour level, and the ecosystem level. The level to which biomimicry is manifested doesn’t stop here though, since it can occur in terms of its form (the building’s appearance), its material (the building’s structural components), its construction (the process through which the structure was built), its process (the building’s way of working), and its function (the building’s capabilities).

Several forms of biomimetic architecture have occurred over the years. One early example is the Sagrada Familia, a cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. Regarded as beautiful and hideous by many of its contemporaries, the structure was the creation of Antoni Gaudi, a Spanish architect who, inspired by his deep faith, decided to pay homage to God by creating structures that reflected His work: Nature. In doing so, he observed that nature made use of components that were tough and resilient, like wood and muscle, and opted to manifest its many features with curves instead of rigid, straight lines. With these ideas in mind, he began work on the Sagrada Familia, a project handed down to him from another architect. This exchange allowed Gaudi to revolutionize a cathedral based on old-fashioned neo-Gothic styles, with the transformation continuing to this day. Presenting the early stages of biomimetic architecture, the cathedral contained nature-inspired features such as staircases constructed as spirals, catenary arches, and roofs resembling cones. These roofs, designed to imitate the shape of the Magnolia leaf, had waves that allowed the transport of rainwater and less material due to their thinness and strength. Also, its tree-inspired columns made use of hyperbolic paraboloids as their bases, allowing the weight of the roof to be distributed evenly and adding to their overall strength.

A more recent example of this manifestation of biomimicry is the Eastgate Centre, a commercial building constructed in Harare, Zimbabwe. Began in 1991, the project was given by the Old Mutual investment group to Mick Pearce, a Zimbabwean architect, with the intention of it becoming the largest of its kind in the country. With this, however, came the problem of paying large amounts of money in order to provide ventilation for all of its 55000 square meters. Thus, it was up to Pearce to figure out how to do so while utilizing inert, sustainable climate control. Teaming up with Arup Associates, the solution came to him in the form of a system modelled after the ventilation produced in the mounds of Macrotermes michaelseni, termites found in his country. Sheltering a sizeable number of termites, along with other organisms such as fungi, a mound was usually very large, much taller than the insects that constructed it, so as to ensure its being able to reach the wind. The air was then able to pass through the pores of its penetrable outer layer and to travel to the inhabitants of the mound, creating an environment where cool temperatures were maintained while the outside environment experienced temperatures between 3 degrees Celsius and 42 degrees Celsius. In effect, oxygen was being pushed into the structure and carbon dioxide was being pressed out of it through pressure from the air outside the mound. Pearce mimicked this system by creating a building that depended on masonry-insulation. The permeability of the mounds was imitated by piercing spaces with ductwork that transported air into the structure, and chimneys that accumulated heat from the building’s inhabitants and equipment during the daytime in order to preserve a cool environment for the evenings were also incorporated. The structure also made use of soil around the building and concrete slabs in storing heat, particularly for warming up evenings that were cold.

            As biomimetic architecture and biomimicry continue to be developed, nature becomes a central character in innovation, serving as a source of new ideas and working hand-in-hand with humanity in solving problems. Likewise, this correspondence with our environment allows us to become more in-tune with our surroundings, encouraging us to seek out more ways of preserving its sustainability. In the end, nature and man-made creations find their innovative and mind-blowing union in biomimicry.

(Click link to see sources)

Sarin as a Weapon of Mass Destruction

Sarin as a Weapon of Mass Destruction
CJ Galunan | 2013-50860

The post-midnight hours of August 21 2013 saw a silent cry of death among the people of Ghouta in Syria. At around 0100, massive fighting bouts were reported to have broken out. Before the world was awake, the weapons plunged down on four villages, engulfing the unsuspecting citizens in an imperceptible fleece of destruction.

Hospitals were flooded with a horde of emergencies. Hundreds of photos surfaced on the worldwide web. Speculations were made. Sides were taken. International news were exploding with several versions. The world opens its eyes to the headline: “Chemical attack in Syria causes death, injury to thousands.”

This fast, this massive, this lethal - the experts could only name their bets, but a few weeks later, all converge into a single opinion: sarin gas. All of a sudden, ears buzz and whispers resound the killers that made the Aum Shinrikyo and Saddam Hussein the notorious figures that they are.

The outcome of this phenomenon begs to ask science the most relevant questions. What is sarin gas and what does it do to human beings exposed to it? What points in history made sarin gas a threat to worldwide security? Most importantly, in light of recent events, what are the implications of the usage of sarin gas in modern society, particularly in local and international crises?

Sarin: The Lethal Chemical

Also known as GB, sarin is an odorless, colorless liquid that carries the chemical composition [(CH3)2CHO]CH3P(O)F. As a weapon, it is usually employed in gas form, as evaporated sarin is more likely to cause more damage to a larger area. It is considered to be one of the most toxic and fast-acting among its chemical weapon contemporaries, rendering the same effects as extremely effective insecticides.

According to the Council of Foreign Relations, sarin is classified as a “toxic nerve agent,” causing the most damage to the nervous system once exposed to or inhaled by its human victims. Specifically, the effects of sarin exposure depends on three factors: (1) point/s of contact (eyes, throat, skin, or inhalation), (2) the amount of sarin that entered the system, and (3) how long the contaminant was exposed.

In the simplest of terms, sarin as a nerve agent “turns our own nervous systems against us.” (Hamblin, 2013) It alters the usual functioning of neurotransmitters by blocking the messages, and in effect, repeating the message over and over, such as tear ducts producing excessive tears or repetitive muscular twitching at the point of contact. This may be manifested in more extreme effects such as stopping the function of more vital organs such as the lungs or permanent paralysis to muscles, which may lead to death in 1 to 10 minutes upon contact.

It may not be as fatal as other chemical weapons such as VX, considerably more toxic in nature, but what makes sarin in any form more dangerous to unprotected citizens is its being colorless and odorless, so the affected have no way of confirming that they have been exposed to whatever amount of sarin, until the symptoms appear or death occurs.

Sarin: The Weapon of Mass Destruction

The development of sarin dates back to Germany in 1938, out of an attempt to create a stronger pesticide. At the onset of World War II, the possibility for sarin to be a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) was considered by the Nazis, even leading to the building of large-scale facilities to produce higher amounts of the chemical. However, due to fear of material retaliation, no chemical weapon was used by the Nazis against the Allies.

Sarin as a WMD resurfaced in 1988 towards the end of the Iraq-Iran War, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein in the Battle of Al-Faw. Four times, with the help of American satellite imagery, a storm of sarin and mustard gas was projected upon several Iranian military posts, helping the Iraqis to retrieve the peninsula.

The world saw a breakthrough of international security when in 1993, the United Nations Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction or simply the UN Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an arms control treaty under which all chemical weapons, including sarin, were outlawed, with existing stockpiles doomed to destruction. Signed by 162 countries, the UN CWC took effect on 1997, and has since then been administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in Hague.

The most famous civilian employment of sarin as a WMD in recent history was committed by the religious group Aum Shinrikyo twice - first in Matsumoto in 1994; and in the Tokyo Metro in 1995. The former caused eight deaths and over 200 injuries; the latter, thirteen deaths. The sect was then considered to be a terrorist organization by many countries, including the United States.

As aforementioned, the most recent of sarin gas attacks was performed in Ghouta, Eastern Damascus on August 21, 2013, with a varying death toll from 300 to 1,300. It still has not been confirmed whether it is the Assad government or the opposition that launched the gas, but certain details have surfaced: (1) that Soviet rockets were used in the attacks, (2) that a large number of the opposition was present in the area, and (3) that the weapons were evidently from the chemical stockpile of the Syrian military. The Syrian government, in its attempt to vindicate itself, has showed interest in joining the CWC. International organizations and allied countries, either with the government or the opposition, have expressed both denial and condemnation, but no major course of action has been taken since.

Sarin: Implications and Possibilities

Syria is only one among many Middle Eastern countries involved in the Arab Spring Revolution. Further, it is not the only country currently engaged in civil or international war. Sarin as a form of chemical warfare may have already been declared illegal by the UN CWC, but the apparent powerlessness of this arms treaty proves that there is a strong possibility that the leniency may be abused especially by countries which are capable of exerting soft power over the implementation and sanctions of these international organizations on the CWC. Thus, sarin still proves to be a major threat to international security, and until 100% of all chemical weapons can be cleared from military stockpiles, there is no assurance of the accountability of countries over the destruction brought about by sarin on civilians. CJLG


Prabirghose, 2013. Sarin gas – a weapon of mass destruction (WMD). March 7, 2014

Safire, William, 2004. Sarin? What Sarin?. New York Times. March 7, 2014

Laub, Zachary, 2013. Sarin. Council on Foreign Relations. March 7, 2014

Hamblin, James, 2013. What Does Sarin Do to People? The Atlantic. March 7, 2014

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 1993. United Nations Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction. March 7, 2014

Hot Off the Rack: Designer Babies and its Effects to Society (Individual Project)

"Even minor tampering with nature is apt to bring serious consequences, as did the introduction of a single chemical (DDT). Genetic engineering is tampering on a monumental scale, and nature will surely exact a heavy toll for this trespass," said Dr. Eva Novotny, astronomer and campaigner on GM issues for Scientists’ for Global Responsibility, SGR. All across the world today, scientific advancements have been growing more and more rampant.  One of these is genetic engineering or the deliberate modification of the characteristics of an organism by manipulating its genetic material. This is directly related to the entire process of designer babies. Quite an odd term, however, "designer baby" at first was derived from "designer clothing" by the media, and used pejoratively as implying commoditization of children. It is the term for a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering, combined with in vitro fertilization to ensure the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics. (Oxford, 2004). Such a thing originated during the early 2000s and has been improving over the years. Not only can the sex of the child be selected, but even the hair and eye color, plus a few more add-ons. Imagine conceiving a child and being able to play around with its embryo while gathering desired characteristics and traits as if one is simply browsing a catalogue! It sounds pretty ideal to most humans, but, of course, with an intricate development in the scientific field such as this, not everything included is a guaranteed success. Indeed, designer babies are accompanied by a handful of pros and cons, like most scientific advancements out there.

In vitro fertilization is the first step in making designer babies. This is the process where the egg is fertilized by the sperm outside the human body. After this, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is performed. This helps identify genetic defects within embryos. If genetic variants associated with any diseases are seen in the embryo's cells, the embryo is discarded. After all these procedures, genetic engineers modify the embryo’s DNA according to the parents’ preferences and then introduce it to the womb.

One pro that is accompanied with designer babies is that it prevents some genetic diseases and medical conditions at an early stage through PGD. Also, some see the enhancement of the health, looks, and traits of the baby as a pro. Lastly, it allows prospective parents to give their child genes that they do not carry.

Although there are people who aim for the legalization of designer babies in their respective countries, there are even more people who are against this. Some reason as to why they are opposed to this idea is that the engineering of genes could result to a new virus or disease that is hard to stop and could go on for generations. This could affect the whole child’s family tree which could be very devastating. Also, genes tend to have more than one use. For example, a gene could increase the child’s learning capability, but at the same time could increase his or her sensitivity to pain as well. (Agar, 2006)

Not only does designing babies affect the child physically, it also violates some of the rights of the infant. One is the child’s freedom to choose. Because of the fact that genomes could be altered, the child’s traits could be chosen and ‘programmed’ as well. For example, altering the child’s genomes could affect the child’s athletic ability. If both the parents are actually inclined to sports, they could make their child athletic as well even if the child may not have wanted this. Designer babies will also heighten discrimination. There might be a greater socioeconomic divide between the rich and the poor seeing only the rich people will be able to afford it. Also, it could create an even bigger gap in society because designer babies would most likely be better looking, smarter, etc. The process of designing babies also enables the parents to pick a gender. Because of the fact that there are still many male-dominated countries, designer babies might further heighten the discrimination between genders. Sharon Duchesneau and Candy McCullough, a deaf lesbian couple from the United States, want their baby to be deaf as well. Even though they view deafness as a cultural identity and not as a disability, some people say that they do not have the right to take away the child’s sense of hearing. (Johnson, 2012) Another example of a violation involves the process of IVF. With IVF, several embryos are tested for genetic defects, and those who are proven to have genetic defects are discarded.

Summing it all up, designer babies are still being debated amongst many countries and groups. Even though many people are against this, it is impossible to cross out the potential benefits and advancements it could bring about. Regarding this, let me end this paper with a quote said by Dr. Gillian Lockwood, a UK fertility expert and member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ ethics committee: “If it gets to the point where we can decide which gene or combination of genes are responsible for blue eyes or blonde hair, what are you going to do with all those other embryos that turn out like me to be ginger with green eyes?” She warned against “turning babies into commodities that you buy off the shelf.”

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Anna Isabelle R. Lejano