The Change Georgetown DOESN’T Need

Banner - Science SFSIt was recently revealed through The Hoya that the administrators of SFS are considering changes to the core curriculum. This idea may seem great for SFSers due to the excessive amount of Econ requirements and inflexibility required by the SFS core. While reading the article, however, my eyes zeroed in on just one phrase:

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This phrase was met with a variety of reactions:

Shock, probably the most immediate reaction.

Despair, a reaction probably met by many non-STIA majors (including me).

Vomiting, which is what I wanted to do upon reading those words.

The acronym “SFS” is formally thought to mean “School of Foreign Service,” but we all know that it really means “Safe from Science.” With no required science classes in the core curriculum, the SFS has stood as a safe haven for those who love the social sciences, but despise the natural sciences. It builds on certain majors offered in the College (Economics, Government, Political Economy, etc.) while eliminating certain important classes, i.e. science. Moreover, the SFS core stands as, arguably, the most rigorous core curriculum among those at Georgetown (the MSB’s got nothin’ on us). Just when you thought that it could not get worse, the word science comes into play.

As bad as it sounds, some people might actually prefer to keep the four required economics classes instead of taking on a science class. That’s how ~bad~ the situation is with science and SFSers. I am personally against this possible change because, as an IPOL major, I believe it would make more sense to focus on courses that involve history and international relations…not physics or chemistry. Part of my hatred of science stems from the fact that during my senior year of high school, I received an 8/30 on an AP Physics test. In fact, I received multiple test scores below 65% in that class. My teacher was noticeably out to murder me unfriendly to me, and all of my friends thought it was hilarious. Let’s just say I didn’t receive the Physics Medallion at graduation. #Whatever.

Science belongs in the College or NHS, not SFS! While changes to the core curriculum are much needed in certain areas (cough-cough-ECONOMICS-cough), there are some changes that are definitely NOT needed. There’s a reason science has been required by the core; the fewer, the proud(?), the STIA-majors stand together as an example of ways to incorporate science into their SFS experience. The administration does not have to condemn all of us to the torture that is Bio Lab and Chem Recitation. A possible solution to this potential crisis is to let students decide between science and another subject, depending on their field of study. If this change does indeed occur, we may be facing a bigger crisis than the closing of Epi on Sunday nights. Due to the blatant violation of the SFStatus Quo, I encourage all Georgetown students to join the trend:

#keepSFSsafe.

Photos/Gifs: thehoya.com, giphy.com, cliparts.co

4E Recaps the State of the Union

SOTUrecap

On Tuesday night, President Obama gave his State of the Union address. I know all you politically minded, intelligent Hoyas have probably already watched it, but for those of you who might have missed it (maybe that twenty-minute nap turned into a two-hour one?), I’m here to recap it for you. Here is what you really need to take away from the speech:

  • Obama, Vice President Biden and speaker John Boehner like to wear coordinated ties with purple undertones. You’ve got your stripes, checkers and your solids there, good job boys.
  • The crowd is doing a lot of leg work. In the first ten minutes they go up and down at least four or five times. Hope no one skipped leg day today, you’re going to need your strength folks.
  • We meet Rebecca, and the story of her marriage to Ben and their family. Obama is telling us how great it is to be young and love in America… are you promising us love, Mr. President?
  • He also tells the nation that “more Americans finish college than ever before.” Obama believes in us. Remember that when you’re locked in Lau during midterms: you can do it!
  • Obama also winks at the crowd a one point; he’s slowly becoming a silver fox.
  • John Boehner gets the sniffles during the speech. Clearly someone hasn’t gotten their flu shot this year! But don’t worry, we’re entering a “new era of medicine”, so we got you covered, Boehner.
  • Everyone needs to start following Scott Kelly on Instagram immediately. He’s going to be in space guys, and Obama commands him to put it on social media.
  • Russia is a bully, and we don’t tolerate bullies. Or hackers – get off our Internet please.
  • SCIENCE… Nature is going to win every time, guys.
  • Stereotypes are bad, but the cynics are wrong. “We are still one people.”
  • Obama has no more campaigns to run, because he won them all.
  • We are more than red states and blue states… clearly we should be purple like the color of everyone’s tie.

So there you have it, President Obama’s State of the Union speech in a very small nutshell. While some of the policies proposed were a little vague, focusing more on values than a specific “checklist”, there were also some great ideas in there. So whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, just remember that we’re 15 years into this century. That’s right, we’re all starting to get old. How I long for good old 2002 and the debut of Avril Lavigne’s first album.

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 Photos: zenfs.com, http://blogs-images.forbes.com/

We Can Land on a Comet But We Can’t …

Comet Landing

As you may have heard, a few days ago the Rosetta probe successfully landed on a comet. Twitter users had a humorous response to mankind’s latest outer space feat, posting ridiculous things with the hashtag #WeCanLandOnACometButWeCant. We at 4E have compiled our own list of things we can’t do:

We can land on a comet but we can’t …

… get the USB in the port on the first try.

… find Waldo.

… stop Nicholas Cage from making movies.

… find washing machines that don’t eat our socks.

… make another Harry Potter movie.

… prevent the accidental photo like on Instagram.

… listen to Taylor Swift on Spotify.

… lick our elbows.

… dislike a post on Facebook.

… spread out our flex dollars over the semester.

… find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie pop.

… rub our tummies and pat our heads.

… decide whether Diet Coke is better or worse than regular Coke.

… pick up our omelettes when we’re supposed to.

… finish a whole stick of chapstick.

… stop missing Markel Starks.

… give our dominant hands presentable manicures.

… remember where we parked our cars.

… stop watching Snapchat stories.

… keep our headphones untangled.

… get restaurant reservations on Saturday at 8 p.m.

… finish our bottles of shampoo and conditioner at the same time.

… even

We get it, world. There is a comet out there somewhere with a probe on it. We can land on a comet. But just think of all the things we can’t do, and let’s get our priorities straight.

Photo: wikimedia.org

D.C. Episode VI: Return of the SciFi

Star WarsNot long ago, outside of a Capitol building not so far, far away, a group of Star Wars fans invaded our city.

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Aren’t you a little short for a senator?

This week, accompanied by Death Star personnel, TIE fighter pilots, squads of Stormtroopers, the nefarious bounty hunter Boba Fett and Sith lord Darth Vader, an all-volunteer group of SciFi activists gathered in front of the Capitol. What purpose does this evil have in our city? To raise public awareness and shoot a promo video for the Museum of Science Fiction.

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“I find your lack of faith in our proposed Museum of Science Fiction disturbing.”  –Darth Vader

Although not yet established, the Museum of Science Fiction is undergoing an ambitious campaign to raise $160,000 to open up a small preview museum. Adding to their plans to make this museum a reality, the all-volunteer group said it would house “a diverse collection of artifacts, display objects and interactive exhibits that span many varieties of art forms,” including “robots, time machines, aliens and creatures, as well as costumes, sets, props and model spaceships.”

The campaign has largely been a success. Though they are still $29,000 short of their fundraising goal, the group isn’t worried. “We hope to have a 3,000 square foot preview museum open in 12 months from now,” Executive Director of the Museum of Science Fiction Greg Viggiano said.

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This is the pink droid you were looking for.

While plans for the preview museum seem set, the logistics for the full museum are still being hashed out. Planners are currently working with realtors to find both a preview space and a location for the actual museum, but it’s “tough to say” when the full museum could open. Viggiano believes that will be determined by how quickly they can organize real estate work with commercial property owners.

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“Luke, I am your father … and this is your mother.”

To add to the SciFi mania, the demonstration has sparked a controversy in the science fiction community: Should Star Wars be considered science fiction or science fantasy? Regardless of what you think, make sure to keep tabs on this story as it unfolds.

May the 4orcE be with you.

Photos: DCist, The Nerd Cabinet, ArmRadio

Simply Science: Vote to Name a Moon or Two

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Ah, Pluto. It brings back memories of my favorite middle school planetary acronym, “My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.” In 2003, though, something about Pluto’s size and location made astronomers at the International Astronomical Union uncomfortable and led them to reclassify it as a dwarf planet, a fact we astronomical sentimentalists too often lament. That’s right, no more pizza; now she’s just making nachos.

But, that is old news. Pluto has had some limelight lately on some of the top science news websites with an exciting new opportunity for the average internet-goer. In 2011 and 2012, the Hubble Space Telescope discovered Pluto’s two smallest moons (from more than 3 billion miles away), and scientists tentatively named them P4 and P5. It turns out, though, that P4 and P5 just aren’t spicy enough names for the city-sized pieces of rock, so the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Institute is looking for public input. They have set up plutorocks.com, a site looking for the votes of anyone and everyone to determine the new names of these lunar beauties. There’s even a write-in option if you have your own brilliant suggestion!

Sorry, you can’t name it after your Valentine’s Day sweetheart (if you have one); astronomers are apparent admirers of Roman and Greek myth, so the names have to have some mythological origin. Moons are even typically named so to depict some sort of relationship with the main planet. Pluto is the Roman name for the Greek god of the underworld, Hades. It already has three named moons: Charon, the boatsmen who ferried the souls of the dead to the underworld, Nix, the goddess of the night, and Hydra, the name of a many-headed monster that guarded an entrance to the underworld. All of the current options for names are unsurprisingly also related to the underworld, with Cerberus and Styx as the favorites.

You can only vote once a day, and though the SETI Institute seems completely intent on allowing the voters to decide, they remind us that the IAU ultimately has the final authority on the naming of P4 and P5. Never has there been a time when it has been more important for an individual to exercise his/her right to vote on lunar nomenclature than now, in this instant. Don’t be lazy. Click on the link and vote for your favorite underworld-related figure (or just the one that sounds coolest). And don’t be afraid to ask your favorite GUSA candidate which name they support … it’s an important issue.

Click Here To Vote

Deadline: 12 p.m. EST on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013.

Photo: hubblesite.org

*Simply Science is a reoccurring post that aims to make recent scientific discoveries accessible and applicable to the Georgetown student.

Simply Science: We’re Dumber Than NHL Players

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Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t become a professional athlete, but then I remember how much I enjoy melted cheese and ice cream. (Not at the same time … well … maybe). When I realized the professional-athlete lifestyle wasn’t for me, I, like many of us, decided that paying inordinate amounts of money to go to college was the next best option. The perceived benefit? Becoming smarter and increasing my human capital, of course.

It turns out, however, that elite athletes (or ath-elites, if you will) do not only have better six-packs, better salaries and better health outlook; they’re smarter, too.

In a recent study, scientists tested English Premier League soccer players, NHL hockey players, France’s Top 14 club rugby players, and amateur ath-elites (it’s catchy, isn’t it?) and determined that their test subjects had more finely developed cognitive abilities than the average university student.

We mere mortals are potentially more eloquent than they are about things you might learn at college: the periodic table elements, the works of Chaucer or maybe even innovative drink recipes, but this study focused on ability. Subjects were asked to describe a series of simulated objects moving through three dimensions, thereby testing:

A Really Smart Dude
  1. Distribution of attention between a number of moving targets amongst distracters.
  2. Scope of field of vision.
  3. Maximum speed of objects one is able to follow.
  4. The ability to perceive depth.

The researchers were sure to design the study so that no sports-related experience or knowledge would help the participants. Each subject partook in 15 simulations, and, lo and behold, the professional athletes were able to learn how to track fast moving objects at a far superior rate than the other groups.

They observed that athletes were able to hyper-focus their attention to enhance learning. This might help explain observed increased cortical thickness in trained athletes’ brains and may lead new ways for exploring the treatment of people who have issues with attention, such as the elderly (and me during European History class).

It’s obvious that being good at a sport requires a certain level of mental processing and learning. But, according to researchers, it is unclear whether this superior ability is unique to professional athletes (and whether these are natural skills that helped them to be good athletes) or whether these skills have been developed through extensive training. Here exists the classic question of “causation or correlation?”

Although my four years of junior recreational soccer didn’t seem to pay off in Bib Lit last semester, it seems that sometimes we don’t give athletes enough credit. Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Apparently, it also has to do, in part, with the quality of your slapshot. (Yay for sports terminology!)

I do, however, have at least one critique of this study. They should specify where they got their samples when it comes to university students. If they equate an “average university student” with a Syracuse student … well, there’s your problem.

Photo: sbrsport.files.wordpress.com

*Simply Science is a reoccurring post that aims to make recent scientific discoveries accessible and applicable to the Georgetown student.

Simply Science: SanDisk or DNA?

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Ever get tired of having to lug around that painfully cumbersome flash drive all the time? Do you ever find that your Word documents tend to just fill up your entire terabyte-sized hard drive leaving no room for cat .gifs or unnecessary Photobooth selfies?

Well, you’re in luck.

Every good 7th grade biology student knows that DNA “holds the blueprints for life.”  Now, our good friend Deoxyribonucleic Acid (I had to thrown in the full name somewhere, just to sound smart) might be able to hold on to your pirated copy of Zero Dark Thirty, as well your genetic material.

Scientists have developed new methods to synthesize DNA that holds digital information. You’ve heard of the 0’s and 1’s of computer science’s binary coding system (e.g. 0011010001000101); well, think of what A’s, T’s, C’s, and G’s could do. Through nucleotide encoding (combined with the careful positioning and overlapping of the short encoded strands), scientists have created a potentially revolutionary information storage system.

To demonstrate the sheer epicness of these recent developments, scientists encoded an .MP3 of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a .txt file containing all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a .pdf of Watson and Crick’s original paper on the structure of DNA (clever … clever … ) and, finally, a file containing information on the encoding itself. And when it was all put together, it looked to be the size of a small piece of dust. It was then sent to another research facility where it was successfully decoded.

Watson and Crick, 1953

Let’s break down why this is awesome:

  1. The coding is designed to be error-resistant. No more broken files!
  2. Theoretically, we could store at least 100 million hours of high-def video in a single cup of DNA. That is a LOT of episodes of “Entourage.”
  3. DNA lasts for thousands of years, so no need to worry about expiration.
  4. DNA’s size substantially optimizes information storage so it’s efficient!

Yeah, it might sound weird in a way. The same double helix that provides the design for your brain can also store the Word document of your unfortunate “Philosophy of the Mind” essay that you wrote at 3 a.m. the day before it was due. But it is a significant (and can I just say awesome once again) advancement nonetheless.

Don’t head on over to Staples just yet to buy yourself a cup of this storage DNA. People are still working on a commercially viable storage model; and even so, I doubt it would be very student-friendly. I’m not sure that they’d let you use your Flex dollars for the necessary advanced bio-analytic instruments.

 

Photo: PacificGazette.blogspot.com

*Simply Science is a reoccurring post that aims to make recent scientific discoveries accessible and applicable to the Georgetown student.

Marshmallow Cannons and More at the White House

by Michelle Cassidy


Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President Obama hosted a group of young students yesterday at the second White House Science Fair, where they showed off some inspired projects, according to InTheCapital. The innovations being featured at the event would have blown my entire grade school science fair out the water. Projects ranged from a device that removes ink from paper to a sugar packet that dissolves in hot water (eliminating a significant amount of waste) to alternative energy sources for cars.

More than 100 students from different science competitions nationwide attended the event and presented their award-winning projects. Obama urged students to pursue higher education in science, math and especially engineering:

We need more people, who can do math, design software, and create new applications for machines that have yet to come into existence. If we choose not to engage in fundamental research—not to pursue new technologies and systems, not to discover new properties of numbers and atomic structures,not to explore the oceans and outer space—we leave that work to others, to emerging countries, who have seen from the outside what science and technology can do for a society.

Other notable guests at the fair included Bill Nye the Science Guy (remember him?) and Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame.

Our favorite part? The pictures of Obama firing the marshmallow cannon designed by Joey Hudy of Phoenix, Arizona across the State Dining Room. The Washington Post has a gallery featuring more pictures from the event, and the White House blog has a video showing some more of the projects.

Update 12:04 p.m.: We have video!