Graslie Talk

GRASLIE

What’s her argument?

Graslie is a curiosity correspondent – she helps people be curious. Her argument is that people are generally curious, but to pursue this curiosity, the feeling of curiosity must exist first. That is, the curiosity must be aroused by something.

Quote that supports your contention:

“You can only be curios about something when you know it exists.”

Your Interpretation:

We aren’t very curious about many things, simply because we do not know about them. For example, if I didn’t know there was a dog (Sideways) buried on Georgia Tech’s campus, I would never have gone looking for the grave.

Flying Earth

There are so many movies themed on mass human extinction. ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, ‘2012’, ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’ are just some movies on this huge list of global-catastrophe themed films on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disaster_films). One of the movies listed is a 2015 flop (6.1 on IMDB, 48% on Rotten Tomatoes), called ‘San Andreas’, named after the fault line that lies there. Remember that, I’ll bring it up later.

These movies often contain scenes where huge chunks of earth are flung up, hundred meter fissures develop in a matter of seconds, and the protagonist’s family out run nature in a minivan as the earth behind them disintegrates. These movies have something else in common: they all fall under the “fiction” category.

cinema-2012

However, Kathryn Schulz’ article, ‘The Really Big One’, warns us otherwise. The articles mentions the possibility of a San Andreas disaster, but continues to say it is relatively small compared to the Japanese tsunami of 2011. The article, however, does talk about a worse event, an event with a one in ten chance of happening. This event, she calls ‘The Really Big One’.

Before we get to that, imagine you put a penny aside, every day. How much money would that be after a year? What if you continued it for a thousand years? You would have a problem storing the pennies, because you would have a block of pennies weighing more than a car. A penny a day is nearly nothing, but over time the sum becomes extremely large.

‘The Really Big One’ is the result of something similar: compression built up in the rocks of the Earth over centuries is suddenly released. The edge of the North American plate (according to the article), is bulging and compressing at some 30 to 40 millimeters a year; I’m sure people living there cannot feel any change at all. In the event of ‘The Really Big One’ happening, the ground would rise to up to A HUNDRED FEET in a matter of minutes. It would, in the article’s words, “rebound”.

What would we do if this were to happen? I don’t know. Kathryn doesn’t either, she doesn’t tell us in the article. Do you have any ideas?

Project Nim

Project Nim started off by showing humans in a light that made me think the documentary was scripted by a PETA activist. With raw footage of Nim, the protagonist chimp, being torn away from his mother, as his mother tried her best to protect him (she had had her 7 previous children taken, also revealed in the documentary through narration during the same scene), the documentary convinced me that my species was cold blooded. I expected the documentary to detail the cruelty humans show towards chimps, but I was very wrong.

The documentary from that point on presents footage that drew less emotion, although the participants of the Project described their emotions and relationship with Nim in depth. As the documentary progressed, a question started forming in my head: “To what extent can a chimp (or any animal) be humanized?”

The true “project”, documented by Project Nim, was an experiment to test the theory that raising an animal under the same stimulus and conditions provided to a human infant would result in the animal being humanized. In this experiment, chimpanzees were chosen; after all, they are one of our closest cousins (to those of you who do not believe in evolution (some 40 % of Americans), chimpanzees are widely regarded as the smartest of animals [ http://list25.com/25-most-intelligent-animals-on-earth/5/ ], so they still have a valid reason for being used).

The early stages of the experiment showed mostly positive results: Nim increased his sign language vocabulary exponentially and he seemed to be bright, warm and innocent. The documentary contains clips of his foster parents and his step siblings talking about Nim’s ability to understand their internal emotions, and accordingly react. When they were sad, Nim would quietly sit next to them, when they were excited, Nim would be excited too.

However, the experiment then took a drastic downward turn. Nim soon entered adolescence, and his instincts as a chimp began surfacing. Numerous bites and scratches evidenced by stitches and scars, and moments of absolute fear delivered to his caretakers served as proof that raising Nim as a human wasn’t truly humanizing him, rather it was teaching him how to “act” like a human under certain conditions. I highly recommend reading on the “Clever Hans effect” [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clever_Hans ] and artificial intelligence [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_intelligence ] (especially with regards to “true intelligence” vs. “acting human”.

The project overall failed to confirm the theory.

Do not read!

I told you not to read, but you simply had to know, right? Ok, read on.

“The 5Ws1H provide an immediate form for any news report.”

The previous sentence makes perfect sense, right? No, it probably doesn’t. Though a small number of you may be familiar with the 5Ws1H, most of us have no idea what that is (or they are?). We can’t understand much from the sentence, without knowing what the subject of the sentence is!

learn-cryptography

The 5Ws1H : who, what, where, when, why and how.

Suddenly, the first sentence makes a lot of sense. We (probably) feel satisfied, knowing what ‘5Ws1H’ stands for. There is now a fitting subject to the sentence. In fact, knowing the complete meaning of the sentence even allows us to guess where that sentence might have been taken from; I would guess that it was taken from some beginner’s guide on writing news reports.

Why did I write the three paragraphs above?

In Kim Todd’s essay in BASNW, Kim starts off by describing the features Surinam Toad and its hunting methods. Kim goes on, and talks about the toad’s “disturbing” mating process. [Your thoughts at this moment: “Hey! Wait a second! Answer the underlined question first! Don’t leave me hanging!”].

This blog post is on curiosity. Kim Todd’s essay in BASNW is titled ‘Curious’. The purpose of my underlined question was to get you, the reader, curious. My first three paragraphs had two purposes: to make you wonder what ‘5Ws1H’ meant, and to give me an opportunity to present the underlined question.

As I wrote this post, at the library, fireworks were going off next to the Coca-Cola building. I wondered why; October 13th wasn’t a special day to my knowledge.

In Kim’s essay, Kim mentions George Loewenstein’s comments on curiosity: “The theoretical puzzle posed by curiosity is why people are so strongly attracted to information that, by the definition of curiosity, confers no extrinsic benefit.” I agree 100 %. I would benefit in no major way by knowing why the fireworks were going off. Yet I wanted to know.

In the past, curiosity was frowned upon. As Kim says, there are plenty of stories in which curiosity plays the villain. There are even sayings, that warn us of the dangers of curiosity (“Curiosity killed the cat”). However, today, we hail curiosity to be the foundation of research, innovation and progress. How did this shift happen? It makes me wonder.