The Science of Fahrenheit 451

Have you ever memorized an entire book? For Kenosha’s Big Read of “Fahrenheit 451” on Thursday, Oct. 16th, three Parkside professors addressed a few scientific concepts that Ray Bradbury illustrated in the novel Fahrenheit 451,” such as: Is it possible to memorize an entire book?, Is there such a thing as a mechanical hound?, What is the auto ignition temperature of paper? One can’t help but propose these questions because when Bradbury first wrote “Fahrenheit 451” he had predicted a number of scientific and technological concepts that have been developed successfully over the years. So can he be right once again?

Dr. Gary Wood was the first presenter. He earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Dr. Wood addressed the question: Does paper really start to burn at 451 degrees Fahrenheit? For those of you who haven’t read “Fahrenheit 451,” it’s a fictitious story about how books are banned from society and burned. The title alludes to the plot of the story and refers to the auto ignition temperature of paper, 451 degrees Fahrenheit. What is auto ignition? The auto ignition temperature is the temperature at which something gets hot enough to ignite by itself without being exposed to a spark or flame. When Bradbury was writing the book, he called the physics and chemistry department at the University of California, Los Angeles, along with the local fire department to determine the auto ignition temperature of paper. But is it really 451 degrees Fahrenheit? Dr. Wood explained that there’s actually a range of auto ignition temperatures of paper that runs from about 424 degrees to 475 degrees. The temperature depends on what type of paper it is, the composition, moisture content, and other variables.

Dr. Lori Allen presented next. Dr. Allen attained her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She answered the question: How close are we to making a mechanical hound? In the novel, Bradbury created a robot dog that could smell criminals (those who owned books), and was programmed to track down and kill the guilty with its electronic nose. So how close are we? Well, Allen showed that scientists and engineers have already created several robots and many which are very animal or dog-like, such as the “Cheetah,” “Little Dog” and “RHex.” They are able to move quickly, maneuver well and conquer large physical obstacles. So engineers have successfully developed robot dogs, but what about an electronic nose? Scientists have been already working on it, but have not completely developed it yet. There is one accomplished electrical nose out there that detects prostate cancer by smelling urine. It has a 76 percent accuracy rate, but does have some false positives. Dr. Allen also elaborated that the mechanical hound in the novel would not only have to be able to smell, but be able to differentiate the smell of one person from the next in order to track the correct guilty person. That means it would have to be able to detect a human chemical signature. Such a thing does exist and scientists have been working to uncover them, but currently not much is known about human signature smells.

The last presenter was Psychologist Dr. Ed Bowden who acquired his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. In “Fahrenheit 451,” in order to preserve the knowledge and information in books, some of the characters claimed that they had memorized entire books. So Bowden answered whether it is possible for a person to memorize an entire book. To answer this, he first addressed what memory is. Memory is the encoding, storage and then retrieval of information. It is stored in the brain and encoded between connections of neurons. Bowden also explained that everything you experience is not created as a permanent memory. We all have a short-term memory and a long-term memory, and information must get through the short-term memory in order to get into long-term to store it. So can you memorize a whole book? Bowden explains that many can easily memorize the gist of a book, but it is possible to memorize the verbatim as well, and there’s real life examples of such feats. In ancient times, the Romans used to memorize epic poems, like Homer’s “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” to recite to audiences. This is possible by working off of repetition, the structure of the story and honing in on cues within the story. Most recently, 2006 Memory champion, Akira Haraguchi, memorized 100,000 digits of Pi. Dr. Bowden explained that Haraguchi did this by converting each digit into its consonants and then into words. He would then make a story out of the the words.​

Article by Liv Gripko

Attack of the Tweens!

Where did it start? Or better yet, where will it end? More so than most films out there today the continuing trend of the “tween” movie is hitting harder than anything, and making more money than a lot of other films! Just within the last year alone the world has gotten two films in the “Hunger Games” series, the first installment of the “Mortal Instruments” series (which was a major flop), Divergent which promises 3 more movies to come (following yet another trend of breaking the final book in a series into a two part movie), and a second “Percy Jackson” film, as well as the new-aged A Walk to Remember which came under the title of The Fault in Our Stars. That doesn’t even include all of the smaller budgeted movies that are directed towards a certain demographic, namely girls between the ages of 10 and 17. So why are there so many of these movies all releasing within the recent years, beginning with the epidemic which is Nicholas Sparks and continuing to the present? Because they make money. But why do they make money?

Working in a video rental store, I get to see people of all different ages, races, tastes, and opinions come and go with all sorts of different movies. Some movies that I think will be rented only by a certain type of person I find myself shocked by the people who rent them. Even in theaters movies like Divergent which recently played in the student center, which one would think was primarily a movie teenage females would see actually ended up being only 59% female, and even more importantly only 50% of people to see it were under the age of 25. Men on the social website reddit.com primarily paid attention to Emma Watson, the “it” girl of teenager-movie scene with the Harry Potter series, posting images of her in sexy poses and made crude comments surrounding her only until The Hunger Games released, then they were obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence who was cast in the role of leading lady Katniss Everdeen. The men of the internet had previously paid no attention to her, even though she was an Oscar nominated actress before accepting this role.

Now I may sound like an opinionated fool, but everyone is entitled to their own thought process, right? This being said, I have a theory. These movies, although geared towards or made for a female audience of a certain age, have a cult following of not just people in the demographic that is aimed for, but a whole crowd of people who are flocking to the theaters to see the next installment. Middle-aged women can’t wait for the next collector’s edition of the Twilight series to be released; older men are dying to see Katniss Everdeen kick some more Capitol ass. I believe, personally, the simplicity that goes into these films gives a sense of nostalgia to those who are not in the age bracket that they are intended for; these movies give them a sense of being that age which the movies are directed towards. I’m not saying that they wish that these stories were their lives by any means; no, what I mean is that these movies help people to feel young again, relating to these young characters that have adventurous lives, which live a fantasy. Every woman wants to be these girls; every man wants to be with these girls, which sounds creepy even though the actors are all over the age of consent, and vice versa. It’s exciting to feel young again! To be able to feel that great love with the boy who completely understands again reminds viewers of their first loves and the great memories that came along with it. To stand up to the government in a post-apocalyptic world reminds people of defying their parents who stood in as “the bad guy” in the majority of households.

I am not saying that these movies are all bad, not at all (although some of them truly are bad, not naming a certain 4-book-5-movie series that ended recently!). Some of them genuinely are interesting and entertaining. But whether it’s becoming a Greek demi-God or battling cancer while falling completely in love, they all have that same feeling at the end. None of these films leave the audience thinking, or confused, or even feeling like they’ve seen something intellectual. They all leave people feeling good, or enlightened somehow, and I feel it is a sense of relaxation caused the same way looking through an old high school yearbook or taking a walk down memory lane would. So when will this epidemic of tween movies come to an end? Sit tight everyone, because I have a feeling we’re in it for the long run.

Article by Krista Skweres

Letter to the Editor: PIP101

I recently logged onto RateMyProfessor.com – something I have only done one other time in my three years of college, and that one other time was for the exact same reason I was logging on now. I don’t go there to see what students are saying about professors, as most of them are whining about having to use the textbook, or that there is too much homework, or that they expect you to be in class everyday – come on, get over it…THIS IS COLLEGE AND IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE HARD. Don’t any of them realize that this is the easiest part of their lives? Don’t any of them understand that an employer is going to expect them to be there every day, fully equipped with all the necessary tools like pen and pencil, notepaper, maybe even a book or two? I digress.

No, I go onto RateMyProfessor.com to truly give feedback on a professor that should not be allowed to teach, mold, influence, enact or any other verb as it relates to the educating of our young minds of tomorrow. I have one such professor. Feedback? None. Return email correspondence? Slim to none. Help with projects? None. Clarity in explanation of assignments? Little to none. Grades Returned? You will be lucky if you see something once a month. Really? 4 weeks to return test grades? As we are nearing the end of the semester, I am not sure if I have a D or an A. I think I have an A, but who knows?

So, as I log on to rate this specific professor, I read the other comments posted by students for this same educator. OMG – seems like I am not the only one having the same problems!

Overall Quality: 2.0

Helpfulness: 1.0

Guess what? It’s been going on for years…you would think that the University would like to have this fixed. Is this not a direct reflection on them as an educational institution of higher learning? This professor is their choice as an educator. Hmmmmm….

And don’t even get me started on the professors that do the “cut and paste syllabi” which have the wrong semester due dates on them (Spring for Fall and vice versa) or the “form letter” emails that are supposed to be personal, but aren’t, and have grammar issues as well as content issues. Are professors above checking their work before submitting or hitting ‘send’?

As a former corporate executive, if this was run like a corporate business, they would ALL be fired for their lack of attention to detail bordering on incompetence. But, since this isn’t run as a business, it is academia – I rate these behaviors an “F”. You want to turn out undergraduate professionals? Then emulate the behavior with which you have expectations of.

Article by Robin Broughton

The Non-GMO Project: Reaching the Tipping Point

Since the first distribution and commercialization of genetically engineered crops in the early nineties, countries around the world have been creating or have already created policies to enforce the regulation of these relatively new technologies. There are currently 64 countries all over the globe including China and Mexico that have laws mandating the labeling of genetically engineered foods.  The U.S. is not one of these 64 countries. We are one of the only developed countries in the world that does not require the labeling of these potentially harmful foods by law. Russia, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greenland and all of Europe already have firm laws in place that mandate the labeling of nearly all genetically engineered foods with a threshold of .9-1% of GE content per ingredient of each food item. Serbia, Benin and Zambia have put in place an official ban on all genetically engineered food cultivation and imports. Do we not have a right to at least know what is in our food?

Continue reading The Non-GMO Project: Reaching the Tipping Point

Cyrus strikes again – a review, by a human

Care for a bit of commentary on what’s new in the world of Miley Cyrus? But of course you do! It is becoming impossible to avoid hearing about the girl since she has taken the world of young, mislead girls that shout out “YOLO” followed by a quaint giggle because they find the slogan so meaningful, by storm. While this recent sensation is arguably more disconcerting than the Hipster community finding solace in PBR, thus causing the price of a once affordable six pack to sky rocket, Miley Cyrus’ newly released music video for her song “Wrecking Ball” seems to take the cake for bad things we are forced to accept.

Continue reading Cyrus strikes again – a review, by a human