Week 9: More of my rambling and a bit about Our Guest: James Gimzewski – Simone Chen

I’m afraid that I have to admit, I haven’t been a “good” student this week. Yes I did attend all the lectures, as usual, however, I was (according to Professor Vesna) physically there but my “mind was elsewhere”. While the professor talked about the prevalence of “space” in popular culture by naming the various movies and tv-shows related to aliens and space travel, like Jetsons (1962) and Contact (1997), I was debating whether to use fire or water as my element. As she reviewed Nikola Tesla’s accomplishments and the ionosphere, my mind wondered even further and I thought about ice sculptures and decided that, yep, I’m going to choose water as my element.  After I made up my mind though, I did manage to draw more attention back to the class. I remember how hilarious the youtube clip of Carl Sagan versus Matrix was (because it seemed as if Morpheus was in pain due to the biology lecture that Smith was giving) and the Simpson’s rendition of the powers of Ten (originally by Charles and Ray Eames) was certainly entertaining. *I found a youtube clip that is semi-related to the powers of ten in that it show’s us how small the Earth is relative to everything else in the universe @ http://youtube.com/watch?v=7NYRVsKAkFM&feature=related

After hearing the list of “space” clips and viewing some youtube videos, I really have to say that pop culture is certainly an important part of our lives. Not just because it keeps us entertained, but because it shapes our stereotypes, expectations, and probably a lot more. For instance, when we hear the word “alien” we generally think of ET or some ugly deformed oddity because that’s the way they were depicted by media.  Media is a powerful tool, and it is often frightening the amount of influence it has over its viewers (ie. Because it provides people with stereotypes, viewers will likely be more judgmental, sometimes to the extent that they may harm others). However, sometimes media can be the disseminator of good will. Carl Sagan’s other clip of the pale blue dot is a really good example because it persuades people to treat their environment with more care and respect as it is the only home they have. Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” also passes on a similar message. These clips are, in a sense, a combination of art and science designed to educate and persuade its viewers to “make the world a better place”.

*On a side note, the concept of having theater performances in zero gravity is so cool!

Ok, now a bit about our guest lecturer. For one, James Gimzewski was certainly a man of good humor. He was so sarcastic at times but that’s what made the whole shpeal so entertaining. For two, he was definitely the most animated guest speaker up till this date. And last, but not least, his research sounded really fun. I guess it was the whole deal with using buckyballs to make a miniature abacus that really took my fancy. Although his work with monks on the mandala was quite fascinating as well.

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