√ History. √ Ecology. √ Campus Life. √ Biology. √ Astronomy
M: So, many of you have sent me emails or visited me during office hours to complain about the material on systems theory. Some of your complaints are partly correct. The theory is vague, and it can be applied to almost anything. Rather than being frustrated by this fact, though, I want you to understand that this universality is the beauty of systems theory. Don’t you see? Scientists need a tool that can be easily applied and adapted to describe any group of variables that interact in a predictable and recurring pattern. This tool is systems theory. Let’s go over it again, because it will be on the exam. Who can tell me just what a system is? Anyone? W: Isn’t a system like the actual things in a relationship, and, like, what the things do together? M: OK, that’s a pretty accurate description, but let me just tighten up your definition a little. A system is defined as a process that is a result of its parts and their interactions. We call these parts “elements.” So, every system has elements. Each element in the system has certain characteristics that are relevant to the functioning of the system. We call these “attributes.” So, every element has attributes. Now, these elements and attributes have a cause and effect relationship with respect to one another. So, every system features relationships. Now, we have the three things that make up the system. We have the elements, the attributes, and the relationships. Now, what example did we discuss last time? W: It was the food chain, right? M: Right! OK, let’s go through the example and apply these terms. The food chain system is the system of energy moving around in the ecosystem. So, the food chain has elements. We can distinguish four major ones: the sun, plants, herbivores, and carnivores. Those are the four elements of our system. These elements have attributes, right? In this case, the attribute is energy. We start off with the sun, which has, say, 100,000 units of energy. The sun radiates this energy onto the Earth, where the plants are. Plants can then absorb this energy via photosynthesis. Who remembers what photosynthesis is? W: That’s the process that plants use to make food, I think. They breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, right? The opposite of us. M: Good, that’s right. Oxygen is indeed a waste product of photosynthesis. That, in fact, is another attribute in a larger system, but I don’t want us to think about oxygen or carbon dioxide now. Let’s stick to energy as our attribute. OK, so we now have a relationship between the sun and plants on Earth. In photosynthesis, a plant takes light energy, water, and carbon dioxide and converts them into simple sugars and oxygen. These simple sugars are the plants’ food and, thus, its source of energy. Plants can capture about one percent of the radiated energy from the sun. That one percent of energy is the plants’ attribute. So, one percent of the sun’s 100,000 units of energy leaves us with 1,000 units of energy being absorbed by the plants. The next element in our system is the herbivores. This term means “plant eaters” in Latin, so these are plant-eating animals. The herbivores eat the plants --- here we have another relationship --- and from this, the herbivores are able to absorb 10 percent of the plants’ energy. Remember, we started with 100,000 units of energy from the sun. The plants absorbed one percent, or 1,000 units of this energy. So, now we have the herbivores eating the plants and taking 10 percent of these 1,000 units of energy, which leaves 100 units of energy left at the herbivore level. The final level is the carnivores, which is Latin for “meat eaters.” These animals, in turn, can consume 10 percent of the energy from the herbivores. Remember, the herbivores ended up with 100 units of energy, therefore, we are finally left with 10 units of energy at the level of the carnivores. They make up the level furthest from the sun. So, this is our system, the attribute we followed is the energy starting from nuclear reactions in the sun and passing through the four elements in the system, from the sun, to the plants, and finally ending with the consumption of herbivores by carnivores.
3 Campus Life.
M: Hey there, Betty. W: Hi, John. What’s up? M: I wanted to talk to you. I’m having trouble with my computer, and you know more about computers than anyone I know. W: You don’t need to butter me up. I’d be glad to help you out. What seems to be the problem? M: Well, ever since I got it hooked up to the Internet a month ago or so, it’s been really slow, and sometimes, it just shuts down without warning. I lost half of a term paper the other week! W: Aha, the Internet! A marvelous thing, don’t you agree? We can now access a wealth of information from our homes, schools, and businesses, but, like any good thing, it has its problems. M: Right. It’s a great help for researching information for papers... and for downloading music files. W: Anytime you surf the Web, your computer could get a virus, which might be a minor inconvenience, or it could pick up a virus that does serious damage. Hackers might get into your computer and delete important information, crash your computer, or even steal your credit card information. M: Wow, do you think I might have a virus, then? W: Yeah, that could be your problem. I’m sure you’ve heard news reports of computer viruses being spread through email. The two more serious types of viruses are worms and Trojan horses. M: Worms? W: Yeah, sounds funny, I know, but worms are a sophisticated type of virus that replicatesitself and spreads to other computers without the user knowing what’s going on. A Trojan horse is a type of virus that gets in to your computer by disguising itself as something useful or desirable, like a music file for example. M: Uh oh. W: Yeah. You also have to worry about spyware. As the name implies, it is a software program that basically spies on you. It gets into your computer and then gathers information about your activities that can then be sold to advertisers. Spyware can really use up your memory and bandwidth. This is probably what’s slowing down your computer so much. Spyware can also lead to crashes. M: Oh man! What should I do? W: Don’t worry, there is protection. One security device is called a “firewall.” It sits between the computer and Internet, allowing the user to access the Internet, while preventing outside users from accessing your computer. So, basically, the firewall allows wanted traffic but stops unwanted traffic. It can be either a piece of hardware or a software program. M: Great, so a firewall will solve my problems? W: No. It will prevent you from getting problems in the future. You will also need an anti-virus program to prevent you from getting viruses. M: I see. W: I also have some programs that will search your computer for viruses and spyware and clean them from your hard drive. That’s what we’ll need to do first. M: Wow, thanks a million!
M: Quick question: how many of you have children? Hmm, nobody yet, eh? All right then: how many of you have parents? (laughs) Right, you all have parents, of course. Today, we’ll be looking at the bond that forms between parents and their children, or offspring. So, why do parents bond with their children? W: I think they need to bond so parents will protect their children... you know, so the species will survive, right? M: Very good. It is essential for the survival of the family and the species. But what actually happens when animals procreate? Well, there are a lot of hormones involved, and the bonding starts long before the baby is born. The first phase of parental response is the preparatory phase. The fertilization of an egg signals the beginning of a series of hormonal changes in pregnant mothers. These hormonal changes cause lactation. Who can define “lactation” for me? W: Isn’t that when the mother starts making milk for the babies to drink? M: Correct. Lactation is the production of milk in the mother. These hormones that trigger lactation also prepare the uterus for labor. The hormones also initiate changes in the prospective mother’s behavior. Depending on the species, the mother might build a nest or otherwise find or prepare a safe space for the expected offspring. Pregnant mothers also tend to limit their social interactions when they are expecting, thereby limiting chances of trauma to herself and the babies she is carrying. So, the first phase is the preparatory phase, and the second phase is the delivery. When the mother goes into labor, she has contractions. None of you have had your own children yet, but perhaps you know about contractions. What are they? W: Aren’t contractions when the mother’s muscles start contracting, or flexing I guess, before the baby comes out? M: Yes, that’s right. When these muscles start contracting, a signal is sent to the brain that induces arousal, lactation, and maternal behavior. They also trigger the release of chemicals to reduce anxiety and mute pain responses. What all this does, hopefully, is cause an intense connection between mother and baby at birth. It is important that this occurs, because if the mother does not instantly bond with the baby, she may not take proper care of it. Now, this brings us to the next phase: the parents’ response following the birth. You might be surprised to discover that most mammals don’t like babies. I see some surprised and skepticallooking faces. It’s quite a counterintuitive concept, isn’t it? This is, however, another reason why the parent-child bond is so important. When an adult is exposed to a baby, one of two things can happen. More often than not, the adult will care for the baby. However, if the parents can’t handle it, they have another option... it may be unthinkable, but it does happen... that second option is killing the baby. It’s not very common, but sometimes parents will actually eat their young. That’s a rare occurrence, though. Usually, moms will care for their young and prepare them for adulthood. But what about the dads? We’ve seen how the body signals mothers to be nurturing, but what makes fathers help out? Well, the truth is that, among most species, they don’t. In some species, however, fathers do help, and it turns out that among birds and mammals whose males engage in paternal behavior, the males actually have higher levels of blood prolactin, just like mothers. We also see changes in blood testosterone levels in these fathers. Animals that have fewer children (for example bears) tend to be more committed to them than are animals that have litters (for example rats). Because mammals with fewer offspring procreate less, the survival of each one of their offspring is that much more important. It is also interesting to note that a species with fewer offspring can more easily influence the behavior of those offspring through reward and punishment to bring about desirable behavior. Of course, it’s biologically important for parents and offspring to create a bond. That way, parents will support and protect the young so that they can grow to reproductive age and continue the species into the future. So, there are three basic phases that lead to this bonding. The first phase is the preparatory phase in which the mother’s body prepares to nourish the child. The second phase is the delivery phase in which the mother’s body prepares itself for the trauma of giving birth and the baby is actually delivered. The third phase is the parental response after birth in which emotional bonds are made between parents and offspring. It’s also important to note that the fewer the offspring produced, the stronger the bond.
5 Campus Life.
W: Yes, how can I assist you? M: Hi. Ummm... I want to get some information. W: OK, what kind of information would you like? M: About the campus counseling. I think I might need some help. W: I see. Well, that’s what we are here for, to help students like you. M: Good. W: Now, I just need to ask you a few questions. M: Sure, like what? W: Well, first, what is the nature of your problem? Is it mainly academic? Is it a health issue? Is it financial, or is it perhaps related to a relationship problem? M: Oh, OK. Hmmm. Well, it’s kind of everything together. W: OK. Let me ask some more specific questions. M: All right. W: Are your grades suffering? I mean, have they recently taken a nose dive? M: Umm, yeah, in some classes they have. W: OK, but not all classes? M: No, not all. W: OK, well that’s a good sign. In how many classes have you noticed the change? M: Two of the five I’m in now. W: Well, that’s not so bad. M: Except that I’m now failing those classes miserably. W: I see. Now, what about health problems? Are you feeling a specific pain or illness in some specific area, or is it more of a general malaise? M: It’s nothing specific really. It just seems that I never have any energy anymore. I never want to do anything. I don’t want to talk to anyone or go out, and I sure don’t want to hit the books when I should be. I can’t even bring myself to go to classes much these days. W: Aha. Those are actually really common symptoms at this time of year. M: Really? W: Oh yeah. The cold weather and short days can affect people that way, especially when combined with end-of-semester stress. M: Wow. That’s good to know. W: Yeah. It’s important for you to know that you’re not alone in this --- not by a long shot. Now, you also mentioned financial problems? M: Yeah, well that’s not the biggest problem, but I did quit my part-time job at the student union. W: Do you have enough money for your basic necessities, like food, books, tuition? M: Yeah. I just don’t have enough to go out much anymore, which isn’t such a big deal because I don’t feel like going out much anymore. W: All right, well hopefully we can turn that around. We can probably help you get your job back, too, if you so choose. M: OK. W: And what about your relationship problem? M: Well, the problem is I don’t have any relationships, though that’s not a new thing. It’s been like that for quite a while. W: I see. OK, the next thing I need is your name and student number. Then, I can arrange an appointment to see a counselor for you. The counselor with talk more with you about your problems and will try to come up with a plan of action to get you back on track. He or she may even refer you to a medical doctor if they think you need medication. Any questions? M: Umm, no, I guess not. Here’s my student card.
M: You all now, of course, what astronomy is; this is Astronomy 205 after all, but do you know what “cosmology” is? W: Hmmm. I know the Russians called “astronauts” “cosmonauts.” Is cosmology just the Russian word for astronomy? M: I like your reasoning on that, but no, I’m afraid you’re not exactly correct. Cosmology is, in fact, quite similar to astronomy, but more specifically, cosmology is the study of the universe and its components. This includes how the universe was formed, how it has evolved, its future, and, by extension, man’s place in it. You can think of cosmology in macro terms. Where astronomy also looks at every little planet and asteroid, cosmology is only concerned with the larger things, the cosmos as we say. Modern cosmology grew from the beliefs of ancient man and his ideas about the origin of the universe. Ever since people could think, they’ve sought to explain the existence and nature of the world around them. The search continues today for answers to the “big three” questions of life. One, where did we come from? Two, why are we here? Three, where are we going? This quest has split cosmology into three main disciplines: religious cosmology, physical cosmology, and metaphysical cosmology. In religious cosmology, beliefs about the creation and destruction of the universe provide a framework for understanding man’s role in the universe and his relationship to the creator of that universe --- a god or gods, depending on the belief system. This view holds that the universe was consciously created, and that the creator has some purpose or design for everything in it, including man. In many cases, religious cosmologies also foretell the end of the universe. Many religions accept the findings of physical cosmology, arguing that science supports their conceptions. After religious cosmology, we have physical cosmology. Physical cosmology deals with the study of the physical origins of the universe and the nature of the universe on its very largest scale. It seeks to understand the universe through scientific observation and experiment. Modern scientific cosmology uses physics, astronomy, and mathematics to explain how the universe began and how it is growing. For hundreds of years, scientists thought the universe was static and unchanging, but in 1964, they confirmed that the universe began with an explosion, coined the “Big Bang.” Recent technological advances in telescopes and space observatories have provided a wealth of new information about physical cosmology. We now have a much better understanding of not only what makes up the universe, but also its overall architecture. At the core of modern physical cosmology is an idea developed by the ancient Greeks, called geometric cosmology. Geometric cosmology is the belief that the underlying order of the universe can be expressed in mathematical form... but is mathematics a human invention, or does it have an independent existence? W: Math is pure; it has an independent existence, doesn’t it? M: Well, that’s what many people believe, but it’s hard to prove. It’s like the whole “if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound” conundrum. Mathematics may indeed have an existence independent from human invention, but as humans, we can only experience math as humans. This can be a tough concept to grasp, but let’s move on now to the third type of cosmology: metaphysical cosmology. Who can tell me what metaphysics is? Any philosophy majors out there? W: Yeah, metaphysics is the study of reality and the ways in which we can perceive it. M: Very good, you must have taken a philosophy class or two. Thank you. So, metaphysical cosmology stands in between religious and physical cosmology. Metaphysical cosmology seeks to draw logical conclusions about the nature of the universe and man’s place in it, addressing questions that are beyond the scope of science. Unlike religious cosmology, it approaches these questions using philosophical methods, such as dialectics, that is, examining opposite arguments in coming to a conclusion. For example, metaphysical cosmology might borrow presumed facts from religion or observation and compare it with scientific facts. One example is the cosmological argument, which is an argument for the existence of God based primarily on the point of view that the mere existence of a universe demands a creator. So, just to review, the three types of cosmology are religious, physical, and metaphysical. Religious cosmology relies on religious texts and beliefs, physical cosmology uses science and math, and metaphysical cosmology uses philosophy to bridge the gap between religious and physical cosmology.