Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Interesting Things I've Learned in College

There have been many moments during my studies where I've gone "Wow, that's really neat! People should know this!" Even though many of these are not officially connected to my career, it's nice to know a little bit more about the world. Here is a list of random things I learned that make me thankful for my college education. Some of you might be thinking, "I learned this stuff in middle school!" You know what? Give yourself a cookie. Hopefully, I will be able to update this post at graduation.

Intro to Mass Communication
One thing I learned in this course is that filmmakers try to use Freudian psychology to make you subconsciously think of adult subject material through the use of symbols. Many doubt that Freud's theories are accurate, but that doesn't stop producers from trying to use objects like fruit, flowers, and trees to bypass the superego and indulge the id. Notice anything peculiar in this scene from Elf?

Wildlife Ecology
While there is nothing wrong with eating meat, this course taught me the problem of its over-consumption. In short, if we stop feeding so much to our livestock, we can feed the world. Energy is lost when it is transferred from plants to livestock, so it takes much more land to sustain the same amount of food if it is meat rather than produce. There is physically not enough land on planet Earth to support the world's human population on the meat-heavy American diet. The unnatural and insatiable demand for meat has led to the clearance of much natural land, resulting in decreased biodiversity. This means that the great variety of animal species found in God's creation is being destroyed and replaced with cattle. Also, the great variety of plant species is being destroyed and replaced with plants that cattle can eat. The virtue of temperance and the sin of gluttony are more than internally consequential.

Descriptive Astronomy
The Sun is not just a ball of burning gas, it's a battle ground between nuclear fusion and gravity. The gravity of the great amount of matter in a star causes so much pressure at the core that atoms can unite, and nuclear fusion occurs. Gravity pulls inward, while the nuclear reaction presses outward. When the star starts to run out of fuel [atoms], gravity wins out and the star collapses. There are several possibilities after this, such as a black hole. Or, the new element that the original nuclear reaction created might start another nuclear reaction and create a new outward force to balance out against gravity. Sometimes, the new nuclear reaction overpowers the force of gravity and the star explodes. If the balance is right, the star may continue the cycle of producing different elements. So stars can sort of be described as element factories. The universe actually started out with just Hydrogen, but this life cycle of stars has produced the periodic table of elements we have today.

Another cool thing I learned in this class: the effects of gravity travel the speed of light. So, if the Sun disappeared, the Earth would continue to orbit around where the Sun was for about 8 minutes.

World Oceans
When the professor stated that she was about to explain how the ocean's currents work, my ears pricked up. It was indeed interesting, and pretty simple as well. Imagine that you have 2 trays of water. If you move one tray faster than the other, that tray will spill more water. This is because matter at rest is prone to stay at rest, even if what's under it is moving. When the Earth rotates towards the East, the water trying to stay in place is pressured towards the West. The Earth's surface moves faster around the Equator than around the Poles, since more distance is covered with the same amount of rotation. Because of this, the water towards the equator has greater pressure to move West. On the Western end of the Atlantic Ocean, there is more pressure around the Equator than away from it, so water moves North and south from the Equator. On the Eastern end of the Atlantic Ocean, there is less pressure around the Equator, so water moves in from the North and South to fill in where the water is moving West. This creates what is called the Coriolis Effect. Here's an illustration: 

World History Since 1500
One figure in history that I didn't know much about until college is Mao, the ruler of China for much of the 20th Century. He was considered the leader of the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution." The revolution seemed to benefit the poor initially with the distribution of resources. However, as usual with communist regimes, it did not take long for things to spiral out of control. One manifestation of this was the Red Guard, a group of politically active students who supported the revolution. When Mao showed support for them, many Red Guard movements popped up and caused chaos. Anything seen as a luxury was destroyed as bourgeois contamination. Some youths in the Red Guard also took advantage of the situation to attack the elders who formerly controlled them. Some people got the Red Guard to do dirty personal work for them, as long as the victims could be accused of anti-revolutionary activity. Eventually, revolutionary factions popped up around China and fought each other for power. Mao stated that this was a good thing, without picking a side. Thus, both factions declared their fight to be a legitimate cause of the revolution. All this chaos helped keep Mao in power, so he kept the chaos going. Anyone who criticized the Red Guard, or the factional fighting, was accused of criticizing the revolution. A criticism of the revolution was a criticism of Mao, a treason worthy of death. Many people did not really believe in the revolution, but everyone labeled it as their cause in order to justify their means of attaining and keeping power. Thus, Mao created a society that systematically condemned honesty and rewarded violent dishonesty. He was one bad dude.

Archaeology & the Bible
This was definitely one of my favorite classes. We started off by studying Egyptian records, which documented their own contact with Semitic peoples, and went on to study the remains of ancient Israel. Some interesting examples are from the reign of King Hezekiah. Archaeologists have discovered coins with his insignia, which is a winged scarab beetle. They also found an ancient wonder: a great underground tunnel which was to provide Jerusalem with water during the anticipated Assyrian siege under Sennacherib.  Hezekiah's tunnel is actually referenced in the Bible (2 Kings 20:20), so it's a neat connection between the textual and physical records.