Author Archives: Gordon Alexander Bonker

Is technology too powerful?

The touch screen technology we are all accustomed to today has completely revolutionized and changed the way we use technology. From our phones, to computers, to cars, microwaves, televisions, everything seems to have touch screen capabilities. We now no longer need a map to find where we are going, GPS navigational systems are programmed into our cars and our phones. We can see a person’s face and have a conversation with them while they are on the opposite side of the globe, and there are even cars that can drive themselves.  However, 10 years ago this technology was no where near as possible and useful as it is today. We come in contact with new technology every day, and everyday newer and better technology is released. However I pose the question, can technology become too powerful?

I was reading an article online that was published in TIME magazine, and it talked about how technology today is rapidly accelerating. It explained that the computer technology of today is rapidly increasing in ability because of the fact that yesterday’s technology is used to build tomorrows, and that the growth of technological advancements is based on the concept that all innovation builds off the previous technology. So it got me thinking, what if this growth of technological ability gets out of control? Can technology become too powerful?

When I researched the topic, I found an article written that discussed how Technology will   affect us in the future. And this study, suggested numerous points and possibilities that are somewhat unsettling. As one of the main points in the article, the writer discussed the impact technology had on economic factors and working conditions. As machinery has been further and further developed, it has taken claim to more and more of jobs that were previously held by humans. Could it be possible that eventually machines could take all of or most of the jobs we have now as humans?

This question can be related to a main theme in a book I read in High School, “Player Piano,” by Kurt Vonnegut. The plot of the story is that machines have put man out of business, and can do all the jobs that humans previously had done. The main character Paul, created the machines that eventually took his job, and there is a revolution to try and restore the ways of the old world, in which everything was not ran by machines. The book is quite interesting, and I would encourage those of you who have not read it to read it.

Another aspect to look at in terms of technology becoming too powerful is the impact it has had on warfare.  A pretty scary thought to think about is, what we as humans have developed as weapons of mass destruction that could end the existence of the world as we know it. To put the largeness of these weapons of mass destruction in perspective, The United States of America constructed a bomb known as the B53, that was 600 times more powerful than that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  These weapons exist because of the rapid technological advancements we have made as humans, and at what point does it become too powerful?

The possibility of machinery taking over our world is improbable, and I do believe that humans have enough knowledge and sense to not set off the weapons of mass destruction we have created, however there is still always the possibility that looms over our heads, and the constant question that remains, Is technology too powerful?

 

Sources:

http://longnow.org/essays/technology-moving-too-fast/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2053179/US-dismantles-B53-nuclear-weapon-600-times-powerful-Hiroshima.html

http://www.angelfire.com/trek/playerpiano/overview.html

http://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/cs181/projects/technology-dangers/issues.html

Can Dinosaurs Come Back?

The thought can be quite scary, but can Dinosaurs really be brought back from extinction? This is a thought that has been inside the minds of many for ages, as Dinosaurs have always been such interesting creatures to so many people, sparking enough interest to create countless books, TV shows, and movies about them. Oxford biochemist Dr. Allison Woollard says it is theoretically possible to recreate some species from DNA.

When asked about how it could be possible for Dinosaurs to be brought back from DNA, Dr. Willard explained that birds of today are direct descendants of Dinosaurs, “We know that birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs, as proven by an unbroken line of fossils which tracks the evolution of the lineage from creatures such as the velociraptor or T-Rex through to the birds flying around today.” Explained Woolard. She then explained that this discovery of evolution implies that buried within the birds of today are the switched off genes that control Dinosaur like traits.

So how could this process be done? Well it is certainly not an easy one.  The article in which I have retrieved this information says that, “To make a full genome,  scientists would have to combine millions of short fragments of nucleic acids in exactly the right order, just like putting together a giant Jigsaw Puzzle.” So technically speaking, yes it is a possibility, but it is very unlikely. However, there is greater possibility of other extinct species coming back from 2 million years ago.

The Woolly Mammoth existed 2 million years ago and eventually went extinct about 9,000 years ago. However researchers and scientists believe that they can bring the species back. This largely thanks to a recent discovery of a Female Woolly Mammoth found in a Siberian Ice tomb in May of 2013. Scientists believe the Woolly got stuck in a swamp and died over 39,000 years ago. And with this discovery, scientists believe they can use the blood sample and DNA samples of the Woolly to clone it.

A 39,000-year-old female woolly mammoth, which was found frozen in Siberia in May, is seen here upon its arrival at an exhibition hall in Yokohama, south of Tokyo-This is a photo of the recently discovered Woolly Mammoth on display in Tokyo, Japan.

When scientists found the mammoth, there was still blood and muscle tissue, which makes the process to re-create the prehistoric beast even more possible. Scientists plan to take the DNA samples and reassemble them into a full genome. I do have some questions to pose on the situation that cannot be completely answered at the moment however.

Will the Woollys be able to survive in the wilderness and function normally in the wild? Will they be of the same size and stature as they were a million years ago? How long will the process take to recreate the species?

I encourage you to read the articles I have found that bring up the information I have discussed about Woolly Mammoths in this post. You can find them here and here.

I guess only time will tell if science can produce one of Earth’s prehistoric giants.

 

Sources:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2358695/Woolly-mammoth-frozen-Siberia-39-000-YEARS-goes-display-Tokyo-woolly.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/could-the-woolly-mammoth-be-brought-back-to-life-9160366.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/science/real-life-jurassic-park-dinosaurs-could-2954054#ixzz3DgNLjYIi

Big Foot: Could he be real?

At first yes, most people would think the question is a silly one. I mean really Bigfoot? But you would be surprised with what some scientific expeditions and studies have gathered.

Over the years, there has been countless amounts of fake videos and evidence that Bigfoot exists, which has increased the skepticism of the creatures existence, however what if some evidence was legitimate? What if there really are people who have seen him, and are proving real information?

Most of the evidence to support Bigfoot being real is anecdotal, which makes making a case for the existence of the creature near impossible. According to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization there have been 4,679 sightings in the United States alone. But, telling personal stories of experiences is about as good as nothing under these circumstances. However, a film crew trying to track Bigfoot recently retrieved some pretty remarkable footage, and yes, it very well could be fake, however the footage is quite convincing. The clip was aired on the Science channel, and shows a Bigfoot running up a hill. The clip later shows video of a Bigfoot up close, allowing the viewer to clearly see his face. I strongly encourage you to watch the video. When looking at the video of the Bigfoot run up the hill, what is most remarkable to me is the largeness of its strides. It is incomparable to the strides of a human, which cuts out the possibility of this video being faked by a man in a Bigfoot suit. Obviously, there a number of other reasons why the video could not be real, but it makes you really think whether or not what you are looking at really did happen.

There has also been evidence of footprints, and hair samples found of Sasquatch that seem to be authentic, these footprints have been found numerous amounts of times, and very often are put into molds. Arguably the most famous foot mold of Bigfoot is the notorious Ruby Creek Mold, which is shown here to be quite larger than the average human foot. The Ruby Creek account dates back to 1941, when a Sasquatch was reportedly approaching a residence in the woods, causing the family to flee. This was one of the most early accounts of Bigfoot.

What really crushes the debate for Bigfoot’s existence is the fact that there has still yet to be a true confirmed found body of the species. However, there is supporting evidence that in fact, there may have been.

I found an article in the New York Daily News that was published in January of this year, which discusses the capture of two real Bigfoot. The two creatures were said to have both been male, one adult one adolescent. There was an autopsy conducted on the adult, by a disclosed University in Washington, according to Rick Dyer, the man who allegedly killed the Bigfoot. It also, according to Dyer that it has been stated by the researchers at the University that the species was “Unknown.” I strongly encourage you to read the article. The story was also reported by the International Business Times.

I acknowledge that it is most probable that this evidence is also fake, as it almost always is, however it interests me how much people seem to believe in the topic. I think Science can prove the existence of the creature, and as more and more researchers try to collect evidence that Bigfoot does exist, the chances of finding conclusive evidence will rise.

For now, The Sasquatch is a mythical creature, but will it ever be considered anything different?

Sources:

http://www.ibtimes.com/rick-dyer-bigfoot-hunter-shares-new-photos-alleged-monster-sasquatch-photos-1550933

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/bigfoot-hunter-releses-pictures-article-1.1594374

http://www.bfro.net/gdb/

http://www.bigfootproject.org/interviews/index.html

http://www.sciencechannel.com/tv-shows/survivorman/videos/are-these-bigfoots-footprints.htm

 

 

Autism and “Savant Behavior” Continued

In my last blog post, I talked mostly all about my autistic cousin Charles, and his displays of “Savant Behavior.” However I also mentioned that I had two cousins that had autism, and that both displayed Savant Behavior. In case for those of you who had not read my last post don’t know, Savant Behavior is behavior or acts that display  “extraordinarily special abilities that cannot be duplicated by most other human beings.” Charles’ savant behavior was shown in his memory of dates, and remembering which day of the week that day fell on. My youngest cousin, Elizabeth who also has autism shows signs of Savant Behavior as well. 

Elizabeth’s autism is far more severe than Charles’. She experienced a number of more traumatic effects of autism, including temper tantrums that would result in her repeatedly hitting herself, and bashing her self in the face her knees. This problem became so bad that Elizabeth was forced to wear a helmet at all times of the day.  She has difficulty speaking, and for a very long time my family and I never really thought she could speak coherently. She would sometimes be able to get some words out, but for the most part Elizabeth had extreme difficulty communicating. Until one day, Elizabeth was in Austin, Texas with my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Jenny, for a special autism program, HALO. The program was founded on the basis of an idea called “the rapid prompting method” which gave autistic children the ability to communicate through a letter-board.  Soma Mukhopadhya was the developer of the program, who was with Elizabeth in Austin to attempt the communicating method. After a few short questions, Elizabeth grabbed a firm understanding of the method and began to start talking about concepts and current events that her own parents did not think she was aware of. An example of these current events she discussed was the Iraq war, when asked how she knew about the situation, (keep in mind this was an autistic 3rd grade girl) she responded by saying she had watched the CNN news report in the airport on the way to Texas. 

Once Elizabeth had returned home from Texas, she began to type more and more. She began to write poetry, and my aunt and uncle took notice at Elizabeth’s extremely high writing skills, and intellectual levels. My Aunt Jenny began to collect Elizabeth’s poems, and soon enough, my Aunt had a full collection of well written poems from Elizabeth, ranging in numerous different types of topics. My cousin’s story began to be noticed by people, and my aunt and Elizabeth began putting together a book. The book consisted of Elizabeth’s story, and featured some of her poetry. Amazingly, their book became published, and Elizabeth’s story spread to even more and more people. Elizabeth also had a CBN special on television about her book, and her remarkable story. You can watch the story here.

Elizabeth’s ability to write, while facing the challenges of autism is remarkable. It is a perfect display of “Savant Behavior”.  Although it is anecdotal evidence, I have further evidence to support my claim that Elizabeth has abilities that the normal person does not. Elizabeth took an IQ examination at the age of 7, and her IQ was calculated at 164. This examination is talked about in her book, on page 82 of “I’m in here.”  Elizabeth’s autism is very severe, however with this autism she unquestionably displays “Savant Behavior.” She is a truly remarkable person, and with out a doubt  a intellectual one as well.

Sources: http://www.halo-soma.org/main.php?sess_id=9bd2d09d4b4b00f98eac43926871df61

http://www.iaminherebook.com/book-3/

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=8768&cn=20\

I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism Who Cannot Speak but Finds Her Voice  Bonker, ELizabth, Breen, Jenny.

 

Autism and “Savant Behavior”

According to a study done by CNN, Autism disease affects 1 in every 68 children in America today. Autism by definition is: a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.

It is a disease that has sadly affected my family, as I have two cousins with the disorder. My whole life, I have been around and experienced autism first hand. My older cousin, Charles is an 18-year old boy that loves trains, and traveling to new places. He at first may seem different because of his difficulty in communication skills but once you get to talking to Charles, he really is an incredible person. Growing up with Charles, I helped him learn how to read and write, and how to speak. Every Wednesday I would go to his house, and we would practice different reading and writing and speaking skills. After we would finish practicing every day, we would go outside and we would play. However, Charles found games such as basketball and baseball to be more difficult, and frustrating. But what I would notice later on is that Charles had an exceptional ability. It wasn’t the ability to jump high or run fast or throw a football, it was his memory. -Shown above is my cousin Charles (Right) and next to him my cousin Elizabeth who also has autism. Both love to travel!

It was on Christmas day my family and I discovered Charles’ incredible ability. We had all finished our Christmas dinner and were sitting around telling old stories.  One of the stories was the day my younger brother Johnny was  born. I do not remember the birth of my brother well, as I was only 3 years old.(So was Charles, he was born a week before me) My Uncle Jay began to say, “I still remember that day so clear-” and before he could even finish his sentence Charles exclaimed, “February 18th, 1999. Tuesday!” Everyone at the table was rather confused, and thought at first it was just Charles making one of his usual jokes. But then my mother realized, my brother was born on a Tuesday. We asked Charles, how he knew that, and he laughed. After this, my mother went into the kitchen and grabbed an old calender. We began to read off dates from years previous, and one by one, Charles remembered every date and which day of the week it was. It was remarkable. What amazed me the most was he was never wrong, and continued to answer each date correctly. I researched Autism and Special talents and found Charles is not alone.

Very rarely, people are born with what is called “Savant Behavior.” Savant abilities are not just special abilities, they are extraordinarily special abilities that cannot be duplicated by most other human beings. These special abilities usually coexist with the other severe disabilities that characterize moderate to severe forms of autism. Although not all savants are autistic the number of savants with autism is far greater than the number of savants without autism. The article which I found, describes specific Savant Behaviors and to my surprise, exactly cites the ability to remember dates and which day of the week they would fall in. It also talks about the rarity of obtaining these incredible talents, which is only 10% of those with Autism. The article is extremely interesting and relate-able to both of my cousins, I encourage anyone to read it. Article on Savant Behavior 

I realize that anecdotal observations, such as my observations of my cousin Charles are not the strongest inferences, however my opinion on the topic is further proven by more examples of such habits. I did some research, and found many other children just like Charles that had savant behavior. The article I found of a boy named Henry talks about Henry’s childhood, and finding his “niche, or other ability that no one knew he had.” Along with finding similar examples of Autistic children’s abilities, I also furthered my analysis by finding studies about Savant behavior in autistic people, and how it is correlated more with autistic people than people without autism or any other mental disorder.

In conclusion of my research, I found that my cousins are different in more ways than one. Charles’ extreme mathematical ability to remember dates well before he was born is a prime example of Savant Behavior. I can say with supporting evidence that  Autism and Savant Behavior according to research I have found, are directly correlated.

Sources:

-https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/professional/savant-syndrome/resources/articles/savant-syndrome-2013-myths-and-realities/

-http://sevencounties.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=8768&cn=20

-autismspeaks.org

-http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/27/health/cdc-autism/

Why I’m here and why science isn’t for me

I am taking this course becasue my entire life, my understanding of science and the scientific nature of the things around me are very minimal.  One of the things I was most excited for about college was expanding my horizons, and trying to challenge and further educate myself in subjects I am not as strong in. This challenge is what excites me, and interests me. Why I am not being a science major is mainly because I find that my strongest abilities and best qualities as a student are in the fields of writing, communication, and journalism. It is not however, becasue of my loathing for science.  Another reason I am not a science major is because of its demand of mathematical skills in order to suceed in the scientific field.Penn_State_logo[1]