Monday, April 16, 2012

The Question of Dissection

While I was bored waiting for one of my computer programs to run for my physics final project, I came across this video on This video shows the leading technology in virtual dissection, but I still don't think it comes anywhere close to the real thing. Have a look:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How does Councillor Krespel have to do with the history of German science?

In class we have been reading about the early nineteenth century when the focus on the visual is changing to an emphasis on the auditory and the power of sound. E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Councillor Krespel is a story based on this principal. Each character is moved and swayed with music, persuaded and tempted by sound, and they all contribute further to the ethereal force of music that drives the events in this story.

Krespel is an interesting man to say the least. His wild intellect and uncouth mannerisms define the outward appearance of his character, but much gentle emotion lies beneath his surface. A man who cared little for visual aesthetics, Krespel had a passion for music and sought ever better instruments and sounds throughout his early years. It is quite obvious that Krespel’s life is surrounded by music: it is the force that drives him from place to place, it directs important events of his life, it is used to express Krespel’s emotions. His passion for music brought him his daughter, and took her away. In Krespel’s life, music is fate. Hoffmann writes of Krespel’s story to convey the power of sound. Hoffmann’s story opposes the classical idea of recognition through sight that stories like The Odyssey or Oedipus convey. The story is meant to incite the idea that that which is visual and timeless is not all that can affect somebody. That which seems insubstantial, a passing moment in time, can cause great pleasure, or pain.

The use of this concept in Councillor Krespel is indicative of the time period in which it was written. This piece of early nineteenth century literature shares the same philosophy commonly adopted in the science of the time. E. T. A. Hoffmann’s eye opening work of fiction allows us to adopt this point of view through a short story in which sound drives the characters, music creates drama, and song produces death.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Brain Dissection

Today in class we had the pleasure of dissecting and observing the brain of sheep. Needless to say, it was interesting and gave study of the brain a whole new perspective. Just as we had spoken about during a visit to the Anatomy Lab, hands on experience is debated by many - some argue the need to do real dissections in order to learn anatomy while others find other methods (books, virtual dissections, etc) suffice just as well. Personally, I find hands on dissections on real corpses/organs necessary to truly understand anatomy and prepare oneself for say medical school. Understanding the texture, the true size, color, and the imperfections of the body is important and can only be gained through dissecting a real body.

oh hi joey

professor agnew; don't ever hand in assignments late or else.

i eat brains

a day in the class of German 378! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Two Different Histories

It's interesting to think of something as presumably set in stone as history as being subject to alteration under modern viewpoints, but depending on how you look at it, history can actually change drastically. Such is the case in a reading we just had, which talks about the difference between anachronical history and diachronical history, and the proper applications of each.

Anachronical history is a look at history in which one tries to place that history in the context of what we know now. Conversely, diachronical attempts to take a modern perspective out of the study of history, and to understand historical events within the bounds of their own eras.

Anachronical history is not without it's advantages. For one think, it's almost impossible to study history without at least a tint of a modern viewpoint, and an anachronical history can provide a historian with the means to see an entire chain of progress in a very specific study without it seeming disjointed. However, I think that there are more advantages to a diachronical history, because this seems more realistic, and could allow for a greater understanding as to why certain individuals in the past did what they did. Diachronical history also, as I see it, provides a more complete history, because it includes facts that we might now otherwise consider to be unimportant.

Overall, I think that the past should be viewed with a perspective that is partly anachronical and party diachronical, so one can have the best of both. No matter how we view it, I think that the study of history is and will continue to be indispensable moving forward.

-Christopher Hoef

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Question of Gender Roles

One of the more recent readings that we have had to do for this class was of a book's chapter that was titled Science and Gender. It brought up the arguments held by some science historians that the history of science is filled with sexism towards female scientists, and even that science is sexist in how it is structured. One main argument for this contention is that science has seemed to view nature as something to be exploited, reputedly a strictly masculine viewpoint, and in fact, some historians who refer to this tendency have proposed that a separate, female scientific field be created that gives greater care to nature and the environment. I like the premise, but something bothers me about this whole consideration.

This whole idea has caused me to wonder exactly what makes a certain contention more feminine or masculine? Why must a feminine science place so much focus on nature? It places a lot of trust in the idea that women should care about nature, and that seems awfully stereotypical to me, so why is this viewpoint actually encouraged by feminists?

I think that the gender roles that exist have purely social causes, and have almost nothing to do with the innate nature of one's gender. I think that men and women would have generally the same interests if certain social stigmas didn't tell us "you're a woman, so you have to act this way," or "you're a man, so here are a list of things you are forbidden to like." The whole idea troubles me in spite of the fact that it is so ingrained in our society.

But then again, maybe I have a limited viewpoint, so I ask of anyone reading: what do you think of this? Do you think men and women are innately drawn to or away from certain interests? Or are these affected by social stigma? Do you have a different view entirely? Please let me know about your opinions, because I would really enjoy reading them!

-Christopher Hoef

Monday, March 19, 2012

Accidental Discovery: The Microwave

Sometimes I wonder about how the things I use on a daily basis were created.  One such item is the microwave.  I decided to type into the Google search engine, "creation of the microwave".  The history I found was a great surprise to me because the microwave was created due to an accidental discovery.  Scientist, Dr. Percy Spencer, was testing out a new vacuum tube the magnetron, and he noticed that the candy bar in his pocket melted.  He decided to test this consequence further by putting popping corn near the tube, and it popped!  He further tested the properties of the magnetron and created the microwave.

Sometimes important inventions to society are not created by actively searching for them (i.e. a box shaped contraption that quickly heats food), but by making observations.  Spencer made the observation that when he was by the magnetron, the candy bar melted.  He continued off of that observation and created a very useful kitchen appliance.  If Spencer did not have a candy bar in his pocket that day, we might not have microwaves around today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Body Worlds" and the Ultimate Goal of Anatomy

Upon reading Peter M. McIssac's Article Gunther von Hagen's Body Worlds, one phrase in particular struck me as very interesting, and perhaps very insightful. In the exhibit, human corpses, treated in such a way as to rid them of liquids and odor, are displayed for public viewing and study. McIssac states of "Body Worlds," "von Hagen's strategy can... be read as showing his exhibition to be a culminating moment in the traditions of anatomical display" (McIssac 170). I found the use of the phrase "culminating moment" to be most interesting, as it implies that "Body Worlds" has achieved the ultimate goad of anatomy and anatomical display - almost an achievement of perfection in the field, if you will. It's interesting, because one does not often consider perfection to be attainable, but this case got me thinking about what the Ultimate Goal of Anatomy could be.

First I considered what the Ultimate Goals of other fields might be, and they seemed to follow a pattern. The Ultimate Goal of physics, for instance, is to fully and completely understand all physical interactions in the universe - and I mean all of them - and the Ultimate Goal of medicine is to understand the nature and cure of all diseases. Therefore, the Ultimate Goal of anatomy would be to understand everything about the functions of the human body's organs, and the Ultimate Goal of anatomical display would be to show the human body and these organs without any hindrance, a goal that "Body Worlds" seems to achieve.

In this way, perhaps "Body Worlds" really is the fulfillment of the Ultimate Goal of anatomy and anatomical display, truly making it truly the "culmination" of these fields and perhaps even comparable to perfection. Certainly, anything that can be stamped as "perfect" can be considered a considerable achievement.

-Christopher Hoef