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April 24, 2011

The evolving frontier of my study of frontiers

I wrote a paper my junior year of high school entitled "The American Frontier: Its Allure and Effect on the American People." That's a pretty ambitious essay topic for a high school junior. I went back and read that essay: I looked at three of Willa Cather's novels in the context of Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis. My analysis, looking back, is highly oversimplifying, but I was also felt kind of proud, looking back at my sixteen year-old self, for choosing a topic that still interests me today. 

I probably would never have gone back and read my junior essay if I hadn't been reading two books about frontiers, both scientific and physical. Helen M. Rozwadowski, in Fathoming the Ocean: The Discovery and Exploration of the Deep Sea, discusses the origins of oceanography and marine biology in the nineteenth century. (Rozwadowski also sailed with SEA Semester in college, the same program I sailed with in fall 2010!) Robert E. Kohler, Rozwadowski's Ph.D. advisor, wrote a book in a similar vein entitled All Creatures: Naturalists, Collectors, and Biodiversity, 1850-1950. In this work, Kohler explores the period of natural history survey, a distinct moment in the history of biology and taxonomy. 

April 12, 2011

Wanted: multilingual scientists

I have been writing a lot lately about scientific images, their power of communication as a visual language, and their interactions with other languages, like the visual language of art. My mentor, Nick Christie-Blick, sent me a link from the National Science Foundation's website that made me think about this visual language, and the language that science employs overall, from a different perspective.

"Helping the Public Get Beyond a Blind Date With Science"

April 3, 2011

The visual language of geology

Reading Martin J.S. Rudwick's "The Emergence of a Visual Language for Geological Science 1760-1840" and Susan B. Keller's "Sections and Views: Visual Representation in Eighteenth-Century Earthquake Studies" while re-hashing the field work I did two weeks ago was a strange self-reflective experience for me. I was reading about the production of the very first "geologic" images at the same time I was grappling with how to produce my own images that convey what I learned in the field. Reading these texts reinforced the absolute importance and also power of visual representation in geology, but it also forced me to look at some of the caveats that have persisted in geologic images despite the incredible improvements in geologic sections and imagery since the eighteenth century.