Quote By Charles Darwin on Evolution

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Consilient Interest

“The slightest advantage in one being… over those with which it comes into competition, or better adaption in however slight a degree to the surrounding physical conditions, will turn the balance.”

Charles Darwin

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Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is rapidly becoming the most popular, cost-efficient, clean energy source available in the United States, the leading country in nuclear power.  Although hydroelectric, solar, geothermal and wind energy systems are safer and completely renewable, these power structures cannot currently provide sufficient electricity to the entire country.  Each of these technologies is limited by geographic location; however, following proper safety precautions, nuclear power plants can be built almost anywhere there is enough open land.  The benefits of using nuclear energy, combined with the safety measures designed and monitored by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission outweigh the potential risks the production of nuclear power may present.

Nuclear energy is produced through the fission of uranium atoms.  The nucleus of U-235 is unstable and breaks down, releasing its neutrons which then collide with the nuclei of other atoms, releasing the neutrons from those atoms as well.  This process produces constant heat as the unstable uranium atoms move and collide in an infinite chain of chemical reactions (Electric Power Generation, 2012).  The heat produced from this fission warms water flowing around the reactor vessel, producing steam which spins a turbine to produce electricity that can be harnessed and transported for use.  The steam is then recaptured and changed back into water to repeat the cycle of chemical reactions.

Nuclear energy currently provides approximately 20% of the United States’ electricity, with some states utilizing up to 80% nuclear energy for their power needs.  Nuclear energy is the most cost-efficient energy source, costing only $2.19 per kilowatt-hour, compared to coal at $3.23, natural gas at $4.51, and petroleum at $21.56 per kilowatt-hour.  Nuclear power plants are also emission-free, producing 63.3% of clean energy, more than solar, hydro, geothermal, and wind energy combined (Nuclear Energy Institute, 2012).  Although uranium is not a renewable energy source, it is a self-sustaining fuel source: once the chemical reactions begin they self-perpetuate the chemical reactions indefinitely, creating an infinite energy source from a relatively small amount of fuel.

When compared to the cost and renewability of coal, gas and petroleum and the efficiency of solar, hydro, geothermal, and wind energies, nuclear power outshines its competitors; yet, the risks associated with the use of radioactive materials prevent nuclear power from being fully utilized.  Two significant historic events cloud the nuclear energy field with fear and represent the real risk of nuclear power usage: the meltdowns at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and Chernobyl, Ukraine in the former Soviet Union.  In 1979, Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island power plant experienced a core meltdown which, although it did not cause any fatalities, took many years to clean up and ignited the fear of atomic power plants (Three Mile Island Emergency, 2007).  The incident at Chernobyl in 1986 was much larger and lead to many deaths and thousands of cases of cancer.  Twenty-six years after the meltdown, an 18-mile radius around the former power plant remains closed due to radioactive by-products and wastes (Chernobyl, 2012).  Although the United States’ modern nuclear power plant design is much safer than the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island reactors, the risk of radiation exposure remains.  The storage of the radioactive by-products and wastes is another drawback to nuclear power; these materials must be kept contained for years until the radioactive materials can deteriorate and be safe for exposure.

Many factors must be considered before building a nuclear power plant.  The type of plant to build, a Pressurized Water Reactor or a Boiling Water Reactor, the safety of the future employees and residents, where the uranium supply will come from, and how to store and dispose of radioactive by-products and wastes are just a few of the important issues that must be taken into concern.  The decommissioning of the plant must also be planned before construction and operation can begin.  A plan to dismantle, store, or entomb the plant when it ceases operation must be made and finances must be set aside for the process (Students’ Corner, 2012).

Determining the location of the new plant is another extremely important aspect to consider when building a new nuclear power plant.  It must be easily accessible to construction vehicles and future employees, but cannot be too close to any cities, in case of a nuclear emergency.  The location must also be centralized and close enough to run power lines to transport the harnessed energy to the various cities.

Nuclear power is a cleaner, sustainable, more affordable energy supply than coal, gas, or petroleum and is not as dangerous as most people think.  It is also much more efficient and widely available than solar, hydro, geothermal, and wind energies.  It is important for people to know the facts about the risks posed by nuclear power plants and what to do in the event of a nuclear emergency in their area, but also that nuclear power plants are not something to be feared or fought, but in fact will help preserve the environment and save them money on their electric bill.  Understanding that the benefits of nuclear power outweigh the risks will help citizens accept nuclear power as a quality energy source.

References

Dickinson College.  (2007).  Three Mile Island Emergency.  Retrieved from http://www.threemileisland.org/virtual_museum/index.html

Nuclear Energy Institute.  (2012).  Electric Power Generation.  Retrieved from http://www.nei.org/howitworks/electricpowergeneration/

Nuclear Energy Institute.  (2012).  Resources and Stats.  Retrieved from http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/

Tennessee Valley Authority.  (2012).  Nuclear Energy.  Retrieved from http://www.tva.com/power/nuclear/index.htm

United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  (August 30, 2012).  Backgrounder on Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Accident.  Retrieved from http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/chernobyl-bg.html

United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  (August 30, 2012).  Map of Power Reactor Sites.  Retrieved from http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/map-power-reactors.html

United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  (August 30, 2012).  Students’ Corner.  Retrieved from http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/students.html

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin is a historically significant figure throughout many fields of scientific study.  He is most well-known for his theory of natural selection, however, Darwin’s research extended beyond the physicality of biology and geology.  The psychological school of functionalism was founded around Darwin’s research and evolutionary theory, and applied his theory about the evolution of physical characteristics to psychological characteristics.  Darwin also conducted some of the first research on infant and child development and published his findings in an article entitled, A Biographical Sketch of an Infant.
Darwin assembled a case study through carefully recorded naturalistic observation of his own children throughout their infancy.  Darwin analyzed both physical and cognitive developments, noting the sequence of development of innate reflexes, visual acuity, musculoskeletal control, emotions, communication, and personality traits.  He compared his analysis to another researcher’s case study and, although he made no conclusions, many of his hypotheses were later expanded and remain central to many theories of child development.
Darwin’s case study, although thorough and detailed, only sampled his own children and experiences and compared his findings to one other researcher who had done the same.  This small sample population cannot give a full picture of infant development, but his descriptive research paper laid a foundation for future psychologists to build on.
 
Darwin, C.  (1877).  A biographical sketch of an infant.  Retrieved from http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Darwin/infant.htm
Stangor, C. (2010). Introduction to psychology. Irvington, NY: Flat World. Knowledge, Inc.

The Cold War

For the American people in the 1960’s, the fear of a Communist takeover was very real and was validated by the actions of the government and the information disseminated by the media.  The vision most commonly associated with the Cold War era portrays American families huddled around their radios and TVs listening for the latest developments in the numerous global crises transpiring worldwide.  Americans were dependent upon these news outlets (as well as newspapers and magazines, however, these medias did not satisfy the new need for instant gratification) as their sole source of information and were ignorant to the fact that these medias were still being controlled by the government and only disseminated the intelligence government officials authorized, as Farber (1994) emphasizes, “Nor had mass-media executives and their employees become secure enough in their newly developing power to lift the veil of secrecy that surrounded the country’s political and economic leaders.” (pg. 31)  As television was emerging in the 60’s, news outlets and reporters did not have the all access passes and uninterrupted satellite updates from across the world that are currently used to fill the 24/7 news outlets of modern television.  International media was also limited, there was no BBC news station giving another country’s perspective or information otherwise withheld by the American government.  The people’s knowledge of world events rested solely in the hands of their political leaders; and as was the case with Fidel Castro’s take-over of Cuba at the time of President Kennedy’s inauguration, even the nation’s leaders were not fully informed on the international political affairs surrounding them (Farber, pg. 35).
The Cold War, having immediately succeeded World War II, had been waging for almost 15 years; Americans had been in a state of conflict and war for most of the first half of the 20th century and the fears instilled in the American people during this time ran deep.  International relationships all over the world were still unstable and the possibility of another world war loomed through the 1950’s.  Aggressive Communist nations presented several threats to global civilization post WWII.  The Soviet Union did in fact have nuclear weapons at its disposal; China was eager to join to race for supremacy against the US; much of Europe was under the control of the Soviet Union, whether by choice or force; and most frightening to Americans, due to its proximity to our own soil, Cuba was siding with the Communists and was implying the threat of nuclear action against America (Farber, pg. 33).
While Americans’ fears of an attack by Communist nations held valid precedents in the years immediately following WWII through the 1950’s, the Soviet Union’s claims to be a more prosperous post-war superpower than America in the beginning of the 1960’s threatened the very essence that politicians had begun to define as American culture: prosperity and power.  This governmental fear of competition from the Communists and the potential to be economically defeated by a country deemed lower class than the United States, perpetuated the cycle of fear throughout America in the 1960’s as the government used propaganda and the media to incite the American people and maintain control through the careful instillation of fear.
The 1960’s was a decade of change around the globe.  While the United States and the Soviet Union battled for global supremacy, numerous small countries fought for and won their independence from imperialized nations.  Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Madagascar, Zaire, Kenya, Jamaica, Uganda, and Trinidad are only a handful of the countries that attained their freedom during the 1960’s (’60-’69 World History, 2007).
1960-1969 World History (2007) http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005251.html
Retrieved January 23, 2012
Farber, D., (1994) The Age of Great Dreams America in the 1960’s New York, NY: Hill and Wang.

Hack Away the Pounds

When it comes to losing weight there are many fads, gimmicks, and “miracle cures” available on the market to “help” you lose weight. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to managing one’s weight; the only way to achieve and maintain a healthful weight is by taking personal responsibility and making permanent lifestyle changes. Expecting a pill, drink, or grapefruit to magically melt off the pounds is unrealistic. Even if short term results are seen, in the long run, maintaining that diet could have dangerous health consequences and most often the weight that has been lost returns, commonly adding additional weight gain as well.

The Hacker’s Diet, developed in 1991 by John Walker, an engineer and computer programmer, is unlike most other diet programs on the market. There are no gimmicks, no quick fixes, no promises of success without hard work or dedication. Walker’s “The Hacker’s Diet: How to lose weight and hair through stress and poor nutrition” focuses on long-term goals, the important balance between calorie intake and energy output, and modifying lifestyle behaviors, including exercising for the health of it, not just to reach weight loss goals. His approach to weight loss doesn’t focus on eating or eliminating any type of food, and while supplements are recommended for those who are not reaching their daily recommended intake for certain nutrients, they are not considered essential, or even necessary, for success with the program.

Although his unique mechanical approach to weight loss may seem intimidating at first, the concepts, such as the “eat watch” and the “rubber bag,” are thoroughly explained using real life scenarios, experiences, and humor, making Walker’s book an easy and enjoyable read. He also offers many tools to help promote progress and increase motivation including: calorie intake records, energy expenditure records, weight loss and gain records, analytic reports, and a diet calculator. He includes strategies for all technologic comfort zones: those who are experienced with computers will find many helpful online tools and Excel spreadsheets, and those who prefer paper and pencil will learn valuable record keeping skills including how to keep a food journal and how to draw a graph and plot your progress.

The Hacker’s Diet doesn’t simply offer weight loss strategies, there are no exercise plans or recipes, but it is unique in its thorough education on how the body controls the intake and usage of energy and how it functions in different states of malnutrition. Walker provides an easy to understand foundation for developing healthy habits that will last a lifetime, not just a bikini season.

Achieving and maintaining a healthful weight is not a short-term goal, it is a life-long process that requires education on how the body functions, behavior modifications, and lifestyle changes and implementations that promote a lifetime of health and wellness. A weight loss program should not be something to be started and ended; it is a process that once started can lead to success in maintaining a healthful weight and achieving optimal physical fitness and health, extending life expectancy as well as quality of life.

 

References

The Hacker’s Diet. Walker, John. (2011). Retrieved May 3, 2012 from

http://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/e4/. 

Thompson, Janice and Manore, Melinda. Nutrition: An Applied Approach 2nd edition. (2009).

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