Sunday, November 27, 2016

TOK IRL #3 - The Black Swan Theory and Other Scientific Concerns

The Black Swan theory was one idea that we briefly discussed in class that really caught my attention. This theory, which was devised by a man named Nassim Nicholas Taleb, comes from a saying that was popular in 16th century London. The saying goes "You would sooner see a black swan than..." and would be followed by something that was highly improbable. This is very similar to the saying heard in America "when pigs fly", which refers to the fact that something will never happen until the impossible happens. However, as the theory points out, the impossible can sometimes become the possible.
Black Swan

This may never be true in the sense that pigs will fly, but the belief that all swans are white has already been disproved. Black swans were discovered in Australia, which shifted many people's ideas of the impossible into the possible.

Some examples of the Black Swan Theory are the invention of the computer, World War 1, and the Attacks on 9/11. These were all events that nobody could have predicted and, when they occurred,
all caused drastic changes throughout the globe. According to this video one of the most important examples of the Black Swan Theory took place was with the discovery of fire. It is highly unlikely that an early human understood the concept of fire, much less how to create it; so we assume that the discovery of fire occurred completely by chance. However, this random chance was crucial in the development of civilizations and societies.

Another aspect of the Black Swan Theory is that each event was always somehow rationalized through the use of hindsight despite the fact that they were all entirely non-rational events. As humans, we find it necessary to come up with reasons for everything, which is why we have science.

This theory does not only concern theories about the colors of birds, it also includes many of the scientific theories that we base our knowledge on today. These ideas we believe in can all be disproved with single pieces of information, causing entire theories to come crumbling down.

Black Swans have been seen in science many times, some examples being the ideas of the theories of relativity and of quantum mechanics against the ideas of classical physics and the discovery of dark matter and dark energy. In both of these instances, something new was discovered that caused the already set ideas to shift. This is an important part of science, but it is also slightly terrifying. To know that all the scientific knowledge we have could be dispelled so easily leads to many more questions. But as they say, good scientists set out to prove themselves wrong.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

TOK IRL #2 - Math and how it affects the world

"Some areas of knowledge seek to describe the world, whereas others seek to transform it."

Math is found in practically every aspect of the world. Every time someone drops something they experience the equation of gravity directly in front of their eyes and every step we take we are experiencing many other forces. 

One question that fits well with the quote is whether or not math was discovered or invented. After thinking it over, I decided that math must have been discovered. Math is seen in so many aspects of our world that it seems very unlikely that mankind may have invented it.
Fibonacci Sequence in Nature

Math can be seen in nature through patterns found in the seeds of certain flowers and the swirls of certain seashells. In these objects, the pattern seen is known as the Fibonacci sequence, which is a sequence of numbers that create the swirl patterns seen in both the seeds and the seashells. Math is also seen through many different equations such as the one for gravity and the many other forces that take place in the universe. Because of this math must be discovered. Gravity existed long before the apple fell onto Isaac Newton's head and so did every other force that we experience. 

Due to these ideas of math being discovered rather than invented, I must also say that in this aspect the knowledge of math is used to describe the world rather than to transform it. The lengthy equations that go along with each different force occurring in our universe help us to try to better our understanding of the world. Through these equations we have been able to better describe the way our universe and our world work.

However, in other ways the knowledge of math can be used to transform the world. One way we discussed is computer programming. Through computer programming, we have seen many different inventions such as the smart phones and laptops we have today. These things have drastically changed our world in many ways such as how we communicate with each other and how we complete certain tasks. None of these inventions would have been possible without the use of math and in this way math was used to transform the world.

Machine learning is another way that math is transforming the world. Machine learning is a part of computer programming that "gives computers the ability to learn without being illicitly programmed"(Arthur Samuel). Although this sounds scary, it is also being used to change the world as we know it, allowing computers the ability to do more jobs. 

In conclusion, the knowledge of math both describes and transforms the world we live in. Without math we would not have the advanced technologies of today's generation and we would never be able to describe why the apple falls from the tree and hits the ground. Through the discoveries and transformations that math has given us we have built the world we live in today.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

TOK IRL #1: Math and Music

Music Theory
Throughout the entire lesson on math as an Area Of Knowledge, the topic that I was the most intrigued by was how math is found in music. Of course I could point out the basic way math is seen in music, such as the time signatures used to help keep time while playing, but when I was asked why some notes sound good together and others do not, I hesitated.

My first attempt at answering this question was that it had to do with the sound waves and whether they combined or clashed when they hit each other, and after some research I discovered I was not too far off. The sound that two different notes create when they hit each other has to do with the frequency, which is how many times the waves hit our ears per second, and the pitch, which is either high or low depending on the number of waves that hit per second. The defining factor on whether or not the pitch sounds pleasing is how often the frequencies match up. For two notes that do not go together, or are dissonant, the frequencies almost never meet up, so they clash. However, for two notes that sound good together, or are consonant, the frequencies match up together at regular intervals, such as how the second wave of middle C always matches with the third wave of the G above it. It works the same way with chords, but every note must match up at certain intervals. In reality the intervals between different pitches are not all perfect intervals as they appear to be. They are actually slightly off, but because people wanted to make it easier and have equal sized intervals, they compromised by creating the scales we know today.

In literature, we have been talking about Western thought and how people have grown to see it as the only way, when in fact there are multiple different ways to look at ideas. Sadly, this is something that all people do and I made the mistake of doing it as well. I had always held the believe that music was universal, especially scales which seem to be the most fundamental part of music, but that is not true. For Western music theory, there are six types of scales: Diatonic with seven notes, Melodic and Harmonic Minor with seven notes, Chromatic with twelve notes, Whole Tone with five notes, and Octatonic or Diminished with eight notes. It seems almost impossible to imagine that there are more ways to write scales, but Eastern musicians did.

In Eastern music there are other scales known as Phrygian dominant scales, Arabic scales, Hungarian scales, Byzantine music scales, and Persian scales. Each of these uses the basic knowledge of frequency and pitch to place notes into different orders. This determines some differences in the way traditional western music sounds compared to traditional eastern music.

After realizing this, it makes sense to me, but at first I was shocked. Music is something that all people share and I always imagined that it was the same fundamental type of music, but that is not accurate. Music theory is different across the globe.

This is all high level music theory and is difficult for even me to understand. This brings me to another topic that was mentioned in class: math and beauty. The way beauty can be measured by numbers leaves me feeling very unsettled, because for me music is one of the most beautiful things. I find it hard to think about music theory, because I feel like I am tearing away the mysterious layers of the beauty of music one by one. Music is no longer emotion, it is a string of numbers that create beauty. If music is nothing but numbers, why does it make me feel so much emotion?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Language as a Way of Knowing: A Presentation Reflection

To begin with, one of the strengths our presentation had was the use of the linguistic paradoxes. These caused many class members to become slightly baffled, but I believe it helped to convey how truly odd language is. I also thought that the use of the website was a strength. The way it used webs to represent the many different connotations and denotations of words helped to show how the same word can be used for many different meanings depending on factors such as culture, era, and emotion. I believe these elements worked better than anything else because they were very interesting and engaging. They allowed the class to think about how strange language is and to interact with a cool website.

I did not think that our presentation had too many weak points, but some topics that may have been slightly difficult to grasp were structuralism and post-structuralism. These are extremely interesting, but they could be confusing, especially at first. However, I think everyone in class understood it well, especially due to the helpful video that explained it. Also, we did go over the bell a little, so we may have spent a little more time than expected on certain topics, but that was not necessarily a flaw because it meant that everyone was understanding it enough to have engaging discussions.

A topic I may have added is how it related specifically to some of the Areas of Knowledge such as Mathematics, History, the Arts, and the Sciences. I would also have included more strengths and weaknesses of language. We got into a few of the weaknesses, but I would have liked to delve a little deeper into them. 

Presenting language as a Way of Knowing has helped me considerably in understanding how we know. Language is a key component that is necessary in learning anything. Without a language to communicate with, we could not teach others and therefore it would be much more difficult to learn new things. I found it very interesting how we rely so heavily on language in our lives and in knowing. Being in the place of a teacher was much different, and though I was nervous at first, I thought it went very smoothly. It helps to have a class that is engaged and prepared for discussion to make teaching easier. I think this project helped me to understand language much better and I hope it helped everyone else in class to understand it better as well.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

This I Believe

I believe that Marching Band has helped me grow as a person.

2015 CHS Marching Band show "Defying Gravity"
As a freshmen, I decided to join marching band, unlike a majority of my friends. Most of them decided to do sports, or chorus, or to only focus on their academics. So when I joined and I realized most of my friends had not, I had no idea what to do. Friendships I thought would last forever in eighth grade were suddenly disappearing. At the time this felt like the end of the world, but now I realize it was a blessing in disguise. Although I lost some friends, I was able to reconnect with old friends and create new ones through marching band. Now I find friendships with everyone in the band, and these are friendships that actually may last.

This is just one way that band has helped me grow. The Marching Band is one of the largest teams on the campus, with nearly 200 members, and when you put that many people on one field, there are bound to be disagreements. Through band I have learned to understand that everyone has a different perspective and opinion and that those need to be respected. I have learned to listen to other people and to understand that because their perspective is different from mine, I may not always be right. This has helped me not only in perfecting marching drill, but also in respecting people’s opinions outside of marching band. 

Another way that marching band has helped me grow is by building my confidence. When I was only a freshmen I would get nervous before every performance or concert and those nerves would occasionally cause me to mess up. Although the nerves are not completely gone, now I have gotten more used to them and I know what I am doing. I can now go into every performance feeling confident in myself that I will do my best. This newfound confidence has also helped me grow to become a better leader. I now feel the confidence to help others and to set a good example for them. 

Marching band has also helped me grow by teaching me how to manage my time more efficiently. With three hour long practices three nights a week and a performance every Friday at each football game, it is difficult to find the time to get homework done. I struggled with this for a long time, especially due to my procrastination, but now I feel that I have figured out how to get all my work done and still give my all at practices and performances.

The most important lesson that I believe band has taught me is how to be passionate about something. Band has taught me about my love for music and my passion in playing and creating it. Music is something that has helped me through everything in my life so far and has always been a consistent factor in my life, and I am so thankful that band has helped me realize my passion for it. Marching band has done so much to help me grow into the person I am today. 
This I believe.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What does it mean to say we know something?

Finding a way to answer this question was extremely difficult for me. I can honestly say that I stared at this question for about fifteen minutes, searching every inch of my brain for a way to answer it. What does it mean to know something? In an attempt to find an answer, I thought it best to look up a dictionary definition of what knowing is. According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, there are a multitude of different ways that people can know something, but out of these definitions, there was one that stuck out to me. Merriam-Webster's second definition of knowing says that to know is to "be aware of the truth or factuality of : be convinced or certain of".

Santa Clause
Knowing can be a very personal experience. At one point in my life, I knew Santa Clause was real and that the Elf on the Shelf came from the North Pole, but as I grew up in up in public school, I was forced to face the truth. At that point in my life, I knew that Santa Clause was indeed not real and was simply a figment that my parents had told me. So in this case, to know is to believe in something. I knew that Santa Clause was real because I believed. This can also be found with religion. People believe that there is a God, therefore they know that there is a God. Religion, like knowing, is also a very personal matter. After I found out the truth about Santa Clause, I stopped knowing by believing and I started knowing by "being aware of the truth"(Merriam-Webster online dictionary) about the bearded man from the North Pole. My way of knowing changed as my knowledge expanded.

Another one of the many definitions for knowing that can be found on Merriam-Webster's online dictionary is "to recognize as being the same as something previously known". In this case, I know that when you add two and two together you get four because it was something that I had already been taught. It was something that was already in my brain, so when faced with that question, I already know the answer must be four.

To know can also be "to have experience of"(Merriam-Webster online dictionary).  An example can be found in how we drive our cars. Every person who is on the roads has experienced driving a car before and due to that experience, we know how to drive a car. Those people who have been driving for a longer span of time have more experience, and so they may know how to drive their cars better than someone who is only beginning to learn how to drive.

To conclude, I believe that people can know in many different ways. Whether they know by experience, by already knowing, by finding the truth, or by believing, these all have something in common and that is the fact that they know. People can only know that they know, not what other people know, unless they are taught.