John BuccheriBusiness Economics/Political Science June 13, 2012Honors 177: Biotechnology and Art Professor Victoria Vesna
Week 1 BlogMy name is John Buccheri and I am a senior at UCLA with a double major in BusinessEconomics and Political Science and a minor in accounting. Upon entering UCLA in2008, I was entirely unsure of what my future entailed and the direction in which I shouldguide myself. While I have discovered some passions in my life along the way such asmusic and swimming, it is entirely another feat to determine the direction of one’s futureat a university.Looking at the options that are available for students to major in at UCLA, it isimmediately apparent that there are a multitude of choices and the opportunities areendless. However, with such immense possibilities comes specificity and specialization.The idea of covering both broad topics of art and science is extremely uncommon withinthe departments. In my experience the concept of art was completely absent in mybusiness economics courses, and nearly so in my political science classes. As shown inProfessor Vesna’s presentation on the Two Cultures, university funding overwhelminglyfavors science over art, and a similar transition can also be seen within academicrequiems. Unfortunately, the idea of becoming a specialist in a field has narrowed thescope for many modern academics to learn.The two photos I have attached I believe focus on an ideal harmony between art andscience in the academic setting. The first, Royce Hall, is a reminder of the unity of anacademic institution with that of artistic roots, as Royce is commonly the host of manyperformances. Additionally, Royce was cleverly created with visual “flaws” in which thetwo pillars did not identically match, which further signifies a connection to art. Thesecond photo comes from the “Bodies” exhibit, in which actual human bodies were puton display for not only the purpose of academics and science, but artistic appeals as well.
Week 2 BlogAs a college senior, I have perfected the art of feeding oneself on a fixed financialbudget. Not having lived in the dorms for two years, the plentiful options for each mealare now replaced with standard bowls of cereal, fruit, and frozen foods. Naturallyconsidered a food staple, milk is used in a multitude of ways, including baking, coffeecreamer, and the aforementioned cereal.The process in which milk travels from the cow to the store is more complicated than onewould initially imagine. To begin, cows are fed grain, hay, and possibly growthhormones to increase a cow’s future milk production. The use of growth hormones hascome under fire as a controversial method of increasing the milk quantity produced byeach cow, as it is an unnatural, forced method which may have unwanted chemicaleffects on both the cow and the final milk product. Once the cow’s udder is full, it isusually milked with the help of machines, at a frequency of twice a day. Afterwards, themilk is stored on location in vats and silos at a temperature of thirty-nine degreesFahrenheit of colder for no more than forty-eight hours. Within that period, steel bodiedtankers arrive to approve and then transport the milk to a lab testing location, in whichsamples are tested for protein, bacteria count, and milk fat. From there, the approved milkis transferred into storage tanks in which pasteurization and homogenization take place.Pasteurization is the process that involves heating all of the particles of milk to apredefined temperature and allowing them to cool without re-contaminating the product.Homogenization forces the milk through an atomizer to ensure that the fat is evenlydispersed throughout the final milk product. Once this is completed, the milk is packagedon site and distributed to major manufacturers throughout the nation.
Week 3 BlogWhen evaluating my relationship to animals over the course of my life, my first thoughtis one of dependency. Granted, this is not a case of mutualism between both humans andanimals, but rather one in which people have transformed the daily life of animals in sucha way that advantages us most. However, in order for us to make the most of ourrelationship to these animals, we must also provide to them that which they cannotnecessarily do independently. For example, in the modern world, many animals wouldstruggle to survive without the cooperation of humans simply due to our extensive needson a global scale in combination with our increased capabilities in comparison to anyother species of animal. However, by providing the resources needed to survive, humansprimarily only have their own best interests at heart, taking supplies such as fur, milk, oreven meat in exchange. Thus, sadly the relationship between animals and myself isrepresentative of the rest of the population’s authoritative affiliation as well.In regards to the video “Strange Culture” focused on the accusations revolving SteveKurtz, I was shocked and appalled at the entire series of events and the way in which theFBI handled the process. Although Kurtz may not have been the most compliant with theFBI when he swallowed some of the bacterial evidence, he should have by no meansbeen considered a serious threat as a bioterrorist. Admittedly, the timing of his wife’sdeath was extremely unfortunate, yet these things happen, and his materials were notconsidered relevant or pertinent to her death in the least. Additionally, the manner inwhich the FBI collected his materials, promptly leaving much of it at his apartment in aruined state while disposing of much of the rest of it simply outside his home, wasappalling. I believe this video accurately depicts how little the FBI understands of muchof modern art and biotechnology, but that, since 2001, has felt compelled to consideranything and everything a potential threat to society. As admirable a concept as that maybe, it does not justify the way in which Kurtz’s life was ruined for a number of years as aresult.
Week 4 BlogLast week, I found Noa Kaplan’s works of art to be quite interesting. Particularly, Ienjoyed how she spun a new way of thinking of common, everyday items such as sugar,coffee, and wool. With those displays, she built a larger scale of each item’s most basicmicroscopic structure using only that material itself. My favorite pieces are ones that notonly teach, but also provoke my mind into coming up with related questions. Forexample, in this case I was able to learn what the structure of coffee looked like, whichled me to wonder what the structure of other common household items would be. Of thethree, my favorite was the wool jacket, due to it’s tangibility and practicality in the sensethat it could actually be worn by the audience.When considering medical technology and art, my first thought was the applicability ofthe field of bionics. Whether it involves bionic arms, prosthetic legs, or even replacementeyes for restoring vision, the medical advancements within this category are astonishingover the last twenty years. Soldiers that have lost limbs in the war have the capability ofreceiving replacement units with which they can control through brain cells and nerveimpulses. The most recent research development has been attempting to fight immaculatedegeneration and other eye diseases that restrict vision abilities or blind victims for life.In this modern research, subjects have their vision transferred from glasses with a digitalcamera directly into their brain via the use of an implanted microchip connected to visionrelated brain cells that are undamaged. Other medical researchers are even attempting toincorporate inserted prosthetic eyes. While this medical advancement is only in itsbeginning stages and subjects must train their eyes to recognize objects that had beensecond nature in the past. However, with the rapid changes in technology, this process isbecoming more effective and natural to the subject as time progresses and research canperfect such a system.
Week 6 BlogVisiting Kathy Brew’s “Going Gray” exhibit was quite an interesting experience, andhaving been in this class for six weeks now, made me put her views into some of theother perspectives we have talked about in seminar. I began to think, “if you cangenetically modify a fruits and animals, what is to stop people from geneticallymodifying people so as not to have graying hair as early in life?” As many products asthere may be on the market, there is not a simple, permanent solution to many of thecomplaints that elderly people have about getting older. From graying hair to wrinklyskin to weakened bones, there is a seemingly endless number of possibilities for scientiststo attempt to genetically improve at the embryo stage, in what is called somatic cellmanipulation. This is a type of DNA manipulation that adds genes to existing cells in aspecific part of the human body. Granted, such science would take generations to makeany progress, as a genetic modification today would not have results until the embryodeveloped into an aging individual nearly 50 years later and beyond. Additionally, itwould be more difficult to find compatible genes of other animals that have favorabletraits to be used in a human. Not only is this concept difficult to be certain with, but thereare also many moral dilemmas associated as well. A less radical alternative would be totake DNA from other genetically healthier humans to be used on those who may be bornto need it most. Unfortunately, as innocent as the intentions may be with this hypotheticalgenetic engineering, there is widespread fear that there could be unintended mutations ofsuch subjected individuals, or that, if successful, could lead to a superior “breed” ofpeople in comparison to the remainder of society. As a result, human genetic engineeringhas remained on the backburner of many scientists’ minds, maybe as it should be for thetime being.
Week 7 BlogAlan Turing, arguably one of the most important scientists of the twentieth century,played an integral role in the extensive series of events during World War II. Highlyfluent in the languages of computer science, math, and cryptology, Turing used hissuperior skills to aid the Allies in defeating the Germans and Axis powers. Without hisassistance, it could be argued that the War could have a much different result, possiblyeven having the Germans winning battles that could have shifted the entire momentum ofthe war.In this final project, our group will be focusing on Alan Turing’s role in World War II.On an individual basis, I intend to create a newspaper front page, vertically split in half.On the left-hand side, there will be images and a pair of newspaper articles depictingmajor events in the war that were greatly impacted by Turing’s accomplishments. Incontrast, the right hand side of the newspaper will represent hypothetical events that mayhave taken place had Turing’s inventions and cryptic findings never occurred. Thepurpose of showing the newspaper in this way is to not only display a historicalrepresentation of how strong of an impact his work had on the war, but potentially thatwithout it, our present society might not even be the same. There are numerous differentaspects of his involvement that I may end up focusing on, but some of which include:solving the problem of the German naval Enigma, the creation of the Turing-Welchmanbombe (see photo), and his ingenious knack at cryptanalysis.
Entering this class without a formal background in either art or science, I looked forwardto this class to serve as a diversification of my studies while at UCLA. Although it wasoriginally intimidating of how foreign of a topic this course was to me, I quickly began tounderstand the concepts depicted in class and became more interested in the topics aseach week went by.I particularly enjoyed the creative aspect of this course. Each week we would see, hear, orexperience a presentation of an artist who had a vision unlike anyone before, and wasable to transform that idea into reality with the help of biotechnology. Additionally, itwas amazing to see the technological advancements that have taken place alongside thesegreat movements in art. My interest in the practicality of some of these concepts guidedmy efforts in my midterm project of genetically engineering high-pesticide fruits andvegetables to have inedible peels to reduce the consumption of harmful chemicals.Although I may not be entering the workforce in this field, I now have a new sense ofappreciation between biotechnology, art, and the association between them. From what Ihave learned in this class, I feel that I can look at look at society in a previously unseenlight.