Michael Shermer Tells Elon Students to be Skeptical

Michael Shermer, founding publisher and science writer of Skeptic magazine, told Elon students on Tuesday night how important it is to be skeptical, even if it is difficult. He explained the importance of science and the role it has on skepticism and beliefs. Shermer said, “Skepticism is about looking for natural explanations for natural phenomenon.”         

            Shermer said it’s key to find a good balance between being too skeptical and not being skeptical enough. He showed a video that said, “If you were skeptical about everything, you’d have to be skeptical about your own skepticism.”

Shermer said science is the only distinction between what is and isn’t real. “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away,” he said, and if two people are skeptical about something, then “it comes down to the evidence.” Shermer joked about the importance of evidence, “You know what they call love without evidence? Stalking.”

Shermer said being skeptical is difficult. “A person making the extraordinary claim has the burden of proving its validity,” he said.

Shermer talked about the errors humans make when thinking. He said people tend to see patterns where they don’t exist, which causes errors in thinking.

An experiment was performed on brain activity while being skeptical, and scientists concluded that being skeptical is difficult. “The reaction time is slower for disbelief and uncertainty…it takes more time to be skeptical…it’s way easier to just believe,” he said.

Shermer emphasized the importance of skepticism. “If you believe everything is true…there’s nowhere to go,” he said, but if people are more skeptical, then their brain has something to work with.

 

            

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Insects for Dinner?

Ecological entomologist Marcel Dicke gave a speech at the Ted Conference on Monday on why Americans should eat insects.

Dicke asked the members of the audience that have eaten insects to raise their hands, and only a few did. He said this is not a good representation of the rest of the world, because 80 percent of the world eats insects, and Americans are the minority because they do not.

Dicke gave a few reasons why Americans should eat insects. He said insects do many things for the environment and economy. He said they pollinate crops, remove animal manure, control pests, and are food for many small animals.

People have been eating insects without knowing it, Dicke said. He said because insects are at the bottom of the food chain, bigger animals eat the animals that eat insects, and eventually humans consume insects along with other animals at the bottom of the food chain. Dicke said people are consuming insects from processed foods and natural dyes such as cochineal.

Dicke said that because the population is estimated to increase to nine billion by 2050, it would not be economically savvy to eat the amount of meat that Americans are currently consuming.

Dicke then talked about health. He said, “Pigs are quite like us…pigs also share diseases with us. And a pig disease, a pig virus, and a human virus can both proliferate, and…combine and produce a new virus. This happened in the Netherlands in the 1990s during the classical swine fever outbreak.” He then said that Americans should eat insects to avoid viruses, because they are so distant from humans, it is unlikely that diseases will be transmitted or created. Dicke said another benefit of insects is that their manure releases less ammonia and greenhouse gases per kilogram than meat.

Eighty percent of the world enjoys insects as delicacies, so Dicke said there is no reason why Americans should not do the same. He said Americans should be more open-minded to the idea of eating insects. He said eating insects is inevitable, so Americans should start warming up to the idea now. 

Kenji Yoshino Talks about Covering Individuality

            Kenji Yoshino talked about covering individuality and how it is important to challenge it on Monday night at Elon University. Yoshino talked about the different ways disabled people, foreign people, and gay people are forced to cover their individuality. He told students to fight the urge to cover.  

            Yoshino, a gay, Japanese-American, said it took him a long time to accept and be open about the fact that he was gay. He said he tried to hide who he was after he was told to be a “homosexual professional” instead of a “professional homosexual.” However, he said he realized that he would rather not take the advice and just be himself.

            He talked about gay rights their evolution throughout history. Yoshino said people originally tried to convert gay people to straight people. Then there was the “passing” trend of being gay, disabled, or a minority, and trying to hide it. Now, many people are openly gay, they are just told to cover it up.

             Yoshino related the issue of covering to everyone in the audience. “Covering affects every person in this room,” Yoshino said, “It is not normal to be completely normal.”

            Yoshino said the country has come far, because there is less discrimination now than there has been in the past. However, “the line has not been erased, it has simply moved over,” he said.

            Yoshino said, “Ultimately, we need to challenge ourselves as communities.” He said for people to not always think of themselves as the target of covering demand, but also as the source for other people.

“If you are impacted negatively by a covering demand…I want to challenge you to ask whether or not that reason behind that demand is a legitimate one,” he said.

 

           

 

             

UNC TREATING MALAWI CANCER PATIENTS

ELON, NC. Cure Cancer Starter, in collaboration with University of North Carolina Lineberger, needs $10,000 to help treat cancer patients in Malawi, to help cancer research at UNC. The Malawi Ministry of Health and the University of North Carolina have a partnership in which local physicians are giving free screening and treatment for cancer patients in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. The Cure Cancer Starter campaign needs $10,000 to make this project possible.

Malawi only has two physicians for every 100,000 people, and only one cancer clinic, so this project enables crucial treatment for cancer patients. The project also gives training to the next generation of physicians, pathologist, nurses, and other healthcare workers in Malawi.

Donations will fund equipment for the cancer clinic to treat patients and investigate effective treatment methods. The money will not only help the citizens of Malawi, but it will also help the American medical students receive an education.

To donate, go to https://www.curecancerstarter.org, and then click the box that says “Donate Now.” Choose the UNC Lineberger campaign, and click the button that says donate to this campaign. Create an account, and then select donation amount, and then type in credit card information, and the donation will be sent.

Cure Cancer Starter is a unique organization to give money to, because 100 percent of their donations go directly to cancer research. Every dollar donated is another dollar going to researching a cure for cancer. Donations are secure and tax-deductible. Donators can sign up for regular updates on their research by going to http://blog.curecancerstarter.org/newsletter/.

This project will help current cancer patients and all future cancer patients. Eli Jordfald, Senior Major Gifts Director at UNC Lineberger said, “UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center is dedicated to fighting cancer with every resource—not just for the patients who rely on us for their lives today, but for all those who will face cancer in the future. We are excited to collaborate with Cure Cancer Starter as we work toward our ultimate goal of making all types of cancer curable.”

 

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How Much Does Twitter Affect Elon’s Culture?

Twelve thousand. That is how many followers Elon’s anonymous twitter accounts have accumulated, and the number is increasing. Anonymous twitter accounts are a huge trend at Elon University. The question is, how much do these anonymous accounts have an effect on Elon’s culture, and is it good or bad?

There are accounts pertaining to different stereotypes, such as the Elon princess, Elon gays, and GDIs, the students who aren’t affiliated with Greek life. There are also accounts that the majority of the student body can relate to, including @ElonConfessions, @xoGossipSquirl, and @OnlyAtElon. @xoGossipSquirl and @OnlyAtElon focus on aspects of campus and events that most students can relate to or find amusing. Elon Confessions is an account where anyone can submit a confession and have it be tweeted anonymously.

The tweeter behind @xoGossipSquirl, who wished to remain anonymous, feels that Twitter is very prominent at Elon. “…Because of that, I would say that Gossip Squirrel has an effect on Elon’s culture. I tweet things that I feel are relevant to the students here, and in that way, I reflect what happens on campus, which essentially makes up our campus culture,” @xoGossipSquirl said.

@xoGossipSquirl is shocked that the account became so famous, @xoGossipSquirl said, “it started as a stupid joke, and it’s still a joke, but it’s a joke that I facilitate and that everyone can take part in.”

When asked if Elon twitter accounts have a positive or negative effect on Elon’s culture, @xoGossipSquirl said, “I think that anonymous Elon accounts could have a positive effect, but are being used for negative purposes for the most part, and therefore have a negative effect on the school’s culture.”

These twitter accounts have potential to simply be entertaining and funny, however, they need to be careful not to cross the line. @xoGossipSquirl does a good job of commenting and poking fun at Elon occurrences without being offensive.

 

 

@OnlyAtElon, run by senior Joe Bruno, also does a good job of tweeting about different events or inside jokes at Elon without being insulting. His tweets have a large impact on the campus, but he remains humble. Bruno said, “Because of my tweets, Acorn cookies are on meal plans, students have had security removed from them for cheering too much at games and students have had people attend their events. People literally tweet at me to advertise their events, how great is that?”

@OnlyAtElon gives students a way to publicly voice their opinions about different aspects of Elon. Students feel connected to these tweets because they are so relatable. Bruno said, “I think a reason it was so successful was the fact I was retweeting people who tweeted at me.”

While some anonymous Elon twitter accounts are insulting or offensive, Bruno tries to keep @OnlyAtElon lighthearted and amusing. Bruno said, “I have never sent a tweet with the intention of inflicting harm on someone or a certain group. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t make fun of things. I have made fun of myself, my fraternity, my best friends you name it. Everything is fair game, but you have to be careful that you don’t cross the line.”

While the anonymous twitter accounts have the potential to have a negative effect on the school’s culture, Bruno and @xoGossipSquirl are trying not to let that happen. Bruno said, “GS [@xoGossipSquirl] and I both don’t take ourselves seriously at all and the moment we start is the moment we delete our accounts.”

 

@ElonConfessions is different from other anonymous accounts because it is made up of tweets written by students. @ElonConfessions is edited to prevent graphic or rude tweets. The person who runs @ElonConfessions has said that they don’t post every confession submitted, because they are too offensive or crude. Some people’s confessions are genuine compliments, but others use the page to vent about roommate or relationship problems.

Some of these anonymous Elon twitter accounts are risky, but as long as their tweets aren’t taken seriously or personally, then they won’t have a negative effect on this campus. However, if their tweets cross the line, or target a specific stereotype negatively, then they have the potential to divide this campus and offend students. 

Junot Díaz

Junot Díaz was born on December 31, 1968 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He then moved to New Jersey for the majority of his childhood.

Junot Díaz graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1992. He then completed his studies at Cornell University with a Master of Fine Arts in 1995.

Díaz has received many awards and fellowships, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Dayton Literacy Peace Prize, and the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.

Díaz’s published works include: Drown, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The New Yorker, Callaloo and This Is How You Lose Her. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008. This Is How You Lose Her is a New York Times bestseller. 

Junot Díaz channels various opinions and struggles he faces through the characters in his stories. He also addresses issues that are difficult to confront, such as family troubles and adolescence.

 Aside from writing, Díaz works as a fiction editor at Boston Review. He also works as the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he teaches creative writing. He cofounded the Voices of Our Nation Workshop, a writing workshop for colored authors.  

 Honors:

Dayton Literacy Peace Prize

MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship

2003 U.S.-Japan Creative Artist Fellowship

2008 Pulitzer Prize

National Book Critics Circle Award

Guggenheim Fellowship

Lila Acheson Wallace Readers Digest Award

 

http://www.junotdiaz.com/bio.html

http://www.macfound.org/fellows/864/

http://www.junotdiaz.com/about/

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1155043/bio

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/macarthur-genius-winners-1002.html

http://www.voicesatvona.org/board/

 

Steve Wozniak Inspires Elon Students

            Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, told Elon students on Thursday how important it is to find personal motivation. He said everyone must, “believe in [their] own ideas, even if they’re different from other people’s.”

            Wozniak, who helped begin the personal computer revolution, used to be a shy, “social outsider” as a child. This worked to his advantage, however, because he said, “you believe in your own ideas when you are inward.”

            Wozniak spent much of his youth working on computers secretively without his parents knowing. He said, “The mathematics of a fifth grader can understand all this computer stuff.”

            Wozniak worked to create a small, simple computer. He didn’t have a lot of money, and there were not a lot of computers available to experiment when he started off, so he had to work with what he had. He said, “You do what you have to do…make do with what you have, search for solutions that don’t cost as much money…you’ll find better solutions.”

            Wozniak explained how important it is to find motivation. He said having a personal connection with something would inspire a person. “When something matters, those are the things that push you the hardest and have the most meaning in your life,” he said.

            When Steve Jobs came to Wozniak asking him if he wanted to create a single- player version of Pong, Wozniak said he couldn’t have been more excited, because he would be the reason that such a successful game was created. Wozniak would only have four days to create the game, which normally takes months to make. Wozniak said he stayed up for four days and nights, and successfully crafted the game. He said if he didn’t have a personal connection to this, he wouldn’t have been able to do it in such a short amount of time.

            Wozniak said technology could simplify peoples’ lives and make them happy. “I started thinking about my device as a friend,” he said.  

            Wozniak joked about how technology has changed the world. “We don’t know how a brain is wired, but Google replaced a lot of brains,” he said.