Nevertheless She Persisted: The Cycle of Science and Nature

This blog is part 4 of a four part series about our Sisyphus machine. all links are presented below.  It is produced in concert with Jing Ke and myself (Samantha).  We are happy to unveil this to you and to the class! 

This is it! Here we go! The big reveal!  This blog will discuss the project from a finished standpoint but more importantly It will critique from Jing’s and my perspective, how the project went, what we could improve, and what could be done with some reworking.  this will be divided into the project, then Jing’s opinion, and mine last.

The Project:  “Nevertheless She persisted”

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After careful thought about the duality of man and nature,  the concept of scientific progress being masculine and the feminine identity of nature brought to light a duality that closely resembles the eco-feminist theories of the seventies and the more recent feminist conversations surrounding the united states congress.  “Nevertheless she persisted” is the story of women standing up and speaking against the control that male congress leaders in the U.S. came to think was the norm.  they rose up and in the same way nature rises to meet mankind.

It also hearkens back to those times when the greatest of power, the moon, the earth, the winds, love, and time were in the hands of powerful goddesses in the Etruscan, Egyptian, Greek, and roman pantheons – not in the control of man.  Recognizing that same power, and recognizing the evolution of super-bugs to combat scientific protection from them seems almost perfect.  So we have chosen to name our Sisyphus machine, “Nevertheless She [as in mother earth] persisted.”

For a more detailed discussion of the meaning of our machine view our second blog!

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Jing’s Critique:

Composing and constructing the Sisyphus machine has taken both Samantha and I a lot of time, but we got there in the end.

I would evaluate the workflow of building the machine to be slower than planned, and we did have to make a few adjustments to our Sisyphus blueprint to save time as the oncoming due date approached such as minimizing the carving needed in the walls of the Styrofoam box, due to limitations surrounding the hotwire machine. We also encountered complications with the construction of the internal motor. Specifically making sure that the cogs could maintain friction and turn with sufficient torque. The other was underestimating how heavy the models we made that were supposed to rotate, were. The arms of the machine were unable to support the weight of models. However, to solve both problems that were outlined, Samantha used a rubber band to increase friction and bind both cogs together so there was enough support and rotory motion for the clogs to turn. For the arms we basically added more lego pieces to the design then desired. The model of the man also fell onto the floor and shattered into a few pieces. Thankfully we did have some super glue on hand.  We ended up each designing two sides of the machine (ultimately all sides were decorated) in a black-and-white scheme to demonstrate the balance of color symbolizing the balance of nature and to make it easier if we wanted to carve in the future.

The overall box’s intent seems spot on.  Trying to tip the scales of life in one’s favor will undoubtedly make nature, “leap frog”. The box exemplifies the importance of equilibrium and thoroughly represents the ever-going war between Man and super microorganisms. There is no winner.

However, evaluating the problems we had this time around I believe there is definitely more to improve on such as being able to manage our time better, handling our materials better and being more on the ball when crisis hits.

To find out how it was made click here to read this blog!

Samantha’s Critique:

The sisyphus machine has taken a lot of hits from concept to final product but overall it does its job.  I’m very proud of Jing for her work on the external designs and the figurines and am very happy to have worked with her on this.  There are several areas of improvement, particularly with the admitidly janky mechanism I wish I could improve such as the lego parts which are very bad at sustaining eight of the figures and can’t do much about the friction.

I think that we did very well in composing the designs and the images given the dimension of the box.  It was a little wonky working with the odd dimensions but jing pulled through phenomenally.  The internal mechanism works albiet haphazardly and it was really a lot of fun to build.

Improvements made to the box as a whole would be its overall length.  I think that the lenght was too long to really support the designs on the sides of the box as needed and more thought should have gone in to how we would cut the roman columns out.  Despite prior experience with a hotwire device before I am a little miffed at myself for not getting to cut out the columns properly.  thinking on it cardboard would have been better suited to build up the box instead of cutting it from styrene.

The concept of the box was to make a comment on the cycle of science and nature and I think that in that way we did very well.  The notion that human scientific advancement is inevitably followed up with great natural leaps and that our affects on the world occur three fold makes its point very clearly in a siyphus machine.  the designs on each side represent a duality as Jing said.  I feel anyone coming upon such a machine in public, given some time, would completely get it.

Conclusion:

This has been a fantastic collaborative project and I feel so lucky to have had Jing as a partner.  Thank you to the first year class of creative arts and to the home-stay families who had to endure our project on their kitchen tables for so long!

All four blogs are presented in this list:

  1. What does Perpetual Motion, Sisyphus, and the Anti-Vaxxer Movement have in common?
  2. Behind Pandora’s Box: Why Anti-Science Can’t Stop Science
  3. Rome, Built in a Day: How We Made a Sisyphus Machine
  4. Nevertheless She Persisted: The Cycle of Science and Nature
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Rome, Built in a Day: How We Made a Sisyphus Machine

This visual project was co-produced by Jing Ke and Samantha Logan for a class project

Welcome to Article 3 of our Sisyphus machine build!  If you’re not sure what this project is about, please visit our other articles including a powerful mission statement!

  1. What does Perpetual Motion, Sisyphus, and the Anti-Vaxxer Movement have in common?
  2. Behind Pandora’s Box: Why Anti-Science Can’t Stop Science
  3. Rome built in a day:  How we made a Sisyphus machine
  4. Nevertheless She Persisted:  The cycle of science and Nature

This blog, unlike our other articles detailing the project is a bit more low key.  In this blog we will cover how we built the machine, and what problems we ran in to.  We will begin with the concept and measurements for the box, then break it down to the boxes internals, and its designs.

The Concept

As stated in our first article, the purpose of this machine is to illustrate the march of science and nature in a perpetual cycle.  Interrupting it could have devastating consequences and because of that Anti-vaxxer and anti-antibiotics movements have a detrimental effect on how we handle the natural evolution of harmful viruses and bacteria.

We thought that the greatest way to depict this concept was in a perpetual motion machine – a kinetic and moving sculpture that always moves in specific ways.  A Sisyphus machine is a specific type of kinetic sculpture that gives the illusion of moving in space – much like Sisyphus in the Greek tale would move a rock up a hill, and then wake up back at the bottom again.

The scribbled notes on the front and back provide initial ideation mechanics and despite their mess, they largely translate to the following plan:

  • Internal (Samantha):
    • 2 options – a wheel or piston bar can produce the motion we need.  Motion we are looking for is about 8-10cm rotation where the rods coming out of the top of the box move up and down in a circular motion.
  • The box (Jing):
    • Jing had a polystyrene box measuring 87x30x27 cm.  Cutting roman columns out of the polystyrene box would require a hot wire cutter. only access to this tool we had was in the creative office and we didn’t have time. Tried anyway.   On all sides a plaque would be provided that includes the title for the piece.  a border of DNA will also frame the full box.
  • The sides:
    • front (Samantha):  The march of human evolution with a grim reaper at its back and a slew of dead bodies under them.
    • Side R (Samantha):  The invention of penicillin
    • Side L (Jing):  Bacteria and Viruses
    • Back (Jing):  Someone getting a shot injected in to them.
    • Top (Samantha):  the cycle mentioned in our second blog article about the march of science and man will be detailed going around the box with the full title of the project: Nevertheless, She Persisted.  this refers to the politics surrounding the anti-vaxxer movement as well as a call to the persistence of mother earth – nature.
    • Figures (Jing):  one would be a man and the other will be bacteria.

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We will go in to detail regarding this list now.

The Inner workings:

The internal workings were the most difficult part of the build.  There were two conceived options here – we could make a wheel that would move two pistons, or a piston rod that would move two pistons.  We initially went with the wheel as resources allowed it to work more easily, but had to scrap it after it didn’t work and went with the rod design which as of writing this is also not looking super positive (but we’ll get there!).  The chassis and the actual rods were fashioned together using an old Lego set.  The engine we used was a basic 12W converter that pushed about 8 volts of electricity to turn the bottom rod.

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The internal mechanics built and “working”

In the end the device worked well “enough” for a proof of concept to work so our internals seem pretty solid.  If only we were able to machine our parts instead of relying on lego parts this would work a lot better.

The Outside: 

While the internals were quite possibly the most difficult part of the build, it was the designs on the outside, and the figures that created the most difficulty for us.  We chose to build our box using Polystyrene and in hind sight this wasn’t the greatest idea.  With no access to a hotwire from the university we were forced to use a very sharp exacto knife to get in to the device. While it worked, there was no impression that we could make. We had to make do with just providing a poor illusion in the design.

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The polystyrene box with the blue markings that will show the columns.

The Designs: 

The designs  were probably the ones that we had the most fun with during the course of the project.  Each side was meant to compliment each other.  There were 5 drawings and 2 figures in total – most of which Jing was responsible for.

Front:

evolution drawing

Left & Right:

19206357_1764265870254892_395281156_npenicillin Drawing

Back:

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Figures:

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Conclusion:

Our next blog, “nevertheless she persisted” will unveil the final product and discuss the full project, including how we think we did, but a brief discussion of the final product is in order at least.

This project has been a stressful one full of failures in the case of the engine and the polystyrene box, but what engine hasn’t created problems?  Without the proper machinations to produce what we needed it was difficult, but we would not trade this experience.  It has taught us a lot about building and about art.  We hope that the finished machine will create thought provoking ideas surrounding the place of science in the greater natural evolution of our world, how this applies to global warming, and especially how artists around the world can impact the world around us.  Stay tuned for the final reveal of the finished product in our next blog!

Behind Pandora’s Box: Why Anti-Science Can’t Stop Science

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Protest in Boston Massachusetts, March, 2017.

This article was Co-Written between Jing Ke and Samantha Logan for a class project.

Science is a march of progress that is tidally locked with nature.  Gradually, with every step, medical advancements and scientific knowledge teach us more about the world we live in.  Each advancement builds on prior knowledge and progress that creates other, potentially greater questions about nature.  For every scientific discovery and resulting advancement, the course of nature adapts, things change, and society must discuss whether that advancement is truly in our, or the world’s best interest.  No greater example of this cycle is more suitable to illustrate it then the Anti-Vaccination and Anti-Antibiotics movements.

This blog and the project attached will illustrate one very simple fact:  The medicinal miracle of vaccines and anti-biotics has been met with greater viral and bacterial threats in nature.  For humans to remain healthy and for devastating diseases to stay cured, every person must understand our dependency on vaccines and anti-biotics.   We must also understand the recursive role nature takes in this cycle. To elaborate on this we will start with a primer on vaccines and anti-biotics.  Then we will discuss the cycle of science and nature, and finally the recent trends against science that want to disrupt that cycle.

How Viruses and Vaccines work

In science, part of the cure against diseases and viral outbreaks are the bacteria and viruses themselves. One way of discovering a cure for or developing resistance to these foreign entities is to disassemble the virus or bacterium being targeted and create a harmless version that is still identifiable by your immune system and introduce it to our bodies via a vaccine.

These changed versions of the viruses or bacteria train your body so when the real deal enters you do not fall ill, because your immune system will already identify the unknown intruder in your body and eliminate it.

Scientists have also developed ways to target the pathogen itself and prevent the bacteria/virus DNA from being replicated, thus stopping the spread of the bacteria/virus itself. Other cures have been made where they directly target the cell wall of the bacterium and rip it apart, causing the bacterium to die out.  Both of these solutions are however more expensive and harder to implement than a vaccine.  Each of these solutions over time create resistant strains to the method used, and the only way to prevent this is to get them all before they have the chance to mutate and evolve into a resistant “super-bug”.

When bacteria constantly encounters lethal antibodies in your body, there is a more likely chance that one bacterium will develop resistance and it won’t be long before the entire strain becomes immune to the antibodies. Bacterium can pass on their immunity by interlocking their proteins and then transferring plasmids (bits of dna carrying proteins) between not only their own species of bacteria, but other strains as well.  If a developed anti-biotic that targets the bacteria is not present until the very last one dies, the chances a bacteria pass on it’s resistance skyrockets. This is why doctors tell you to take all of your anti-biotics until they are gone – not just until you feel better.

The Anti-Vaxxer and Anti-Anti-biotic Movements

The vaccine and anti-biotics processes have been known to science for a very long time.  The first smallpox vaccine was created in 1684 (via historyofvaccines.org – seriously check their site out!)  and the first anti-biotic, Penicillin, was created by Alexander Fleming in the 1940s.  Since then huge diseases have been largely cured or rendered ineffective to the population such as Denge fever, Yellow Fever, Measles, and more, but that does not mean those diseases are gone.  We co-habitate with them and they continue to grow and evolve with us.  The most primary example is that of the Zika Virus which evolved to create an outbreak fifty years after it had been known to humans according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The required vaccines doctors ask children to take are vital to the continued life of people all over the world over a very long time, but recently, due to a fake news article connecting the vaccines to autism (historyofvaccines.org), parents all over the world have been swearing off vaccines.  Anti-biotics have also been proven to mess with the pro-biotic bacteria that keep us healthy in our bodies and failure to use them properly has created a great fear of “super-bugs”.  These movements are advocating a life in an environment where we are not immune to the regular viruses and bacteria so we do not spawn greater threats.  The flaw in this argument has to do with the cycle of evolution, and our interference with it.

The Evolutionary March of Science and Nature

As stated in this blog before, these viruses and superbugs are not affecting our bodies due to our immunities in vaccines and thorough use of anti-biotics, but that does not mean they are gone.  It means they exist around us and simply do not harm us.  Any Darwinian Evolutionary scholar worth their salt will tell you that viruses and bacteria evolve very quickly and their hosts are not just humans.  The plague was carried on rodents and Zika is carried on Mosquitos.  These viruses and bacterium will continue to evolve whether we are there or not, and they remain dangerous to us.  The catch however, is when we STOP vaccinating, or we don’t take our anti-biotics seriously we accelerate their evolution instead of stunting it.

We will conclude this blog with a second critical fact.  Our first fact was that this cycle exists and at this point stopping the cycle is a terrible idea. Our second fact, is that stopping this cycle will do nothing to help humanity.  These medical advancements have saved countless lives over half of a century, and if we stop the cycle, these bacterium and viruses will continue as they did prior to vaccines.  People will die.

We implore you.  Continue the cycle of science and nature, keep us one step ahead, and do your responsibility as an adult.  Wipe down your house’s surfaces, vaccinate your children, ensure they take all of their anti-biotics, and take them to get regular checkups.

This blog is a part of a series! Check out the others here!

  1. What does Perpetual Motion, Sisyphus, and the Anti-Vaxxer Movement have in common?
  2. Behind Pandora’s Box: Why Anti-Science Can’t Stop Science
  3. Rome built in a day:  How we made a Sisyphus machine
  4. Nevertheless She Persisted: The Cycle of Science and Nature

 

Work Cited:  Continue reading “Behind Pandora’s Box: Why Anti-Science Can’t Stop Science”