Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Life in a drop of water

I wandered into school despite our Hallowe'en snow day, to prep for lab. I brought in some pond water I foolishly (and joyously) collected in the middle of the storm.

I took a drop, put it on a slide. I never know what I expect to see, and I'm never disappointed.

I saw some critters I had not seen before--first a few translucent "turtles" grazing through strands of algae, then lollygagging off to other pastures.

A few moments later I saw what looked like two flowers on springs slowly uncoiling, getting longer and longer, then undulating in the micro-currents.  *snap!* Their stalks coiled back into springs, too quick for my eye to follow. I watched them unravel again, spooling out their stalks, then a minute later, *snap!*

After a session with a drop of pond water, a single drop, I do my best to get the critters off the slide.

Every drop of my pond water is full of life. Watch one or two protozoa go about their business for a few minutes, and the possibility they're sentient creeps in.

We live in an amazing world we do not, cannot, understand.

Today marks the anniversary of our first detonation of the hydrogen bomb, "Ivy Mike," obliterating part of the Enewetak atoll. People lived on the atoll before we started testing nuclear bombs on it four years earlier.

People had lived on it since the time of Christ, perhaps even longer. They were forced to leave.

On November 1st, 1952, we unleashed a blast that was over 400 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

What responsibility do teachers have when we share secrets ancients would have held sacred and silent?

What responsibility do teachers have as we give children the tools to manipulate the world as engineers, as scientists, as policymakers?

The atoll is again "safe for habitation," according to the same government that blasted it over 60 years ago.

In a few months, some of my students will be transforming bacteria, literally manipulating the code of life, sliding pieces of jellyfish DNA into the bacteria so that the bacteria will glow green under fluorescent light. We do this in high school without thinking twice, because it's biology, because it's technology, because it's flashy, because we can.

Humans are naturally empathic--our culture bleeds it out of our children at our own peril. If we continue to treat children as economic tools, as bits of data, we will continue to have a culture where machines matter at least as much as people. [Almost a quarter (22.8%) of women ages 40-59 years old take anti-depressant medicines!]

President Obama claims that “nations with the most educated workers will prevail."

Prevail at what? We got enough nuclear tonnage to put this planet out, including my lackadaisical pond critters munching away at this moment in a jar on my windowsill. We're pretty good at prevailing.

Maybe it's time we spent more time learning how to live.

Criminy, the zombies are winning.

The YouTube is by zaster79,credits are at the end--the good stuff starts at 0:45.

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