Lara’s Learning Log


Today I have learnt a range of highly interesting facts and explanations which I would very much like to share with you. I found out my facts from a Science Journal Club and various scientific magazines such as BBC Focus and the New Scientist.

Firstly, I have discovered a myriad of facts about Jupiter, a planet in our solar system. Contrary to my previous belief, the planet is not growing, but is actually losing mass over time. Yes, the planet gains mass due to the large number of asteroids and comets hitting it; this is because Jupiter itself has a very large gravitational field which attracts all sorts of extra-terrestrial objects. However, even from the largest collisions, the mass added to the planet is only a small percentage of Jupiter’s total mass. On the other hand, Jupiter has an extremely warm atmosphere surrounding it and so the gas molecules can escape the gravitational pull of the planet due to their high velocity. And as the solar wind entering the atmosphere ionises the atoms of gas making them neutrally charged, the molecules can easily escape the warm atmosphere. The loss of mass due to this process far outweighs the mass gained from collisions with foreign objects, therefore Jupiter is actually decreasing in mass.

Also, I discovered an intriguing concept about the giant red spot on Jupiter. It is common knowledge that this red spot is actually a giant storm unleashing havoc on the planet. A team at Boston University have discovered that this spot is actually very hot due to a phenomenon called an ‘energy crisis.’ This is when the temperature of the upper atmosphere is much higher than what could be caused by solar heating alone. The team discovered that temperatures of up to 1500oc surround the giant red spot by looking at the infrared light the planet emits. This heat is thought to be caused by the interaction of gravitational waves and sound waves which result in an energy transfer that releases heat.

Despite many items in our everyday lives being deemed ‘disposable,’ today I learnt that this simply is not the case. Take for example a disposable nappy; this can take up to 450 years  to breakdown completely in landfill. The material that takes the longest to disappear is glass, with a break down time of 1 million years. This has really prompted me to recycle more of my materials to prevent any long term damage to the precious environment. What really surprised me was that clothing takes 40 years to break down, which is even longer than plastic film and coffee cups. I believe a new ‘make do and mend’ movement should be started to combat the growing problem of a build up of rubbish and an ever increasing number of landfill sites.

Finally, I discussed the concept of realism with a group of friends recently. We believe that artificial intelligence will never be able to replace real human contact, even with great likeness to a living human. Robots’ behaviour will never be accepted as natural because they will never be able to perform the same movements as humans do to respond to feelings and situations. For example, when nervous humans shift naturally and ‘squirm’ which robots will never be able to fully replicate to the standard of humans; they will never be able to predict our unpredictability. There is an effect named ‘the freaky effect’ which says that when something is similar to a human, but not quite there, they are seen as ‘freaky.’ A prime example of this is a zombie, who nobody would accept to be a human, although they are very similar to us apart from the fact that they are dead!. Ultimately, our judgement comes from predetermined mindsets instilled on us by society, and this is why many members of society are not fully accepted; however the vast majority of them are perfectly normal.

To conclude, I would like to discuss a wonderful documentary which recently aired on television on the BBC. It was about Down’s syndrome and how different society would be without it. The presenter visited Iceland, where genetic codes can be determined by doctors and foetuses screened to see whether they will be afflicted by the genetic abnormality. A screening program, much like that, has just been rolled out across Britain and so an uncertain future lies ahead for Down’s syndrome. What really struck a chord in me is how a disability like that is seen as undesirable by the public and many are in favour of eradicating it completely. However, the documentary emphasised the highlights of living with a child with Down’s syndrome and how much pleasure they bring. I believe it may be time to stop and look at society, to say that we are doing things wrong. It is not ethical to decide whether someone has a right to life because of a simple disability and our priorities are shifting to exclude more and more from the norm, it is as if we are recreating the idea of one simple perfect type of human, and anyone who does not conform to that standard should not have a right to live at all. Consider how this might affect society’s future and how different the mindset of the next generation could be.

Keep your eyes peeled for my next post!






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