Archive for the ‘ExtraCredit’ Category

Beatriz da Costa’s Invisible Earthlings Extra Credit by Mindy Truong

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

It’s simple to not be aware of the microscopic organisms that are around us because it cannot be seen with our bare eyes. It usually escapes our minds that a bench is not only a bench; it is a home for various microscopic bacteria. There exists a world beyond the one we witness, a microscopic world, which is unseen to us; it is invisible. Beatriz da Costa displays these “Invisible Earthlings” to us in seven individual installations. These interactive installations include seven touch screen Nokia devices set along the walls next to Petri dishes that contain the specimen. Beatriz da Costa collected these specimens in various locations including the bench, trash can, gate, garage and etc. She took these specimens and using microscopic devices, examined and identified what type of microorganisms they were. From the interactive touch screen devices we were able to further educate ourselves with what the microorganism is.

Beatriz da Costa wanted to create a connection between these “Invisible Earthlings” and ourselves. Da Costa wanted to increase the awareness and visibility of these “earthlings” to us. These microbes usually go unnoticed by humans until it directly affect us on a macroscopic way. These microscopic organisms have a major impact our on daily lives even though they are unseen and thus invisible to us. They play a huge role in our daily lives, affecting us directly. They are everywhere and anywhere around us. We can witness them in da Costa’s installation, showing us a human 20/20 view to a microscopic view of these organisms. The fact is that these organisms exist all around us but we neglect to become aware about them because we restrict ourselves to learning about higher species such as animals and plants that can be seen. However, these microbes play a huge role in our ecosystem and we depend on them. For example, there are microscopic bacteria in our stomach that help us in digestion but it usually goes unnoticed because it can’t been seen. We should try to expand our knowledge beyond what is only visible with our eyes.

Da Costa aims to bridge a connection between these invisible earthlings and humans thus making us more alert to them. Examining the installations that she set up, I became of how unaware I am of these microorganisms. Even as a science major I sometimes forget that they exist because it is hard to notice beyond what the eyes can see. These organisms make such common things around us as their home, such as a bench or trash can or flower. They claim it their home even if we are oblivious it. Many of the microbes that were in da Costa’s installations were new names to me. I had no idea what their role was or what they looked like, and it just shows me that I myself forget of their existence and should be more knowledgeable of their existence.

Mindy Truong

Slow Food extra credit by Khoa Truong-N

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Since when has gastronomy become a career choice?  Well, according to David Szanto, gastronomy is an emerging field in not only Europe but the United States as well.  To gain a better understanding of what gastronomy is though, we need to first examine what exactly the word “gastronomy” means.  “Gastro” is interpreted as “stomach” while  “nomos” means “law”, so literally translated, gastronomy means “stomach law”.  So now that we know what gastronomy in terms of language, we need to look at the word from an ideological perspective.  According to Szanto, gastronomy can also be thought of as gourmet food, a meal that is the direct result of meticulous detail and relentless effort.  This is where Slow Food comes in.  Like its name implies, Slow Food is the exact opposite of fast food, it is a counter to the mass-produced, processed, canned and frozen foods that society has come to eat on a daily basis.  Slow Food also acts as a reminder that food is part of the environment and shouldn’t be tampered with too much.  Society has come to associate the word “fast” with the idea “good”, and Slow Food attempts to slow down this acceleration of human existence by providing food that is best enjoyed being eaten over a long period of time.
Slow Food has been in existence for a while now, and I have even had the chance to attend of their events in San Francisco last summer.  It was an interesting experience to say the least; all the food was completely naturally without any chemical enhancements.  The food was as good as it looked and smelled that day although a meal could be quite pricey.  It was encouraging to see hundreds of people of the fair, trying the next generation of healthy foods.  This is what Slow Food has been trying to do over the past years, educate the masses about the importance of a good home-cooked meal.  This is why Slow Food helped co-found the University of Gastronomic Sciences.  Each year, the university trains a number of students to become gastronomes.  At this 3-4 year university, students will travel all throughout Europe to literally learn the science of food.  After this period in time, they will either have the option to either leave the university to educate others in gastronomy or stay for another couple of years to further their education.  Overall, I think that this is a good idea, especially for American citizens since they would have the opportunity to study and travel all over Europe.
Although I felt that at the lecture Szanto was promoting the University of Gastronomic Sciences, the lecture was still somewhat interesting.  However, I found it a little strange that some restaurants that sell the type of food Szanto mentioned for hundreds of dollars per meal.  I understand that this type of food takes time and effort to make, but for someone to say that food is a “common language and universal right” and then make meals that only the wealthy could afford is in a little hypocritical in a way.  Don’t get me wrong though, I appreciate what the Slow Food movement is fighting for, but I just don’t think that they should state that everyone has the right to a meal and then cater only to people with the money to pay for expensive gourmet meals.  Overall though, the idea of having a university devoted solely to gastronomy is noteworthy and has the potential for spreading Slow Food awareness.
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-Khoa Truong-N

Extra Credit: Michael Century presentation, by Erick Romero

Monday, March 16th, 2009

 

We closed our lectures series for this class with a session at the very modern and new California NanoSystem Institute Auditorium.  We started with some of the best Final Student Projects that didn’t get to present at our Tuesday lecture.  I was impressed by some of the projects presented at Tuesday and Thursday’s lectures.  I really liked the one that uses dance to explain some of the research and potential of stem cell research.  Forgive me, I forgot the girl’s name, it’s kind of late, but I really liked her dance movements and the idea behind it, it was very artistic.

After a short break we had a guest lecturer come over.  Michael Century gave a presentation on the history of interactions between science and art, what he called “Interdisciplinarity”, and how it has influenced and acted thought different phases of society.  One fact I found very interesting was the story about Galileo and his apprentice, who was focused on Art and not science as Galileo was.  I thought it was very odd that Galileo would have an apprentice who was an artist.  But this is what the point of this class has been, and one of Century’s main points: “interdisciplinarity”.  Science and Art have influenced each other for the longest time, and it is when they work together that some of the best discoveries and inventions come out.  Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the many examples of it, followed by many others.

Another interesting thing about Century’s lecture was the fact that periods of great discoveries and innovations come in ‘wave’ cycles.  These waves have a peak period, when the best inventions and discoveries have been made, and then a down period, when no major events happen, and sometimes these down periods have matched with depressions, economic difficulty, wars, and others.  As time has progressed and our technology gets better, the lapse between each wave has gotten shorter.  It looks like we are currently in a down period, due to the economy and terrorism worldwide, but these times are probably when someone is cooking up the next best invention, which might mean it’s not such a bad thing after all.

 

Wave Cycles of Innovation

Wave Cycles of Innovation

 

Century’s presentation served well as an ending act for the class.  He touched on topics that we had discussed during lectures.  The importance of collaboration between art and science is today more necessary than ever.  They complement each other, and inspire the other when necessary.  There is no really dominant party, although I have to admit I used to think Science dominated art.  But there are times when an artist will come with the driving idea of something new, and the scientists comes to make it happen.  And there are other times when an artist will inspire from a technological or scientific breakthrough, and use it to create art or make something esthetically better.  But the constant collaboration between them will always be better than if just one of them worked on something.

After Century’s presentation we went to have some refreshments on the fifth floor.  I have to say that this class opened my eyes to many ideas and concepts I wouldn’t have known other way.  Being an engineering major, we don’t really have much exposure to art and philosophical concepts, so I was glad that I decided to take this class.  I really enjoyed it, and learned more than I thought.

By Erick Romero.

Extra Credit: Beatriz de Costa “Invisible Earthlings” Exhibit - Alana Chin

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

When I first heard of this exhibit, I actually first envisioned human-like figures that were “invisible.” Maybe transparent or ghostly representations of humans or even aliens. For some reason it never occured to me that this was talking about small organisms like bacteria. This exhibit was a surprisingly small exhibit of several stations set up around the room. Each station had three petri dishes of colonies of different kinds of bacteria collected from different places. Mounted above each station was some sort of interactive electronic device that looked like a GPS system. This GPS device told the viewer where these samples of bacteria were collected. One station was collected from a bench of bacillus, staphylococcus, and chrysosporum. One station from a porch had sedosporium. One station from inside a garage was a mixed media of rhizopus, gliocladum, and lactobacillus. And then another station from under a trashcan had corynebacterium, yeast, and serratia marceescen. At first I thought there had to be more to this exhibit. It seemed so bare and minimal and I did not know how this related to art. After I realized that this was it, I went in for a closer look. It seems that Beatriz de Costa is trying to tell us that all of these organisms are living and flourishing in places we never really think about. Especially since they are so small, these bacterial colonies are often overlooked even though they have impressive collective numbers in the millions. And then it hit me, “Invisible Earthlings!” Ohhh, not people or ghosts you can not see, but the little organisms that are just too small to be seen. Beatriz de Costa wants us to open our eyes to the other living creatures that impact our lives even though we might not realize it. And these things exist in our world and influence others just as much as we do.

Right now the word “perspective” rings through my head. But at the time, I honestly did not know why this was so important. I can appreciate the exhibit for trying to educate the public and increase awareness of these overlooked things, but I did not see the bigger picture. At first I thought that alright, it’s good to know that we are not the only ones out there and I suppose that humans tend to think that we are the only important beings out there. It is good that this serves to “put us in our place” if you will. However, I am not entirely sure that this was the main intention. Is she trying to help us visualize these otherwise “invisible” earthlings to just give us an image to the name? Or is she trying to use perspective by showing us how large we are in comparison to how small bacteria is? Is this then to be extrapolated to compare our size to the universe, meaning that we are then just as insignficant to the universe as tiny bacteria are to us? Is this then why the exhibit was held in a small and otherwise empty room? The room was small and intimate, possibly for us insignificant beings to unite with eachother and find community? Were we supposed to connect with the bacteria and realize that we aren’t really that different from eachother? To put all of these sizes and differences, I looked up comparisons and found this diagram. http://weblife.org/humanure/images/fig3-1.jpg

In the end, I suppose this is why we appreciate art so much. There are so many different kinds of interpretations and messages. There really isn’t a “right” way to interpret art. I suppose there may be the artist’s “intepretation,” just as anyone else would have their own interpretation. The important thing is that you form an intepretation, and actually think about the piece. Because overall, isn’t art just a catalyst to stir thought and conversation?

~Alana Chin

Extra Credit: Digitizing and Manipulating Sound by Ryan Andre Magsino

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Extra Credit: Digitizing and Manipulating Sound by Ryan Andre Magsino

At the Sound and Science Symposium, Curtis Roads, a composer of electronic and electro-acoustic music specializing in granular and pulsar synthesis, author, and computer programmer, touched base on sound and how it can begin one thing and evolve as another. Specifically, he reflected on his own background in the rise of digital sound and visualization.

The Man of the Hour (the length of his lecture anyways...)

Curtis Roads, The Man of the Hour (the length of his lecture anyways...)

Today, most of us have a microphone attached to our laptops/notebooks. However, such an idea would have been refuted decades earlier. Prior to the boom of personal computing, most audio recording, synthesizing and rendering were done on a top notch network of processors. Roads revealed that the idea of a personal computer performing the same function was outrageous at the time, but it did not stop computer manufacturers. And so, the ability to digitize sound was made available to those who could afford and understand it.

On the forefront of such technological breakthrough was Curtis Roads. His initial attraction to computer music was prompted by “a fascination with algorithmic composition processes tightly coupled with digital sound synthesis.” As an audio-technician per say, Roads utilized Gabor’s sonic model in which Gabor observed all sound can be viewed as a combination of elementary functions bounded in frequency and time. Roads spoke of his endeavor to take the model into digital context. And so, Roads felt the” notation of electronic (/digital) music is often graphic rather than symbolic.”

Of the many products Roads has produced, he has developed both Creatophone, a system for spatial projection of sound in concert, and Creatovox, an expressive new instrument for virtuoso performance that is based on the synthesis of sound particles. But the important thing to take from this is the image and space visualization through audio. Roads was one of the developers interested in the isolating sound from specific areas in an environment. It is thanks to his work and many others that we have multi-channel and directional sound. In addition to this feat, Roads has also composed bits himself in which he assembles sonic fragments onto a timeline. To listen to some of his compositions, check out the following link: Hear Curtis Roads’ Subatomic Pop Symphonies

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How could we possibly take sound to the next level? Instead of merely being able to record sound onto different channels to emulate an environment, what if we were then able to re-isolate those sounds into specified areas to be heard? After watching a TED talk with Woody Norris, he has invented such a thing. Dubbed HyperSonic Sound, Norris has created a special phonograph which can focus sound at specific areas. The applications of such a product are limitless. And so, the potential of sound itself is also limitless in possibilities.

The HyperSonic Sound technology gives you the ability to direct sound where you want it and nowhere else.

The HyperSonic Sound technology gives you the ability to direct sound where you want it and nowhere else.

Extra Credit: Sound + Matter = Life by Ryan Andre Magsino

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Extra Credit: Sound + Matter = Life by Ryan Andre Magsino (Sound and Science Symposium)

Let me first start by pointing out the film which I will be referring to (all of which is available online):

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05Io6lop3mk
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahJYUVDY5ek
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4jUMWFKPTY

“(The Film) has no characters, it has no people…it is to describe…the effect of Cymatic frequencies on texture, structure, water, oil. If you spare a little of your imagination as you watch the film as it runs, you will see many things that answer many questions.” - Introduction

From the film, it is deduced that sound is the basis of form and shape. From the way things align themselves to their motion, sound plays an integral part in their development. Through Cymatics, the study of wave phenomena, Swiss medical doctor and natural scientist, Hans Jenny documents how wave phenomena can supposedly “bring matter to life.” Not only does Dr. Jenny delve into the physical properties of sound, but deduces philosophical arguments stemming from the science’s significance.

Matter being subjected to wave phenomena.

Matter being subjected to wave phenomena.

After having watched the film, I cannot help but smirk when the thought of the universe forming from a “Big BANG” (emphasis on the bang). The idea of sound leading to the formation of just seems awfully redundant; but as Dr. Jenny showcases more and more examples of matter being passed through frequencies, I cannot help but arrive at such a conclusion. The implications of such a statement would be pretty grave. Does this mean to say that we are all just matter being passed through varying frequencies in this container we call the universe? If so, then could we somehow use this mentality on a macroscopic scale?

It would appear someone already came up with an answer to the previous question. Acoustic testing has many applications – one of which is used for the remedial measurements needed to bring a substandard structure up to the level required for compliance. This test is used quite commonly when engineering a building. Furthermore, it can assess how well designed and built the structure is and whether is it suitable for the intended purpose. Thus, the use of sound is essential to the development of structure especially in building a society.

An Acoustics Tester and Engineer from Stroma

An Acoustics Tester and Engineer from Stroma

Lastly, observing how sound plays a role in structure can easily be done with items found around the household. First, combine water and cornstarch to form a pasty compound. Next, place the compound inside a speaker. Last, play various frequencies through the speaker and watch the compound “come to life.” For reference, check out the following videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yw4qklgNIxI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UU7iuJ98fRQ

Extra Credit: Gastronomy, Our “Fast” Society and Education by Ryan Andre Magsino

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

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Extra Credit: Gastronomy, Our “Fast” Society and Education by Ryan Andre Magsino

How many times have you heard the phrase, “You are what you eat?” Maybe, just maybe, it is repeated time and time again for a reason. Joined by graduate and gastronome David Szanto, we took a plunge down the rabbit hole and looked at the art and science of gastronomy. Breaking the term gastronomy into its etymological roots, we arrive at gaster- meaning “stomach” and –nomos meaning “law.” In other words, gastronomy is the study of the relationship between culture and food.

At this point, you’re probably wonder, “Wait just a darn minute. Are you telling me that there are people who actually study this kind of thing?” Apparently, David Szanto does. He is a gastronome, a person who reads/writes about food. So then what differentiates him from the rest of us? Most of us read about food and comment on it with others. Well, as it would turn out, gastronomes put much emphasis on GOOD food. What exactly counts as good food?

Gastronome and Graduate David Szanto

Gastronome and Graduate David Szanto

Szanto himself hinted at an organization with a mindset on answering such a question – Slow Food. Originally spurred by Italians in response to the replacement of fine dining with fast food chains, the Slow Food movement and organization has spread throughout the world (over 218 chapters in the U.S. alone). They envision food as “a common language and a universal right.” Slow Food envisions a world “in which all people can eat food that good for them, good for people who grow it and good for the planet.” In somewhat of a direct response to the rise of fast food chains, USA Today comments, “Slow Food aims to be everything fast food is not.”

But in our endeavor of becoming a “fast” society – driving fast cars, making a fast profit, obtaining food as fast as possible – do we really have time to squabble with Slow Food’s vision? I hope so. If not, we jeopardize our environment and society subsequently. Food is linked directly to our environment. We need to safeguard society by enacting food-system sustainability. This type of ignorance isn’t anything new. The last time we ignored sustainability to push for a fast society ended up in the global warming controversy. Should we allow the same to be said about food?

Now what? What exactly are we to do? One word: “Education.” We need to educate ourselves and others about the need of food-system sustainability. But who are we supposed to turn to when our society is bought out by large fast food chains telling us what to think when it comes to food? (Admit it, the Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger commercial stimulated your taste buds.) Gastronomes, that’s who. But are gastronomes even qualified to provide that information? Nowadays, gastronomes can even earn a degree proving such a qualification from the University of Gastronomical Sciences located in Italy. It may seem trivial to become a professional foods person per say; but if we really thought about food (what’s in it and how it’s made), we would probably go crazy. Thus, maybe we should leave the insanity to gastronomes and take their word into consideration.

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To learn more about Slow Food, the University of Gastronomical Sciences, and other gastronomy related topics, visit the following links:

http://www.slowfood.com/

http://www.unisg.it/eng/index.php

Fast Food Nation

David Szanto Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences Extra Credit by Mindy Truong

Friday, March 13th, 2009

David Szanto introduced us to his definition of gastronomy which is the law of stomach. He discussed information about the nonprofit slow food organization that was created in 1989. He also described Italy’s University of Gastronomic Sciences and the things that are offered by the university. The university held trips around countries in Europe which let students examine the production of a variety of foods and allowed for a better understanding of the culture of food. The main goal was to preserve the culture of food and be rid of fast food.

When the topic of fast food is brought up, the first thing that came to my mind was America and the massive consumption of fast food in our country. Highly known for its fast food consumption by other countries, America seems to have little perseverance of food and its culture. Having an abundance of fast food restaurants in America, its seems reasonable that many need to chose a quick and inexpensive meal especially when typical time that is allowed for lunch is approximately more or less 25 minutes.

America has a high obesity rate due to this 119 billion dollar industry. Thinking of obesity brought me to a popular television show on NBC called “The Biggest Loser.” Contestants on the show are obese and want to change their weight problem which puts them at high risk for death. As a fan of the television show, even though the people on the show are on the extreme end of the bell curve for weight, it brings awareness to the outcome that can come from the massive consumption of fast food. Contestants on that television show admit to huge consumption rates of fast food on a daily basis. The show displays what can be the outcome of high consumption of fast food with no exercise for some people.

To think about it dorm food is essentially like fast food. Produced in an assembly like manner such as fast food and having a high fat and calorie count, dorm food is no better than fast food. So why would so many Americans resort to fast food when the quality of food is poor? Although slow food is obviously the better choice of food to choose, it is not always the best convenience. The difference in pricing and timing is why fast food is a huge industry. Of course if I had the option to choose between slow food and fast food I would want to go with slow food. But many do not have the time or cash to go with slow food, so they stick to the alternative, fast food.

Mindy Truong

Sound Science Extra Credit by Khoa Truong-N

Friday, March 13th, 2009

I recently attended the Sound Science Symposium at CNSI, and the particular one that I visited discussed the relationship between music and the brain. The guest speaker for this particular lecture was Petr Janata.  For the most part, I found Janata’s lecture quite intriguing.  Some of the things that he discussed were above my head, but the things that I did understand were interesting.  He showed me a new perspective on how the brain is divided—one side is perception and one side is action. This reminded me of the spinning dancer program we saw in DESMA 9.  If you saw the dancer spinning to the left, then your imagination dominated your way of thinking.  If you saw the dancer spinning to the right, then your logic was what ruled your thought process.  In a way, Janata was showing us that the brain could be divided into two more separate categories: action and perception.  I had never thought that we as humans either perceived actions or performed actions, but it was true nonetheless.  Then Janata continued by saying how our perceptions directly affect our actions.  This is especially true when we are children, since the world is a whole new experience to us.  We see our parents talk in a certain way, or we see children like ourselves play on a television screen and we try to imitate that.  Janata also stated that this idea of perception and action could be applied to music as well.  For example, once we have heard a substantial music, we begin to expect to hear certain melody or notes in songs that sound familiar to us.  Having played the piano since I was a small child, I find this shockingly true.  Before this lecture I had never noticed, but it was in fact very true.  Whenever I listened to classical music or modern music, I would sometimes subconsciously expect the melody of the song to finish a certain way based on similar music I had heard before.
My favorite segment from the lecture was the part where Janata discussed his experiment where he played songs to ordinary people to measure their emotional response.  Basically, Janata just played some of the most popular songs on the air, and he measured the test subjects’ responses to the music.  He wanted to see if certain songs could evoke certain feelings or memories.  He wanted to prove that the brain could associate memories with certain melodies.  I find this especially true for myself since I am constantly listening to music on either my ipod or my computer.  When I read or do homework, I am usually listening to music.  The music I listen to today is different from the music I listened to my freshmen year in high school.  When I do decide to listen to some of my old music though, certain memories and feelings are awakened inside of me, and I feel as if I have been brought back to the time when I heard the song.  For example, I listened to one of the songs I used to listen to, and once I played that song, it instantly reminded me of a book that I read when I was in high school.  It was incredible that one piece of audio could, in a way, bring me back through time.  I not only remembered the book I read, but I also remembered where I read it and how I felt at the time I was reading it.  One fascinating website I found was Pandora.com, an Internet radio site that takes one song that you like and plays songs with similar musical properties.  It breaks down each song into several categories such as tonality, acoustics, distortion, etc, and groups the similar ones together.  This is like how our brains sort the music from the music we dislike as well.  There are certain characteristics that all of our favorite songs share, and when looking for music, we are attracted to these attributes.
This lecture truly opened my eyes to an entirely different perspective on music.  After attending this lecture, I have a better understanding of how my brain works.  Even in everyday life, I will try to catch myself whenever I have a pre-conceived notion about something based on previous perceptions.  Now every time I hear a song that makes me nostalgic, I will think of the Sound and Science Symposium.

-Khoa Truong-N

Extra_Credit Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library by Richard Jin

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library –

This afternoon, I went to the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library. First and foremost, I would like to say how incredible confusing it is to get to the biomedical library if you decide to take the Life Sciences Building entrance. There are signs that point to the library but after a while, they just lead to a corridor and stop. In fact, you are supposed to take the elevator down to the first floor and then navigate your way from there.

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My initial reaction upon entering the library was that it was extremely small. What I learned later on was that it was in fact 13 floors high. The square footage per floor is not very impressive; however the library tries to cram as much material onto a floor as possible. The rows are extremely narrow, but it is just a testament to how much material this library carries. I have never seen so many medical books in one place before, in an ordinary library perhaps a shelf or two would be dedicated to these topics, but in this library, they had countless rows of information on a subject such as ADHD alone.

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The construction of the building is pretty old however. The stairs are not kept in the best of conditions and the air circulation is not the best. While I was there, it was pretty stuffy. This was probably due to the low ceilings, approximately 7.5 feet high. The people studying there were mostly graduate students and adults, although you could spot the occasional undergraduate there.

 

Ghetto Stairs

Ghetto Stairs

 

 

As I perused through the rows, I found that the majority of the topics were interesting topics – perhaps it is because I am a biochemistry major. If I had to spend leisure time in a library, I would probably prefer to spend it in this type of library because it contains content that I am actually interested in – then again, I would probably not spend my leisure time in a library to begin with.

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The amount knowledge we possess in terms of living organisms to date is astonishing. However, I would venture to say the majority of the research found in the books at the library has only been conducted within the past 20 years. I would venture to say that within the next 20 years our knowledge of biological systems will grow exponentially, filling enough books to occupy 50-70 floors.  

 

13 Floors of the Library

13 Floors of the Library

 

By Richard Jin