TOK Post #4: Can you be more specific?

Image from PublicDomainPictures.net taken by Petter Griffin

All my textbooks (not that I read them that much) have very clear and use un-interperative language when describing content. This makes sense since they want to teach me the information in the most accurate way possible. Sometimes I get frustrated while reading and wished they had made the writing simpler. But, if they dumbed it down for me, would the information retain it’s same quality? Today we’ll be discussing wether the vagueness and ambiguity of language always limits the production of knowledge.

 

The answer of the question depends on what kind of knowledge is being produced. If the knowledge is meant only interpreted in one way, such as topics in the Natural Sciences, I believe it’s best to use language that leaves little room for one to guess the meaning of it. For instance, a writer might use metaphors/smilies to spice up his/her text. Using metaphors/smilies however, might give the reader the wrong idea of how something works. For instance, if I say “computers process information faster than human brains” you might get the impression that computers and biological brains operate in a similar way, which is completely untrue and does not help one learn about the way the brain works. Further emotive language might skew the way we view something. For example, if I described World War 2 to be a “blood spilling mess” rather than “a war in which many lost their lives”, you might feel more strongly about the violence of World War 2.

So yes, vague language can limit our understanding of knowledge. And because you need to understand knowledge to produce it, we can safely say… BE CLEAR IN YOUR SCIENTIFIC REPORTS SCIENTSISTS!

But thats not it…

I was about to stop writing and listen to some music when I realised… singers managed to convey their message using language that is, very interpretative.

You see sometimes being clear and using un-interperative language might actually hinder our understanding of knowledge. Knowledge that relates to emotion and senses is better described in more emotive terms, rather than direct ones. Because people can relate more to emotive terms, they get a better feeling of what the writer is feeling. Look at these two statements and tell me which one you have more feeling or sense towards.

Joe walked down a road, beside him cars passed releasing smoke with foul odour.

Joe walked down a road, beside him cars rattled pass spewing out dark and black smoke that made his lungs tight.

Which statement is better for understanding how Joe is feeling?

It is for this reason, interviews, poems and music are so important to understand when studying history. Sure, you can read a bunch of reports with stats that will give you the exact situation, but you won’t fully understand what happened if you do not understand how people felt during those times.

So in conclusion, be specific and clear when dealing with information that requires preciseness, but when trying to communicate emotion, it is best to use vague language. This means vagueness and ambiguity of language do help with the production of knowledge in some cases.

 

 

Retreating from the IB

First off, no I’m not leaving the IB, thats not what the title means.

From the 17th-18th of August, the entire grade 11 and I headed off to Gold Coast Hotel, Hong Kong to what they call the IB Retreat. Through a variety of activities the IB retreat is supposed to help us develop our character and learn a bit more about the DP program (which we are perilously embarking on) and going to university.

An activity I particularly enjoyed in the retreat was the “crossroads poverty simulation”. For this, we were instructed to make paper bags under a time limit. We were supposed to then simulate selling this bags in order to buy necessities for our groups. The activity, it’s methods and it’s conditions was made very realistic. During the simulation, the only thing on my mind was “MAKE PAPER BAGS OR ELSE YOU DIE”. After the sim, I couldn’t stop thinking, though I’m not in love with my life, about how great my it actually was. I couldn’t bare to imagine what it’ll be like to live a life where you have to always worry about not dying. It’s sad.

Afterwards, we had free time at the Gold Coast Hotel. This was my absolute favourite part of the trip. During this free time, my pals and I went to the playground, played many games of cards and went for a swim at the pool. To me, this is the most “IB retreat” part of the IB retreat because during this time, we managed to forget all our pains and stress caused so far by the IB. (IB is still great though, don’t take this the wrong way)

The view from the Gold Coast Hotel. This picture doesn’t really do the view justice in my opinion.

One of the most memorable moments was the dinner. We went outside the hotel and settled on a restaurant that looked good. I ordered a nice juicy beef burger. (don’t tell my mom please) The food turned out fantastic.

The next day we had a series of lectures and activities relating to philosophy (TOK), preparing for IBDP and going to uni prepared for us. The one I found the most useful was when we got to talk the CDNIS alumni. Here I managed to learn a lot about IBDP life because I got to ask many questions from someone who actually had done it before. One of the greatest things I remember from this was when my alumni told me that “IB is not that bad, you just have to get on top of things and stop procrastinating”. (not her exact words,but close!) As I thought about it this idea turned out to be very true. Most of the times I’m stressed is because I haven’t done the work I’m supposed to. I’ll try to do otherwise from now on. On a side note, I’m considering to come back to Gold Coast 2 years later and give the future Grade 11’s a talk, just like the alumni did for us. (If I’m allowed!)

I’m even planning to come back to the IB retreat when I graduate to give those who are just starting some of my “good” advice. If they let me!

Another activity I found useful was a talk about Universities. This helped me “find my path” because I got a better idea of what life in university was like and how to choose a good one. Beforehand, I thought that the most important quality of a university was it’s world ranking. Now, though ranking is important, I realised I should choose a university based on what kind of experience I want.

To sum it all up,I found the IB retreat a great way to take a break from the grind of school life while still learning about the IB. Cheers!

TOK Post #3: Is Science Ice Cold Hearted?

One of my favourites quotes of all time is:

The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it -Neil deGrasse Tyson

I love this quote because, the thing is we humans tend to believe in things because it makes us feel good. The quote says that science doesn’t care how you feel, if it’s true it’s true. Today I’ll be discussing wether the sciences are all about using reason to understand the world and if there is no place for emotion in science.

Let’s start with emotionless science. To do science, to create scientific knowledge requires no emotion. You just follow the scientific method, which  in a nutshell is research and experiment until you yield the same results every time, thus proving that it is true. Because you are following logical steps only when doing pure science, emotion is not required. Sure scientists can make mistakes when they are in a bad mood, but that that just means they are not doing 100% pure science. Proof that there is no place for emotion in science can be found when discussing it with revision. If you click here, you’ll be shown a graph that shows technological advancement of the human race. (Cant include the picture here because of copyright)  Looking closely, we see a spike of advancement starting from around the 1700s, which was also the time science became more widely accepted and practiced. Beforehand religion was a dominating force in the way we understand our world. Religion is very emotion based, many practice it because it makes them feel a certain way. Science is practiced because it works.  As we can see, since the 1700s, the technological advancement has skyrocketed, thanks to science.

The answer seems obvious. There is no place for emotion in science. Well, that was what I believed when I originally was told to write about this question. But I’m glad my TOK teacher made me consider both sides of the argument because now, after thinking about it, I believe emotion dominates the way we do science.

If you ask any person in who is or was in the science industry why he/she choose that profession, you’ll probably get an answer such as “oh it is my passion and I’m very interested” or “it pays well”. We humans choose what to study not because it is logical, but because it either entertains are curiosity (we after all are curious by nature), or we can gain some sort of profit from studying it. For instance, the famous astrophysicists  Neil deGrasse Tyson, author of the quote Put above, choose to study astrophysicist because he finds it interesting. Was it a logical choice to study astrophysics? Maybe not exactly, but he does it anyways.

Another example of scientific advancement is a result of human motivation is during the Second World War. Take a look at these two aircraft.

 

 

 

 

During the Second World War, many technologies especially military aviation advanced at a rapid pace for both the Axis and Allies. This was because the waring countries were in fear of loosing the war, thus this was the motivation for the technological advancements. These advancements allowed people to build much more sophisticated aircraft, even after the war was over. The results of this fear is clear. We went from piston driven propellor aircraft to jets that nearly fly at the speed of sound in only 9 years, simply because people were motivated to not allow their country to loose the Second World War.

Students are willing to spend 4 years or more and pay thousands of dollars to study their science because they find it interesting. If not, people are motivated to do science because of the personal profits they gain from their jobs.

Curiosity and greed are the motivation factors that decide wether we choose to study something or not. This means that reason is not the reason why we understand the world, it’s simply because someone wanted to study it.

I choose this side because, though you shouldn’t have any emotion while doing science, emotion chooses wether we do science at all.

 

My point is, emotion is the key motivating factor that decides what we want to learn about the world. No, science is not ice cold hearted. It’s advancements were mainly because of the passionate and ambitious hearts of individuals who wanted to practice it.

There is a prominent place for emotion in science, in fact, it drives it.

 

TOK Post #2: Do our senses make sense?

You and I are bound by our biological limitations. We get tired, we get hungry, sometimes our vision is blurry or we miss a word our friend said. After all, we’re only human.

But the question is, even though we have some issues with our perceptual systems, is it still completely unreliable.

I would say sort of, maybe even yes but only if you do not require accuracy.

Don’t worry, you should still trust your senses.

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors could only learn about the world only through their perceptual senses. There was no equipment or way of measuring this brave new world. Our ancestors learned many things though. The feeling of hunger, the roar of a lion, the efficiency of using a stick to bash a animal. Knowledge of all of this helped them survive, which proves that their perceptual senses were working well, at least to some degree.

These days, our perceptual senses allow us to experience the world. Sure, the way we experience the world might be different from someone else, but there are some aspects of life almost every human can agree on to some degree. I live in Hong Kong and its been uncomfortably hot and humid recently. That’s why I wear only t-shirts and shorts outside and when I’m inside…well lets not talk about that. When I go out, I see most people also choose to opt for a shirt and shorts. This shows that are senses are reliable because multiple people have done the same thing, which is that we have agreed that it is hot, and we want to cool down.

Now, using only our perceptual senses works, but for better “results”, you need more accuracy. After all, you wouldn’t have self-driving cars, supercomputers in your pocket, that perfect fitting blue suit you wear to work with the result of just human senses. You need accuracy. This is where math and the natural sciences comes in.  Machines, made possible by the sciences allowed our world to become even better. To illustrate this, let me tell you a story.

One day 2 pilots were flying their plane. One of them remarked that since they were nearing a mountain range, they had to go higher. So they did, but still hit the mountain range.

Where did they go wrong? They did not decide on how much “higher” they had to go. Humans do not have an organ for that tells them how high in the sky they are, and because of this it is hard to judge how much higher you are.

Image from Pixabay, taken by user “ilot”.

If you walk into any aircraft cockpit you’ll find an altitude meter because jobs such as flying require pinpoint preciseness, much more precise than what humans could sense,  otherwise the whole endeavour would crash and burn.

So to conclude, yes our human senses are not completely unreliable, but if you want to have better results, you must be much more precise.

TOK Post 1: Who’s Right?

When I google up the definition of right, I found 2 definitions of what it means to be right. One is that right something has to be acceptable on moral level and the other is something right has to be factually correct.

Today lets discuss wether someone can be both and right at the same time.

We’ll analyse this question via the 2 definitions.

First definition: Morally Correct

This one’s a bit tricky. We first have to ask ourselves, what is morally correct? I believe for something to be moral, every sane human being has to agree that it is moral.  Otherwise it won’t be right?

What I would define is moral is that:

1. Ensures Survival

2.Eliminates, or at very least reduce Cruelty

I choose these 2 standards because they are essential to human life and happiness, which should be the reason morals are in place. Also, all mentally stable humans would like to survive and would not like to be treated cruelly.

Morals vary from culture to culture. For instance, a vegetarian from 2017 might be so because he/she believes eating animals is cruel, while a tribesman in the middle of the Amazon rainforest might believe that there is nothing wrong with eating animals. Can both be right? I’ld say yes. You see, though morals vary from culture to culture, they also vary from person to person. The vegetarian does not want to be cruel to animals and the tribesman just needs the food to survive. Each person has their own reason for what is right and wrong. So in this case both the vegetarian and tribesman are correct.

Second Defintion: Factually Correct 

Image from Wikipedia

Now we all know that it is impossible to know for sure if something is 100% correct. After all, facts keep changing as science progresses. For example, hundreds of years ago people believed the Earth was flat. Modern science has proven this notion wrong, and suggested the Earth is spherical (or close to it) instead. With this simple example, it shows that there can only be 1 right answer. Keep in mind, even if the answer given for anything (Ex: scientific discoveries) is the most up to date, it is not necessarily the correct answer. Even though what we think is right, and even if we have the evidence, it can never be 100% confirmed. But that’s ok, things only have to be right “enough” for life to work. What I mean is that we don’t have to be 100% correct. Take for instance math. We will never know if it’s entirely true, but all of the scientific progress that improved the quality of our lives was heavily based on mathematics. In this case, math works, even if we don’t know if it’s 100% true.

So in conclusion, morally right can vary from person to person while factually right can only have one answer.

IB Learner Profile Trait #5: Risk-Taker

One of my greatest traits is the ability to approach unfamiliar situations with courage and confidence and explore new ideas and strategies.

One example of where I did this was in the Scouts program. As part of the 1st Hong Kong Canadian Scouts Group, I had to show courage in the face of uncertainty because I was exposed to many new roles, some of which I felt uncomfortable doing. For instance, though I was apprehensive about leading I recently lead the entire group for a recycling event. Due to this and other such actions, I achieved the Chief Scout Award, the highest award awarded in the Scouts section.

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Moreover, I continue to show confidence in unfamiliar situations at school. In all my classes, I approach new material with confidence, resilience and determined myself to do the best I can. This has lead my to achieve the “Risk Taker Learner Profile Award” in the 10th Grade, 2016.

Comping soon

Healthy Habits: Final Analysis

At the beginning of Healthy Habits, I selected 3 goals to achieve. One of them was to take part in a physical activity once a week. I have managed to achieve this goal and even go beyond it. By working out in the gym every week with the CDNIS Get Fit club, I managed to get a get ample amounts of exercise weekly. Joining AYP hiking expeditions allowed me to really push myself physically. In addition, I also got more active during weekends by going on more outdoor trips with my family. Because of all of this, I exceeded the goal.

However, my other 2 goals which were to cut back on artificial foods and get 8-9 hours of sleep daily was not as well met. For the food goal, I didn’t manage to cut down on my artificial food intake because I was not committed to the goal. However, I still eat home-cooked food for the majority of my meals.

I fared much better for my sleep goal. I did normally get 8+ hours of sleep, however there were days where I only got 6-7 hours.

I believe that this experience was effective in promoting health and wellness because by having these goals, it encouraged me to do something about my health. This goals were effective in getting me to me more physically active. However, as I stated before, I did not achieve all my goals. One of my takeaways from this project was that commitment is the key to achieving goals. Next time, I’ll be sure to commit more to improving my health.

I will continue to implement these habits into my life. For instance, I would like to continue to do a physical activity weekly. I will continue to work on improving my diet and sleep.

Like I said already, If I was to do this again, I would try harder to commit to my last 2 goals. Next time, I would try to increase the physical activity I do per week. Joining a sports team or taking a course in a sports (Ex: sailing?) would allow me to do this.

 

IB Learner Profile Trait #4: Reflective

Being able to assess my work is important to me because it allows me to learn and improve. One of the instances where I reflected successfully was during a Swimming Coaching Assignment in PE Class. Swimming is one of my weakest points in PE, so being able to reflect on how I could improve was something that benefitted me immensely.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 4.48.35 PM
8 September 2016, Coaching Plan Reflection

 

Another time reflective skills propelled me to success was during my MYP Personal Project. I had to make a series of animated videos relating to Fish and the environment. After each video, I would make a reflection. These reflections allowed each succeeding video to be many times better than the last. At the end of the project, my supervisor Ms.Nielsen who has noticed my video making improvement, wrote a comment congratulating my reflective skills.

Comment from my PP Supervisor Ms.Nielsen
Comment from my PP Supervisor Ms.Nielsen

 

 

 

 

IB Learner Profile Trait #3: Open-Minded

As a student in this ever-changing world, I manage to keep open to new perspectives and I am willing to grow from experience.

A time I shown such skill was during science class in the 10th Grade. During the course, I was exposed to unfamiliar new science concepts. As I was willing to learn, I embraced the new content. As a result, managed to score an overall IB 6/7 for the course.

Comment From My 10th Grade Science Teachers Ms.Lesia Pringle
Comment From My 10th Grade Science Teachers Ms.Lesia Pringle

I continue to show open mindedness outside of class. When choosing a trip for the CAS week in 2016, I choose to go to Laos. I made this choice because though Laos was not at all familiar to me, I wanted to immerse myself in new cultures and grow myself personally from doing so.

One of the new experiences I had was staying with a local family.

One of the new experiences I had was staying with a local family.