This course studies how bioart blurs distinctions between science and art through the combination of artistic and scientific processes, creating wide public debate. It explores the history of biotechnology as well as social implications of this science.
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Please contact Prof. Victoria Vesna if you are interested in joining this class.
It is not surprising that the Chinese think of “dog people” (people born in the years falling on that symbol) as loyal, brave, and ordained with a sense of justice as these are all characteristics that we can see in our own closest companions at home.1
Last week’s lecture was nothing like what I was expecting, but I can say I was delightfully pleased! Professor Vesna introduced us to the concept of the Chinese Zodiac as we feasted on foods that symbolized each one of the animals. As enjoyable (and delicious) this experience was, I left class with many questions as the topic had peaked my interest. While I knew that my birth year corresponded to the pig, it was all that I really knew with regards to the Chinese Zodiac. This prompted me to do some research on my own.
Rats have been used and disposed through millennia. Ask a physician why use rats as models for our own biological system and they will say it is because they’re so similar to us. Ask a physician why it is okay to experiment on rats and not humans and they’ll say because they are so different from us. In the lab I work in, I handle rats directly and I am often surprised at the conditions rats are to be maintained in.
The Chinese zodiac was something I never really explored growing up. I knew that I was born in the year of the pig because we did celebrate Chinese New Year in my household, but that was it. The zodiac was just something part of the event for me and had not further significance. This week in class has led me to research what my zodiac animal means and the significance of the pig in various settings.
I am slightly embarrassed to confess that I check my astrology zodiac signs daily horoscope semi-religiously yet I did not know what my Chinese zodiac was before this class. Being heavily involved in molecular sciences, I would like to believe that things happen in the world because of action and reaction and not because the stars align in a particular conformation. Upon further analysis, I realized that the original intent and use of astrology was not meant to discover whether I was going to have a bad day but to predict seasonal shifts and celestial cycles.
When most people think of pigs, they think of messy and muddy, or they think of bacon, but they don’t also realize that pigs are incredibly common in biomedical research. In class, we discussed the use of pig heart valves in heart transplants. When human patients need a new heart valve, they can choose between using a mechanical valve or a tissue valve, which likely comes from a pig or cow donor. While the mechanical valves are more durable, they do require the use of blood thinner medications, which tissue valves do not require.
The most well-known idea about the origin of man is human beings and monkeys descended from a common ancestor that existed about thirty million years ago. Since we distinguish the human and animals by using the tools and complex behaviors, monkeys or apes are very clever, they not only can use tools but some daily actions are similar to human beings. Therefore, one of the evolutionary theories is about human beings descended from monkeys.
There is perhaps no animal that has been as cherished by humans as the dog. In many ways, dogs have grown alongside us throughout both individual lifetimes and centuries, even to the degree that their genetic selection has been contingent on human selective breeding. One of the most traditional or classical representations of the dog—the one that I was most familiar with—was seen in the Renaissance. This is the standard portrayal of a dog: a loyal companion to its human counterparts, used often as a background motif or to elevate the status of their owners (Bowron).
Life on earth strives everywhere, no matter how harsh the environment appears. From the waters thousands of meters below sea surface where sunlight never shines through, to hundreds of miles from the shore where rain seldom hits the ground, one can always find traces of life. All living organisms, along with the surrounding environment, constitute an ecosystem, and all the diverse ecosystems together forms the biosphere.
My three childhood homes presented me with very different perspectives of nature. I primarily grew up in a southern San Diego suburb where rivers of sidewalks perfectly divided plots of identically designed Spanish-style homes, each with a single oak tree surrounded by neatly cut grass in the front lawn. My parents encouraged my younger sister and I to play outside, and as long as we were in the backyard, shoes were optional. I enjoyed running through the dewy grass and gardening with my mom. These interactions with plant life, however, were always situated in a manmade setting.
I was always an inside kid. I loved classic movies and barbies, and hated bugs and dirt. I wasn’t allowed to be barefoot inside (bare feet would smudge the wood floors), let alone outside. I didn’t often follow those rules, but the outside remained a little scary to tackle without the protection of shoes - I was afraid to get dirty.
I had the incredible fortune that despite moving many times when I was young, my parents ensured my brothers and I all had abundant access to the natural world. I would call my relationship with nature a partnership more than anything else. I am endlessly inspired by the incredibly complex tiers of ecology, and I everything I do is geared towards a more beneficial integration of technology and the natural world. In fact, I am sitting in the Solar Decathlon Lab at UCLA as I write this, having just turned on the grow lights for the Hydroponics System we built this past weekend.
I grew up in a suburb around Sacramento called North highlands. In this environment, I was never really able to connect with nature. Of course, there were some occasions such as field trips etc. throughout my childhood where I was able to see the forest or more, but other than that nature was foreign to me. I wasn’t able to go around and explore outside, and if I was there would be nothing to find besides more buildings and roads. Along with these trips I previously mentioned, I also had a backyard that would let me explore certain parts of nature.
I cannot say that ecology and nature has fascinated me, but I will say that I do not dislike them. I would say that my relationship with the two would be a little laid back. Growing up in a small town in Florida there has been plenty nature and wildlife and after this week’s activity with Linda Weintraub's exhibit Welcome to My Woods I realized that I have kind of taken it all for granted. What really stuck out to me in all of this was the deprivation that my other sense’s and body sustained. I really enjoyed the pinecone sorting activity while keeping the eyes closed.
My relationship with nature has been on and off throughout my life. Growing up, my dad loved to take me hiking, to beaches, national parks, etc. We sampled a good majority of the national parks in the western United States before I was 14. Unfortunately, being a dorky, ungrateful child, I took all of this for granted. I loved to focus on playing Zelda or Pokemon on my game boy than to look out the window and enjoy the splendor.