Leannekuwahara Week 1

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Stewart Before Reading Reflection
When I hear the word mathematics, the first terms that come to mind are numbers, calculations, patterns, and problem solving. Putting these terms together to form a coherent definition, I would say that mathematics is a discipline that involves analyzing patterns to devise formulas that work to explain various phenomena. While everyone does math in their day to day lives, I would not consider myself to be a mathematician. I believe giving one's self a professional title requires that they are an expert in the field and that they have put forth an effort to make contributions to their field.
Janovy Before Reading Reflection
When I hear the word biology, the first terms that come to mind are life, cells, and evolution. Biologists study how living organisms function and how they they interact with both biotic and abiotic factors. Similarly to mathematics, biology is also applied in people's everyday lives, however, I do not completely consider myself a biologist for the same reasons why I do not consider myself to be a mathematician. However, I do consider myself to be more of a biologist than a mathematician as I have spent the past three years studying biology and a multitude of its sub-fields such as, physiology, neurobiology, and structural biology. Perhaps I can call myself a biologist in training.
After Reading Reflection
Janovy equates being a biologist to being a naturalist, that is, in order to call one's self a biologist one must comply to the values of a naturalist. Naturalists value nature, and the relationships all organisms have with their environments. He implies that the overall goal of a biologist is to contribute to our perception of the planet on which we live, and to inform others of the decisions we should make regarding the relationship we have with our environment (Janovy, pp. 9).
According to Janovy's idea of a biologist, I would consider myself a partial biologist. The reason I do not consider myself a full-fledged biologist is similar to the argument he gave on page 23. He states that, because of a time constraint, that formal education may provide you only with the tools of a biologist, but not the values and visions of a true naturalist (Janovy, pp. 23). Throughout my educational experience I have gained an understanding of chemistry, physics, and biological principles, but am not sure I hold the same values as a naturalist.
One of the more intriguing statements Janovy made was that biologists conduct research with the sole purpose of satisfying personal curiosity, and any beneficial implications towards humanity are simply side effects (Janovy, pp. 5). Throughout the entire chapter, Janovy has emphasized that naturalists (biologists) care more about nonhuman organisms than humans, which I both agree and disagree with. Yes, biologists, and scientists in general, have a personal curiosity towards the research they conduct, however I feel the reasons they work so hard to complete their research is to serve a higher purpose and contribute to society, that is, improving the quality of life for humans; whether that be through improving medicine/health care, or improving conservation efforts for our planet to best sustain life.
According to Stewart, mathematics is the "behind the scene" science driving the function of nearly everything, if not all of the tools and machinery we use in our everyday lives. Similar to my earlier definition of mathematics, Stewart emphasizes that mathematics is the analysis of patterns and discovering why they occur (Stewart, pp. 46). A main difference that I notice between the Stewart reading and the Janovy reading was that Stewart made it seem like everyone was a mathematician, whereas Janovy made it very clear that only those who have the values of a naturalist are biologists. Thus, according to Stewart's very broad sense of the term mathematics, I would change my view from before reading these chapters and say that I am a mathematician. Work as a scientist constantly involves the evaluation of patterns and figuring out how they occur. For instance, I want to become a criminalist after graduating from LMU, and one of the various forensic disciplines is bloodstain pattern analysis. This work would require one to observe the pattern, form a hypothesis on how this pattern was formed by using the knowledge of mathematics (angles, geometry, force, etc.), and then go back to a lab to test these theories to better understand the scene.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Stewart reading I found was the "bird crystal" mentioned in chapter 5 (Stewart, pp. 47-48). The comparison of the personal space of a bird to that of a phase of matter was one that I never would of thought of, but was fantastic and accurate. The main view I gain from Stewart's reading is that math aims to simplify the reasoning behind why certain events occur for others. Using this "bird crystal" analogy would be a great way to simplify the explanation of a crystal lattice structure of a solid to say, a child, or someone who does not have the materials science background required to fully understand the concept.
The main similarity I found after reading these two articles was the influence of nature. For the mathematician, nature provides an almost infinite number of patterns to be analyzed. For the biologist, nature and its relationship with living organisms direct the types of thoughts and questions a biologist may have. Nature seems to provide a continuous blank canvas for all scientists as there is always something to be questioned or explored.
-Texted once over the weekend
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Except for what is noted above, this individual journal entry was completed by me and not copied from another source.
  • Janovy, J. Naturalists. On Becoming a Biologist (2nd ed.). (pp. 1-33).
  • Stewart, I. Why Do Math? Letters to a Young Mathematician (pp. 1-10, 45-52).
  • Assignment Page: Assignment-Week 1

Leanne Kuwahara (talk) 17:11, 21 January 2019 (PST)