Category Archives: Lateral View

A Lateral View on Teenagers

Adolescence is arguably one of the most feared phenomenon by parents, and one of the most looked forward to by children. Hormones, tantrums, rebellion, fears of relationships, drugs, alcohol etc. haunt the minds of parents, but how many of these are reasonable and to be expected?

The most widespread fear of parents by far is hormones. Although teenagers do have mood swings due to hormones, most of them are capable of dealing with them themselves, without much help. Some teenagers, if the triggers are right, may start overreacting and get panic attacks, but that is rare. As for tantrums and fear of rebellion, those are rare and are usually caused by external sources outside of home, and can be avoided by making sure they go to a decent school etc. Rebellion could also be caused due to mistreatment at homes. What most parents don’t realize is that disciplining methods used on their children won’t always work when they are teenagers, as teenagers start adopting the culture of the shows they watch, friends they have etc. And don’t like being forced into cultures their parents follow. Parents must be sympathetic towards their teenage children, and must understand that change is not always bad. The fascination of wanting to try something new draws some teenagers towards the mysteries of alcohol and (even less) towards drugs. Note that this also varies from culture to culture.

The behaviour of teenagers depends mainly on the media they watch, their peers and their parents. Movies and Television affect teens and children in various ways, such as teens adopting the culture of the television they watch. You’ll notice most teens nowadays share some of their behaviour with characters out of TV shows, even if it is oh-so-subtle. Again, parents should be open to change and instead of acting at the first sign of change, should monitor the teen and make sure that the teen is not changing for the worse. Parents are heavily programmed, and are often against teens radical thoughts and ideas. Teenagers can feel oppressed due to this. And the most important thing to remember is: be a good parent. Give them some freedom. Don’t reprimand them for every small mistake, as they are old enough to distinguish between mistakes and willful intent and don’t need it to be pointed out. Be happy and set a good example and chances are nothing negative will happen.

So, are teens really as bad as they are made out to be in popular media, or are they just misunderstood?

A Lateral View on Social Media

#new blog post #about time #internet

Facebook. Twitter. Google+. Tumblr. The most popular social networking sites today. Platforms for you to interact with your friends and let them know what’s going on with your life. Scroll down your feed and you’ll see people posting aboard their new endeavors such as going to the gym, posting selfies to show off a new hairstyle or T-shirt or simply to bask in attention. Relationship troubles, a vacation or success is broadcast  for the all your friends to see. We enjoy giving them advice or complimenting them. But why? Humans are social animals. This is true, but to what extent?

In school we are taught that humans wouldn’t survive without social interactions with other people. This is true, but we don’t need to interact as much as we do. Solitary confinement or being marooned can drive most people crazy, but that’s because they can go months without meeting someone else. We meet people everyday outside of social media and that is enough to satisfy our brain and prevent us from going insane. There are some people who prefer not to draw attention to themselves while others will post anything that will grab attention in a desperate plea. Social Networking sites aid those people in their goal by simultaneously broadcasting whatever they want to say to all their friends at once. Those interested in that post will like,share or comment their views, which may spark arguments and thus draw more attention. The only reason we post most of the stuff we do is to draw attention to ourselves. Unless it’s something big like getting married or graduating, which would draw attention anyway. You may say that there are some important things that need to be shared with some people but if it’s not important enough that it can’t be told to them directly then it’s not worth telling.

Social Networking sites also feature ‘freemium’ games which gets people addicted to them and after a while demands payment to continue playing. Think about it: What goes through your mind when you open your preferred social networking site? Is it: I wonder what’s going on with xxxx and his sister yyy? Or is it ‘I wonder how my crops are doing’,’I’m sad and depressed! Let me share to the world unneccessary  details about my life in an over exaggerated manner?’ Do you do it out of boredom? Curiosity? The answer of course varies from person to person. You can also follow people you want and stay up to date with current affairs, but you can also do the same with various news sites. So why do you stay hooked? You go there when you’re sad, you go there when you’re happy, you go there when you are confused or lost or in need of help or a self esteem boost. Support from friends is guaranteed to be received from social media sites, and you can meet and interact with people you’ve never met before who share the same views as you.

In the end, is that it? Is is solely the feeling of constant companionship and support that keeps you coming back for more? Is it the feeling of relaxing and finding out what’s been going on in your best friend’s life? Or is it just the euphoria of constantly being in touch with the people you love? I wonder how many of us actually know the answer to this question.

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Social Media provides moral support and can lift you up when you’re down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

—————————————————————————————————————————–Hey! Check out the amazing talk given by one of my close friends on Being a Polymath (Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with math.) in Goa for The Goa Project. You can watch it on YouTube here.

Thank You for your attention, and have a nice day!

A Lateral View on Racism

It was a proud moment for Nina Davuluri as she was crowned Miss America 2014.  The first Indian-American to be crowned Miss America, a little confusion was understandable. But the outbreak on Twitter was unfathomable, with thousands of tweets being tweeted on how she was Indian, and it was Miss America. The more offensive ones labeled her a terrorist, and considered India and Saudi Arabia and such the same country. As she was crowned Miss America close to the 9/11 anniversary, more and more racial slurs spilled from xenophobic Americans. This proves that racism is still prevalent in modern society, even in developed countries such as America.

Racism started mainly around the Renaissance, when the British coming into contact with people of darker pigmentation while exploring.  The bible was used as justification by slave traders for their actions. The situation got worse and worse till it climaxed in the twentieth century. It was then people started protesting and people like Martin Luther King played a major role in bringing equality to the African-American community in the eyes of the Government. But some people were unable to adopt to this change of perspective they were encouraged to take. The number of such people reduced over time, but African Americans are now perceived as dangerous and most people think that most black males they see are criminals. This is a picture that forms in the mind of every american as they walk past them. Another much more offensive and serious stereotype is that in which anybody from the Middle East is perceived as a terrorist, as proved by the Miss America outrage, even though she wasn’t from the Middle East which shows how ignorant some people can be. Any Muslim is under suspicion not only by civilians but by police and airport security agents as well. This is obviously because of terror groups like Al-Qaeda being Muslim and running operation in the Middle East, but is still not reason enough to judge every Muslim and middle eastern as a terrorist. You would think that since America is the fourth most educated country in the world people would be more open minded, but that is not the case. The role social media has to play in forming the above stereotypes in people’s mind is no small one. Shows and movies usually portray Middle Eastern terrorist groups as the antagonist, while only a few shows like Homeland offer another perspective on things. This justifies the image that has been formed in their minds.

The prior situation is in the minds of people and is irrational. The only reason it exists, is because it is passed down from generation to generation and the sooner people understand this it will be gone. The latter is much harder to solve. It has been permanently imprinted in the minds of people over a period of time. If the media stops generalizing terrorists as Muslims and stop associating terrorism with Muslims then maybe people will become aware of the fact that terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda use it as a weapon to brainwash people who have no where else to go in third-world countries. Government agencies need to stop thinking that every Muslim is a threat of some kind, they need to be as cautious of them as they are other people. Some teachers are also racist, and this racism is passed onto their students unless someone else interferes. If the media stops portraying Muslims as terrorists and parents keep their views to themselves, the next generation won’t be racist at all. When you think about it, it really isn’t that hard to achieve. Racism originated 500 years ago, it’s time to stop having faith old beliefs

So, why can’t we all just accept the fact that racism is unreasonable and an outdated tradition?

A Lateral View on Genetically Modified Crops

I recently had to write an essay on Genetically Modified Crops for my Biology project, which took up most of my weekend. This got me into thinking further on the subject.

Genetically modified crops, or GM crops, are very simply put crops with foreign genes inserted into them. The most popular GM crop is Bt cotton, which is grown in India, and is the only mass-produced GM crop in the country.  GM crops have been the subjects of controversy from the word get go – but what exactly are people debating about? Some people are debating GM crops as a product itself; saying that they can be injurious to our health, kill pollinating agents and lead to super bugs and super weeds. But other people are protesting the role of multinational corporations like Monsanto. So how many of these allegations are true?

GM crops are known to produce highly evolved species of pests and weeds. This is due to evolutionary pressure being put on that species as crops like Bt cotton are made to kill bollworms, which eat cotton leaves. Now there have been reports of bollworms eating the GM cotton and surviving, along with reports of weeds not dying with herbicides. In Andhra Pradesh Bt cotton yield decreased because of bollworms eating Bt cotton, and the farmers were forced to buy an improved variety of the seed, which was more expensive and is said to have no effect on the bollworms in some regions. GM crops are also known to kill pollinating agents such as bees and butterflies. That is what one group of people says.

The other group has no problem with GM crops; they just have problems with Monsanto. Monsanto is a huge multinational corporation and the leading producer of GM crops in the world; exporting it’s products throughout the globe except most of Europe. It mainly exports corn, soybean, cotton, wheat, canola, sorghum and sugar cane seeds, each with it’s own modification or ‘version’. Monsanto drew attention (the bad kind) when it patented a gene for a GM crop. This had never been done before and people didn’t like it. The patent meant that if you buy the GM seeds, you can’t harvest the seeds, and if you do, you will be prosecuted. Monsanto has sued more than a 100 farmers for doing this, alleging breach of contract and infringement. Most farmers couldn’t afford the costs of a prolonged legal battle with a giant like Monsanto and went bankrupt. The others couldn’t even afford to pay a lawyer to take Monsanto to court. Monsanto also sued a farmer who harvested the seeds of a GM crop unknowingly after the seeds blew in from another farm. Bottomline, all the farmers who raised a voice against Monsanto, perished into oblivion, enraging this group who are now protesting against the MNC.

People also think that GM seeds are too expensive. That is true. While regular cotton seeds cost Rs. 50-60/KG, Bt seeds cost Rs.3,000-4,000/KG. And since Bt cotton stopped working, Monsanto released a new seed with two Bt genes instead of one, and some people think this is a marketing strategy and does nothing different. The high price of GM seeds combined with the fact that GM crops are now fast replacing organic crops, encourages farmers to harvest the GM seeds – against Monsanto policies – and risk getting sued.

On the plus side, GM crops have bigger yield and less use of herbicides and pesticides. Crops like Bt cotton kills the bollworm so that the farmers don’t have to spray pesticides on their crops. GM crops have better flavor and some GM crops contain extra nutrients like Golden Rice containing extra Vitamin A. Also crops can be cold tolerant or drought tolerant so that it can be grown in places that the normal seed cannot be grown. GM crops are also disease resistant, and some GM crops are herbicide resistant – this leads to less herbicide sprayed on the crops and thus damage to the environment is reduced. Although these benefits don’t look very important they however are. GM crops can grow in a variety of climates, which means that more food can be produced in areas where food is scarce. Golden rice can help in Vitamin A deficiency. Crop yield is increased because farmers don’t have to worry about weeds, pests or diseases. This can have major implications as GM crops become more and more mainstream, cheaper ways to produce them can be invented and this could end world hunger. But corporations like Monsanto who patent the gene for pure profit stop this from happening. If other people could research the gene, GM crops could be much more advanced. If Monsanto changes its policies, it would be beneficial for the entire world.

So, which group are you a part of?

 

A Lateral View on Video Games

Gaming has become a popular activity among adults and children alike. If you are like me, you will be reading every article you can find on the game that you’re itching to get your hands on, and feel conflicted because you want the day it releases to come faster, but at the same time you don’t want your exams to come faster. *Sigh!!* Talk about first world problems.

Video games are fun, but they do come with their downsides. First off, they can ruin your eyes. Who doesn’t know that? Some people think that it’s the games that ruin your eyesight. It is actually the screen itself, whether you’re playing video games or not, and gadgets like the Oculus Rift  don’t affect your eyes at all. Although it’s meant for video games, it can be used for military practice, education etc. And some of the most popular channels on YouTube are related to gaming. But you can play too many games, for too much time. If you play video games while you are supposed to be doing something else, the results can be disastrous. Excess of video games can take a toll on your work and social life. If you have a project due, you will procrastinate and put it off for later just so that you can play a few more hours! This can get serious and your career and social life can take a huge hit.

But, on the other hand, video games are fun, engaging, and they improve hand-eye co-ordination, team work, reduce depression and improve your decision making skills. First person shooters are said to increase aggression in kids, but several studies have been done in this regard and the consensus is that the aggression shown in violent video games are not transferred to all the kids playing them, and is dependent on the home environment and the overall nature of the child. Games like Minecraft also help build resource management skills. Games also help increase the eyes’ agility, as long it is not exposed to the screen for a long period of time. The video game industry is in it’s prime and joining a game developing company such as EA or Ubisoft as a game tester or game designer is a  viable career option. In 2012 the video game industry was worth $67 billion, and is expected to rise to $82 billion by 2017.  Video games are also used to cure many mental illnesses and cataracts. Video games provide the player with a surreal experience that can’t be found in real life, and although this is the cause for most addictions, if they are balanced with other things, they can be fun and engaging.

A Lateral View on Overpopulation

I recently finished reading the best book I’ve ever read: Dan Brown’s Inferno. The plot revolves around Harvard Symbologist Robert Langdon waking up in a hospital without any information on how he got there. Long story short, he has to stop a plague from being released and killing most of the population. This plague has been created by a scientist who knows that if the population growth is not controlled, the human species will go extinct by 2100.

This got me thinking about overpopulation. First of all, is it real? You would say: “Of course it is! We’re being taught about it in school!” Let’s assume for a moment that it is real. Please keep an open mind as you read my views. Human population is increasing exponentially, and by the end of this century we will run out of resources. But that is only if our technology hasn’t advanced in tandem by that time. I mean, 2100 is a long way ahead. We already have the technology to 3D print houses!(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/ultratravel/the-next-big-thing/10110195/The-worlds-first-3D-printed-house.html http://www.wimp.com/printerhouse/) It’s hard to believe that we will still be dependent on fossil fuels in the next 40 years, let alone 80 or 90 years. We will probably have managed to harvest the sun’s energy much more efficiently, and maybe use anti matter for electricity. But for the sake assume that we will still be dependent on fossil fuels for electricity (note that mining uranium also requires fuel so nuclear fission is still dependent on fossil fuels) then yes, we will die out, or at least scientifically go down the evolutionary ladder. But humans have a way of pulling through, and I strongly believe that due to our mental superiority we will eventually go back to our current status, and maybe even to a more advanced stage of civilization. Of course, this may take hundreds or maybe even a thousand years more than if we found an alternate source of energy. And we will need to find a budget friendly way to convert salt water to fresh water. But this is only if the risk of overpopulation is real.

Sure, it may seem like that now, and the last time there was a risk of overpopulation, the plague struck. But because of the plague, the Renaissance started. Humans don’t pay attention until a serious and grave catastrophe strikes. This is an element of Darwinism and nature’s way of keeping the population under control. Another disease like the plague will show up, except this time it won’t be quarantined so quickly. In any case, another world war is imminent and if the superpowers play a major hand, there will be a nuclear winter. If the U.S and Russia launch enough nukes then we will go into nuclear darkness. (http://www.nucleardarkness.org/warconsequences/deadlyglobalclimatechange/), and we will go into an extreme ice age, which will surely cause the consequences I have explained above, if not total annihilation of the human race.  Say that a miracle occurs and there is no war, but even then there would be widespread panic owing to depleting resources. Fuels will be expensive, and countries with a large population will pass strict laws in favor of population control, so as to support their citizens. A similar thing is happening in India now. With a population of over 1,000,000,000 (I put the number for effect), you can’t throw a stone without it hitting a corrupt cop or politician. This is causing the rupee to fall to Rs.60=$1. In 2008 it was 40 to 1. As the population increased, the economy crashed. As a result, commodities are more expensive to import and the country needs a smaller population to support or it will go bankrupt. There is another barrier for population: as prices of food, water and electricity go up, jobs will be harder and harder to find, and people will realize that having kids is too expensive, and this will affect population growth negatively.

These are two valid arguments, they both have an equal chance of occurring. In the end, is overpopulation a real threat or a myth taught to us in schools? It is too early to say, but if you ask me I think that there is a really small chance that we will go extinct, or run out of resources.

A Lateral View on Formal Education.

My tests have just gotten over, and I’ve been thinking about formal education, specifically about its necessity in today’s day and age. Formal education in the olden days was only provided to the higher classes and the lower classes had to be educated by their parents. Not much has changed today. The best education is given by big private schools, while the poorer people have to make do with whatever education the government provides them in the government aided public schools. That being said, what is the benefit of a school as an institutionalized education provider? As members of the privileged classes, we have access to the internet, and all the knowledge in the world. Yet we children are still sent to a private or public school as soon as we learn to utter our first sound. I am referring to the standardized K-12 education, especially in India. Everything we learn during this period, can be taught to us by our parent/s and/or the internet. Universities like Harvard and Yale also accept home schooled students, and they also get more scholarships. So why isn’t that a mainstream choice? Sometimes this type of education is better than institutionalised education. There is no stress of exams, there is no standardized curriculum, and we can focus on our strengths and interests. For example, I am interested in Theoretical Physics and Math but I hate Biology. I want to become a Physicist and can’t stop wondering how will the knowledge of asexual reproduction in plants help me later in life? I will memorise the chapter for the exams, but I will forget it soon after.  With homeschooling , I can focus on Physics, Math and other subjects that I find interesting, some of which are not in the standard curriculum, e.g., Quantum Physics. I may also focus on topics which I may need later in life, whether I like them or not.

But on the other hand, the discipline and pressure of schools give us the initiative to study and exams give us something to strive for. We get to meet new friends, share experiences and expand our horizons. It is good for developing all round skills, but we can start honing our skills after the 10th grade. We get occasional endorsements from teachers (as rare as getting a Master Ball in Pokemon), access to equipment in the labs and certain practices of application to the theories we study in books (although this is more of a feature of the international curriculums and not practised in the national curriculum). I went to a school called Singapore International School and I remember doing Science experiments in third and fourth grade which I should be doing now in eighth (and which I’m still not getting to do because now I’m in a national curriculum). That is all that comes to mind as to the benefits of an institutionalised education system. These don’t seem like a big enough returns to offset the amount of money and energy we spend on private schools. So why do parents do it? Is it because they themselves went to school? Is it because other parents do it? Or is it out of fear that their kids won’t get into good colleges? My best guess is that social convention dictates it, and laws like RTE carve it in stone.

So why can’t we all be like Sheldon?

Social Convention is Stupid