Showing 101 - 110 of 205 annotations tagged with the keyword "Science"

Into the No Zone

Metcalf, Tim

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Metcalf explores relationships between the worlds of science and experience in the three parts of this collection: devolve, involute, and evolutional. He makes it clear at the beginning: "the radiant truth is not alive / it is a sin to call consciousness dead" (10). At the same time, though, "Nobody needs YOU. Complete this form" (14). If consciousness devolves on matter, then the soul--where presumably consciousness used to live before it devolved--may be permitted to involute without consequence. "Yes, yes, / the dawn," our Bard writes, "it is beautiful. I try to miss it" (25). "Never mind who my parents were. / They dropped me off down here / on their way to somewhere else." ("Stork’s Kid," 41)

The final section, "Evolutional," suggests the direction in which our species might be moving: "Maybe I can live to one hundred and eight . . . by transplantation." ("Last to Go," 49) Perhaps the poet has already found his niche in this process, "It took me many years to find a market--niche / in speculative contemporary Australian social evolution . . . " (67) And yet, beneath all this (or above it), the poet comments, "I promised myself to speak in love only . . . You push me / for that poem I have not written yet." ("Our Poem," 43)

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The Handmaid's Tale

Atwood, Margaret

Last Updated: Aug-23-2006
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the futuristic Republic of Gilead. Sometime in the future, conservative Christians take control of the United States and establish a dictatorship. Most women in Gilead are infertile after repeated exposure to pesticides, nuclear waste, or leakages from chemical weapons. The few fertile women are taken to camps and trained to be handmaidens, birth-mothers for the upper-class. Infertile lower-class women are sent either to clean up toxic waste or to become "Marthas," house servants. No women in the Republic are permitted to be openly sexual; sex is for reproduction only. The government declares this a feminist improvement on the sexual politics of today when women are seen as sex objects.

The novel focuses on one handmaid, Offred (she is given the name of the man whose children she is expected to bear--she is of Fred). Offred became a handmaid after an attempt to escape with her daughter and husband from Gilead. They fail; her daughter is given away to a needy woman in the upper circles, and Offred does not know whether her husband is alive or dead, whether he escaped or was captured. Offred is in the service of the General and his wife, Serena Joy. Serena Joy hates that she is unable to bear children and hates Offred for taking her husband seed. If Offred does not become pregnant promptly, Serena Joy will undoubtedly take revenge by sending her away, possibily to the toxic colonies.

Offred does not become pregnant, but she does develop an unexpected relationship with the General. He plays games of Scrabble with her (all forms of writing are officially denied handmaids) and gives her gifts of cosmetics and old fashion magazines. One night he dresses her in a cocktail dress and takes her to an illegal nightclub where Offred runs into an old female friend, now a prostitute in the club.

Serena Joy, desperate for children, finally arranges for Offred to sleep with the chauffeur. The two are happy together; she thinks she is pregnant. Soon after, Serena Joy finds the cocktail dress the General gave to Offred. She knows her husband is to blame, but accuses Offred anyway and sends for the police to take her away to certain death. When the van arrives to take her away, however, it is driven by rebels who carry Offred to safety.

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God's Grace

Malamud, Bernard

Last Updated: Aug-22-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Cohn surfaces from a deep-sea dive to find that the world has been destroyed by nuclear war. His boat is still there, though all the crew members are gone. He hears the voice of God say that He is creating a second flood to wipe out the humans who have once again disappointed him. Yet Cohn is not another Noah, merely someone overlooked. He waits for his death or the ebbing of the flood, whichever comes first.

He discovers that a highly trained chimpanzee, Buz, has also survived and lives on board. Soon, Buz and Cohn sight a tropical island. Crusoe-like, they set up a home on the island, which apparently has no animal life. The two survive on fruits and rice. Cohn discovers that Buz’s former owner, an eccentric German scientist, implanted a voice box in the chimp’s throat. Cohn connects the wires that jut from his throat and the chimp begins to speak fluid English. Other animal life begins to appear on the island, all of it simian. A gorilla shows up first, a troop of chimps follows. Buz teaches them English.

Cohn imagines that chimpanzees are meant to replace man as the dominant creature on earth and he tries to teach them to avoid the mistakes of man. But the chimps have their own agenda. The dominant male, Esau, tries to "rape" the female when she first comes into heat and threatens all the other chimps. When Cohn mates with the female, producing a human/chimp child, the jealousy of the other chimps becomes a destructive force. Baboons appear by the shore and the young chimps hunt, kill, and eat the baboons, calling them dirty, stupid creatures. When Cohn complains, they steal his child, finally killing her. They then force Cohn to carry wood up the mountain. They slit his throat and throw him onto the fire, built from the wood he carried.

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Fra Lippo Lippi

Browning, Robert

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem is narrated by Fra Lippo Lippi, a Florentine painter and friar of the fifteenth century. Lippi is stopped by watchmen just as he drunkenly leaves a bordello. They tell him that he ought not be on the streets at night and are surprised to find a friar in such a state. Drunkenly, Lippi tells them his story. He was orphaned and taken to a monastery where the monks set him to work painting on the walls of the church.

The friars are amazed by his skill, but insist that he remove his work for it is a representation of bodies, not of souls. It does not teach a moral lesson, either. So Lippi sarcastically paints a gruesome picture of the martyred Saint Lawrence. When a group of nuns enlist his help, he paints a cloudy collection of saints surrounding Mary but in the corner is an image of himself. He enters their presence in all his fleshy glory.

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Father and Son

Gosse, Edmund

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Victorian critic and poet Edmund Gosse was the child of respected zoologist Philip Gosse, a minister within the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist evangelical sect. This memoir of Gosse’s childhood and young adulthood details his upbringing by parents whose faith and literal approach to Scripture directed all their domestic practices.

It details the older Gosse’s agony as he struggles to reconcile his scientific vocation with his religious faith in the face of the hefty challenges posed by Chambers, Lyell and Darwin’s mid-century hypotheses about the age of the earth and the diversity of its species.

Edmund’s own agony as he realizes his inability to fulfill his parents’ expectations for him in terms of religious vocation is another significant thread. While "father and son" is the primary relationship explored, the early parts of the memoir describe Emily Gosse’s influence on her son, particularly during her illness and death from breast cancer.

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The Duel

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A group of ex-Muscovites are living in the hot and humid Caucasus. Among them are Laevsky, Nadyezhda Fyodorovna, Von Koren, Samoylenko, and a deacon. Laevsky and Nadyezhda are lovers. They came to the town to flee Nadyezhda’s husband and to live together in their own home. Instead, they remain in rented rooms. Laevsky drinks, gambles, and blankly performs the few tasks necessary in his government job. He spends much of his time figuring out how to get away from Nadyezhda, whom he has grown to hate. Nadyezhda herself is bored and has affairs.

Von Koren is a rigid marine scientist who deplores Laevsky for his indecision and apathetic philosophy. Von Koren believes that creatures like Laevsky who do no good should be killed, because natural selection ought to guide ethical decisions. He tries to act out his plan when the two duel, but is surprised by the Deacon and misses his shot. Laevsky’s shock at his close call drives him back to Nadyezhda.

Samoylenko is a physician and tries to be a peacemaker, but ultimately gets walked on. The Deacon dreams passively about glory in the Church or even in a remote village, but does little except laugh at his neighbors. The story is composed of a series of visits and conversations among the characters.

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An Enemy of the People

Ibsen, Henrik

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Dr. Thomas Stockmann, a public-minded doctor in a small town famous for its public baths, discovers that the water supply for the baths is contaminated and has probably been the cause of some illness among the tourists who are the town's economic lifeblood. In his effort to clean up the water supply, Dr. Stockmann runs into political cowards, sold-out journalists, shortsighted armchair economists, and a benighted citizenry. His own principled idealism exacerbates the conflict. The well-meaning doctor is publicly labeled an enemy of the people, and he and his family are all but driven out of the town he was trying to save.

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The Prairie

Cooper, James Fenimore

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the last of Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales, in which his hero, Natty Bumpo, is on the frontier as an old man living and reliving his experiences in the developing West. As the reader follows Leatherstocking in his final venture, he/she repeatedly encounters an interesting character, Obed Bat (or Battius, as he is sometimes called because of his propensity for imposing Latinate terms on everything he sees).

Dr. Bat claims to be a medical practitioner who has chosen to study the natural world, the flora and fauna of the prairie. In a novel that is replete with unintentional comedy, Dr. Bat invites apparent, intentional and pointed ridicule. He chronically mistakes his own donkey for new species of wild animal; his vapid attempts at providing any kind of serious medical advice to the various travelers he encounters remind the reader of the tenuous position of the medical practitioner in the early to mid nineteenth century.

Although this adventure is the last trip for Natty, Dr. Bat’s presence is a major portion of the old-fashioned charm of Cooper’s novels. The unlikely collection of characters in this novel keep meeting, even though they are independently trekking across the vast land between the Mississippi and the Platte. There are, of course, buffalo and Sioux--friendly and otherwise--who must be tamed or overcome.

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Kinsey

Condon, Bill; Linney, Laura; Neeson, Liam

Last Updated: Apr-26-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film tells the story of Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson), the scientist who famously changed his focus in mid-career from the study of gall wasps to the study of human sexuality and through his publications on male and female sexuality (1948, 1953) revolutionized the way we think and talk about sex. Kinsey entered adult life with the classic Boy Scout's view of sex that it was best not to think about it. (He collected a million gall wasps instead.) But under the influence of one of his students, Clara McMillen (Laura Linney), who later became his wife, and listening to the questions some students were asking about sex, he decided to teach a course at Indiana University on human sexuality. "Sexual morality needs to be reformed," he proclaims, and "science will show the way."

He begins doing statistical research on individual sexual behavior, training his interviewers to be open and neutral as they encounter a very wide variety of behaviors. He also encourages them to experiment sexually among themselves, and later even to participate in sexual encounters filmed for research purposes. Naturally, not everyone accepts this readily, and there are problems between Alfred and Clara, among the research assistants, and eventually between the whole project and Indiana University and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Rockefeller withdraws its support, complaining that Kinsey is preaching in public, and Clara tearfully complains that some social restraints are needed to keep people from hurting each other. The assistants struggle with the ties between sex, which is part of the experiment, and love, which is not. Kinsey continues striving, but with much reduced means. The film ends with video clips of interview subjects speaking strongly about the benefits that Kinsey's revolution has brought to them, one woman concluding: "You saved my life, sir!"

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Summary:

Born in 1728 the tenth child in a struggling Scottish farm family, John Hunter was a wayward and unteachable child who spent most of his time outdoors. At the age of 20, with no prospects and having lost his father and 6 siblings, he wrote for help to his older brother William, who was practicing midwifery in London and had just opened England's first anatomy school, one featuring the revolutionary opportunity for students to dissect their own cadavers.

John rode the 400 miles to London on horseback, apprenticed with great success under William, learned dissection, then surgery, and went on to become a supremely gifted anatomist and surgeon, one whose brilliant and tireless experimentation broke with ancient and outmoded medical traditions and established the foundation for modern science-based surgery. (When John arrived in London, the city's Company of Barber-Surgeons had only just dissolved to allow surgeons to organize themselves independently of barbers.)

One of his most important activities in working for his brother--and which continued when he made his own way--was the procuring of cadavers, which because of the customs of the time involved him intimately in the grisly business of grave-robbing.

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