Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2011-12 - (Page 5)
Revelations on Obesity
am neither a scientist nor a Rensselaer grad; however, I am the son of a writer of some note and I appreciate the written word, particularly when it is informative and understandable. As a subscriber to the Rensselaer magazine, I can honestly say that your article on the “Stigma of Obesity” (Fall 2011) was not only hugely informative, but fascinating to this nonscientist. I am not obese, but am very concerned about our society’s many “over-indulgences” and your article revealed some facts that were helpful to me in understanding this particular malady. CHARLIE BARNES Albany, N.Y. Origins of Life am very thankful for the education I received at Rensselaer. We were taught to analyze, think outside the box, change the world. At RPI, I was taught thermodynamics’ second law. In any given system, entropy, or the disorder in the system, would always increase. Nature prefers chaos. For years I wondered how our theories of the origins of life could violate the second law and not be discarded. Scientists were promoting a theory that violates a law! I read with interest the article titled “Plotting the Journey to Life” (Spring-Summer 2011). While still not explaining how hydrogen, helium, and traces of lithium from the original “bang” violated the second law and organized into the 90 other elements we have identified (much less how they violated the second law to become amino acids!), the team is now proposing an “injection” of biotic material that “jump-
started” life on Earth. Asteroids had millions of years to wander through space to find just the right magnetic field which would generate enough energy to produce liquid water which would lead to the formation of an amino acid? When we know that nature “prefers” disorder or chaos? Yes, it does sound like a “crazy idea.” Should
zircons be allowed to tell the story of creation?
Absolutely! Several studies of helium diffusion in zircons have shown that these crystals which according to Dr. Watson have “witnessed virtually all of earth’s history” cannot be more than 14,000 years old! It seems that zircons are telling the tale of creation. It appears that the scientific community at large has shut their ears. I am expecting more from our research team at Rensselaer. Since I trust our research team is honestly seeking the truth, I would like to suggest they take a break from all other research and consult a Bible. A careful reading of chapters 1-11 of Genesis will give researchers new insights. Since it is the account of the origin of life given by the only eyewitness, it gives an excellent platform to begin to answer the very questions the astrobiology team is asking. Dr. Watson says that “zircons have witnessed virtually all of Earth’s history” and that “we need to…get them to tell the story.” Well, here in Genesis we find the story told. We should be clever enough to read it. STEVE COLEMAN ’83 Salem, W.V .
The Tipping Point any years ago, in the mid-’70s, I was responsible for technology forecasting for my then-employer. I found a paper on the rate of adoption of technological innovations, and it followed exactly the same course as what I understand Prof. Szymanski’s ideas-spread model shows, and perhaps for similar reasons (“Scientists Discover Tipping Point for Spread of Ideas,” Fall 2011). That is, the spread of an innovation bumps along on the horizontal axis, rising only slowly, until it reaches a magic point: about 10 percent. From that point the adoption proceeds smoothly until about 90 percent market share, then flattens. The paper I had read showed this to be the case for a steelmaking process. I applied the method to the substitution of two-piece metal cans for three-piece cans in the beverage industry, and to the substitution of through-air-dried tissue paper for conventional wetpress and crepe technology (facial tissue and toilet paper, e.g.). The curve fit historical data for
two-piece to threepiece exactly, and yielded more-accurate quantitative forecasting than did the platoons of economists employed by the company. It turns out that if one integrates the curve as I described it above, one gets a normal curve of distribution, which should have been intuitively obvious to the casual observer. That is, there are early adopters, then when the technology is further developed and its performance and costs reach a certain level, as well as perhaps some underlying market factors, there is a general adoption, but it may not go to 100 percent completion for a variety of reasons, so the cumulative adoption curve flattens. ALAN SILVERMAN ’64 Onancock, Va.
egarding the article “Scientists Discover Tipping Point for Spread of Ideas”: The first sentence is nonsense, and the last three sentences provide one of many examples of why it is nonsense. Garbage in, garbage out, no matter how high-powered the computers and analyses. JIM KIRK ’65 Fallbrook, Calif. We’d love to hear from you! To provide space for as many letters as possible, we often must edit them for length. Address correspondence to: Rensselaer Magazine, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180; e-mail to email@example.com; or call (518) 276-6531.
MORE LETTERS ON PAGE 6
RENSSELAER/WINTER 2011-12 5
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2011-12
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2012
Taking Care of Business
One Last Thing
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2011-12