Peter Stoler: Pulling the Nuclear Plug Reading Summary

In this Time Magazine article from 1984, author Peter Stoler discuses the state of the nuclear power industry during the 1980’s. He also explains what the viewpoint of engineers and scientists were following the end of World War II and looking towards harnessing nuclear energy for electrical power. Even though atomic energy was first put to use for mass destruction, many people sought to utilize it for electrical energy during peacetime starting in the 1950’s and technically lasting through the 21st century. At the start, people believed that nuclear energy would become such a widespread source of energy, that electricity prices would become much cheaper for consumers. Unfortunately though, the nuclear power industry has gone through multiple rough patches since its early days of implementation, some of which include isolated and sometimes widespread accidents that have occurred in various countries.

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It is very interesting though how throughout the history of nuclear power, some people thought it would not last while others continue to champion its triumph in terms of being a source of constant energy. Stoler discussed in his article how the nuclear power industry had been struggling during the 1970’s and 80’s but he along with many others knew that it would only grow stronger through the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Surprisingly enough, the public in many countries around the world, despite some of the risks, have accepted nuclear energy as a major source of power alongside natural gas, coal, and types of clean, renewable, energy. Even though nuclear power does pose a semi-significant health threat, local and even nationwide governments still cannot deny the benefits of having nuclear power plants nearby that provide constant, unaltered electricity. I am very keen to observe how people treat nuclear energy in the next couple decades, especially considering how some plants are being shut down in the United States while certain countries in Europe still have plans to put more into place.

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If you would like to dive more into what makes nuclear power unique or how widespread its use is around the world, please check the following links.

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Alvin M. Weinberg: Science and Trans-Science Reading Summary

This paper is an intriguing dive into what society asks of scientists and the relationships that people develop with various technologies. Weinberg points out that society can ask science various sorts of questions and expect science to have all the answers but not every one of them can be answered in a straightforward, logical manner. He proposes that those questions which cannot be explicitly answered should be categorized as “trans-science” in that people have to go a step further to find the answers they are looking for. This can be tied in with the different relationships individuals have with various technologies since some were created by scientists to advance a specific field while others were invented by non-scientists for public use.

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Weinberg continued by stating how something being considered as trans-science can infer that decisions are being made that must go above and beyond the strict limits of what science can achieve. There are methods of undertaking projects that scientists cannot be involved in while the overall public can, such as those that involve taking responsibility for the judgments you make. This however, can cause serious debates between the public and those who consider themselves to be scientists in any field of study. These debates can range from the differences between the ends and means of completing a task to the repercussions that could arise from successfully fulfilling that task. It all comes down to the question of, if society cannot find an answer in general science, what will they do in order to find the answer they are looking for?

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For specific details on what scientists do not involve themselves in or to see some incredible questions that scientists are working hard to answer, please check the links below.

The IBM Simon: The Great-Grandfather of the Modern Smartphone

Interestingly enough, when the majority of individuals are asked about what the first smartphone was, the most common answer is that it was the original Blackberry. Well not to rain in on Blackberry’s parade, but it was in fact IBM (International Business Machines Corporation) that designed and released the first smartphone way back in 1994. It’s name was Simon, and although it was chunky and did not visually look anywhere near today’s smartphones, it has become known as the great-grandfather of modern cellphones. If you look at it up close, it may not look extremely sophisticated but it did have one very prominent feature that almost every smartphone has today, a touch sensitive screen.

It is truly incredible to examine not only how much smartphones have evolved in a matter of 23 years but the massive impact they have had on society in that amount of time. At the point Simon was released, people had different devices for every task from mathematical calculations, faxing, emailing, calling, and sending instant messages. Jump forward to the 2010’s and not only does the entire Western Hemisphere use smartphone technology, but the rest of the world continues to join a worldwide network of cell phone operators. We use our smartphones for every task mentioned and more, including the ability to roam the internet, all in a small enough package to fit inside our pockets. Today, in 2017, we can see multiple large technology-based brands competing in the cell phone market, especially Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Nokia, LG, and HTC. Even though IBM no longer deals with smartphone technology and has instead diverted its attention to bigger and better things, its influence on cell phone technology is still felt today. Nobody in 1994 could have ever predicted it, but the Simon would pave the way for smartphone development and help lead to a world where individuals carry everything they need in one, small, mobile device.

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