. -' Page 20 • May 18, 2000 • O!nncDrlrietn~is Science & Technology ------~~----~--------------~------~------- Convergence and -~_D_iv~e_· rgence by Steve Ayers Staff Writer lar background. This could fulfill a variety of llt?eds, allowing con- cerned parents to completely block Many people are familiar with the out Internet pornography or con- Science & Technology concept of \convergence Soon, technological developments will al- low many media fonns to merge into one, possibly provided by a single carrier. So cable, long dis- tance and Internet could all come· cerned businessmen to guarantee the security of their data. OnFaith (wv:w.onfaith.com) is one service designed for just such a pQIPose. Marketed to Christian users, this service promises to exclude Internet smut. Business-to~busi- Scientific Revolutions through the salt).e service, allowing anyone to access these many dif- ferent kinds of media for an afford- able price. This will have a democ- ratizing effect, allowing everyone to benefit from the same services. · These developments could actu- ally have much broader implica- tions for our society. First of all, we must consider the companies that will actually carry such services. What kind of company could pro- vide cable TV and high-speed [nternet access all at once for mil- lions of subscribers? Even if such conglomerates as AOL- Time~ Watner-EMI are not a forecast of the future. It seems inevitable that numerous media providers offering their servjces through the same line, conflicts of interest will arise. Then we must consider the ef- fect that such merging could have on the appearance of the resulting media. Much of the appeal of the Internet is its versatility. It is pos- sible for the individual user to use a variety of rapidly evolving ser- vices to communicate with a wide range ofusers across the globe. If the merging of multiple media ser- vices includes the Internet, this could generate an opportunity for subtle but meaningful changes in the way that it is accessed. If set-top-boxes replace personal computers as the tool for access, it may be more difficult for users to customize their use of the Internet and utilize new services. In the worst case scenario, media provid- ers, realiz:ing what a lousy adver- tising medium the Internet makes, will modify access so that users are less able to ignore advertisements, at the expense of much of the Internet's tlexibility. Equally disturbing is the trend of divergence, or the formation of smaller alternative networks with structures based on the Internet. ness Internet solutions are also predicted to increase dratnatically in the near future. Though such networks could be useful, they could also undertnine one of the greatest advantages of the Internet; its universality. Cur- rently, the Internet is used by a wide variety of users with differ- ent backgrounds and viewpoints. Individuals are exposed to a vari- ety of opinions that they would probably never encoWlter other- wise. Likewise, nations are forced with the choice of either adopting the Internet wholesale or becom- ing obsolete. This has had the remarkable ef- fect of ailowing Internet users ih authoritarian nations to view litera- ture from democratic nations online, with little intervention from their oppressive governments. If a variety of alternative networks exist, each catering to ·a specific type of user, then there would be little incentive or justification for a country or an individual to partici- pate in a network where \subver- sive\ viewpoints are known to ex- ist. As Internet use grows more widespread, the support of indi- vidual users could become a sig- nificant force in maintaining the Internet's useful chamcteristics. Nonetheless, the trends of conver- gence and divergence could pose serious threats to the Internet's potential to cultivate these types of encounters. The World Wide Web itself originated in large part from TimBemers-Lee devising an solution for one problem. Few in- ventions have developed so rap- Most political revolutions involve a violent overthrow of an old gove:tninent and replacing it with something new. We· experienced this in our own country some 200 years ago when King George HI ceased to rule and \we the people\ began · to rul'e the United S.tates o:f America. In order to achieve this, however, there was a need for violence, leadership, and adoption of new beliefs. We also use the word re':olution in reference to social change as in tl1e Industrial Revolution, when people started working in factories instead of in their homes. Or in the 1960's in America when women ·and minorities, through demonstra- tions and protests gained equal rights wder the law. However, there are many other kinds of revolutions, including scientific revolutions. One example of this is the Copernican Revolu- tion. Prior to this revolution, people believed that the universe was centered around Earth and all other bodies, sun, planets, and stars, orbited around us. This revolution did not occur as a result of new. technology or t@ols or exploring the heavenly bodies, but rather from a reorganization of thinking. This revolution did not involve a violent overthrow of the old way of thought, but rather a re-examination of those ideas previously held to be true. Copernicus merely rearranged the universe with the sun as the idly as this, and it was the versatil- new center and the Earth as ity and universality of the Intemet a distant third planet, and that allowed it to catch on so demoted the moon to a satellite quickly. If we are fortunate;: orhitin£ the Earth. It was not enough to experience another untilrnany years later that Galileo These networks could function as greatidealikethisorte,wewillneed supplied the evidence for online gated connnunities, only al- to have a medium on which it can these ass1,1mptions. Using a lowing access to users of a particu- be effectively. teJe$C(JPe of his own construction, ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Galileo validated Copernicus' claims, enraged his fellow astronomers and ostracized himself from the scientific community. By changing the functions, sizes, and locations of the same objects, Copernicus' model re~imagined the universe. It took several decades for that new model to gain recognition b.y the general public, and over 300 years before the · Catholic Church recognized his theories. . This idea that scientific revolutions are changes in an established way of thinking is admired by many sCientists, but there are few examples to support it. Most scientific revolutions ate either extensions of some past idea or have evolved from something else. The cell theory for example, grew out of microscopy, the study of microscopic substances. Scientists studied tq.e properties of larger objects, boxes with smaller objects inside, and later applied them to cells. These studies became the inspiration for cell theory, presented as · earlyas 1665. This led to the idea of the life. 'those creation theories had appeared in Mesopotamia, Egypt, . and Greece amon.g P.Olytheistic cultures and among the Jewish writings gathered in.the Bible. Darwin's theory of evollttion by llatural selection was prof()undly revolutionary because it assumed that science could account· for the origin and evolution <Jf life without a creator oT divine power involved. Jn our century,. Ein.stein's tl1eory of relativity was considered revolutionary, but it did not overthrow Newton's previously existing laws. Instead it incorporated them as a more specific example of physics in three dimensions. These are the laws of physics that govern our everyday live. Most science works by fusing fields together <tnd adding insights or inventing t1ew theories through new technologies and data. It rarely undergoes Copernican revolutions. Scientific research is based llp<m the results of others, :those that came before us. It d.oes not set out to destroy the previously existing ideas contents of the boxes being a.nd beliefs, but rather to better the cells and .gradually (by e:xplainandinterpretthem. the 1830's) a nucleus, other By basing the theories of organelles, the role of chromo~ tomorrow on the successes and somes, cell division and many mistakes of yesterday, we, of the cells' functions grew . as a society, can gain a out of the still evolving cell better understanding of the theory. This theory is still living and nortliving world around developing even into the twenty- u.s. first century With the advent As we plunge forward into of gene therapy. ihe twenty-first century and Darwin's theory of evolution ~cience begins to re-examine also revelutionized biology, not itself· even more closely and so much from previous theory <levelop even newer schools but mostly fro·rn religious · ()f thought; we must remember ideas, more than two centuries th:a:t these new concepts will earlier that speculated about .11ot replace the old ones but add the origin of the universe and ()nto them. ~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~ Scientific studies indicate that almost nintey A Swiss study recently reported that compared Checkout: · percent of the population is right-handed. Although lefties make up Jess than the remaining ten per- cent of the population, there have been a dispropotionate number of talented left-banders, such as Einstein, Michelangelo, ahd Picasso to name a few. Being left-handed has also been closely identified with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and language difficulties like dyslexia and stuttering. · with nonsmokers, smokers have lower levels of a protein called paraoxonase. Within the blood stream, this protein provides protection against coronary artery disease. According to this study, coronary artery disease occurred less frequently in those participants who have never smoked, followed by ex-smokers and occurring most frequently in cur- rent smokers. Levels of paraoxonase concentra- tion also occurred along these lines. www.howstuffworks.com This Web site contains descriptions ofhow mod- technologies work. 'These descriptions are very .<tet:aue~<t but simple to understand; they also include .illustrations or animated graphics. Infonnation is searchable or listed by ,categories. As their n~me indicates this site explains how stuff works.