Re: Peeved at the pump

From: Al Koop <>
Date: Thu May 13 2004 - 12:19:39 EDT

On 5/13/04 12:47 AM, "Peter Ruest" <> wrote:

> Wow! Aren't you lucky! My last tank filling a few days ago, here in
> Switzerland, cost me $4.11 per US gallon of 95 octane unleaded. I don't
> think you could get it below $4 anywhere in Switzerland.

The price was already down to $1.97 at some stations yesterday. Here they play a funny game of gas price roulette. It used to be that every station raised the price to the same level on a given day and then over the next two weeks the prices would gradually dribble down about 20 cents lower (I just noticed that my keyboard does not have a cents sign.) only to rise again on a certain day that somebody has to signal. (Sort of seems like price fixing to me.) Recently the this price rise/dribble down started to occur every week, usually on a Thursday. Then about three weeks ago they switched the raise-the-price date to a Tuesday and this week they raised the price on Monday.

I am convinced that anybody who would run for office on a platform of increasing gas taxes any significant amount would never get elected.

And Michael Roberts wrote:

> Don't make me laugh. Petrol as we properly call it is 80pence a litre, i.e.
> $1.40 . that is about $5.60 for a pint-sized US gallon.
> Still all cars which do less than 25 mpg should be taken off the road.
> Seriously.

>In UK it costs 90to fill a Hummer.

I have read that Governor Ahnold in Kelleefornyah has a whole stable of Hummers. He supposedly is or has converted some of these to run on hydrogen. (this might help politically but will not help our energy situation) Chances are not good they will be off the road any time soon in the US.

Howard Van Till wrote:

>2. The only way to effectively teach people who have been conditioned in
>this way is to let the price of fuel rise at a fairly rapid rate. The
>threshold of pain still seems to be lowest in the pocketbook area, and some
>people respond only to pain.

This raises an interesting question about how people learn and arrive at certain conclusions and apply what they learn to the real world. I agree with Howard that the only way most Americans are going to become concerned about energy depletion is through the effect of high prices for energy. For many individuals a rational argument seems not to convey much information for them to act on.

I teach introductory cell and molecular biology to college students and I realize that atoms, molecules, DNA, proteins, etc are not something they have ever seen, like a cat or a tree. I tell them they should use the diagrams in the book and notes to help them visualize these objects and place them in some sort of visual framework to help them to organize the many concepts they will encounter. (One student, on an evaluation, said, "Run away from him as fast as you can, he sees chloroplasts.) Lately, when students come to me for help, I sometimes ask them if they can visualize an atom. Almost without exception, they say no. Pushing it further I ask if anything comes to mind for other important objects we have discussed like mitochondria or chloroplasts. Again a no. I ask if they can visualize a cat and they act like I am crazy and say that of course they can. Personally I cannot conceive of how they learn much of anything with what I would consider a mojor handicap.

Now on every exam I have given for the past 10 years I always ask students to arrange according to size some objects that are part of the class material. I always include a water molecule in this list. Now we have gone over the situation of salt dissolving in water, and condensation reactions of subunits forming polymers releasing a water molecule. They have had a quiz and also a test where they were asked to estimate the size of water molecule (including asking which is larger--a water molecule H2O or a eukaryotic cell) They only have to memorize it if they do not understand it. They are explicitly told that an arrangement of size question will be on the final exam. And yet 10-20% of the class on the final exam will write down that a water molecule is the largest object of all the objects I have asked them to arrange in size (including a chromosome, a cell nucleus, and a eukaryotic cell ) Giving them 10 objects to arrange, in my experience it is almost impsossible tha!
t any student will get all 10 in the correct order. I have told other colleagues about these results and they find the same situation among their students. Many students (and the public in general) appear to be incapable of making appropriate connections between somewhat abstract words and arguments and the world they live in.

In my mind this idea that words are not sufficient to move many peoiple is further supported by recent events in Iraq. It seems like it took pictures of prisoner abuse to arouse the public about the situation even though there was evidence for it long before the pictures were released. Likewise the beheading of the American in Iraq led to a run on the internet sites which showed the whole thing in all its gory details. I heard a discussion on the radio where the majority of respondents felt that seeing the beheading was important to them. (Now to me, I have no desire to see the
at video and in no way feel that it would make one whit of difference of how I felt about it. Likewise for me the pictures of prisoner abuse serve to give the charges credibility but do nothing more to move me emotionally.) I am sure that how I see the world and react to it is considerably different than most people.

I also think that a similar situation exists for the concepts of evolution. I can see chromosomes, genes, nucleotides, proteins, but you really cannot see evolution like you can a cat or a tree. Somehow I guess I bridge the gap a lot more easily than do most people.

Received on Thu May 13 12:20:39 2004

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