Ain’t no objectivity high enough

This is the link to the presentation:

This is the script I tried to go by:

The “value” that I decided to analyze in the article “The Really Big One” by Kathryn Shulz and one image was ‘objectivity’. Usually, science is seen to be an objective subject. However, it was interesting to come to a conclusion that the two examples of science communication weren’t ‘objective’.

I chose the value objectivity, because I believe this value is really important to science and science communication. When doing research, it is always important to be sure that there isn’t much preconceptions affecting the results and analysis of the experiments or calculations: or else, the research will be contaminated by our original views against certain topics. Coming from this, if the writer is leaning onto one view over the other, they may misinform the reader and persuade the reader to observe the conclusion of a research the same way as the writer.

In the earthquake article “The Really Big One”, the aim of Kathryn Shulz is to persuade the readers to fear earthquakes. I can say this because she does the following in order: she narrates the experience of Dr. Chris Goldfinger in March 11, specifies that the earthquake could come anytime soon, and how much we lack in preparation for it. Shulz recounts Goldfinger’s experience:

“It was March. There was chill in the air… snow flurries The earth snapped and popped and rippled…it was, Goldfinger thought, like driving through rocky terrain in a vehicle with no shocks, if both the vehicle and the terrain were also on a raft in high seas. The quake passed the two-minute mark.The building itself was base-isolated, a seismic-safety technology in which the body of a structure rests on movable bearings rather than directly on its foundation. Goldfinger lurched over to take a look. The base was lurching, too, back and forth a foot at a time, digging a trench in the yard. He thought better of it, and lurched away. His watch swept past the three-minute mark and kept going. Oh, shit, Goldfinger thought.”

Also, Shulz ends this quotation with “In the end, the magnitude-9.0 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed more than eighteen thousand people, devastated northeast Japan.” The point is clear: earthquakes are scary. Less then a minute into an article, and we always have this conclusion made. Shulz adds on after proving that there was an earthquake near the Cascadia region in the 1700s: “Counting from the earthquake of 1700, we are now three hundred and fifteen years into a two-hundred-and-forty-three-year cycle.” This suggests that the thing we just learned that could doom us can happen anytime now. How can we simply think, “Oh, there’s going to be an earthquake that could come in an time”? Rather, we might be thinking “Yikes” or other curse words. Shulz could have added methods to survive earthquakes, as there are ways (I included this thought specifically because I was trained on how-to-survive-earthquakes every semester in school in Japan, it’s actually enforced in every organization there). However, the article demonstrates how unready we are for it:

“The last person I met with in the Pacific Northwest was Doug Dougherty, the superintendent of schools for Seaside  which lies almost entirely within the tsunami-inundation zone. Of the four schools that Dougherty oversees, with a total student population of sixteen hundred, one is relatively safe. The others sit five to fifteen feet above sea level. When the tsunami comes, they will be as much as forty-five feet below it.”

Her main argument is to make us fear earthquakes, and she wouldn’t have felt the need to do so without believing that this terrible natural disaster has to be prepared for. Therefore, she purposefully orders the article in such a way, trying to make us feel the same way she does about earthquakes. Let me conclude that this article can’t be objective, as its’ aim is to make us coincide with the writer’s views of the earthquake.

Now search the image of the “observable universe”. You may find an image looking like a globe with green, blue, yellow, and red spots in what looks like a squished M&M. What do you think? I remember thinking, what is this? What does it mean and represent? What’s the significance of it? How was this mapped out? This is a map of the observable universe and their temperatures at different locations, so the argument will be to inform the public about what we know about the universe now. There are no texts, just an ellipse with a black background. How can this image possibly be not objective? This image is a result of researchers wanting to know how much we can map out in the universe. Notice the dimension of the image; it’s 2D. Theoretically, there could be higher than 9 dimensions according to the String Theory – a theory that could possibly unite quantum and the general/special relativity. The data gathered was gathered in a territory that we are familiar with and then transformed into another familiar territory: from three dimensional to two dimensional, so that we can better analyse this. This transformation is done so that we could better understand the information – which means that there could be important details that couldn’t be transformed. If this simple image, a result of data is not objective (as it was transformed to a dimension we are familiar with to make us understand), then how could a text with a primary aim to convince us to fear earthquakes be objective?

Together, it suggests that objectivity in science communication is nearly impossible. A simple image, the result of analysing cosmic rays coming from all around, can still lose information so that we can understand it. An article is less objective, especially since their main aim is to inform us about events and persuade us to feel the same way as the writer. Videos and presentations are similar to texts: more opportunity to put in personal beliefs so easier to persuade us. Even I might be persuading you without meaning to, that the image of the observable universe is more objective than the earthquake article. Science is known to be one of the most objective subjects. But isn’t it interesting that the communication of science can’t be completely objective?