Creative Thought Symposium

The Yellowstone National Park is a tourist attraction and beautiful feature of the United States. Were it to come to become an eruptive site as it once was in the past, it would compromise the hundreds of lives of its visitors and those who live in proximity to it. To address such a hypothetical situation, the Critical Thought Symposium group put together a theoretical response, on the part of the federal government, scientists who supply them with information, and various roles involved in the nation. We had heard about this interactive presentation as a great opportunity for the top students in the upper classes. To see it in action made all the difference in interpreting our perceptions of it. The Symposium was formal, but not too formal; there was a pleasant casualness within the presenters, as they were friends and peers as well as role players, and they kept things relatively interesting for themselves and the audience. The countering aspect was a slight hostility between the governmental roles and the scientist board. Whether feigned or actual, it was fairly open to see the dissent between the conflicting sides, where the governmental officials did not feel that the scientists were being of any help, and the scientists were not being understood by the officials. The one side thought the other was failing to provide substantial, decisive information, and they were depending on them to do so. The others were working to communicate their information without pushing the tide in one way or the other while still unsure of the accuracy of their postulations. This sort of contention is, however, likely a practical presentation of the reality of how a discourse like this would have worked, and it was interesting to see this demonstration of the events.

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Radiation = Hero

The Hulk makes for a great movie for those who are fans of comics-based films. While it serves the obvious function of offering quality entertainment, it also makes for a great opportunity to discuss radiation! The whole foundation of the creature that is the Hulk lies in a radiation mishap, wherein a normal man who has spent his life suppressing his anger is struck by interacting Gamma rays. What goes down is that Bruce Banner is working on a nuclear weapon that he hopes will be a less devastating device than the atomic and neutron bombs that are the current options for waging war on the nuclear front. His gamma bomb-in-the-workings was going to function by generating a load of Gamma radiation, disturbing the atmosphere to cause quantum particles that occur in empty space to be more present and energetic, so that their interactions with organic matter would yield mass destruction. The distinction that set his Gamma Bomb apart from other bombs was the lack of hazardous rays in the aftermath, as it was meant to leave no fallout radiation, such that the area that was hit would be reinhabitable immediately. With this, it would still be a horrible weapon, but somewhat less horrible than the alternatives.
The event that transformed Banner into a wild beast of a giant was one of total selflessness, in which he put himself in a point of exposure to intense Gamma rays in an effort to save another person’s life, believing that his own body would be demolished as a result. The game changer here was that, after his years of research put into the Gamma Bomb project, his body had basically become extremely unstable, making it, in effect, a gamma generator. Consequently, when the blast from the Gamma rays he saved another from facing hit him, it interacted with the field from his own body, causing his organism to make up quantum particles like the unstable cells within him, which added to his matter to leave him a hulking, 1,000 pound giant man, with this effect connected to his rage levels, such that his anger became a trigger. The transformation process, then, occurred as the result of a positive feedback loop, whereby the rage he was feeling triggered the onset of the Hulk, which in turn contributed to a feedback loop to further raise his rage levels. While this is all good and interesting, the rationality of it is that the gamma rays would undoubtedly have destroyed Banner, and if his body was at the level of supposedly being akin to a Gamma effect generator itself, he likely would simply have died or been seriously ill from radiation poisoning. Still, leaving the mechanism to its intricate functionality, as is, allows for a superhero who uses his minutely present conscience to maintain the hero instead of a wild killer, which his enraged and enormous state could easily turn him into.

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Digging for Gold

I have always wondered what it would be like to find treasure. I do not know what I would do with it except maybe spend it on college, but the thought of finding long lost treasure is such an appealing one. When I first saw the movie National Treasure, I honestly believed that almost everything in that movie could actually happen. After I saw the movie, I kept expecting to see on the news that the Declaration of Independence had been stolen. Needless to say I was a little let down when I realized it cannot actually be done. Not only can the Declaration of Independence not be stolen, but other scenes in the movie are historically wrong or impossible.

The treasure that is being searched for in the movie is called the Knights Templar Treasure. It is true that the Knights Templar society existed and they searched Solomon’s temple for treasure. People assumed they found it because they became wealthy and powerful. Eventually they left for Scotland because they were to be captured by The Pope and the King of France. However, no one knows where or even if the treasure exists. The treasure was completely made up for the plot of the movie. It tied in actual history and made the movie enjoyable.

There could be treasure out there for me to find, but unfortunately it will not be one that has a hidden map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

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Excuse Me Ma’am, but I Think You Have My Identity

If there is a movie out with Melissa McCarthy, it is guaranteed to be outrageously funny. However, the movie is not guaranteed to be entirely correct. The most recent movie she starred in is called Identity Thief. In the movie, she plays a character that is an expert in stealing people’s identities. She targets one man, played by Jason Bateman, who has a good job, family, and also the name of Sandy, which is commonly thought to be a girl’s name. She gains access to his credit cards, spending a lot of his money on pointless things. He conveniently finds out as he is being promoted to his new job. His new boss thinks that Sandy may be a bad decision for his business, so he calls security officers to handle it. Sandy tries to assure the officers and his boss that his identity had to be stolen. The officers tell him he has no proof of that, so they would have to take him in. They end up striking up a deal where he promises to find the thief, capture them, and bring them to the police by the end of the week. Needless to say, how identity theft is portrayed in the movie is incorrect.

First of all, the thief and the person whose identity is stolen so not normally meet. Also, the thief does not need to be present with the victim in order for the police to make an arrest.  Typically the thief is found and arrested in the area where they live. Charges on identity theft are based on where the crime occurs, not where the victim lives. Crazy as it may seem, much of identity thefts do not happen inside the country. Typically, identities are stolen from the U.S. by other countries.

Next, she is shown stealing people’s identity by getting a hold of their credit cards. Currently, because the majority of banking is online and all you need is email and password to again access to the money, the identity thief does not need the victim’s credit card. The way Melissa’s character stole Jason’s identity is quite possible, but unlikely today because of online banking. Also, the movie makes it seem as if identity thief does not happen frequently. On the contrary it happens all the time. It is a never ending crime, and usually the identity thief gets away with it. Another thing, she holds onto Jason Bateman’s identity for a long time. Normally, the thief will use their money as quick as possible and discard the identity immediately after.

This movie may be funny, but identity thief is a serious problem. It is a crime that happens consistently, can be difficult to find the thief, and the victim can lose a lot of money. Overall, the crime is rather annoying because it is one that is hard to prohibit. The movie ended up a on a good notes though. Melissa McCarthy’s character finds love in Jason Bateman’s family and decides to turn herself in because she knew he was not going to. Sadly she ends up going to jail, but Jason Bateman and his family are frequent visitors.

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The not entirely true story of “Argo” (Cont.)

Canada lost a great deal of credit from their part in the mission to save six members of the US Embassy staff during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. I have discussed primarily the falsity of the film Argo based on this lack of due acknowledgement, but there is still more to note, both on the part of Canada’s efforts and general incongruences throughout the movie.
Canadians had further purpose in the mission by getting involved with an active presence in the airport in Iran. They “scouted” the airport, and secured visas for the hostages, as well as “establishing random patterns” by sending people in and out of the country, and also buying them airline tickets. The hostages were supposed to be from Canada, in accordance with the false premise of the mission to rescue them from their holding in Iran. To make this more believable, Canadians even helped the six embassy staff members to talk like Canadians, “coaching” them in the nations’ manner of speaking.
Each of these forms of aid, varying in degrees of risk and exertion, are points that significantly culminated in the success of the rescue. Much of these was disregarded by the filmmakers, however. It is understandable that the movie had some purpose in renewing the truth of the executers of the mission written in history to the Americans. Because when the mission ended, the whole rescue was ascribed to the work done by Canada, the filmmakers took this recount of the event on as an opportunity to give back to America the glory of successfully completing such a rescue mission. To go so far in the other direction as to basically discount all of Canada’s role in the rescue yields a far worse result. Rather than have the true event reported as performed solely by the part of Canada, for the sake of CIA security and such valid reasons, instead making a movie that ignores the great work they did and puts all the acknowledgement on America alone for no particular reason than that it was an American film has a much less valid purpose and does actually insult the other nation by the circumstances that provoked the misplacement of credit.
To simply go back and discuss a bit more of the incongruences with the real rescue compared to how the movie portrayed the events, the film did what many Hollywood productions do- it heightened suspense far beyond probability for the sake of thorough climactic impact.This came up rather blatantly during the scene at the airport of the actual escape.The movie portrayed this culmination of all that had gone into the mission as a thrilling, adrenaline-pumping fight to the last moment to get the hostages out of Iran. A series of complications arose during the walk through the airport to their plane. First was the fact that the Americans had decided to call off the mission last-minute, which in the movie meant that the plane tickets might not even be waiting for them to pick up to get out of Iran. That didn’t stop them after all, and so they carried on- that is until they were stopped by some security guards. In response, a hostage decided to try getting them out of trouble by speaking Farsi with the guards, and it all works out yet again. –But then the carpet weavers that the Iranian government had hired to put together shredded documents cause more problems! Someone pieces together the face of one of the hostages currently en route to the plane terminal, and suddenly people are coming after the getaway team, chasing them down right up until the plane launches and they are on their way to safe lands. The wild thing is- not one bit of this really happened. In actuality, the walk through the airport went seamlessly. The tickets were purchased (by the Canadians, as I had mentioned) ahead of time, and the carpet weavers were really piecing documents together, but never ended up with the picture of a hostage, as occurred in the movie’s fairly ludicrous portrayal of the scene. These inaccuracies don’t really take away from the movie too much, though. They don’t give the Canadians credit for the tickets they purchased the team, but aside from that, they simply add a lot of thrill and excitement to a more quietly tense reality.
Although Argo is not specifically science related, it is a clear demonstration of the folly of falsehoods in films. A movie about an actual, historical event, without a true representation of the developments of the event, provokes problems for audience’s understanding of the events. When you walk into a theatre, set to view a movie of the same pretense and a similar level of intensity as the true story, it is easy to come away from the viewing feeling as though you have a proper understanding of what happened. When the movie is, in actuality, so far from the truth beyond the real premise and basic circumstances, this means a viewer has left with a very erroneous understanding instead.

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A Beautiful Mind: The story of John Nash

The film A Beautiful Mind effectively portrays the life of a person living with schizophrenia and offers viewers several comments on the effects of mental illness. However, it doesn’t just limit the scope to simply this aspect. Being a genius does not preclude the possibility that someone has a mental illness such as schizophrenia, and such is the case in the character of John Nash, the mathematician and Nobel Prize winner portrayed in the movie, partially about abnormal psychology, A Beautiful Mind.

Probably the most compelling thing about this film is that it follows the life of a real man with a real disease. It has been considered to be one of the most accurate representations of mental illness in film.

John Nash has schizophrenia and suffers from severe mental illness, as he experiences most, if not all, of the symptoms that are required to make a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The symptoms the viewer of the film “A Beautiful Mind” notices include auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoid ideations, delusional thinking, and a distorted perception of reality.

The viewer of the movie A Beautiful Mind observes how symptoms of schizophrenia have an impact on various aspects of daily life. His relationships with his family, friends, and colleagues are disrupted by the intrusiveness of the symptoms of his mental illness, especially because he is perceived as being so smart and the bizarre behaviors he exhibits are so incongruent with the perceptions that others had of him. The strange behavior provoked by his disorder seem even more difficult to understand because the onset of his mental illness occurs at a later age than is typical. Schizophrenia generally emerges in one’s late teens or twenties, but in Nash’s case, the onset occurs in his thirties.       

Once he began his decent into illness, Nash had increasing difficulty relating to the people around him. Even before the onset of his mental illness, he admits that he was not a particularly personable individual, and he had always been more comfortable and satisfied with numbers and his work than with people. Nonetheless, he is able to forge several significant relationships, including a romantic relationship that leads to his marriage to Alicia and a son (who in real life also has schizophrenia). Over time, however, the increased frequency, intensity, and persistence of his symptoms prove to be incredibly distracting, and even dangerous, putting the people that he loves in difficult and unsafe situations. While experiencing a hallucination, Nash leaves his son, who he is bathing, in water by himself, and the child almost drowns. When he is not experiencing symptoms and when he can recognize that he has been hallucinatory, and he feels terribly remorseful about such episodes. However, characteristic of schizophrenia, when he is in the throes of a hallucination or other symptom, he finds it impossible to distinguish between reality and the state into which he has entered. This state proves difficult for people, even those who love him deeply, to understand. When he is symptomatic, the power of the hallucinatory figures who haunt him, and encourage him to harm his loved ones, and it is as if he never knew or cared about them. This condition is especially difficult for his wife, Alicia, who is affected most by Nash’s illness and who is in the difficult position of making painful decisions about his treatment for schizophrenia.       This real life story displays the severity of this disorder and the hardships that come along with it. A not well known disorder is brought to light in this film.Image

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The not entirely true story of “Argo”

A recent movie came out about actual events, but the manner in which they were portrayed has been remarkably distinct from the actual. Argo is a film based around the story presented in the book The Master of Disguise, which a CIA operative (Tony Mendez) wrote, and in the article, “The Great Escape” (by Joshuah Berman). These works were composed around the premise of a rescue mission from the year 1979, in which the book’s author saved six US diplomats from the Iran hostage crisis. The movie recounts the incredible events of the ruse that saved the diplomats’ lives, but it takes a great deal of dramatic liberties along the way. To make the escape, CIA operative Mendez comes up with an idea to claim the people held hostage were actually working with a science-fiction film called Argo, rather than being US embassy staff. Under this ruse, Mendez got the hostages Canadian passports and fake identities to get them away.
Up to this point of the actual story, the movie maintains accuracy. Beyond this point, however, the plot strays quite a bit from the actual events. In particular, the impact Canada had on the whole development does not match up between film and reality. The US actually gave Canada all the credit for saving the hostages to avoid, “possible repercussions if CIA involvement was publicized” (Haglund). Consequently, the film “overcorrected” on this issue by giving the nation too little credit. Canada’s involvement was greatly excluded from the retelling in Argo, giving a false understanding of the role it had in rescuing six embassy hostages. People that do not know about how they did, in fact, help out are lead to disregard the facts of specific instances about people who made the mission possible. Among these are the people that historically hosted the hostages (Ambassador Ken Taylor and an embassy employee, John Sheardown), where the film only showed Taylor, and Sheardown was nonexistent. A main individual was entirely erased, a common practice in movies that rewrite history.
It seems insignificant, but if you think about the impact this has when people don’t aren’t given due credit, in a manner so close to the facts without actually being factual, it is clear how the audience would accept this dishonest information none the wiser. One would think how Taylor may feel uncomfortable with this undeserved allotment of credit, and how Sheardown may feel invisible. Even Taylor, himself, was robbed some glory in the film’s recount of the episode, where his hefty role in the mission was only fragmentally expressed. Not to say that either was or wasn’t expecting recognition for their actions; but to have your story told without getting to be a proper part of it would easily not feel great. As Ambassador Taylor is reported to have responded to the movie’s depiction of their participation in the mission, “[Taylor and Sheardown] are portrayed as innkeepers who are waiting to be saved by the CIA” (Haglund). To have put in so much and risked so much to spy for the Americans in an effort to save the lives of some embassy staff members, strangers to him, and yet be presented as a mere host with no greater purpose than that of an innkeeper, would understandably be awful. They would probably prefer not to have had their story told rather than to have millions of audience members see this version of it, hear their name, and think they meant so little and had such an insignificant part. I think it is especially demeaning that the movie made it seem that Taylor could do no more than host them and be awaiting the CIA’s rescue, as if he was in need of their assistance rather than having been a main contributor to the effort independently. And Sheardown, left wholly out of the picture, would find himself erased from history, or living history, as millions of Argo viewers would have no notion of his participation in the mission, either.

Haglund, David. “How Accurate Is Argo?” Brow Beat. Slate, 12 Oct. 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

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