May 26, 2021
Prompt 13: How can we know current knowledge is an improvement upon past knowledge
Object 1: TI-84 Plus CE-T
This object is a graphing calculator (image 1) manufactured by
Texas Instruments. I got it in grade ten at my school as we
began to study trigonometry and calculus. On this calculator, I
can enter various equations and even if it includes constants
such as in the formula, it is still able to solve it. This indicates
that it is more advanced than the previous calculator that I used
to use, which was simpler and had less functions. Although, the
previous calculator could do less, it has helped me when I used
TI-84 as I had gained knowledge and experience from it. For
instance, I needed to use 2nd key to draw graphs, but this was
no problem to me as I used them on my older calculator. From using these functions, I learned that there were multiple ways to solve questions.
This object enriches the exhibition as the use of graphing calculator is controversial. Graphing calculators have allowed the students to get to the right answer quickly. Though, some students do not fully understand why they got that answer as the calculator does it for you. This is called the instrumental understanding, which is when students only memorise the mathematical rules. However, without the graphing calculator you gain rational understanding, which can be obtained by understanding the logic behind it. Thus, graphing calculator has made it difficult for the students to gain rational understanding1, which indicates that current knowledge is not always an improvement from the past.
The graphing calculator is an example of current technology developing students’ thoughts. As it made me understand that mathematics does not necessarily have only one path to the correct answer. However, this has prevented us from going into depth. Hence, current knowledge is not always an improvement from past knowledge. Though, the calculators were invented after humans have come up with logics to program the calculator, so they were improved from prior knowledge.
Object 2: Hayabusa 2
Hayabusa 2 (image 2) is an asteroid explorer and was a successor of Hayabusa. It went on a six-year mission in 2014 to study and collect samples from asteroid Ryugu. It has delivered the samples to the Earth in December 20202. This object links to the prompt as it was based on the past knowledge obtained by the previous explorer.
One way in which this object enhances the exhibition is that it is an improvement from the earlier explorer, Hayabusa. There are parts of Hayabusa 2 which was created because of the problems occurred with Hayabusa. For instance, they decided to use solar pressure because their understating from Hayabusa led them to realise that when it was applied, it was more effective. Moreover, the improved antennas reduced the weight of Hayabusa 2 by 75% 3 as they gathered information from Hayabusa that heavier antennas can prevent an explorer from landing and taking off from the asteroid.
Not only the space craft itself but the samples collected by Hayabusa 2 will uncover many mysteries of origins of life. As the asteroid Ryugu is rich in Carbon, it may contain hydrated minerals and organic from 4.6 billion years ago4. This might answer the question of why the Earth is covered in water. Scientists’ previous interpretation on this fact was that it was due to the asteroids and the samples could be the evidence of that interpretation. Thus, the past knowledge is improved by the findings from the current understanding.
Therefore, Hayabusa2 is an example of improvement from past knowledge because if JAXA did not face difficulties with Hayabusa, they would not have been able to create the improved and successful explorer that Hayabusa2 became. They would also not have been able to gain an insight into the information regarding the evolution of planets.
Object 3: Current DNA model
The current DNA model (image 3) was made by James
Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. To create this model, there
were many people involved. For instance, they first needed
the knowledge that DNA is made with nucleotides, which was
found in 19195. Rosalind Franklin has made a huge impact as
she used x-ray and found out that DNA was arranged in a double
helical structure6. When Watson and Crick saw the x-ray picture, they were able to make the current model.
By using these understanding, Watson and Crick began their process of making the model. They constructed the model with trial-and-error method. Each time they produced a new model, they used what they learned from their early prototypes. This illustrates that past knowledge about the structure of DNA has allowed the scientists to realise the mistake and make amendments. For example, if they had not tried to create the model with three helical structure, they would not have been able to comprehend why double helical structure was better.
The model tells us why the DNA has to be structured in the way Watson and Crick presented. Once it was made, it has allowed many studetns, such as myself, to develop their knowledge during biology class. For example, I would not have been able to understand how genes could be replicated if the model did not exist. It could have been a challenging task for teachers as well because the model helped us by visualising the reactions that take place in our body.
The existing DNA model was an improvement of the past knowledge and will continue to expand people’s knowledge. As the model was created, we can understand why the DNA is arranged in this way and we can build more from it. It will contribute to the future inventions such as personalised medicine, which can treat illness more efficiently.