Technology’s Place in our Lives

Our beloved electronics, where would we be without them? I’ll be the first to tell you that I would go crazy if I didn’t have all of my gadgets around me at all times. That doesn’t mean that I cannot go without them for periods of time. This had been known to happen, but if I had to live the rest of my life without my phone, computer, tv, or various other electronics, I don’t know what I would do.

I recall the big ice storm a couple years ago here in Springfield, MO. I was one of the lucky ones that did not lose power at all, but I went ten days without television or internet access. I watched about a third of my movies, read, listened to music, and even worked on this really cool Puzz 3D Millenium Falcon puzzle. Even so, I was bored out of my mind for most of that time. Has technology really destroyed our ability to entertain ourselves?

Now, I can’t badmouth technology too much, considering I am basing my entire college career in the field of computer science. I don’t want to give up my gadgets, but I do think that they can negatively impact our lives at times.

My first example has to do with cell phones. Most people, including myself, take their cell phones with them everywhere. That doesn’t mean it should or has to be answered in all situations. All too often people don’t know proper etiquette of where and when to answer the phone, disturbing everyone around them (e.g., store check-out lines and and movie theatres).

On a side note with phones, if any of you have experienced phantom rings, you know how annoying they can be. For those who don’t know what a phantom ring is, it is when you think you hear your phone ring or hear/feel your phone vibrate when it actually doesn’t. It hasn’t happened much to me since I switched to the T-mobile G1, but when I had my Blackberry, it would happen at least once a day. It became very distracting.

My second example deals with print media. We all know that online news has been taking the front seat to the newspaper and I have to say that this makes me sad. I know that it is inevitable, but I am not looking forward to the day that the only way I can get my news is from the internet. I like newspapers for one main reason: format. I like being able to look at full articles all at once. The stories are easy to find and you know you are getting that day’s news. When looking online, the date of the stories are almost never labelled on the front page and you can’t get a snippet of the story without clicking to read the full story. When I read the newspaper, I first scan the headlines to see if the story is one I want to read and even if I don’t want to read the whole story, I usually like to scan the first couple paragraphs to get the main points. So, for intsant, breaking or non-traditional(i.e., from blogs)  news, the internet is a modern wonder. But I would much rather read a newspaper everyday.

And what happens when you lose your internet connection when that’s the only source? No news. Period.

Along the same line, Amazon’s Kindle is an amazing piece of technology, but I don’t want to use it as my primary source for reading. I like the feel of a book in my hands. On top of that, I spend so much time in front a computer screen, I don’t think it would be healthy for my eyes to look at another screen for an extended period of time.

We can’t deny that technology and electronics have become cornerstones in our lives that are not going away, but we can’t solely rely on them. Think of the episode of South Park from this season where the entire world goes insane because the internet is down. We must have other ways in which we can entertain ourselves so that we do not become dependent. Those are just a couple examples, but nevertheless, if someone tries to take away all of my gadgets, I’ll have to quote Charlton Heston when I say, “from my cold, dead hands.”


Thoughts About Sound

I started reading “Tell No One” by Harlan Coben last night (it was adapted into a great French movie by the way), and I came across this paragraph in chapter one that really got to me:

“But I remembered how the laugh and the howl and the splash would ripple and echo in the stillness of our lake, and I wondered if ripples and echoes like those ever fully die away, if somewhere in the woods my father’s joyful yelps still bounced quietly off the trees. Silly thought, but there you go.”

It was only the first chapter, but it stuck in my brain deep enough that I had to stop reading after I finished the chapter.

Now, I know that it is kind of a silly thought knowing that sounds do in fact dissipate, but what if conditions are ideal. What if you make a sound in a perfect room that does not absorb any of it; will the sound keep going forever? The sound will bounce off the walls, but what will happen next?

Will it bounce back as the same sound that bounced in?
Does it just expand enough that it’s so faint that we can’t hear, but still exists?

No matter how cool I think it would be if every sound ever made was still floating around somewhere, in one way or another, up in the sky, I think it could be possible if conditions are perfect.

First, sound is a wave, but it also emanates in every direction from the source. So, the sound is expanding in every direction and therefore losing intensity just by being emitted.

Next comes the point when the sound is reflected. Now, we are assuming that the room is ideal and the wall will not absorb any of it. I believe that there is a least one example that could keep the sound alive. This is shown in my brilliant picture below.

Sound Diagram

Imagine that the circle is actually a sphere with all the “sound” lines coming from every point except from the point of attachment. When it hits the wall is where things get tricky. If the wave hits at the crest (top of the wave) or trough (bottom), it should bounce back directly to the source and then back and forth forever (in my mind) as long as the source is of ideal material.

Now, if the wave hits the wall when it’s at some other point in between the crest or trough, it will bounce in any number of directions. That’s when the sound wave gets diffused by contact of various wave pieces going in those different directions and therefore the wave is eventually destroyed.

From my example, it all depends on the relation of the distance of the wall from the source and the frequency of the sound wave. Conditions have to be extremely ideal, so I would say that even with ideal material, it is unlikely for the sound to continue. And even though this could never happen for real, the nerd in me enjoyed thinking about this problem.

I would love to hear what everyone thinks about my theory or what your theories might be.