Sunday, May 11, 2014

Group 13 Teamon and Pumba - Reaction Papers

Life of Mammals

                Monkeys are one of the most social beings among the animals.  Monkeys possess big brains and also have strong limbs which they use to their advantage.  They are also very opportunistic especially when it comes to food.  It is also interesting to see that techniques like nut cracking are passed through generations by simple observation and imitation just like what people do. 

                In the documentary, different kinds of monkeys have been showed together with their unique characteristics.  Monkeys have good color vision and they use it to identify which leaves are herbal and which are poisonous.  Different species of monkeys can also live with one another by having different diet so that they will not fight each other.  Others are nocturnal and hunt food at night to avoid competition.  Monkeys are colourful, so are their expressions.  They can use facial expressions to send message to others.  Body movements and vocal communication are also used to demonstrate messages and this also prompts others on the danger that is coming to them.

                The social life of these creatures is very evident in those that are living in groups.  One nice fact is that the bigger the brain is, the larger the group would be.  Living in groups can protect them from possible predators.  But in these groups, every male must be resourceful to find his own mate.  Based on the film, it can easily be seen that monkeys that live on the ground have more complex and unrestrained social life than those that live on the tree-tops.

                Food for thought focuses on apes, which is the closest animal relative of humans.  This episode also put emphasis on the similarities and differences between man and ape.  First is the bipedal walking of the two where an orang-utan carries his child upright in the water.  Apes also display great capacity in gaining knowledge and it is evident when they use paddle in a canoe, and when they are using hammer and saw.  Early humans hunt animals down for food without the use of weapons.  But as time passed by, they learned to improve their techniques not just in getting food but also in domesticating plants and animals, building structures, and protecting their lives.  Views have changed and our society is more complex than those of apes, but we should not conclude that only humans have culture.  The food supply has been way up for us humans but the population had also been a very big problem right now.  The presenter of the documentary compared the evolution of humans to the progress and success of the Mayan civilization.  However, we all know that Mayans do not exist anymore maybe because of the things they overlooked and ignored.  The message of the documentary is so simple for man to understand and it can be summed up by the narrator’s last words: “Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, perhaps it's time we control the population to allow the survival of the environment."



Reaction Paper: The Life of Mammals          

BBC’s documentary series The Life of Mammals, particularly its episodes “Social Climbers” and “Food for Thought” opened doors to a wider and deeper understanding of human evolution. Throughout the show, the viewers were presented with how various kinds of monkeys interact with each other, their similarities and differences with each other and with the human race. Despite being exposed to societal hierarchy in the human setting, I personally found it astounding and unbelievable how animals practice certain classes and how they come up with such factions. It was seen that physical appearance mattered so much to them. Take for example the case of the Capuchin monkeys whose facial redness denote supremacy over the other. Those with redder skin are more powerful and therefore able to, to some extent, exploit their power. They somehow step on those below them by simply forcing a monkey of a lower class to give his or her food even if it is already in his or her mouth. Although extremely barbaric, chaotic, and abusive, I also cannot help but think that humans do the same. Our tendencies of forcefully taking what is not rightfully ours have increased and worsen over time. This, in a way, proves how animalistic we still are deep within, as we have evolved from these mammals.

            Towards the end of show, a question was raised regarding population control and sustainability. I think that it is but right that we reverse the way things are now and control the population in order to sustain ecosystems – its diversity, richness, beauty, and life. As technology moves the planet towards directions it can hardly imagine, human beings, as creatures entrusted with the skill to fully understand and comprehend the things around him, it is but our responsibility to make sure that those things are well taken care of and preserved. After all, protecting the environment is always a win-win situation for everyone.



Reaction Paper - BIRDS OF UP DILIMAN

            When I hear the words 'bird watching', the first thing that comes to mind would be a bunch of students gathered in one area, waiting for birds to come around and taking photos of them when they do, little did I know there was more to bird watching than I thought. When Sir Benjamin Vallejo discussed about how there are optimal time periods for bird watching and there are certain times for different species to be seen. He told us that in order to bird watch the 'right way' we need to take a 20-minute random walk around the science complex at around 10AM, because that's usually when the birds are most active.

            We had difficulty finding other species of birds other than Maya birds when our group walked around the science complex. This is because it is hard to see and identify the different types of birds when they are up in the trees and some of them blend in with the colors of the leaves. We probably didn't see much birds because we were quite noisy, and Sir Vallejo told us that this would scare the birds away. All in all, it was a new experience and finally addressed my misconceptions about bird watching, which I believe was long overdue.

            When we arrived at the auditorium, Sir Vallejo showed us the different types of birds that can be found around UP Diliman and discussed their characteristics briefly. He also told us the usual whereabouts of different species around the science complex. We were also made aware of the university's efforts to bring in more species of birds into the university's surroundings by planting trees that draw them in around campus. It is also during this lecture that I learned it is possible to make a great amount of money selling photos of rare birds, and also that the university does not condone this. Because UP Diliman is not a private institution, it does not require fees to take photos of the birds who have made homes around campus, nor does it encourage others to profit from photos taken within the university.

            With the right kind of maintenance and precaution, the university will be able preserve the number of birds who take shelter within its grounds and maybe even gain more species in the coming years.


            David Attenborough's documentary was aimed at educating us on the different types of monkeys there are all over the world, their certain behavior, similarities and differences. It's quite interesting how he discussed the certain social classes that exist in some species of monkeys, even certain customs when it comes to mating. This shows that they are indeed capable of complex thinking of some sort, given the certain rules that they follow in their daily lives. He also talked about how each species' brain size is somewhat directly proportional to the size of their pack/group. Brain size depicts intellectual capability, so a larger brain entails more complex social groups and standards to be set, and vice versa. Macaque monkeys were shown to have said hierarchy wherein one from a higher class has the privilege of obtaining food from a lower class instead of gathering food themselves.

            He also mentioned the necessity of color vision and excellent eyesight for survival. Monkeys need these to be able to distinguish the different kinds of plants; the poisonous from the edible, etc. It was also shown how a certain species of monkeys discovered the use of one plant as an insect repellent. Attenborough placed a few stems of the said repellent plant within the reach of the monkeys and they took it and started rubbing them all over their bodies. This behavior indicates that they are able to comprehend such things and retain the memory of that plant having said purpose.

            Another capability learned and retained through generations of species would be the way they obtain food. Some species of monkeys form alliances and travel in packs in order to gain easy access to food. Another specie of monkeys showed aptitude when they realized they had to hit clams against tree barks to get them to open in order to eat the food inside. Like humans, they find ways to sustain themselves, and this is what is fascinating about the documentary, it shows us how much monkeys are like humans. It also showed us how each species uses its unique features to its advantage.

            Food for Thought discussed how the Mayan civilization came to be and ended. It illustrated in detail their different traditions and innovations, which are mostly inclined with architecture and astronomy. They were very much logical thinkers with the certain achievements they've made; thinking way ahead of their time. They were able to build complex communities and maintain them for some time. It just goes to show that innovation is the basis for longevity and progress in any civilization. 

Reaction Paper: A BEAUTIFUL MIND

            After watching the film A Beautiful Mind, I was enlightened on the causes and consequences of having schizophrenia. It gave us all an in-depth illustration of the disorder; a closer look at how it could affect a person's life, no matter how intelligent he or she may be. It made me realize how immensely detailed the delusions could be, and taking into account the intellectual capacity of John Nash, the delusions' range were way out of proportion. The film also showed us the certain causes of his schizophrenia, one of which being his lack of social skills and desire to have a friend, which led to the idea of an imaginary roomate. His inability to be a loving husband and longing for a family led to delusions about a certain little girl, while his need to feel a certain significance or self-actualization brought about delusions of working for secret services of some sort. All of these dysfunctions eventually caused such a disorder, which the film illustrated ever so clearly. And then came the consequences of having such a disorder; the ridicule, the shame, and having to face reality. The film had also shown the brutality of insulin shock therapy back in the day, which schizophrenic patients were subjected to. Also, at some point in the film, Nash chooses to forego medication because it affects the way he thinks and restricts him from continuing his research.

            For the better half of the movie, we see John Nash finally recovering from his disorder. He finally realizes that the child he's been having delusions of doesn't age, and comes to terms with the fact that he is indeed sick. After having accepted his disorder, he decides to do something about it by going back to the university and teaching. He still is the neurotic person he was when he first entered the university, spending hours in the library, writing on glass windows and whatnot; but is now aware of his disorder, thus continuing life with more caution now. He continued his research on the game theory while teaching, and finally made progress. With the help of his loving wife and sympathetic colleagues he was able to overcome his schizophrenia. He finally finished his research and even earned a Nobel Prize for it. From this, we learn that it is possible to overcome such a disorder with enough support and will power. Towards the end of the movie, we see Nash descend the stage after delivering his speech for the Nobel Prize, and see his delusions sitting in the corner. He simply ignores them and walks away. He never really got over his schizophrenia, it still exists, but he no longer lets it take control of his life now that he knows it's all in his mind. It's some sort of a conscious sort of psychological disorder; knowing you are somewhat irreversibly ill yet just not letting it affect you negatively.



A Beautiful Mind

                A Beautiful Mind is a tricky film that allowed the viewers to navigate the mind of a scientist undergoing a psychological disorder. John Nash amazed the audience with his exceptional skills in Mathematics. He was able to come up with patterns out of the things he sees. He was also able relate his knowledge in actual life scenarios. He has come up with an original idea and finished his thesis through the help of the idea of seducing woman that he discovered while enjoying the company of his friends in a bar. Besides being smart, the anti-social trait of scientists was also presented in the film. It can be noticed that John Nash avoids interaction with other people. And this, maybe, has started the conflicts in the film.

                Just in the beginning of the film, the oddities in John’s behaviour are already noticeable. But, no one can immediately say that what they see is just a part of John’s imagination. The director has thought of a great way to let the audience understand Schizophrenia by showing them, first, whatever is on John’s mind without giving any hint on which among the scenes are realities and which are imaginations. It is difficult to find out that what’s happening is just a manifestation of John’s illness. Though, there are notions that too much intelligence can lead to insanity. Since John is very smart, it is really possible that he has been hired as a secret agent to decipher codes. Even his friends in the movie do not close this possibility. As the story progresses, the line dividing reality and imagination was gradually revealed. Many aspects of John’s life have been affected which includes his family and his work. The preceding scenes taught the audience more about the adverse effects of medications to the victims of Schizophrenia. It was shown that medicines impaired the patients thinking skills but it has to be taken regularly in order to reduce the effects of the illness.

                One sad truth has been revealed in this film. That is, Schizophrenia is a disorder that cannot be cured. The only thing that can be done is to control the disorder by maintaining treatments. However, the film exemplified ways on how to handle such illness. Through the never ending love and support of Alicia to his husband, John was able to manage living a normal life again. He was not able to overcome this illness but he managed to live with it.  He has proven that his sickness is not a hindrance to success. But, the core message of the film lies in the fact that Alicia, despite all the hardships she encountered while living with John Nash, still decided to stay with his husband until the end.

The Life of Mammals: The Social Climbers and Food for Thought

                The Social Climbers and Food for Thought are two episodes of David Attenborough’s documentary entitled Life of Mammals. These two episodes strongly showed deference to the theory of Evolution by presenting evidences that monkeys are the closest relative of humans.

                 One of those evidences that were mentioned in the documentary was their inherent big brain which allowed them to acquire different skills. They have the ability to determine when the fruit is ripe even without a calendar and they seldom get lost in directions even without a map. They have ways of strengthening their body by rubbing leaves. Also, they have the ability to exploit what they have to their advantage like Orangutans that exploit their weight in order to transfer from one tree to another. There are wide varieties of monkeys. Each has special body part which allows them to eat specific food. Like for example, some has excellent colour vision to see unusual kind of fruit and some has special teeth to crack nuts. These special qualities which enable them to do different things make one kind of monkey unique from another kind and allow them to live side by side and utilize different parts of the forest.

                Another similarity of monkeys to humans is their ability to establish social relationships. Who would have thought that monkeys have brotherhood? What’s more fascinating is that whenever these males fight, they hug each other as a form of reconciliation to re-establish their relationship. That is just one of the amazing facts that the documentary revealed about monkeys.  Just like humans, monkeys aim to rise to another social class. But, getting accepted in a class takes a lot of time and brain power. One has to learn social orders such as befriending a senior and performing grooming. It can be seen from the documentary that even in the community of apes, there is unfairness and inequality. Size is a great factor in survival. The bigger the size of an ape, the more power he possess.  

                In the end, David Attenborough showed that nature portrays a great role in strengthening or destroying a civilization. Due to climate changes, humans were able to develop new skills. This could also be the reason why the apes, which were believed as the origin of man, were able to learn how to stand. David Attenborough concluded the documentary with a striking statement that surely left a mark on his audience. He stated that instead of controlling the environment for the population, humans must control the population for the survival of the environment. Due to man’s ambition of dominion over the universe, the natural flow of life has been messed up. The documentary wants to impart to its audience that it is more important to focus on the environment and find ways to preserve nature rather than to pursue personal desires. 



Reaction Paper on “The Life of Mammals”

The episodes “Social Climbers” and “Food for Thought” of David Attenborough’s “The Life of Mammals” provide an in-depth look at how monkeys and apes thrive in their specific environments.

The first episode focused on the lives of monkeys and their different characteristics that give rise to each species’ unique abilities, usually connected to their feeding preferences (Pygmy marmosets, for example, take advantage of their small stature to be able to climb to the highest, thinnest branch to capture insects; howler monkeys, meanwhile, use their color vision to distinguish poisonous leaves). “Food for Thought,” on the other hand, featured apes and their capacity to develop skills and habits (not necessarily of importance to their physiological needs; one such example is that of the orangutan who learned how to wash clothes and chop wood) from being exposed to the human world. It also gave an insight into ape society and the evolution of man—from his simple beginnings to how he has shaped the Earth. It was said that we may be the result of apes learning how to walk upright in order to adapt to changes in the environment.

Both episodes demonstrated the natural intelligence of monkeys and apes. But beyond this intellect, monkeys and apes have the special ability to socialize. As seen on the documentary, they learned how to identify and protect themselves from predators by teaming up with other monkeys, how to defend their food source, as well as share it to their kin, and how to groom each other to protect themselves from parasites. A good relationship with other monkeys or apes was key to surviving in the jungle, and thus led to the formation of communities that range from small to large numbers, and, like human societies, have their own social hierarchy. This goes to show that monkeys and apes are not only smart creatures, but also social creatures that give relevance to creating and maintaining social relationships.

I think the most interesting aspect of the documentary is how it was able to show the uncanny similarity between us humans and monkeys and apes when it comes to social interaction. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we human beings constantly yearn for the feeling of love and belonging and we achieve this by being part of a community and mingling with other humans. Likewise, monkeys and apes have this need to belong, otherwise, they wouldn’t be living in groups (there are some species, however, that survive better alone or in small groups, as with orangutans). Like us, monkeys and apes establish close relationships with members of their group and immerse themselves in various social activities. One scene in the documentary depicts baboons “chattering” amongst each other, resembling a lively neighborhood fond of the latest gossip.

But building relationships is not the only thing that we have in common. As mentioned before, monkeys and apes also have a social hierarchy that is strictly followed. Some scenes in the documentary show males trying to prove themselves in order to have a place in the society. These instances further affirm that humans, apes and monkeys are not so different. Like us, they place grave importance to social standing, and associate power with position. Like us, monkeys and apes constantly yearn for the feeling of being looked up to and holding influence.

Reaction Paper on the Bird-watching activity

On May 7, we had a guest speaker, Sir Benjamin Vallejo, talk about the variety of bird species found in UP Diliman, specifically in the National Science Complex. Alongside his colleagues, Sir Benjamin studied UP’s bird species for at least a year. He described their methodology, which, in a nutshell, involved waking up early in the morning and going around a certain area for twenty minutes, enumerating the birds present. His team was able to cover almost all of UP Diliman, but focused on the more forest-rich areas, like the National Science Complex.

Sir Benjamin gave us a chance to experience what he and his team had more or less done. We were given twenty minutes to randomly roam around the National Science Complex and list down all of the birds we see. It was an interesting activity, to say the least. It was 10 in the morning, and the sun was at its highest. It was hot and stuffy and unfortunately, we were not able to see the colorful birds Sir Benjamin showed us through photos. In fact, it was difficult to see any of the birds because of the sun’s blaring light; furthermore, the birds were not as active at 10 am, they prefer to feed early in the morning and by the time the sun’s heat was at its prime, chose to hide in the canopy. By some stroke of luck, though, we were able to spot numerous Mayas, a Fantail and another bird which we described as having “two sharp tails.”

Despite the difficulties, I think that the activity was a good way for us to experience science in the field. I don’t really hold a strong fascination for birds, but I do find the fact that UP is home to at least 50 species of birds interesting. I actually found that piece of information surprising at first because I never really saw any birds except for the common Maya. But when Sir Benjamin showed us photos of UP’s colorful array of birds, I couldn’t help but be amazed. UP truly is a treasure chest of rich biodiversity and it saddens me to hear that this wealth may completely disappear in the future. As students and citizens who treat UP not just our school but our second home as well, we should do all that we can to preserve this biodiversity. We are known as a school of activists whose fight always seems to focus on national issues. While fighting for justice and against government corruption are signs of courage, we should also take the time to look at our own surroundings and fight to protect the rich biodiversity of our school. It shouldn’t just be humans we should fight for; plants and animals don’t have the voices to speak up and protect themselves, and as the only living creatures with the capability of thought, it is our duty to fight for those who can’t.  


CERDAN, EJ           

Reaction Paper: The Social Climbers and Food for Thought

                Personally, I enjoyed watching these two documentaries. These documentaries displayed interesting aspects of the lives of different species of monkeys, and how humans lived and survived through all these years.  In this reaction paper, I will focus on two things: my takeaway from these two documentaries, and my reaction to the message at the end of the documentary, Food for Thought.

                From “The Social Climbers”, the ideas that stick to me are: the politics and the socializations of different species of monkeys. It is somewhat funny to watch how these monkey societies are very similar to human societies. Some examples are: how they guard their young members, how their alpha male or leader shows their dominance, how they value their friendships, how they ostracize members that they don’t like, how some members rebel against their politics, how they share their food with their members, how they teach each other on different skills, how they remember their members even after they do not see them for a long time, how they use their teamwork to achieve a bigger goal. I think we should learn from them or at least remember that is how we should be as humans. For me, some people tend to forget to value our relationships. With our technology nowadays, most of us value our internet and mobile relationships more than our personal relationships. We cannot ignore this fact anymore with all these different conflicts we can see on social media sites mostly caused by misunderstandings and lack of respect for others. These simple things that we forget and ignore are what will make our society better.

                 From “Food for Thought”, I learned a lot more about human evolution. This documentary made me realize more how much potential humans have. From starting to use tools, to learning how to cultivate crops, to developing languages, to asking questions and finding the answers to it by ourselves, we made a lot of changes to ourselves to grow and develop. We shaped this world to address our needs affecting other species in our world more than we realized. We should always remember that to continue living in this world, to not exploit so much that we cannot do anything about the problems that will rise from it.

                I completely agree with David Attenborough’s message at the end of these documentaries. It’s time to control our population to allow the survival of our environment. If all we do is destroy our environment and not preserve it, then we are the ones who do not deserve to live in this world. It might be better if we just live in another planet since we are the aliens, the aliens who blindly degrade a planet and leave it to die.          



Life of Mammals – Social Climbers and Food for Thought

                Monkeys always interest me. Being primates, they seem to have a connection with humans especially when it comes to socializing. The way they communicate, the way they coordinate with each other and of course, the way they help with other monkey species especially during the presence of a predator.

                What I’m fascinated more about monkeys is that our perceived culture of theirs. Granted that this “culture” might not be as complex of us humans but nonetheless very thought-provoking.

                Next will be about food. Food is a very important resource because of it’s a survival requisite and as such humans developed various ways in order to obtain food supply.

Necessity begets invention, they say.

                This documentary tells us the situation before. Now as we may or may not apply it to our current systems depend on our innovation and creative thinking.

                The survival of the apes and the food-producing spree of the humans tell us that nature (and the human mind) eventually develop systems in order to survive. The theory of evolution goes into here as those who don’t innovate will be left behind and die from extinction.

                To sum it up, revolutionary ideas are the keys to survival of the species.

Birding Activity

                I’ve experienced birding before. After the stargazing activity done at the NISMED rooftop earlier this year, our group haven’t sleep and thus we are awake up until dawn. Birds start chirping and one of NISMED’s esteemed personnel pointed out the various migratory birds that can be seen with the naked eye from the rooftop of the building.

                Of course, when we are told that the class will have a birding activity I was really excited. However as we went around in circles and looked for birds, we realized that we were looking at the wrong time. Migratory birds fly only during the dawn and earlier times of the day bus at the temperature rises they tend to “rest” at shades of the trees.
                The birding activity ended with our group identifying maya birds and captive chickens from the NIGS compound.

                What I like about the lecture about the birding is that photo-taking of birds at the campus is absolutely free. The photos, however, mustn’t be sold (like on paid advertisements) or else the photographer has to pay the administration of the school.

                The greenery of UP Diliman is a good place for various animal species to survive. I personally hope that with the construction of new buildings will not disrupt the survival of these species.

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