Monday, September 15, 2008

Roentgen's X-ray Radiation

Roentgen's X-ray Radiation: In late 1895, German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-ray radiation. This discovery would eventually land him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. At the time, many people did not quite understand the magnitude of Roentgen's achievement. Yet it soon became clear that he had stumbled upon something vastly significant for the advancement of not only medicine, but also for science as a whole. Comprehending the physics behind such a discovery is mind-boggling, but then again, so is the physics behind most of mankind's everyday appliances like the microwave and the television. And that is one area where modern-day society is falling apart. Man is no longer required to possess a working knowledge of the complicated technologies that surround him on a daily basis. Fifty years ago, people understood how their cars operated. It was a typical father-son bonding experience to get out there and change the oil of the family Oldsmobile. Nowadays, changing the oil is a highly sophisticated process with strict environmental regulations due in large part to the increased use of computers in cars. When will the final straw break? When will man realize that the more he employs advanced technologies, of which only a select few understand, the more he will increase his chances of creating what Heidegger calls the "Supreme Danger?"

Monday, September 1, 2008

John-Paul Sartre and Sickness

Jean-Paul Sartre and Sickness: Classically absurd and yet classically French are two characterizations often attributed to Sartre's first novel Nausea. Published in 1938, it is widely regarded as a quintessential work in existential literature. In fact, the protagonist, Antoine Roquentin, finds it increasingly difficult to define himself as a human being in the circumstances surrounding modern life. He is eerily similar to the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye (1951). Roquentin sees other people living according to the way in which they perceive themselves in the mirror every morning. The superficiality behind such actions truly starts to affect him in a nauseating, albeit existential, fashion. So what is the cure to this nausea that masquerades among inanimate objects and presents itself on the breaths of other people? There is no cure. People like Roquentin try to seek refuge in the domain of their inner Selves; however, that just leads to more sickness. Perhaps Sartre said it best when he stated that "Genius is what a man invents when he is looking for a way out." This statement surely encapsulates a variety of sentiments echoed throughout existentialist literature. And even Sartre himself refused to be labeled anything other than a pure exception, as he declined the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964.