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TBS Trip Documented by Paul Jung ’20

By Lizzy Moore on October 30, 2017

This interview was conducted with Paul Jung, a sophomore in the Benton Scholars Program intending to major intending to major Mathematical Economics and minor in Film and Media Studies. This past summer, Paul made a video documenting the Benton Scholars’ trip to France, Belgium, Germany, and Russia.

What drove you to make a video documenting the Benton trip?
I’ve always been interested in film, but I never had any experience. Before the trip, I got a job at the Digital Learning and Media Center as a media mentor, and I talked with my boss to see if i could possibly borrow a video camera, tripods and equipment. I haven’t really travelled before and I was excited. I wanted to make something for the Bentons so that there’s always something for us to look back on and remember. I also wanted to get some experience in video editing and I thought this would be a great opportunity. This was the first time I’d done something like this, so I felt a little awkward. But I’m glad I did it and I’m pretty proud of it.

What did you learn about videography as a result of this project?
I learned that audio is such an important part- if the sound is bad on a video, you automatically don’t want to watch it. During the interview portion of the video, I had to figure out how to properly place the mic on people so that the audio quality was good. I also learned that video editing was a lot more time intensive than I expected. I probably ended up spending about 50 hours in total on editing the video because I was learning how to use Final Cut Pro as I was editing. The biggest thing I got away from it is how fun it is and I realized that’s something I want to do more of in the future.

At the end of the video, you interview each of the Bentons, asking them about their favorite part of the trip. What was your favorite part of the trip?
Experiencing different cultures, talking with local people, making connections from random conversations- I’ve never been to Europe so this was a new experience. And I just liked spending time with everyone.

Finstoniburg: Startup Sauna

By mdirkers on February 12, 2017

Finland was the third and final country that the ’19 Bentons visited during our trip abroad in May of 2016. The Republic of Finland is internationally recognized as having very high per capita income, rich quality of life, comprehensive education, ample economic opportunity, opportune social mobility, and ingenious technological innovation. Thus, it was the ideal place to learn about how tech startups begin, develop, and impact the world. By visiting some locations where entrepreneurs gather to discuss and develop their ideas, the ’19 Bentons were able to expand upon many of the concepts learned during our classes Emerging Global Challenges and Innovation in the Digital Age.

Finland, like Estonia, is a nation where the government actively supports citizens who pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. This practice is one reason behind Finland’s high standard of living. Another reason is that Finland has a number of entrepreneurial accelerators, places where innovative thinkers assemble to collaborate on their projects and receive guidance from more experienced individuals in the startup sector. Certain accelerators even have a program where one can apply for unique funding and mentoring, where they will be helped to transform their vision into reality. One such place was Startup Sauna.

05-25-16, Startup Sauna

Pictured both above and below, Startup Sauna offers a variety of workspaces, including cozy work houses (above) and toasty saunas (below) for both public and personal projects.  Originally founded in 2010 as a branch of the University of Helsinki, Startup Sauna advertises that they are a “5-week accelerator program focused on finding the right product-market fit and go-to-market strategy.” (http://startupsauna.com) Their accelerate is unique in that they take no equity and do not charge for their program. Teams can select from either a grant of 1000€ or free accommodation during the program. Their accelerator is the foremost one in the location of the Nordic and Baltic countries, Eastern Europe and Russia. To date, Startup Sauna has received over 4,500 applications and raised over 100 million dollars for their projects.

05-25-16, Startup Sauna2

Some of the skills that Startup Sauna students learn include generating ideas, evaluating market opportunity for those ideas, conducting research to evaluate the user’s needs, prototyping the product, designing its interface, and finally, translating that design into actual program code. From there, designers release the beta-version of the project and gather user data from volunteers, which designers use to innovate further. This seemingly redundant process of collecting data and refining allow for the creation of optimal, user-tailored products with progress with time. But this gradual progression is not the only way innovation occurs.

This incremental innovation is what we see with gradually sharper screen displays, slightly faster processors, somewhat bigger hard drives, and incrementally sleeker designers. However, this type of growth is not what has yielded the most powerful of our time. Indeed such innovations are the result of disruptive innovation, innovation which upsets the status quo, makes old technology obsolete, and permanently changes how business is done. One such example is wireless internet: instead of being restricted by the length of a cable, users anywhere in the wifi field have access to an limited source of information. Another example is the automobile: instead of riding horses or bicycles, the car displaced such technologies and gave rise to an entirely new industry. In more recent history, Tesla Motors has launched the electric car, in hopes to reduce car emissions. What will be next? The overthrow of the gasoline engine though water power, solar power, or wind power? One day, will we be able to transmit energy wireless, or even extract it from space as Nikola Tesla thought was possible? While that has yet to be determined, the key to innovation is not allowing your vision of what is possible to by limited by what is present.

The Benton Scholars Abroad: 2017

By Peter Tschirhart on January 31, 2017

Infusing leadership and global themes into the Colgate University experience, the Benton Scholars program cultivates an educational environment that asks students to adopt an informed and critical view of emerging political, cultural, environmental, and economic issues. Just as importantly, scholars are expected to be outwardly focused: to share their insights with people on campus and throughout the global community.

Like many Colgate students, Benton Scholars often choose to study off-campus during their junior year. Unlike others, however, they are expected to stay connected to the program and each other while abroad–sharing their insights, collaborating from different points on the globe–with the goal of bringing different cultural and geo-political perspectives to bear on shared problems.

The Benton Scholars: Abroad blog functions as the locus for this collaboration. Each Monday during the spring semester, students will be sent a brief topic, idea, or problem, one that has resonance throughout the world. Students are then asked to submit a response–preferably a picture, video, or brief essay–which will then be published on this site. Responses need not be obvious: they can be creative, insightful, even clever interpretations of each week’s theme.

Entering its fourth year, we hope The Benton Scholars: Abroad blog will provide unique insight into topics of discussion and issues of concern that we all share in common.

This year’s contributors are immersed in different countries around the world, from New Zealand to Geneva. Their profiles below:

Abe Benghiat

Abe is a Peace and Conflict Studies major and Economics minor from Lexington, Massachusetts studying abroad in Dunedin, New Zealand for the fall 2016 semester. He is an avid hiker and biker and will be doing many treks in the New Zealand wilderness while abroad in rain forests, deserts, alpine zones and avalanche zones.

Sean Corrigan 

 Sean is an Astro-Geophysics major studying abroad in Hong Kong. He comes from Portland, Oregon, and no one who spends any time around me forgets that.

Andrew DeFrank

Andrew is from Washington, D.C. He is studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina with SIT: Human Rights and Social Movements from February to June of 2017. He is a political science major and peace and conflict studies minor. On campus, he is involved with the Student Government Association, Link Staff, the Blue Diamond Society and the Office of Admission. Last summer, he interned at the headquarters of Hillary for America.

Sabrina Farmer 

Sabrina was born and raised in Burlington, Vermont, which is a location known for its rolling green mountains and plentiful maple syrup. Her experience in Vermont inspired her to be an outdoors-woman and environmentalist. At Colgate University, she is a student leader for Colgate Outdoor Education and is often off campus leading trips in the Adirondacks. She is majoring in biology and studied abroad in the fall of 2016 in South Africa on an ecology and conservation research course through the Organization for Tropical Studies, a Duke University program. Her semester was spent traveling to 8 different national parks and nature reserves in South Africa, where she was able to contribute to ongoing research projects and conduct many of my own.

Quanzhi Guo 

Q was born in China, went to school in Singapore for four years, and studied abroad in Wales before going to Geneva this semester. An avid explorer, she is now settled as an International Relations major but not settled in learning about everything.

Ben Kelsey

Ben is a Japanese and French double major studying abroad in Kyoto, Japan. He is most recently from Manlius, New York, but he lived in Belgium for 4 years and Italy for 5. He likes languages, hence is studying abroad. At Colgate, he is involved in (or runs) the majority of gaming-related student groups.

Danielle Norgren

Danielle is a junior at Colgate studying abroad in Geneva. She is an International Relations and French double major. In Geneva, she will have an internship while taking courses at the Graduate Institute. This will be her second semester abroad.

Regina Pimentel

Regina is really bad at starting “brief” bios. She is a Geology major and a Women’s Studies minor and will be studying in Dunedin, New Zealand. She has many places that she considers “home.” On Colgate’s campus, she spends her time being on Link Staff and a rugby player.

XYZ with Q 8: 3D printing with Ishir Dutta ’17

By Quanzhi Guo on October 5, 2016

In the blog series XYZ with Q, Quanzhi “Q” Guo ’18 visits current and former Benton Scholars to learn about their interests, passions, and accomplishments. In this post, Q 3D printed a Möbius strip with Benton senior Ishir Dutta ’17.

3D graphs can be really hard to visualize and, sometimes, really ugly to look at, even if you model them on a computer screen. (If you have taken classes like Multivariable Calculus or Linear Algebra, you have probably felt this pain.) Such is the case for the surface of a Möbius strip. On a Saturday afternoon, I not only learnt how to model it on MATLAB, I also printed out one using a 3D printer, all thanks to my great teacher, Ishir Dutta’ 17 from Delhi, India.

The weird thing about a Möbius Strip is that it only has one side and one edge. As a result, its discontinuous curvature makes it not only hard to visualize, but also hard to do 3D-modeling.

“There’s a hole in the middle; and to make the surface smooth, it’s like 800,000 triangles to clean up by hand. So if we can print out this object, we probably can print most 3D graphs,” Ishir explained. As graphs contain a lot of information, he hopes to make them more accessible. “When you hold something in your hands, you know exactly what it really looks like,” Ishir said.

Over the summer, under the guidance of Professor Kiko Galvez, Ishir explored ways to take any graph from MATLAB and generate a 3D model. It was months of difficult research; but when Ishir explained the process to me, he did it in such a digestible way that I had no problem following along.

Ishir is definitely no stranger to teaching. As a physics major, he has tutored first-year introductory physics classes, as well as a handful of mathematics classes, since his sophomore year. He was also a TA for the Benton first-year seminars and was involved in developing the first free online course designed by students, for students: BreadX.

“I love teaching, and I think it is a critically important part of society,“ he said. “There’s a meta level to teaching – training teachers to teach – but college professors typically do not have to formally learn how to teach. Given that I may be in academia and likely won’t be taught how to teach, I thought this is the best time for me to learn,” Ishir explained.

During his three years of tutoring, Ishir adopted different approaches to learn when different pedagogies work. “It really depends on the students, the class, and the teaching material,” he said. For example, lectures sometimes just don’t work because teachers can’t gauge how students are processing the information. However, when you have a large class of people, lectures can be a good way to start off and set a baseline.

Ishir not only wants to bring his expertise in the subject area to students, but also his skills in teaching and some different social perspectives. “I especially want to push against the troubling idea that physics and mathematics are inherently difficult and that women are not good at them. Getting to teach would allow me to fight against these stereotypes and educate people on multiple levels,” he said.

He admits that he is probably not going to be the tipping point, since individualized teaching is expensive to implement and, therefore, elitist. “But if a fraction of people start to talk about the problem, change can start to spread,” he said hopefully.

And for all students in his tutoring class, Ishir always makes the effort to know them as individuals, which also facilitates his teaching. He tries to engage at a personal level with as many people as he can. “At this point in time, I care about how I can shape Colgate, or at least how I can shape a niche at Colgate,” he said.

As an international student, Ishir has been a group leader for every year’s international student orientation. “Having been here for three years, I am able to recognize the importance of forming a network of support in my peer group, and so I would like to extend my support to other people,” he said.

I guess the central theme in all Ishir’s involvements is accessibility. From making esoteric knowledge easier to understand to building more genuine relationships, Ishir, like the Möbius Strip, is trying to bind different exteriors into one loop.

FinStoniBurg: One month anniversary!

By mdirkers on June 22, 2016

05-22-16, Catherine's Palace


On the 22nd of the previous month, a time that seems almost alive in recent memory, the Benton Scholars ’19 experienced what may have been one of the most glorious Russian residences one could occupy. This palace is called Peterhof’s Palace, Peterhof meaning “Peter’s Court,” in honor of Czar Peter the Great. Located in the district of Peterhof in the city of St. Petersburg, this palace has been named “the Russian Versailles” for its stunning expression of architectural beauty and detail. Interestingly, in alignment with the nickname, Czar Peter is said to have drawn his inspiration for this palace from the French palace at Versailles. Peter the Great’s daughter became very fond of the palace, and she was the one responsible for expanding the grounds to showcase a series of magnificent statues and exquisite parks. Adorning the palace grounds is the Grand Cascade, a series of gravity-fed water fountains, the tallest of which is the fountain of Samson wrestling the lion. The water from all of these fountains flows out to the canal from the palace and into the Gulf of Finland, where Russian rulers would welcome foreign royalty to Peterhof. Between the waters of the gulf and the palace are the Peterhof Gardens, a potpourri of fountains, statues, hedges, trees, and shrubs. From the sea to the palace grounds, this expansive mansion was undoubtedly a visual wonder to behold!

While all of the architectural splendor of this site was certainly to be admired, what really stood out were the skills required to envision, design, and construct such a magnificent palace. Today, architects can plan and model buildings in a computer program, easily testing and refining their plans in a digital world, thanks to all of the technological innovation within the last fifty years which has moved our world into the digital age. However, these luxuries for construction that we enjoy contemporarily were not in existence approximately three-hundred years ago when this palace, started as nothing more than scratches on parchment, was in its infancy. Imagine having to plan and build such an expansive residence, detailed golden statues, plumbing for fountains, aqueducts for water, and parks with royal landscaping, without any electronic assistance. Yes, this means entirely by paper and by hand, a feat which serves as testimony to the mastery of those who built this wonder. The one who began the palace as marks on parchment birthed a vision for one of the most breathtaking palaces in Russia.

And to think, “This palace was not just a fancy display item; it was someone’s residence—a place where people awoke each morning, conducted national business, enjoyed the fresh air of the parks, dined on fine food, slept in comfort and security, and lived their lives.”

TBS Abroad Week 8: Flowers

By Evie Lawson on March 23, 2016

15 - Flowers - Field of Bluebonnets with Trees by Julian Onderdonk

Week 8 Prompt: Flowers

Flowers look beautiful and have a wonderful smell, but they have a steep environmental cost. Cut flowers — the kind given at holidays, birthdays, funerals, and dinner parties — are often grown in countries where the climate is warm all year. Kenya sends roses to Europe; Equador supplies them to the United States. At the same time, labor practices can be exploitative, and lax environmental regulations mean flower-bearing plants can be treated with harmful chemicals. In that sense, perhaps the best and most beautiful flowers are those that grow locally: as “weeds,” in flowerpots, on trees, in bushes. This week, as spring begins to bloom in the northern hemisphere, look at the flowers blooming in your area. Are they native? Do they grow on their own, or are they actively cultivated? Take a picture of some flowers, then tell us where they’re grown and who (if anyone) is responsible for them.

Ryan Hildebrandt

Flowers are everywhere in Kyoto, as they are in much of Japan. Flowers are found in many aspects of Japanese culture and have a much stronger symbolism in Japan than they do in America. Most flowers have a strong connotation and symbolism associated with them, and they are accordingly used much more extensively in literature, art, and storytelling than in other cultures. Most of what you’ll see in Kyoto, however, are wildflowers or flowers growing in people’s gardens just next to the sidewalk. Many homes and apartments have small flower gardens or boxes in the front, and throughout my time in Japan I took many many photos of these streetside flowers.

benton ryan flowers

Zachary Weaver

Flowers have special meaning here in Wales. Two of the most well known symbols of Wales are plants – the leek and the daffodil. Naturally, one may ask how leeks and daffodils, two very different flowers, came to represent Wales in addition to the Welsh Dragon. The root of the issue comes in the form of the Welsh Language.

In ancient times, there was a large battle for Wales in which Welsh archers were firing at their enemies from the top of a hill. The plants that covered that hill? The leek – or cenhinen in Welsh. While the authenticity of the story has been called into question, the leek has historically been the main plant of Wales. However, in the 19th century, there was a large push for a more romanticized version of Welsh history, changing the national costume and history to bring a “better” version of Wales to the modern world. A politician named David Lloyd George championed the adoption of a national plant. In a mistranslation (which may or may not have been on purpose), George accidentally translated cenhinen Bedr as the national flower, instead of cenhinen­. In Welsh, cenhinen Bedr stands for St. Peter’s Leek, which is known today as the daffodil.

Next to Cardiff Castle are many beds of flowers, such as this bed, that are grown in the form of another national symbol of Wales: The Welsh Crest.

Next to Cardiff Castle are many beds of flowers, such as this bed, that are grown in the form of another national symbol of Wales: The Welsh Crest.

As such, these two plants are seen growing everywhere in Wales. It is quite common for households to have pots of daffodils growing in pots outside their house or in their garden. Many national buildings and sights, such as Cardiff Castle, grow beds of leeks and daffodils to promote national pride.

However, other flowers are often grown in Wales. Many large estates have very intricate and beautiful gardens filled with flowers both foreign and native to Wales and the United Kingdom as a whole. Going to national gardens in the UK is a favorite pastime of many people, and many residents have their own miniature gardens where tulips and roses are grown in addition to many different forms of vegetables.


TBS in the Southwest: Los Alamos and Individual Responsibility

By bkelsey on March 19, 2016

I have spoken before of secrecy, but today (Friday) really took the fenced-in cake, for today was the day of our visit to the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory. I don’t dare share of its secrets, but it brought to mind a question that still perplexes me, because it has broad implications as well as narrow  applications.

That question, to put it briefly, is: To what extent do individuals have a responsibility for the ultimate effects of their actions, and can this responsibility be renounced, deferred, or delegated to someone else? What brought this question to my mind was our tour guide’s statement that – and I’m paraphrasing here – the staff at Los Alamos is responsible only for finding the truth and communicating it accurately and effectively to those policy makers who use it; Los Alamos is not responsible for policy, and its collective job consists in carrying out the policy without regard to opinion or belief of any personal kind.

That is not, of course, to say that no one at Los Alamos feels any sense of responsibility. I am sure that many of the scientists and other staff members who work there feel a deep and compelling sense that they are responsible for carrying out their jobs effectively, and potentially even a sense of duty to contribute towards the safety/well-being/knowledge/etc. of their country (assuming, of course, that they feel as though their work does contribute in these ways). What I wish to bring to the surface is merely the official stated position of the Lab as I understand it.

So, then, what might be the answer to my question? Speaking only for myself, and not in any way for the Benton group as a whole, I have to believe that each individual must have some responsibility for his or her actions. One cannot simply act without thought or care for the effects of that act on others and claim total ignorance, lack of intent, or lack of authority as a defense (lack of authority referring to the “delegation,” if you will, of responsibility to policy makers). The argument that seemed to be central to the Lab’s explanation of this sense of lack of responsibility is that said responsibility lies with elected or appointed policy makers: therefore, the moral/ethical/practical implications of what goes on in and as a result of the lab are placed on the shoulders of others. They do not cease to exist, but are transferred. This concept sounds reasonable, and indeed it seems to be a core part of the U.S. government’s legitimacy. Leaders are elected or appointed to represent the populace, and thus they take some of the responsibility onto themselves when they act on behalf of the populace. The moral act, then, is not in the decision of whether or not to follow orders, but rather in the act of choosing who will give the orders. And yet, I find it hard to justify such complete detachment from morality and ethics. A system of morality that promotes a common good must surely place responsibility for realizing that common good in each individual; one cannot refuse it. Equally, a system that promotes acting purely on what is in the interest of each individual must surely compel that individual to act on his or her own behalf without conscious or voluntary decision-making, seemingly making it impossible to deny moral responsibility and act in the absence of it. Thus I fail to see how it might be possible to exist as an individual entirely separately from any external concerns, and I fail to see how Los Alamos can fully detach itself from such concerns.

Of course, this lack of responsibility goes the other way, as well: if they have no responsibility for policy, then the staff at Los Alamos also ostensibly have no power over policy. Indeed, it is perhaps because they have no power that they can claim no responsibility. If their job is only to provide information, and if they never influence policy, then surely they cannot possibly be responsible for policy. Firstly, I would point out that the creation and the carrying out of policy are entirely separate: while it may be true that they cannot control the order given to them, they can control whether or not they carry out those orders. Furthermore, I would suggest that they do in fact have power because it is impossible to separate supposed truth from ideology and bias. Los Alamos may seek to present only the pure data without the varnish of political or ideological concerns, but even the way in which the data is presented can reflect these. For example, the decision on what data to present is inherently subjective; assuming that a policy maker is not shown every number ever recorded, the selection or synthesis process must, even unconsciously, bear the taint of human judgment. Thus there is in fact not a lack of power as I see it.

This is only a broad and shallow treatment of my above question, and one that I will admit is imperfect and altogether biased. I do not pretend to have answered the question definitively, but I have given my thoughts on it to the best of my ability. And yet, it is still not answered. The further question is: If it is not possible to entirely rid oneself of responsibility, is it possible to rid oneself of merely some responsibility? That is a question to which I have no answer at the moment, and I have already spoken for long enough. I leave it to you, humble reader, to ponder on this question and decide for yourself.

Again, I would like to stress that these opinions and thoughts are purely my own, and that I do not wish to denounce or condemn the individuals at the Los Alamos lab. I am merely using their example as an impetus for a broader and more general discussion.

TBS Abroad Week 7: Animals

By Evie Lawson on March 17, 2016

Week 7

Week 7 Prompt: Animals

Non-human animals are often deeply integrated into human societies. Cats have guarded our homes for well over 12,000 years; and in many Western societies, dogs are treated like human children (perhaps for good reason). At the same time, the lines we draw to delimit animal-human interactions are uneven when not more simply unconsidered. Pigs, which are more intelligent than dogs, are seldom welcomed into polite society — except on dinner plates; and guinea pigs — a “fine and valuable food” in Central and South America — are popular childhood pets here in North America. This week, pay attention to animals. Which species are commonly kept as pets? Are dogs and cats protectors and companions? How and where do human and non-human animals commonly interact? (Parks? Zoos? Restaurants?) Take a picture of a place (or an animal) you believe is typical for your local area.

Zachary Weaver

Cardiff is similar to most other cities that I have been to in regards to the wildlife commonly seen in the city: pigeons, seagulls, and ravens are common sights flying through the sky (or waking students up early in the morning), while often times someone is walking their dog down the road or in the park.

In actuality, it is very common to see people bringing their dog down to the park for a bit of playtime. Every time I’ve been in a park playing soccer or walking by one on the way to class, there are always people and their dogs throwing balls, running around, or just playing in the mud. The Taff River runs through the center of the main park in the city, and in many places it is accessible from the walking and running trails weaving through the park. So, many people bring their dogs down to wade in the water, or maybe to clean them from all the mud that is present in the city).

Other wildlife in the city is relatively rare, with the exception of the ever-present city rat. However, those mostly stay hidden during the day. I’ve only seen one rat out during the day, and unfortunately that day it decided to dart across the sidewalk where we were walking to class and ended up getting stepped on (but not hurt!) but one of the people on the path.

As for the rest of Wales, the most common animal to see is the Welsh Dragon. Okay, it’s not a real animal, but it is one of few national flags with an animal prominently displayed, and the Welsh flag is everywhere! In actuality, the most common (real) animal to see is much more mundane than a dragon – sheep. Since Wales is a mostly rural country, sheep farming makes up most of the economy. One of my favorite parts of the Welsh countryside is driving through common pastures. Many farmers will collectively own land, so their flocks share large, open pastures. These pastures cross roads, and the entrances to these areas feature grates on the road that have slits that are spaced just far apart enough so that livestock can’t escape. Also, farmers will spray paint parts of the livestock so they can distinguish which livestock belong to which farmer! It makes it fun when you’re just driving along and all of the sudden you have to stop because there are sheep in the middle of the road!

Grace Western

When I tell people that I am in Cameroon, West Africa, many people picture giraffes, lions, and elephants as my everyday scenery. However, I have yet to see any. Yaoundé, where I am currently living, is one of the largest cities in Cameroon with 3 million inhabitants. When we were living in Kribi, a coastal town, we were told that elephants once resided in the neighboring rainforest, but were driven away by development. Yet, Cameroon claims the title “Africa in Miniature” so they do have what many equate with Africa: animals. In the northern region, specifically in the city of Ngaoundéré, there are safaris to see these animals. This is a popular tourist attraction but as of late is not the safest due to Boko Haram. However, there is an animal I did not expect to see nearly as frequently as I do: lizards! They are everywhere and in every color. They are equivalent to mice in the U.S. but evidently are far less terrifying and more beautiful. Plus, you look up at the ceiling and watch them in their rainbow scales walk upside down and you can’t help but be impressed. Children even begin to consider some lizards pets, though not nearly in the same way we do in the U.S. The concept of pets here is quite different. As a self-proclaimed dog lover, I was ecstatic to hear that my host family in Yaoundé had a dog. However, the family dog lives outside and only gets attention at meal time. It seems the purpose of family dogs here is more of a security precaution. Additionally, there are stray dogs that just roam the street with no owners and just keep to themselves. Here, it seems, there are no pets, just animals.

TBS in the Southwest: Trinity Test Site and Very Large Array

By bkelsey on March 17, 2016

If I told you where we spent our morning today, I might have to kill you.

We visited the White Sands Missile Range, specifically the site of the Trinity Test. We were granted special access to the site; usually tours are only given once or twice a year on specific dates, with as many as 5000 people attending. After a photography-prohibited ride, we arrived at a circular fenced-off area. A lone black obsidian pillar towers out of the sun-parched sand as a testament to the significance of the event that took place little more than 100 feet above it. The dark shadow it casts seems all the more imposing in its contrast with the blinding light the plutonium bomb produced more than 70 years ago. At the far side of the fence is a line of photographs taken during and after the test. A low building shelters a collection of Trinitite, the greenish crystalline chunks that formed when the bomb drew sand into its vacuum, superheated it, and ejected it out around the site. Though pieces of Trinitite are not difficult to find, it is a federal offense to remove them.

After a quick lunch, we went to the Very Large Array, a series of antennae used to study space through radio waves. Our tour guide just so happened to be a Colgate alumnus, so we got a thorough tour. After looking through the control centre, we climbed into the dish of one of the antennae. Prior to this, we had been told that a single piece of electronics on the antennae cost $30,000. You can, I’m sure, understand the sense of disbelief we felt while standing on the edge of such a structure, looking out across the open plain dotted with measuring equipment. It was, to say the least, a unique experience, and a few among us also bonded over talk of astronomy professors with our host.

Our day was a mystifying mix of the feeling of being somewhere that few people would ever see, and certainly not with the intimacy with which we did, and the feeling of doing the kind of thing that you always want to but feel as though it would never be allowed. Today was very different from the untouched wilds we visited yesterday, but it was imposing in its own way. Truly, this is why we are here: to see things that cannot be seen elsewhere, things that we imagined we would never see, and things that we are very glad we did see.

TBS in the Southwest: In the Shadow of the Valley

By bkelsey on March 16, 2016

Wide, open spaces. Volcanic rock deposits. Petrified wood. These are just a few of the sights you can see in the sunny Southwest!

The Southwest, being composed of vast spaces seemingly untouched by humans, seems an optimal place for National Parks and such locations, and indeed it boasts many. One such park contains a field of volcanic cones surrounded by the basalt and other rocks deposited by the volcanic activity there. Aside from being a beautiful example of nature’s ability to create unusual and fascinating landscapes, this park serves as a reminder of the potential force of nature, and just how small the span of human time is in comparison with the timeline of our planet. Perhaps one could seem to grow tired of being reminded of the power of nature in a setting such as this, but I, for one, quite enjoy it.

The Petrified Forest National Park is a similarly awe-inspiring sight, though perhaps more because of its wider landscape than for the petrified wood itself. Vast plains of sand, clay, and rock stretch out as far as the eye can see, and one cannot help but imagine them stretching on forever, layered with reds, whites, greys, pinks, and everything in between.

I have no wider thought-provoking agenda in this particular post. I think the majesty of the sights speaks for itself. It would be impossible to communicate the effect of these locations through my own humble writing, so I’ll leave it at what I have so far. Suffice it to say that I think we all shared an unspoken sense of amazement upon filing out of our van and looking out over the cliffs and across the plains. Of course, pictures aplenty were taken, but they cannot hope to capture the feeling of witnessing that sight (but I’ve already spoken enough on that topic).

I leave you therefore with but a humble drawing in the form of my words. Take it for what you can. I can ask no more.