- GAIA is a Cyborg? Exploring Ecological Personhood in Horizon Zero DawnFox, Alice (Virginia Tech, 2020-03-25)Midway through the 21st century, the world was at the peak of automated military practices. One of the greatest achievements, to date, was a combat-ready robot swarm by the name of Chariot. Chariot swarms were designed to utilize biomass as fuel, self-replicate, and be virtually unhackable. Robotic swarms were ideal military units until a glitch in one Chariot unit sparked a series of mutations throughout the army’s system that rendered Chariot robots uncontrollable—consuming biomass and replicating at a staggering rate. As the world descended into darkness, project Zero Dawn was enacted as a last-ditch effort to preserve Earth and its inhabitants. At the helm of this operation was AI system named GAIA, who was directed to restore the biosphere and create life once again. This paper will examine the synthetic being GAIA in the game Horizon Zero Dawn to segue into an argument for the inclusion of incipiency and versatility as possible criteria for establishing moral personhood. Two key points will then be derived from the argument: Cyborgism isn’t just for humans. Reimagining Gaia as a cyborg opens a new avenue for exploring rights and duties to the environment.
- Strain-level identification of tomato pathogens from metagenomic sequences obtained with the ONT MinIONSharma, Parul; Mechan Llontop, Marco E.; Aguilera Flores, Marcela; Li, Song; Vinatzer, Boris A. (Virginia Tech, 2020-03-25)Early detection and correct diagnosis of plant diseases is an essential component of sustainable production of food and other plant-derived products. Although molecular technologies are available, many of them are either slow because they depend on culturing the pathogen first, are limited to specific pathogen species and thus cannot detect any newly emerging diseases, or have low resolution. With recent advances in sequencing technologies, it has become possible to sequence the DNA of an entire plant sample, called the metagenome, at relatively low cost and with relatively easy and fast protocols using the Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) MinIONTM device. MinIONTM software What’s in my pot (WIMP) offers read-based taxonomic identification from the metagenome. In this study, we have used the MinIONTM device to sequence laboratory-inoculated tomato plants and field samples of infected tomato plants to establish the efficiency of WIMP in identifying the underlying plant pathogens. The taxonomic classifications, at the species-level, from WIMP were compared with the results from the third party Sourmash and MetaMaps tools. Since species-level identification is not always sufficient, for example, when tracking pathogen dissemination pathways, custom reference libraries were used to attempt strain-level classification with Sourmash and MetaMaps as well as identification with the LINbase Web service based on metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs). Our study showed that reliable species-level identification is possible with either WIMP, Sourmash, or MetaMaps. There is the potential for strain-level accuracy, however improvements in the error rate of the MinIONTM and availability of appropriate reference databases is necessary.
- University Policies and the Concept of "Open Access" - Document Collection and CritiqueSvyantek, Martina (Virginia Tech, 2020-03-25)One of the barriers to investigating Disability within higher education is that institutional discussion of Disability is often non-existent, even within larger discussions of diversity and inclusion. This is also true within institutional policy documents, in terms of their development, organization, and maintenance. Using methods that center accessibility, affordability, and feasibility, an intensive document collection process was undertaken at three separate institution of higher education. The poster will present the results of this search - the findings at those institutions across a time frame of 25 years following the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Highlights include the definition of a "digital wall" as well as the accessibility of the resulting document collection.
- “Why is this Useful?” A Search for Meaning in Mathematics EducationChowdhury, Ahsan Habib (Virginia Tech, 2020-03-25)Students often ask “when is this ever going to be useful?” when speaking about mathematics. If we take this as a question about meaningfulness, how can teachers respond and how do they even understand the terms ‘meaningful’ and ‘meaning’? I wanted to look at how college instructors thought of this and how they addressed such a question in their classrooms. Drawing on both social and individual cognition perspectives of knowledge, I can define four ways to think of what’s ‘meaningful’ about mathematics. From an individual perspective, teachers can understand ‘meaningful’ as mathematical understanding versus understanding the significance of mathematics. From a social perspective where meaning is taken as the experiences of everyday life within communities, teachers can understand ‘meaningful’ as practices the mathematics community engages versus practices of non-mathematics communities (e.g. pushing computation or critical thinking as a means for maintaining social order; Niss, 2005). To demonstrate how these meanings play out, I look at some historical goals of education and accounts of actual instructor goals. Historical examples come from education research literature. Instructor examples draw from college instructors of different mathematics classes: math for elementary education, math for liberal arts, statistics, and calculus. What I found was that mathematics instructors often did not care about when mathematics is useful, instead choosing to focus on ‘meaningful’ as mathematical understandings and inherent beauty. However, experiences of not being ‘a math person’ or with underserved communities could spark a realization that ‘meaningful’ needs to be understood and conveyed in other ways. What this might suggest is that educators may not respond to students’ questions about usefulness in diverse ways unless more educators come to appreciate mathematics who have also struggled with it personally growing up or have seen the consequences of disenfranchisement.
- Breaking the Sound Barrier: Understanding the Physics of Aerodynamic NoiseFritsch, Danny (Virginia Tech, 2020-04-08)Chaotic, swirling motion, called turbulence, in fluid flows near solid bodies is a strong source of undesirable noise. The impact of this noise creates a negative experience for people who live near airports, wind turbine farms, and military bases, often creating the need for restrictive rules. The study of this noise, called aeroacoustics, has been the subject of extensive research in recent decades, but our ability to make accurate predictions of flow noise is still extremely poor. Six peer-reviewed and widely accepted models have been proposed, but the differences between them are so great they are practically unusable; the disagreement between the highest and lowest predicting models is a factor of fifteen, meaning our ability to predict the noise on an aircraft is only accurate to the range between a garbage disposal and a rock concert. One of the reasons for the lack of significant progress in this research area is the nearly infinite number of variables that may contribute to the production of aerodynamic noise. Finding an organized way to generate and characterize all of these variables has presented a huge challenge, but it’s critical for advancing the field of aeroacoustics and improving human quality of life. My team has designed a novel wind tunnel experiment that manages to neatly divide up the different variables of the problem in controllable and repeatable ways by using a rotating airplane wing model to change the conditions on the test surface. The preliminary results of these experiments show that it is in fact possible to control and study this phenomenon in a systematic way, which we believe will help reveal the underlying physics and improve our ability to make accurate noise predictions.
- Going Beyond "No Search Results"Svyantek, Martina (Virginia Tech, 2020-03-25)One of the barriers to investigating Disability within higher education is that institutional discussion of Disability is often non-existent, even within larger discussions of diversity and inclusion. What is a researcher to do when they are trying to pay attention to multiple sites without creating an undue burden on themselves or others? This project outlines an alternative approach; instead of conducting surveys or interviews with individuals, the institutions themselves are the source of information. Using methods that center accessibility, affordability, and feasibility, an intensive document collection process was undertaken at three separate institution of higher education to elucidate barriers in performing research across time and space, focusing on the concept of research methods and results that would be truly "open access" in a manner that goes beyond financial consideration. I myself am persistently aware of the privilege of performing this research, as research around Disability is so frequently performed “on” or “for” as opposed to “by” or “with”. The methods discussed in this paper utilize the motto of Disability activism, “Nothing about us, without us” as a guiding principle, leading to strategic methodological choices that will enhance the reproducibility of both the methods and the research findings.