TED Conversations

Matthew Wieder

Student, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art


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Can we "engineer" our own interests through repeated exposure?

This week in my Bioelectricity class we learned about muscle contraction and how individual muscle twitches build on each other until tetanus (complete contraction of the muscle) is reached. Muscles are made up of small individual contractile units called sarcomeres which when they contract by themselves change the length of the muscle and produce a force that is negligible. However, when the sarcomeres contract in unison, the tension force produced is great enough to allow us to perform all of our normal day to day activities.

We also had a discussion in class about science education and how to get more young people excited about science -- often times in class there was a certain interaction with a role model who provided key influence either in a positive or negative direction.

This led me to think about the idea of life changing experiences. Is it ever a single experience, a specific interaction with a teacher or other role model that leads us to the career choices we make or, are we more influenced by the small events and sets of circumstances that "sum up" and provide this life altering influence?


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    Apr 3 2012: I think the answer to the question is both! I think single larger events in life has more impact when it comes to life altering influence. People seem to settle to the environment, that's why the summing of small events usually just gets ignored and forgotten. On the other hand, drastic events that shake up the world usually make people realize the situation they are in or the ideas that has been sitting long in their heads. The spark can also bury a seed in their mind and slowly grow into something influential enough.
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      Apr 3 2012: Yu-An,
      I also agree that it is a combination of the two. Although the small events might not have as much of an impact immediately, because of the elongated exposure time that we have to them, they could also have the same effect in the long run. By having only one specific experience, it might be disregarded after a certain time period. However, I also see why those are important. If there is one big event in life which changes your outlook towards something, and therefore causes you to avoid/cherish it more, that could also provide a life altering influence. This seems to happen in the education system with subjects such as math and science. If a student is put down by the teacher over one subject through negative reinforcement, the student might purposely avoid and lose interest in that subject.

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