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 feel that we really do can engineer our own interests through repeated exposure. But then again, even just one exposure could possibly do it. Watching how the children in Greg Gage's cockroach beatbox video react is proof. They seem genuinely enthralled by his display. And I feel that this extends into this idea of engineering interest. For instance, how do people start getting into beekeeping? I can't imagine one day a person gets up and decides to do so. It takes exposure to these instances and experiences in order to gain an interest. Little things that might seem nothing at first may end up playing huge roles. It might not be as enthralling as a cockroach's electrical stimulation. But I feel that it is possible to go through life experiencing small things that wind up influencing your interests.

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