Mashing Up Deer with Kari

28/01/2011 § 1 Comment

Here we have a GIMP mash-up that is made up of the green park at school (next to the cafeteria) as the background, a deer cropped out of a Nara picture, and me, from an Easter picnic the Filipino community had one day in Spring of 2010. I once used Photoshop in 6th grade to do a few manipulations to a picture or two but those were simply manipulations and starting to learn the basics of photo manipulation. This was the first photoshop/GIMP assignment that I was required to actually take pictures from different places in the internet (or from my own photo libraries) and put them together in one picture; one mash-up.

From my experience of watching other people manipulate such pictures and actually make things look realistic (like during class that one day where we were given a whole list of pictures that actually weren’t real and were changed and altered using programs like Photoshop or GIMP (but less likely GIMP because nowadays, people have modified and created new and more advanced applications like Photoshop and if they can afford the more modern/advanced programs, they would most likely buy those programs rather than older, less efficient applications). I know from the final results of my mash-up that my skills are nowhere near a quarter as good as those of my brother (who is a fine manipulator when it comes to altering pictures and making his own media art with Photoshop and the like) or those professionals who are hired to do the CGI and effects for block-buster movies or the media artists who create the appealing ads that we see every day. However, despite the fact that my skills are nothing compared to those of a professional, I’m quite content with the result of my mash-up.

My original plan with the photos is exactly what is seen in the manipulated version. The only decent picture of myself that I could find that could fit the Nara pictures from Flickr was the Easter one I found from Facebook. It included me sitting and it was the only picture of myself that I liked. Also, when I looked through Flickr, I found the background of the park near the cafeteria and I simply liked it, even if it was very small. Finally, I chose the deer because already my plan was starting to form with me sitting on a bench, eating casually with a deer in front of me, like my pet. I think the final mash-up met up to my expections well enough.

While I was actually manipulating the pictures, I erased a lot, therefore used the eraser a lot. I also zoomed in and out a lot and changed the size of my eraser so that I could erase as much of the background as possible. Zooming in and out meant I pressed the keys Command-Shift-Equals(=) to basically do Command-Plus(+) and zoom in. Zooming out for me was Command-Dash(-). I also used the smudge tool because I realised that it was useful when I saw that my erasing was a little jagged. When I smudged myself or the deer, though, I could smooth out the ends and make the deer’s back look smoother, like it really is, or make my head look like a head and not jagged. I also used the rectangle select tool as taught by Mr. McEwen so that I could cut out the deer and on a different layer, just erase the white background and not erase the other background (CA park near cafeteria). Finally, to make the whole picture look real, I desaturated the picture (took off all the colours, leaving it with only black, white and grey) to a gray level of ‘luminosity’ because that level made the whole picture look as real as possible. Out of all the new tools, the only one I knew that existed was the eraser and although I knew you could select certain parts of a picture, I never actually used a tool like ‘rectangle select’.

There aren’t really any specific things I’d like to learn about manipulating graphics because it isn’t a main interest in my educational point of view. However, I know it might come in handy if ever I need to use media later in life and school. I think, if ever I do get interested in manipulating graphics, the easiest way for me to learn is to just play with pictures and click random buttons, which is how I discovered to ‘desaturate’ my picture (it was exactly what I was looking for at the time, too).

Types of Behaviour

16/01/2011 § 1 Comment

Last class was our very last lecture in biology and because of this, some students in the class went into some kind of frenzy and started recording the lecture. It turned out to be useful because, at home, I was able to listen to everything that was said during class and even some things that I didn’t know I missed.

This class, we continued the last lecture, reviewed lions and talked about bees a lot again. (At the end of the class, there was a quiz with a DBQ that discussed bees and their altruism for each other.)

As review, lions live in prides and each gender behaves differently. The male lion usually behaves very selfishly, focusing on putting his genes in the next generation. His only interests are to raise his offspring, because they carry his genes. If he successfully keeps these offspring alive and healthy (successful) until they become adults and are ready for the next generation, then he has allowed his own genes to join the genetic pool: that male lion is successful. Females are all sisters in a pride and all act for each other, not as selfishly as the male lions behave. They are ‘friendly’ towards one another and hunt together and share the food, even caring and nursing each other’s cubs.

Basically, if we look at the scenarios genetically, all the behaviours make sense. Evolution and natural selection has favoured all behaviours that help genes prosper and exist in the next generation. (Which is why evolution and natural selection keep driving genes forward through time; evolution is for genes). Kin selection is a selection that is especially powerful in humans where blood is thicker than water. Kin selection wasn’t in the book but we learned in class that the more related you are, the more likely altruism is to be. Meaning, the more related an individual is to another individual, the more likely they’ll risk their own hides to save that other individual if they were dying (a la stick-figures-drowning style, as we saw in class).

Bees are a good example of altruism because every single bee in a hive works for the benefit of the hive. They sacrifice all of their time and energy to working for the hive, time and energy that could have been used looking for their own food, not the hive’s. The level of their relatedness defines their altruism as basically all bees in a hive are related to each other. The level of relatedness must be greater than the ratio of costs over benefits for an organism to be altruistic.

Altruism can sometimes be seen in humans. If the relationship with someone is higher (and if the person is familiar with that level of relatedness), then it’s more likely that an individual will risk their hide to save another person’s from drowning (a la picture of drowning stick-men, again). Altruism is influenced at unconscious levels.

Other kinds of behaviours are cooperating which is beneficial for all participants, and spitefulness where no genes are passed on in the next generation. Spitefulness is basically animal A doing wrong or harming (maybe killing, in some organisms’ cases) animal B because B hurt A first. As a result, neither animal’s genes get into the next generation but at least animal A is assured that B won’t have the chance to be better them him.

Moving a little closer to the essay question (Why are humans nice?), organisms like humans that live in groups that aren’t always related are nice to each other because both sides of the party benefit. As said in class, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Or, in the end, everyone wins.

This is seen in vampire bats, where the females that live together are all unrelated but live by helping each other and continuously feeding each other. Chimpanzees also cooperate together, even if they’re not related, because, since they all recognise each other and are familiar with one another, they know that all the chimpanzees in the group mean to help the group survive. (As a result, everyone in the group gets to eat). All behaviours that help genes get into the next generation are selected for by natural selection and evolution.

Humans, in particular, favour other humans depending on the traits they share because those traits determine if they’ll be an appropriate partner to have offspring with. If the Human B’s traits aren’t favourable (which means their genes aren’t favourable for Human A), Human A would most likely not want to have offspring with them. So when humans are nice, they show good traits; good genes, and these genes also show who’ll be a better altruist out of the population.

Evolution of Behaviour

13/01/2011 § 1 Comment

After a break full of finishing up extra credit, we started on our new unit, Behaviour. Behaviour in an animal is the way it acts or responds to a stimulus (which is some kind of factor from the environment or from another animal that evokes the reaction out of the individual.

The first example we looked at in class was with lions. In a pack of lions, called a pride, the majority of the lions are females, so: lionesses, who are all sisters and related to one another. There are many cubs in the pride and all of those cubs are fathered by the single male in the group: the alpha lion. He is in charge of taking care of his pride, defending the other lions from stray male lions that look to invade the pride. When an invading male lion wants to try and take over the pride, he can try. But the resident male lion will definitely fight back. After the battle ensues the start of a new pride if the invading male lion wins. (If not, then the resident lion can stay in his pride, having successfully defended it).

But say the invading lion did win. The pride then has a new leader. The new alpha lion has two options: 1) be nice to the cubs that are already there, or 2) take them all out. The lion probably doesn’t know why he does it, only that it is beneficial for him if his own cubs are running around in the pack, not the previous lion’s cubs.

[The females, however, don’t just let the new lion kill their cubs. They have their own ways that might decrease the new lion’s chances of killing the cubs or completely avoiding the cubs’ deaths. These include simply avoiding the stray male lions, fighting the male lion, or if he hasn’t killed her cubs yet, to mate with him and make him think that the current cubs are his.]

The new lion then brutally kills off all of the cubs so that he might be able to mate with the females, to produce his own cubs, carrying his genes. (That is why killing the previous cubs would be beneficial; so that the next genes in the next generation of lions would have his genes). This is selfishness on the male lion’s part because he’s only focused on his own genetic interests, killing off numerous cubs to give his own genes a chance in the next generation.

(Another example of an animal that kills other offspring is the jacana – except the females do the killing, in this case.)

We learned about the dog genome project that proved that genes can control behaviour. In the project, results showed that after interbreeding certain dogs, 9/16 would have both dominant traits out of two traits. 3/16 would have only one dominant trait out of two, and another 3/16 would possess the other dominant trait. then, 1/16 would be completely recessive and not have any dominant trait. This proves that with interbreeding, and with the mix of genes, the new allele combinations in the next dogs can control their behaviours.

Finally, any behaviour that is beneficial for relatives is selected for and this is seen especially in bees. The one queen produces the eggs, all the males are never fertilized and are all haploid, and the females are all workers. Males do mitosis, making the exact same cells and keeping them haploid, while the females do normal meiosis. Daughter bees are more related to one another than male bees (son bees) are.

The essay question for this short unit is Why are humans nice? because apparently, humans are nice. No, ha, they are nice. But there could be genetic reasons behind that and after reading Eros and Evolution over the break and drowning myself in the words ‘genes’, ‘sex’, ‘evolution’ and more words like ‘why’, ‘how’, and ‘reason’, I’m pretty sure that humans’ behaviours and the reasons that they are nice do come from genes. Maybe not completely, but a large part can come from their genes.

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