If you’re hotter than me, does that make me cooler than you?

30 Aug

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The Day After Tomorrow. Where will you be?

The movie The Day After Tomorrow created a huge hoo-ha when it first appeared in the theatres. The show not only generated huge responses from the general public such as moviegoers, but also to climatologists
 and other scientists, politicians and advocacy groups.

That leads to question the reasons behind the movie,

‘What impact, if any, did the film have on public risk perceptions and conceptual models of climate change?’

‘Did the film make moviegoers more or less willing to take personal actions to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions?’

‘Did it change their political priorities or voting intentions?’

Public risk perception of global climate change

Even though the movie might have exaggerated events that lacked scientific truth, it provided an avenue that allowed climatologist to explain the different concepts and created awareness about global warming.

It gave the audience a “teachable moment”, seen by climatologist as ‘
an opportunity to not only critique the film but to more constructively educate the public about climate change’. The movie was also a contributing factor and a strong influence towards the watcher’s awareness and attitude towards global warming, allowing them to perceive global warming as a threat.

Conceptual Models of climate change

The movie gave the audience a brief overview that there is a threshold towards the climate system, that the climate system is only substantial and stable within certain limits before collapsing.

Climate change is still perceived as an unpredictable system, especially since it is based on the audience’s own experience and understanding of the unpredictable daily weather. Apart from that, they are unable to predict any further consequences, and unable to depicter what would happen next.

Behavioral intentions

Individuals are seen to be more willing to make their stand on reducing the cause towards global warming. They show interest in doing their part by either reducing one’s own emission, willingness to join an organization to promote global warming awareness, taking up a stand to politicians, and spreading the importance of conservation via word of mouth. ‘The more important an issue is perceived to be, the more people talk about it, which in turn leads to an increase in perceived issue importance, and so on, in a positive feedback loop’.

Politics and voting

Moviegoers are more prone to have a higher level of worry and concern about global warming after watching the movie. They also acquired the knowledge about the drastic measures global warming can cause. The movie also encouraged audiences to be more involved with the issue of climate change, and be engaged in social, personal and political actions. Thus, audiences are more skeptical about the people they want to run the government. Items such as whether the government are helping the environment, or trusting the government to tell them the truth, became a factor.

The influence of the movie towards audiences

Impact on public risk perceptions? Check.

Impact on conceptual models of climate change? Check.

Individual actions to address global warming? Check.

Influence towards voters preferences? Check.

 

Apart from the scientific accuracy and 
political implications of the film aside, I personally felt that The Day After Tomorrow was a good movie. It is a Hollywood Blockbuster ‘popcorn movie’ after all, with exceptional good visual effects. Two thumbs up to the filmmakers for sparking the interest of such a huge audience!

Have you watched the show The Day After Tomorrow? If so, how did the show create an impact on you? Did it change your perception about the consequences of global warming and climate change? If you hadn’t watched it, does the thought of this huge catastrophic event (fingers crossing that it remains fictional) spark your interest into helping society with recycling?

References

Leiserowitz, A. (2004). Before and after the day after tomorrow: A U.S. study of climate change risk perception. Environment, 46(9), 22-37. Available at <http://environment.yale.edu/leiserowitz/pubs.html>

The Day After Tomorrow Photo. Available at <http://www.popartuk.com/g/l/lglg0078.jpg>

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A Chance Occurrence? Think again.

21 Apr

Have you ever wondered what are the odds of winning the national lottery? Or even the odds of two people having the same birthday in our science communication class? Not to mention the odds of being positive for the dreadful HIV virus?

Naturally, people would concur these chances as coincidences. The first and foremost sensation that people often rely upon is their feeling, before any logical explanation comes into place.

Any random event or occurrence would make a person think twice, and shrug it off as mere coincidence. As it seems, anything could happen as we live in a world full of surprises. The only question is: how often would that special something happen to us?

In the chapter, ‘Probabilities: For Whom the Bell Curves’ from the novel, ‘The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science’, Natalie Angier uses multiple anecdotes to illustrate the usefulness of statistics. Anecdotes are literacy tools that help the reader to understand a complex concept.

As Angier suggests, ‘The more one knows about probabilities, the less amazing the most woo-woo coincidences become.’ (p.50).

These questions that lead the reader to ponder upon are answered by the calculations of probabilities. By using statistics to calculate probabilities, the notion of random occurrence starts to dissolve while a distinct pattern slowly arises.

In the Birthday Buddies situation, finding someone who shares the same birthday as you is not some kind of cosmic intervention. The ‘coincidence’ can be calculated through the means of probabilities, as probabilities show that ‘small numbers can take on grand airs’ and be ‘more meaningful than they are’.

Another example would be the flipping of a coin. As there are two sides to a coin, there is a fifty percent chance of tossing a head (or a tail). Out of a hundred flips of the coin, there is a chance of getting a string of six or seven heads or tails in a row. As probability suggests, the likelihood of getting the same side of the coin decreases with each toss. Yet, people do get suspicious when the pattern repeats itself.

‘Most of us are not accustomed to a probabilistic mindset, and instead approach life with a personalized blend of sensations, convictions, desires, and intuitions. (p.53).

Even though probabilities do justify the occurrence of these coincidences, the notion of its randomness just makes people queasy. It is inevitable to control the human emotion, as everyone is subjected to different perceptions and emotions.

‘Yes, life is full of miracles, minor, major, middling C.’ (p.51)

All in all, the whole idea of statistics, numbers and probabilities just brings about a cold shiver down my spine. I heaved a huge sigh of relief as I majored in psychology, never expecting to calculate a probability sum or letting statistics haunt me again. But, I guess I was wrong. Statistics and probabilities do play a crucial part of our lives, and there is no escape from it. What do you think?

Reference:

Angier, N (2007) Probabilities: For Whom the Bell Curves. In The Canon: A Whirligig of the Beautiful Basics of Science (pp.47-70). Scribe publications pty ltd, Australia.

Photo, <http://www.11points.com/images/math-cartoon.jpg&gt;

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