How should an introduction to an academic essay be structured?
Each academic subject or discipline has its own conventions. The goal of such conventions is to make it easy for the people in that discipline to communicate and share ideas as effectively and efficiently as possible. For this reason, we should avoid having one template for all essays. However, the general purpose of introductions in academic essays is to deliver the overarching message of the essay. Many students are traditionally taught the pyramid structure (start with general statements and narrow your point as you make way through the essay) but most get a little too carried away! The best way to write an introduction is to think of it as a summary of the essay that contains the main argument without giving away too much.
What is the paradox of the Ship of Theseus?
Imagine any item you own. Imagine a small damage or scratch to that item where you had to fix it. We would still consider it to be the same item. In a similar way, think about a ship- if one plank on the ship gets damaged, it would probably get replaced by a new plank. The ship has a new plank but its still the same ship. Now, imagine the plank is fine, and somebody was just doing this for fun- at every harbor that the ship stops at, a plank is taken off and a new one is added in. Many stops later, all of the planks have been replaced. What would you make of this scenario? Is it still the same ship? No matter what we answer, the answer is just going to produce a lot more questions- if we say no, it’s not the same ship, where does it stop being the same ship? Why does replacing one plank not affect the identity of the ship, but changing many affects it? If we say yes, then what is it about the ship, if not all of its planks, that make it that ship- is there some component to that identity that we have not considered? We can even add a new layer of complexity. Imagine the person that was replacing the planks kept all of the old ones, and rebuilt them into the same form of the old ship. Does that change where we stand? How do we choose whether the new planks or the old planks make up the same ship? This paradox, or puzzle, is commonly referred to as the Ship of Theseus.
What is metagenomics?
Metagenomics is the study of the genetics of a group of organisms collected from a certain environment. It is essentially a survey of the organisms' genomes, where these organisms are usually microbes. A popular example is the human microbiome: the human microbiome project was one of the first leading metagenomics studies. Researchers collected microbial samples (mainly consisting of bacteria) from different regions on the human body and performed DNA sequencing on each sample. The sequencing targeted a specific gene in the DNA of the bacteria that can be used to identify the species of the bacteria. The result was essentially a survey of the types and relatives abundances of different bacterial species that live in different regions of the human body.