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Camillia F.
College Leader at New York University
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Writing
TutorMe
Question:

Acclaimed short-story writer George Saunders describes his editing process as follows: "I imagine a meter mounted in my forehead, with 'P' on this side ('Positive') and 'N' on this side ('Negative')... Where’s the needle? Accept the result without whining. Then edit, so as to move the needle into the 'P' zone. Enact a repetitive, obsessive, iterative application of preference: watch the needle, adjust the prose, watch the needle, adjust the prose (rinse, lather, repeat), through (sometimes) hundreds of drafts. Like a cruise ship slowly turning, the story will start to alter course via those thousands of incremental adjustments. The artist, in this model, is like the optometrist, always asking: Is it better like this? Or like this?" What does Saunders' description convey about the difficulty and the demands of the writing process? Do you think that writing is always about asking what's "better"?

Camillia F.
Answer:

The writing process is not necessarily a constant struggle to achieve the "perfect" essay, but it is certainly a journey of trial and error. The "thousands of incremental adjustments" which Saunders discusses are the inevitable changes that every essay requires to arrive at a strong, well-written argument. These changes may also include revision of source material; remember that evidence makes the argument, and not vice versa. In the end, essay-writing is a repetitive process of asking yourself what's "better," but not necessarily what is "perfect." Nearly every essay has something within it that may be improved.

Chemistry
TutorMe
Question:

While performing an experiment, a student wonders the following: in a nitration reaction (HNO3 and H2SO4), why does water act as the base and not HSO4? HSO4 is a very weak conjugate base because H2SO4 is a very strong acid, but isn't the catalyst meant to be regenerated?

Camillia F.
Answer:

Water is the solvent in a nitration reaction. Thus, there are many more water molecules than HSO4 molecules. You regenerate the acid catalyst, but it is H3O+.

Literature
TutorMe
Question:

In "The Succession of Forest Trees," Thoreau portrays himself as a scientist presenting empirical data as well as a writer describing his natural environment. The essay speaks powerfully to both scientific and non-scientific audiences. Do you believe his argumentative method is an effective model for present-day scientific discourse?

Camillia F.
Answer:

Thoreau’s essay “The Succession of Forest Trees” introduces an argumentative method which, despite its initial use to combat progressivism in the mid-nineteenth century, remains an effective method for present-day scientific discourse. Thoreau employs empirical data and narrative experiences to successfully establish his standing as a trustworthy scientist and speaker. His main argument never directly criticizes supporters of spontaneous generation but repeatedly emphasizes the importance of factual support when making a scientific claim. The reproducibility of said empirical data becomes just as essential as its plausibility; unless its accompanying argument can stand up to experimentation, a scientific theory appears weak. The most notable aspect of Thoreau’s method, however, is his incorporation of thought-provoking ideas which do not strengthen or weaken his primary claim but instead encourage continued reflection on the part of the audience. Such reflection on a claim of interest influences an individual to do further research and thus improves scientific awareness, an important ambition of any scientific discussion.

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