I. Cloze-test making 20%
Paraphrase the following article within 250 words and create a cloze test with five
multiple-choice questions and then explain the purpose of the questions you have created.
Photosynthesis is the basis of life on Earth. Thermodynamics is the order and disorder in the
universe. Put them together and you have the makings of a book that may re-order the way you
think about the world. And that is what Oliver Morton, news editor at Nature (and who once
worked for this paper), has done.
Mr. Morton’s thesis is that modern biology has become so focused on the movement of
information, in the form of genes, that it has neglected the processes needed to move that
information around: in essence, thermodynamics. People talk glibly of “using up” energy when in
fact they are doing no such thing. What is actually used up is order. An energy flow drives the
process, but it is disorder (or “entropy”, to use the jargon) that changes, by increasing.
A highly ordered system like a living thing thus needs an abundant supply of negative entropy
(or unentropy, or call it what you will) to maintain its internal order. That negative entropy comes
from the sun and is captured by photosynthesis, which uses light to split water molecules and
combines the resulting hydrogen with carbon dioxide to form sugars. The sugars are a store of
negative entropy that can be used elsewhere. The waste product, conveniently for the animals of
Earth, is oxygen.
The book, then, is in part a refrain in praise of photosynthesis, the Earth’s energy and order
currency-exchange market. It is also an entertaining history of how the subject arrived where it is
today—and an illuminating insight for the non-scientist into how the magisterial pronouncements
of science are every bit as much the result of sausage-making as Bismarck’s description of the
process of legislation.
The text is peppered with vignettes and asides that highlight science’s faltering march
forward on the backs of researchers, who are by turns quirky and visionary. The process of
discovery is not chronological but is forever folding back on itself, revisiting half-solved
problems. Mr. Morton is careful to point out where progress has been impeded by hubris or
tucked away in academic literature.
There is also, of course, the inevitable warning. Having perfected the energy-into-order recipe
over billions of years, photosynthesis has left a great deal of waste in the Earth, as well as
contributing oxygen to the atmosphere. That buried waste—coal, oil, and natural gas—is what
powers the industrial revolution still sweeping the Earth. By reuniting the two waste products of
photosynthesis—oxygen in the air and carbon in the ground—this revolution has fuelled a rise in
atmospheric carbon dioxide three times higher than any previous rise that can be measured. The
system—the interaction between life and its surroundings: the atmosphere, the oceans, and the
upper levels of the Earth’s crust—has been pushed out of equilibrium.
Morton argues that the way in which industrialized humanity interfering with the homeostatic
process can be undone—not by way of a single, magic bullet, but by pursuit of a number of
ultimately achievable goals. The damage is done, but it is, he says, reparable. Humanity had
better hope he is right.