Q: What are the most popular fringe-science theories?
Krishna: Astrology, homeopathy, acupuncture and other alternative medical practices, creation ‘science’, nutritional supplements and dieting products, 'science' explaining traditional and cultural rituals, brain types, dowsing, engram theory of scientology, geocentrism, graphology, flat-earth theory, paranormal phenomena, re-birth theory, vastu and … there are several others which are not considered as science by main stream scientists as they don’t meet the norms of scientific methods and methodologies.
Q:Invention of new technologies and discovery of new resources will solve the central problem completely. How can you defend or refute the statement?
Krishna: “Completely” is a controversial word. Success depends on how you use the new technologies.
Yes, Science and technology bring comfort and relief to the world … only if you use them in the right way.
Although technologies themselves don’t cause any problems, ignorant people using them can cause havoc with them.
“Commercialization” of science and technology is bringing as many problems as they are solving them.
Unable to understand and cope with the new technologies, people are creating more problems. “Plastic” is one such example whose menace is reaching alarming proportions.
Space debris is another aspect of space science mis-management.
Cyber attack is hijacking technology for wrong intentions.
Some people complain that science and tech also brings with it a few bad things like commercial GM crops, nuclear bombs etc. along with the good it does to the mankind. But according to the scientific community – science is like a knife. A knife can be used to cut throats and spill blood. It can also be used for good purposes like cutting fruits and vegetables. It depends on the person who uses it. Likewise science and tech can also be used for the benefit of living beings as well as for their destruction. Which way it goes is in the hands of the person who uses it. The choice is definitely yours,Homo sapiens.
That is why science communication is very important in making people utilize the fruits of science and tech in the right way. We are trying to do our best to educate people.
But … yes, a big BUT, most people are not interested in learning things before venturing into the technology arena. They just rush like crazy and when they face problems, they blame science and technology and most importantly, they blame the ‘inventors’ whose only intention ‘s helping the world!
Wake up world!
Q: Why do mosquitoes suck blood from human beings? Do they take blood from other animals too?
Krishna: Second Q first, yes, mosquitoes do bite other animals too to suck blood because other animals appeared first before man evolved from them. When there were no human beings, mosquitoes had to draw blood from other animals.
Why do mosquitoes suck blood? Female mosquitoes take a sting at us because they need the proteins in our blood to insure the nutrition for their eggs and increase the chances of a healthy next generation of mosquitoes.
Q: Why do some people believe in certain things even when heya re not true? What does science say about it?
Krishna: Much research went into this aspect and there are several reasons found.
It has everything to do with what is termed "wilful blindness". This is the deliberate refusal to accept reasonable information – it is also referred to as "denial" .
Also, for some people, their beliefs are their very identity, smartly engraved on their psyche as their core values of what as human beings they should be. They are their own existence without which they think they cannot live a fruitful and full life. They get rattled and fight with all their might when somebody tries to dislodge them.
Data and facts don't change people’s minds! Why?
A group ofDartmouth researchershave studied the problem of the so-called "backfire effect," which is defined as the effect in which "corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question." According to them... people typically receive corrective information within “objective” reports pitting two sides of an argument against each other, which is significantly more ambiguous than receiving a correct answer from an omniscient source. In such cases, citizens are likely to resist or reject arguments and evidence contradicting their opinions and beliefs – a view that is consistent with a wide array of research.
So when people read a story that presents both sides of an issue, they simply pick the side they happen to agree with and it reinforces their viewpoint. But what of those individuals who don't simply resist challenges to their views, but who actually come to hold their original opinion even more strongly?
The authors describe the "backfire effect" as a possible result of
the process by which people counterargue preference-incongruent information and bolster their preexisting views. If people counterargue unwelcome information vigorously enough, they may end up with 'more attitudinally congruent information in mind than before the debate,' which in turn leads them to report opinions that are more extreme than they otherwise would have had."
4. Also cognitive dissonance, or the uncomfortable tension that comes from holding two conflicting thoughts simultaneously plays a role and makes people reject things that don't make them comfortable processing them. Then people spin-doctor facts to fit preconceived beliefs to reduce dissonance.
5. Some want to stick with their groups for emotional support and don't want to go against them even if they are going wrong.
6. Fear factors like if they don't believe in something some harm might happen to them.
People can overcome all these things with the help of critical thinking. But most don't even try it and completely close their minds to new thoughts, ideas especially facts.
Q: Can thinking positively really create a positive environment or positive situations? Krishna : My answer is different from what many think and is going to surprise you.
Making people see things and think realistically is more important than thinking positively. The thing that makes us truly strong is ‘being realistic’, neither positivity nor negativity. Why?
You get depressed in the first place because your expectations didn’t match with reality. This happens with positive thinking. Being positive makes us expect too much. It is not a very effective tool and can be downright harmful in some cases, when you don’t get the picture right and anticipate more than you put efforts into a situation. That is like creating an illusion and kidding yourself!
There are much better ways to get the benefits that positive thinking allegedly provides. Don’t see things through coloured lenses and get a different picture like positivity provides. Can you actually go through life without labeling what happens to you as good or bad? Yes, you can. You have to train yourself to do this. You have been conditioned to think of things as bad or good. You can de-condition yourself.
Think of our pain and suffering as being hit by two arrows. The first arrow, the inevitable pain of life, whether a difficult event, thought or feeling, is shot at us; we have little control over this. But then we shoot a second arrow at ourselves with our own reaction to the pain, amplifying and prolonging it. The suffering from the refusal or pushing away of this pain, the "it shouldn’t be here," the "I can’t stand this," but also the blaming, the ruminating, the "why me?" the "it’s always been this way and always going to be this way" stories: these are the parts we add. To put it simply: pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
Just see things and situations exactly as they are, analyse them neutrally using facts and true knowledge and realize the truth, not illusion like positive thinking shows, and tackle it in the right way. Just because you think positively and wish that something would happen, it will not happen without making the right efforts. An example: Majority of the poor people in the world daily wish they had money to have a decent living, food and housing. They wish and pray for it. But do they get what they want with just this positive thinking? NO!
If you think just positive thinking helps you, it just is your perception, not the truth.
Failures might occur in life. When they do, you should revisit your problem, analyse it thoroughly and realistically in an enlightened way and think you haven't found a proper solution to it yet and that's why you couldn't overcome it, then try to get one, increase your efficiency of the effort, plug the loopholes and go after it with all your might to defeat it.
That is the realistic way of doing things and that is what science tells us to do.
Q: Why do intelligent people have difficulty in changing their strongly held beliefs? Krishna: “Being Intelligent” doesn’t mean ‘‘mistake free”. Intelligence is a medium grade cognitive ability. Surprised to hear this?
Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. That’s all. It need not involve refined form of critical thinking . IQ tests don't denote real intelligence as they are flawed and mostly deal with the ability to process information faster one way or other.
People who can do the highest form of critical analysis of everything come under the topmost bracket of cognition. These are intellectuals who rarely make mistakes and don’t come under the influence of blind beliefs, because the word means accepting something without scientific evidence.
Once a ‘fact is established’ with the help of thorough evidence, it can change when new data emerges and demands it. Therefore, intellectuals realize even well established facts are provisional but are best for the moment to accept because of the knowledge gained till now.
Yes, we ‘trust in science’ because it is ‘the best’ in the present day established facts category. Until somebody provides a better alternative, we keep trusting in it. It is non-negotiable under present circumstances. Any objections? :)
Q: Scientifically speaking, do things exist if we are not there to perceive them? Krishna :
Einstein asked an interesting question.Does the moon exist only when I look at it? Doesn’t it exist if I don’t look at it?
Of course it does! But who knows about it’s existence? Only when human consciousness recognizes the moon, its existence will have a meaning!
Space, time and universe are constructions of our mind for us and it does that with the help of our senses. Even the blind can ‘feel’ the universe! So do animals and other living beings with the help of bio-chemistry and physics.
Quantum physics experiments have routinely shown that the results do depend on whether anyone is observing. This is perhaps most vividly illustrated by the famous two-slit experiment. When someone watches a subatomic particle or a bit of light pass through the slits, the particle behaves like a bullet, passing through one hole or the other. But if no one observes the particle, it exhibits the behaviour of a wave that can inhabit all possibilities—including somehow passing through both holes at the same time.
Quantum theory tells us that an unobserved small object (for instance, an electron or a photon—a particle of light) exists only in a blurry, unpredictable state, with no well-defined location or motion until the moment it is observed. This is Werner Heisenberg’suncertainty principle. Physicists describe the phantom, not-yet-manifest condition as a wave function, a mathematical expression used to find the probability that a particle will appear in any given place. When a property of an electron suddenly switches from possibility to reality, some physicists say its wave function has collapsed.
What accomplishes this collapse? Messing with it. Hitting it with a bit of light in order to take its picture. Just looking at it does the job. Experiments suggest that mere knowledge in the experimenter’s mind is sufficient to collapse a wave function and convert possibility to reality.
From this point of view it was argued that life—particularly consciousness—creates the universe for us, and the universe could not exist without us in our minds.
So life is important in recognizing the existence of universe. Imagine there is no life at all in the entire universe. Then what happens? Will there be universe still?
It might be there, but it becomes so irrelevant, that it is as good as a non-existent one.
Yes, life is important to the recognition of our universe. Life is center of its relevance and therefore bio-centrism makes sense in that context.
Q: After reading about real ghost stories, I am now scared of paranormal and ghosts. What can I do?
Krishna: When I was a child, I too was afraid of ‘ghosts’. But now I know they don’t exist at all. And getting scared by imagining something looks silly now. How did this transformation occur? By investigating and analysing things. Read here how this can happen …
Q: What would a scientist or other academic do if a theory they based their career on is proven false? Krishna : Accept it, when evidence is provided. There is no other alternative. You cannot say, ‘that is your view/opinion and this is mine’. Nobody accepts that kind of non-sense in science. That way the field of science is ruthless and reliable.
Just accept your mistake and move on with dignity.
Q: Is it true that humans can never imagine things they have never seen before?
Krishna: Not true!
Human beings imagine ghosts, gods and what not even though they never saw them before!
They also imagine destroying the enemy countries and their enemies which is not possible in reality.
Some dream about going to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and all the planets and their moons in the solar system.
They fantasize about several strange things too.
Human imagination has no boundaries and limitations. It can go as weird as it is possible.
Q: According to science, what is the difference between justified belief and opinion?
Krishna: Justification of a belief is spinning things in favour of your perceptions which may not be true most of the time. Belief itself is formed without true understanding, perception, or it is discrimination against facts. You really cannot justify them without going wrong!
Opinions can have two faces - right and wrong, the right ones based on facts and data and the wrong ones based on emotions, beliefs and ideologies.
Both have no place in science!
But when the right opinions are formed based on evidence which is not anecdotal, and fact based consensus, science might accept them.
Q: What made life possible on Earth?
Krishna: 1. Goldilocks zone of Earth which has tolerable temperature for life.
2. Stabilization of wobble of Earth because of moon and the resultant seasons.
3. Water brought by asteroids and comets.
4. Oxygen production in the earlier times of Earth's history by tiny organisms known as cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae. These microbes conducted photosynthesis: using sunshine, water and carbon dioxide to produce carbohydrates and, yes, oxygen.
5. Ozone layer that protect life from Sun's harmful radiation. Earth's magnetic field also protects us from solar radiation.
Extinction of dinosaurs made mammals -which include human beings - evolve robustly.
Q: Can human beings co-exist with dinosaurs if they are brought back to life?
Krishna: It is difficult for men to live with terrifying huge creatures. They try to kill them like we are killing lions, tigers, Cheetahs, wolves etc. now. But we can live with the smaller ones if they are tamable.
Q: Recently I read an article which told about scientists who are racist, misogynist and those who had several flaws as human beings. Should we overlook their negativity or forgive them because they are geniuses?
Krishna: Being a genius doesn't give you immunity from punishment. Everybody should be equal before law. Brilliance doesn't buy you a free pass for bad behaviour.
You should separate their academic life from their personal ones. While you appreciate their grey matter, you should also condemn their bad behaviour. You need not put up with anybody's bad behaviour just because they are geniuses.
Q: I am 70. I feel very tired and cannot do much work like I used to do when I was young. Why is this so?
Krishna: As you age your energy levels won't be the same as when you 're young. This is because
1. Medical issues like restricted blood flow - as the body ages, fatty deposits build up along the inside of blood vessel walls, which causes them to lose their elasticity and become thicker and stiffer. These changes mean that the blood vessels take longer to relax, which increases pressure and results in common problems such as angina, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure. The heart has less capacity for physical exertion when we age and may feel fatigued more easily. As a result, we feel a gradual decline in our energy and endurance levels.
Old age illnesses can cause fatigue, ranging from the flu to rheumatoid arthritis and infections to cancer. If you have anemia, you will likely notice a drop in energy when your blood has too few red blood cells or those cells have too little hemoglobin. Heart disease is another cause of fatigue because, as blood is pumped less efficiently, fluid accumulates in the lungs, which can lead to shortness of breath. This, in turn, lowers the oxygen levels going to your heart and lungs, potentially causing fatigue. Yet another medical cause is hypothyroidism.
Medications (antidepressants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications and more) can be a source of fatigue too. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy too can cause fatigue.
2. Less sleep. As you age, you sleep less because of your altered biochemical changes in your brain. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, it’s natural to feel tired. Causes of sleep problems include apnea, in which the affected person has paused or shallow breathing while sleeping; this isn’t unusual with older adults. People with overactive bladders and enlarged prostates can wake multiple times a night to use the bathroom, which also disturbs sleep.
3. Emotional Issues. Spending a significant amount of time worrying can contribute to fatigue. So can anxiety or depression because of old age , and grief .
4. Mitochondria. The body produces energy in the mitochondria, where it combines food and oxygen to generate the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). To a certain extent, mtDNA copy number, mitochondrial content and mitochondrial function are correlated. In aging, skeletal muscle mass decreases from mid-life onwards. The annual rate of loss is said to be almost 1%, although the trajectory probably gradually increases with advancing age. Along with this loss of mass, is a reduction in mitochondrial functional capacity, but the decrease in mitochondrial capacity is out of proportion, such that the mitochondrial density also decreases . In a similar way muscle strength per given muscle mass is also seen to fall with age. However, it is unclear to what extent such changes are due to aging per se, as opposed to inactivity. It is now accepted that many studies showing apparent deterioration in mitochondrial function or content with age may be heavily confounded by decline in activity with age. In studies where subjects have been stratified by activity levels it is interesting to note that the age-related declines are seen in the sedentary group. The active group shows a very mild decline only.
5. Muscle mass decline. Muscle mass declines steadily with age and may be replaced with fatty tissue - muscle tone declines by around 22% by the age of 70. As muscles shrink, they lose strength and flexibility and become fatigued more easily, and you may find you are less coordinated or have trouble balancing. The more sedentary you are, the quicker these changes take place so it’s important to keep active as you age. Focus on strength training exercises that can help to reduce the rate of muscle loss and improve endurance. Exercising in the morning will also help to keep energy levels higher throughout the rest of the day. Energy drainers can include what you eat (with fried foods and sweets being common culprits) and what you drink (caffeine found in coffee, tea and some sodas) and alcohol.
6. Irregular digestion and decreased absorption of nutrition . As you age your digestion slows down because the speed of contractions moving food through the digestive system slows. Production of gastric juices and enzymes too gets reduced. Artery blockages in older people are also very common. Blockages in arteries can affect blood flow to the bowels, a condition called intestinal ischemia, during which blood flow to the intestines decreases and this in turn leads to less sucking up of nutrients.
7. The metabolic rate drop- Hormonal changes cause your metabolic rate to drop, which results in more body fat and less muscle mass. Fat also tends to move deeper inside the body as we age, which increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. To combat a slow metabolism, it is important to stay active using a variety of different activities that include cardio and strength training.
Q: Heavy metals are present in both non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian foods. So we get toxic substances from both. What can we do then?
Krishna: Yes, it is true we have toxic heavy metals like lead,mercury and cadmium in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods. However, absorption of these heavy metals by a human body will be low with vegetarian diets. Therefore, vegetarian diets are less risky in this regard.
Q: Can people like Ravana with ten heads really exist?
Krishna: Ravana with 10 heads is just a figment of imagination as it is not possible for living beings to have so many heads.
Two-headed animals (called bicephalic or dicephalic) and three-headed (tricephalic) animals are the only type of multi-headed creatures seen in the real world, and form by the same process as conjoined twins from monozygotic twin embryos.
Q: Is the recent discovery of methane on Mars being oversold to the public as a discovery of life to encourage more funding for future projects? If so, how do scientists feel about this?
Krishna: Journalists always try to find a way to keep science ‘interesting’ to the general public. They attempt to make even small findings sensational by using ‘eye-ball-catching’ language. But we know most of the time, it means nothing for people in the labs.
Ground based calculations have found methane in Martian atmosphere long back, but none have been able to conclude if they definitely indicated any life. This is because methane could be of geological as well as biological origin. Methane is interesting because most of it in our atmosphere is produced by methanogenic Archaea (or microbes); in other words, it is a signal of life. So if we find out the source, we might have detected life on Mars if it is biological in origin.
Until the source is found … we just read, smile and go back to our all important work. We have better things to do than fall prey to journalistic gimmicks.