SCI-ART LAB

Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

                                                                 Interactive Science Series

Q: Why is it harder to kill fungi in the human body than bacteria? 

Krishna: There are only few species of fungi that are pathogenic to animals, especially mammals. A little more than 400 of these species are known to cause disease in animals, and far fewer of these species will specifically cause disease in people. Many of the latter will only be superficial types of diseases that are more of a cosmetic than a health problem. So there are very few species of fungi that are pathogenic to humans that will be fatal.

That is the good side of fungi.

Now for the darker side …
The treatment of fungal diseases is more difficult than those caused by bacteria. Because bacteria are prokaryotes, the makeup of their cells are very different than our own eukaryotic cells ( cells containing membrane-bound organelles) and pharmaceutical products, such as antibiotics, are able to successfully destroy bacteria without harming much our cells, tissues and organs. However, because fungi are eukaryotes, finding a treatment that will kill the fungus and not harm our own cells is more difficult. So most chemical treatments that are harmful to fungi are also toxic to us.

Q: If a research paper is published by guide without informing the candidate what should be done?

Krishna: I would go and ask my guide why he did this, softly though. If my name is included in the author’s list, that is okay. If I can’t find my name there, I would definitely complain with proof.

Q by the same person: 

Thanks a lot my guide added the name of others 3 persons …

He is not ready to add..

Kindly guide me how can I complain..

Krishna: I didn’t understand your problem properly. Have you worked for the paper and contributed something? Do you have evidence to support your claim? You can claim authorship only if you contributed something to the work. If so first go to your guide and ask him why he did not add your name to the author’s list. If he doesn’t provide good reasons despite evidence, go the group leader or Head of the institution and complain. You can also complain to the Editor of the Journal to which the paper has been sent. And remember if you complain you are taking a risk … unless you have full proof to substantiate your claim, don’t attempt it. Nobody would believe you until they see your indisputable evidence. 

Q: I am not good at writing. I tried to answer a few Qs like you do, but didn't get any response or appreciation from any one. Is that a bad sign?

Krishna: I am sure several people read what I write here. Several of them told me they appreciate my work. I get praises and some criticisms too. These will not have any effect on me.

I usually don’t get much time to answer in detail. My answers will be brief and up to the point - like people of science usually give. People might not like that. Or the facts I give are too shocking for people who deal with confirmation biases.

Anyway, I don’t care. As a person of science, Putting facts before people is my motive. If I achieve that it is more than enough for me. I don’t look for praises  when I write. If you can do that, you too don’t get frustrated.

Q: In what way quantum computers differ from ordinary computers?

Krishna: Speed. With quantum computers you can work at super speed.

Classical computers encode information as bits that can be in one of two states, 0 or 1, the ‘qubits’ that comprise quantum computers can be in ‘superpositions’ of both at once. This, together with qubits’ ability to share a quantum state called entanglement, should enable the computers to essentially perform many calculations at once. And the number of such calculations should, in principle, double for each additional qubit, leading to an exponential speed-up.

This rapidity should allow quantum computers to perform certain tasks, such as searching large databases or factoring large numbers, which would be unfeasible for slower, classical computers. The machines could also be transformational as a research tool, performing quantum simulations that would enable chemists to understand reactions in unprecedented detail, or physicists to design materials that superconduct at room temperature.

Q: Why do people still believe in superstitions despite knowing that there is no basis to them?

Krishna: Yes, why?

Fear, lack of critical thinking abilities, they worked for some just because of chance, exploitation of the innocent by the cunning and religious people to keep people under their control, herd mentality - just because others around are following them, chaos, inability to tackle difficult situations - lack of mental strength.

Q: Is it true that we can use thousands of years of honey because it won't get spoiled?

Krishna: Yes, honey in its purest form won't get spoiled. There are a few reasons for this property of honey:

 The first one is the chemical make-up of honey itself. Honey is, first and foremost, a sugar. Sugars are hygroscopic, a term that means they contain very little water in their natural state but can readily suck in moisture if left unsealed. Honey in its natural form is very low moisture. Very few bacteria or microorganisms can survive in an environment like that, they just die. With such an inhospitable environment, organisms can’t survive long enough within the jar of honey to have the chance to spoil.

Second one-honey is also naturally extremely acidic. It has a pH that falls between 3 and 4.5, approximately, and that acid will kill off almost anything that wants to grow in it.

Third:  There is certainly a special alchemy that goes into honey making by bees. Nectar, the first material collected by bees to make honey, is naturally very high in water–anywhere from 60-80 percent. However, through the process of making honey, the bees play a large part in removing much of this moisture by flapping their wings to literally dry out the nectar. On top of behavior, the chemical makeup of a bees stomach also plays a large part in honey’s resilience. Bees have an enzyme in their stomachs called glucose oxidase (PDF). When the bees regurgitate the nectar from their mouths into the combs to make honey, this enzyme mixes with the nectar, breaking it down into two by-products: gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide works against all these other bad things that could possibly grow and spoil honey.
Q: Do scientists themselves try to contradict their own theories and models? 
Q: Can something be 'maybe a fact'? Krishna: Possible in science...because...
Krishna: Yes, they do! Scientists often argue against their own positions—this is a key part of scientific skepticism. Scientists frequently think they are right when in fact they are wrong, as science is hard and many initial results do not hold up as robustly when independently replicated. Therefore, Scientists discuss, debate, try to prove others wrong, put forward alternate theories and models and try to prove things they think are right. 
This is really interesting. Until tested and  proven by several researchers nothing becomes a fact in science. Even this fact can be provisional and remains a fact until somebody proves it wrong. 
Science is a constantly changing field but the change here denotes 'improvement'.
Q: Are practices in Indian religions purely scientific?
Krishna: I have observed many pseudo-scientific practices in people here. We love science so much that we want to give authenticity to several of our beliefs and practices and go the way of pseudo-science because real science cannot endorse such silly practices.
Q: Your article this-is-what-a-liver-transplant-surgeon-told-me-recently is interesting. But several foreign scientists and doctors say all Eastern medical practices are humbug. Do you agree?
Krishna: Like I have been saying all these years, most of alternate medicines used by alternate medical practitioners are untested scientifically in modern terms. You can't rely on them unless each one of the claims are tested scientifically  and proven to be right.
Moreover, I have read several research papers that show these medicines to be toxic and harmful. How can you trust them then?
I prefer to remain a skeptic.
Q: What is the greatest invention of mankind?
Krishna: You can’t pinpoint one like that. Different answers will be given by different people when confronted with this Q - it  clearly proves this- that the answers to the Q are just perception-based. Everything that contributed to human welfare is great in my opinion.
Q: Who is more great - a scientist or a doctor?
Krishna: Hmm! Each profession has its own significance. 
Without a scientist doing thorough research and finding about medical conditions and their treatments, a doctor will not have the necessary knowledge to treat his patients. 
A doctor's dedicated service is equally necessary to save lives mere knowledge will not do the job.
So I think both are equally great.
Q:  Why isn't life enough proof for atheists that God exists?

Krishna: Life is just proof of life, not God, to atheists. Because, life you see is evidence of life, it doesn't show you God. 

If you say, I don’t understand this - how life originated - therefore it could not have happened naturally. Something supernatural must have intervened - embodies 'God of Gaps' view of ancient times. 

We know how life originated through scientific knowledge. Therefore, atheists don't need "God of Gaps" view to understand origin of life. 

 If you don’t understand how life originated, like in ancient times, ‘God of gaps’ view appeals to you.

If you know through scientific knowledge how life originated, you don’t need God to fill the gaps. Simple!

Q: How does one secure funding for doctoral research?

Krishna: By getting a fellowship. In India, CSIR and UGC are the main fund providers. You will get all the details from their websites.

You can also join projects headed by scientists and professors. But when you join these projects you cannot choose your topic of interest. You have to settle for whatever is offered to you.

You will find some more here: https://cfr.annauniv.edu/research/announcements/PhD%20Fellowship.pdf

But I think there is no ‘secure funding’. You have to publish peer-reviewed papers in a limited time frame. Otherwise your fellowship will be withheld.

For full details on how to do research click on this link: How to do research and write research papers

Q:  Will micro or nanobots be able to perform simple operations like ulcer removal someday?

Krishna: In science everything is possible.

Robots are already performing delicate surgeries.

Nanoparticles are being used for specific drug deliveries:

Nanotechnology: Deliver on a Promise

Microbial Mules: Engineering Bacteria to Transport Nanoparticles an...

Nanobots Start to Move

Toward nanorobots that swim through blood to deliver drugs (video) ...

DNA robots can kill cancer cells :

DNA robot could kill cancer cells

Q: Can individual atoms be  seen?

Krishna: Yes, it is possible now. Atoms can be seen through electron microscopes:

Electron microscope sees single hydrogen atoms

Single atoms spied on graphene sliver

Q: Do we still need atomic weapons?

Krishna: Not to fight wars. 

We might still need them to deflect comets and asteroids that could be on collision course with Earth. 

Q: What would happen if we could see at a microscopic level with our naked eyes?

Krishna: You will get horrified! Yes, to see your own body surface occupied by billions of microbes! To see the whole world filled with them.

On the other hand you would also get marveled to observe how individual cells in your body works at microscopic levels. You will have a broader vision and can really get enlightened when nature’s secrets are unraveled before your own eyes. You will never be the same person again.

This is what happens to me very frequently because I deal with microscopes most of the time and they are like my own eyes!

Q: Is getting highest marks in your class/college/university a mark of intelligence?

Krishna: You need to be above average to stand first. But you can also just mug up your lessons and when the exam system favours your type of preparation, you might also get top marks. I don't think that is an exact measure of intelligence. I have seen some top rankers in schools and colleges failing in some other tough exams that test their critical thinking abilities.

Our schools, colleges, universities do not offer scope for critical thinking or path-breaking innovations which alone could make people intellectuals. Our teaching system is based on rote learning and textbook oriented. Our teachers strive for marks and parents look for ranks, so where is the scope for becoming geniuses? 

Q: How can I contribute to scientific research as a teenager?

Krishna: I am very glad to hear from a person like you who is interested in research at such an young age. I really appreciate your efforts to move forward.

You need some basic knowledge to conduct scientific research.

So your first step should be - learning, learning and more learning.

Observe the problems people around you face. Try to think how you can solve them using your knowledge.

Once you gain knowledge in various fields, try to connect them creatively to achieve the best solutions.

Then try to think critically how this knowledge you acquired can be taken to higher levels.

If possible help members of a research team atleast in collecting data as a volunteer. Observe how they are doing their work. You will gain more practical knowledge. When you are ready to conduct your own research work these experiences will help you a lot.

And finally share your knowledge with others and help them sculpt their lives using this scientific awareness.

Read this article that can give you some insights about research:

How to do research and write research papers

All the best to you. 

Q: Maam i am very desperate to do scientific work in microbiology.

Can you please tell me what are the placements i can get to do proper research after a degree in M.Sc. microbiology?

Krishna: The research opportunities are innumerable. Any university in India, life sciences research centers, medical research centers, food and agriculture research centers, forensic sciences, biotechnology research centers to name a few. You can select the topic depending on your interest, funds available, research facilities and job prospects.

Q: Is there any scientific evidence for re-incarnation?

Krishna: I have heard several stories of re-incarnation when I was very young. They used to fascinate me then. They no longer do that to me now. Because I didn't find any solid scientific evidence to support these stories originated in creative minds in order to mislead general public.

Q: In Scientific terms, what race of humans would be physically superior? 

Krishna: Scientists think races and castes are social constructs without biological meaning. Racial categories are weak proxies for genetic diversity and need to be phased out.

Yes, some researchers use 'racial concept' in genetic research but now scientists think it is too crude to provide useful information, it's a concept that has social meaning that interferes in the scientific understanding of human genetic diversity and it's a concept that they call upon moving away from.

The study of complete genomes from different parts of the world has shown that even between Africa and Europe, for example, there is not a single absolute genetic difference, meaning no single variant where all Africans have one variant and all Europeans another one, even when recent migration is disregarded.

The researchers think that there are a few areas where race as a construct might still be useful in scientific research: as a political and social, but not biological, variable.

So ‘race’ cannot decide this! 

Q: If there's nothing such as a race, why do Brahmins look more attractive than the Dalits?

Krishna: What?! This Q itself has shocked me!

Attractiveness depends on several things but not on races or castes!

Scientists think races and castes are social constructs without biological meaning. Racial categories are weak proxies for genetic diversity and need to be phased out.

Yes, some researchers use 'racial concept' in genetic research but now scientists think it is too crude to provide useful information, it's a concept that has social meaning that interferes in the scientific understanding of human genetic diversity and it's a concept that they call upon moving away from.

The study of complete genomes from different parts of the world has shown that even between Africa and Europe, for example, there is not a single absolute genetic difference, meaning no single variant where all Africans have one variant and all Europeans another one, even when recent migration is disregarded.

The researchers think that there are a few areas where race as a construct might still be useful in scientific research: as a political and social, but not biological, variable.

Q: Should students around the world be influenced by the early lives of Albert Einstein and Thomas Alva Edison?

Krishna: Definitely. Despite having problems in his childhood, Einstein became a genius with his efforts to overcome them.

Edition failed several times in his work but famously said, ‘I have learnt how I cannot make a bulb in 999 ways. That is not a failure’ which represents a true scientific spirit.

In scientific research you very often face several difficulties and success is placed so high that it takes all your life’s efforts to reach there. These inspiring stories from famous scientists can definitely help you in overcoming frustrations and failures. 

Q: Who deals with ethics in science?

Krishna: There is no international body to deal with it. Policy makers and rule setters don't have much knowledge about these things and that is why rules differ from region to region. 

Uniform international ethics would deal with the problem more efficiently but we don't have an scientific body that is global to set the rules. In such a scenario peer-reviewers and publishers have a great role to play to stop these unethical practices.

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