SCI-ART LAB

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

                                                                 Interactive science series

Q: Why do scientists worry about conservation when we can de-extinct animals and plants that have become extinct long back with the help of GM?

Krishna: The pitfalls of recreation of extinct species or ‘de-extinction' are not studied enough to make it safe.

Bringing back extinct species from the dead needs lots of funding and the effort diverts and takes away money from the government funded  conservation projects making more species vulnerable to extinction. 

It would also cost to sustain a population of de-extincted animals.  It was found by a research team and reported in Nature Ecology and Evolution recently that instead of focusing the money on de-extinction, if one allocated it into existing conservation programs for living species, we would see a much bigger increase in biodiversity—roughly two to eight times more species saved. In other words, the money would be better spent elsewhere to prevent existing species from going extinct in the first place.

We have learned from biological invasions that putting new species into ecosystems can have large economic and ecological effects, sometimes positive and sometimes negative and we don't know what impact de-extinction of certain dead species will have on our present natural eco-systems making it somewhat 'risky'. We cannot assert that a de-extinguished species will merely resume its former roles.

Moreover, we’ve been changing our world so rapidly, a de-extinguished species won’t be restored to its former ecosystem, but to a different, sometimes radically different, ecosystem making its survival in nature very difficult.

We should resist this immediate desire for de-extinction and deliberately choose the best time  to pursue it. This may mean waiting until we gather information needed to assess the benefits and risks of releasing these new organisms into nature and develop a control plan.

The dominant message in the analysis appears to be that doing de-extinction en masse would be counterproductive. This is ethically messy, ecologically awkward, and really expensive.

Scientists now feel that it is 'not smart' to go for it!

Q: Why do some things go viral on the net while others don't?

Krishna: According to a recent study (1), specific regions of the brain determine how valuable it would be to share information, and that value translates to its likelihood of going viral.

People are interested in reading or sharing content that connects to their own experiences, or to their sense of who they are or who they want to be, according to the study,  and they share things that might improve their relationships, make them look smart or empathetic or cast them in a positive light.

Whether they were choosing to read for themselves or deciding what to recommend to others, the neural data of the researchers suggest that people think about both themselves and others and that thinking about what to share brought out the highest levels of activity in both of these neural systems.

The researchers  found that activity in the self-related and mentalizing regions of the brain combine unconsciously in our minds to produce an overall signal about an article's value. That value signal then predicts whether or not we want to share.  Exactly how we're thinking about ourselves and others varies from person to person. For example, one person may think that an article will make her friends laugh, while another may think that sharing it will help his friend solve a particular problem. But neural activity in regions associated with the self and with social considerations serves as a type of common denominator for various types of social and self-related thinking and sharing.

Another study (2) shows how these brain signals can be used to predict virality of the same news articles around the world.

Q: Who are the scientists (or research groups) working in India (TIFR, IISc, IISERs, IITs, NITs etc.) that every Indian needs to know about? Some exciting and relevant research must be happening in some of the labs which usually does not come into limelight. It would be nice to know and may be associate with such groups.

Krishna: India’s rocket women: India’s rocket women

They are great inspiration and each and every Indian should know about them.

Q: Why are some people rejecting science altogether?

Krishna: Failure of sci-com. We are not understanding the problem properly before venturing into it.

It happens because some people reject expert information when it goes against their personal values 

 “Some of our most stubborn misbeliefs arise not from primitive childlike intuitions or careless category errors, but from the very values and philosophies that define who we are as individuals.” When those misbeliefs are challenged, laypeople take it not as correction but as a direct attack on their identity. 

And they resist it with all their might.

Q: How can science escape politics and religion?

Krishna: It would be better if people outside of science don't interfere with the work of people in labs if the former set of people are not well informed with the latter's work. Scientific inquiry should be immune from the whims of politicians and religious zealots. Unfortunately that is not the case now. Without understanding fully what the work is all about people are judging it using their biases.

In such a scenario scientists must and should put their feet down and tell others firmly that they should not interfere with their work. But 'funds' are provided by people outside and that is what makes them 'pokers' and 'intruders' without much hindrance. 

Then how about scientists themselves become law makers and public speakers? Follow Einstein? Yes!

Einstein was never one to stick to the science. Long before today’s debates of whether scientists should enter politics and controversial scientist-turned-activist figures like NASA’s James Hansen hit the scene, the world-renowned physicist used his platform to advocate loudly for social justice, especially for black Americans. As a target of anti-Semitism in Germany and abroad between the World Wars, the Jewish scientist was well aware of the harm that discrimination inflicts, and sought to use his platform to speak out against the mistreatment of others.

In a way Einstein used his popularity to denounce racism. Einstein began speaking out as soon as he became famous. In interviews, he advocated for an end to militarism and mandatory military service in Germany. He used his fame to help raise money for the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, making him a very public face not just of science but of Jewishness. Einstein himself drew on his Jewishness to amplify his message about social justice and American racism. Einstein saw racism as a fundamental stumbling block to freedom. In both his science and his politics, Einstein believed in the need for individual liberty: the ability to follow ideas and life paths without fear of oppression. And he knew from his experiences as a Jewish scientist in Germany how easily that freedom could be destroyed in the name of nationalism and patriotism. In a 1946 commencement speech at Lincoln University, the oldest black college in the U.S., Einstein decried American racism in no uncertain terms.

Likewise more famous scientists should use their fame to denounce 'politics' and 'religious extremism'. They should also try to raise funds for scientific research so that science can become free from other influences and others' clutches. 

And they are trying to do exactly that right now. 

Q: Why can't we, the common people, understand science research papers well?

Krishna: There is a common misconception that scientific papers are written in English. This is an easy mistake to make, because they are clearly written using English words, grammar, etc. However, they are written mostly in their own specialized language full of scientific and technical words. That language takes time to learn how to read and understand it. We are trained for years to do that. If you want to understand the research papers you too have to learn the  specialized 'scientific language'.

Q: Can emotions be inherited from parents? 

Krishna: This can happen sometimes according to some research: Mice Inherit the Fears of Their Fathers. This talks about the most recent and strongest evidence so far that fear memories can be inherited.  You can find the original paper here Page on nature.com

In one highly publicized example, researchers in New York studied several dozen women who were pregnant on September 11, 2001, and had been in the vicinity of the terrorist attacks. Some of these women developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and this group shows lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva than do those who did not develop PTSD. But here’s the rub: At 9 months old, the babies of the women with PTSD have significantly lower cortisol levels than babies of healthy mothers.

In earlier work, the same researchers had reported low cortisol levels in adult children of Holocaust survivors with PTSD. And in yet another study, Kerry Ressler’s group at Emory University showed that the so-called “startle response” to a sudden stimulus — a marker of anxiety — is more pronounced in kids whose mothers were physically abused as children then in those whose mothers were not abused. 

A parent’s sadness and stress naturally affects how they interact with other people, including their children. The Holocaust study, in fact, found that the survivors with PTSD tended to emotionally abuse or neglect their children. And we know from some remarkable experiments in rats that parental care affects the offspring’s genes: Rat pups that get a lot of licking and grooming from their mothers show distinct changes in their epigenome, the chemical markers that attach to DNA and can turn genes on and off. Neglected pups, in contrast, don’t show these epigenetic tweaks.

Now a fascinating new study reveals that it’s not just nurture. Traumatic experiences can actually work themselves into the germ line. When a male mouse becomes afraid of a specific smell, this fear is somehow transmitted into his sperm, the study found. His pups will also be afraid of the odor, and will pass that fear down to their pups.

And why, evolutionarily, would a parent pass down such specific information? “So that when the offspring, or descending generations, encounter that environment later in life, they’ll know how to behave appropriately. (3)

Q:How much do PhD supervisors usually participate when writing and publishing a paper?

Krishna: That depends on the supervisor. Some participate at every step. Some, like mine, tell their students to find their own way. However, they will have to go through the paper at at least once before sending it to publication.

Q:Is astrology true? Should we believe in it or not? I believe that when a person really works hard, God wholeheartedly offer him/her success. Is it that astrology decides the future? I believe a person writes his own life. Please help me with your opinions. When someone works really hard for something, is it that he won't achieve it just because his/her horoscope denies it?

Krishna: 

It is not true. Read this article once before deciding what to do…

Debate between scientists and people who practice pseudo-science - ...

Q: What do I do when my work was not acknowledged in a research paper? I spent an entire summer doing statistical analysis for a research paper. I was told that my invaluable contributions would be acknowledged but when the paper was finally published all my tables and interpretations were used but there is no acknowledgement. I am a little sad. What should I do?

Krishna: There will be all sorts of people in this world. If you really contributed something to a research paper it is your right to demand the inclusion of your name in the authors’ list or at least people who used your services should acknowledge your contribution. If they didn’t do that, it really hurts.

If you have evidence of your contribution, you can complain to your institution head. Or you can write to the journal’s editor showing proof.

Q: Is ethnic diversity important in scientific research?

Krishna: Yes, absolutely. Some of our biggest discoveries, like the Higgs boson and the human genome sequence, were possible because of the collective work of many scientists from different backgrounds.  A diversity of ideas is essential for science and for addressing the world’s most pressing problems. However, to promote diversity, we must confront the structural inequalities and discrimination that are prevalent in science and society.  

Q: What is red shift? 

Krishna: Redshift happens when light or other electromagnetic radiation from an object is increased in wavelength, or shifted to the red end of the spectrum.

Redshift and blueshift describe how light changes as objects in space (such as stars or galaxies) move closer or farther away from us. The concept is key to charting the universe's expansion. Visible light is a spectrum of colors, we all know that. When an object moves away from us, the light is shifted to the red end of the spectrum, as its wavelengths get longer. If an object moves closer, the light moves to the blue end of the spectrum, as its wavelengths get shorter.

Q: Are crop circles created by aliens?

Krishna: Majority of the scientists don't think so.

In 1991, English pranksters Doug Bower and Dave Chorley took credit for most of the crop circles across southern England made since 1978. They were inspired by the Tully “saucer nest” case in Australia, where a farmer found a flattened circle of swamp reeds after observing a UFO.

Using basic tools including a plank of wood, rope, and a baseball cap fitted with a loop of wire to help them walk in a straight line, they said they made complex crop circles in England — which others then copied all over the world into the 1980s.

They made a circle for journalists, which was later declared authentic by a cereologist. They then revealed their hoax to the world, spurring on even more copycats.

Q: You say Gomutra is not a medicine. But check these patents:

Patent US6410059 - Pharmaceutical composition containing cow urine ...

Patent US6896907 - Use of bioactive fraction from cow urine distill...

Krishna: 

Thank you SO MUCH.

But the patent says…the applicants thought of utilizing cow urine, which is not MICROBICIDAL but when present with a drug or active molecule, enhance its activity and availability (bioenhancers). The present invention was the result of planned experiments to provide a novel method for improving activity and bioavailability of antibiotics, drugs and other molecules using ‘cow urine distillate’ in different formulations.

It is similar to saying methi seeds ‘enhance’ the diabetic drug performance but they don’t actually act as drugs themselves.

THE PAPTENT CLEARLY SAYS gomutra IS NOT A MEDICINE BUT JUST A BIO-ENHANCER.

OH, YES IN LAB CONDITIONS SEVERAL THINGS HAPPEN WHEN ONLY TWO THINGS ARE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT BUT IN ACTUAL COMPLEX HUMAN BODIES DIFFERENT REACTIONS might take place.

Gomutra might contain bioenhancers but it also contains several toxins too that the cow’s body is trying to excrete. A distillate is a liquid which is condensed from a vapor during distillation and removes microbes and other substances that are harmful.

The best possible way to use bio-enhancers is to extract them, purify and use them.

Raw ‘gomutra’ as it is excreted by a cow is harmful.

Q: Does cow urine really contain medicated substance? Is there any clinical research (scientific evidence) for that?

Krishna: 

There are no medicines in gowmutra according to modern science. However, there is a Bio-enhancer.

Patent US6410059 - Pharmaceutical composition containing cow urine ...

Patent US6896907 - Use of bioactive fraction from cow urine distill...

Cow urine is not MICROBICIDAL but when present with a drug or active molecule, enhance its activity and availability (bioenhancers). The scientific invention was the result of planned experiments to provide a novel method for improving activity and bioavailability of antibiotics, drugs and other molecules using ‘cow urine distillate’ in different formulations.

It is similar to saying methi seeds ‘enhance’ the diabetic drug performance but they don’t actually act as drugs themselves.

THE PAPTENT CLEARLY SAYS gomutra IS NOT A MEDICINE BUT JUST A BIO-ENHANCER.

OH, YES IN LAB CONDITIONS SEVERAL THINGS HAPPEN WHEN ONLY TWO THINGS ARE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT BUT IN ACTUAL COMPLEX HUMAN BODIES DIFFERENT REACTIONS might take place.

Gomutra might contain bioenhancers but it also contains several toxins too that the cow’s body is trying to excrete. A distillate is a liquid which is condensed from a vapor during distillation and removes microbes and other substances that are harmful.

The best possible way to use bio-enhancers is to extract them, purify and use them.

Raw ‘gaumutra’ as it is excreted by a cow is harmful.

Q: What is 'advanced directive' in medical terms? 

Krishna:  It is a choice as to how we die. It is called advanced directive and durable power of attorney. In simple language it means, you clearly instruct your family doctor or a close friend or a family member, who would stand by you, that, if such a situation arises, you don’t wish to be connected to a life support system and that is legally valid (Do Not Resuscitate -DNR). 

Advance Medical Directive, or what is commonly known as a ‘living will’ is a document indicative of an individual’s wish to continue medical treatment or not when he is artificially kept alive.

But in India it is not binding on doctors!

Citations:

1. "The Value of Sharing Information: A Neural Account of Information Transmission," will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science. In addition to Baek and Scholz, other co-authors include Matthew Brook O'Donnell, Ph.D., and Emily Falk, Ph.D.

2. "A Neural Model of Valuation and Information Virality" will be published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In addition to Scholz and Baek, its co-authors include Matthew Brook O'Donnell, Ph.D., Hyun Suk Kim, Ph.D., Joseph N. Cappella, Ph.D., and Emily B. Falk, Ph.D.

3. http://www.nature.com/news/stress-the-roots-of-resilience-1.11570

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