SCI-ART LAB

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

                                                                   Interactive science series

Q: Is skepticism about GMOs or Biotechnology anti-science? Why do scientists react in extreme ways when general public object to them? 

Krishna: When people outside the field of science  fall prey to mis-interpretations and  react with fear, scientists who have full knowledge about the subject get frustrated. Why don't people listen to and trust scientists?

You have every right to choose who you want to listen to. But think about this: Can a person who has an MBA or an MFA or an MA in theology interpret scientific knowledge in research papers as well as a scientist with M.Sc., Ph.D. and years of experience in research does? 

Scientists are skeptics too, but they follow a methodology and accepted rules. You cannot question things based on your beliefs, fears, mis-directed opinions, and other emotions. 

Why don't general public get well acquainted with the subject and analyse it thoroughly with an unbiased mind first before coming to a conclusion?

If you say 'I am not a racist but don't allow people of some ethnic origins in my circle', what does that mean?  

What do you call  your qualities of fear of science, not learning about a subject fully before judging it, going against an expert's advice and raising your voice against it and harming the societies you live in by spreading mis-information?

If you want to lead a campaign to impose your irrational fears of the advancement of technology and science on other people, call them  alternative truths and mis-direct others too what does that mean?

Okay, shall we call it anti-social, if not anti-science? :)

Q: Are scientists the final authority while deciding what is right and what is wrong?

Krishna: Scientific methodology is the final authority. Science is, as Feynman said, the best way we humans have invented to prevent fooling ourselves. Otherwise we would think our beliefs - no matter how irrational they are - are correct and can guide us towards the right direction.

Scientists who follow scientific methodology question everything, including their own beliefs, and test every finding rigorously. They never make claims of unfalsifiable truths. All they have are hypotheses and theories and that can be either confirmed or falsified. They never have 100% confidence in their findings, 99% at best. Everything, even the most obvious and intuitive things are uncertain to some degree. When mistakes are made, they are announced and corrected. Science is  a never-ending self- correcting process. You improve yourself more and more as time goes by.

It is a vigorously flowing river, whatever  pollution added to it, will get washed away quickly.

Q: A friend of mine tells me that outside of physics, most scientists do not consider physics to be a true science. Is this true? She (biology major) says this is because it relies heavily on math, and is actually a mix of math and science. I disagree. I think that physics is a science because it uses the scientific method, and it is not a math because it does not rely solely on deduction. I think it just uses math as a tool.

Krishna: What your friend says is not true.

I am a Microbiologist and deal with Physics when I am dealing with microscopes. I deal with chemistry while I am conducting my experiments in my lab to find toxins in food. I deal with maths and statistics while understanding my data. I love all these fields as much as I love my subject.

In other words, all the subjects in science are interlinked and depend on one another.

We creatively connect things from the various fields to derive more knowledge in all arenas of science. And all science deals with a common methodology.

Science is science whether one accepts it or not. Individual opinions don’t count much in science.

Q: Our planet has many living beings. How come only human beings can understand things in a scientific way?

Krishna: Many human beings too don't understand things in a scientific way! :)

And it was found several other living beings - like dolphins, elephants,  chimps - are intelligent enough to do things using their rational thought although they are not as advanced as we are in doing that.

Cetacean intelligence refers to the cognitive capabilities of the Cetacea ( whales and dolphins)

 order of mammals.

According to The Smartest Animals on the Planet by Dr. Sally Boysen, recently revised and updated with new studies and sections, you can break down animal intelligence into a few categories: social learning, mirror self-recognition, numerical abilities, language comprehension, cooperation with others, and altruism.

No doubt human beings  are more evolved than other living beings but  when you think about other forms of life that can beat adverse conditions more effectively than us like Tardigrades -

the-almost-indestructible-animal-that-is-helping-human-beings ,  you wonder whether you are really more evolved than other living beings.

Q: Is anything more exciting to a scientist than discovering that a theory long held to be true turns out to be incorrect or incomplete?

Krishna: Anything new excites us whether it is new evidence justifying and agreeing with a theory or falsifying it. Everything that helps us understand the world in a better way than the previous one thrills us to no end!

Q: Your article on "Microbiomes" is interesting. Do microbes control us really?

Krishna:  Gut microbes have  been shown to influence diet and behaviour as well as anxiety, depression, hypertension and a variety of other conditions of living beings. Now neuroscientists have found that specific types of gut flora also help a host animal detect which nutrients are missing in food, and then finely titrate how much of those nutrients the host really needs to eat. Scientists are trying to find out how this is possible.

Q: How do you think the universe started?

Krishna: This is what many scientists think...

Q: Is there any scientific reason behind crossing of our path by a cat?

Krishna: No! There is absolutely no scientific reason behind this superstition.

I have answered several of these questions here where people try to authenticate their baseless beliefs using pseudo-science as justification. When real science cannot endorse a belief only non-sense can come to people’s rescue. But the innocent still believe these things!

Recently I read an interesting comment describing the state of affairs here: A black cat passing by the crossroad anywhere in India can stop hundreds of people what a RED LIGHT on traffic signal has failed to do for a long time!!

How about using cats instead of red lights at the traffic junctions here? :)

Another person, VC, who read my answer to the above Q on cats said this... and my replies to him...

Krishna: This is exactly what I had expected.

Do you think our ancestors couldn’t realize the difference in the size between a cat and a leopard? How silly that sounds?! Okay even if they couldn't, can’t people realize it now? Why are people still following this superstition now? 

VC: It is because during the old days cats are bigger then now. The reason behind this is evolution of cat families. And if you are talking about that why people still believe in this ,the reason is clear they fear from God , that God will do something bad to them.

Krishna: Never heard about domestic cats the size of leopards. What you say is not correct.

10 Huge Prehistoric Cats - Listverse

If you have real scientific reasons give them to me. Don’t give me your beliefs as valid reasons. Science doesn’t accept them. Sorry.

Q:Why do scientists get mad when I tell them my MBA is twice as valuable as their PhD?

Krishna: One of my senior colleagues, who did his Ph.D. in Microbiology joined a bank, beat all the MBAs in the game and became the chairman of the bank. So?! :)

Q: What is a scientific mind?

Krishna: There are several traits that can describe a scientific mind. These are based on my experiences...

Curiosity

Trying to see the unseen and the whole picture

Extremely keen observation

High reasoning power

Independent critical thinking

Creativeness in connecting various things

Dealing with adversities effectively and overcoming failures

Enjoying stress and pressure that comes with work

Keep asking questions until it get all the answers to its satisfaction

Giving attention to details

Filtering everything through the framework of scientific knowledge

Unquenchable thirst for knowledge

Strictly following the scientific methodology

Risk taking ability

Passion for research

Find full details here: The specific traits of a scientific mind

Q: Do scientists really see colourful pictures of microbes, cosmos etc. while using microscopes and telescopes?

Krishna: There is a well-respected technique in data visualisation called false colouring which is used to improve the presentation of data and make it easier to see what is going on. Scientists present the pictures  in beautiful colours to the outside world to make things interesting and easy to differentiate and understand things for common people. 

But let me also remind you we see some really beautiful naturally coloured stuff under the microscopes.

Q: What is the best thing about you and why?

Krishna: I have a very scientific mind and it makes me look at the world in a completely different way from what majority of people see. Yes, my world is extremely beautiful and realistic. My mind provides all dimensional full pictures of everything in terms of space, time, balance, rhythm and unity in this universe.

Oh, it is a real bliss!

Q:Why were genius people like Issac Newton and Nikola Tesla against the development of women?  

Krishna: These people were good at only dealing with problems in their subject. While facing the rest of the things they were just like ordinary human beings reflecting the thinking of times and worlds they lived in.

Science training teaches us to think critically each and every aspect that comes before us which include social, societal, religious, emotional and political features. But if you think that scientific training is just like training in car driving - you learn it on the road and forget it when you go home - you become a non-scientific character and make faults at every step of the way outside your lab. Then you are no genius in the real sense.

The artificial media hype might take you to pseudo-heights in the mind matters but your behaviour proves to the world who you really are in the world outside of your work place.

Q: What are scientific reasons behind Indian superstitions?

Krishna: The words ‘scientific reasons behind superstitions’ are oxymoronic. Superstitions are baseless beliefs originated in fear, helplessness, low confidence, high confusion and chaos. Science is organized, a process of learning about things to understand them properly to conquer unrealistic fears and increase your confidence levels.

So there are no scientific reasons behind Indian or any superstitions. Oh, yes, you will find lots of pseudo-science when people try to authenticate their irrational behaviour using ‘science’ as a cover-up.

Science's rules are unyielding, they will not be bent in any way fo...

Q: How does school science help students become scientists?

Krishna: School is the place where your foundation for future scientific career is laid. If your science teachers are good, your interest in science takes root in school. Your curiosity to learn more about the world in a realistic way increases.

The young mind already knows how to question things. It is the school children that ask the most interesting questions. If one could maintain this zest to learn, you can enter the world of science without any hesitation.

Also very young children are very curious and try to observe things very keenly. This is one of the traits of scientists too. If this trait is not suppressed by impatient teachers and parents, you grow to become a good scientist.

There are other things too that have to be learned when you grow up but young children have some of the most important traits of a scientist, when encouraged, will go full fledged.

Science curriculum in schools have to engage the children in a creative way so that they develop more interest in scientific way of doing things. How can this be done? Read here:

Art and literature as effective aids in science communication and t...

Q: Do respected scientists believe in life (aliens, etc.) in outer space?  

Krishna: We think there is every chance of life existing in other parts of our universe given our understanding of life and conditions in which it originates and sustains. But alien life need not resemble us in any way. Aliens can be in any unimaginable form and condition.

But get this right - this is not our belief, this is an informed imagination.

Q: Is the science group easy?

Krishna: No it isn’t.

But it is very thrilling if you are prepared to work hard.
Q: What are your reasons of believing in supernatural experiences?
Krishna: What made you ask this Q?
Never experienced any. For every ‘experience’ in our lives there will be one natural and rational explanation and this can be done only by a scientifically inclined mind that can think critically.

Others can give hundreds of interpretations - each one based on the perception of their mind limitations conditioned by various things like culture, religion, emotion etc. Only when you overcome these limitations, you can see the facts and reality in its true form.

My world is different. It doesn’t have any thing that can’t be explained by Science. So I don’t believe in these things.

You must read this article to know the truth: Science and the paranormal

Q: What is the scientific reason behind humans' natural death?

Krishna: Damage caused by internal malfunction of the body not directly influenced by external forces and aging. There are several reasons for aging. You will find the full details here: Your Biological Age Can Be Different From Your Actual Age!

The human body is an assortment of chemicals. Anything can go wrong any time during the interplay of chemicals even in young bodies. We die because our cells die as the programme our cells are written with go heywire and reach a point of no recovery called - irreversible descent. When cells in various organs get damaged or die these organs fail to function normally. This in turn leads to brain and body failure to sustain life as each vital part of our body depends on another one to work properly. death can be described by various stages involved.

Assumed stages of death:

Descent - Through death’s portals; defined by its irreversibility in which individual is in death’s grip and cannot escape; the irreversibility is due to failure of a one or small number of vital systems such as brain, kidney, heart, lungs.

Systems collapse - Spiraling or cascading effect of failure of all vital systems; the failure of one or a few systems in Phase I leads to cascade-like shutting down.

Mortification - Final death throes; immobilization; onset of lethargy, morbidity, and/or paralysis. This is a continuation of the collapse but here it occurs in the non-vital systems such as sensory, visual and so forth that cannot be sustained due to collapse of vital systems in Phases I and II.

Expiration - Final release; extinction of all signs of life of individual as a whole. A few twitches so this phase too occurs over a period of time and is not instantaneous.

Sometime back I read a research paper describing the death dance of chemicals in a worm. I was really fascinated by it. Because scientists are trying to understand the process in full detail.

Then I watched death dance in hospital ICUs and how doctors struggle to keep death at bay using the scientific knowledge brought forth by the scientific community.

The day scientists can understand the death process fully, doctors can can stop death in its tracks and that would become the best work ever by the scientific community.

Q: There was a case where a man developed rabies after 27 years of exposure. Could a vaccine have saved him? Could vaccination several years (say 20 years)after the exposure but before symptoms appeared have been effective considering that disease was still incubating? Or it wouldve still been too late for vaccination even if virus kept incubating for a few more years  

Krishna: The incubation period for rabies varies from a few days to several years. The usual period is 3-8 weeks but it can be as little as nine days or as long as several years in some cases like you mentioned.

The incubation period depends on several factors, including the location of the entry wound, the severity of the wound and the victim's immune system. In general, the farther the wound is from the brain and the central nervous system, the longer the incubation period will be.

Rabies is preventable through vaccination.

Preventive vaccination can be given to people who are at risk like animal handlers in Zoos.

The pre-exposure schedule for rabies vaccination is 3 doses, given at the following times: 1st: As appropriate 2nd: 7 days after Dose 1 3rd: 21 days or 28 days after Dose 1

For laboratory workers and others who may be repeatedly exposed to rabies virus, periodic testing for immunity is recommended, and booster doses should be given as needed.

Post exposure prophylaxis process includes - extensive washing and local treatment of the wound as soon as possible after exposure, a course of potent and effective rabies vaccine that meets WHO standards and the administration of rabies immunoglobulin (RIG), if indicated.

Anyone who has been bitten by an animal, or who otherwise may have been exposed to rabies, and who has never been vaccinated against rabies should get four doses of rabies vaccine - one dose right away, and additional doses on the third, seventh and fourteenth days. They should also get another shot called Rabies Immune Globulin at the same time as the first dose.

A person who has been previously vaccinated should get two doses of rabies vaccine - one right away and another on the third day. Rabies Immune Globulin is not needed in this instance.

Although rabies incubation periods can range from days to years, it is the reason why it is important to promptly receive post exposure prophylaxis (pep )– but also why a person should still pursue pep even if time has lapsed since the bite (possibly because they didn’t initially consider the possibility of rabies). In this case, if the incubation period is on the protracted end, the pep may still work depending on various scenarios and conditions.


Q: Can a planet have an effect on your life (astrology)? Is it scientifically proven or just vague claims?

Krishna: No a planet cannot have any effect on your life. Astrology is not science at all! Why astrology is pseudo-science? Read the full details here: Debate between scientists and people who practice pseudo-science - ...

Q: I had a dream on 30th march this year and it actually happened two weeks later on 13th April (proven with witness). Does it have a scientific expalantion?

Krishna: We call it a statistical fluke, a chance. Your fears appear most of the time in dreams and your fears can come true sometimes in real life too.

I am sorry to hear that your worst nightmare came true.

Math Explains Likely Long Shots, Miracles and Winning the Lottery
One should not be surprised when long shots, miracles and other extraordinary events occur—even when the same six winning lottery numbers come up in two successive drawings

What we think of as extremely unlikely events actually happen around us all the time. The mathematical law of truly large numbers as well as the law of combinations help to explain why.
With only 23 people in a room, the probability that two of them share the same birthday is 0.51—greater than 50 percent.
The Bulgarian lottery randomly selected the winning numbers 4, 15, 23, 24, 35, 42 on September 6, 2009. Four days later it selected the same numbers again. The North Carolina Cash 5 lottery produced the same winning numbers on July 9 and 11, 2007. Strange? Not according to probability.

Reflective thinkers are more likely to see the event as a statistical fluke, while intuitive thinkers feel it is magic!

But here you didn’t dream about your father’s death, you dreamt about your death but your father died in reality. I think you are trying to make connections to say it is a miracle. Our brain is always searching for connections. As a result, we can sometimes make links that simply aren't there. That’s all.

Science and the paranormal

Another scientist explained it in this way...

The typical scientific explanation is called “hindsight bias.” (Hindsight bias - Wikipedia ).

Hindsight bias, also known as the knew-it-all-along effect or creeping determinism, is the inclination, after an event has occurred, to see the event as having been predictable, despite there having been little or no objective basis for predicting it.

In other words, as humans, we have a tendency to ignore dreams or“predictions” that never materialize, but somehow, when something dramatic happens, we tend to connect it with some past event, even though there is really no reason to do so.

So, your dad died, and this means your dream about your own death applies?

Who else does this apply to? If it were your mother, would you feel the same way?
What about a random stranger? I guarantee you many random strangers also died that day. Would you attribute their deaths to your dream coming true, as well?
Are you starting to see the flaws in your logic yet?
You had a dream about you dying, it came true, yet you’re still here to ask the question.

Q:  Can you give examples of scientifically proven facts about Human behaviour and psychology?

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 Science is, as Feynman said, the best way we humans have invented to prevent fooling ourselves.

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