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

                                                                   Interactive Science Series

Q: Why are activists against GM foods?

MR: Fear, misconceptions, misunderstanding, ignorance, politics, biases and cultural, social, societal,  psychological roots that influence them.

It is important to make people realize that many of these issues have nothing to do with science. Science says there is no evidence to think that GM foods are harmful. 20 years of non-eventful use of GM products proves this. They are good for the environment too because of reduced use of pesticides.

Science and only solid  - not pseudo - science should direct the policy decisions.  Then only people can benefit from GM crops and food. 

Read more about the topic here: relative-truth-about-gm-crops-and-foods

Q: It seems we are yet to find/identify major part of the living world.  Is this true?

MR: Yes! I will give just one example from my field ... Microbiology

According to some scientists, a staggering 99 percent of all microbial species on Earth have yet to be discovered, remaining in the shadows. They’re known as “microbial dark matter,” a reference to astronomers’ description of the vast invisible matter in space that makes up most of the mass in the cosmos.

Scientists have developed new tools for growing bacteria and collecting genetic data, allowing faster and better identifications of microbes without dislodging them from natural conditions. A device called the iChip, for instance, encourages bacteria to grow in their familiar surroundings. Recent genetic explorations of land, water and the human body have raised the prospect of finding hundreds of thousands of new bacterial species.

The detection of these newfound organisms is challenging what scientists thought they knew about the chemical processes of biology, the tree of life and the manner in which microbes live and grow. The secrets of microbial dark matter may redefine how life evolved and exists, and even improve the understanding of, and treatments, for many diseases.

An unimaginably large number of species await in every corner of the globe — soil, rocks, air, water, plants and animals. The human microbiome alone is probably teeming with unfamiliar microbial swarms. As a collection of organisms that live on and in the body, the human microbiome affects health in ways that science is just beginning to comprehend. 

One of the greatest hopes for microbial dark matter exploration is that newly found microbes might provide desperately needed antibiotics.

We have still lots of work to do!

Q: Why are scientists so curious? Apart from your field what other areas are you interested in?

MR: Tell me this, when you are still a child, aren't you curious to know about  many things that happened around you? Each and every healthy child asks several questions his or her parents feel uncomfortable to answer, mainly because of lack of knowledge. I have seen and heard with my own eyes and ears parents and grand parents telling silly stories that are very far away from truth as replies to the questions posed by their children/grandchildren. Look how many questions people - mainly students - are asking me. I didn't count till now but they are in thousands! That shows their curiosity. So let us understand that curiosity is a part of human nature.

Scientists are a strange bunch of people who sustain this curiosity about our Natural World and Universe well into their adulthood and old age. Without asking the questions, and trying to find the right answers to them, we wouldn't have progressed so much. So it is the curiosity that drives the scientific world! It is the curiosity that is responsible for the progress of our societies. 



      Art work by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa from )

Q: Apart from your field, what other areas of science are you interested in?

Krishna: All science fascinates me. But like any child I am more fascinated by our Universe, existence, life and things that drive them. One thing everybody should understand is all arenas of science are inter-linked. Knowledge in one field enlightens another one, makes problems easy to solve. It is the capacity to creatively connecting them that dictates the success in science for any scientist.

In my childhood I used to dread Physics because of the maths and difficult equations involved with the subject. But now  Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics, Astro-Physics are some of my favourite fields apart from Life Sciences!

Q: Why aren't tigers able to adjust to the new environment and   getting extinct?

MR: Tigers are getting extinct because people are poaching them and destructing their habitat.


Unfortunately people think aforestation means only planting some trees and forget about wild life that inhabit the forests and form the forest eco-systems.  Aforestation programs overwhelmingly plant monoculture forests . I have seen only Eucalyptus trees being planted everywhere sometime back in our area mainly promoted for their fast growth but people failed to recognize that they are not native to Indian subcontinent and therefore falls dramatically short of restoring the biodiversity of native forests, which contain many tree species. In its current form, the program fails to benefit, protect and promote biodiversity.

Some researchers who investigated the problem concluded that restoring the full complement of native trees that once grew on the land would provide the best outcome for biodiversity (1). If native forests are unachievable within the scope of the programs, the researchers recommended mixed forests -- which contain multiple tree species and more closely resemble natural forests -- as a second option. Mixed forests better protect wildlife than monoculture forests, and would not financially burden farmers participating in the program. Both native and mixed forests also help to mitigate climate change.

If you just plant a few trees in a few places and introduce tigers into them thinking that they are forests, they won't be able to survive because they need other animals to hunt and feed on. Tigers need large areas (territories), one or two acres of plants/trees cannot sustain them.

Q: Is it true that people with high IQ, who are geniuses and intellectuals cannot have peace of mind and suffer from depression?

MR: Most of the geniuses don't suffer from depression. Only a few of them do.

But people with High IQ’s and intellectuals tend to experience more loneliness than the average people. Why? Because their superior analytical intelligence makes them think differently from the majority, creating a sort of barrier between others and themselves. Interests and hobbies tend to be different and more elevated than the majority, adding marginality and loneliness. As a child and adolescent, he/she may be a bit of the ‘loner’ and is at a higher risk for bullying and harassment. Superiorly intelligent individuals also tend to encounter some friction with less smart people, having different opinions, beliefs, tastes, etc..than the vast majority mainly because the latter type don't understand things in the way they should be understood i.e., correctly. They also tend to think everything very deeply,  and are prone to excessive scepticism.

The major drawback of high intelligence (and therefore presumably high IQ) is that it’s easier to get bored with a certain low level of conversation. This is only really a problem if you’re not able to get out and find people who are your equals.

This is why intellectuals usually prefer solitude. And they enjoy it very much!

Q: We in this part of the world don't eat anything when a solar/lunar eclipse is in progress. Some of us consume food only after taking a bath, once the eclipse is over. Are there any scientific reasons behind this? What is the origin of such beliefs?

MR: There are absolutely no scientific reasons behind this weird custom. I eat everything I want to during the eclipses - even while watching them outside - and didn’t find any difficulty or problems with it.

The origins of such beliefs are ignorance, fear of the unknown ( in ancient times) and misconceptions.

Q: Are there any scientific facts behind the assumption that a good reply or answer to the question asked in job interviews can tell about the person's personality? Is it right to choose only the people who can give good replies?

MR: The person giving replies in job interviews will provide certain aspects of the problem he or she was asked to solve and in doing so, showing a deeper understanding of what needs to be addressed. Only when he understands it fully will a person be able to solve a complicated problem.

A good interviewer will assess the candidate based on his understanding of the problem in the first place. 

But one has to be a quick thinker to answer unexpected questions and should have deep knowledge about the subject.

The answer to your question is although to some extent 'yes',  you can never assess fully a person's capabilities and nature  in a limited time frame and with only a few questions answered. A person well trained can easily camouflage  his real psyche. How?

Most job assessment tests are multiple choice or true and false. When tipped to give the right replies /answers, a person can  choose the right answer instead of choosing the one that matches his personality.

In tests any section where you have choices of Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Somewhat Disagree, Neutral, Somewhat Agree, Agree, Strongly Agree  people will be trained to be very careful.

Most people, who are answering, will not choose either Strongly Disagree or Strongly Agree.  Why is that? When applying for a job,  people want  to be seen as a person who is able to get along. Having strong feelings either for or against an idea or topic seems to be somewhat rude. Testers might even worry that the person getting tested will appear as confrontational, aggressive, or even egotistical.  Right?

So,  he will be asked to take the more passive approach. And told to choose anything BUT the Strongly Agree or Strongly Disagree.  So training makes you act like a person you are actually not! How can an interviewer or tests asses a person's personality in such cases?

If a person is giving all the 'right answers' to my questions, I would be sceptical about that person if I am the interviewer and will never choose him! And I know how to hoodwink such people to get them expose their real identity.

 Yes, psychology is a bit tricky and only an intelligent person can strongly negotiate the pitfalls of deception in the field. 

By the way,  I get job offers from people just based on my articles, work  and replies posted here even though I don't apply for any of the jobs! :)

That is funny,  because I express very strong views and never try to hide behind a 'good personality' screen. Training? Forget it!

Q: Is going deep in any subject equal to becoming insane? Why do they say ignorance is a bliss, when it is not in reality?

MR: Going deep doesn’t mean going insane, it can be enlightenment after deep meditation , pondering,  critical thinking and understanding.

Ignorance is a bliss only in the initial stages when you don't have to worry about anything. But when people suffer and die of ignorance, it can be never a bliss. It would become a curse!

Q: We are Hindi-speaking people. My son is well-mannered while speaking in Hindi but uses dirty words whenever he converses in English. Why is this so?

MR: According to scientists,  morality changes in a foreign language! Several studies in this regard suggest that when people are confronted with moral dilemmas, they do indeed respond differently when considering them in a foreign language than when using their native tongue.

paper published in PLOS journals says - Should you sacrifice one man to save five? Whatever your answer, it should not depend on whether you were asked the question in your native language or a foreign tongue so long as you understood the problem. And yet here we report evidence that people using a foreign language make substantially more utilitarian decisions when faced with such moral dilemmas. This stems from the reduced emotional response elicited by the foreign language, consequently reducing the impact of intuitive emotional concerns. The increased psychological distance of using a foreign language induces utilitarianism. This shows that moral judgments can be heavily affected by an orthogonal property to moral principles, and importantly, one that is relevant to hundreds of millions of individuals on a daily basis.

People's morals depend on the language they are speaking and are influenced by them.

So, while using Hindi, your son would be conscious about the morals of his culture. But while using a foreign language,  he might not face the dilemma of morals dictated by his roots and therefore, uses dirty words which he encounters popular people using them day in and day out in the media.



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