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

And men on the street can you help?
A dilemma is "any situation involving a choice between unpleasant alternatives." Science and scientists too face these situations.
The nuclear fuel issue. The GM crop issue. The Pesticides issue. Technology take over issue. Microbes, antibiotics, vaccination and  "gain-of-function" research issues (3). Several controversies. Innumerable arguments. Vested interests at play. Important decisions to make. Gray matter put to test. The whole world is waiting to hear from 'you'. Is there a way of judging the balance between the hazards and benefits of a particular scientific or technological advance by you?

The dilemmas scientists face  behind closed doors are really interesting. Sometimes scientists working in two different fields could have two different views. When progress, welfare and preservation are some of the important aspects of science, then when these very ideals clash and collide among themselves, the practitioners of science will have to choose the least damage causing routes while pursuing their goals. This is not very easy.

Recently one such situation came into being!
In a paper titled 'Experiments on Particle Physics Using Underwater Cultural Heritage: The Dilemma' by Elena Perez Alvaro (2), the author says
"One of the most important laboratories for the observation of rare events used 120
archaeological lead bricks from a 2000 -year -old shipwreck for research into particle
physics because of its low radioactivity. The dilemma is whether there is any justification
for using underwater cultural heritage for the purpose of modern scientific research. The definition and attribution of values to archaeological and cultural material have changed through out history. Although all values are valid, individuals and organisations emphasise some more than others."

Very old lead is pure, dense and much less radioactive than the newly mined metal, so it is ideal for shielding sensitive experiments that hunt for dark matter and other rare particles. But it is also has historical significance, and many archaeologists object to melting down 2,000-year-old Roman ingots that are powerful windows on ancient history. Some physicists argue that getting hold of the metal is worth fighting for. "These experiments can reveal some of the most fundamental properties of the universe, and answer questions such as what are we and where we come from", according to physicists! The ancient Roman Lead has been used in the Cryogenic Dark matter Search (CDMS), an experiment in Minnesota that aims to detect the particles that make up the invisible dark matter thought to contribute much of the universe's mass. The same metal has also been used in the CUORE (Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events) project in Italy, which will soon begin searching for a theorized particle decay process called neutrinos double beta decay,  which, if found, could explain why matter dominates antimatter in the universe. These experiments and others require extreme shielding to block out any extraneous particles that might be mistaken for the rare signals they hunt.    The lead comes from under water ancient shipwrecks.

 However, according to UNESCO convention on the underwater cultural heritage, it is unlawful to use these ancient lead artifacts (Ref 1).

Well, here we have a law that says destroying and using these ancient things is unlawful. And archeologists argue it is unethical to destroy the ancient artifacts. On the other hand we have important studies to be conducted to understand the universe and gaining knowledge by the physicists.

So which argument  has merit? Who is on the right side of ethics? Can you decide? Making  valid judgments on the relative future of scientific merits is very important. Various scientific groups might have different arguments to support their views and fields. So to invite  neutral persons to do the job  sounds interesting.

When one is deciding between fields of life sciences and astronomy, and when the funds are limited, which subject does one give preference first to do research in and provide funds for it? When I asked several people on the street, they said, interestingly, life sciences was more important because it directly and immediately effects people on this planet and we could think about stars and galaxies later! Point taken!

The view of laymen again on the problem mentioned above: Physicists, can  search for alternate tools for their study. Yes, they can! Tell them to try for them. We can wait to learn about dark matter. Mean while, we will have to preserve the artifacts from getting destroyed because when once they get damaged, you cannot get them back again!

But, according to physicists, in physics, ancient lead can help solve mysteries that long predate the Romans. “These experiments can reveal some of the most fundamental properties of the universe and answer questions such as what are we and where we come from. They are not unimportant”.

When we involve better informed and intelligent people on the street even in deciding the issues of scientific importance, that would really be wonderful! Democracy at work!

But what if the 'dark matter studies' can bring more benefits for us?! - Did I hear an Astro- Physicist saying this? Yes, I did! Yes, man on the street, do you have an answer to that question?





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Replies to This Discussion

When should we call an embryo or a fetus "one of us"? What is normal brain aging, and should we simply aspire to live longer, no matter what our brain state might be? Should we be free to make a better brain by means of genetics, pharmacology, and training? What do more powerful brain imaging technologies mean for privacy and for self-incrimination? In clear, plain language, Michael Gazzaniga, Director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Dartmouth College, a world leader in cognitive neuroscience and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, explains neuroscience's loaded findings and the ethical issues they pose for individuals and society. He offers his own insights and candid perspective. Dr. Gazzaniga begins with "lifespan neuroethics," considering how brain development defines human life and the ethical challenges that emerge as the brain ages. In chapters on brain enhancement, he weighs advances in genetics, the neuroscience of brain training, and drug development, all of which raise the question of what's right or wrong about pursuing a smarter brain. In chapters on free will, personal responsibility, and the law, Dr. Gazzaniga raises hard questions about privacy of thought, whether the brain determines behavior, and the reliability of memory. The final chapters of the book describe the nature of moral beliefs and the concept of a universal ethics, focusing on how we come by our beliefs, why we cling to them, and the role of our brains in arriving at values. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The ethical brain.
Gazzaniga, Michael S.
Washington, DC, US: Dana Press. (2005). xix 201 pp.


Some consequences of e-mail vs. face-to-face
communication in experiment
Norman Frohlich
, Joe Oppenheimer
Faculty of Management, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg MB, Canada R3T 2N2
Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park MD 20742, USA
Received 10 June 1996; received in revised form 10 September 1997; accepted 25 September 1997
As more and more social science experiments are being run on computers, the question of
whether these new laboratory instruments affect outcomes is increasingly important. We examine
whether the mode of communication in experiments has any effect on the choices made by
individuals. We find that the effects of `e-mail' vs. face-to-face communication vary with the nature
of the decisions and may depend upon the complexity and content of what needs to be
1998 Elsevier Science B.V.

Ancient Roman Lead Melted Down to Explore the Frontiers of Physics
Scientists draw battle lines over metal salvaged from ancient shipwrecks




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