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

                                                              Interactive science series

Q: I read your article on critical thinking  You gave nice suggestions to improve our critical thinking abilities. However, if somebody asks Qs like these, how can these improve critical thinking?

Q1: "If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats on board, how old is the ship's captain?"

Q2: If a school had 26 teachers, 10 of which weren't thinking, how old is the principal?

Krishna: Now you know the situations a scientist works in! :) . Most of the time the scientists have to deal with no information, irrelevant information, or partial information to form a theory or to invent or discover a new thing. Because he or she would be the first person to venture into unknown arenas. This is where critical thinking helps.

Each critical thinking person can come up with a different answer to these questions which tells a lot about the person. The first thing anyone could think is 'What a stupid question. How can anyone find out the age of the captain or principle with this irrelevant information that doesn't give a single clue?"

Well if you get all the clues, you cannot think 'very critically' to get solutions to this problem. You don't use your brain power to the maximum extent possible with spoon feeding or some assistance from out side. You cannot think in a different way to find new information. 

These questions 're framed to make you think outside of the box and find answers!

This is how some of the students and adults answered these questions ... 

A student who cannot think differently answered in this way... by admitting defeat: “The captain’s age is … I don’t know. I can’t solve this.”

 One student offered a pragmatic law abiding answer: “The captain is at least 18 because he has to be an adult to drive the ship.”

"The captain is 36 years old," a student guessed. "He is quite narcissistic, so the number of animals corresponds to his age."

Another one's answer...The Chinese math question about the age of the captain is genius in that in order to oversee a ship that carries cargo the captain must be a) at least 23 and b) have possessed the respective license for at least five years, making the answer anything above 28.

["The total weight of 26 sheep and 10 goat is 7,700 kilograms, based on the average weight of each animal," he argued.

"In China, if you're driving a ship that has more than 5,000 kilograms of cargo you need to have possessed a boat licence for five years. The minimum age for getting a boat's licence is 23, so he's at least 28."]

Others have gone with 42, a reference to the science fiction novel “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” by Douglas Adams, in which 42 is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.”

Another answer, though, may be found in the domain of sports, where fuzzy math often reigns supreme. One such example could be extrapolated from this bit of wisdom from National Basketball Association legend Shaquille O’Neal. “There is no answer to the Pythagorean theorem,” he once said. “Well, there is an answer, but by the time you figure it out, I got 40 points, 10 rebounds and then we’re planning for the parade.”

Translation: Get back to work!

Well, if you have the brain of a real scientist, you will think critically and answer this question! And you will never give up and see to it that you get a solution!! And a right one at that!!!

Is there is a right answer to this Q? The right answer is the correct age of the captain, hypothetically. Keep thinking ... you will get it sooner or later. :)

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Q: My son keeps forgetting what he read and is performing very poorly in his academic life. Can brain stimulation help him retain what he studied?

Krishna: It is a myth according to recent research (1) that brain stimulation can help in enhancing memory, improving math skills, reducing depression, and recovery from stroke. 

People are cheating you in the name of science. That's all!

According to this study, ordinary TES techniques do not deliver enough current to activate brain circuits or modulate brain rhythms. The electrical currents mostly fizzle out as they pass through the scalp and skull. The scientists found that they needed to zap the scalp with about 4 to 6 milliamperes of current—well above typical current levels.

Normally, TES practitioners avoid currents above 2 mA, because these induce side effects such as tingling, dizziness, unpleasant tastes, and illusory sights and sounds—the result of current entering soft tissues such as the eyes, ears and facial nerves, which offer less resistance than the skull. In fact, in both rats and human cadavers, the researchers found about 75 percent of currents applied to the scalp never reach the brain, but instead are taken up by the skull, scalp and other external tissues.

Earlier in a 2015 meta-analysis (2) ( meta analyses are more reliable than individual papers because they analyse large amounts of data published in hundreds and even thousands of papers) too stress this.  This review did not support the idea that tDCS generates a reliable effect on cognition in healthy adults. This meta analysis  states that although individual papers reported certain benefits (such as reduced reaction time or increased accuracy on a task), no reliable effects could be identified across studies. 

If anything is working in this process, according to this study, it is the placebo effect. People improve because they believe the treatment works. But there is no evidence that it  really works, according to science.

And I suggest, teach him how to concentrate effectively on what he is studying. Tell him to try to understand what he is studying, instead of just mugging up things. That helps a lot in remembering things.

Q: If a person gets flu how can he get it again in just a few days gap?  Doesn't he get immunity from the first infection? If you take vaccine, how can you still get flu?

Krishna: The answer to your first question is 'yes'. To understand the answers to your questions, you must first realize that there are several strains of flu viruses. And there are multiple strains of flu viruses circulating in any season. So getting sick with one strain of flu won't necessarily protect you from a different strain. Again taking a vaccine for one or two stains, doesn't protect you from attack of other strains.

Seasonal flu shots contain three to four strains of flu virus (which are made ineffective), because there isn't much "cross protection" between strains. It's possible that getting sick with one type of influenza A virus would offer some modest protection against another type of influenza A, but it probably wouldn't give you any protection against the influenza B virus. Therefore, if you do catch the flu, and you haven't received the flu vaccine for the season, doctors generally recommend that you still get a flu shot after you're no longer sick, particularly if it's early on in the flu season.The flu vaccine can be taken by everyone ages 6 months and older.

Q: Dr. Krishna, I am very depressed. My husband 's tested positive for HIV virus. I am tested negative. My parents are asking me and my children to leave him. They don't want me and my children to get infected too. What should I do? Does living with him make me and my children HIV positive too?

Krishna: Sorry to hear your story, L. I can understand what you are going through right now. I can also understand your parents' fear.

But let me assure you, living with a HIV positive person doesn't get you infected with the virus. However, having sexual relations with him without protection might push you into a danger zone.  Use a condom correctly every time you have sex.  Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is an HIV prevention option for people who don’t have HIV but who are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV. PrEP involves taking a specific HIV medicine every day. Speak to your doctor to know more about it.

If your husband is taking medicines regularly ( antiretroviral therapy  or ART), it helps him live longer, and lead a healthier life. ART can’t cure HIV infection, but it can reduce the amount of HIV in the body. Having less HIV in his body will reduce the risk of passing HIV to you during sex. 

HIV is spread only in certain body fluids from a person infected with HIV. These fluids are blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. You can’t get HIV from casual contact with a person infected with HIV, for example from a handshake or a hug. And you can’t get HIV from contact with objects such as toilet seats, doorknobs, or dishes used by a person infected with HIV. So your children too can live with their father. But they should never share needles and syringes with him. 

There is nothing to fear if you take these precautions. Leaving your husband  in his darkest moments might make him depressed and  suicidal. 

[I am saying this because the husband of my friend's sister ( who had breast cancer) had left  her as soon as she was diagnosed with the disease. It made her very depressed and she died of cancer plus depression earlier than expected. It is highly inhuman to leave your loved ones when they need your support the most. Think about that and decide what you want to do now.]

Q: Why is there a myth that science students are better than commerce students? Also, why do they get more percentage than commerce students? 

I am not trained in any subject other than science. But I can deal with and am dealing with several arenas ( I am a polymath) and succeeding. But if I am not science-trained, I cannot deal with the subject accurately in my lab. That ‘s my experience and a fact.

The subject of science has sharp points and strict rules. If you follow these rules and mention all the points in the exams, the examiner has no other go but to give you full marks.

But are science students better than commerce students? Only in one arena. And that arena is science.

Are science students better than commerce students in commerce? No.

Are science students better than commerce students in general? Science students can deal with commerce without any training and succeed (like me) but commerce students can’t deal with science without training and succeed. Why even science students can’t deal with science without ‘proper’ training. There lies the difference.

Now decide for yourself who is better in what and why.

Q: Does the universe exist without human consciousness?

Krishna: It does. Imagine that there is no life at all in the entire universe. The universe still exists but it doesn't exist in the consciousness of life. It becomes irrelevant. Nobody  knows that it exists. So what is the use of its existence? That is why some people think bio-centrism is the life of the universe and brings a meaning to the existence of the universe and the reason why life originated and evolved using scientific principles.

Q: Will knowledge in sciences ever become so complex that a college degree won't be sufficient to get a job?

Krishna: Scientific knowledge has already become complex. The situation you fear is already happening here in India. Recently I read several news reports which stated that most of the B.Tech graduates here lack the skills to work efficiently in real working conditions. So they are going for other jobs that don’t need their education.
Science ( and the related technology) is a subject that is evolving into new arenas almost on a daily basis. Some areas are expanding so quickly that even the experts in that field have trouble keeping up. And if you can’t keep up with it to have good understanding of it and make use of it, you cannot succeed properly.
This is the lesson people are learning now: This is the lesson people are learning now: Either run with science at its speed to get maximum benefits or fall wayside to catch other slow moving vehicles that give you less incentives.
Q: Why do scientists tend to overrate their intelligence and effectiveness in real life (Jimmy Carter)? I have known a number of brilliant scientist who were incapable of learning to drive a car. 
Krishna : A scientist’s field is science, not driving. Therefore, he or she concentrates on his or her subject only. In their subject, yes, scientists are more knowledgeable than others. This is a fact that everybody agree on.

A scientist’s mind will be completely drowned in his thoughts & work. It doesn’t take notice of other things that happen around it & doesn’t think about normal things! So scientists behave in weird & stupid ways sometimes! It doesn’t mean that they are stupid or weird. They just don’t care about mundane things & don’t want to waste time by thinking about them & do them very casually as their priorities lie else where. Unless & until they cut off the world around them and completely immerse their minds in their work, they cannot find solutions to the complex & difficult problems they deal with. They have to decrease the cognitive load on their minds by removing small and unimportant things from their minds.

Even I don’t drive a car on the chaotic roads here because my mind will always be in another world and I don’t notice things that happen around me properly and therefore I am very slow to react and can cause serious accidents.

I do make very silly mistakes while dealing with other things outside of my lab. I can’t even write or type properly. People who read my answers here might have noticed that well.

But as long as I am in my lab, I am the queen and I rule my world with great confidence. If that denotes overrating my intelligence or my arrogance, yes, why not?

Q: You say when something is neither matter, nor energy, there is no possibility of its existence in this world like the souls. But,  our minds are conscious, and consciousness is weird,  it’s totally different than anything else in the universe, because it’s not physical, and it’s hard to imagine how to explain it in physical terms. In fact, lots of philosophers and scientists call consciousness “the hard problem.”What do you say to this?

Krishna: Good question. We know that a brain exists in this physical world. We also know that neural activity leads to our mind that makes us conscious. So the activity of our physical brain is responsible for our mind and the resultant consciousness and therefore the latter's dependence on a physical entity that has evidence of existence. So mind and consciousness are activities of our physical brains and therefore have evidence of their presence unlike soul.
Soul believers say souls are neither matter, nor energy.
Souls are not even activities of physical bodies. They are not dependent on anything physical entities and are separate entities according to people who believe in them. If they are separate from physical entities, they should have their own evidence based existence. If they don't have this evidence, you cannot treat them as existing. I hope you understood these points of difference between minds, consciousness and souls. 

Q: How much blood does a person have to lose to get him into danger?

Krishna:Exsanguination is a medical emergency where the loss of blood is to a degree sufficient to cause death. One does not have to lose all of one's blood to cause death. Depending upon the age, health, and fitness level of the individual, people can die from losing half to two-thirds of their blood. A loss of roughly one-third of the blood volume is considered very serious. Even a single deep cut can warrant suturing and hospitalization, especially if trauma, a vein or artery is involved. It is most commonly known as "bleeding to death".

Q; What does thinking like a scientist mean?

Krishna : "Thinking like a scientist" means thinking like a human being minus emotions! It is neutral thinking, critical thinking, informed imagination, thinking loaded with curiosity, thirst for knowledge and creativity. 

Q: What is the highest percent of the brain used by a scientist?

"Thinking like a scientist" means thinking like a human being minus emotions! It is neutral thinking, critical thinking, informed imagination, thinking loaded with curiosity, thirst for knowledge and creativity. 
Q: How can science protect itself from subjectivity?
Krishna: "Scientific Method" is the shield scientists use to protect science from the influence of personal feelings, tastes, opinions or beliefs.  

Science is a human activity and as such partakes of all of humanity’s frailties - including prejudice and biases, arrogance and delusions. Still, the framework of the scientific community, which is to all practical extent worldwide, insures that every major work is cross-checked by several people, thus effectively neutralizing any distortion its original authors may have generated.

Sometimes this may not give 100% protection. But it is the best method that gives the best of results. 

Krishna: Recent studies (3) in India say the quality is same.

The results of the quality test showed that the quality of the four generic medicines from all the three medicine stores were identical to the quality of the branded medicines and complied to all the prescribed criteria by statutory standards set by the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC).

The study also found that it was not just the patients who did not trust the quality and efficacy of the generic medicines, but even the doctors and other health care providers. One of the reasons for this could be the prevalence of kickbacks, wherein doctors take commissions from pharma companies to increase prescriptions of expensive branded medicines.

Are branded medicines better than their generic counterparts? No, says study

Q: What are the disadvantages of a scientific mind?
Krishna: People with a ‘scientific mind’ will have medium EQ - emotional quotient. That makes things very difficult when we are interacting with others.
If you are scientifically inclined, you see things just as they are and tell facts as they are. No sugar coating and no emotional manipulations. But people around don’t like that a bit.
You can think and analyze things in a rational and different way to that of others around, because you are trained to keep emotions at bay while entering your lab and told to deal with only data and facts. Opinions, ideals, emotions and beliefs have have no place in your world which makes others run away from you.
You can see more than others, think more than others, read in between lines, see through games people play and very often that is not a pleasant picture at all.
You don’t relish silly talk, stories, jokes, parties, and wasting of time ( these are not disadvantages but you you keep away from people who subscribe to them).
That is why scientifically inclined minds prefer solitude to company.
However, you live in a realistic world - not a made up one and that is a big consolation.




3. Are branded medicines better than their generic counterparts? No, s...

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