Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Interactive Science Series
Q: Do races and castes have any scientific basis?
MR: Scientists think races and castes are social constructs without biological meaning. Racial categories are weak proxies for genetic diversity and need to be phased out.
Yes, some researchers use 'racial concept' in genetic research but now scientists think it is too crude to provide useful information, it's a concept that has social meaning that interferes in the scientific understanding of human genetic diversity and it's a concept that they call upon moving away from.
The study of complete genomes from different parts of the world has shown that even between Africa and Europe, for example, there is not a single absolute genetic difference, meaning no single variant where all Africans have one variant and all Europeans another one, even when recent migration is disregarded.
The researchers think that there are a few areas where race as a construct might still be useful in scientific research: as a political and social, but not biological, variable.
Q: I saw on TV yesterday a skydiver jumping from a plane into a net on Earth safely without the help of a parachute. He said it is possible because of science and maths. Can you explain the process?
MR: Skydiver Luke Aikins became the first person to jump from a plane without a parachute and survive.
Aikins jumped from a height of 25,000 feet (7,600 meters) and, after a two-minute fall, flipped onto his back to land in a 100-foot-by-100-foot (30 m by 30 m) net.
To do this with a parachute, a skydiver would jump from the plane, free-fall at 120 mph (190 km/h) or faster and then, at higher than 2,500 feet (760 m) above the ground, deploy the parachute.The parachute works to slow the skydiver's descent enough for a safe landing.
Without a parachute, a skydiver would continue to fall at 120 mph, a speed at which it would be fatal if the person hit the ground. But Aikins used a net for safety.
To slow down, a skydiver can spread his or her limbs to increase surface area, but that will only slow you down maybe 10 miles an hour [16 km/h] — not substantially. You're still falling above 100 miles an hour [160 km/h].
Locating a net on the ground is not difficult if people practice a lot beforehand. Aikins' helmet gave him GPS alerts throughout the dive, and lights on the net, visible from altitudes of more than 25,000 feet (7,600 m), turned red when he was off-track and white when he was on course. But finding the net is not as simple as jumping out of a plane directly above the target and falling straight down. The plane is moving forward at the time of the jump, which means the skydiver leaves the plane on a forward trajectory. That means that Aikins probably jumped from the plane before it flew over the net.
Aikins' maneuvers in the air were efforts to steer his body towards the net. As Aikins falls from the plane, he does something called "tracking." Instead of falling like an X … he brought his arms back along his body, divers call that tracking, so it means that what he did there is he started to glide forward and direct himself to the center of the net.
And just before hitting the net, Aikins flipped over onto his back so that his body would bend in the direction the back is flexible — toward the front. He had to land on his back to not break his spine, basically.
A skydiver falling at high speed has a lot of kinetic energy (the energy of mass in motion) and that energy has to transfer somewhere upon landing. If you hit the ground, the kinetic energy is dissipated into the ground, then reflected back into your body and breaks your body into a million pieces.
But the net, made of a polyethylene cord that is twice strong as steel, prevented that from happening(1).
The net obviously absorbed his fall, dissipated his energy , and allowed him to survive the fall.
Q: As a scientist, how do you view the quote " To be a scientist is a condition, not a profession"?
MR: Being a scientist, I think, is a state of mind, not a profession! Once trained, a scientist should be one 24X365X100! Science will have him/her in its grip all the time and there is no escape! That is how true scientists live, by surrendering their everything to science.
Q: Why are scientists less religious than other people?
MR: Undoubtedly, like you said, scientists are less religious. Most of them think if you are attached to a belief (or emotion), it fogs your reasoning power out of fear, hope, love or respect and affects your behaviour. A mind that is agitated by belief can never be free and therefore never know truth. You shouldn't reason backward from belief to evidence because that will subject you to numerous cognitive biases and you risk fooling yourself about the nature of reality.
Read my article where I discussed about this in detail...
MR: Each and every field has its own importance.
But still I think that Science encompasses everything that we class as knowledge.
Artists say that science removes the wonder from nature. But we think Science removes the terror from nature, and often replaces it with amiability (example: earlier people used to run away from eclipses out of fear and hide inside their dwellings. Now they come out and watch it with wonder because they know how they happen). Science is the most civilizing influence on all of humanity, in all of history. Nothing whatsoever even comes close.
Science allows us to learn and understand how the world works and make use of it in a fruitful way.
Without science there is no progress. In fact science is human progress. Picture yourself in a world without science: It would be pretty bland would it not? You would probably still be using a sharp stone to crack open a nut in a forest and hitting your hand in the process when you fearfully look around for wild animals that may pounce on you any time to make you their meal. "Ouch" you cry trying to control the bleeding but no pain killer or medicine that might stop/control infections. You might develop gangrene and die an untimely death.
Life expectancy multiplied by two over a few decades. Why? Because of science.
Why - you wouldn't even have colours (chemicals) to paint without science. You wouldn't even become an artist!
Get this right and clear - you, I and the whole Universe wouldn't exist without science and its principles.
Science is actually not getting ENOUGH credit for all that its enabled humanity and for how linked it is to EVERYTHING we do and have.
This is as much the scientific community's own fault, for not engaging with the public enough to explain why science is relevant, as it is the fault of charlatans who feed of scientific ignorance.
Q: Does a tossed coin into a deep, dark well stay in both head and tails states until it is observed according to quantum mechanics?
MR: Don't confuse classical states with quantum states. Einstein asked an important question: Doesn't the moon exist if we don't look at it? It exists whether we look at it or not! Only thing is it doesn't have a meaning of existence until we observe it.
Quantum mechanics and classical mechanics give exactly the same predictions for macroscopic objects (that is, objects composed of at least 10^23 or so pieces).
Quantum mechanics, as a theory, only differs from classical mechanics for microscopic objects like atoms and particles. They can be in coherent super positions of multiple states at a time, where classical reasoning about them fails. But for large macroscopic objects like a coin, classical reasoning works just fine. Any uncertainty you have about the overall state of the coin is due to your own lack of information about the coin, not due to it not being in one state or the other. The Heisenberg Uncertainty principle expresses this quantitatively, demonstrating that the uncertainty in the coin's position is so tiny it's negligible, due to its relatively large mass.
There is an exception to this rule: Classical reasoning can also fail for macroscopic objects, if you lower their temperature to near absolute zero so that all of the usually available degrees of freedom become correlated and go into the same quantum state. What I say above holds only for ordinary temperatures.
So the answer to your question is the coin will be only in one state. You have to apply classical reasoning to a macroscopic thing like coin.
Q: Can anybody become a genius?
MR: Let me start with the understanding that even geniuses do silly and stupid things! I have seen that with my own eyes. One of our professors was a genius. He solved several problems in his research field (science) with ease. Everybody praised him. But while dealing with a simple question from economics, he made several mistakes!
So geniuses need not be geniuses in all the arenas of life. They can be good at a few things, but not all. Nobody can be a genius to deal with and solve all the problems we face in the world. Nobody can be good at everything on Earth.
So if you try you can shine in one or two fields and achieve some success.
MR: Because it works well when sprayed on the wrist.
Perfume is a liquid basically, which when sprayed becomes minute particles of water. It spreads odour only when it’s vaporized. To vaporize it quickly, you need to spray it on part of your body where temperature is more.
Pulse Points are those regions. Wrist, Neck, rear portion of an Ankle are some of the Pulse Points. They have more than average temperature, so perfume spread on it vaporizes quickly giving early odour.
Neck and Ankle are not easy to smell by nose. Only practical portion is the wrist.
Q: What are super foods?
MR: The term “superfood” has no scientifically agreed meaning. There are no set criteria in science for determining what is and what is not a superfood.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines one as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”, but the term was invented to sell products. Superfoods are just marketing gimmicks.
If someone trying to sell you a superfood tells you they are a miracle food and will cure cancer or make you very healthy, then all so-called "superfoods" are scams.
The key to a healthy diet is to consume a variety of nutritious foods in the right quantities.
If you need more of anything in certain conditions, your doctor will definitely tell you that.
Q: What are Lagrange Points?
MR: The picture below depicts Lagrange points clearly ...
You can see the effect of gravitational field created by the Sun and the Earth in the above picture. A point where the attraction by the Sun and the Earth becomes equal is known as the Lagrange Point.
That point experiences equal force from the both sides, or in other words, neutral in terms of forces. So the body placed on the Lagrange Point doesn’t experience force at all.
NASA sent satellite to ‘sit’ on L-2 point on June 30th, 2001. Some important things it observed are...
Q: I read somewhere that if a person is shot in the head, he doesn't feel any pain. Is it true?
MR: This is what a neuro-surgeon told me: Depending on where the shot is you either feel nothing or you are in so much pain that it is unimaginable. If the shot severs the brain stem like you see with intra-oral shots you feel no pain at all. If the shot goes directly into the mouth from maybe 25 feet in that case the person would be dead long before the body hit the ground with zero feeling of any kind (and doing it that way the hands open on impact not close). However if a shot enters the side of the head or through an ear I have seen people laying on the floor/bed writhing in pain for as long as it takes them to die. In the ER patients that come in with head wounds some are in pain and some are not - it all depends where the entry was and where the projectile ended up. Remember there is nothing in the cranium to sense pain feeling unlike your fingers or chest wall. Much brain surgery is done while the patient is totally awake. Once the skin flap is laid and the smell of bone cutting is over there is no discomfort. Many surgeons do the skin flap and osteotomy under local anesthicia - just a large amount of Lidocaine or Marcaine or similar then the patient is left to talk and answer questions during the whole procedure since there is no pain perceptive sensors to be concerned about in the brain case.
Q: I read your article science-and-superstitions-how-rational-thinking-can-make-you-work-b...
But I feel we hardly find anybody without having any superstitious beliefs. Is it possible to find anybody without following some beliefs? How can we overcome this problem of superstitious beliefs?
MR: I am glad you asked this Q.
Yes, it is common to have irrational beliefs among human beings. I found them even in scientifically trained people. I have been provided evidence that scientists and professors of science too follow irrational things very religiously. Why? Because of bad training and low self-confidence.
But I think when you are given a brain, you should make use of it in the right way. Emotions have no place in science and a practicing scientist should be able to differentiate between rational thinking and irrational one.
Try to think critically and rationally in a neutral way. If you face a fear/problem take on it head on and try to overcome it. Don't panic or despair. Clear your brain from clutter and try to be as cool as possible. Then you will be able to think clearly and rationally. You will find this article of mine helpful in doing that: science-s-rules-are-unyielding-they-will-not-be-bent-for-anybody-or...
Q: I am a 15 year old student. I have seen several movies that say praying to snakes, cows, some plants and babas will solve all problems, cure diseases and save lives. Even my parents told me to follow religious rites to have a good life. But in reality I found that's not the case. I was confused.
When my friend and I were discussing about these things, my friend told me about your site and articles. Your views are completely different from those of the people around me. When I compared them, I found science's view point is more closer to truth.
But I am afraid if I tell this to my parents, they will scold me and beat me. What should I do?
MR: Shweta P., yes, I mentioned your name, which I don't normally do, because what you told me made me extremely happy and I want the world to know about a fifteen year old who started questioning things in the right way.
Know what? You have found the way of science. If you stick to it, you will get the correct answers to your questions.
SP, That is the irony of it all. Even if people find what they 're doing don't yield the right results, they simply follow them blindly because they were told to do this and had been warned that if they didn't follow them, they would have to face the bad consequences. It is that fear that makes them go that route.
Don't say anything right now before your parents. Make them read what you read. Discuss with them and make them understand slowly what you realized. Confrontation and arguing with elders will not yield any results.
But in the secret corner of your mind keep asking the right questions and try to find answers from the rational point of view. You have a bright future.
Watch this video that gives you good company ( Casey Gerald traces the drama of his life back to an East Texas church on the night of December 31, 1999, the night he believed the world was to end. When the rapture didn't come, he searched for something new to believe in — at Yale, Lehman Brothers, Harvard Business School and his own nonprofit — but found only false saviors. In this moving talk, Gerald urges us all to question our beliefs, to embrace doubt and to find the courage to believe in something new).
Q: How does acupuncture work?
MR: I am going to disappoint you by saying acupuncture doesn't cure any diseases! This is a verified fact.
It may help in reducing pain, but the claim that it can cure ‘incurable’ diseases is totally nonsense according to scientists who tested it.
According to ancient Chinese medicine, the body’s health is dependent on Yin and Yang’s energy flow. Whenever there is a disturbance in this energy flow, the body falls ill. There are 12-single flows and 2- double flows in the body according to them, which they divided the body in horizontal and vertical lines.
So, the practitioners of acupuncture say, if a person falls ill and if on a specific line (horizontal or vertical) if you poke a hole with a needle, the energy flow may get correct, giving a relief in pain.
For example if you’re having a pain below abdomen and close to penis. The lines are connected as high as right eye here. That means, to set the flow right, even if you poke a hole near the eye your pain in the abdomen can get relieved.
But according to Science : When you poke a hole, the endorphins gets released which stops the signals of pain to reach to the brain. So, you stop feeling the pain.
But the claims that Acupuncture can cure cancer or AIDS is a not true.
Q: Ma'am, I read your article how-science-explains-near-death-experiences a week back. It demolished all the irrational beliefs I had before based on the stories told by several people and news papers. It's amazing! You constructed a real image of facts very convincingly on the grave of my beliefs. My world has changed! Thank you so much for showing me the way. Expect more awakening facts from you.
MR: I didn't change things for you. You yourself did it with your critical thinking abilities. I only provided fodder for your thinking. Not everybody can overcome their fears, conditioning of minds and wake up to reality. Congratulations on finding the scientific path to walk on. Stick to it. All the best!
Q:Is it true that in earlier times birds were used to detect toxic gases in mines? How toxic substances are detected now?
MR: Yes, it 's true.
In late 17th and early 18th century, the coal miners realized that there can be toxic gases such asCarbon Monoxide (CO) and Methane(CH4) in the coal mines.
Toxic gases are very often released in underground mines and cannot easily be detected by human senses. Gas in mines is naturally produced during the conversion of organics to coal. It is not only in the mine’s atmosphere, but is also absorbed into coal’s inner surfaces. When released during mining, fire and explosion are a potential result.
It isn’t only a specific event, such as an explosion, that causes concern for miner safety. Low levels of toxic gases are harmful when there is chronic exposure.
Humans have lungs with a weight of 5% of body mass, while in case of Canary Birdsit’s 20%. Which means that Canary can breathe more air at the time, compared to their body mass. So, if there are harmful gases, Canary dies immediately in a few minites in a coal mine, saving hundreds of Coal mine workers.
So, Canary Birds were used as a predictor of danger at that time.
Now, of course, times have changed.
In order to dilute both low and high toxic-gas levels and make the mine environment safer, ventilation air systems are now installed that ventilate mines at high flow rates. This air is then typically vented to the atmosphere. Concern, however, remains as to the safety of the gas as the ventilation systems dump the methane into the atmosphere, potentially posing an environmental threat.
Two types of sensors, infrared and catalytic heat of combustion, are commonly used for measuring combustible gases such as methane in non-mining applications. Each sensor has its own advantages and constraints; for example, some sensors are better for sensing toxic gases and some are better for combustible gas detection. In underground applications, only heat of combustion sensors are used.
One sensor used in equipment that detects methane in mines is the Parallax MO-2 series . The sensor considers not only the presence of methane, but also the influence of temperature and humidity on its measurement accuracy. In addition to methane detection, these devices are also suitable to detect LPG, i-butane, propane, alcohol, hydrogen, and smoke.
The sensor is made from a small alumina tube, a tin-dioxide sensing layer, and an electrode, while a heater maintains the components at a specific operating temperature compared to the cold ambient air of the mine.
While toxic gases are of greatest concern, the monitoring of oxygen is also critical. Sensors such as the KGZ-10 oxygen sensor series provides a highly accurate oxygen reading without the use of additional reference gas requirements—important in a highly combustive environment.
The Analog Devices EVAL-CN0234-SDPZ is a single supply, micro-power toxic gas detector using an electromechanical sensor. Electrochemical sensors offer several advantages for instruments that detect or measure the concentration of many toxic gases. Most sensors are gas specific and have usable resolutions under one part per million (ppm) of gas concentration. They operate with very small amounts of current, making them well-suited for portable, battery-powered instruments. Gas detectors are either portable devices or fixed gas detectors.
Other sensor types
While gas sensors measure the concentration of such toxic and dangerous gases as CO2, carbon monoxide, NO2, NH3, and the absence of sufficient oxygen, these devices are just one of a variety of sensors used in mining operation. Others include:
It should be noted that all sensors used in the mining industry must function under conditions involving strong caustics, high temperatures, and harsh industrial environments. They often come with rugged, sealed sensor assemblies designed specifically for these applications.
Highly integrated and computer-controlled mine safety-monitoring systems are based on subsystems that provide real-time monitoring and rely on gas, negative pressure, temperature, and wind-speed sensors. The communication subsystem delivers wireless communication and maintains contact with a central control computer located on the surface. Real-time data regarding monitoring and communication is transmitted to the management center and mobile devices. Wireless transmission eliminates laying lines and maintaining them, while speeding up the transmission of data and improving efficiency and accuracy.
Q: After going through your articles on pseudo-science, I realized there are several news papers, sites on the net that popularize these pseudo-science-based traditions and customs here and mislead people. Why don't you approach them and make them realize what they are doing is wrong ?
MR: I did try several times! The news papers don't publish my letters saying and explaining why what they publish is not real science and on line sites delete my comments. So we can assume that the media people are deliberately promoting pseudo-science! Need we say more?
Q: Doesn't science too start with pseudo-science concepts at the outset ?
MR: NO! Pseudo-science means false science, not real one, that is not supported by empirical evidence and doesn't abide by the scientific method but claims otherwise. It doesn't mean 'unproven' or 'speculative'.
Scientific facts start with hypotheses that would be tested using only scientific methods at later stages .
Two thought experiments.
The first is the famous double-slit experiment. A particle, say, an electron is fired by an apparatus; goes through a screen with two slits; and hits a fluorescent screen. Even if we record the location of the electron's impact with exquisite precision, we cannot reconstruct the electron's path, because it didn't have one. Indeed, if we fire a large number of electrons, one at a time, the statistical distribution of impact locations will tell us that each and every electron went through both slits, and its probability of impacting the fluorescent screen at different locations varied accordingly. In short, between the two measurements (counting the firing of the electron by the apparatus as the first measurement) the electron had no classical trajectory.
Now take Schrödinger's much abused kitty. Put her in the box, along with the apparatus that triggers the poison if it detects the decay of that radioactive atom. Wait the requisite amount of time and open the box. If a live kitty jumps out of the box, you know that the cat was alive all along. Its classical state is well-defined and can be fully reconstructed from the observation. Similarly, if the kitty is dead, not only can you tell that the kitty has been dead for some time, a qualified vet may be able to tell you exactly how long that time was. So there, once again the cat's classical state is well-defined and can be fully reconstructed.
Do you see the difference? In the case of the double-slit experiment, the electron had no classical state between measurements. In the case of the kitty, it had a classical state all along, because it is a classical object.
The same goes for your coin inside the deep well.
Another way of looking at it is this: In either the double-slit experiment or in the case of Schrödinger's cat, the outcome of the experiment cannot be predicted based on the initially available (classical) information. However, this is where the similarities end. Because once the result becomes known, the state of Schrödinger's cat (or your coin) can be fully reconstructed classically. In contrast, the electron had no classical trajectory, so reconstructing it is not possible even if the outcome of the experiment is known.
Now you may argue that even a macroscopic object like a coin or a kitty is not perfectly classical, because it contains a finite number of quantum particles. True. But for a complex object like these, any deviation from the classical state becomes so exceedingly tiny, it will never be measurable. Things would be different for intermediate-size objects, e.g., something made from only a thousand atoms or whatever. There, the classical reconstruction of the object's trajectory would not be perfect anymore. And as we further reduce the number of particles (that is, the number of independent degrees of freedom that describe the object) the classical description increasingly becomes an approximation until it loses its meaning completely, as in the case of a single electron in the double-slit experiment.