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

Q: What is the purpose of having different blood groups? Do animals too have different blood groups like us?

Krishna: The most important purpose of different blood groups is fighting disease.

Like, for instance, Malaria appears to be the main evolutionary selective force behind type O, according to experts. Type O is more prevalent in Africa and other parts of the world that have high burdens of malaria, suggesting that blood type carries some sort of evolutionary advantage. The advantage appears to be that cells infected with malaria don't stick well to type-O or type-B blood cells. Malaria-infected blood cells are more likely to stick to cells with the A sugar and to form clumps known as "rosettes," which can be deadly when they form in vital organs, such as the brain. As a result, people with type O get less sick when they're infected with malaria, according to a 2007 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

All animals do have different blood groups. Humans have a system based on A, B and O. Other animals have different systems. Basically the blood groups are based on little proteins that sit on the outside of red blood cells. The reason it's important for us to be able to tell what blood groups an animal or a person is in is because the blood from one person may not be compatible with another person if their blood group is not the same. In dogs we have a system called DEA 1.1, 1.2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. In cats we also have A and B but they're not the same as A and B in human blood systems. It is very important to study and know about blood groups because of the risk of interactions with different blood groups in people and other animals. It might be that some blood groups give an advantage in some circumstances and certainly some ethnic groups are more likely to have blood groups than other people. People from Mediterranean origin are much more likely to have blood group B than people from non-Mediterranean background. 

 Dogs have DEAs (dog erythrocyte antigens), about 8 important ones of which DEA4 and 6 are most significant for transfusions. Cats have groups A, B or AB (but they are not quite like human ABO). Horses have groups including A, C, D, K, P, Q and U. Sheep A, B, C, D, M, R and X. Goats A, B, C, M and J. And so on. Whether these are important for transfusions depends on whether naturally occurring antibodies are present.

Q: Can an HIV positive patient marry another HIV patient and have sex with her?

Krishna: If both the patients agree, yes you can marry. However, you should use condoms while having sex. Why?

There are different strains of HIV. HIV reinfection or superinfection as it is sometimes called, is a consequence of unprotected sexual encounters between two HIV infected people. Simply put, reinfection occurs when a person living with HIV gets infected a second time while having unprotected sex with another HIV infected person. Compelling evidence has surfaced in human case studies that have confirmed fears that HIV reinfection can occur and can be very problematic for HIV infected people.

As there are several strains of HIV, not one,  you and your partner might be infected with different strains.  In addition, when exposed to medications, HIV changes or mutates over time. If a person is reinfected with a strain of HIV that is different from the strains already present or if a mutated HIV type is introduced into the body through unsafe sex, treatment will be much more complex and potentially ineffective. 

 If a patient is being treated for HIV and his medications are working well…his viral load is undetectable. Then if he has unprotected sex with another person living with HIV and get reinfected with their strain…one that is resistant to most medications, over time, that new strain will flourish in the first person's body, rendering his once successful treatment useless. Eventually his viral load skyrockets and his immune system pays the price.

Therefore, to prevent reinfection, safer sex should be the rule with each and every sexual encounter even if it is between two HIV positive people.

Q: Can an HIV positive person receive HIV positive blood during surgery if the blood is scarce?

Krishna: As per guidelines and rules in almost all the countries,  all donated blood is tested for HIV/AIDs as well as for certain other blood borne pathogens. Any blood testing positive for disease would be discarded.

Even an HIV patient would not be eligible to receive this blood, because we cannot take the chances of infecting anyone, and there are different strains of HIV, so we certainly would not want to infect a patient with a different strain of HIV than s/he already has. Also, doctors don't want to increase the HIV load of a patient and make him more sick even if the virus belongs to the same strain.

A surgery patient who is HIV positive would and should get the same clean blood any other patient would get.

Q: My eyes can't tolerate bright lights? Why is this?

Krishna: Photophobia, or light sensitivity, is an intolerance of light. Sources such as sunlight, fluorescent light and incandescent light all can cause discomfort in almost all people, along with a need to squint or close your eyes. Headaches also may accompany light sensitivity.

Light-sensitive people  are bothered only by bright light. In extreme cases, however, any light can be irritating. It could be a symptom of many conditions such as infection or inflammation that can irritate the eyes. Light sensitivity also can be a symptom of underlying diseases that don't directly affect the eyes, such as virus-caused illnesses or severe headaches or migraines. 

If you have lighter eyes that too makes your eyes uncomfortable to lights as you don't have enough pigment to protect against harsh lighting.

Other common causes of photophobia include corneal abrasion, uveitis and a central nervous system disorder such as meningitis. . Light sensitivity also is associated with a detached retina, contact lens irritations, sunburn and refractive surgery. Photophobia often accompanies albinism (lack of eye pigment), total color deficiency (seeing only in shades of gray), botulism, rabies, mercury poisoning, conjunctivitis, keratitis and iritis. Certain rare diseases, such as the genetic disorder keratosis follicularis spinulosa decalvans (KFSD), are reported to cause photophobia. And some medications may cause light sensitivity as a side effect, including belladonna, furosemide, quinine, tetracycline and doxycycline.
How can you treat it? By treating the underlying cause.
Try to avoid harsh lights if you are light sensitive. Use protection glasses, like sun-glasses, polarized sunglasses, etc. when you go out in bright lights. In an extreme case, you can consider wearing prosthetic contact lenses that are specially colored to look like your own eyes. Prosthetic contact lenses can reduce the amount of light that enters the eye and make your eyes more comfortable.

Q: My cousin has high blood sugar levels. Just two days back she gave birth to a baby girl.  Even the baby's blood is being tested very frequently for sugar. Why is this?

Krishna: Babies born to women with diabetes are often much bigger, a condition called "macrosomia."

Because their mothers have high blood sugar levels, they get too much sugar through the placenta. The baby's pancreas sense it and makes more insulin to use it up. That extra sugar gets converted to fat, making a large baby.

Doctors keep an eye on babies of mothers with diabetes for several hours after birth. If you regularly have high blood sugar levels while you're pregnant (and especially in the 24 hours before delivery), your baby may get dangerously low blood sugar right after they're born. Their insulin is based on your high sugar, and when it's suddenly taken away, their blood sugar level drops quickly and they'll need glucose to balance it out. Their calcium and magnesium levels may be off, too. Those can be fixed with medication.

Some babies are too big to be delivered vaginally, and you'll need a cesarean delivery or c-section. Your doctor will keep an eye on your baby's size so you can plan for the safest way to give birth. They also test the baby's blood sugar levels to see that it is in the healthy range for the baby. 

Q: Why do people believe some myths despite science disproving them?

Q: Why do some people reject tons and tons of scientific evidence and stick to their own ancient beliefs?

Q: If a genius suggests simple, easy solutions to the perennial problems, still why people at high command never heed & instead prefer to deal with the same problems again & again, in the same old way? Is it to show off their importance?

Q:Why don't people understand that myths are not real, instead of worshipping them? 

Krishna: If Knowledge can provide the right path, and if people go that way, you cannot exploit people to your own benefit. That is the main reason for keeping people in the dark.

Most people don't know in the first place  that they had been busted or their beliefs had been . blasted.  Media, in order to grab eye balls and attract traffic, most of the time propagate them suppressing the fact that they had been disproved. 

 "Belief perseverance" is another contributing factor and it's a widely studied phenomenon. All of us fall prey to it to some extent, but some people are more prone to it than others.

What exactly is at work here? To put it very simply, the human mind will go to great lengths to keep the peace. Cognitive dissonance is a very uncomfortable thing. It refers to the mental discomfort of facing inconsistency in one's thoughts, beliefs, perceptions and/or behaviors more so when completely opposite views to yours are presented to you.

Most of us indulge this tendency to some degree. We all want to feel comfortable with our thoughts and actions, and it's a whole lot harder to change than it is to stay the same. We can see cognitive-dissonance theory at work in everyday life. A parent who believes her child to be brilliant believes the test he failed was poorly written, even though the rest of the class did fine on it. When an otherwise rational person holds an irrational belief in the face of significant evidence against it, cognitive dissonance is usually involved. How the mind facilitates this is a study in self-preservation, and it typically involves a mental tendency known as confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias can explain everything from unbudging stereotypes to increasing political polarization. The theory goes: We are more likely to believe (or seek or remember or even notice) the "facts" that support our current viewpoints, and less likely to believe the ones that would require mental adjustment. The more deeply ingrained or self-defining or consequential the current viewpoint, the further the mind might go to ignore the new evidence that would disprove it. Attempts to debunk an irrational belief will tend instead to reinforce it, as the believer may have come to see his or her perseverance as heroic, as standing up to the "establishment". When that new, threatening evidence takes the form of overwhelming scientific data, there are some approaches that work particularly well to keep the conflict at bay.

An  example : Until her removal in 2008, the South African health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, a trained medical doctor, claimed a combination of garlic, lemon juice and beetroot fought HIV better than anti-retroviral drugs (3)! What do you call this? A trained medical doctor believing in something that goes exactly opposite to her own education? Lack of Critical Thinking  skills!

Falling prey to conspiracy theories created and propagated by vested interests.  Creating a conspiracy is one of the easiest ways to reject evidence. Conspiracies by nature are irrefutable. It's all happening in secret. Anybody can be in on it. The data is faked. The photos are re-touched. The corporate-funded media will say anything.

Example: When a parent who refused to vaccinate due to the autism link, who spoke out publicly on the topic and even criticized his friends for following the schedule, is faced with overwhelming evidence that there is no link at all, he may determine that "evidence" to be the product of a far-reaching medical, governmental and corporate conspiracy to maintain high pharmaceutical-industry profits.

It's not the only way, though, to validate a threatened belief. The collection of techniques that enable what has come to be called denialism is a varied bag of tricks. Sometimes in the form of a technique called "reinterpreting the evidence." This involves analyzing any new facts in such a way as to support the original belief. This creates pseudo-science (1, 2)! This is exactly what is happening in India right now. In order to confirm their age old beliefs, some people are trying to interpret things using science to provide ''cooked up evidence".

One can also create their own standards of proof that science can't possibly meet, such as, "I'll believe that climate change is a result of human actions when I see proof that Earth has never undergone a temperature increase before"! Or seeking out "experts" who support the irrational belief through pseudoscience , misinterpretations, misrepresentations and logical  fallacies.

Pretty effective on their own, these (and all) belief-perseverance techniques have received a tremendous boost with the advent of the Internet. Those looking to maintain an irrational viewpoint need only perform a simple search to locate fellow believers, entire communities of them, and the "experts" who back it all up with appropriate jargon. These people derive comfort in the company of 'like-minded groups'.

In the end, it's not about science at all. It's about avoiding the stress of unlearning, the possibility of regret or the shame of having been wrong. And so, in the interest of cognitive harmony, otherwise reasonable individuals believe vaccines can cause autism, human actions have nothing to do with climate change, smoking doesn't cause cancer, and the test, obviously, was wrong.

Human psychology at work here and need I add in a deplorably negative way?

Q: What is the scientific proof of miracles?

Krishna: When science explains something, that won’t be a miracle any longer. It becomes a natural occurrence!

So there won’t be any ‘genuine scientific proof’ of miracles. There can be only pseudo-scientific explanations.

Miracles remain miracles only until … science enters the scene. Throughout history of human kind, miracles remained miracles only until science explained them. Science annihilates miracles.

Q: Is science a really interesting subject for students?

Krishna: The perception depends on the student as well as the teachers and the atmosphere in which science is taught! While some find science very interesting, as the atmosphere science is being taught is very favourable to them, the teacher is highly capable of creating interest in his students, and all the fellow students and people at home construct a very thrilling atmosphere to study science,

others who are less fortunate might find it difficult to learn as it is made more complicated to them and the student develops a mind block.

Science, in general, is highly thrilling to deal with. Without science, you, I and the universe don’t exist in the first place. Understanding the process gives a high to the prepared mind.

Q: Recently I have seen one person quoting famous scientists. The scientists said some negative things about evolution. I am sending some of these quotes to you. Why do you think scientists say such things? 

"Scientists who go about teaching that evolution is a fact of life are great con-men, And the story they are telling may be the GREATEST HOAX EVER." -- Dr.T.N.Tahmisian, Atomic Energy Commission

"We must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations." -- Franklin Harold, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Colorado State University, in an Oxford University Press text.

"Darwinian evolution - whatever its other virtues - does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology. This becomes especially clear when we compare it with a heuristic framework such as the atomic model, which opens up structural chemistry and leads to advances in the synthesis of a multitude of new molecules of practical benefit. None of this demonstrates that Darwinism is false. It does, however, mean that the claim that it is the cornerstone of modern experimental biology will be met with quiet skepticism from a growing number of scientists in fields where theories actually do serve as cornerstones for tangible breakthroughs." --U.S. National Academy of Sciences member Philip Skell

Krishna: Ufff ....

1. Opinions of scientists don't count in science. Yes, you read it right! Only genuine evidence counts. 

2. Most of these scientists are from other fields and are not 'good enough' to even express their 'opinions' on things related to some other arenas - not the fields of their specialization.

3. It has become fashionable for some scientists to talk on controversial issues and become 'famous' overnight. These are frustrated beings that seek instant stardom. I put some blame on the media too. They stoke controversies to get traffic.

4. Lack of critical thinking skills on part of scientists. 

Just hit the ignore button. There isn't anything important in these things to talk about.

I am a microbiologist. My evidence of evolution is drug resistance in micro-organisms. I see this day in and day out.

Scientists have seen and shown clear evidences too, not only that of fossils, even evidence in living beings. It is occurring before your own eyes!

Convergent evolution before your eyes!

Ah! Another evolution episode before your own eyes!

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Who do you trust now?

The scientists who just said something without giving any evidence or the ones who provided genuine evidence?

Q: Do you believe in evolution?

Krishna: ‘No I don’t ‘believe in evolution’! Yes, you heard it right, I don’t ‘blindly believe’ in anything. I trust evolution is true. Because we have tons and tons of evidence - I have seen some of it with my own eyes. I don’t use the word ‘believe’, as the world of science doesn’t endorse the word.

I am a microbiologist. I see drug resistance in microbes day in and day out. That is 'evolution of microbes to drugs'. That is my evidence. 

My trust in evolution came from my observation of this drug resistance of microbes.

I also read several peer-reviewed genuine research papers on evolution. I have enough of evidence to think I am right in trusting this science.

Q: Adaptation is not evolution. All the examples you people give with regard to micro-evolution are examples of adaptation. What do you think about these quotes from scientists themselves?

“The central question at the Chicago conference was whether mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution ... the answer can be given as a clear “No”....” (Roger Lewin, “Evolutionary theory under fire”, Science, 1980)

"...we have proffered a collective tacit acceptance of the story of gradual adaptive change, a story that strengthened and became even more entrenched as the synthesis took hold. We palaeontologists have said that the history of life supports that interpretation, all the while really knowing that it does not." (Eldredge, Niles [Chairman and Curator of Invertebrates, American Museum of Natural History]

Krishna: Like I said several times earlier, opinions of scientists don't count. 

Antibiotic resistance is the ability of a microorganism to withstand the effects of an antibiotic.

It is a specific type of drug resistance.

Antibiotic resistance evolves naturally via natural selection through random mutation, but it could also be engineered by applying an evolutionary stress on a population.

Once such a gene is generated, bacteria can then transfer the genetic information in a horizontal fashion (between individuals) by plasmid exchange.

If a bacterium carries several resistance genes, it is called multiresistant or, informally, a superbug.

Causes Antibiotic resistance can also be introduced artificially into a microorganism through transformation protocols.

This can be a useful way of implanting artificial genes into the microorganism.

Antibiotic resistance is a consequence of evolution via natural selection.

The antibiotic action is an environmental pressure; those bacteria which have a mutation allowing them to survive will live on to reproduce.

They will then pass this trait to their offspring, which will be a fully resistant generation.

Several studies have demonstrated that patterns of antibiotic usage greatly affect the number of resistant organisms which develop.

Q: If there is no creator, how can earth be so perfect for the creation and evolution of life?

Krishna: Earth's conditions are not all that perfect for life in the sense that there are several extremes like high temperature supporting  hot springs to freezing poles.  Pure water areas to highly saline oceans. 

There are also several instances of mass extinctions of life due to highly unfavourable conditions.   

Life exists here not because Earth is “perfect”, but that rather life can exist in such a wide variety of conditions that Earth fit within the range. Life could adapt, evolve, survive, and flourish despite all these extremes here!





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