SCI-ART LAB

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

Q: Dr. Krishna, what is the purpose of ear-wax?

Krishna: The purpose of earwax is to keep your ear canal clean. While excess, hard, or obstructive earwax can be problematic, most earwax (cerumen) is beneficial. It is a normal, protective coating for the sensitive skin of the ear canal. A canal coated with ear wax will repel water and help prevent external ear infections. Not only does earwax help to keep dust and dirt away from the eardrum, it also provides some antibacterial and lubricating benefits.

Q: How can sugar cause coma? How can we avoid it?

Krishna: If you have diabetes, dangerously high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) or dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can lead to a diabetic coma. Before developing it, you will face these symptoms: increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, stomach pain, fruity breath odor, a very dry mouth, and a rapid heartbeat.

Three years back my mother suffered from  hypoglycemia. I used to give her insulin shots. But because of her reduced digestive process, her sugar levels became very low and every night she used to go into a confused state and behaved strangely. I used to sit with her whole night to look after her! When I checked her blood glucose levels, my hunch came true and I reduced the insulin amount. She recovered from that condition. 

But if this is not found out and treated, that can lead to a coma state. 

Blood sugar that's either too high or too low for too long may cause various serious conditions, all of which can lead to a diabetic coma.

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis. If your muscle cells become starved for energy, your body may respond by breaking down fat stores. This process forms toxic acids known as ketones. If you have ketones (measured in blood or urine) and high blood sugar, the condition is called diabetic ketoacidosis. Left untreated, it can lead to a diabetic coma.

    Diabetic ketoacidosis is most common in type 1 diabetes but sometimes occurs in type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes.

  • Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome. If your blood sugar level tops 600 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 33.3 millimoles per liter (mmol/L), the condition is called diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome.

    Severely high blood sugar turns your blood thick and syrupy. The excess sugar passes from your blood into your urine, which triggers a filtering process that draws tremendous amounts of fluid from your body. Left untreated, this can lead to life-threatening dehydration and a diabetic coma. About 25 to 50 percent of people with diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome develop a coma.

  • Hypoglycemia. Your brain needs glucose to function. In severe cases, low blood sugar may cause you to pass out. Hypoglycemia can be caused by too much insulin or not enough food. Exercising too vigorously or drinking too much alcohol can have the same effect.

If untreated, diabetic coma can lead to permanent brain damage or death.

Anyone who has diabetes is at risk of a diabetic coma, but the following factors can increase the risk:

  • Insulin delivery problems. If you're on an insulin pump, you have to check your blood sugar frequently. Insulin delivery can stop if the pump fails or the tubing (catheter) is twisted or falls out of place. A lack of insulin can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • An illness, trauma or surgery. When you're sick or injured, blood sugar levels tend to rise, sometimes dramatically. This may cause diabetic ketoacidosis if you have type 1 diabetes and don't increase your insulin dosage to compensate.

    Medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure or kidney disease, also may increase your risk of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome.

  • Poorly managed diabetes. If you don't monitor your blood sugar properly or take your medications as directed, you'll have a higher risk of developing long-term complications and a diabetic coma.
  • Deliberately skipping meals or insulin. Sometimes, people with diabetes who also have an eating disorder choose not to use their insulin as directed with the hope of losing weight. This is a dangerous, life-threatening practice that increases the risk of a diabetic coma.
  • Drinking alcohol. Alcohol can have unpredictable effects on your blood sugar. Alcohol's sedating effects may make it harder for you to know when you're having low blood sugar symptoms. This can increase your risk of a diabetic coma caused by hypoglycemia.
  • Illegal drug use. Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and ecstasy, can increase your risk of severe high blood sugar levels and conditions linked to diabetic coma.

To avoid diabetic coma, you have to strictly follow the diet your doctor suggests. You have to take the medicines or insulin shots without fail. You have to check your blood sugar levels regularly. Check for ketones if your blood sugar levels are very high. If blood sugar levels fall rapidly, you have to take sugars immediately to increase them. It is better to avoid alcohol if you have diabetes. 

Q: Can you explain in Telugu too?

Krishna: My mother tongue is Telugu. I can explain most things in Telugu but I have a problem with scientific terms. During my lectures on science, or whenever I give speeches, some people ask me to explain in Telugu, which is not a problem but I get stuck whenever I have to deal with scientific words. That is a real challenge for me. I try my best to stick to Telugu but can’t avoid English terms sometimes.

Whenever I use English scientific words, I give a roundabout detailed explanation in Telugu.

The answer to your Q is 'yes, I can'!

Q: Is it possible to teach critical thinking?

Krishna:

We have been trained in critical thinking as part of our scientific training. When I read some of the answers here, I felt their view of critical thinking is different from ours and some even say it is open to different interpretations. Sorry, in the field of science, you cannot interpret it in any way you want.

Is it possible to teach critical thinking? Yes, it is possible, but the person who is about to learn should be able to fully commit himself or herself to learning it. You need discipline and determination to avoid your biases, emotions, opinions, beliefs, conditioning of mind etc. that can screw up your thought process. Moreover, you should have lots of genuine knowledge that can guide you through the process. Without the correct knowledge on any issue your thinking becomes partial, inadequate and lopsided. You would be blinded by your inadequacies.

Excellence in thought must be systematically cultivated. You just need to commit yourself to remaining rigorous, clear-headed and honest in your analysis while conducting science and critical thinking.

Read how to go about critical thinking here: Critical Thinking

It is not easy. Most People think they can think critically but really don’t know how their thought processes can get screwed up by these cognitive biases

Some don’t even know that so many of them even exist! Even some scientists are not free of them despite their training. That is why the scientific method is used to protect science from such biases. Although, not very perfect, it is the best available method we now have. So we counter-check critical thinking process of scientists with the scientific method.

Q: Dr. Krishna, when I read your articles here, I realized the thinking process of scientists  's completely different to ours. I realized we 're primitive thinkers, while scientists 're advanced thinkers. I got attracted to your very powerful thought process. How can we develop one like yours?

Krishna: Thank you. Glad that you realized scientific thinking is the best one to follow. Welcome to the world of science.

You can try this ...  Critical Thinking

It is not easy but there is nothing wrong in attempting it. If you face any difficulty, you can take my help. Learn it with sincerity. You will definitely get benefited by it. 

Q: Who are the Indian scientists that are alive today? Are they all not dead?

Krishna : What?! We, teh people of scientific community, are very much alive!
Who asked this Q? Why are you trying to kill all of us? Dude come out of your delusions! 

Q: Why do ghosts like the colour red?

There is no evidence of ghosts in the first place according to science! Now you are attributing imaginative ‘likes’ to your your imaginative shapes!

Strange creativity!

Science and the paranormal

Q: At what age do most people stop believing in  mysteries like 'the Bermuda Triangle' and 'Bigfoot'?

Krishna: Age has nothing to do with it! It is your critical thinking that determines what you believe in. First of all anybody who can think critically doesn’t believe in anything blindly.
If a person is not a critical thinker, he will believe in anything he reads/hears/sees even if he is eighty!

If you have genuine evidence, a critical thinker would most probably accept it as provisional truth of the moment. That’s all!

Q: What is the difference between religious understanding and scientific understanding of the universe?

Krishna: Religious understanding is just based on your strange perception while scientific understanding is based on genuine facts!

Q: What is the purpose of life's origin in the universe according to science?

Krishna: I am glad you asked this Q to learn about scientific purpose.

Scientists think the general driving force of life’s origins in terms of thermodynamics. All organisms are composed of molecules that assemble together via numerous chemical reactions. Just as heat flows from hot to cold, these molecules obey the universal tendency to diminish energy differences, so that the most likely chemical reactions are those in which energy flows “downhill” toward a stationary state, or chemical equilibrium. The molecules involved most likely underwent a series of more and more complex reactions to minimize mutual energy differences between matter on Earth and with respect to high-energy radiation from Sun. The process eventually advanced so far that it cumulated into such sophisticated functional structures that could be called living. Therefore, processes of life are, in their principles, no different from any other natural processes!

According to a paper published in the International Journal of Astrobiology (1), in a primordial pool that contained some basic compounds which reacted with one another and coupling with an external energy source such as the Sun, the compounds formed a chemical system that led to life. The compounds continually engaged in chemical reactions, thriving the most when capturing and distributing more and more of the Sun’s energy in the quest for a steady state. The evolutionary process was and still is non-deterministic, even chaotic, since the energy flows create energy differences that in turn affect the flows.

Due to random variations stemming from the chemical reactions, some novel compounds may have emerged in the primordial system. Some of these compounds (such as those involving carbon) might have been exceptionally good at creating energy flow, enabling the system to diminish energy differences very efficiently and reach a higher level of entropy. Compounds with these advantages would have gained ground during this period of primitive chemical evolution. But the scientists emphasize that identifying which exact compounds were key players during this period would be very difficult to determine. Today we may have only very little evidence left from the courses in the very distant past to deduce which chemical species went extinct, while others, more viable in energy transduction, emerged.

According to this paper,  the fact that the physical tendency to diminish energy differences makes no distinction between systems that are inanimate or animate is striking. As the researchers explain, the order and complexity that characterize modern biological systems have no value in and of themselves, but structure and hierarchical organization emerged and developed because they provided paths for increasing energy flows.

The scientists give several examples of mechanisms associated with life that increase entropy. For instance, when systems (e.g. molecules) become entities of larger systems (e.g. cells) that participate in larger ranges of interactions to consume more free energy, entropy increases. Genetic code might have served as another primordial mechanism, acting as a catalyst that could increase energy flow toward greater entropy. Today, complex organisms have cellular metabolism, which is another mechanism that increases entropy, as it disperses energy throughout the organism and into the environment. The food chain in an ecosystem is another example of a mechanism for transferring energy on a larger scale.

In this sense, life is a very natural thing, which emerged simply to satisfy basic physical laws. 

The purpose, is to redistribute energy on the Earth, which is in between a huge potential energy difference caused by the hot Sun and cold space. Organisms evolve via natural selection, but at the most basic level, natural selection is driven by the same thermodynamic principle: increasing entropy and decreasing energy differences. The natural processes from which life emerged, then, are the same processes that keep life going – and they operate on all timescales.

According to thermodynamics, there was no striking moment or no single specific locus for life to originate, but the natural process has been advancing by a long sequence of steps via numerous mechanisms so far reaching a specific meaning – life, the researchers explained.

Q: Is it possible to get psychic powers? What does science say about it?

Q: How can we gain psychic powers?

Krishna: After two decades of research in the US, scientists reviewed the results and concluded that the psychics did no better than chance, and that the psychic information was neither validated nor useful. 

Again countless programs have been funded in the field in the US despite never having been proven valid or effective but all went futile!

Extra sensory perception (ESP) never fared well under scientific conditions, whether in the private or public sector trials. Most tests failed to replicate the results. Some that showed results had been shown to have several errors in statistics and methodology. Most psychics were caught cheating on hidden cameras, physically bending spoons with their hands — not their minds — when they thought no one was watching.

If psychics can really have good abilities, their predictions and work should be much more accurate and valid than chance or an informed guess and they should really be able to do things without cheating. 

So!?

Q: What is the best scientific proof for paranormal activity ever recorded?

Krishna: There is no evidence of paranormal activity that stood up to scientific scrutiny till now.

But still people claim several things and those who want to believe in them believe them anyway. They make these things so popular that people refuse to come out their delusions!

Q: Is black magic true, in practice and prevalent in India and the world? What does science say about it?

However, it has a psychological effect on mentally weak and superstitious people because they think it works and get scared. There is a thing called Nocebo Effect.

If somebody tells you that they have done black magic on you, the nocebo effect takes charge and you start feeling its illusionary effects!

So it is your mind that is playing games and causing havoc, not actual black magic. Stop believing in it.

Q: My friend gets dragged out of bed every night. Is this a paranormal activity? How could you explain that?

Krishna: By investigating. Get a camera with night vision mode, or find a suitable app for his phone and point it at him. This could help him gain insight what is happening during the night.

Or sleep in the same room as he does and observe what is really happening. 

I don't think anything paranormal happening here. Your friend is suffering from some mental/physical disorder. Ask him to see a medical doctor immediately.

Q: How can science assist us in deciding what morality is?

Krishna: 

To think critically you need knowledge, facts and all aspects of the issue. That is where science provides the missing knowledge and facts. Without science’s assistance, your thoughts and conclusions will be lopsided and you will be blinded by the inadequacies. Take for example, forensic science. It helps police and courts in deciding what is right and what is wrong and punish the culprits for their wrong doings. Isn’t science assisting in deciding what is right and wrong and the related morality of the communities we live in?

As a person of science I know exactly the way a tortured physical entity suffers. I know the neural actions, the brain’s interpretation of pain and suffering more than others around. I have a full view ( not a partial one like laymen have) of it before me. Therefore, I think the thing that is causing this suffering is immoral. That is how immoral is ‘correctly defined’ for me by science.

Science defines morality better than other ways of doing it. And that is a fact.

Read my answer about critical thinking posted above.

Citations:

1. Annila, Arto and Annila, Erkki. “Why did life emerge?” International Journal of Astrobiology 7 (3 & 4 ): 293-300 (2008).

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