Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Q: Aren't we very naive when we say we only 'believe' in science? Isn't this a way of putting a limit to our thinking? Isn't it a way of stubbornly rejecting anything other than we can observe or predict in mathematical equations?
Krishna: "Believe" is a word that, as a person of science, I use rarely and only with great care. To believe something is to accept it on faith without evidence or logical explanation. This is completely contrary to the scientific method and fundamental principals of science. I think I trust (the most appropriate word than faith and belief) science more than anything else during the times of stress and when I encounter complications because it gave solutions to several of my problems.
Well, if I have to limit myself to facts, informed imagination and educated guesswork instead of blindly going for baseless beliefs, misconceptions, pseudo- science, yes, I would!
Q: How can scientists, who are considered to have the most brilliant brains, can go wrong like you said in some of your articles and make mistakes?
Krishna: Scientists are human beings too. When they are venturing into the unknown and dark arenas for the first time to throw light on it, they can take missteps. It is quite normal. But they would be corrected by their peers and fruitless experiences. Read here how this can happen:
Q: What is it like to have someone die in your arms? How can we handle such tragedies with the help of science?
Krishna: My mother actually breathed her last in my arms. I lifted upper part of her body with my hands and was about to turn her on the bed in an ICU of a hospital to avoid the bed sores when it happened.
The doctors had told us earlier in the day the end was coming, and we were mentally preparing for it. But still it was shattering, because I looked after her all my life, and it was a life time bond of love and affection. I couldn’t control my tears. My heart became very heavy. The feeling that she no longer exists like the person I knew all my life was a bit difficult to negotiate.
The doctors tried to revive her but couldn’t. The ECG graph went flat forever. The doctors said, "Sorry", the most horrifying word I heard for the second time in my life (the first one was when my father died).
This article I wrote tells how I could recover from the tragedies I faced with the help of scientific reasoning:
Q: When do you think a scientist can have success? In the beginning of his career or at the end of it?
Krishna: The success in the field of science, according to some studies, is random.
We might guess that, over time, a scientist matures and produces better work, with later work and papers earning more success and citations. But no such trend emerged in the studies (1). The success seems completely random—a scientist’s most impactful publication might just as likely come at the beginning of his career, as toward the end or somewhere in the middle. And this rule holds true for all seven fields included in the study: biology, chemistry, cognitive science, ecology, economics, neuroscience, and physics. This random-impact rule holds for scientists in different disciplines, with different career lengths, working in different decades, and publishing solo or with teams and whether credit is assigned uniformly or unevenly among collaborators. Publishing more papers is like buying more tickets to success. And that’s why you have a bigger impact during your more productive years as a scientist.
Not all scientific careers are alike. Some people who publish the same number of papers—even in the very same journals—get more citations, some don't.
But on the whole I think your success in science depends on your creativity - how well you could take help from all the knowledge in various fields you have, and connect it to the problems you face and how well and easily you could solve it and provide practical solutions to the people around.
And it somewhat depends on - whether you like it or not - how well you promote yourself and your achievements too.
Q: Can scientific laws be considered as absolute truths?
Krishna: No! Some scientific laws can be transient truths too. Until you find new, more refined ones they stay as facts.
Scientific laws are the result of a long and rigorous projects that aims to capture concise rules describing how the universe works. Whenever a rule is identified, it is subjected to intense scrutiny attempting to uncover flaws. When flaws are discovered, they get rejected. The remaining “laws” can be applied generally (a very wide range of circumstances) and since the result has proven to be highly reliable, people often confuse the “law” with absolute truth. If we have not found strong evidence and proof to challenge present laws, they are considered true. And world require us to obey that law unless someone challenges it with proof. Meanwhile the world works with provided truths of the moment as they are usually regarded as best current evidence by real scientists.
Science describes objective reality not absolute truths.
Q: Your article on exoplanets was informative. But I want to know in what way it helps us to understand about us when we find planets of other stars?
Krishna: Knowledge enhances knowledge of its uses. There is practical value of discovering planets in other solar systems. It helps us understand our own solar system better. Finding a planet that is somewhat like Earth helps us understand Earth better. Like how it formed, how life originated on it.
At the very beginning of our solar system, before there was an Earth, Jupiter or Pluto, a massive swirling cloud of dust and gas circled the young Sun. The dust particles in this disk collided with each other and formed into larger bits of rock. This process continued until they reached the size of boulders. Eventually this process of accretion formed the planets of our solar system.
There are four terrestrial planets in our solar system. Four is hardly enough examples in the scientific sense to reach conclusions with confidence. Discovery of big gaseous Jupiter-like planets in other solar systems has already resulted in us questioning our understanding of how Jupiter formed.
Wouldn’t it be useful to find out that something we thought we understood about Earth was wrong or right and we can now understand it better?
Discovery of a planet that is potentially similar in some ways to Earth, at the nearest star to us, is a hugely important discovery. Right now, astronomers all over the world are desperate to get more data on this discovery to then plug into their models and see if it agrees or conflicts with their assumptions. That is how we can enhance our knowledge.
The standard models of planetary formation proposed by scientists have mainly targeted accretion. However, observations of other solar systems have raised some questions about whether accretion could be solely responsible.
A gas giant, such as Jupiter, has to suck up a lot of gas from the protoplanetary disk. The models tell us that rocky planets tend to form in the inner part of a solar system and gas giants tend to form in the outer part of a star system because the solar wind gradually blows most of the gas outwards, so by the time the inner planet cores have accumulated enough mass to gravitationally capture gas, the gas has moved outwards.
This is where the problem comes in. That all seemed reasonable until observations of other systems revealed that the protoplanetary disk has a short lifetime. In order for Jupiter to get so big, it would have had to form very quickly - to capture the gas before it was gone.
That has introduced new models called disk instability formation. This alternative method would have allowed Jupiter to form faster than accretion would have formed the other planets. So, if true, technically we could say Jupiter formed first. But, these models are still quite speculative. If our space probes reveal that Jupiter has a large rocky core, then Jupiter should have formed concurrently with the other planets. If it reveals an absence of a large rocky core, then more credence is given to there being alternate processes such as disk instability.
Core accretion models indicate it would take between 500,000 - 10,000,000 years to form Jupiter. Disk instability models say it could be done in 100–1000 years, according to scientists working in the field. Which one is correct? When we observe and understand other solar systems that are still in the formation stages we might get some answers.
We also explore small worlds to understand the hazards and resources in the solar system that will affect human expansion in space. As we venture outward from our home planet, what kinds of challenges will we face? Might we find new sources of raw materials and natural resources that we could use on Earth? Could humans use asteroids or comets as refueling stations someday? Might we find new, cleaner energy sources in space to help protect our environment?
How can we protect ourselves from impacts from space? By understanding the objects in space!
The more we learn and the more places we visit, the greater our curiosity becomes. With every successful mission, every breakthrough, come dozens of new questions as well as realizations.
Studying other stars and their planets is important because it tells us how we got the elements that make up living systems on our planet. How their gravitational forces etc. influences the dynamics of a system formation and its stability.
All this emphasizes when we study and understand other systems, we can understand ourselves in a better way.
Q: Can human beings experience timelessness?
Krishna: Two things can make time meaningless: singularity and travelling at the speed of light. A singularity is created when a property of a system becomes infinite. Singularities can be found at black holes*, where the density is infinite. Time cannot exist there. Also, if you travel at the speed of light, you yourself will not feel time (time will not exist for you). So, either a singularity, or travelling at the speed of light can make you experience timelessness - both haven't been achieved by humans yet.
*Black holes are so massive that they severely warp the fabric of spacetime (the three spatial dimensions and time combined in a four-dimensional continuum). For this reason, an observer inside a black hole experiences the passage of time much differently than an outside observer. Imagine you want to investigate a black hole by shining a light towards it and measuring the time that elapses before the light is reflected back to you. Unfortunately, you will be waiting a very long time—forever, in fact. The light will appear to continually slow down as it approaches the black hole, ultimately reaching a complete dead stop at the event horizon. Time comes to a standstill at the event horizon, such that an outside observer will never really see anything fall inside a black hole. Strangely enough, this even includes the surface of the star that collapsed to form the black hole!
Q: How can one or two degree temperature changes can make huge differences on our planet like climate scientists say?
Krishna: Climate scientists are right! How?
It takes huge amount of heat to raise the temperature of Earth even by one degree. And the consequences are devastating. Extreme events become more extreme like ...
Submersion of coastal areas: Warming over land is twice as intense as over the ocean, and it is exacerbated over the Arctic, where retreating sea ice reflects less light and so produces less cooling. There are some places where large quantities of ice are just barely staying frozen (on average) and might all melt rather abruptly if the delicate balance is disturbed. The sea level would go up around 7 meters (on average), which would put a lot of coastal areas underwater, driving millions from their homes. All the barrier islands that protect the shore of mainland in some places from hurricanes would be submerged. The impact on people who live in coastal areas would be devastating.
Disturbance of weather patterns: Weather is driven by heat, and the Earth’s weather settles into fairly stable patterns over the centuries, with oceans heated in some places and cooled in others, so that heat gets transported around the globe in fairly stable currents of water and air. When the balance shifts, even a little bit these patterns have to adjust; and sometimes they get confused, with a lot of energy building up in places where it would normally be carried away elsewhere and/or dissipated. This is often expressed in the form of huge cyclonic systems like hurricanes, which have always been around but seem to be increasing dramatically lately with global warming.
While warming oceans may not produce more tropical storms and hurricanes – they may even produce fewer – those storms will be more intense, and with longer dry spells between them. More sporadic precipitation, combined with earlier snowmelt, particularly in mountains, will increase the risk of wildfires.
Crops failures: Many crops are temperature-sensitive and can be wiped out by a few hours of unseasonably low or high temperatures. Unstable weather produces large brief excursions in both directions. And when the deserts and rain forests change places, crop systems get disrupted and everyone loses food.
With a 1.5 C rise in temperature, the Mediterranean area is forecast to have about 9 percent less fresh water available. At 2 C, that water deficit nearly doubles. So does the decrease in wheat and maize harvest in the tropics.
On a global scale, production of wheat and soy is forecast to increase with a 1.5 C temperature rise, partly because warming is favorable for farming in higher latitudes and partly because the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is largely responsible for the temperature increase, is thought to have a fertilization effect. But at 2 C, that advantage plummets by 700 percent for soy and disappears entirely for wheat.
Why does a half degree of temperature increase make such a difference to some of the crops that were studied by scientists? One reason could be a half degree averaged out over the whole world can mean much more of an increase in some locations and at certain times.
Most of that temperature change may occur during a small fraction of the year, when it actually represents conditions that could be 5 or 10 degrees warmer than pre-industrial temperatures instead of just 1.5 or 2 degrees warmer, according to climate scientists.
There are places in the world where, for these important breadbasket crops, they are already close to a thermal limit for that crop species. Adding to the burden, this analysis does not take into account the fact that pests and pathogens may spread more rapidly at higher temperatures and reduce crop yields.
If you get really high temperatures or very dry conditions during critical parts of the development of the crop, it produces essentially no grain. For example, above certain temperature thresholds, corn doesn't die but it doesn't grow seed. It doesn't grow a corncob. And other crops are similar to that, where the development of the actual food part of the crop is dramatically inhibited above critical temperatures.
In some cases food plants produce harmful bitter chemicals due to heat stress that can cause harm to living beings when products of these plants are consumed (2).
Biodiversity disruption: Heat waves would last around a third longer, rain storms would be about a third more intense, the increase in sea level would be approximately that much higher and the percentage of tropical coral reefs at risk of severe degradation would be roughly that much greater.
But in some cases, that extra increase in temperature makes things much more dire. Prolonged warming harms warm-water corals not only through bleaching (a phenomenon in which corals under stress, such as from water that is too warm, expel the algae they need to survive), but also through making them more susceptible to disease.
At 1.5 C, the study found that tropical coral reefs stand a chance of adapting and reversing a portion of their die-off in the last half of the century. But at 2 C, the chance of recovery vanishes. Tropical corals will be virtually wiped out by the year 2100. Without coral reefs, a part of marine eco-system vanishes too.
Effect on human health: Changes in mean climatic conditions and climate variability also can affect human health via indirect pathways, particularly via changes in biological and ecological processes that influence infectious disease transmission and food yields. Where a vector that transmits a disease causing pathogen lives in an environment of low mean temperature, a small increase in temperature may result in increased development, incubation and replication of the pathogen. Temperature may modify the growth of disease carrying vectors by altering their biting rates, as well as affect vector population dynamics and alter the rate at which they come into contact with humans. Finally, a shift in temperature regime can alter the length of the transmission season. Disease carrying vectors may adapt to changes in temperature by changing geographical distribution. Vectors undergo an evolutionary response to adapt to increasing temperatures. There is recent evidence to suggest that the pitcher-plant mosquito (Wyeomia smithii) can adapt genetically to survive the longer growing seasons associated with climate change. A greater degree of micro-evolutionary response was associated with mosquito populations inhabiting higher latitudes; the hypothesis is that because these populations have greater selection pressure they have also a greater ability to evolve genetically. Disease carrying vectors, may undergo an analogous micro-evolution which would allow adaptation to altered seasonal patterns associated with global climate change.
Variability in precipitation may have direct consequences on infectious disease outbreaks. Increased precipitation may increase the presence of disease vectors by expanding the size of existent larval habitat and creating new breeding grounds. In addition, increased precipitation may support a growth in food supplies which in turn support a greater population of vertebrate reservoirs. Unseasonable heavy rainfalls may cause flooding and decrease vector populations by eliminating larval habitats and creating unsuitable environments for vertebrate reservoirs. Alternatively, flooding may force insect or rodent vectors to seek refuge in houses and increase the likelihood of vector-human contact. Epidemics of leptospirosis, a rodent-borne disease, have been documented following severe weather conditions. Changes in weather and climate that can affect transmission of vectorborne diseases include temperature, rainfall, wind, extreme flooding or drought, and sea level rise. Rodent-borne pathogens can be affected indirectly by ecological determinants of food sources affecting rodent population size, floods can displace and lead them to seek food and refuge. Increased rain can increase vegetation, food availability, and population size , increased rain can cause flooding: decreases population size but increases human contact. Increased sea level effects on selected vector-borne pathogens Alters estuary flow and changes existing salt marshes and associated mosquito species, decreasing or eliminating selected mosquito breeding-sites . The relationship between ambient weather conditions and vector ecology is complicated by the natural tendency for insect vectors to seek out the most suitable microclimates for their survival (e.g. resting under vegetation or pit latrines during dry or hot conditions or in culverts during cold conditions). In the wet tropics unseasonable drought can cause rivers to slow, creating more stagnant pools that are ideal vector breeding habitats for mosquitoes that transmit disease causing pathogens.
Human exposure to water-borne infections can occur as a result of contact with contaminated drinking water, recreational water, coastal water, or food. Exposure may be a consequence of human processes (improper disposal of sewage wastes) or weather events. Rainfall patterns can influence the transport and dissemination of infectious agents while temperature can affect their growth and survival (3).
Need more evidence? You will find it here: http://kkartlab.in/group/some-science/forum/topics/why-majority-of-...
Q: What is a Mediterranean diet?
Krishna: A Mediterranean diet is the one which incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, France, Greece and Spain. Mediterranean cuisine varies by region and has a range of definitions, but is largely based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, cereal grains, olive oil and fish.
The Mediterranean diet has been associated with good health, including a healthier heart.
Q: Why do some scientists say they don't believe in evolution? What impact does this have on common people?
Krishna: Thousands of scientists do support evolution because we have evidence. Creationists draw up these lists of some people of science who have faulty thinking apparatuses in their heads to try to convince the public that evolution is somehow being rejected by scientists, that it is a "theory in crisis." Not everyone realizes that this claim is unfounded. National Center for Science Education (US) has been asked numerous times to compile a list of thousands of scientists affirming the validity of the theory of evolution. Although they easily could have done so,they have resisted. They did not wish to mislead the public into thinking that scientific issues are decided by who has the longer list of scientists! No they can't. It is the evidence and data that decides what is truth and what is not in science. Not numbers of people/pseudo-science articles or high pitch voices or thumping of desks or claps.
Just because you have a Ph.D. in a science subject you need not be a 'true scientist' who can think and live like a scientist. A Ph.D. does not make you a genius or make your views infallible. Even if you are a genius in your area, what credibility does that give you when you are talking about another area of science? If you are a Physicist with a Ph.D. in fluid dynamics, does that mean you understand evolution? No. So why does this list include People with Ph.Ds in structural engineering, computer engineering and math? Am I supposed to give credibility to the evolutionary views of a math Ph.D? Why should their view persuade anyone of anything?
The list consists of some right-wing political figures, noted anti-semites and avowed creationists - belonging to all anti-science groups. These people cannot think on their own and have the weakness of supporting their friends - not solid science.
Some people on the list no longer exist on this planet. We can't even verify their authenticity.
According to UNESCO (4), there are around seven million scientists worldwide - which would mean that if anything is to be said about this list, it shows just how universally the theory of evolution is accepted in the scientific community. Just 900 on this list is a number that can be easily ignored. Nine hundred scientists may seem like a lot, but it represents less than .02% of the scientist currently active today. Moreover, not all of them are in the area of 'evolution'.
It seems somebody did some background research on that list and found a lot of the names on there were put there without asking the scientists first, and just as many were put there as a result of leading questions and quote-mining rather than asking outright whether they believe in evolution. Real underhanded, dishonest tactics.
'Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged'. That’s what all biologists should be doing anyhow.
Yes, some vulnerable people can be easily mislead by these gimmicks of creationists but people who can think critically can resist such things which appear frequently on the internet and stick with solid science.
Q: Can GM mosquitoes cause harm to us in any way?
Krishna: GM mosquitoes are being used in some countries to control disease -transmitting mosquito populations. There are no potential health risks to the Oxitec genetically modified mosquitoes approach, according to experts. Oxitec field trials in some countries have successfully reduced local mosquito populations by more than 90 percent without any indication of worrisome side effects. Indeed, dozens of experiments with altered mosquitoes have taken place over the past five years throughout the world in an effort to squash the spread of mosquito-associated diseases.