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

                                                                       Interactive science series

Q: Does science accept the theory that we can control our world with our thoughts?

Krishna: Just tell me this... Poor people all over the world want money to buy their basic necessities. Daily they sincerely wish and pray for it.  Their thoughts would concentrate on their economic growth most of the time. They dream about having comfortable houses, better food and clothing, and excellent healthcare. But still why would there be so many people, in all parts of the world, in such dire economic and health straits if their thoughts could control their lives? Do you think they aren’t wishing and hoping for better lives? They are!

The law of attraction is the name given to the maxim "like attracts like" which in New Thought philosophy is used to sum up the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life. 

The law of attraction is more of a spiritual practice than a scientific process. Positive thoughts can have some placebo and negative ones nocebo effects. That doesn't mean they can control our worlds fully. When you know what you want, your actions and resourcefulness rises to get it. Law of attraction does not work in the superstitious way that just because you have visualized your success, the success comes your way, but what definitely happens is this - once you decide what you want, your actions are more concentrated and more positive. What happens without a clear sense of direction is that your actions are not congruent, you are not sure of why you are doing things. This harms your purpose, or balances all that was positive with the negative things that you must be doing unknowingly.

There are several factors that govern our lives. Thoughts are just one of them. When other things don't fall into their  respective places, when there aren't enough efforts that could take us to our goals, just thoughts cannot control our lives. Be realistic. 

There are people - including some people of science - who believe in law of attraction and are conducting various experiments to prove it. But almost all of their work was refused till now by peer-reviewed science journals. That means there is no true science behind the law of attraction as it's popularly portrayed in books, on the internet, and movies.

Successful people are better at spotting and taking advantage of opportunities than people who are not. They are better at grit and determination. They passionately pursue their goals.  

Q: Can science explain beauty?

Krishna:  How about dealing with beauty of a rose first?

 The beauty of a rose as perceived by our senses through science's l...

Science can tell what constitutes the beauty of a rose!

Q: Do scientists think about their research as priority and bring it to their sleep?

Krishna: Yes, I think about the problems I am facing while lying down on my bed and until I fall asleep. It is strange but true - sometimes as soon as I wake up - I start thinking about them again - and suddenly the solution strikes! It looks as though my mind had been working at subconscious level all through the night to find the answers and the moment I wake up - I get them! The early morning is the best time for my mind to go into the highly productive and successful mode.

When You are facing a problem in science, it usually will have you in its grip, until you find a solution to it. There is no escape.

Q: Madam, you say antibiotics in meat will cause resistance. Likewise do hormones we consume with meat and milk cause any harmful effects?

Krishna: Dairy products naturally contain estrogens. But don't worry.

Analysis of milk fractions (n=50 samples) demonstrated that 55% of E(1) and 14% of E(1)S were associated with the fat fraction with the remainder associated with the skim fraction. Concentrations of E(1) and E(1)S in pasteurized-homogenized whole milk (n=8) averaged 10.3±0.6 and 85.9±7.3 pg/mL (38.09±2.22 and 317.74±27.00 pmol/L), respectively. Production rates of E(1) plus estradiol in human beings range from 54,000 to 630,000 ng/day. US Food and Drug administration guidelines state that no physiologic effects occur when consumption is ≤1% of the endogenous quantities produced by the segment of the population with the lowest daily production. This threshold value for intake would be 540 ng/day. Estimated total E(1) intake from three servings of whole milk was 68 ng/day, which represents 0.01% to 0.1% of daily production rates in human beings. These findings support levels below the current guidelines for safe consumption (1).

There’s no clear link between intake of dairy products that contain small amounts of hormones and early puberty. 

There’s also no clear link between intake of dairy products and increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer. Some say that breast cancer rates are lower in cultures or countries where dairy is not commonly consumed. But there are so many other differences between these populations that it’s impossible to say that the difference in cancer risk—or any other difference, for that matter—is due to the difference in dairy intake. When people from same countries and cultures were compared, those who drink the most milk don’t have a higher incidence of breast cancer than those who drink the least. In fact, several studies have found a modest protective effect. 

But a link between dairy intake and prostate cancer is suspected. Prostate cancer is also a hormone related cancer and studies have found that men who consume more than four servings of dairy a day have a slightly elevated risk of this common disease (2).  It's not clear whether this is due to a hormonal effect or something else. But the fact that dairy doesn't seem to affect breast cancer risk or puberty rates suggests that the hormones in milk may not be the most likely explanation. It's even possible that the link between dairy intake and prostate cancer is purely coincidental.

So three servings per day, i.e., moderate dairy product consumption, don't effect your health. Go ahead and have normal dairy products to get your calcium and vitamin doses properly. 

Q: Why are some people anti-tech?

Krishna: People fear that robots take their jobs, drivers fear self driving cars would make them go hungry.

Fear of the unknown -   what if AI takes over the world and try to control us?

Difficulty in dealing with them - some of my relatives belonging to the older generation still don't know how to use a computer and refuse to learn!

Environmental factors- some think the new technologies cause environmental degradation and therefore, are anti-nature.

Radical thinking that the new technology might cause nuclear and biological war-fares and disasters.

Neo-Luddism or New Luddism is a philosophy opposing many forms of modern technology or techno-phobism (The Luddites were 19th-century English textile workers -or self-employed weavers- who, believing that technology would render workers obsolete, formed a movement between 1811 to 1816 to protest against newly developed technologies).

But still most of them buy latest smart phones, PCs, cars and all the fruits of technology without a second thought. What an irony! 

Q: Some religious leaders explain quantum mechanics in terms of religion. Is that justifiable?

Krishna: Interpretation of science  that shows your philosophical or religious views as valid is modern day religious leaders' gimmick to attract people. The point of science is to be objective, and when you push your preconceived notions of what reality is based on your beliefs that aren't grounded in facts and evidence, you just end up with bad science.

You are allowed to interpret the science you want as long as it is consistent and logical and you make a case for it, but you can't do this without understanding the science first. Do religious leaders understand quantum mechanics in the way scientists do? No! So their interpretations of science are full of faults and pseudo-science. But still innocent people believe them.

Q: Can inheritance be epigenetic?

Krishna: Our cells use a number of special molecules to control which of their genes make proteins. In a process called methylation, cells put caps on their DNA to keep certain genes shut down. When cells divide, they can reproduce the same caps and other controls on the new DNA. Certain signals from the environment can cause cells to change these so-called “epigenetic” controls, allowing organisms to adjust their behavior to new challenges.

Some studies indicate that — under certain circumstances — an epigenetic change in a parent may get passed down to its offspring. And those children may pass down this altered epigenetic profile to their children. This would be kind of heredity that’s beyond genes.

The evidence for this effect is strongest in plants. In one study, researchers were able to trace down altered methylation patterns for 31 generations in a plant called Arabidopsis. And this sort of inheritance can make a meaningful difference in how an organism works. In another study, researchers found that inherited methylation patterns could change the flowering time of Arabidopsis, as well as the size of its roots. The variation that these patterns created was even bigger than what ordinary mutations caused.

Evidence like this shows that epigenetic differences could determine which organisms survived long enough to reproduce. Natural selection could work on this system.

Q: Madam, I am  a Post-doc and doing research in Molecular Genetics. I am very good at work and published some extremely good papers in journals like Nature. But some of my colleagues who didn't do work as good as mine and published papers in substandard journals are getting good offers while I am unable to move forward much. This is because I am an introvert and don't mingle with people while they can move about in big circles and push themselves up. I don't like the politics they play and don't want to follow them. How can I progress in life with this attitude of mine?

Krishna: That is the irony of life. Shall I tell you a story one of my scientist friends told me sometime back? It seems a colleague of theirs ( Dr. X) who didn't even touch a test tube in his entire tenure in the lab got his Ph.D., joined the same department of his university as a lecturer, then became a professor, HOD, Principal of his college, visited about 25 countries, attended numerous conferences, appointed as a UN specialist in his field without much knowledge in the field, rubbed his shoulders with Nobel Laureates, became their close friend, got numerous awards without much work and treated as an 'excellent specialist' in his field by everybody!

People who are much better workers than him, who have better knowledge, skills and intelligence, never got these opportunities. 

He might not be good at work but he is very good at pushing himself up using his connections! So?!

I too am like you in some ways. I don't like playing dirty games and politics. I do very hard work sincerely and think I will get recognition just because of it. In today's world and in our country it is naive to think in that way. 

But if you are a smart person you can consider this: Do your work in your own way and just climb on the shoulders of people like Dr. X and bingo, you can go places too! Now you have become smarter than Dr. X!

I hope you understood what I mean :) .

Q: What extraordinary things have you done for India?

Krishna: Despite my busy schedule, I communicate science to the common people. I run two science communication networks online. It is for everyone on this planet, not only for Indians.

Eradicating ignorance, misconceptions, myths, suffering caused by these and making people realize reality as it is to strengthen their minds in a correct way are my main aims.

Q: Your reply to one of  the above Qs made me ask this one: Why don't people report frauds like you mentioned above?

Krishna: For various reasons. People don't usually report about their friends and colleagues. He is well connected and it seems that made him more arrogant . And my friends told me instead of learning things and going in the right way, his success made him more lazy  and he followed short cuts in everything he did and succeeded too. And he taunts others who work well.  It is a system failure. When goofing around and making the right connections can take you very far, who will go for hard work and real knowledge? That is the situation we are in! Quite disgusting.

Q: Why is Einstein more famous than other scientists?

Krishna: Although there are several others who are as good as Einstein, the media made him a giant. And men on the street cannot name more than a few handful of scientists because they really don’t know about them as the media didn’t highlight the importance of their work. And these scientists are too introvert to promote themselves.

Both the promotion by the media and a self promotion - through his work inside and outside his work area made Einstein more famous than other scientists.

Q: Do scorpions sting themselves to death when you put a drop of liquor on them?

Krishna: It is a myth  that pouring or rubbing alcohol on a scorpion's back will kill it because the scorpion will react by stinging itself to death. Scorpions are actually immune to their own venom (3). 

Videos that are going to bust this myth: 

Q: Should we blindly trust scientists because they are experts in their fields?

Krishna: Definitely not! If you think scientists are wrong in some way and if you have evidence to support your view, you can definitely challenge them in a scientific way.

But trust scientific methodology that includes self-correction, falsifiability, rigorous peer-reviews and retractions. The scientific method has worked fine for hundreds of years and has allowed us to understand some of the deepest mysteries of the universe. It is responsible for the progress we made till now. It might have its own fault-lines but is much better than other alternatives.

Q: Do climate scientists themselves believe in AGW?

Krishna: Climate Scientists are Virtually Unanimous: Anthropogenic Global Warming Is True (4).

Q: Why should we believe in all the scientific information found till date?

Krishna: You need not. If you think you have better knowledge and information, you can always challenge things scientific but … this is very important … do it only in a scientific way following strictly its methodology.

Q: Is putting restrictions and embargoes on science reporting good for science? ( I am a journalist and asking this Q after reading some of your articles on science communication)

Krishna: Hello, Mr. Journalist, glad to hear from you that you have read my articles on science communication. Hope you find them useful. 

My immediate answer would have been 'NO' to your Q had I not followed carefully recent journalistic trends. But to tell you the truth most of the scientists are not at all happy with the way  science reporting is being done in recent times. Journalists are not reporting in the way science should be dealt with in the media.

Some report the results even before peer review takes place which is bad on the part of both scientists and journalists. The reporting and public reaction to it might sometimes 'influence' the review process which is not at all good for science. Press people publish research results to reach the finish line first but that is very bad for science. Some science journals won't accept prior press-released papers. That is where embargoes count. Moreover, you cannot trust non-peer-reviewed science, even though peer-reviews can have their own loop-holes. Imposing restrictions is good there too. 

Media people give importance to TRPs and traffic. You create sensational stories.  In the process you twist and twirl the facts. You confuse people and create a picture that  makes no sense to us. Several times I felt like screaming with rage after reading science stories in the news papers and magazines published here. I wrote to the editors of the papers too trying to correct them. But they just ignore you and gleefully continue to do whatever they want to do.  If the media doesn't behave responsibly, I am afraid scientists have to go to the extremes. Silence is better than false reports. Because a bad science story can effect people in a very bad way.

It was actually found that embargoes help reporters do a better job on complicated stories of science. If you get more time, you do better jobs. Less time means bad coverage. So restrictions give time to journalists to do good stories. Restrictions also can make journalists do correct descriptions of the work instead of going wild with their stories. It is a control on chaos.

Some Governments try to control the flow of information. When people from other fields like politics, economists, business and media try to do this, we will definitely fight it along with you.

Be responsible and we will be with you all the way.

Q:Do atheists generally have higher self-esteem than religious people?
Krishna: Yes, because they don’t look up at sky for some help or advise! They don’t fear about punishment from higher authority to keep away from unethical things and do good things.
They don’t depend on ‘their group of religious beliefs’ for emotional support. They use our own reasoning power to come to conclusions - and don’t depend on any rules set in stone or written in books.
They take full responsibility for all their actions and treat all human beings, irrespective of their beliefs, as equal.

Q: Are Einstein and Hawking atheists?

Krishna: Einstein himself said he didn't follow any religion and Hawking said  he is an atheist. But interestingly both talked about God playfully several times! 

(Einstein: God doesn't play dice - he meant that quantum mechanics is incomplete or even wrong, because it includes randomness.

Hawking: God does play dice! :)) -  saying that not only is there randomness in the universe, but it’s randomness we can’t even figure out.






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