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

                                                                      Interactive Science Series

Q: Who according to you is the greatest scientist of all times?

Krishna: Do you know what a true scientist says when you ask a Q like this?

'When you ask such Qs. I realize most of the names people give are those they heard and made popular by the media! For each name mentioned, a lakh go unmentioned because people really don’t know about these scientists and their work even if it is extremely useful to the world!

All the scientists are great because they contributed something to the knowledge bank. No work is less important in science. Each step contributed to the forward and upward movement'. 

But I place a few scientists a little bit above others. Why? Read here:  Why I place these scientists a little bit above others...

Q: How memorable is the feeling of getting the first journal publication for Ph.D. students?

Krishna: Felt happy and relieved for a moment but no time to even think about it more than that! Moved on to publish another one - we had a dead line - publish at least two papers in two years for the junior research fellowship to get promoted to the senior one. Otherwise it would be withheld!

But definitely gained more confidence to move quickly.

Q: Do ghosts really exist? Another Q: Are ghosts real?

Krishna: Ghosts are creations of human minds - when external conditions are not favourable.

Sometime back I read one interesting story in the news papers here. It seems some teenage boys wanted to film 'ghosts and spirits' and post the video on You Tube to create some sensation. So about 12 of them went to a grave yard in the middle of the night and waited there for about four hours. When they couldn't find any spirits despite trying their best, they themselves started to act like ghosts by wearing white clothes asking their other friends to film them.

When one of the night police patrolling vans came near the grave yard, they heard strange noises coming from inside. The police went inside to check what the matter was and came out with the whole story and the youngsters who were creating nuisance to create sensational news! They were warned not to do it again by the police.

Imagine what would have happened had the police went another way at that time and didn't find them 'trying to build' false stories!

Read more stories and scientific explanations here: Science and the paranormal

Q: Can spirituality and science co-exist?

Krishna: Some people say science is against spirituality and scientists can’t understand the “inner worlds” of human beings and so they cannot have harmony between inner and outer worlds. Far from it! I feel these words are said by people who don’t have first hand experience in science and even if they have, they don't know how to walk on the spiritual path science lays before them. What is this path? Find here: Science and Spirituality

Q: They say medical diagnosis is an art not science. In the words of Dr. Nageshwar Reddy, head of Asian Instituite of Gastroenterology,   

'80% of the diagnosis can be done by taking the history. Another 8% by doing proper physical examination of the patient. By doing the investigations, we increase the chance of diagnosis from 88% to 91%.Patient follow up with give us the other 8% of diagnosis. But, there can never be a 100% diagnosis because medicine isn't a science, but an art'.

Krishna: Medicine is science alright, you use your previous scientific knowledge while doing history analyses of a patient… even while doing physical examination of a patient...If you use latest technology and methods, you can do it 100% right most of the time!

Q: If an airplane loses fuel due to leakage or something in mid air will it fall off from the sky?

Krishna: Although the engines of a plane stop working when there is no fuel and plane loses power and certain other  plane functions that need power like hydraulics also stop working, a skilled  pilot can still 'glide it to the ground'. There are several instances of such things happening.

Q: If you have innovative idea to reduce pollution in power plant which is more effective to Secure your idea: publishing research paper or make patent?

Krishna: First show the world that your idea really works before proceeding with either of the things!

In order to publish a paper you have to show evidence by conducting experiments and collecting data that shows what you say is right.

For getting patents you have to invent something. you cannot patent an idea for an invention. The invention itself has to be produced or a patent application containing the invention must be filed. While all inventions start with an idea, not every idea can be called an invention.

Q: Is there any institute for new research and innovation?

Krishna: Most of the research is new! Except when reproducibility is the main force to conduct research, nobody wants to deal with old and already published ideas again wasting their precious time! Oh, yes, if an old idea fails, you can try once more by following a new route with a few modifications to make it work. Nobody will provide funds to work again in old and already established things.

Therefore, you can say most of the research institutes around the world deal with new ideas and problems.

Q: How do I concentrate better in my studies? I get distracted very easily and cannot concentrate on anything after 30 minutes.

Krishna: I find these Qs strange because I never faced these problems!

First, you need to be highly motivated.

Second, you should develop interest in knowledge.

Third, you have to be curious to know what learning more and more can give you.

When you have these abilities, you won’t get distracted in the first place. Even if somebody or something tries to distract you, you will avoid it like hell to reach your destination.

So go ahead a develop them. All the best!

Q: Why did you decide to get a Ph.D. degree?

Krishna: I love science. Experimenting on new ideas and things gives me a high. I never get bored when I am in a lab. I adore challenges.

Getting top ranks in the university and a fellowship made things very easy for me while pursuing my dreams.  

Q: How can I see ghosts or feel them? What should be done to find them?

Krishna: Go to a place where Carbon monoxide is more. You will start hallucinating things!

Or go where you have electromagnetic radiation that can tweak with your brain’s senses.

Or go to a lab where neuro-scientists can unleash the ghosts in your head…

There are no other ways … because in real world ghosts don’t exist!

Q: After 10 years of marriage, we still don't have children. I want to go for IVF. Are there any risks involved?

Krishna: Yes, there are a few risks involved with In Vitro Fertilization. Each and every woman who wants to go for IVF should know these risks involved with the procedure.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome: Use of injectable fertility drugs, such as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), to induce ovulation can cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, in which your ovaries become swollen and painful. Signs and symptoms typically last a week and include mild abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If you become pregnant, however, your symptoms might last several weeks. 

Egg-retrieval procedure complications. Use of an aspirating needle to collect eggs could possibly cause bleeding, infection or damage to the bowel, bladder or a blood vessel.

Ovarian Cancer: A 2011 study that followed 25,000 Dutch women for 15 years found that infertile women who went through IVF were four times as likely to get ovarian cancer much later in life than infertile women who didn’t have the procedure, though the likelihood is still very low. 

Ectopic pregnancy: About 2 to 5 percent of women who use IVF will have an ectopic pregnancy — when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube. The fertilized egg can't survive outside the uterus, and there's no way to continue the pregnancy.

Birth defects: The age of the mother is the primary risk factor in the development of birth defects, no matter how the child is conceived. More research is needed to determine whether babies conceived using IVF might be at increased risk of certain birth defects. Some experts believe that the use of IVF does not increase the risk of having a baby with birth defects. 

Multiple births: IVF increases the risk of multiple births if more than one embryo is implanted in your uterus. A pregnancy with multiple fetuses carries a higher risk of early labor and low birth weight than pregnancy with a single foetus does. 

Premature delivery and low birth weight: Research suggests that use of IVF slightly increases the risk that a baby will be born early or with a low birth weight. 

Miscarriage. The rate of miscarriage for women who conceive using IVF with fresh embryos is similar to that of women who conceive naturally — about 15 to 25 percent — but the rate increases with maternal age. Use of frozen embryos during IVF, however, may slightly increase the risk of miscarriage.

After understanding fully all these things and discussing them with your doctor, if you still feel like going for it, you can. Otherwise you can adopt a child.

Q: Dr. Krishna, I am a scientist at a prestigious research Institute and won several medals and awards for my innovative work. My husband is a Botany professor in a University. But his mental make up is worse than a rogue. He doesn't do any work during day time, goofs around  and during night time he eats my brain and wastes my time by telling silly stories about his friends and colleagues. He depends on his students' work for paper publications and 'connections' for promotions. I feel very bad about it and told him to mend his ways but he wouldn't listen. Most of his friends and colleagues too are  like him.  I am fed up with him and his conduct. My children are getting spoiled because of him. How can a highly qualified person behave in such a stupid way? What should I do to make him good and productive academically?

Krishna: Sorry to hear about your problem. Qualifications have nothing to do with a person's behaviour if his/her training and brought up  are faulty. If he is older than you, about to retire in 2 years, at this stage people usually refuse to see reason because they think 1. they know more than you, 2. their ways are giving 'results' too 3. they can get away with it because of system failure 4. people around don't bother much about how they 'succeed' as they themselves are like him, 5. even if others don't approve it, they can't and don't do anything about it. When people find  easy ways to succeed, why would they try difficult and harder ones? This answers your first Q.

The second part of it is the most difficult one to do - when an intelligent person like you tried in vain and gave up, that tells the mental make up of your husband. When 25 years of your sincere efforts to change him went waste,  what can you say about such a person? This shows normal ways don't work with him.

Do you know what I would do in your place in such a situation? Challenge him to beat me! Male egos will awaken when a woman does that.  When that happens, he might try to work hard and get changed in the process. Try this and let me know what happened. All the best to you.  

Q: My sister-in-law is a scientist who has excellent scientific achievements to her credit with highest awards in the country in her field. But what I find very strange is she is highly superstitious, conducts several rituals every day, consults astrologers and pundits and say they work for her!   Do faith and rationality run parallel in people here?

Krishna: This is the most frequent  Q people ask me and  I observe here. Do faith and rationality run parallel here? My reply:  An absolute NO! 

Baseless beliefs take root only when their antidote of rationality withers. Your sister-in-law uses her rationality when she is in her lab and while dealing with problems facing her in that arena only. She forgets about it as soon as  she comes out of the lab. In a way she treats it like car driving rules. Use them on the road and forget about them when you go home! This is because of the faulty training we get in science class rooms. If the training is right, you won't forget the rules and use them all the time.

Your sister-in-law is unable to reason that some things work sometimes just because of chance and statistical fluke and not because they always work for everybody and at everytime. This shows her not using her rationality outside her work place. 

Read my article that deals with the topic here: science-communicators-get-thick-skinned-to-communicate-science-wi

Q: What are alternative facts?

Krishna:  According to scientists, "Alternative facts are just falsehoods ". 

But people from politics say, ''This is another way to say "facts which present an alternative view, alternative perspectives and logic" (facts that are appropriately alternative).

Like ...  “War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery”, and “Ignorance is Strength” .

Sound silly, don't they?

However, in science, there will be only one fact given the conditions in which it is searched and found remain constant.

Q: I have a problem. I am very straight forward and tell people truth about them on their face which causes friction. How can I overcome this problem?

Krishna: I am straight forward too and don't hesitate to call a spade a spade. However, a diplomat is a person who thinks in this way... People have a certain image of themselves and will fight tooth and nail to cling to it. Use this information wisely. You can make people dislike you by attacking their self-image.

You need not say opposite things to their self analysis even if it is the truth. Just ignore their drawbacks as far as possible while dealing with them but use them wisely to your benefit.  They might have some good points too, and stick to the brighter side while talking to them. This makes them fall for you easily!

However, while dealing with science and facts, it is better to stick to reality. You cannot please everybody by telling the truth but people might admire your courage to go the right way. If they find it useful, they might follow you too!

Q: What is a white hole?

Krishna: In general relativity, a white hole is a hypothetical region of spacetime which cannot be entered from the outside, although matter and light can escape from it. In this sense, it is the reverse of a black hole, which can only be entered from the outside and from which matter and light cannot escape.

While we have evidence for the existence of black holes, white holes appear to be mathematical fiction. There's no known process in our universe that would actually form them, and even if they did pop into existence, their natural extreme instability would snuff them right out again. The mechanism for making black holes the collapse of massive stars - also automatically prevents the formation of a symbiotic white hole.

Q: Your article: 'This is what a liver transplant surgeon told me recently' is very scary. Despite knowing that these systems are harmful why do people still go for them? 

Krishna: That is the problem!  We want to escape from reality because acknowledging it might cause temporary difficulties! If the governments ban some of  the alternative  medical practices, several people go jobless and they start agitating. There will be anarchy in the countries that do that. They also think anything which has no effect has no side-effects ( though true, but we tend to forget that a medicine that has no side-effects can still be deadly by giving a false sense of security and delaying effective diagnosis and treatment, sometimes fatally). So they it continue despite the scientific knowledge. 

People's wishful thinking and a reluctance to acknowledge logic and reality. That might have a placebo effect! Inertia to change!

But I want to add, not all ayurvedic medicines are bad. One has to test them scientifically to know their true value. Until the truth comes out the scientific way, we cannot take risks. That is why I am a bit sKeptical about them.

Q: What do scientists think of famous scientists? 

Krishna: They are our backbones without which science cannot become popular. They do hard work both inside and outside of labs. We adore them!

Q: What was the hardest part of doing your Ph.D.?

Krishna: Understanding how to go about it in the first six months. Once figured out this aspect clearly, rest of the process wasn’t difficult at all. 

Q: How memorable is the feeling of getting the first journal publication for Ph.D. students?

Krishna: Felt happy and relieved for a moment but no time to even think about it more than that! Moved on to publish another one - we had a dead line - publish at least two papers in two years for the junior research fellowship to get promoted to the senior one. Otherwise it would be withheld!

But definitely gained more confidence to move quickly.

Q: Is it possible that the Bermuda Triangle is an alien's home?

Krishna: No, definitely not, according to science!

Q: Why do some people treat science badly?

Krishna: Because their thinking process is faulty... they forget that science is not just another belief system - and that it is based on facts that can be tested over and over again till they are satisfied with the evidence. They think it is another religion against their own belief system...and that is why it should be hated because it is alien and different from their own identity!

Q: Religion or Science, which do you trust the most?

Krishna: Undoubtedly science because it gave me realistic answers to several of my questions. It gave me strength to realize reality and overcome emotions in the right way. Without science coming to my rescue in the right manner, probably I would have become dead matter - both physically and mentally - by now!

Q:Science journalism gives disproportionately high coverage to "high impact" journals, not to potentially high impact research, can this be addressed?  

Krishna: Yes, when journalists realize that science journalism is different from other forms of journalism there can be a change. These points have been discussed in these articles:

Why science journalism is different from other forms of journalism

Why science journalism is not taken seriously in this part of the w...

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