Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Interactive Science series
Q: What are thought Experiments?
MR: A thought experiment is the one that deals with some hypothesis, theory or principle of a scientist for the purpose of thinking and analyzing it thoroughly mentally. It may not be possible to actually perform a thought experiment because of a few complexities involved with it. The goal is to explore the potential consequences of the hypothesis in question.
Thought experiments can produce some very important and different viewpoints on previously unknown or unaccepted theories.
Let me also add that the thought experiments of scientists like Einstein were backed up with a lot of peer-reviewed math. The role that thought experiments played in lighting the path shouldn't be downplayed. In fact, many great scientific discoveries were foretold by imaginary scenarios that were posited decades before science found ways to test them.
Thought experiments help scientists find which questions they should be asking, even if they don't yet have the tools to answer them. Many thought experiments delve into things like advanced physics principals (Schrödinger's famous cat, for example), but there are also several which don't require a PhD.
Q: Is time travel possible?
MR: According to physicists, we don’t really know now whether time travel is possible or not! The widely cited 1988 paper coauthored by Kip Thorne “Wormholes, Time Travel, and the Weak Energy Condition” (published in Physical Review Letters), is usually used as evidence that time travel is possible, and that wormholes offer a way to do it. What is usually ignored is that the paper shows that given current understanding of physics, wormholes collapse before time travel could take place; the paper actually shows that unless we discover a new -and likely impossible- force, that within current physics, time travel is impossible.
Well there are people who say 'impossible' doesn't exist in their dictionaries!
Q: How do scientists measure the temperature of the space objects?
MR: Yes, that is the magic of knowledge and science! How do researchers measure the temperature of objects millions of light-years away to work that out? Watch this wonderful video which explains how.
Q: Why do people get addicted to cell phones and other gadgets of certain brands?
MR: According to neuro-scientists, they cause 'religious reactions' in brains of their fans! Why technology megabrands such as Apple, Facebook and Twitter have become so popular and such a big part of many people’s lives.
Why do some people line up in front of the shops before the sale of some products - sometimes stay there whole night - waiting to buy the new products of some companies like apple? Because of evangelical frenzy these products create in the minds of people!
Neuroscientists studied a fan’s brain while undergoing an MRI scan, to see how it reacted to images of Apple products and non-Apple products.
According to the neuroscientists, the scan revealed that there were marked differences in fan’s reactions to the different products. Previously, the scientists had studied the brains of those of religious faith, and they found that “The Apple products are triggering the same bits of the fan's brain as religious imagery triggers in a person of faith.”
This suggests that the big tech brands have harnessed, or exploited, the brain areas that have evolved to process religion,” one of the scientists who conducted the research says.
It’s by tapping into our basic needs, like gossip, religion or sex that these brands are taking over our world at such lightning speed and making them their slaves.
My art work based on this theme:
SLAVES TO THEIR OWN INVENTIONS AND DISCOVERIES
Q: How do sunflowers track the sun to turn in its direction?
MR: According to recent research, an internal clock helps control a sunflower's behaviour. Depending on the time of day, certain growth genes appear to be activated to different degrees on opposing sides of young sunflowers’ stems. The east side of their stems grow faster during the day, causing the stems to gradually bend from east to west. The west side grows faster at night, reorienting the plants to prepare them for the next morning. At dawn, they’re already facing east again.
Young plants continued to grow from east to west each day even when their light source didn’t move. So the researchers concluded that the behaviour was influenced by an internal clock like the one that controls human sleep/wake cycles, instead of being solely in response to available light.
That’s probably advantageous because you have a system that’s set up to run even if the environment changes transiently. A cloudy morning doesn’t stop the plants from tracking.
Contrary to popular belief, mature sunflowers don’t track the sun — they perpetually face east. That’s probably because their stems have stopped growing. But the scientists found an advantage for the fixed orientation, too: Eastern-facing heads get warmer in the sun than westward-facing ones and attract more pollinators.
Heliotropism Art work by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa ( http://www.kkartfromscience.com )
Q: Can the age of a person be determined scientifically?
MR: If somebody wants to use the scientific techniques for sports persons and young refugees, there is no known foolproof, scientific test that will allow doctors to determine an young individual’s age correctly . There are a few methods like a lone wrist MRI test, using x-ray imaging to look at bone and dental ages but details obtained in these tests will be insufficient for determining a person's age accurately because they don’t tell you about their chronological age. This is because several factors determine a person's bone growth, not age alone.
Dental scans are used to determine the maturity of wisdom teeth. These can reach full maturity as early as age 15, as late as 25, or in some cases never fully develop at all.
In wrist scans, age is estimated by looking at 20 or so bones initially separated by cartilage, but which progressively move closer to one another until they fuse in the mature wrist. The reference used for this test is a 1959 atlas compiled for doctors to assess healthy bone development, not age. It includes 1000 X-ray images of wrists of white middle-class American children, and the fully mature wrist of a 19-year-old. Yet wrists can be fully mature in children as young as 15.
However, the DNA has a process of gene expression called methylation, which gradually changes by turning on or off select genes over a lifespan. This can be used in forensic science to determine a person's age. Using some 200 nanograms of DNA for each age prediction, scientists found its margin of error was 3.75 years for blood samples and 4.86 for teeth. Roughly 80 percent of the estimations were within five years, either older or younger. The prediction error is the smallest with younger individuals and increases with age. The longer people live, the longer their epigenome is influenced by the environment, and consequently the larger our prediction error will become (1).
But remember, this is also not a full proof method to determine accurate age.
Human beings don't have rings like tress to determine their age. So we can only find out approximate age right now not the exact one.
Q. I hate sweating. It is a hell in summer here with power cuts. Why do we sweat in the first place?
MR: Raising your core body temperature too high in summer is dangerous. Sweating is a natural and
a very efficient method of cooling and regulate temperature. We evolved to sweat so much because it gives us a huge advantage in endurance, as long as we can replace the fluids.
There are two types of sweat glands, eccrine and apocrine.
Eccrine glands are located across the skin (mainly your palms, feet, armpits and forehead). When your body’s internal temperature begins to rise, the hypothalamus activates these sweat glands. As the sweat evaporates, it helps cool the skin and keep your core temperature from overheating. The sweat produced by these glands is composed of salt and water so it does not smell.
Apocrine glands typically end in hair follicles - rather than pores - and don’t develop until puberty. Unlike eccrine glands, apocrine glands secrete a milky fluid that’s odorless until it mixes with bacteria on the skin. These sweat glands are often activated in times of stress, which explains why stress sweat tends to smell more than regular sweat.
Sweating allows something which is impossible to accomplish otherwise. We can operate with maximum physical activity for long periods in environments which are hotter than blood temperature. Without evaporation, body temperature would rise to match the environment. Under exercise this would go even higher. And that would be fatal.
This change in heat management was arguably the most significant change in human evolution.
This is a massive advantage, and allowed our ancestors to become endurance hunters. Able to hunt large prey by simply running them to death.
Prey animals cannot sweat. They cool themselves by panting; however they cannot effectively pant at the same time as they are running. They can run faster than humans on foot for some distance, but then must stop & pant for awhile to cool off. Our early ancestors learned to track prey animals - they could move at a slower pace, but continuously, because they could cool themselves while moving - and each time the animals would stop, the hunters would eventually catch up to them. The distances that the prey could travel after each leg of the chase grew shorter as the animals became increasingly overheated. Eventually, these large prey animals are unable to function, largely due to hyperthermia, & the hunters can finish them off (this is still how Kalahari hunters kill their prey).
Q: During ancient times people used to worship Nature, Weather, Rain Gods, Fire Gods, plants, animals etc. 'cause they feared these things as they don't know much about how things happen and how to control them. Now thanks to science we have enough knowledge to understand Nature to make use of it. But why do people still perform things like dog marriage, frog-marriage , hawan etc. to appease Nature not only in rural areas but also in urban parts of our country?
MR: Vasan K, glad to hear from young students like you who are thinking in scientific ways.
Although science has advanced in tremendous ways, there are various reasons for this type of behaviour in people in our part of the world...
1. Science is not reaching people in the way it should.
2. Science communicators' failure to address things in the right way.
3. Even if the messages reach people, their inability to understand things scientific in a proper manner.
4. Even if people understand some things, they are unable to overcome their fears grew out of cultural, traditional and religious conditioning of minds.
5. Lack of critical thinking abilities even in literate people because of faulty education system.
Unless we address these problems, we cannot expect much change in our societies.
Some people are trying their best but their numbers are very few, the process is slow and it takes time to change communities that are conditioned for thousands of years.
Q: Why are scientists serious people?
MR: Well, if you are dealing with a very difficult problem, you need some seriousness. But not all scientists are serious. They do enjoy life in their own way.
Q: But if you read their papers, they don't look like they enjoy funny side of life! Can't they add something light to them to make them more agreeable to common people?
MR: Some research was conducted on this
It was found that amusing things don't attract citations in the scientific world.
Anyway it depends on who you are writing for. If you are writing for people outside of science, you can use humour. But if you are trying to communicate your work to your colleagues, editors, peer-reviewers and colleagues in the field might not appreciate jokes in research papers.
A Physicist told me an interesting story...This humor is exceedingly dry.
It was about a paper "The Origin of the Chemical Elements" by R. Alpher, H. Bethe, and G. Gamow, published 1948, in The Physical Review, Vol. 73, page 803. The humor is well hidden. Bethe did not see the paper until, to his surprise, it appeared in print. He had not written a word of it, nor done any of the work; it was all new to him.
His name had been added as a joke by George Gamow. Gamow couldn't resist the unique opportunity to have a paper that was a pun on the first three letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha, beta, and gamma.
Even today, this paper is referred to as the αβγ paper, but usually with a smile.
Well, that is as far as humour in research papers can go!
Q: I come from a very good family that taught me good values. But while I am in school, I find it difficult to maintain my good behaviour. My class mates bully me a lot, use vulgar language all the time, behave very rudely and make me react in a very uncivilized way. This is making me very tense. What should I do?
MR: Sorry to hear that. When you are with people who behave badly you tend to become like them sometimes even if you are a decent person. Even research has proved this: The contagion effects of low-intensity negative behaviors. http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2015-28930-001
As a child it is difficult for you to maintain your calmness. Even elders can't do that unless they train their minds vigorously.
Complain to your teachers and principal if somebody bullies you. Take the help of your parents too. Don't keep quiet or try to tackle it yourself.
As far as possible try to keep yourself away from such people. As soon as the class is over, go to the library and immerse yourself in the ocean of good books. Or make friendship with good people whose temperament matches with that of yours and stay with them and play with them.
Soon you will be leaving this school. It is just a matter of a few months. So you need not worry much.
Q: Why are people getting angry so much these days? When I go out I see people shouting at one another all the time. They are unable to bear even a small inconvenience. Road rages have become the norm of the day. What are the reasons?
MR: Well, yes, I too noticed this. When I was young, people used to be calm. Now calmness has become rare. We don't know much to give you an exact answer. But our informed guesswork combined with a little research in this regard tells us a few things could be reason for this 'external combustion' while dealing with 'internal combustion' engines.
First I want to give some reasons for increased anger these days...
1. Change of human internal chemistry : The brain chemistry of people is getting changed because of pollution, use of pesticides, chemicals in plastics that tinker with our internal chemistry making us more aggressive.
2. Excessive use of gadgets that emit electro-magnetic radiation. For most people these days, it is impossible to go even a day without coming into contact with a radio, a microwave, a cell phone, or a laptop computer. While the health effects of EMR are still under study and somewhat disputable, it is known that as we increasingly surround ourselves by technologies that emit radiation in the same radiofrequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum like WiFi routers, Bluetooth transmitters and more, the radiation emitted in this region is nonionizing: it may heat molecules in the body but does not ionize them (that is, set electrons free). But according to some researchers -this is not yet confirmed fully- some of the most commonly experienced effects of EMR are depression, brain fog, attention deficit disorder, chronic fatigue, autism, sleeplessness and anxiety.
3. Heat: Ours is a hot country and summer heat makes people more aggressive and they get irritated easily. People honk their horns to show annoyance or anger, make angry gestures and yell at other drivers on the road. Well, heat is common to earlier times too but global warming is making our planet more hot.
4. Moral disengagement: There is a relationship between detaching from one’s usual code of behavior and angry driving. Drivers with higher tendencies to morally disengage in the driving context may respond to others more aggressively on-road.
5. Intermittent Explosive Disorder: The people that involve in road rage incidents may come closer to fitting the criteria for intermittent explosive disorder, a psychiatric condition described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, US.
6. Illusion of Privacy: The combination of the seemingly private domain of our automobiles and the publicly shared highway can create problems. People tend to behave less aggressively in public because there are social cues to follow, but those cues may not count for much when we’re sitting in our car, listening to our music or talking with a member of our family. And if someone cuts us off, we just might take it very personally. If peopel responding like it’s private, even though it is public, they may respond more territorially or aggressively.
7. Cognitive distortion: A common tendency among aggressive and angry people and drivers is to think they are alright and correct by blaming external factors for their own behavior ( for example, a really bad day at work). They attribute the behaviour of other people on the road to things like character flaws (he’s a bad person, not me). The good news is this “cognitive distortion” lends itself to one of the few effective interventions for aggressive and angry driving—attributional retraining, or putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Studies have shown cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation training to be effective as well.
8. Pollution: Recent research shows pollution makes people react very violently to even ordinary situations.
9. Excessive intake of alcohol that impact cognitive functions. Need we say more about it?
Well, unless people get special training in anger and other thing management and tackling issues in realistic ways in today's world, we cannot expect much change both on roads and in our homes.
Q: I read an article that says that sending people into space is just a dream. ISS is a hoax according to the person who wrote it and satellites are just wild imaginations of scientists. What can we do to convince them and tell these people they are the ones who are trying to mislead others?
MR: Take a huge telescope to them and ask them to see the things with their own eyes. Yes, you can do that.
In 2009, a Dutch astronomer named Ralf Vandebergh managed to capture an image of astronaut Joe Acaba, working outside the ISS. Vandebergh accomplished this using a ten inch (25.4 cm) reflector telescope with an attached video camera.
In 2011, British amateur astronomer Martin Lewis managed to capture astronaut Steve Bowen during an EVA while the Space Shuttle was docked. Martin used an 8.75 inch (22.2 cm) reflector telescope.
You will find here how to do it... http://www.issdetector.com/
You can also take them to outskirts of your city and make them watch the 'moving stars' across the night sky. Yes, the satellites look just like moving stars. I myself watched them when I was just a student several times, noted the details and sent them to a science magazine and they highly appreciated my effort.
Well despite providing all the evidence still if people refuse to ''consider it" , just abandon such people. Don't waste your time on them.
Q: My friend says the Earth doesn't actually orbit around the Sun. Is this true?
MR: Yes, we have studied that Earth orbits around the Sun in our school books, haven't we? It's an oversimplification to say that everything orbits around the Sun
But, technically speaking, Earth actually orbits around the Solar System's center of mass, known as the ‘Barycenter’!
The center of mass of our solar system very close to the Sun itself, but not exactly at the Sun's center. The picture below gives the idea on how the Barycenter changes ...
Every single object in the solar system exerts a gravitational pull on everything else. The solar system is basically a massive game of tug of war, and all of the yanking balances out at a specific point: the center of mass, or ‘Barycenter’. Everything in the solar system orbits around that point. Sometimes, it's almost at the Sun's center. Right now, the barycenter is just outside the Sun's surface. But it's constantly changing depending upon where the planets are in their orbital paths. As the Sun holds 99.87% of all the mass in the solar system, it's always going to win the tug of war. Even if all the planets were perfectly lined up on one side of the Sun, the center of mass would be just 800,000 kilometers off the surface of the Sun. That sounds like a lot, but remember, our solar system is big! Such a barycenter would be roughly 70 times closer to the Sun than the closest planet to the Sun, Mercury.
Q: Why did the Olympic pools in Brazil turn green?
MR: According to officials, a local pool-maintenance worker mistakenly added 160 liters of hydrogen peroxide to the waters on August 5, which partially neutralized the chlorine used for disinfection. With chlorine disarmed, the officials said that “organic compounds”—i.e. algae and other microbes—were able to grow and turn the water a murky green in the subsequent days.
Hydrogen peroxide is sometimes used in pools—often to de-chlorinate them. Basically, the chemical, a common household disinfectant, is a weak acid that reacts with chlorine and chlorine-containing compounds to release oxygen and form other chlorine-containing compounds. Those may not be good at disinfecting pools, but they still may be picked up by monitoring systems.
Hydrogen peroxide can also be used to disinfect pools but must be maintained in the waters—not a one-time dumping—and can’t be used in combination with chlorine.
Q: Can practice make me a genius?
MR: Practice makes you somewhat perfect. Critical thinking abilities make you a genius.
Can you practice critical thinking?
Yes, if you have tremendous thirst for knowledge, if you learn a lot, if you try to be neutral, if you try to analyse things realistically, if you can creatively connect various things.
Yes, if you can understand how a genius mind works and follow the path it took relentlessly.
Some of these things are innate.
But still try to practice and see the difference!
Q: Does all mass has gravity? How can zero-gravity be created on flights?
MR: Yes, anything with mass has a gravitational field, including subatomic particles. But gravity is extraordinarily weak—many orders of magnitude weaker than the electromagnetic force that hold us together. With the gravity of the entire Earth pulling against it, even your little finger can so easily resist it!
People sometimes talk about being in space as ‘zero gravity’ but this is a poor description. Astronauts in the ISS, for example, are experiencing a gravitational force almost as great as if they were on the surface of the Earth. However, because they are falling at the same rate as everything else they do not feel any force! Humans in orbit are falling under gravity; their centripetal acceleration just happens to have exactly the right value to maintain a roughly circular path. They are not weightless. They just feel weightless.
In order for passengers in a plane to experience a free fall safely, the aircraft must climb at a steep angle ( between 24,000 and 32,000 feet altitude. This gives the pilot enough room to maneuver the plane safely through its flight path), level off, and then dive, creating a path called a parabolic arc, also called a Keplerian Trajectory or free-fall path. In a true parabolic arc, the only accelerative force is gravity pulling in a vertical direction -- horizontal velocity remains constant. Because of air resistance, objects in Earth's atmosphere only travel in arcs that approximate a true parabola.
The plane's descent must start at a high altitude to provide enough distance for the pilot to safely pull out of a dive. As the plane climbs to the peak of its arc, the pilot orients it at a 45-degree angle. During the climb, the plane's acceleration and the force of gravity create a pull 1.8 times the strength of gravity alone -- passengers temporarily weigh nearly twice as much as normal.
As the plane goes over the top of the arc, the centrifugal force exerted on the plane and everything in it cancels out the gravitational force pulling downwards. At this point, passengers experience microgravity -- it feels as if you are weightless because only negligible gravitational forces are present. The sense of weightlessness lasts for about 30 seconds. Because the plane shields the passengers from the rush of air, they can experience a free fall without the interference of air resistance.
Q: I am a housewife. While browsing the internet, I found the name of your network interesting and clicked on the link. What I saw here is unbelievable. A woman dealing with science and answering the Qs people pose in science with ease!!! How can this be possible?
MR: Such Qs. make me smile endlessly. Try to think this critically: is there a difference between a man and a woman in science comprehension? No! A woman can do everything a man can do.
Only thing is our societies are conditioned to think the other way. Women are made to believe that they cannot do 'man things'. It is all in your mind.
Now that you have seen all this with your own eyes, erase all that centuries-old -conditioning-of-your- mind. If you have a daughter, bring her to the forefront of science. It is possible.
Q: Do scientists think stories of human abductions by aliens are true?
MR: No! They are just creative stories. Almost all the stories told by people have the same theme! Aliens abducting them when they were alone, conducting experiments on them in space ships and sending them back to tell the stories!
And the scientists are skeptical because of these reasons...
1. Why aren't the aliens interested in scientists? Surely scientists can provide more information than ordinary people!
2. If aliens are so advanced enough to travel through space with ease, they don't need whole human beings to conduct experiments, even a small DNA bit would be enough for them to do that!
3. If they are very advanced, they won't be even interested in visiting us!
4. Why do they visit and abduct only particular people, not all?
5. Why weren't our ancestors abducted? Why did the abduction era started only with the commencement of space age and science-fiction?
6. We know for sure that Martians ( described in abduction stories) don't exist!
7. Aliens might not look the way people describe them ... somewhat like human beings themselves, they can be in all shapes and sizes!
8. Aliens from advanced civilizations don't use simple things like rope-ladders to get down from space-ships and metal knives to cut people up like people describe!
Most psychologists think abductions are lucid dreams or hallucinations, triggered by an awareness of other people's similar experiences and science-fiction stories.
One doctor said this when one of his patients told him an abduction story... 'my patient may have experienced a flashback to his tonsillectomy. He was cold. His eyes were closed. He didn’t want to be operated on. Then he woke up under general anesthesia, to full-blown terror, surrounded by distorted beings, squinting in the blue light of the OR. Perhaps the pain and horror of awareness overwhelmed his mind, or maybe it was the anesthetic drugs, but somehow the experience disappeared from his working memory--until he came to believe he had crossed paths with an unidentified flying object ( a plane or something man-made flying at a high altitude) on a dark and lonely New Hampshire road! And the story took wings'. This is called as 'trauma memory'.
SO?! It is now clear that the stories may also represent recovered memories. Recovered memories are frequently astounding and implausible—if they were orderly and digestible, we would not have forgotten them. The difficulty of distinguishing between recovered memories and so-called false memories has troubled psychiatrists and patients alike.
There is absolutely no 'reliable' evidence to trust these stories.