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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Scientists have long held that crabs are unable to feel pain because they lack the biology to do so, but behavioral evidence has recently shown otherwise. Now, new research further supports the hypothesis that crabs feel pain by showing that crabs given a mild shock will take steps to avoid getting shocked in the future.

From humans to fruit flies, numerous species come equipped with nociception, a type of reflex that helps avoid immediate tissue damage. On the other hand, pain, which results in a swift change of behavior to avoid future damage, isn’t so widespread. 

Gone are the days when animals were pushed aside as species far beneath us in terms of abilities. They were often called brutes. In the 16th century, philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes said animals were just automata: red-blooded machines without thoughts or wishes. Since then, animal-behavior scientists have realized that our furry brethren have rich emotional lives and even a rudimentary sense of right and wrong.

From elaborate elephant funeral rituals to the moral outrage of cuckolded bluebirds, here are some surprising ways that animals exhibit the very human emotions we associate with morality.

Elephants have some of the most elaborate group rituals of any animals. When a beloved member of an elephant troop dies, those left behind will mourn the lost individual by “burying” the body with leaves and grass, and keeping vigil over the body for a week. And just as humans visit the gravesites of their lost loved ones, elephants visit the bones of dead elephants for years to come.

 Those seemingly filthy creatures scampering in the sludge of subway stations or trashcans, rats have empathy for each other. In a famous 1958 experiment, hungry rats that were only fed if they pulled a lever to shock their littermates refused to do so, suggesting that the rodents have a sense of empathy and compassion for their fellows. Another study published in 2006 in the journal Science found that mice would grimace when their compatriots were in pain — but only if they knew the mouse personally.

Humans aren’t the only ones who experience jealousy. When male bluebirds are out foraging to provide for their mate’s nest, female birds may step out with another male. Cuckolded males will beat their straying partners when they return, ripping out their feathers and snapping their beaks, according to a 1975 study detailed in the journal Science.

Dolphins routinely show love for species not their own. Several dolphins have practiced random acts of kindness by rescuing swimmers from hammerhead sharks. A few generous dolphins have even guided stranded whales back to sea. But the cetaceans save most of their goodwill for others in their pod — just like humans, they have a you-scratch-my-nose, I’ll-scratch-yours ethic that demands routine kindness and generosity.

 

While empathy and compassion may be common in animals, guilt may be a uniquely human emotion. A study published in the journal Behavioural Processes in 2009 found that dogs’ guilty looks don’t signal remorse.

In the study, they told owners that their dogs had eaten a forbidden treat while the owners left the room. The catch? Only some of the dogs had actually eaten the treat. But the dogs wore guilty looks regardless of whether they had devoured the treat, suggesting they were reading their owners’ anger and reacting accordingly, rather than feeling true remorse. Of course, it’s still possible that dogs feel guilty about some things, but probably not for gobbling up that cake sitting on the countertop.(ack:LiveScience.com)

benny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brain cells can live at least twice as long as the organisms in which they reside, according to new research. The study, published on Feb. 25 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that mouse neurons, or brain cells, implanted into rats can survive with the rats into old age, twice as long as the life span of the original mice.

A co-author of the study Dr. Lorenzo Magrassi, a neurosurgeon at the University of Pavia in Italy said,” So if the human life span could be stretched to 160 years, “then you are not going to lose your neurons, because your neurons do not have a fixed lifetime.”

While most of the cells in the human body are being constantly replaced, humans are born with almost all the neurons they will ever have.

The findings are good news for who seek immortality. Like Dr. Ipso Facto who explored every nook and cranny of the earth to attain immortality. It took him a thousand years to reach the source of spring from where water welled into tiny jets. It would give whoever drank from it immortal life. Only problem was that he did not know what he was there for. His mind was completely gone. I do not know if it were alzheimer or plain dementia. But he stood wondering under the sweltering high noon and died of sunstroke.

Life is simply not extending length in years but getting many advantages of living among life forms right. If you have no awareness of surroundings as in the case of Dr. Ipso Facto you get sunstroke; if there aren’t any living soul living (like Robinson Crusoe) to enthuse you to add zest to life and so on you have put back civilization back for a millennia. Time hangs heavily on you and you may wish you died and put an end to your misery. 

Or worse still you may be competing with your great grandchildren, sons,daughters and your own family for the fast dwindling food reserves.

Tailspin:

Who wants to live forever? It is a disaster to end up with a case:” Here is my ex-wife forgotten but not gone.” Pay up, alimony, man, she says.

benny

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From ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ so runs the line in Book of Common Prayer. In death of a star there is no burial service but it signals processes that resonate for us on earth as well. Now for some scientific facts.
Volcanic ash is inert but rain makes it active. Think of clouds of dust behaving in similar fashion. Gas released by death of stars when come into contact with these grains- analogous to sand, silicates, and infusion of stellar radiation are instant factories, churning out complex molecules. Atoms and molecules from the gas condense onto their surfaces and then interact with one another to form even more complex species. Water, a particularly abundant species, tends to form a layer of ice on the grain surfaces. New stars leave dramatic outflows of material disrupting environments and produce shocks when they collide with the processes begun in the wake of stellar radiation. This includes dislodging surface molecules from grains and prompting the molecules to radiate. The shocks can also fracture the grains, thereby injecting silicon oxide molecules (SiO) into the gas. A cluster of processes are set into motion. At speeds of 20-25 kilometers per second the grain surfaces are completely vaporized, returning all the ice to the gas as water vapor. Then, once the surface has been completely eroded, the grains begin to release SiO into the gas. By using Millimeter telescopes scientists have found that SiO gas emission is a ubiquitous signal around young stars.(Ack: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/Jan 7,’13)

We are nothing but dust but what grandeur is invested even in dust or in ashes? Life makes even inert body capable of thinking and doing things great many things. The shock process of living is to gather all the benign influences so we also radiate as it happens in space. When whatever happens are more or less played elsewhere life we need to rethink of life and death. Should we worry if we were come to death alone or in the midst of our loved ones? We are not lost among strangers or our family members since the whole cosmos is with us for company. Think of cosmos as our home to which the earth is our cradle.
benny

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What exactly is the function of a brain? There are creatures that can very well get around without having a brain as we know the term.
“Even without a brain, a slime mold can essentially remember where it’s been, helping it navigate past complex obstacles, much like modern robots, researchers say.
These findings reveal how ancient organisms could solve certain problems well before complex brains evolved, scientists added.
Slime molds were once thought to be a kind of fungus, but later work revealed that these puddles of goo are part of a motley group of microbes known as protists. The yellow slime mold the investigators studied, Physarum polycephalum, is actually a giant single cell up to more than 1 square foot (900 square centimeters) in size with up to several million identical cell nuclei inside.
“For a single-celled organism, it has shown remarkable abilities, such as solving mazes, anticipating periodic events, and even making irrational decisions like we do,” said researcher Chris Reid, a complex systems biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia. “It is truly a remarkable creature that is redefining our notions of intelligence.”
This slime mold leaves a thick mat of translucent slime behind it as it moves, ooze that Physarum later avoids. As such, the researchers thought the slime mold might use this gel trail as a kind of memory.
“The key misunderstanding might be that slime mold has a memory like we do,” Reid told LiveScience. “I can’t stress enough that the slime mold is incapable of creating, storing or recalling memories like ours, because it does not have a brain such as we are used to think, even neurons.”
The scientists detailed their findings online Oct. 8 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.(LiveScience.com of Oct 9.
Memory of slime mold is the trail it leaves behind. It is like the breadcrumbs by which Hansel and Gretel ensure their safe return from the deep recesses of the forest. It is the memory for future. The bread trail was meant for their return from the forest.
Defining memory from our own abilities that a brain is capable of, is therefore erroneous. Memory need not necessarily remain solely within the brains was shown in the case of slime mold. Memory could be drawn from external circumstances as well. In order to explain some extraordinary ways in which humans have arrived at solutions almost identical without having the means to pick each others brains may seem incredible. Now that the slime mold have shown the possibility do we unconsciously rely on external influences?

Consider the Periodic Table of the elements. From the time Pythagoras suggested certain harmony of seven planets as ‘celestial’ there has been attempts to explain his mystical leap into the unknown in many other areas. Take Chemistry for example. Why the elements when numbered in the order of atomic weights tended to repeat fairly similar properties at every seventh element like notes in a musical scale? Just as the Russian scientist Mendeleyev worked out the Periodic Table one German chemist by name Julius Lothar Meyer also had independently conceived the same periodic Law. Is it just coincidence or memory, collective or better still in the public domain of life forms, supplied the solution?

In human context do we not create memories for future as well? da Vinci on observing the sycamore seeds making through the air got an idea for helicopters. Only that the technology was not developed to make it a reality. Memory in our universe must be relative: complex multicellular organisms exercise their brain on the memory impressed in the environment just as matriarchal elephants can dig up salt and other needful minerals in the years of drought. These show their young so they may in future similarly leave a trail for their young. Memory that is more enduring in short is external and is passed from one age to another to which so many could access. If we have been using wars as settling difference indeed wars shall come uppermost when nations consider a way out.
Coming back to da Vinci what he set down on paper bears a milestone in the development of flight.
(ack: Music of the Spheres by Guy Murchie/Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston/1961-regarding the Periodic Law)
benny

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Evidence from recent brain-imaging experiments indicates that blind people’s brains harness the same visual cortex for getting their way around. Naturally question arises why use it if one is blind? “When blind people read Braille using touch, the sensory data is being sent to and processed in the visual cortex,” said Morton Heller, a psychologist who studies spatial cognition and blindness at Eastern Illinois University. “Using touch, they get a sense of space” — and the relative locations of the raised dots that from Braille letters — “that’s not visual, it’s just spatial.”
For blind people who are adept at echolocation, sound information routes through the visual cortex as well. Their brains use echoes to generate spatial maps, which are sometimes so detailed that they enable mountain biking, playing basket ball etc.,
Sighted people visualize the surrounding world by detecting borders between areas rich in different wavelengths of light, which we see as different colors. Gabias who is blind from birth builds pictures using his sense of touch, and by listening to the echoes of clicks of his tongue and taps of his cane as these sounds bounce off objects in his surroundings, a technique called echolocation.
“There’s plenty of imagery that goes on all the time in blind people,” he told Life’s Little Mysteries. “It just isn’t visual.”
Gabias is an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who conducts research on perceptual and cognitive aspects of blindness. His personal and professional experience leads him to believe that the brains of blind people work around the lack of visual information, and find other ways to achieve the same, vitally important result: a detailed 3D map of space.
The brain region neuroscientists normally think of as the “visual” cortex, rather than being left to languish, plays a key role in the blind’s mental mapping process.
In sighted people, visual information first goes to the visual cortex, which is located in the occipital lobe at the back of the brain. From there, it goes to the parietal lobe, sometimes referred to as the “where system” because it generates awareness of a sensed object’s location. Next, the information is routed to the temporal lobe, also known as the “what system” because it identifies the object.(ack:LiveScience.com/Natalie Wolchover-Oct 3,’12)
Is this a compensatory mechanism by which the loss of sight in a person is given another option to be on spatial mode?
I remember the case of Louis Pasteur who lost power of speech after a stroke. He seems to have created new speech areas in his brain. I would think there is a compensatory mechanism in the universe that gives every life form and species ways to compensate their inadequacies. Call it Natural selection or evolutionary triggering mechanism.
ii
Earlier the bottom line was that energy is neither created nor destroyed. Now we know energy is borrowed and through the entire universe there is a kind of barter system going on by which law of Negation and Law of Compensation work at tandem to give all life forms their comeuppance and rewards. We sense from our own situation what are the possibilities and if we work out our hunches lo and behold we find new grounds in spite of frustrating failures. Alfred Adler was the first to describe this. In Natural World also we see this. How dogs, eagles dolphins make sense of the world are different and if such variety has helped each species we may think such compensation is not isolated or rare.
benny

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In my post on Theory of Something I used the analogy of a walk in the woods to develop a scientific temper. Nature gave man the first stirrings to wonder at the simple daily occurrences. Thus one may wonder why leaves fall or an apple falls to ground and not fly off. If his train of thoughts carried him to come to grips with the gravity, naturally he may soon wonder why the moon does not fall as leaves or fruits? Man is in context of other humans who all have sometime or other similarly wondered as Isaac Newton Galileo or Kepler. How come then all are not scientists? The same pure impulses that instilled in a baby to wonder at everything have changed shape or run into other experiences that carry him to follow in many other directions. The pure impulse of truth must negotiate with life of each. The baby that wondered at the falling leaves has found what makes the world at large go gaga. Wealth. If he sells himself to cut down rain forests for profit he is only falling in with rest of the world that has made wealth their goal above everything else.
No man even with a proper scientific spirit has stuck to a groove to investigate the alpha and omega of his universe. In 1869 Miescher discovered nuclein (DNA) and left since he could not precisely identify its use. Some 25 years later he could separate it into nuclide acid, a protein. It had to wait till 1920 to realize this nucleic acid plays a vital role in the chromosomes. In 1944 Oswald Avery identifies it as the active principle in bacterial transformation. In 1953 Watson and Crick could determine the double helix shape of DNA. In short the path cut in the woods is not one single highway but meandering pathways of so many acting out their hunches based on the single stirring of truth in each.
Miescher wondering over the DNA in the cells of a pus he was working with, had no idea but got around to investigating it further after so many years. By then his active life must have passed and it was left to others to come back to it at their own convenience and needs. Meisher was vindicated in another age and on account of many other breakthroughs elsewhere.
ii
Child is the father of Man and unfortunately in many cases the truth has been clouded over by ‘ways of the world’ and how he looks at the world is not one to one but accumulated peer pressure of so many and immediate needs.
Moral sense of an individual is unfortunately clouded over by many others. If he has gone under and did not do as he ought to have we may say it is human failing. There is no one who is perfect and if one say he is, he is a rascal of the first order. We can only behave as human hoping for the best and if we have found our feet we ought to think of failings of others in similar light. As a Christian I am in need of grace and it is what I owe to truth when given a Being and a name God.
For each of us web of knowledge must be held in tact upon truth.
benny

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The unconscious mind (often simply called the unconscious) is all the processes of the mind which are not available to consciousness. The term unconscious mind was coined by the 18th century German romantic philosopher Friedrich Schelling and later introduced into English by the poet and essayist Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The concept gained prominence due to the influence of Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. The unconscious mind can be seen as the source of dreams and automatic thoughts. (Wikipedia)

Some actions – like moving a finger – are initiated and processed unconsciously at first, and only after enter consciousness.

Philosopher Walter Jackson Freeman III writes “our intentional actions continually flow into the world, changing the world and the relations of our bodies to it. This dynamic system is the self in each of us, it is the agency in charge, not our awareness, which is constantly trying to keep up with what we do.*” To Freeman, the power of intention and action can be independent of awareness. ( * Freeman, Walter J. How Brains Make Up Their Minds. New York: Columbia UP, 2000. Page 139.)

We think and act rationally but do we understand what it implies? One who wants to kick the habit of smoking may linger on wondering when or how to do it. He knows it is slowly incinerating his lungs and one day he quits it altogether. Suppose the coming weekend he is in company and they are headed towards a bar. If he chooses to sit with them in the smoking section he may excuse himself that he did not want to cut their pleasure of a smoke. Or was it he was craving a secondary smoke and his mind had tricked him? Our mind is a divided house. We may say we keep an open house. Only that when we want to empty our bowels we keep the door shut. Open house in short is not always what it says. Our mind is not what we like to believe. We say we are rational. Are we really? How come then we irrationally succumb to prophets and dolts alike. We accept heaven for someone else’s word. Similarly we listen to some fool’s prattle and when he says,’such and such race is subhuman’ we accept it without a murmur. It happened in Nazi Germany. Or a half-baked science fiction writer cobbles up Scientology ‘weird evil cult’ as Rupert Murdoch said the other day) celebrities are ready to join. Our rational mind knows it is a moron’s path to bliss as one who take bath salts for kicks. The nature of mind is such that people are dying to believe and ‘weirder the better.’ There has never been a proof of religion as consistently put to test and found true. Yet why people still harp on it? Our brain is a divided house.
I can make Donald Duck pass for a Deity and have churches built for worship. If so why don’t I do it? The trouble is I may in the end come to believe myself in the joke.‘ I consider that as truly tragic.
PS Philosopher Schopenhauer signified this unconscious part of mind as the Will. We seek pleasures from within ourselves and even if these are less honorable we still pursue it. Then we rationally explain our actions. We are not seeking a course because reasons are already existing outside ourselves.
benny

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`I didn’t know that Cheshire cats always grinned; in fact, I didn’t know that cats could grin.’
`They all can,’ said the Duchess; `and most of ‘em do.’
`I don’t know of any that do,’ Alice said very politely, feeling quite pleased to have got into a conversation.
`You don’t know much,’ said the Duchess; `and that’s a fact.’
(Through the Looking Glass–Lewis Carroll)
More we understand cosmos we are faced with a world that begins to look more like the world through the looking glass. Just as well. We equated our material world as neat and precise as Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man. Our religion consequently delineated a divine connection between the human form and the universe. It is true depending on what we are looking for. Suppose we looked for our place in the universe in terms of thermal imaging the resulting picture would be altogether different. Would it not?
The Vitruvian man is as true as an infrared picture of man in its own way. Our rational world holds both as true. One we see with our naked eye and the other with special photography.
What of a portrait of man in terms of quantum physics? How do we account for the role of God, our moral responsibility and belief systems?
Enter Majorana fermion. The world of science is buzz with an elusive particle that is its own antiparticle may have been found, and, if confirmed, would be the first time a phenomenon predicted decades ago has been seen in a real system. In a paper published in the journal Science Thursday, Vincent Mourik and Leo P. Kouwenhoven said they were able to make the Majorana fermions appear by exposing a small circuit to a magnetic field.
Majorana fermions are so special because they are different from other fermions, which have antiparticles — particles that have the same mass but opposite charge.
Bosons, however, are particles that are their own antiparticle, and they don’t annihilate when they touch each other. Majorana fermions however act as their own antiparticles. Majoranas will annihilate when they meet their antimatter cousins.
Does this matter when we talk of our rational world and religion as a matter of certain practices? For each religion these ceremonies are vital. A pilgrim during the Hajj will ceremoniously stone ‘Satan’ and Pope will ceremoniously wash the Catholic pilgrim’s feet. All these ceremonies are alright. But is it all to religion? We in practice strain a gnat and miss out a camel. Five times you pray and it has a gnat’s worth of blessedness. But by slaughtering ‘infidels’ are you not losing a camel’s load blessedness in another way?
A little knowledge of Allah or of God from prophets and books drives man to make a distinction between infidels and believers; and fools determine who goes to hell and who to heaven. Neither do they in fact understand what is like.
If they had shown tolerance instead, it would have made their nonsense something lustrous like Lewis Carroll’s fantasy. Coming to the Cheshire cat it smiled unlike cats and it remained even when its body had disappeared. Our good sense, tolerance and compassion should likewise remain our calling card whether here or there.
benny

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In 300,000 tests, the six baboons distinguished between real and fake words about three-out-of-four times, according to the study published in Thursday’s journal Science.
In finding the letters in words and the relations between these letters – they are capitalising on a pre-existing ability to identify everyday objects, which we share with non-human primates. Man learned to read in the Fertile golden Crescent in the Middle East some 5000 years ago and it is in evolutionary timescale,a bleep. It must be instinctive and is a specific area behind the left ear.
The baboons, however, are only spotting sequences of letters so they can get fed. They don’t actually understand what the words mean.
“The baboons use information about letters and the relations between letters in order to perform our task… This is based on a very basic ability to identify everyday objects in the environment,” Dr. John Grainger at the Aix-Marseille University told BBC Nature.
Researchers in France discovered our hairy genetic cousins can recognize hundreds of four-letter words on a computer screen, and they can tell a real word apart from a nonsense jumble of letters. The key is that these animals not only learned by trial and error which letter combinations were correct, but they also noticed which letters tend to go together to form real words, such as SH but not FX, said Grainger. So even when new words were sprung on them, they did a better job at figuring out which were real.
Trees can communicate with man. Only that it is in the way these convert into oxygen from the amount of carbon dioxide that we exhale. Non verbal, verbal chemical communications are part of interactive world of which we barely understand.
benny

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