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Thread: People's Ideas of Science, Medicine, and Technology

  1. #1

    People's Ideas of Science, Medicine, and Technology

    The crop of postings in this forum in the past week is interesting. One is on hemp oil, another is about how scientists really do things for sex, a few were about aliens about to land, one is about time travellers, one is about a lost city that is the cradle of life.

    These subjects are not what scientists usually would consider science. Most scientists would look at you very strangely and start to shake their heads if you mentioned aliens or time travel. Most would not be interested and only a few might look up skeptically if you told them about a lost city that is the cradle of human civilization. This is because this has really nothing to do with enormously exciting science that is being done in laboratories around the world.

    Most of the discussions in my laboratory, for example, center on discovering what we don't know. The other day, we were having a discussion of growth cycle in human embryonic stem cells. In human, the growth cycle is about 15 hours and over 60% of the cycle appears to be the S-phase where DNA is being reproduced. In contrast, the growth cycles of most replicating cells is of similar length but the S-phase is only 20% of the cycle.

    So, I asked, how do human embryonic stem cells grow faster? The answer is not known. Incredulous that this basic piece of information is not known, I asked further, how do mouse embryonic stem cell grow faster? Since mouse embryonic stem cells have been grown for over 25 years, somebody must have studied this and the answer must be known. Well, that is not known either.

    So, what goes on in science is not aliens, time travellers, plants that cure cancer, etc. In my laboratory, it is a daily struggle to understand what is going on in our bodies, why spinal cord cannot repair itself, what happens when animals walk again, and how we can help the process go forward. I want our undergraduate students to see this process because they don't see it at all when they open up their science textbooks.

    Textbooks of science are like Reader's Digests versions of Shakespeare plays. I was always upset by my daughter's high school that they refused to present primary scientific writings to students. They refused, saying that the students would not understand. So, I would ask them whether they would have students read reader's digest versions of Shakespeare rather than have them read Shakespeare directly.

    The problem with textbooks of science is that they present scientific knowledge as established and confirmed. In fact, most of what is presented in textbooks are written by people who are not scientists and try very hard to make information more established than it really is. The problem is that it is very difficult to unteach these concepts. Most of my time is spent in getting rid of biases and teaching students to be critical of the information.

    Wise.

  2. #2
    Some of these threads don´t necessarily deal with science directly, but focus more on medicine or technology or even a pseudo-mix of all three. How a person views science I think depends on which topic of science is being discussed.

    Take my post on hemp oil for example. A while back, I posted a scientific study that shows that cannaboids can hinder the spread of cancer in the body. It is directly related to science and has a medical aspect to it. Then, I came across the work that Mr. Simpson has done using hemp oil to help treat cancer and other afflictions. No direct lab-science there, but his experience with the substance, the medical results from those who testified to its effectiveness, and the recent scientific study showing the effects of cannaboids on cancer, have a link.

    Newsworthy for this forum? I believe so. It is also not the first time that normal men and women have reported the benificial effects of using marijuana. Even here on CareCure you´ll find posts from people saying that using weed helps them against spasticity, others against pain. Others complain that the drug fogs the brain or causes constipation. Nothing done in a lab of course, yet still the reports are there and have some value.

    In another related development, last Friday the American College of Physicians just came out with an official endorsment supporting the use of medical marijuana. Lets read what they said:

    "Additional research is needed to clarify marijuana's therapeutic properties and determine standard and optimal doses and routes of delivery. Unfortunately, research expansion has been hindered by a complicated federal approval process, limited availability of research-grade marijuana and the debate over legalization," the group said.
    The Philadelphia-based group, founded in 1915, is made up of 124,000 doctors who treat adults.
    "The richness of modern medicine is to carefully evaluate new treatments. Marijuana has been in a special category because of, I suppose, its abuses and other concerns," Dr. David Dale, the group's president and a University of Washington professor of medicine, said in a phone interview.
    David Murray, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's chief scientist, said, "The science should be kept open. There should be more research. We should continue to investigate."
    The policy statement said, "ACP encourages the use of nonsmoked forms of THC (the main psychoactive element in marijuana) that have proven therapeutic value." It also backed research into additional therapeutic uses of marijuana.



    Wow. A science story? You bet, when it comes to the politics of scientific research. The ACP is saying in a nut shell that not only is there a therapeutic value in using marijuana, but there are currently policies and mindsets that are restricting research into discovering additional benefits of the plant. David Murray was impressed enough to say that more needs to be done. Medically related? Without question. So is it really fair from scientists to treat a story like hemp oil as mere poppycock? I submit that it isn´t fair, however I´m a realist enough to know that any controversial issue must be explained in a careful, presentable manner, being backed up with known and developing facts. If you send in a Tommy Chong type to do the explanation, I could easily understand why a scientist would shake his head.


    Sometimes however, scientists can be real hypocrites when it comes to dealing with "fringe" issues such as extraterrestrial life visiting Earth for example. Few scientists will touch that issue with a ten-foot pole, yet when presented with evidence, it is usually rejected out of hand as delusions of grandeur. Here is a perfect example of scientific hypocrisy. The discovery of sprites, jets, starters and elves were made in part by using video coverage from the space shuttle. You can read about it here.

    "The sequence of video tape observations of the upper atmospheric optical flashes called sprites, jets, starters, and ELVES are described in the successsive phases of search, discovery, confirmation, and exploration for the years before 1993. Although there were credible eyewitness accounts from ground observers and pilots, these reports did not inspire a systematic search for hard evidence of such phenomena. The science community would instead wait for serendipitous observations to move the leading edge of this science forward. The phenomenon, now known as a sprite, was first accidently documented on ground based videotape recordings on the night of July 6, 1989. Video observations from the space shuttle acquired from 1989 through 1991 provided 17 additional examples to confirm the existence of the sprites phenomenon. Successful video observations from a mountain ridge by Lyons, starting July 7, 1993, and night-time aircraft video observations by Sentman and Wescott on July 8, 1993 established the basic science of the sprite phenomena by acquiring and analyzing data based on hundreds of new events. The 1994 Sprites campaign and the video titled "Red Sprites and Blue Jets" popularized the name sprite and provided a vocabulary of terms to describe the visual attributes."


    Why is it that when science is confronted with other space shuttle footage from STS-75 showing unmistakable evidence of UFOs, and that coverage is then analyzed showing just how incredible the evidence really is...nobody in the science world wants to know anything about it. Similar to the report about the sprite discoveries (see the highlighted statement above), numerous reports, photos and videos of UFOs have been made by credible witnesses such as pilots and ground observers...but science refuses to react. But unlike by the sprite discovery, were the visual shuttle evidence was viewed, accepted, and the phenomena pursued, the visual evidence of UFOs taken from not only STS-75, but on other space shuttle missions such as STS-80, is never considered unusual in the least, and is written off as frozen water droplets or mere cargo bay fluff.







    Why science turns a blind eye to all this, recorded by high tech camaras operated by mission specalists...many of whom are scientists themselves...on board one of mankinds most advanced technological creations, yet gets all exited when they videotape a new worm on the floor of the ocean near Antarctica using a deep sea research sub, I have yet to understand.
    Last edited by Mike C; 02-19-2008 at 11:27 PM.
    "So I have stayed as I am, without regret, seperated from the normal human condition." Guy Sajer

  3. #3
    Mike C, I hope very much that I did not offend you with my post. I didn't mean to belittle the importance of hemp oil or even extraterrestrial human life. I only meant to suggest that ordinary science is much more mundane. There is so much that we don't know. I realize that it is boring and I can understand why people aren't interested. However, that is why scientists are scientists.

    People don't understand the depth of our ignorance. We don't know how to make embryonic stem cells grow faster. So, why is this important? If one wants to grow cells from a single cell and the growth cycle is always 15 hours, we can't make the cells grow faster that one that following graph shows. It would be interesting to see if induced pluripotent cells have different cell cycles. If so, that means that it will take about 2 weeks to grow a trillion cells.

    Wise.

  4. #4
    Wise, not at all. If anything, I would like to understand more about what make scientists tick. It would seem to me that for the most part, scientists strive to understand, to discover, and enjoy the processes involved doing those things to advance their fields of interest. That´s why I find it hard to believe that some scientists can be quite stubborn, even illogical at times, when confronted with new discoveries or phenomenon.
    Last edited by Mike C; 02-20-2008 at 01:35 AM.
    "So I have stayed as I am, without regret, seperated from the normal human condition." Guy Sajer

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike C
    Wise, not at all. If anything, I would like to understand more about what make scientists tick. It would seem to me that for the most part, scientists strive to understand, to discover, and enjoy the processes involved doing those things to advance their fields of interest. That´s why I find it hard to believe that some scientists can be quite stubborn, even illogical at times, when confronted with new discoveries or phenomenon.
    As in all lines of work, there is room in science for all types. You have scientists who are visionary and great salespeople (these are the ones who get the Nobel Prizes) but you also have those who are very detail oriented. All types of scientists are necessary because different problems need different personalities.

    One thing that I know for sure and that is the person who wrote the book claiming that scientists work for sex and status is wrong. I think that book is about the behavior of young scientists who went to a primate colony in some out of the way place and spent long hours recording primate behavior. Because there were male and female scientists, they competed with each other. This is of course to be expected because scientists are only human.

    What drives scientists most of the time is an intense desire to understand how things work. This attracts a certain type of personality. However, the quality of science depends on the environment. Even though industry spends much more on science than academia, scientists in the latter environment come out with a majority of the major scientific discoveries. There have of course been many studies and speculations as to why. Most of the studies have concluded that the difference is freedom.

    Scientists in academia can choose what they want to study. I have always felt privileged because I am being paid to do what I want to do. There are few other jobs that have this quality. But, freedom is the difference between academic and industrial science. Scientists who choose what they study just do better work and they come out with better science, in my opinion. Industry expects certain productivity and translation to profit.

    Science is not a commodity that increases linearly with funding. You can throw money at a problem and make little progress. It is a quintessential human activity where critical mass and interactions are very important. It may be just a casual conversation, a glimpse of a graph, or an accidental observation that brings the insight. One has to reach a certain level of funding and interactivity and then all of a sudden, a knowledge explosion occurs. It often feels as if you are banging your head against a brick wall and the wall suddenly falls away. Discovery is one of the most exhilarating experiences I know. When Archimedes ran around the house naked yelling
    "Eureka!", I know exactly how he felt.

    Wise.
    Last edited by Wise Young; 02-20-2008 at 09:32 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young
    When Archimedes ran around the house naked yelling
    "Eureka!", I know exactly how he felt.

    Wise.
    Dr Young, what was your "eureka" moment, if you dont mind me asking.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by IanTPoulter
    Dr Young, what was your "eureka" moment, if you dont mind me asking.
    Ian, I have had a lot of Eureka moments. Of course, some of the them were not the first or original but some were. The first was actually the first experiment that I did in spinal cord injury in 1979. It was when I gave methylprednisolone and saw 10 of 17 cats walk, compared to only 1 out of 13 control cats. Of course, it took 10 years to get the therapy through clinical trials. A more recent Eureka moment was when we put lithium on umbilical cord blood stem cells and found that it not only resulted in 3 times more cells but the cells were pouring out neurotrophins. Wise.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young
    Ian, I have had a lot of Eureka moments. Of course, some of the them were not the first or original but some were. The first was actually the first experiment that I did in spinal cord injury in 1979. It was when I gave methylprednisolone and saw 10 of 17 cats walk, compared to only 1 out of 13 control cats. Of course, it took 10 years to get the therapy through clinical trials. A more recent Eureka moment was when we put lithium on umbilical cord blood stem cells and found that it not only resulted in 3 times more cells but the cells were pouring out neurotrophins. Wise.
    Thank you, I feel priveleged.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young
    Ian, I have had a lot of Eureka moments. Of course, some of the them were not the first or original but some were. The first was actually the first experiment that I did in spinal cord injury in 1979. It was when I gave methylprednisolone and saw 10 of 17 cats walk, compared to only 1 out of 13 control cats. Of course, it took 10 years to get the therapy through clinical trials. A more recent Eureka moment was when we put lithium on umbilical cord blood stem cells and found that it not only resulted in 3 times more cells but the cells were pouring out neurotrophins. Wise.
    Beautiful!
    "The world will not perish for want of wonders but for want of wonder."
    J.B.S.Haldane

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