What I think about genetic modification NOW

Hi,

Coincidently just this weekend I started to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, because I need it for my English class. At the same time during today’s class (English conversation) we spoke about GMOs. Speaking on the topic means that I read Wikipedia page for 10-15 minutes and then I presented it in front of the class. Then we moved on to another topic and there were no comments from either the teacher or my class mates, I doubt anybody had any opinion based on anything more than impressions which is the case for me too.


The reason why I mentioned Brave New World is because it is a sci-fi about genetically modified humans. I am in the beginning of the book so it won’t have much of an effect on what I will try to do here.

So as a person who does not know much about GMO and dangers/benefits of genetic modification I want to briefly write down what I think now. After that I want to inform myself as much as possible and then write what changed and what I learned.

I think that GMO plants might be a risk but also a road that we might take eventually. I guess that there are dangers with taking DNA of one organism and putting it into some else because if I am right, we are not fully able to predict the consequences so while we are trying to get resistant corn we might also get corn that has some nasty properties that might not be visible immediately (as my mum always says, we invent something great but do not see the consequences). I assume this to be the reason why in EU it takes way more time for “new species” to be marked as safe. On the other hand, from China or USA many types of new GMO’s arrive illegally anyway. I have read that for insect resistant GMO’s you do not need so many pesticides and you generally lower the effect that the mass production has on global warming. Wikipedia also says that Greenpeace is against GMO’s but it has been criticized exactly for this.

If I ask myself about the future of all this I bet that it is the time of these technologies getting better and better and scientists making bolder and bolder changes. Once of course it might come to humans. It might be a way to treat a disease or at some point simply improve body. Now this is the point where it starts to be a bit speculative for me since I bet we might not be so far from SOME kind of human genetic modification. Because right now I think that when we compare technological and “moral” or “mind” advancement we are way ahead with the former. Therefore, I am not an advocate of immortality (when I take the point that the society is in) and also there comes all of the problems that will probably be described in the book, how people are made certain way according to certain rules which could be hazardous.

Dragallur

PS: All written above might be horribly wrong and that is exactly the point why I am writing it, we will see how long it will take me to learn something about genetic modification so I can bash down this post.

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Peaceful dying out

Hi,
today I will write about the difficulties of calculating the amount of people on Earth and demographic revolution.


For this month’s physics problems that I want to solve, I need to know how much is the number of people in the world increasing. It is just a part of the problem but necessary for the solution. One can quite easily make some simple assumptions and derive an exponential formula that is for any type of reproducing species but does not account in “human” factors. Some of those would take an effect for a population of animals or plants too of course, simply because you do not have an infinite space and other resources. Just an exponential growth would work (I think) for bacteria for example because it is simple to have enough food for LOT of them and they won’t care when they are close to each other[1].

Humanity could be assumed to increase in size in similar fashion during sometimes of its history, for example around the Industrial Revolution when mortality rapidly decreased while natality stayed the same. This did not happen across the whole globe though meaning that in most of the world we were still stagnating. In 21st century the predictions are even worse, the reason is that people in Western world are dying out, meaning we do not have enough babies. The population still increases overall but its thanks to India, Niger or other countries still in the first parts of demographical revolution, that is a part human “evolution” following the decrease and final levelling of natality and mortality. You can read more about that on Wikipedia.

Northern-Western part of the world is dying out. It is probably because people have higher education, which takes longer time and during their career they have less and less time to have and up bring babies. It is fascinating that this effect takes place even in countries with strong religion background, like Poland. I do not find it very sad though, who would think that there could be peaceful dying out?

Dragallur

Disclaimer: I am not a sociologist.

[1] This is actually more complicated and in a sense factually false. There are four phases to the life of bacteria colony and only the second follows what I wrote originally. In the beginning when you put bacteria into some medium, meaning place with “food”, they will start to grow individually in size. This is called the lag phase and after that follows the log phase which is an actuall explosion in the number of bacteria. Here the numbers do grow exponentionally but after they do not have anymore nutrients or there is just too much waste around they will come into a stationary phase where the population is in balance. In the end you might have the death phase but when the onset starts depends on the medium, bacteria etc. The bacteria can reach the density of several billions of cells per millilitre. That is a lot and does take some time if you start with smaller numbers but this proces CAN NOT go on forever.

Generalized bacterial growth curve showing the phases in the growth of bacterial colonies.

Generalized curve for bacteria, note that y-axis is logarithmic

Source: https://www.britannica.com/science/bacteria/Growth-of-bacterial-populations
Picture: “bacteria: bacterial growth curve”. Illustration. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 31 Oct. 2017. <https://www.britannica.com/science/bacteria?oasmId=127577>

 

 

Problems that we will have to face

Disclaimer: This is my opinion, not advised by anybody, feel free to comment below.

Hi,

There are two problems that we as humans will have to face. I will write about the two that I think are crucial and only now people start to appreciate them.


The first problem is Global warming. It poses a lot of threats not only to fragile ecosystems but to whole Earth. Some of the effects listed from Wikipedia are: extreme weather, sea level rise, ocean acidification, changes in agriculture, environmental migration and much, much more [1].

Global warming is the first problem that we need to address but in this post, I will concentrate on the next issue on the list. Humanity will eventually die out if we are not able to spread in the Universe [2].

First, we could of course ask the question when we should colonize other planets or even if it is good idea. Let’s take a scenario, when humanity successfully colonizes Mars and at the same time Earth is becoming more inhabitable. At some point, we simply leave it behind, maybe let it rejuvenate without ever learning how to live in a way that does not cause rest of life extinct. What would continue? Maybe we will be able to spread out in the rest of the Solar System and eventually leave it behind. In what state though? And does it even matter if Mars which is right now mostly empty wasteland suffers any damage if it is even possible? Maybe we would change into species that travels the Universe and leaves dead rocks behind? What if we encountered other life out there, would them await the same fate as Earth? We are authors of our own morality and clearly there does not seem to be objective one. Our values change, we are starting to really appreciate our surroundings, the question is, are we fast enough?

Picture of Mount Sharp on Mars, taken by Curiosity rover.

Dragallur

Note: I am aware that there are different things that could happen. I took time today to write shortly out what I thought about one of them.

[1] There are also problems not related to Global warming but are as well very global, for example what are we going to do with plastic.

[2] See also, gamma ray bursts, solar eruptions (big problem but probably no immediate deaths), huge asteroid collisions and other things that would wipe us out.

Red Bull Stratos and its giantic balloon

Hi,
we all know that helium balloon raises up which makes it such a fun object, most things in every day life do not do that. This attribute can be used to raise objects or even humans quite high, but at one point you get a problem, the atmosphere is less and less dense.


Red Bull Stratos logo.svgRed Bull Stratos was a project involving helium filled balloon and a capsule with human (Felix Baumgartner). In the year 2012 it raised up to almost 40 kilometers and then the skydiver jumped down. He reached supersonic speeds (faster than sound: 1234 km/h).

In my physics class we talked mostly about the balloon because of what I mentioned in the first paragraph. 40 kilometers is very high and the pressure there is only about 0.497325257421 Pa which is basically vacuum since the atmospheric pressure is 100 000 Pa. (I used the barometric equation)

Because of this, the balloon can not rise so high in thinner air even though the helium is lighter than air. There is so little of it that it does not provide the necessary lift and the balloon has to be huge. In this case it had 9 144 000 cubic meters! Thats a huge thing. The problem of course was that it was not lifting up only one human but the capsule with all equipment weighted 1315 kilograms and the material of the balloon had 1681 kilograms[0].

The whole project was kind of supposed to be for science and finding out how body reacts to high speeds and for further development of pressurized suits[1]. At the same time there was a lot of helium used which was then of course lost. Beware because helium is on the list of endangered elements!

Dragallur

Btw. You can check out my Patreon site here!

[0]The helium also has to be lifting itself.

[1]At about 18 kilometers the pressure is so low that the water in human body starts to evaporate (not all because blood is enclosed but for example saliva). I wrote about that in this other post. To survive you need to be in a suit.

Logo source: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37329038

Isolation for long space missions

Hi,
so I was watching Michael Stevens’s first and only free episode of Mind Field where he was talking about isolation. He mentioned that there were experiments of people in closed systems to test how body and mind reacts to long term isolation.


In 1989 Stefania Follini was for 130 days in a cave without any visitors, she could only communicate via “internet”. She also had books to read and some small animals like mice. Her menstruation stopped at some point, she slept for about 10 hours and was awake for 20-25! Also during the visit she lost 7.7 kilograms. This is not the longest isolation at all.

NASA also did in the last few years isolation of 6 people for 8 and later 12 months. This was to test the team work of the people since they were closed together cabin fever showed up, but they did not have to cancel the mission. In 2007 Russians did experiment called Mars 500 where six males stayed together for even longet rime, 520 days, only artificial light as before, they brought with them books and games or dvds but they had limited connection with outside world.

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/hiseasgroup-uhi.jpg

Eight months in “cabin” (project HI-SEAS)

Michael Stevens on the other hand spent “only” 3 days in isolation, but it was a bit different. He was in soundproof small room with white walls, white and black bottles with food and water, sink and toilet. This had dramatically different effects. He had halucinations and could not really tell apart dream from reality, also at one point he was counting bottles and counted 6 instead of 9 😀

What are such experiments for? You want to know what happens to body if it is thrown out of its rhytm and mind too. When we are finally able to get to Mars we need people that are capable of staying in small spaceship for months and months.

Dragallur

Eating the spiciest natural chilli

Hi,
last Sunday I was at neighbors with my host family for dinner. We ate some pumpkin soup and then I noticed these nice small peppers piled up in the bowl. Already I heard that it is not good to put them in your food so I decided to take it as challenge and take one. People at the table noticed and warned me that I probably do not want to eat it. I was soon persuaded not to take it and rather wanted my host brother to try it and see how it goes.

Yup, this is what it looks like.

“These peppers are the spiciest natural growing peppers.”
“Oh, ok then.”

He said that he is going to split with me. I finally agreed and stuffed half of the pepper into my mouth with some milk next to me and bread with thick layer of “Philadelphia”

https://i2.wp.com/groceries.iceland.co.uk/medias/sys_master/root/h8e/h01/8830465802270.jpg

This is called lifesaver.

After few bites it started to burn a lot. It is quite nasty but the real pain came when I swallowed for the first time. When it hurts in the mouth you can just calm it with bread as it touches the sides of your mouth but when you throat starts to burn it is way more difficult. In something like 15 minutes it was over. Not so much because of pain but simply the pepper, I cried a lot but hey it was quite interesting.

If you decide to try it out, there is one thing to keep in mind. The pepper is going to burn more than one time, actually it might burn three times.. you will know what I mean after you eat it 😉


Anyway there is a chart called Scoville scale, I thought I already wrote about it but then could not find it so here you go.

Spicy peppers have inside neurotransmitter called capsaicin. It fakes your feeling as it bounds on the nerves that are responsible for you to experience heat. Capsaicin is not solluable in water which explains why it wont help you to drink it when you eat something spicy. Milk is better and dairy products generally help. HCl of course helps too.

Capsaicin itself has 16 million points on Scoville scale which is about 8 times as much as the spiciest pepper which is right now Carolina Reaper with individuals well over 2 million. The pepper that I was eating is 1.5 million almost (which is average) and it is called Trinidad Scorpion Butch T Pepper.

Dragallur

My favorite scientists and astronomers

Hi,
so I came up with this idea of list of people that I admire in science. Those are not usually scientists most like ex-scientists who are writing, blogging, learning students and so on.


I want to start with Phil Plait also known as Bad Astronomer. Why? Because he is famous

skeptic in the science community who is leading the league against Moon hoax. When I was writing about moon landing I cited his work quite a few times. He also wrote the book Death form the skies and he was featured in Crash Course Astronomy which was pretty cool, here are some links:

His blog.

His first blog (mostly bad astronomy).

Crash Course Astronomy

Second person in my list is Neil deGrass Tyson. He is astrophysicist, also sceptic and agnostic. He makes quite often fun of Flat Earth and is pretty cool.

Video

Demonstrating the power of gravity in the response to rapper singing about Flat Earth.

Another of my favorite scientists is Bill Nye. I am pretty sure that you know this one.

Science BOSS.

I actually saw him for the first time in USA in science class but actually listened to some of his talks few months ago for the first time. While he is very popular generally I kind of liked his debate with Ken Ham.. watch it, it is worth the 3 hours when you will witness the worst kind of argumentation in all history of creationism 😉 [1]

I would add Michio Kaku but I did not see so much stuff from him so I will just leave it here.

Dragallur

[1] Check out Ken Ham memes, those are best!

My thoughts on mission Voyager

Hi,
as the title suggests I will be talking about the mission Voyager 1 and 2. I never mentioned them in separate post until today. It is also connected with my presentation I had on the contest.


What are those missions anyway?

Those are two space missions that had quests to check out furthest planets of our Solar System. Because of rare occasion, Voyager 2 was able to check out 4 planets (+ Earth).

Right now both Voyager 1 and 2 are still capable of transmitting signal because their battery working on radioactive materials is still ok, it is not much though, not pictures or something like that.

Sonda na fotografii NASA

Voyagers are twins.

Both were launched in the year of 1977 and are about 19 billion kilometers away from they Earth.


The thing is that both missions are very cool and they collected lot of data but they also have this “Voyager golden record”. It is record of “The sounds of Earth” which are voices  from various languages and also the plate contains some information on how to play it and where in Universe it was launched from.

I know that this was not the main reason for the mission to be launched but at the same time it was not really well made up.

Above you can see the information on how to play the record. How could anyone in the hell know what is this supposed to do? I mean, how can we know that aliens have similar technology like us and that five pictograms can explain how to use it!

There are also images on this thing! There is image of woman in supermarket, photo of Jupites and so on (you can check it out here).

The left circle explains in binary how fast it should be playing. Than the wave is typical frequency of the sound that should come out and under it is something called “scan triggering” (wut?). The boxes under it represent how the image is made and the circle is the first picture that should appear. The lines represent the position of Sun compared to 14 brightest pulsars out there and the two circles represent two hydrogen atoms.

Though this whole thing seems a bit dumb to me, I at least like that they included piece of uranium so that “alien” can know how long it is flying (via radioactive decay).

Dragallur

Your phone is NOT killing you

Hi,
today I want to write about ionizing and non-ionizing radiation and also mobile phones as serial killers.


When somebody says radiation they mean electromagnetic radiation. Light is of course an electromagnetic radiation but only small part that we can see.

Visible light makes only very small part of whole spectrum.

The energy of light is connected with its frequence, as it rises (to left) energy increases as well. Gamma rays are the most energetic part of spectrum, they appear in radioactive decay and the are also created in Sun. Radiowaves on the other hand have enormous wavelength and very small energies, this is very good because it means that they are easy to create and also not harmful to human.

When we talk about radiation we can say that it is either ionizing or non-ionizing. If it is ionizing it means that it can create ions. Ions are either positively or negatively charged atoms, ions are created when they get or lose an electron which happens when photon hits the electron, but not always. If the energy of the photon is high enough then it will happen (ionizing) but if it is not the nothing will happen (non-ionizing).


How does this corresponds to your phone?

Well there have been some studies that showed that frequent phone users had higher chance of getting brain tumor. This would be caused by the photons that are transmitted from your phone. They should apparently hit DNA and other stuff in your cells and by ionizing these atoms, make change and possibly develop cancer.[0]

The radiation that is used in your phone is with the wavelength of tens of centimeters which means something like low radiowaves. Photons in this part of spectrum would not be able to knock electrons from atoms at all [1].

While for example study from Sweden showed that brain tumors and phone usage correlates, the study was not so well made. The problem is that you need gigantic sample since brain tumors are very rare (3/100,000 people). In short, the best thing you can do is to look on the number of brain tumors before “everyone” started to use cell phone and compare it to the number brain tumors right now…

SPOILER AHEAD

There is no correlation whatsoever!

Dragallur

If you want more detail about the studies and so on, check out these two videos:

[0] I was just thinking that if radiowaves cause cancer than we should probably be much more conserned about ultra violet that is roughly million times stronger!

[1] Einstein got Nobel prize for finding the photoelectric effect which is basicly the knocking of electrons by photons. He found out that under certain frequency the atoms will not be ionized because the energy is not high enough (this critical point is different of course for different elements).

 

 

Altruism does not exist

Hi,
the title is pretty self-explanatory but I can expand it. What I want to write about today is the theory of selfish gene and how it interacts with selfishness and altruism. (Btw. do not forget to check out my second blog!)


So altruistic act is the act that helps others while giving you to worse position, by this I mean that it costs you some energy for example.

What I want to say that there is apparently altruistic behavior towards those who are similar to you. Who is that? Your family.

Over all you share 1/2 of genes with your siblings and with your parents and also children, nobody can get closer to you if you wont make a copy of yourself or you have twin.

From the point of the selfish gene which is in you, it is important to stay in population and not die out [1]. This means that the gene is trying to safe other genes which may be riding in different bodies.


How does he know that there is his identical gene twin in other individual? Dawkins says for example in his book The Selfish Gene, that when there is gene for altruism in your body you will know that this same gene appears in somebody else who is also behaving altruisticly. While it is always from evolutionary point of view best to safe yourself, it is also good to safe others because they may contain the same stuff as you and that is what is important, not the outer shell which is anyway just a vehicle which will disappear after few years.

To enhance this argument I will just add: if gene is able to recognise himself in other “survival machines” then it will be more often present in future generations which is basicly natural selection.


 

You can not apply this for human behaviour because we are no longer bound only by instincts and this surely is not a way to live a life. At the same time, think over your past days about you and also people around. Do you behave altruisticly or are you hiding your selfishness behind altruism? What I see often is that people do “good” things just because they want to look like doing good things over all being selfish, what do you guys think about this?

Dragallur

[1] It is of course not important for the gene. Genes are not thinking. If the gene would not be good at staying in population it would not be there.