Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘sciences’ Category

Tears of grief, tears of joy, basal tears ..

Posted on June 9, 2014

Looking At Tears Under A Microscope

Reveals a few Facts.

One day Rose-Lynn Fisher wondered if her tears of grief would look different from her tears of joy, so she began to explore them up close under a microscope.

She studied 100 different tears and found that basal tears (the ones that our body produces to lubricate our eyes) are drastically different from the tears that happen when we are chopping onions.

The tears that come about from hard laughter aren’t even close to the tears of sorrow. 

Like a drop of ocean water each tiny teardrop carries a microcosm of human experience.

Her project is called The Topography of Tears. (How about taxonomy of tears?)

Tears from laughing until crying

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of change

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of grief

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears from onions

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Joseph Stromberg of the Smithsonian’s Collage of Arts and Sciences explained that there are 3 major types of tears: basal, reflex, and psychic (triggered by emotions).

All tears contain organic substances including oils, antibodies, and enzymes and are suspended in salt water.

Different types of tears have distinct molecules. Emotional tears have protein-based hormones including the neurotransmitter leucine enkephalin, which is a natural painkiller that is released when we are stressed.

Tears seen under the microscope are crystallized salt and can lead to different shapes and forms. So even psychic tears with the same chemical composition can look very different.

Fisher said, “There are so many variables—there’s the chemistry, the viscosity, the setting, the evaporation rate and the settings of the microscope.

Basal tears

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of timeless reunion

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of ending and beginning

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of momentum, redirected

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of release

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of possibility and hope

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of elation at a liminal moment

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Tears of remembrance

Rose-Lynn Fisher

Credit: Rose-Lynn Fisher

Like snow flakes and fingerprints, no tears are alike.

Can you practically believe the difference between all these tears if you taste or smell them?

A video by Masaru Emoto on water, consciousness and intent

Water, Consciousness & Intent: Dr. Masaru Emoto. He was born in Yokohama, Japan in July 1943 and a graduate of the Yokohama Municipal University’s department of humanities and sciences with a focu…YOUTUBE.COM

Just how people behave on Average

Posted on November 21, 2016

Many articles and books have been published for every single one of these principles, effects and laws.

I stumbled on a term-paper that a student of mine submitted in 2002 for the course of Human Factors in Engineering and I said: Why not? It is a good topic to post

Most of these principles were formulated by psychology researchers and they are good guidelines of what to expect in pitfalls and erroneous judgement when designing for people usage.

These laws and principles cannot be classified as rules for solving problems as is commonly misunderstood in natural sciences.

Many of these principles were the results of experiments with failed hypothesis because they were not tightly controlled.

Basically, if you know how average people behave in your community, you can design for effective results

Consequently, the first critical phase in any project is to comprehend the idiosyncrasies of the particular community in order to design valid solutions

First, check the ones you have already heard of, or read about in your course works.

  1. Hawthorn Effect
  2. Placebo Effect
  3. Occam’s razor
  4. Peter principle
  5. Parkinson’s Law
  6. Murphy’s law
  7. Pareto Principle
  8. Rule of Redundant systems
  9. Zeigarnik Effect
  10. Contrast principle
  11. Cognitive Dissonance
  12. Perceptual Consistency
  13. Turnpike Effect

Actually, last year I read a book “How to think clear” and it developed on many of these biases and effects. I reviewed many of the chapters.

Hawthorn Effect

The motivated people have greater effect on the solution presented to resolve a problem.

In the mid 1930’s a vast experiment involved thousands of employees who were supposed to ignore that an experiment is taking place. It turned out that the employees got wind and overdid their best at work. An example of an experiment that was not very well controlled.

Placebo Effect

A harmless with No pharmacological effects may make sick people feeling better if they were told the medicine is part of the cure.

Apparently, placebo has positive effect even though the sick person was told that it is a harmless medicine. (Maybe the sick person doesn’t really believe what he was told?)

William of Occam’s razor

The explanation with the fewest assumptions is the correct alternative in most cases. (Which means that the more you control for many variables, the better you avoid biases and presumptions)

Peter principle

Employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. When a competent employee rises to a higher level of complexities then they fall back to an incompetent job where they are not positioned to fill.

Parkinson’s law:

Work expands to fill the time allotted to it: The procrastination effect.

Any work must be subdivided to last a definite time span so that the entire project is finished according to a timetable and on schedule.

Give a student a project that can be done within a few days and he will gladly leave it to the last minutes after a few months for the scheduled time for presentation.

Murphy’s law

If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. We tend not to expect what we think is an unexpected event or behaviour.

Pareto Principle

A small fraction of people do most of the job. The wealthiest are a tiny fraction of the total population. A fraction of the items sold generate most of the profit or revenue.

Rule of Redundant systems

Every critical system requires a redundant backup system. (The danger is that the more you include redundant backups, the more the system become complicated and tends to breakdown more often)

Zeigarnik Effect

We prefer to have a closure on a task before starting another one. Handling simultaneous tasks is difficult for most people and they are upset when they are asked to interrupt a job in midstream in order to tend to another job.

Contrast principle

The last event in a stream of successive events is retained and valued more than any of the other events. If the latest person seemed nice, he is viewed as nicer than he is. A good suggestion offered after a series of bad suggestions feels better than it is.

Cognitive Dissonance

Hearing about a crime committed creates a dissonance in the belief system of morality and justice and the event that occurred.

If we believe that a certain event should not happen then we tend to find fault in the victim.

Perceptual Consistency

We tend to pigeon-hole people and circumstances into simple generalized entities.

Turnpike Effect

The availability of unforeseen utility of a resource or facility generates greater use than was predicted.

Improve the road condition of a side route and people will drive on it more frequently than expected.

It is confirmed, until further notice: “Mankind is one of the Chimps tribes, and all immigrated from Africa 60,000 years ago…”

Posted on July 27, 2012

Note: In 2021, I watched a documentary for the discovery of several human bipeded in Asia, several thousands years before the One/Ones found in Africa. The question is: How to reconcile this variety of “human species” to converge into identical DNA, with slight differences in adaptation to environments and certain diseases.

I watched a documentary on the cable ARTE.  All biologists, archeologist, gene scientists…pronounced the following “evidences”:

1. Current mankind, the Cro-magnon, is one of the chimpanzee tribesWe are not descended from chimp: We are chimps.

2. All mankind immigrated from Africa and reached all continents, travelling along sea and ocean shores…

3. This immigration aptitude and flexibility to varied climates and environmental conditions allowed mankind to reach America through the icy Bering Sea in Alaska (40,000 years ago) and needed 20,000 years more to land on the southern tip of Latin America.  Consequently, the original inhabitant of Latin America are the freshest new comers, inhabiting this continent just in the last 20,000 years…

4. As the dark-skinned Cro-magnon landed in Europe, they discovered another mankind, the red-headed and lighter skinned Neandertal specie who was intelligent, had fabricated tools, and was more robust and bearded, with a lot of hair on the body

5. The two species co-habited Europe for 10,000 years before the Neandertal disappeared for reasons still unknown…

6. About 12,000 years, mankind was mostly hunter/gatherer and only 200,000 of them roamed the earth…

7. A thousand-year after undertaking the cultivation of the land (as early as 12,000 years ago) mankind population increased one thousand fold

8. When the Spanish Conquistador invaded Latin America, they believed that these hairless, elongated and tanned people must have a soul, but to a “lower level than their soul“…

9. The black specie in Africa were considered as the intermediary between chimps and mankind…Thus, Blacks had barely a soul and were used as slaves in any way conceivable…

10. Between the 5th and 15th century, the city of Angora (Cambodia) was vaster than New York City and had one million inhabitant. At the time, London was barely 50,000 strong… Many ancient cities were far larger than 100,000.

I have serious trouble with this consensus story:

1.  How a population far less than 200,000 could inhabit every corner of earth 20,000 years ago?

2. I can admit that mankind is a branch of chimps tribes, but why it should be generated in a single continent? If the climatic and environmental conditions enabled the emergence of mankind, why it should be impossible that the same conditions generate mankind in every other continent?

3. If the DNA of chimps match mankind’s at 99%, and this DNA is much closer to mankind than to gorillas, why mankind was originated solely in Africa? If this chimps tribe lived in equatorial or tropical dense forests by rivers and lakes, I think every continent enjoys the same conditions…

4. If mankind was barely able to start cultivation 12,000 years ago, how was he able to navigate seas and oceans and reach Australia, and cross straits (Bering, Gibraltar…) 40,000 years ago?

5. Isn’t this philosophical concept of the One, One God, One single Big Bang for the creation of the Universe, One specie roaming the earth…that is blinding scientists from pondering on the alternative of the many origines?

6. Just the existence of the Neandertal specie in Europe before the Cro-magnon stepped on this continent should have flagged the scientists to explain this phenomenon…But they didn’t even ask the question!

7. Mankind is this Chimps tribe that learned to fish and swim and walk in the water…

the Buoyancy of water in rivers and lakes lightened the weight and permitted mankind to walk longer distances while fishing, and strengthen the muscles of his back and abdomen… 

Gradually, mankind was capable of walking on his two hind legs for greater distances inland

You may read how mankind managed to walk inland for long distance

“A short history of nearly everything” by Bill Bryson, (part 1)

Posted on October 22, 2008 (written on September 25, 2007 before joining

This is a voluminous book of 575 pages that describes and explains the scientific achievements that tried to comprehend Earth and the life processes.

I will try to summarize the discoveries chronologically, each discipline taken separately such as physics, chemistry, and geology and so forth. 

It is a long undertaking but it would be useful for me in this assimilation process and quick review of science on the march, to explain, and to conquer.

The manuscript is divided into 6 parts: lost in the Cosmos, the size of the earth, the new age, dangerous planet, life itself, and the road to us.  I am including a few quotations of scientists that preface each main part.

A few quotes might set the tone:

Hans Christian von Baeyer in “Taming the atom“:

The physicist Leo Szilard announced to Hans Bethe that he was thinking of keeping a diary: “I don’t intend to publish.  I am merely going to record the facts for the information of God”   Bethe asked him: “Don’t you think God knows the facts?”   Szilard replied: “God knows the facts, but Not this version of the facts

The Astronomer Geoffrey Marcy describing the solar system:

They’re all in the same plane. They’re all going around in the same direction.  It’s perfect, you know.  It’s gorgeous. It’s almost uncanny”.

Alexander Pope in an epitaph intended for Sir Isaac Newton: ” Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night; God said: “Let Newton be!” and all was light”

An anonymous: “A physicist is the atoms’ way of thinking about atoms”

The British geologist Derek V. Alger: “The history of any one part of the Earth, like the life of a soldier, consists of long periods of boredom and short periods of terror

Freeman Dyson: “The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming

Remark of the wife of the Bishop of Worcester after Darwin’s theory of evolution was explained to her: “Descended from the apes! My dear, let us hope that it is Not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known”

Byron in “Darkness”: “I had a dream which was not all a dream

The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars

Did wander…”

Lonely planet

Earth is not the easiest place to be an organism, even if it is the only place in our nearest galaxies. 

The portion of land mass or continental area we are able to live in is only about 12% because we are not adaptable to hot or very cold weather.  Apparently, the most recent super volcano eruptions occurred at Toba in Northern Sumatra, about 74,000 years ago and almost annihilated human kind.

Maybe a thousand human survived, which account for the lack of our genetic diversity.

Greenland ice cores show that the Toba blast was followed by at least six years of “volcanic winter” and many poor growing seasons after that. 

There are currently 13 active super volcanoes and Yellowstone in the USA is the only continental one.  Yellowstone is estimated to erupt every 600, 000 years and is ready for another of his monstrous feat; the last eruption was estimated to spew enough ash to bury the State of California under 6 meters of ash

Ash covered the whole western states of the USA and a large part of Canada.

We belong to the portion of living things that decided 400 million years ago to crawl out of the sea and become land-based and oxygen-breathing creatures. 

We abandoned the vast seas for a more restricted area with the advantage that we can climb over 7000 meters and live at very high altitude while the feat of the Italian Umberto Pelizzari recorded 72 meters under water.  We cannot bear the pressure of the water; for every 10 meters of depth we add one atmosphere.

A few professional divers, aided by weight to descend up to 150 meters, their lungs are compressed to the dimensions of a Coke can

Since our body is mostly water and water cannot be compressed by water, it is the gases in our body that is fatal in the depths.  At a specific depth, Nitrogen in our system starts to bubble and enter our bloodstream and obstruct the tiny blood vessels, depriving cells of oxygen.

Human technology was able to send a diving vessel to the deepest point in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific at 11.3 kilometers down; they discovered a type of crustacean similar to shrimp but transparent.  There are particular microbes that thrive in water at temperature over 70 degrees Celsius.

Observers have identified two dozen fortunate breaks we have had on Earth to create the living organism. 

If the Sun was larger it would have exhausted its fuel before Earth could be formed because the larger the star the more rapidly it burns.  If we were two light minutes closer to the Sun we would be like planet Venus that cannot sustain life; Venus surface temperature is 470 degrees Celsius and all its water has evaporated driving hydrogen away into space.

If we were 1% further from the Sun we would be like frozen Mars. If our core didn’t contain molten liquid we would not have magnetism to protect us from cosmic rays.  If our tectonic plates didn’t collide to produce more gases and continually renew and rumple the surface with mountains then we would be under 4,000 meters of water.

If our moon was not large enough, one fourth the size of Earth, then Earth would be wobbling like a dying top with unstable climate and weather.

It is to be noted that the Moon is slipping away at a rate of 4 centimeters a year, relinquishing its gravitational hold.  If comets didn’t strike Earth to produce the Moon or asteroid to wipe out the Dinosaurs or if we didn’t enjoy enough stability for a long time, human would not be what they are.

Earth contains 92 naturally occurring elements and barely 6 of them are of central importance to life.

Of every 200 atoms in our body, 126 are hydrogen, 51 are oxygen, 19 are carbon, 3 are nitrogen and the remaining atom is divided among all the other elements such as iron to manufacture hemoglobin, Cobalt for the creation of vitamin B12, Potassium and Sodium for the transmission of electrical charges in the nerves, Molybdenum, manganese and vanadium to keep the enzymes purring and Zink to oxidize alcohol.

Oxygen is the most abundant element on Earth crust of about 50%, then silicon, and aluminum the fourth.  Carbon is only the 15th most common element or 0.05% of Earth crust, but is the most promiscuous since it adheres to almost every atom and holds extremely tight, and is the very trick of nature to build proteins and DNA.

What we marvel at is not that Earth is suitable to life but that it is suitable to our life. 

A big part that Earth seems so miraculously accommodating is that we evolved to suit its severe conditions. 

When elements don’t occur naturally on earth, like plutonium, we have evolved zero tolerance for them.  Selenium is vital to all of us but is toxic at a little higher level. Even tiny doses of arsenic, lead, copper and other natural elements we have managed to tolerate, but industrialization is not allowing the natural tolerance process in evolution to absorb these huge amounts of noxious elements in our artificial environment.

The building blocks of life might be the 20 amino acids that combine in certain sequences to form the 700,000 kinds of proteins in our body; the number of proteins discovered is increasing and might be in the range of one million kinds.

Hemoglobin is only a chain of 146 amino acids long, a runt by protein standards in length, and yet it offers 10 at an exponent of 190 possible amino-acid combinations in order to have the exact sequence of the different kinds of amino acids.

To make the protein called “collagen” you need to arrange 1,055 amino acids in precisely the right sequence which means you need 1,055 spinning wheels with 20 symbols in each wheel to coincide exactly for the jack pot! Thus, the odd that any protein was formed by hazard is nil.

Any protein cannot reproduce itself and it needs DNA, which is a whiz in replicating itself.

DNA can do nothing but replicate proteins. And proteins are useless without DNA.  Are we to assume that these two organisms arose simultaneously with the purpose of supporting each other?

No atom or molecule has achieved life independently; it needs some sort of membrane to contain them so that they come together within the nurturing refuge of a cell

Without the chemicals, the cell has no purpose. 

It is little wonder that we call it the miracle of life. 

Forming amino acids is Not the problem because if we expose water to ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and methane gases and introduce some electrical sparks, as a stand-in for lighting, then within days you will have amino acids, fatty acids, sugar and other organic compounds.

What was needed is a process of a few of these amino acids to procreate and then cluster to discover some additional improvement.

What do we know about cells so far?

A single cell splits to become two and after 47 doublings you have 10 thousand trillion cells and ready to spring forth as a human being.  Each cell carries a copy of the complete genetic code, the instruction manual for your body, and it knows far more about you that you do, and is devoted in some intensively specific way to your overall well-being.

The human body has at least a few hundred types of cells and they vary in shape, size, and longevity: we have nerve cells, red blood cells, photocells, liver cells that can survive for years, brain cells that last as long as we live and they don’t increase from the day we are born but 500 die every single hour, and so forth. 

The components within a cell are constantly renewed so that everything in us is completely renewed every nine years.

The outer casing of a cell is made up of lipid or light grade of machine oil but on the molecular level it is as strong as iron, then the nucleus wherein resides the genetic information and the busy space called cytoplasm. The cell contains about a thousand power plants or mitochondria that convert processed food and oxygen into ATP molecules or battery packs.

A cell would use up one billion ATP molecules in two minutes or half the body weight every day.

The electrical energy activities in a cell is about 0.1 volts traveling distances in the nanometers; or when this number is scale up it is the equivalent of 20 million volts per meter or the amount of what a thunderstorm is charged.

Each strand of DNA is damaged 10,000 times a day and swiftly repaired, if the cell is Not to perish by a command received from a hormone.

When a cell receives the order to die then it quietly devour its components. For example, nitric oxide is a formidable toxin in nature but cells are tremendous manufacturers of this substance which control blood flow, the energy level in cells, attacking cancerous cells, regulating the sense of smell, and penile erection among other things.

Our body contains 200,000 different types of protein and we barely understand a tiny fraction of them. 

Enzymes are a type of protein with tasks to rebuild molecules and marking the damaged pieces and other protein for processing. 

A cell might contain 20,000 different types of protein.

In the 1860s, Louis Pasteur showed that life cannot arise spontaneously, but come from pre-existing cells. 

An exercise: taxonomy of methods

Posted on: June 10, 2009

Article #14 in Human Factors

I am going to let you have a hand at classifying methods by providing a list of various methods that could be used in Industrial engineering, Human Factors, Ergonomics, and Industrial Psychology.

This first list of methods is organized in the sequence used to analyzing part of a system or a mission;

The second list is not necessarily randomized, though thrown in without much order; otherwise it will not be an excellent exercise.

First, let us agree that a method is a procedure or a set of step by step process that our forerunners of geniuses and scholars have tested, found it good, agreed on it on consensus basis and offered it for you to use for the benefit of progress and science.

Many of you will still try hard to find short cuts to anything, including methods, for the petty argument that the best criterion to discriminating among clever people is who waste time on methods and who are nerds.

Actually, the main reason I don’t try to teach many new methods in this course (Human Factors in Engineering) is that students might smack run into a real occupational stress, which they are Not immune of, especially that methods in human factors are complex and time consuming.

Here is this famous list of a few methods and you are to decide which ones are still in the conceptual phases and which have been “operationalized“.

The first list contains the following methods:

Operational analysis, activity analysis, critical incidents, function flow, decision/action, action/information analyses, functional allocation, task, fault tree, failure modes and effects analyses, timeline, link analyses, simulation, controlled experimentation,  operational sequence analysis, and workload assessment.

The second list is constituted of methods that human factors are trained to utilize if need be such as:

Verbal protocol, neural network, utility theory, preference judgments, psycho-physical methods, operational research, prototyping, information theory, cost/benefit methods, various statistical modeling packages, and expert systems.

Just wait, let me resume.

There are those that are intrinsic to artificial intelligence methodology such as:

Fuzzy logic, robotics, discrimination nets, pattern matching, knowledge representation, frames, schemata, semantic network, relational databases, searching methods, zero-sum games theory, logical reasoning methods, probabilistic reasoning, learning methods, natural language understanding, image formation and acquisition, connectedness, cellular logic, problem solving techniques, means-end analysis, geometric reasoning system, algebraic reasoning system.

If your education is multidisciplinary you may catalog the above methods according to specialty disciplines such as:

Artificial intelligence, robotics, econometrics, marketing, human factors, industrial engineering, other engineering majors, psychology or mathematics.

The most logical grouping is along the purpose, input, process/procedure, and output/product of the method. Otherwise, it would be impossible to define and understand any method.

Methods could be used to analyze systems, provide heuristic data about human performance, make predictions, generate subjective data, discover the cause and effects of the main factors, or evaluate the human-machine performance of products or systems.

The inputs could be qualitative or quantitative such as declarative data, categorical, or numerical and generated from structured observations, records, interviews, questionnaires, computer generated or outputs from prior methods.

The outputs could be point data, behavioral trends, graphical in nature, context specific, generic, or reduction in alternatives.

The process could be a creative graphical or pictorial model, logical hierarchy or in network alternative, operational, empirical, informal, or systematic.

You may also group these methods according to their mathematical branches such as algebraic, probabilistic, or geometric.

You may collect them as to their deterministic, statistical sampling methods and probabilistic characters.

You may differentiate the methods as belonging to categorical, ordinal, discrete or continuous measurements.

You may wish to investigate the methods as parametric, non parametric, distribution free population or normally distributed.

You may separate them on their representation forms such as verbal, graphical, pictorial, or in table.

You may discriminate them on heuristic, observational, or experimental scientific values.

You may bundle these methods on qualitative or quantitative values.

You may as well separate them on their historical values or modern techniques based on newer technologies.

You may select them as to their state of the art methods such as ancient methods that new information and new paradigms have refuted their validity or recently developed.

You may define the methods as those digitally or analytically amenable for solving problems.

You may choose to draw several lists of those methods that are economically sounds, esoteric, or just plainly fuzzy sounding.

You may opt to differentiate these methods on requiring high level of mathematical reasoning that are out of your capability and those that can be comprehended through persistent efforts.

You could as well sort them according to which ones fit nicely into the courses that you have already taken, but failed to recollect that they were indeed methods worth acquiring for your career.

You may use any of these taxonomies to answer an optional exam question with no guarantees that you might get a substantial grade.

It would be interesting to collect statistics on how often these methods are being used, by whom, for what rational and by which line of business and by which universities.

It would be interesting to translate these methods into Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Hindu, or Russian.

Written by Dyami Millarson

Underlying tooth decay, there is a constant battle between demineralisation and mineralisation.

Dental caries may simply be defined as the cumulative result of the cyclical ebbs and flows of demineralisation and mineralisation.

Remineralisation is the term used for the normal daily process whereby the teeth, namely the enamel and dentin, are repaired from demineralisation.

Enamel is the material that covers the outside layer of the teeth above the crown. It is one of the most mineralised and hardest parts of the human body. Enamel is a composite of both organic and inorganic components, and the same is the case for dentin.

Dentin is the hard dental tissue that is the whole body of the tooth . Alternatively, dentin may be more specifically defined as the dental layer under the enamel which covers the surface of the teeth.

Enamel and dentin are also seemingly contrasted with the latter being defined as a mineralised dental tissue and the former as a mineralised dental structure,

Context is relevant for understanding the definition of mineralisation: Mineralisation in this article deals with tooth decay, it is relevant to specify that biomineralization is meant by this.

In the context of soil science, mineralisation is the process by which organic matter is converted to mineral nutrients, which are easy to absorb for the roots of the plants growing in the thus mineralised soil.

However, biomineralization is the process by which biological organisms produce minerals ), and that is the process we are interested in for understanding tooth decay and we mean biomineralization when we speak of tooth mineralisation.

The science of biomineralization is the study of biologically produced materials, such as human teeth, as well as the study of the biological processes leading to the formation of such organic-inorganic composites ).

As a refresher for the reader who might be inundated with new facts, enamel and dentin are composites of both organic and inorganic components.

The formation of hard dental tissues, such as enamel and dentin, involves the following two processes:

  1. a biological process which includes cell signalling and
  2. a biochemical process where the biomolecules interact for the formation of crystal apatite .

Apatite refers to any member of a series of phosphate minerals and apatite comes from an Ancient Greek word for deceit, as apatite resembles a plethora of other minerals .

Apatite is the most common phosphate mineral, and is the main source of phosphorus required by plants in the soil . Apatite is also relevant for soil mineralisation.

Apatite is not popular as a gemstone because it is too soft, and thus considered too brittle for most jewellery use.

Calcium phosphate, which is another name for apatite, is what the bones and teeth of humans and animals are made of, and the biological apatites, of which the aforementioned human and animal hard tissues are composed, are usually hydroxyapatites, also known as hydroxyapatites without an l in the third syllable .

Apatite found in bone has a unique chemical composition as well as unique geometry and the basic composite structure of bone, as seen from the nanoscale, consists of collagen fibrils densely mineralised with hydroxy(l)apatites.

Collagen is the single most abundant protein in the animal kingdom and may simply be defined as an insoluble, hard, fibrous protein that accounts for one-third of all the protein in the human body.

Although there are 16 types of collagen in total, 80-90% of the collagen which is found in the human body consists of types I, II and III.

The collagen molecules as found in the body pack together and form long thin structures known as fibrils.

Type I collagen, of which the vast majority of the fibril-type collagen in the human body consists, is not only found in the human bones and skin, but also in the connective tissues, tendons and fibrous cartilage .

Cavitation occurs once the enamel and dentin do not have the proper structure anymore for maintaining their mineral framework, and remineralisation may be regarded by the dentist as an insufficient treatment at that point).

Remineralisation is therefore a form of preventative medicine, i.e., the dentist seeks to prevent the formation of cavities by means of dental remineralisation .

However, demineralisation is Not a continuous one-way process, but it is a cyclic event characterised by waves of mineralisation and demineralisation.

Although dental remineralisation may, in practice, be employed by the dentist for the prevention, repair and reversal of dental caries, which is a synonym of tooth decay by the way, there is a definite limit to what mineralisation therapies by the dentist can do, provided that they are not accompanied by proper dental care at home.

It is therefore vital that the following be answered:

  1. what, then, is proper dental care? Here are some dental care tips: brush your teeth no less than twice a day and keep in mind more than twice a day may be desirable,
  2. brush your tongue as well,
  3. flossing is equally important as brushing your teeth and so you should never skip this, floss all of your teeth properly no matter how difficult it may be to reach them and so take the time for a proper flossing routine,
  4. drink plenty of water instead of sugary beverages, and generally avoid foods that contain lots of sugar and carbohydrates as well as foods that have a low pH, i.e., foods that are acidic .
  5. Microbial activity is associated with the onset of dental caries, and when one eats too much sugar, carbohydrates or foods with a low pH, one is feeding those cariogenic bacteria with nutrients that they need for breaking down one’s teeth, and so limiting sugar, carbohydrates and low-pH foods is a practical and viable strategy for preventing the onset of tooth decay in the mouth.
  6. Saliva plays an important role in protecting the teeth against damaging microbial activity and natural anti-microbial agents, such as spices, herbs and probiotics, seem effective for controlling cariogenic microbes, i.e., micro-organisms responsible for dental caries

Although my keen interest in phonetics already made me instinctively interested in the mouth, one of the main reasons I was alerted to the importance of oral hygiene was the ageing-related fact that good oral hygiene reduces mortality risk and a good dental care regimen should therefore be taken extremely seriously by those who wish to follow a longevity-promoting lifestyle.

Seeing the link between oral hygiene and longevity is undoubtedly an indispensable health-boosting insight, and I have become much more attentive to dental care ever since I became aware of this fact.

I recall that I watched cartoons as a child about bacteria that were destroying the teeth, and that is when it first dawned upon me that micro-organisms were responsible for tooth decay, which is what made me very concerned about cleaning my teeth and so I never experienced a single cavity until 2020 around my 26th birthday when I had been lax with dental care for a while due to experiencing prolonged heightened levels of stress, which usually makes one vulnerable to developing dental caries.

Natural compounds extracted from the following herbs and spices may be effective against cariogenic bacteria: Bauhinia forficata, Curcuma xanthorrhiza, Licorice Root, Eurycoma longifolia jack, Cinnamomum burmannii, tea tree, Sterculia lychnophora Hance, Melia azedarach L., Tamarix aphylla L., Cinnamon bark, Acacia arabica, Ginger-garlic paste, clove, Acacia catechu, Thuja orientalis, Camellia japonica, Quercus infectoria, Pongamia pinnata, Cymbopogon citratus.

I use a few drops of tea tree oil mixed in a cup of water as my preferred mouthwash product, though one should be careful not to ingest the tea tree oil and therefore one ought to make sure to wash one’s mouth thoroughly with water after one has finished gargling with the mix of tea tree and water to rinse one’s mouth.

When my gums hurt or if my gums are bleeding, I may apply some tea tree and it usually works; I usually spit it out after 10-15 minutes of holding the tea tree in my mouth with increasing saliva formation, and then I wash my mouth with water.

Micronutrients may be essential for oral health, because research has demonstrated that they reduced oral inflammations, such as gingivitis and periodontitis .

Gingivitis, which is basically an inflammation of the gums, is a commonly occurring, mild form of gum disease . This inflammation may be caused by bacteria and if this inflammation is left untreated, it may develop into periodontitis, which is a much more serious medical condition than gingivitis .

Interspersed with all the factual information, let me add one more personal anecdote to this article: I believe that I may have been experiencing an inflammation of my gums due to bacterial overgrowth this year, and what helped me in my case was having more dishes with lots of pepper.

I noticed already this summer that my gums had receded a little bit, and for this reason, I may look into the topic of regrowing the gum in another blog article.

When it comes to habits preventing the formation of oral cavities, it is best to avoid sugary foods, but in case we do choose to engage in such a guilty pleasure, it is recommend that the sugary foods be eaten with a meal rather than between meals .

Although it may be counterintuitive to have sweets with meals, it is truly the best habit for the teeth, and my mind is instinctively making the following analogy: many vitamin and mineral supplements ought to be taken with meals because this is the best habit for the gut.

(Such instinctive analogies that my mind draws for me usually have a mnemonic function.)

As perceived within the context of the notion that saliva may be important for protecting and repairing the teeth, it might be advisable to include salivation-promoting foods in one’s diet: peas, bananas, Brussel sprouts (*31).

Which vitamins and minerals are healthy for teeth?

Vitamins A, B and D, magnesium, iron and not to forget calcium and phosphorus, are relevant for dental and skeletal health

The functions of the following vitamins and minerals are not to be overlooked: vitamin A builds the enamel and keeps the gums healthy, vitamin D deposits calcium in the jawbones that support the teeth and it boosts dental mineral density, phosphorus repairs and protects the enamel, and calcium forties the enamel

While one needs sufficient calcium to fortify one’s teeth and bones, one ought to commit to memory that one needs vitamin D for the absorption of calcium

One may obtain vitamin A from dairy products, oily fish and liver products such as beef liver, lamb liver, liver sausage, cod liver oil, king mackerel, salmon, bluefin tuna, goat cheese, butter, cheddar

One may obtain vitamin B from leafy greens, turkey, legumes, sunflower seeds, yoghurt, milk, mussels, trout, salmon, clams, chicken, eggs, oysters, beef

One may obtain vitamin D from red meat, oily fish, egg yolks and liver products

One may obtain magnesium from nuts such as almonds and cashews, seeds such as pumpkin seeds and chia seeds, leafy greens such as spinach, legumes such as black beans and in smaller quantities from fish and meat

One may obtain iron from beans, nuts, dried fruit, red meat and liver products

One may obtain calcium from leafy greens, dairy products and fish where one also consumes the bones such as is the case with sardines (*41).

One may obtain phosphorus from poultry products such as eggs and chicken and turkey, dairy products such as yoghurt, milk and cheese, lentils, nuts such as cashews, pumpkin seeds, seafood such as salmon and scallops, quinoa, beans, amaranth, sunflower seeds, liver products, potatoes, and beef

Some may also recommend bone broth as a way to help the teeth recover from dental decay

Personal note: I clean my teeth by dipping my brush in white vinegar and adding a little bicarbonate of sodium. You save on all these expensive toothpastes. Best to brush before going to bed in order Not to allow bacteria to accumulate during sleep for lack of salivation. Drink water to wash the teeth before brushing the teeth.

Is Improvisation in Jazz a conversation? And how the brains work?

Does the brain works in the same way for all kinds of languages?

For the better part of the past decade, Mark Kirby has been pouring drinks and booking gigs at the 55 Bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

The cozy dive bar is a neighborhood staple for live jazz that opened on the eve of Prohibition in 1919.

It was the year Congress agreed to give American women the right to vote, and jazz was still in its infancy.

Nearly a century later, the den-like bar is an anchor to the past in a city that’s always changing.

ADRIENNE LAFRANCE published in The Atlantic this Feb. 19 2014:

How Brains See Music as Language

A new Johns Hopkins study looks at the neuroscience of jazz and the power of improvisation.

For Kirby, every night of work offers the chance to hear some of the liveliest jazz improvisation in Manhattan, an experience that’s a bit like overhearing a great conversation.

“There is overlapping, letting the other person say their piece, then you respond. Threads are picked up then dropped. There can be an overall mood and going off on tangents.”

Brain areas linked to meaning shut down during improvisational jazz interactions: this music is syntactic, not semantic.A member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

The idea that jazz can be a kind of conversation has long been an area of interest for Charles Limb, an otolaryngological surgeon at Johns Hopkins. Limb, a musician himself, decided to map what was happening in the brains of musicians as they played.

He and a team of researchers conducted a study that involved putting a musician in a functional MRI machine with a keyboard, and having him play a memorized piece of music and then a made-up piece of music as part of an improvisation with another musician in a control room.

What researchers found:

1. The brains of jazz musicians who are engaged with other musicians in spontaneous improvisation show robust activation in the same brain areas traditionally associated with spoken language and syntax.

Improvisational jazz conversations “take root in the brain as a language,” Limb said.

“It makes perfect sense,” said Ken Schaphorst, chair of the Jazz Studies Department at the New England Conservatory in Boston. “I improvise with words all the time—like I am right now—and jazz improvisation is really identical in terms of the way it feels. Though it’s difficult to get to the point where you’re comfortable enough with music as a language where you can speak freely.”

2. Along with the limitations of musical ability, there’s another key difference between jazz conversation and spoken conversation that emerged in Limb’s experiment.

During a spoken conversation, the brain is busy processing the structure and syntax of language, as well the semantics or meaning of the words.

But Limb and his colleagues found that brain areas linked to meaning shut down during improvisational jazz interactions: this kind of music is syntactic but it’s not semantic.

Music communication, we know it means something to the listener, but that meaning can’t really be described,” Limb said. “It doesn’t have propositional elements or specificity of meaning in the same way a word does. So a famous bit of music—Beethoven’s dun dun dun duuuun—we might hear that and think it means something but nobody could agree what it means.”

So if music is a language without set meaning, what does that tell us about the nature of music?

3. “The answer to that probably lies more in figuring out what the nature of language is than what the nature of music is,” said Mike Pope, a Baltimore-based pianist and bassist who participated in the study.

When you’re talking about something, you’re not thinking about how your mouth is moving and you’re not thinking about how the words are spelled and you’re not thinking about grammar.

With music, it’s the same thing.” Many scientists believe that language is what makes us human, but the brain is wired to process acoustic systems that are far more complicated than speech.

Pope says even improvisational jazz is built around a framework that musicians understand. This structure is similar to the way we use certain rules in spoken conversation to help us intuit when it’s time to say “nice to meet you,” or how to read social clues that signal an encounter is drawing to a close.

4. “In most jazz performances, things are Not nearly as random as people would think,” Pope said. “If I want to be a good bass player and I want to fill the role, idiomatically and functionally, that a bass player’s supposed to fulfill, I have to act within the confines of certain acceptable parameters. I have to make sure I’m playing roots on the downbeat every time the chord changes. It’s all got to swing.”

5. But Limb believes his finding suggests something even bigger, something that gets at the heart of an ongoing debate in his field about what the human auditory system is for in the first place.

“If the brain evolved for the purpose of speech, it’s odd that it evolved to a capacity way beyond speech. So a brain that evolved to handle musical communication—there has to be a relationship between the two. I have reason to suspect that the auditory brain may have been designed to hear music and speech is a happy byproduct.”

Back in New York City, where the jazz conversation continues at 55 Bar almost every night, bartender Kirby makes it sound simple:

“In jazz, there is no lying and very little misunderstanding.”

Fleeting Expertise? Surface, skin-deep know-it all in an Era of Abundant Information?

Note: I posted a few articles on this Singularity Hub mania and Peter H. Diamandis, trying to figure out how to live to be one thousand year-old.

And how could we deeply learn anything of value?

How to learning is changing, and changing fast?

In the past, we used to learn by doing — we called them apprenticeships.

The model shifted, and we are learning by going to school., children and youth incarcerated for 13 years

Now, it’s going back to the apprenticeship again, but this time, you are both the apprentice and the master.

This post is about how to learn during exponential times, when information is abundant and expertise is fleeting.

Passion, Utility, Research and Focus

First, choosing what you want to learn and becoming great at it is tough.

As I wrote in my last post, doing anything hard and doing it well takes grit. (It takes about 10,000 hours of doing to become talented in anything you like)

Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years to help choose what you want to learn:

  1. Start with your passions: Focus on something you love, or learn a new skill in service of your passion. If you want to learn how to code because it will land you a high-paying job, you’re not going to have the drive to spend countless, frustrating hours debugging your code. If you want to become a doctor because your parents want you to, you’re not going to make it through med school. Focus on the things YOU love and do it because it’s YOUR choice. (Money is second in rank. The first is the passion that no money can buy. Adonis49 quote)
  2. Make it useful: Time is the scarcest resource. While you can spend the time learning for the sake of learning, I think learning should be a means to an end. Without a target, you’ll miss every time. Figure out what you want to do, and then identify the skills you need to acquire in order to accomplish that goal. (And the end of learning is? When you give up on all passions)
  3. Read, watch, observe and analyze: Read everything. Read all the time . (The writing of just the experts in the field?) Start with the experts. Read the material they write or blog. Watch their videos, their interviews. Do you agree with them? Why? Can you sort out true experiments from fake intelligence?
  4. Talk to people:  Reading, should be associated with talking to real human beings that are doing what you want to do. Do whatever you can to reach them. Ask for their advice. You’ll be shocked by what you can learn this way. (Connectivity part of the learning process?)
  5. Focus on your strengths on improving them: Again, time is precious. You can’t be a doctor, lawyer, coder, writer, rocket scientist, and rock star all at the same time… at least not right now. Focus on what you are good at and enjoy the focus. And try to build on top of those skills. Many people, especially competitive people, tend to feel like they need to focus on improving the things they are worst at doing. This is a waste of time. Instead, focus on improving the things you are best at doing — you’ll find this to be a much more rewarding and lucrative path. (And when it becomes an automatic reaction, there is no need to focus much?)

Learn by Doing

There is no better way to learn than by doing. (After you learned the basics?)

I’m a fan of the “apprentice” model. Study the people who have done it well and then go work for them.

If they can’t (or won’t) pay you, work for free until you are good enough that they’ll need to hire you. (For how long? Slaves get paid somehow)

Join a startup doing what you love — it’s much cheaper than paying an expensive tuition, and a hell of a lot more useful.

I don’t think school (or grad school) is necessarily the right answer anymore.

Here’s one reason why:

This week I visited the Hyperloop Technologies headquarters in Los Angeles (full disclosure: I am on the board of the company).

The interim CEO and CTO Brogan Bambrogan showed me around the office, and we stopped at one particularly impressive-looking, massive machine (details confidential).

As it turns out, the team of Hyperloop engineers who had designed, manufactured, tested, redesigned, remanufactured, and operated this piece of equipment did so in 11 weeks, for pennies on the dollar.

At MIT, Stanford or CalTech, building this machine would have been someone’s PhD thesis…

Except that the PhD candidate would have spent three years doing the same amount of work, and written a paper about it, rather than help to redesign the future of transportation.

Meanwhile, the Hyperloop engineers created this tech (and probably a half-dozen other devices) in a fraction of the time while creating value for a company that will one day be worth billions.

Full Immersion and First Principles

You have to be fully immersed if you want to really learn.

Connect the topic with everything you care about — teach your friends about it, only read things that are related to the topic, surround yourself with it.

Make learning the most important thing you can possibly do and connect to it in a visceral fashion.

As part of your full immersion, dive into the very basic underlying principles governing the skill you want to acquire.

This is an idea Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla, SpaceX) constantly refers to:

The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. We are doing this because it’s like what other people are doing. [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths … and then reason up from there.”

You can’t skip the fundamentals — invest the time to learn the basics before you get to the advanced stuff.

Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

Experiment, fail, experiment, fail, and experiment. (The problem is that few disciplines teach you Experimental Designing, forming an experimental Mind and their fundamentals)

One of Google’s innovation principles and mantras is: “Never fail to fail.”

Don’t be afraid if you are really bad at the beginning: you learn most from your mistakes.

When Elon hires people, he asks them to describe a time they struggled with a hard problem.

“When you struggle with a problem, that’s when you understand it. Anyone who’s struggled hard with a problem never forgets it.”

(You mostly struggle with a problem because you fail to listen to the new perspectives of other people in tackling the problem)

Digital Tools

We used to have to go to school to read textbooks and gain access to expert teachers and professors.

Nowadays, literally all of these resources are available online for free.

There are hundreds of free education sites like Khan Academy, Udemy, or Udacity.

There are thousands of MOOCs (massive online open courses) from the brightest experts from top universities on almost every topic imaginable.

Want to learn a language? Download an app like Duolingo (or even better, pack up your things and move to that country).

Want to learn how to code? Sign up for a course on CodeAcademy or MIT Open Courseware.

The resources are there and available — you just have to have the focus and drive to find them and use them.

Finally…The Next Big Shift in Learning

In the future, the next big shift in learning will happen as we adopt virtual worlds and augmented reality.

It will be the next best thing to “doing” — we’ll be able to simulate reality and experiment (perhaps beyond what we can experiment with now) in virtual and augmented environments.

Add that to the fact that we’ll have an artificial intelligence tutor by our side, showing us the ropes and automatically customizing our learning experience.

Patsy Z shared this link via Singularity Hub
As usual, the best advice on “Learning” from the man himself Peter H. Diamandis.
Note 1: Have you been in the process of refurbishing/remodeling your home/property? Did you find any “skilled” expert/worker to do the job personally? You end up contracting out a company/semi professional entity to come over. The boss trails a bunch of expert workers and leave. You barely see the boss until pay time. And you end up with a job that need frequent repairs and unnecessary maintenance
Note 2: I read an article that there has been Not a single furniture professional in the US in the last 4 decades. Everything is contracted out and imported for a stupid furniture. Kind of the only expertise the US is creating and improving on the military/weapon systems to play cop around the world.

Evolution theory was known long time before Darwin.

Darwin collected data before coming forward with his knowledge.

The same case with Euler who had Not a shadow of doubt that planet trajectories were elliptical. He still plugged in for years to gather the necessary data to come forward with his proof.

Many scientists start with an intuition and end up retaining the data that match their hypothesis. The common people have to wait for other kinds of scientists to analyse all the data and start a paradigm shift that discard the traditional knowledge.

Un érudit musulman a eu l’idée de l’évolution 1000 ans avant Darwin

Deux pages du Livre des Animaux d'al-Jahiz

Charles Darwin est le père de la théorie de l’évolution, mais avez-vous entendu parler du scientifique irakien Al-Jahiz ?

L’histoire de la théorie de l’évolution remonte loin dans le monde musulman.

La théorie de l’évolution du scientifique britannique Charles Darwin est l’une des pierres angulaires de la science moderne.

L’idée que les espèces changent progressivement au fil du temps grâce à un mécanisme appelé sélection naturelle (adapting to the environment) a révolutionné notre compréhension du monde vivant.

Dans son livre de 1859, De l’origine des espèces, Darwin définit l’évolution comme une “descente avec modification”, démontrant comment différentes espèces émergent d’un ancêtre commun.

Mais il semble que la théorie de l’évolution elle-même ait aussi un ancêtre dans le monde islamique.

La sélection naturelle

Environ 1000 ans avant que Charles Darwin n’écrive un livre sur la façon dont les animaux changent par un processus qu’il appelait “sélection naturelle”, un philosophe musulman vivant en Irak, qui s’appelait Al-Jahiz l’avait déjà précédé.

De son vrai nom Abu Usman Amr Bahr Bahr Alkanani al-Basri, l’histoire se souvient de lui par son surnom, Al-Jahiz, qui signifie quelqu’un dont les yeux semblent sortir de leur orbite.

Timbre représentant le penseur musulman al-Jahiz

Ce n’est pas la façon la plus gentille d’appeler quelqu’un, mais la renommée d’Al-Jahiz perdure grâce à son livre fondateur, Kitab al-Hayawan (Le Livre des animaux).

Il est né en 776 après J.-C. dans la ville de Bassorah, au sud de l’Irak, à l’époque où le mouvement Mutazilah, (Mo3tazalat) une école de pensée théologique qui prônait l’exercice de la raison humaine, gagnait du terrain dans la région.

C’était le sommet de la domination abbasside.

Des travaux de savants ont été traduits du grec à l’arabe et de puissants débats sur la religion, la science et la philosophie ont eu lieu à Bassorah, façonnant l’esprit d’Al-Jahiz et l’aidant à formuler ses idées.

Le papier a été introduit en Irak par des commerçants chinois, ce qui a stimulé la diffusion des idées et le jeune Al-Jahiz a commencé à écrire sur une variété de sujets.

Ses intérêts couvraient de nombreux domaines académiques, y compris la science, la géographie, la philosophie, la grammaire arabe et la littérature.

On pense qu’il a produit 200 livres au cours de sa vie, mais seulement un tiers d’entre eux ont survécu jusqu’à notre époque.

Portrait de Charles Darwin

Le Livre des Animaux

Son œuvre la plus célèbre, The Book of Animals, est conçue comme une encyclopédie présentant 350 animaux, dans laquelle Al-Jahiz présente des idées qui ont une ressemblance frappante avec la théorie de Darwin sur l’évolution.

“Les animaux s’engagent dans une lutte pour l’existence et pour les ressources, pour éviter d’être mangés et pour se reproduire”, écrit Al-Jahiz, “les facteurs environnementaux influencent les organismes à développer de nouvelles caractéristiques pour assurer leur survie, les transformant ainsi en de nouvelles espèces”.

Il ajoute : “Les animaux qui survivent pour se reproduire peuvent transmettre leurs caractéristiques à leur progéniture.”

Il était clair pour Al-Jahiz que le monde vivant était en lutte constante pour sa survie et qu’une espèce était toujours plus forte qu’une autre.

La couverture du magazine satirique français La Petite Lune en 1871

Pour survivre, les animaux devaient avoir des caractéristiques compétitives pour trouver de la nourriture, éviter de devenir eux-mêmes la nourriture de quelqu’un d’autre et se reproduire.

Cela les a forcés à changer de génération en génération.

Les idées d’Al-Jahiz ont influencé d’autres penseurs musulmans qui lui ont emboîté le pas.

Son travail a été lu par des gens comme Al-Farabi, Al-Arabi, Al-Biruni et Ibn Khaldoun.

Le “Père spirituel” du Pakistan, Muhammad Iqbal, également connu sous le nom d’Allama Iqbal, observe l’importance d’Al-Jahiz dans son recueil de conférences publié en 1930, écrivant que “c’est Al-Jahiz qui a souligné les changements dans la vie des animaux à cause des migrations et des changements environnementaux”.

Théorie mahométane (Muslim theory)

La contribution du monde musulman à l’idée d’évolution n’était pas un secret pour l’intellectuel du XIXe siècle en Europe.

En effet, un contemporain de Charles Darwin, le scientifique William Draper, parlait en 1878 de la “théorie mahométane de l’évolution”.

Dessin de quatre espèces de pinsons observés par Darwin aux îles Galápagos

Le naturaliste britannique mérite à juste titre sa réputation de scientifique qui a passé des années à voyager et à observer le monde naturel, et qui a fondé sa théorie avec une précision et une clarté sans précédent pour transformer notre façon de voir le monde.

Mais le journaliste scientifique Ehsan Masood, qui a réalisé une série de documentaires pour la BBC intitulée “Islam et Science”, dit qu’il est important de se souvenir de ceux qui ont contribué à l’histoire de la pensée évolutionnaire.


Il note également que le créationnisme ne semble pas exister en tant que mouvement significatif pendant le IXe siècle en Irak, lorsque Bagdad et Bassora étaient les principaux centres d’enseignement supérieur de la civilisation islamique.

“Les scientifiques n’ont pas passé des heures à examiner des passages de la révélation pour voir s’ils se comparent aux connaissances observées sur le monde naturel”, écrit Ehsan Masood dans un article sur Al-Jahiz dans le journal britannique The Guardian.

“Au lieu de cela, ils sont sortis et ont essayé de découvrir des choses par eux-mêmes.”

En fin de compte, c’est la quête du savoir qui a entraîné la mort d’Al-Jahiz.

On dit qu’à l’âge de 92 ans, alors qu’il essayait de prendre un livre sur une étagère lourde, il s’est effondré sur lui, tuant le philosophe musulman.

« Le monde a besoin de science la science a besoin des femmes »

Who care to see Reality as Is? Who can we trust to deliver “what is Reality”?

Note: Re-edit of “Are we able to see Reality as is? July 2015 and Donald Hoffman speech on March 2015”

Let’s begin with a question: Do we see reality as it is?

Are we shaped with tricks and hacks that keep us alive (evolutionary process)?

I love a great mystery, and I’m fascinated by the greatest unsolved mystery in sciences, perhaps because it’s personal.

It’s about who we are, and I can’t help but be curious.

The mystery is this: 

What is the relationship between your brain and your conscious experiences, such as your experience of the taste of chocolate or the feeling of velvet?

This mystery is not new. In 1868, Thomas Huxley wrote,

“How it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as the result of irritating nervous tissue is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the genie when Aladdin rubbed his lamp.”

Huxley knew that brain activity and conscious experiences are correlated, but he didn’t know why.

To the sciences of his day, it was a mystery. In the years since Huxley, sciences have learned a lot about brain activity, but the relationship between brain activity and conscious experiences is still a mystery. Why?

Why have we made so little progress?

Some experts think that we can’t solve this problem because we lack the necessary concepts and intelligence.

We don’t expect monkeys to solve problems in quantum mechanics, and as it happens, we can’t expect our species to solve this problem either.

Well, I disagree. I’m more optimistic. 

I think we’ve simply made false assumptions, one assumption in particular.

Once we fix it, we just might solve this problem. Today, I’d like tell you what that assumption is, why it’s false, and how to fix it.

Let’s begin with a question: Do we see reality as it is?

Does natural selection really favor seeing reality as it is?

Aren’t we reconstructing “reality” everytime?

I open my eyes and I have an experience that I describe as a red tomato a meter away. As a result, I come to believe that in reality, there’s a red tomato a meter away.

I then close my eyes, and my experience changes to a gray field, but is it still the case that in reality, there’s a red tomato a meter away? I think so, but could I be wrong? 

Could I be misinterpreting the nature of my perceptions?

We have misinterpreted our perceptions before. We used to think the Earth is flat, because it looks that way. Pythagoras discovered that we were wrong.

Then we thought that the Earth is the unmoving center of the Universe, again because it looks that way. Copernicus and Galileo discovered, again, that we were wrong.

Galileo then wondered if we might be misinterpreting our experiences in other ways. He wrote:

I think that tastes, odors, colors, and so on reside in consciousness. Hence if the living creature were removed, all these qualities would be annihilated.” (Meaning, nature and its plants have their own consciousness, regardless of the disappearance of living creatures?)

That’s a stunning claim. Could Galileo be right? Could we really be misinterpreting our experiences that badly? What does modern science have to say about this?

Neuroscientists tell us that about a third of the brain’s cortex is engaged in vision. When you simply open your eyes and look about this room, billions of neurons and trillions of synapses are engaged.

This is a bit surprising, because to the extent that we think about vision at all, we think of it as like a camera.

It just takes a picture of objective reality as it is. Now, there is a part of vision that’s like a camera: the eye has a lens that focuses an image on the back of the eye where there are 130 million photoreceptors, so the eye is like a 130-megapixel camera.

But that doesn’t explain the billions of neurons and trillions of synapses that are engaged in vision. What are these neurons up to?

Neuro-scientists tell us that they are creating, in real time, all the shapes, objects, colors, and motions that we see. 

It feels like we’re just taking a snapshot of this room the way it is, but in fact, we’re constructing everything that we see. We don’t construct the whole world at once. We construct what we need in the moment.

Now, there are many demonstrations that are quite compelling that we do construct what we see. I’ll just show you two.

In this example, you see some red discs with bits cut out of them, but if I just rotate the disks a little bit, suddenly, you see a 3D cube pop out of the screen. Now, the screen of course is flat, so the three-dimensional cube that you’re experiencing must be your construction.

In this next example, you see glowing blue bars with pretty sharp edges moving across a field of dots. In fact, no dots move. All I’m doing from frame to frame is changing the colors of dots from blue to black or black to blue. But when I do this quickly, your visual system creates the glowing blue bars with the sharp edges and the motion. 

There are many more examples, but these are just two that you construct what you see.

But neuroscientists go further. They say that we reconstruct reality. So, when I have an experience that I describe as a red tomato, that experience is actually an accurate reconstruction of the properties of a real red tomato that would exist even if I weren’t looking.

Why would neuroscientists say that we don’t just construct, we reconstruct?

The standard argument given is usually an evolutionary one. The notion that “Our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage compared to those who saw less accurately, and therefore they were more likely to pass on their genes…” (This hypothesis didn’t withstand investigation).

We are the offspring of those who saw more accurately, and so we can be confident that, in the normal case, our perceptions are accurate. 

You see this in the standard textbooks. One textbook says, for example, “Evolutionarily speaking, vision is useful precisely because it is so accurate.” So the idea is that accurate perceptions are fitter perceptions. They give you a survival advantage.

Now, is this correct? Is this the right interpretation of evolutionary theory? 

Let’s first look at a couple of examples in nature.

The Australian jewel beetle is dimpled, glossy and brown. The female is flightless. The male flies, looking for a hot female. When he finds one, he alights and mates.

There’s another species in the outback, Homo sapiens. The male of this species has a massive brain that he uses to hunt for cold beer. (Laughter) And when he finds one, he drains it, and sometimes throws the bottle into the outback.

Now, as it happens, these bottles are dimpled, glossy, and just the right shade of brown to tickle the fancy of these beetles. The males swarm all over the bottles trying to mate. They lose all interest in the real females.

Classic case of the male leaving the female for the bottle. (Laughter)  The species almost went extinct.

Australia had to change its bottles to save its beetles. (Laughter)

Now, the males had successfully found females for thousands, perhaps millions of years. It looked like they saw reality as it is, but apparently not. Evolution had given them a hack.

A female is anything dimpled, glossy and brown, the bigger the better. (Laughter) Even when crawling all over the bottle, the male couldn’t discover his mistake.

You might say, beetles, sure, they’re very simple creatures, but surely not mammals. Mammals don’t rely on tricks. Well, I won’t dwell on this, but you get the idea. (Laughter)

So this raises an important technical question: Does natural selection really favor seeing reality as it is?

Fortunately, we don’t have to wave our hands and guess; evolution is a mathematically precise theory. We can use the equations of evolution to check this out. We can have various organisms in artificial worlds compete and see which survive and which thrive, which sensory systems are more fit.

A key notion in those equations is fitness.

Consider this steak: What does this steak do for the fitness of an animal? Well, for a hungry lion looking to eat, it enhances fitness. For a well-fed lion looking to mate, it doesn’t enhance fitness.

And for a rabbit in any state, it doesn’t enhance fitness, so fitness does depend on reality as it is, yes, but also on the organism, its state and its action.

Fitness is not the same thing as reality as it is.

And it’s fitness, and not reality as it is, that figures centrally in the equations of evolution.

In my lab, we have run hundreds of thousands of evolutionary game simulations with lots of different randomly chosen worlds and organisms that compete for resources in those worlds.

Some of the organisms see all of the reality, others see just part of the reality, and some see none of the reality, only fitness. Who wins?

In almost every simulation, organisms that see none of reality but are just tuned to fitness drive to extinction all the organisms that perceive reality as it is. So the bottom line is, evolution does not favor vertical, or accurate perceptions. Those perceptions of reality go extinct.

I hate to break it to you, but perception of reality goes extinct (compared to fitness)

This is a bit stunning. How can it be that not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage?

That is a bit counterintuitive. But remember the jewel beetle. The jewel beetle survived for thousands, perhaps millions of years, using simple tricks and hacks.

What the equations of evolution are telling us is that all organisms, including us, are in the same boat as the jewel beetle. We do not see reality as it is. We’re shaped with tricks and hacks that keep us alive.

Still, we need some help with our intuitions.

How can not perceiving reality as it is be useful? Well, fortunately, we have a very helpful metaphor: the desktop interface on your computer.

Consider that blue icon for a TED Talk that you’re writing. Now, the icon is blue and rectangular and in the lower right corner of the desktop. Does that mean that the text file itself in the computer is blue, rectangular, and in the lower right-hand corner of the computer? Of course not.

Anyone who thought that misinterprets the purpose of the interface. It’s not there to show you the reality of the computer. In fact, it’s there to hide that reality.

You don’t want to know about the diodes and resistors and all the megabytes of software. If you had to deal with that, you could never write your text file or edit your photo.

So the idea is that evolution has given us an interface that hides reality and guides adaptive behavior. 

Space and time, as you perceive them right now, are your desktop. Physical objects are simply icons in that desktop.

There’s an obvious objection.

Now, if you think that train coming down the track at 200 MPH is just an icon of your desktop, why don’t you step in front of it?

And after you’re gone, and your theory with you, we’ll know that there’s more to that train than just an icon.

Well, I wouldn’t step in front of that train for the same reason that I wouldn’t carelessly drag that icon to the trash can: not because I take the icon literally — the file is not literally blue or rectangular — but I do take it seriously. I could lose weeks of work. 

Similarly, evolution has shaped us with perceptual symbols that are designed to keep us alive. We’d better take them seriously.

If you see a snake, don’t pick it up. If you see a cliff, don’t jump off. They’re designed to keep us safe, and we should take them seriously. That does not mean that we should take them literally. That’s a logical error.

Another objection: There’s nothing really new here. 

Physicists have told us for a long time that the metal of that train looks solid but really it’s mostly empty space with microscopic particles zipping around.

There’s nothing new here. Well, not exactly. It’s like saying, I know that that blue icon on the desktop is not the reality of the computer, but if I pull out my trusty magnifying glass and look really closely, I see little pixels, and that’s the reality of the computer. Well, not really — you’re still on the desktop, and that’s the point.

Those microscopic particles are still in space and time: they’re still in the user interface. So I’m saying something far more radical than those physicists.

Finally, you might object, look, we all see the train, therefore none of us constructs the train.

But remember this example. In this example, we all see a cube, but the screen is flat, so the cube that you see is the cube that you construct. We all see a cube because we all, each one of us, constructs the cube that we see.

The same is true of the train. We all see a train because we each see the train that we construct, and the same is true of all physical objects.

We’re inclined to think that perception is like a window on reality as it is. The theory of evolution is telling us that this is an incorrect interpretation of our perceptions.

Instead, reality is more like a 3D desktop that’s designed to hide the complexity of the real world and guide adaptive behavior. Space as you perceive it is your desktop. Physical objects are just the icons in that desktop.

We used to think that the Earth is flat because it looks that way. Then we thought that the Earth is the unmoving center of reality because it looks that way. We were wrong. We had misinterpreted our perceptions.

Now we believe that spacetime and objects are the nature of reality as it is. The theory of evolution is telling us that once again, we’re wrong.

We’re misinterpreting the content of our perceptual experiences. There’s something that exists when you don’t look, but it’s not spacetime and physical objects.

It’s as hard for us to let go of spacetime and objects as it is for the jewel beetle to let go of its bottle. Why?

Because we’re blind to our own blindnesses. But we have an advantage over the jewel beetle: our science and technology.

By peering through the lens of a telescope we discovered that the Earth is not the unmoving center of reality, and by peering through the lens of the theory of evolution we discovered that spacetime and objects are not the nature of reality.

When I have a perceptual experience that I describe as a red tomato, I am interacting with reality, but that reality is not a red tomato and is nothing like a red tomato.

Similarly, when I have an experience that I describe as a lion or a steak, I’m interacting with reality, but that reality is not a lion or a steak.

And here’s the kicker: When I have a perceptual experience that I describe as a brain, or neurons, I am interacting with reality, but that reality is not a brain or neurons and is nothing like a brain or neurons.

And that reality, whatever it is, is the real source of cause and effect in the world — not brains, not neurons. Brains and neurons have no causal powers. They cause none of our perceptual experiences, and none of our behavior. 

Brains and neurons are a species-specific set of symbols, a hack.

What does this mean for the mystery of consciousness? Well, it opens up new possibilities.

For instance, perhaps reality is some vast machine that causes our conscious experiences. I doubt this, but it’s worth exploring.

Perhaps reality is some vast, interacting network of conscious agents, simple and complex, that cause each other’s conscious experiences. Actually, this isn’t as crazy an idea as it seems, and I’m currently exploring it.

But here’s the point: Once we let go of our massively intuitive but massively false assumption about the nature of reality, it opens up new ways to think about life’s greatest mystery.

I bet that reality will end up turning out to be more fascinating and unexpected than we’ve ever imagined.

The theory of evolution presents us with the ultimate dare: 

Dare to recognize that perception is not about seeing truth, it’s about having kids. And by the way, even this TED is just in your head.

19:31 Chris Anderson: If that’s really you there, thank you. So there’s so much from this. I mean, first of all, some people may just be profoundly depressed at the thought that, if evolution does not favor reality, I mean, doesn’t that to some extent undermine all our endeavors here, all our ability to think that we can think the truth, possibly even including your own theory, if you go there?

 Donald Hoffman: Well, this does not stop us from a successful science. What we have is one theory that turned out to be false, that perception is like reality and reality is like our perceptions. That theory turns out to be false.

Okay, throw that theory away. That doesn’t stop us from now postulating all sorts of other theories about the nature of reality, so it’s actually progress to recognize that one of our theories was false. So science continues as normal. There’s no problem here.

20:22 CAThis is cool, but what you’re saying I think is it’s possible that evolution can still get you to reason.

DH: Yes. Now that’s a very, very good point. The evolutionary game simulations that I showed were specifically about perception, and they do show that our perceptions have been shaped not to show us reality as it is, but that does not mean the same thing about our logic or mathematics.

We haven’t done these simulations, but my bet is that we’ll find that there are some selection pressures for our logic and our mathematics to be at least in the direction of truth. I mean, if you’re like me, math and logic is not easy.

We don’t get it all right, but at least the selection pressures are not uniformly away from true math and logic. So I think that we’ll find that we have to look at each cognitive faculty one at a time and see what evolution does to it.

What’s true about perception may not be true about math and logic.

CA: I mean, really what you’re proposing is a kind of modern-day Bishop Berkeley interpretation of the world: consciousness causes matter, not the other way around.

DH: Well, it’s slightly different than Berkeley. Berkeley thought that, he was a deist, and he thought that the ultimate nature of reality is God and so forth, and I don’t need to go where Berkeley’s going, so it’s quite a bit different from Berkeley. I call this conscious realism. It’s actually a very different approach.

Donald Hoffman on March 2015

Note 1: The way I comprehended this awesome speech is:

1. There are only 2 realities:  The survival process of the species and Death

2. If mankind tampers with the survival process we are doomed (as we already decimated countless other species)

3. We don’t love Death. We don’t love making babies: we just deal with this survival reality as best we can.

4. Love is not within the realm of making babies: we just fall in love.

5. If we try to keep mathematics and logic out of the survival process, then we are Not allowing them to give us new ideas on the topic of survival

Note 2: I like to expand this concept a little further. After many trials in the living, we settle in a “comfort zone” and we stick to this zone and let the advertisers and politicians abuse of our perception of what is reality. We become the Silent Majority in a society. Unless we get out of our comfort zone again and again, we deny ourselves and our descendents the advantage of the survival process.




February 2021

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