Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘sciences’ Category

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.

This Hedonic happy cell?

Note: Re-edit of “This Happy Cell, and What a Happy Cell Looks Like, 2015”

And I thought that memory is confined in brain cells and nerves only?

“What is the truest form of human happiness?”  Steven Cole asks.

It’s a question he’s been considering for most of his career—but Cole is an immunologist, (very timely for this Covid-19 pandemics?) not a philosopher.

This question isn’t rhetoric or a thought experiment. It’s science—measurable and finite.

A growing field of research is examining how life satisfaction may affect cellular functioning and DNA.

Cole, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, has spent several decades investigating the connection between our emotional and biological selves.

“The old thinking was that our bodies were stable biological entities, fundamentally separate from the external world, But the new thinking is that there is much more permeability and fluidity.”

Betty Nudler/Flickr

His latest project is the examination of happiness in biological terms.

“There’s an intrinsic connection between our direct experience of happiness and the perception of that experience in our bodies, as represented by changes in our biologic mechanisms. We’ve found that happiness can remodel our cellular composition,” he explains.

Specifically, Cole and his team of researchers at UCLA have found that happiness seems to alter the function of immune cells.

“It’s no question that the mind and immune system are intrinsically linked. Our body is a literal product of our environment.”

As Cole explains, the immune system has two primary functions: to fight infection and to cause inflammation.

The first function, known as the antiviral response, is generally considered positive because it helps ward off external threats, like viruses, that might otherwise harm the body.

The second function, known as the inflammatory response, is less positive because its efforts is to keep healthy immune cells circulating in the body can also cause tissue damage.

Cole has found that the balance of these two functions of the immune system may change based on life experiences.

His work has shown that negative experiences like a new cancer diagnosis, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and low socioeconomic status may cause changes to someone’s immunologic profile.

Over the past 15 years, our work has shown us that diverse social and psychological experiences that cause a sense of threat or uncertainty can evoke a similar response in our immune cells,” he says.

Listening to him explain his work is part philosophy lesson, part cellular-biology lesson, a scientific discourse on la dolce vita.

“We’re beginning to understand that life experiences like chronic stress, loneliness, and social isolation negatively affect our immunologic profile. This gives us a sense of how Not to live—but more importantly, it also tells us something about how to live, because there are concrete things we can do to actively promote a positive change in our immunology,” he says. “The biology of happiness is in our hands.”

But how exactly do our immune cells register this abstract concept of happiness? The answer depends on how “happiness” is defined.

“There are two distinct forms of happiness, hedonic happiness and eudaimonic happiness, and our bodies respond differently to each type,” Cole explains.

“Hedonic happiness is the elevated mood we experience after an external life event, like buying a new home,” while eudaimonic happiness “is our sense of purpose and direction in life, our involvement in something bigger than ourselves.”

Of the two, eudaimonic happiness in particular is associated with a better-functioning immune system, according to Cole.

To determine this effect, Cole and a team of researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, asked 80 healthy adults to fill out questionnaires about their well-being.

The researchers then analyzed the volunteers’ answers to assess their levels of eudaimonic and hedonic happiness, and took blood samples to study the functioning of their immune cells. (I don’t give much credit to research based on questionnaires)

They found that a high score of eudaimonic happiness, more than a high score of hedonic happiness, was correlated with a better genetic expression profilemeaning the immune cells showed high rates of the antiviral response and low rates of the inflammatory response.

The researchers posited that though both types of happiness may look similar on the outside, the corresponding genetic expression profiles are quite different.

“When we asked people how happy they felt, both [the high eudaimonic and high hedonic] groups seemed about the same,”Cole says.

But when we looked at the cellular and molecular level, it looks like people with high levels of eudaimonic happiness are better off, immunologically speaking.”

“We already know ways to achieve hedonic happiness, but how can we live our lives to evoke a eudaimonic experience in our immune system?” he continues.

One way is through mind-body practices, like meditation, which “have been shown to cultivate positive and happy immune cells,” he says.

But perhaps the most striking theory posed of meditation is that it could alter genetic material.

In recent years, a new field of study, known as mind-body genomics, has emerged.

Among the most well-known researchers in this area are Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, a biochemist at the University of California, San Francisco, and her colleague, psychiatrist Elissa Epel.

Through a series of studies, the two found that meditation could affect the ends of DNA known as the telomeres, which act as protective caps for genes. The longer the telomere, the greater the protection conferred for the DNA strand, and the longer that cell can survive.

And telomeres, like immune cells, seem to respond to emotional cues.

Negative external conditions like chronic stress that reduce eudaimonic happiness may shorten telomere length, while stress-reducing activities like meditation may help to maintain it.

“Telomeres are affected by many things, but they are directly affected by stress. So we can see how improvements in our mental health, through the practice of meditation, might be linked to improvements in our telomeres,” Epel explains. “They offer us a window and some insight into how we are living, and help us appreciate how what we do today can affect our health tomorrow.”

As the field of mind-body genomics matures, the focus is moving towards gaining a better understanding of not only how DNA could be structurally changed by meditation, but also whether meditation can alter DNA functionally, through changes in how genes are expressed.

In one recent study, for example, meditation was linked to enhanced expression of genes associated with insulin secretion, telomere structure, and cellular energy and function, and decreased expression of genes linked to inflammation and stress.

What’s more, blood samples collected during the study found that experienced meditators showed changes in their genetic activity after just one meditation session.

With 21,000 genes in the human genome, Cole, Epel, and other researchers have just scratched the surface of the connection between our emotional and biological selves.

“We are an ever-changing conglomeration of cells very much influenced by our experience of the world around us,” Cole says. “At the rate we’re going, we have more data than we can make sense of. It’s this process that helps us get closer to understanding the black box.

Who knows? Maybe in the future we may be able to sequence our own genes.” Epel agrees: “We don’t yet have the technology to monitor our telomeres, but it’s coming.”

In the meantime, though, the lessons of mind-body genomics still apply.

“The experience you have today will influence your body composition for the next 80 days, because that’s how long most cellular processes hang around,” Cole says. “So plan your day accordingly.”

Note: Research has linked meditation to reduced negative inflammatory activityincreased positive antiviral responseimproved function of specific strains of immune cells, and higher antibody production.


Performance criteria? Are we designing for mankind?

What could be the Human Factors performance criteria?

Note: Re-edit (Human Factors in Engineering, Article #38, written in March 31, 2006)

Performance” is the magic answer offered by university students to questions like “What is the purpose of this course, of this method, of this technique, or of this design?”

Performance is what summarizes all the conscious learning in the knowledge bag, for lack of meaningful full sentences available in the language to express clear purposes.

It takes a couple of months to wean the students from the catch word “performance” and encourage them to try thinking harder for specificity.

There is a hierarchy for this abstract notion of “performance”.

The next level of abstraction is to answer: “What kind of performance?“.

The third level should answer: “How these various performances criteria correlate?  Can we sort them out between basic performances and redundant performance criteria?”.

The fourth level is: “How much for each basic performance criterionCan we measure them accurately and objectively?”

It seems that every discipline has created for itself a set of performance criteria and they are coined in stone, so that an insertion of another element into that set, is like a paradigm shift in its field of science.

If you prompt a business or engineering university student to expand on the meaning of “performance”, when supported by a specific example, it might dawn on him to spell out another piece of jewels such as: “max profit”, “minimize cost”, “improve quality”, “increase production”, “save time”, or “increase market share”.

In order to reach a finer level of specificity we need to define functionally.

For example, what “max profit” means?  A string of monosyllables rains from everywhere such as: “increase price”, “cut expenditure”, “sell more”, and again “improve quality”, “save time”, or “increase market share”. 

If we agree that profit is a function of market share, price, expenditure, added values of products, and marketing services then we can understand what could be the basic criteria and which criteria dependent on the basic ones.

How can a business improve performance?

How can it make profit or cut costs? 

Should the firm layoff redundant employees, force early retirement, dip in insurance funds, contract out product parts and administrative processes, eliminate training programs, scrap off the library or continuing learning facilities,…

Or streamline the design process, reduce advertising money, abridge break times in duration or frequency, cut overhead expenses such as control lighting and comfort of the working environment, stop investing in new facilities…

Or firing skilled workers, settling consumer plaintiffs out of court, searching for tax loopholes, or engineering financial statements?

How can a business increase its market share? How can it survive competitors and continually flourish?

How can a firm improve products for the quality minded engineers?

Should it invest on the latest technological advancements in equipment, machines, and application software, or should it select the best mind among the graduates…

Or should it establish a continuing education program with adequate learning facilities, or should it encourage its engineers to experiment and submit research papers, or should it invest on market research to know the characteristics of its customers…

Or should it built in safety in the design process, or perform an extensive analysis of the foreseeable misuses of its products or services, the type of errors generated in the functioning and operation of its products and their corresponding risks on health of the users, or manage properly employees’ turnover…

Or care about the safety and health of its skilled and dedicated workers, or ordering management to closely monitor the safety and health standards applied in the company?

At the first session of my course “Human factors in engineering” I ask my class:  “What is the purpose of an engineer?

The unanimous answer is: “performance”.

What are the criteria for an engineer?  The loud and emphatic answer is: “performance”!

At the first session of my class I repeat several times that the purpose of the engineering discipline is to design practical products or systems that man needs and wants, that human factors engineers are trained to consider first the health and safety of end users, the customers, the operators, and the workers when designing interfaces for products or systems.

At the first session I tell my class that the body of knowledge of human factors is about finding practical design guidelines based on the capabilities and limitations of end users, body and mind, with the following performance criteria:

To eliminate errors, to foresee unsafe misuses, to foresee near-accidents, to design in safety operations, to consider the health problems in the product and its operation, to study the safety and health conditions in the workplace and the organizational procedures…

And to improve working conditions physically, socially, and psychologically, and to be aware of the latest consumer liability legal doctrines.

A month later, I am confronted with the same cycle of questions and answers, mainly: “What is the purpose of an engineer?”  The unanimous answer is: “performance”.  What are the criteria for a human factors engineer?  The loud and emphatic answer is: “performance”!

A few students remember part of the long list of human factors performance criteria, but the end users are still hard to recognize them in their conscious knowledge.

A few students retained the concept of designing practical interfaces or what an interface could be but the pictures of end users are still blurred.

I have to emphasize frequently that the end users could be their engineering colleagues, their family members, and themselves.

I have to remind them that any product, service, or system design is ultimately designed for people to use, operate, and enjoy the benefit of its utility.

Human factors performance criteria are all the above and the design of products or services should alleviating the repetitive musculo-skeletal disorders by reducing efforts, vibration…

And proper handling of tools and equipment, designing for proper postures, minimizing static positions, and especially to keep in mind that any testing and evaluation study should factor in the condition that a worker or an employee is operating 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and for many years.

I tell them that any profit or cost cutting is ultimately at the expense of workers/employees, their financial stability, safety standards, comfort, and health conditions physically, socially, and psychologically

Whereas any increase in performance should be undertaken as a value added to the safety, comfort, and health of the end users and workers.

Science Blogger Reveals She’s Woman,

Shocks Science Bros Everywhere

Doug Barry posted in Jezebel

Science Blogger Reveals She’s Woman, Shocks Science Bros Everywhere

There’s a huge, American-sized gender gap in science. That sucks for a myriad of reasons, mostly because it can lead to male scientists ignoring the contributions of their female colleagues for no good reason.

It can also lead to a Facebook outcry of, “Whuuut? You’re a girl?” when a popular science blogger reveals her identity on Twitter.

That, according to the Guardian, is pretty much the social media reaction that greeted Elise Andrew on Wednesday when the proprietor of the popular Facebook page I Fucking Love Science (which boasts 4.2 million fans, no big deal), tweeted,

I got Twitter! I figured it’s about time I started exploring other social media. If you’re on there, can you Tweet me some science people worth following?

Andrew’s Twitter avatar featured her picture, and the revelation that I Fucking Love Science had been run not by the much-memed Neil DeGrasse Tyson but by a girl elicited an avalanche of mostly stunned comments from science bros marveling about Andrew’s appearance.

These comments ranged from the relatively innocuous —

I’m ashamed to say I assumed you were a man. But I’m neither shocked nor affected in the slightest that you aren’t. Keep on fucking loving science

— to the extremely gross (and considerably less articulate) —

holy hell, youre a HOTTIE!

How flattering, bro.

The Guardian has a more comprehensive list of commentary, things like Lou Forbes’ stunning aesthetic assessment: “you mean you’re a girl, AND you’re beautiful? wow, i just liked science a lil bit more today ^^”

And who could forget Can Durace’s pithily ejaculated astonishment: “ me! This is a babe ?!!”

Right about now would be a good time to indulge in a rant about how science lovers, who should be the most progressive of progressives, really need to wake the fuck up and realize that penises don’t grant their wearers any kind of of special scientific insight.

Note: Many women were behind great scientific discoveries, but the patriarchal society never allowed that their name be mentioned. The works had to be in the name of the husband, father or a brother And Not just in sciences, but in publishing books and work of arts.

Drug Research Contracts: Keeping Pharmaceutical companies out of reach from procsecution?

An article published in the NYT in November 29, 2004

“Of the 12 studies for (the church of Pfizer), all 5 of the reports claiming positive results, meaning the drug worked without worrisome side effects, that were submitted for possible regulatory approval were published.

The 7 other studies were inconclusive or negative, which can mean that the drug failed to work or that the test failed because of its design.

(Two of the studies were never submitted to the Food and Drug Administration to support an application for the drug’s approval.)”

“In her Zoloft study, Dr. Wagner acknowledged that she had received “research support” over the years from several drug manufacturers including Pfizer, which paid $80,000 to the Galveston center in connection with the Zoloft test.

But she did not state that she also received sizable payments from the company for work she did related to the study.”

Dr. Karen Dineen Wagner of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Published in November 29, 2004 under “Contracts Keep Drug Research Out of Reach”

(Page 3 of 5)

Dr. Wagner, vice chairwoman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Galveston center, declined to be interviewed for this article but did reply to some questions in writing. Officials of the Galveston center insisted that the industry money she received did not affect her work.

A Researcher’s Role

It was hardly surprising that many manufacturers of popular antidepressants already approved for use in adults would turn to an established researcher like Dr. Wagner to test them in young patients.

In the late 1990’s, she was one of a small number of researchers with experience in testing drugs intended to treat children with problems like attention deficit disorder and bipolar disorder.

Over the last decade, Dr. Wagner has led or worked on some 20 studies published in medical journals, and the government has financed some of her work.

She has also attracted a large number of including those aimed at testing whether antidepressants approved for use in adults were safe and effective in children and adolescents.

Dr. Wagner’s role varied in 12 industry-sponsored trials in which antidepressants were tested against placebos for depression or other problems. On three of them, including a Zoloft trial, she was a lead investigator, working with company researchers to plan, analyze and write results up for publication.

On the others, her duties were limited to overseeing test patients at her clinic.

Of the 12 studies, all five of the reports claiming positive results, meaning the drug worked without worrisome side effects, that were submitted for possible regulatory approval were published. The seven other studies were inconclusive or negative, which can mean that the drug failed to work or that the test failed because of its design. (Two of them were never submitted to the Food and Drug Administration to support an application for the drug’s approval.)

Because many of the antidepressant studies were unpublished, many doctors never heard about the results.

Their findings were typically disclosed in limited settings, like talks at meetings of medical specialists or on a poster displayed in a room with dozens of other posters, which is a typical way of disseminating research results at professional conferences.

Several researchers who worked on the pediatric antidepressant trials said that in many cases they had little incentive to submit ambiguous or failed trials to medical journals because they thought the papers would be rejected by journal editors.

One of those researchers, Dr. Neal Ryan, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, said there has typically been little publishing interest in studies with inconclusive findings or those that failed to work because of study design, a type sometimes referred to as a negative study.

“No one gets famous from publishing negative studies,” Dr. Ryan said.

In response to a question, Dr. Wagner wrote that in all the cases where she was the lead investigator, test results had been or would soon be published or presented at medical meetings.

It was her study of Zoloft for childhood depression, financed by Pfizer, that attracted the most attention and criticism. Results were published last summer in The Journal of the American Medical Association as the debate on pediatric antidepressant use was rising; the study concluded that the drug effectively treated depression.

The finding received widespread publicity in newspapers, including The New York Times.

“This study is both clinically and statistically significant,” Dr. Wagner said last year. “The medication was effective.”

But some academic researchers said that the difference in improvement that the study found between young depressed patients taking Zoloft and similar patients who received a placebo – 10 percentage points – was not substantial.

Asked about complaints about the trial, Dr. Wagner referred to a statement in The Journal of the American Medical Association in which she responded last year to critical letters.

In that statement, Dr. Wagner said she believed that the 10 percentage point difference was “clinically meaningful.”

A Possible Conflict (of interest?)

In her Zoloft study, Dr. Wagner acknowledged that she had received “research support” over the years from several drug manufacturers including Pfizer, which paid $80,000 to the Galveston center in connection with the Zoloft test. But she did not state that she also received sizable payments from the company for work she did related to the study.

Note: Dr. Karen Dineen Wagner participated in more than a dozen industry-financed pediatric trials of antidepressants and other types of drugs from 1998 to 2001.

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Here’s Why Some Brains Really Are Smarter, According to This New Study

Note: Mind you that smart is Not solely restricted to analytical reasoning. There are many kinds of smartness and intelligence in human behaviors.

Are you ‘neurally efficient‘?

18 MAY 2018

People with a higher IQ are more likely to have fewer connections between the neurons in the outer layer of their brain, according to a recent study.

While previous research has suggested bigger brains are indeed smarter, a closer look at the microstructural architecture suggests it’s not just a matter of more brain cells, as much as more efficiently connected ones.

An international team of neurologists used a non-invasive technique known as multi-shell diffusion tensor imaging to get an idea of the density and branching arrangements of the grey matter inside the heads of just under 260 volunteers.

Each subject also took a culturally fair complex reasoning test, producing a variety of scores ranging from 7 to 27 correct answers out of a possible 28.

Matching the imaging data with the test scores, the researchers found that those with higher analytical skills not only had more brain cells, they also tended to have fewer branches between the neurons in their cerebral cortex.

They then turned to a database of nearly 500 neural maps within the Human Connectome Project, and found the same pattern of higher IQ and lower inter-connectivity.

At first this might seem counter-intuitive. (If we are restricting smartness with analytical reasoning)

The old idiom ‘more hands make light work’ might apply to brain cells, but in this case those extra hands don’t seem to be passing more information between them.

Previous research had shown that in spite of having more brain cells to share the heavy lifting, smarter brains don’t tend to work as hard, displaying less metabolic activity when subjected to an IQ test compared with those who struggle to attain high scores.

This observation has led to the development of the neural efficiency hypothesis, which suggests the analytical power of groups of nerve cells isn’t about pushing them harder, but about them being connected in a way that minimises effort.

“Intelligent brains are characterised by a slim but efficient network of their neurons,” says neurologist Erhan Genç from Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany.

This makes it possible to achieve a high level of thinking with the least possible neural activity.

Research on intelligence is often complicated by questions of definition and interpretations of IQ testing, so we need to refrain from generalising the results too far beyond the scope of the experiment.

Brains do a number of awesome things, with analytical reasoning making up just a part of its diverse cognitive skill set.

But understanding more about how individual units can interact to solve problems with maximum efficiency does more than show how brains function on a cellular level, they might point the way to improving technology that mimics them.

More research will no doubt help unravel the mystery of just how a streamlined nervous system does a better job at solving problems.

It might not help us all become geniuses, but it does show there’s merit in working smarter, and not harder.

This researcher was published in Nature Communications

Are you ‘neurally efficient’?




December 2020

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