Is Science Fiction Science?
Alternative ways for future events to unfold, which enhances readiness for
Octavia Butler: Xenogenesis is supposed to be, and I guess now actually could be, a generation that is wholly and permanently unlike the parent generation, so we could do that with genetic engineering now and my characters actually do.
Can We Believe in Both Science and Religion?
One who views human beings as constituted of two elements , matter (body) and spirit (soul).
Nancey Murphy: I suppose you could apply it to any religious movement where rather than attempting to confront the new intellectual problems that arise, they attempt to maintain their belief system by means of authority. And because that's such a difficult strategy, I think it usually goes along with an attempt to separate oneself from the host culture. So there's a sort of us against them mentality and a fear of confronting intellectual problems facing the tradition.
Muzaffar Iqbal: In every religious tradition, there is what we call the normative tradition, the norm. In the case of Islam we fortunately have throughout the centuries, the two primary sources which are living sources, the Koran and the practice of the prophet Mohammed. These resources have never gone into oblivion. They have always been living sources. And there is a huge amount of literature on what constitutes the normality practice of Islam. So those people who are extremist and who claim to be following the norm of Islam, the onus is on them to explain how they justify their position in the face of 1,400 years of scholarship that has very clearly defined ways of revolution, for example, when the foreign enemy has attacked, the ways of behavior in every single situation. So it's not just my position that differentiates what defines the norm. It's the living sources of Islam themselves. As I said, the concept of being a martyred religion, the concept of being the middle heart is so deeply embedded in the very normal acceptation of the tradition.
Michael Shermer: Scientism is a world view that takes the empirical methods of science seriously, that attempts natural explanations for all phenomenon, does not turn to supernatural or superstitious explanations. and most importantly, is open minded and flexible to changing answers to questions because science is always changing.
One who believes at physical matter is the only reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter (see physicalist).
Nancey Murphy: A physicalist or physicalism is a position that's best understood in contrast to the competing position,. That's in contrast to a dualist view of the person that says that in addition to our bodies we have some nonmaterial part, a soul or a mind or something of that sort. And physicalists hold that all those higher human capacities are really the result of our complicated brains (see materialist).
Michael Shermer: a skeptic is somebody who is a scientist. It's somebody from Missouri who says, "show me. That's nice. Show me the evidence. How do you know this is true?" We're basically asking questions about quality of the evidence. The source of the claim. How your belief system came about. And really this is just science. Skepticism is literally thoughtful inquiry. That's the original meaning. And the kind of thoughtful inquiry that's most effective today is the scientific method.
How Does the Autistic Brain Work?
Eric Courchesne: A neurobiological disorder manifesting itself in profound sensory disregulation that affects the development of a variety of brain behaviors. It affects brain development in the cerebral cortex and cerebella cortex, and the limbic system.
Typically parents come to physicians when the child is about 16, 18 months of age and they're worried that their child isn't progressing normally. They're first concerned about the development of speech, about social communication and that their child isn't showing normal interest in interacting with other people. Finally, they become worried because their child seems to be lost in a world of doing things repetitively. In summary, areas that of initial concern re: speech and language development, social communication, and ritualistic and repetitive behaviors.
THE BINDING PROBLEM
Terry Sejnowski: There's a controversy having to do with how information that belongs together stays together. For example, if you have a red cup, how does the redness of the cup and the shape of the cup, how is that bound together? That's called the binding problem. And there have been different solutions that have been suggested for it. In my view, I don't think it's a real problem. I think that the brain is quite capable of representing those properties by different groups of neurons firing at roughly the same time, but they may not necessarily have to fire their spikes at exactly the same time.
CURE AUTISM NOW (CAN)
Cure Autism Now (CAN) is an organization of parents, physicians, and researchers, dedicated to promoting and funding research with direct clinical implications for treatment and a cure for autism. The largest private funder of autism research since its founding in 1995, Cure Autism Now has directed over $5 million to support research projects and a crucial scientific resource -- the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE). AGRE is the world's first collaborative gene bank that contains information on families with more than one child with autism.
RAPID PROMPTING METHOD (RPM)
A teaching method for autistic children invented by Soma Mukhadophay for her son Tito, which both flies in the face of common lore for how to work with autistics, and is profoundly successful in liberating autistics to be able to communicate clearly and directly. See CAN website for more information.
Terry Sejnowski: When we look at the brain and look at the final frontier, the most complex device in the universe, it's not space that's the final frontier; it's time. How does the brain represent time and how do signals in different parts of the brain that maybe occur at different moments in time, how is that information integrated together? And we're beginning to appreciate that internal time in the brain can be used for things like attention. That's to say, your expectation of where a signal is coming from in space, or what form it's going to take. This type of attention and expectation may actually happen through temporal synchrony, the firing of neurons together at the same time. And if these theoretical ideas are true, and we're in the process right now of making predictions and trying to test them, then it means that some diseases like autism may be diseases of timing of signals in the brain.
Also: A way of representing information in the brain that depends on the exact time when a spike occurs.
How Weird is the Cosmos?
Roger Blandford: Supermassive space objects that gobble up matter and light. A black hole is a body where the gravity is by the definition is sufficiently strong that light and in fact no material particle I should say including light can escape. And what that essentially means is it defines a surface, which is known as the event horizon and after you or anything else has crossed that event horizon then there's no way of going back. So it could be photon, it could be a material particle, but once they've crossed that horizon then they can no longer escape. And this is a sort of working definition of a black hole. Of course there's a more technical definition.
Roger Blandford: Dark matter is a form of matter whose identity we don't yet know. We see evidence for it in our galaxy, in other galaxies, and in the clusters of galaxies, and indeed in the universe at large. We call it dark because it doesn't have lights associated with it. It doesn't have stars that create starlight associated with it. It doesn't appear to be like the matter that you and I are made out of. It appears to be some other sort of matter. We suspect that it in fact it is a fundamental particle of a sort that has not yet been described.
Roger Blandford: When we try to describe the way in which the universe is accelerating, we cannot do that with matter, either light or dark alone. We need some extra force in the Newtonian sense, an extra substance present that has properties that are different from regular matter, either dark or light. And we call that the dark energy.
See inflation, which holds that during the first fraction of a millisecond after the Big Bang, fundamental forces drove the newborn universe to expand at unimaginable speed faster, even, than the speed of light. Today one of the weird and unexpected findings is that the expansion of the universe seems to be speeding up, or as physicists call it, accelerating. The best candidate for that is what is currently called dark energy.
GAMMA RAY BURSTS
Roger Blandford: High-energy waves from space. A gamma ray burst is an intense pulse of gamma rays that is seen mostly from the distant universe. It lasts for time scales from about a tenth of a second to 100 seconds typically. There are different types of them. We believe it is associated with either the birth or the augmentation of a black hole.
Refers to the way light travels in curved paths around stars and galaxies.
INFLATIONARY THEORY (INFLATION)
MIT Physicist Alan Guth worked out this still reigning theory which holds that during the first fraction of a millisecond after the Big Bang, fundamental forces drove the newborn universe to expand at unimaginable speed -- vastly faster, even, than the speed of light.
Microbes -- Friend or Foe?
Alice Huang: Amino acids are the basis of proteins, proteins which are the machinery that does all the work in our cells.
Alice Huang: Antivirals are anything that would inhibit the growth of virus or prevent the disease that a virus causes.
Agnes Day: Microbial antagonism, I like to tell my students, is similar to the Crips and the Bloods--two gangs that used to operate out here in LA. And what they're doing is they're trying to make sure that nobody gets the upper hand. So in, say, for instance, the lower GI, and the large intestine and the colon, you have at least 30 different types of enteric bacteria or bacteria that grow in the gut. So why then, if you have all of these bacteria, some of which are known to cause disease, why is it you're not always ill? And that's because certain bacteria will produce agents, sort of like peptide antibiotics (KEY TERM) that will keep the numbers of other bacteria low. For example, E coli produces a peptide called a colicin that makes other bacteria sick so they don't grow as well. So there's this balance that is maintained between these various organisms living in the same environment.
Agnes Day: Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that lives in the stomach and it produces, through its metabolism, clouds of carbon dioxide. And the organism attaches to the gastric lining. And it has been associated with ulcers in the stomach, as well as gastric cancer. People who have this organism will, in most cases, progress to the point of gastric cancer. And so that's one of the few bacteria that they have shown a strong association between microorganisms and cancer.
Alice Huang: Pathogen is an agent that causes disease.
Alice Huang: Peptide is a group of amino acids. And then I'll have to tell you what amino acids are.
Agnes Day: Plasmids are small circular DNA molecules that don't belong in the bacterial cell. They arise from other small pieces of DNA that join together and say, "Look. We can cause more damage if we work together than if we try to go in individually." These plasmids are notorious for carrying genes that encode for the destruction of antibiotics.
Alice Huang: Symbiosis is the ability of organisms to live together. And, in general, one does something to the other or provides something to the other and vice versa so that they live happily together.
How Does Order Arise in the Universe?
SIMPLICITY AND COMPLEXITY
Murray Gell-mann: I like to use neck ties as an example of simplicity and complexity. A regimental stripe, for example, would be simple. You just have to describe the colors and the widths and then this pattern is repeated and it's a rather simple kind of pattern for a tie. If you look at a hand painted tie or a tie that was designed by Jerry Garcia, you will find in many cases that it takes a very long time to describe the regularities of the pattern and that's a complex tie, but notice we're talking only about pattern. We're not talking about soup stains or wine stains or baby stains and we're considering those as incidental or random. But suppose you're a dry cleaner, then the soup stains may be the important regularities and the stripes maybe irrelevant and you can treat them as incidental. Now here we're talking about human being, different kinds of human beings. One concerned with pattern of the tie another one concerned with stains because of being a dry cleaner, but you can think of it in a more abstract way as well, that there's a rule of some kind that describes what's important and what's unimportant and that rule doesn't have to pertain to a human judge, not even a judge that's alive necessarily.
COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEM
Murray Gell-mann: The complex adaptive system takes in certain kinds of information about the world around it and about itself and compresses those kinds of information into a very brief, very compact message, which I call schema, but the schema is used along with a lot of other information to predict the behavior of things in the real world including the system itself and also to prescribe behavior for the system in the real world and those predictions and those prescriptions have real world consequences and the real world consequences feed back to exert selection pressure on the competition among the different possible schemata. In that way the schemata evolved. All of the complex adaptive systems with which we are familiar on Earth are related in one way or another to life, so there is biological evolution itself that's in my sense a complex adaptive system. There are all the various organisms which are complex adaptive systems. There's the immune system and the brain as we discussed and you must realize that when something is described as a complex adaptive system that doesn't describe all its properties, describes just the informational aspects. Living things, for example, organisms also process energy, for example, and other things besides information. The term complex adaptive system refers just to their informational properties.
David Baltimore: So if the gene is a little region on a chromosome, a chromosome is a collection of genes, it's a little more than that because it has to be able to duplicate itself, so it needs signals for duplication. It has to be able to segregate itself, has signals for segregation, whatever. But it's fundamentally a way of carrying genes in bite-sized pieces. Is there any significance to chromosomes? Probably not in the sense that we could have 22 chromosomes or we could have 46 chromosomes or we could have 85 chromosomes and it probably wouldn't make us any different than we are now. And in fact if you look at different organisms they have different numbers of chromosomes and there's no rhyme or reason to it.
David Baltimore: DNA is the chemical that carries the information of the organism. It's the backbone of chromosomes. But fundamentally it's just a chemical. And it does carry information in a code. The code happens to be a four-letter code, which means that if you look down DNA, at position one, two, three, four, five, going out to 3 billion, at every one of those positions there's either an A, G, C, or T, which are just ways of defining the four letters of the code. So it's an infinitely variable polymer of individual units. But the important thing about it is it carries information.
David Baltimore: Genes are circumscribed regions of DNA, but circumscribed regions sitting on chromosomes which have a particular function. And I'm not going to define it any better than that because in fact when you go really into trying to define a gene, the notion of gene dissolves in front of you. And it turns out different people use it different ways and whatever, but it's fine. The field goes on perfectly happily, using this word which is amorphous.
David Baltimore: The genome is the aggregate of all of the genes. So it's the aggregate of all those little places on chromosomes where there is useful information that goes into constructing the organism. It's a word you could almost do without, but it's convenient for describing what you do for instance when you sequence all the DNA that an organism has you say you're sequencing the genome. You're actually not even doing it. You're sequencing just all the chromosomes. But it's fundamentally a genome.
David Baltimore: Sequencing DNA is merely determining the chemical structure of it. So when we say sequencing, what we mean is putting all of these A, G, C's and T's in sequence as they appear in the DNA of a newt or a person or a plant or whatever. And each DNA, the DNA of each individual is different. The DNA of each species is different. The DNA of each type of organism is different. And there's a whole hierarchy of differences which are fundamentally the remnants of evolution. And so we can use sequencing as a way of figuring out what evolution did and we're doing that.
Why is Music So Significant?
Jeanne Bamberger: There's a lot of computer-generated music around. Some of it is more computer than music, whatever that means. But there's also some very, very interesting and far-reaching and highly influential stuff going on with computer-generated music. And then there's the whole synthesizer, you know, the MIDI instruments which you can play any instrument you want and make it sound any way that you want so everybody can make music. But I'm not sure that that's so wonderful either because I'm looking for ways of getting people to inquire and reflect and question what they're doing when they're making music.
A branch of the life sciences that deals with the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the nervous system
Will Computers Take A Quantum Leap?
K. Birgitta Whaley: Tunneling is the name that we give to the phenomenon where a particle--for instance, imagine a person is a particle and you want to go from town A to town B and there's a big mountain in between and no way over the mountain, but you certainly don't know any way through the mountain. Well, if you're a normal or "classical" particle, then you would have to trek up to the top of the mountain and then down again over the other side. And during that process, your energy would increase considerably. If you are a quantum particle, however, there exists a finite probability that you can go from town A to town B without ever going over the mountain and you would essentially move through a process of quantum mechanical superposition of your state in town A and town B. You would basically appear in town B after a certain very short amount of time.
K. Birgitta Whaley: An object can appear to exist in two different states at the same time. Imagine that you have a cup of coffee and a glass of whiskey in front of you, and as a person living in a classical world, normally, you would drink either the cup of coffee or the glass of whiskey. The quantum superposition is putting that person in the situation where they would be essentially drinking simultaneously the cup of coffee and the glass of whiskey.
David DiVincenzo: Entanglement is correlation; correlation in the sense that if we both know something and we have the same knowledge, we can say that we are correlated, or you know, Now, entanglement is a correlation between quantum information, or it's a correlation between quantum states of two parts or more parts. We have learned that those kinds of correlations, or the correlations that those systems have are stronger than the correlations that exist between ordinary, classical data. Another aspect of entanglement is that typically it is created by a physical interaction by a physical force between the two quantum systems, which may have, however, taken place long in the past. So you can have two systems which are not presently interacting, which are far apart from one another, but which have a kind of memory of their previous interaction and this memory is embodied in those correlations.
A computer that uses quantum mechanical processes to do computations that regular computers could never perform.
Breaking a number into it's prime components. That is, given an integer like 15, doing a computation to find that its prime factors are 3 and 5, a simple computation for a number like 15 but a very hard computation for a 100-digit number.
David DiVincenzo: Quantum mechanics is a theory for describing the world at small scales, describing the world at the smallest scale where the act of observation of the system is inseparable from the objective state of the system.
David DiVincenzo: Quantum physics is the application of quantum mechanics to physical problems, so it's the endeavor to use the quantum theory as we come to understand it to solve problems in physics and to come to an understanding of the physical world.