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Ask a Scientist

Discussion in 'Permanent Threads' started by mekka, Oct 20, 2009.

  1. mekka

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    We had this on RMMB and it was a great thread.

    Post your questions here, and hopefully people who are knowledgeable will be able to answer.

    There was one thing from the old thread that really had my interest. Did anyone ever really come to a conclusion one way or the other as to whether or not roads with built in solar panels were feasible, based on that link someone had posted?



    Chater Edit:

    This is a great thread and since most of us have gone to school, I'm going to ask you guys to brush up on some of the skills you learned there, primarily citation. If you're making an argument, provide links to legitimate sources to back your point. Arguing without citation and supporting your points is moot. Conventional wisdom is often the most inaccurate.
     
  2. Supertramp

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    Post your degrees and experience if you're going to reply. Medical questions are not necessarily prohibited but remember that this is the internet, you can't hold anything you read here to be equivalent to an actual consult.
     
  3. Nettdata

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    As a scientist, you're probably in a better position to know about some cool stuff that's coming our way.

    What are you guys/girls excited about these days?
     
  4. slippingaway

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    I think the general consensus was that it was a neat idea, but needs a lot of work.
     
  5. PewPewPow

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    Ok my question here is, are we going to be creating Higgs-Boson particles in this thing? Aka are we going to be able to convert energy to mass?
     
  6. PeaMan

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    You have misundertood the theory. Physicists at particle accelerators have been seeing energy-mass transformations for quite a while now. The Higgs Boson, on the other hand, is the particle that actually makes mass happen. In the prevailing theory of now (the standard model) the Higgs boson is like a missing piece. If you want further clarification just ask/PM.

    And if it exists it should be found. With the energy they are putting in and fancy physics we'd need a fully qualified theoretical physicist to explain the Higgs boson should pop out of the LHC. Or the community goes back to the drawing board.
     
  7. lyle

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    Just read this and would like to hear some of you guys' insights and opinions -
    Great Scott, the LHC is doing a reverse Back To The Future

    Basically the articles outlines that The LHC is sabotaging itself from the future. A premise that sounds ridiculous enough on its own but has the backing from a couple of distinguished physicists.

    Of all of the things than can / will result of The LHC getting turned up to 11, having a look at the higgs boson being the primary goal, what personally do you see happening? Opening of a giant black hole? alternate dimensions?, an explosion of such a magnitude it would register a 9 on the Michael Bay scale?

    Hyperbole aside, the majority of advancements in science have come about completely by accident, so its not too much of a stretch to speculate what else could come of this, I was just wondering what you guys think?
     
  8. PeaMan

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    A lot of unexpected things could happen as a result of the LHC, after all our undertanding of quantum mechanics is pretty shaky. I personally think that we will have lots of particle jets forming in the LHC and for a long time after it starts operating the public will hear nothing of it and care even less. Then there might be a breakthrough that makes it into the public eye - most likely the higgs boson, or lack of it.

    The speculation about the sabotage from the future seems like pretty standard human doomsday type speak - and is almost 100% bullshit. Of this I have no doubt.
     
  9. dubyu tee eff

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    Thinks he has a chance with Christina Hendricks...

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    Speculating on what will result from the LHC that experts don't expect is bound to be a retarded discussion.
     
  10. Nettdata

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    Go take a look at the "edumacation" thread... we've got some pretty fucking smart (well, highly educated... not necessarily the same thing, in some cases) people kicking around here.

    Personally, I found this thread to be one of the more interesting on the old board, and hope that it picks up.

    At least before the LHC rips the world apart.
     
  11. Bob the Builder

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    From an evolutionary stand-point, why is bad eye sight still so prevalent? You would think before the advent of glasses, people who couldn't see would be generally fucked/eaten.
     
  12. Omegaham

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    I have no scientific credentials. My only credentials are two years of biology class.

    Sight isn't as important as you might think it is. Sure, if you truly can't see you're fucked, but as long as you're in the range of 20-80 vision you're at least competent enough to do something. Even someone with 20-80 vision (I'm not that bad, but I'm pretty close) can see movement very easily. For example, I do trap shooting - and even if I can't make out the clay exactly, I can still shoot the fucker out of the sky with ease.

    So, someone with 20-80 vision would be able to hunt, fish, and fight almost or just as well as someone with 20-20 vision. Sure, they won't be able to see a mouse at 50 yards, but who cares? You're hunting for deer, moose, and all sorts of other big game. Or just gathering roots and shit, which someone with 20-150 vision could probably do. "Hey Olok, go grab all the cattail tubers over there. "Oookay, I just pull on the things that are long blurry, and by the river and food comes out!" Simple.

    So, as long as you aren't too blind to see in front of your face, it's quite possible to survive.

    Additionally, most people with truly awful vision are aging. They're over thirty years old, forty, maybe fifty before their vision starts to degenerate. From an evolutionary standpoint, anything that doesn't kill you before your late teens doesn't matter. As long as you can mate before you die, you're fine.

    An actual scientist can correct me if I've missed anything (or am completely and utterly wrong). If Nettdata wants to restrict answers only to those that actually have degrees, feel free to delete my post.
     
  13. Nettdata

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    And I may sound like a nutjob, but I think a major reason for a lot of bad eyesight is the use of glasses.

    Corrective lenses are a crutch, and I used to wear them, and my eyes would get worse and worse. I work at a computer all day, and have since school, so you can imagine how bad it can be for your eyes.

    I started doing some reading, and found some simple eye exercises helped my bad eyesight, A LOT. I'm now at 30-20 in both eyes.

    I regularly do a series of exercises (basically focusing on something far away, then close, then far, then close, and a few other things, 3 or 4 times a day), and it seems to have increased the strength of my eyes, and allows them to focus faster, better, and sharper, than they did before. I think that by working out my eyes, they've become stronger, and I no longer need glasses.

    There are obviously eye conditions that won't be helped by this, but I do believe that a fair bit of poor eyesight is a result of the eyes not being worked properly, or regularly... kind of like muscles that atrophy. And glasses help in perpetuating that weakness.

    So... how full of shit is that?
     
  14. Pan Sapiens

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    Omegaham is right about reproduction. A trait or behavior is only maladaptive if it leads to a decrease in fitness (read: reproduction). There are several reasons this trait could have survived, but it is likely that they all played a part. I'll present them in what I think is an increasing order of likelihood.

    1) According to multi-level selection theory, although the individual remains the level of selection, between group pressures can sometimes drive selection more than within-group pressures. This may be particularly true of social apes like humans. David Sloan Wilson, the pioneer or this theory has stated, with regard to human evolution, "Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. The rest is commentary." Assume selective pressures led to an increase in altruistic behavior within a human group. Those with poor eyesight, may not be able to hunt as well, but they may still have other skills which make them reproductively valuable. Altruism from other group members with regard to food resources keeps poor eyesight from becoming maladaptive, and it stays in the gene pool.

    2) Evolutionary fitness is like the "fitness" of a puzzle piece into place, not our modern definition of the word. Females are more reproductively valuable, and as gatherers rather than hunters, poor eyesight wouldn't effect their fitness much, particularly considering the sexual selection aspect. An attractive, fertile female is an attractive, fertile female. Unless her eyesight bad enough to significantly negatively impact her child raising skills, her fitness level in the eyes of potential mates probably isn't impacted much at all.

    3) Lastly, as Omegaham said, minor vision deficiencies don't decrease fitness level much, even as far as hunting fitness in men. The genes stick around as society progresses and their negative fitness impact reduces every generation. Genes from two parents with poor eyesight combine into a child with worse eyesight. This is the most likely scenario. Narrow hips have a huge negative impact on fitness level, because of birth complications. Now we can save these mothers. I can't remember the percentage offhand, and I have no desire to waste time looking it up, but a significant proportion of women in America and other developed nations cannot physically give birth to an average size baby without a c-section. If narrow hip genes persisted, so could genes which code for poor eyesight.

    Qualifications: Graduate Student - Evolutionary Biology.
     
  15. KIMaster

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    Everything that Omegaham and Pan Sapiens wrote is correct, but there's a much simpler consideration that no one has mentioned; most people that have poor vision these days don't possess genetically poor eyesight, but rather, ruin their eyes with the amount of reading, watching movies, unnatural light, dimly lit places, etc. they are exposed to.

    If you read accounts or look at paintings of European life in the 17th century, when lenses were available for the first time, there would only be one or two people in an entire village wearing glasses. And typically it was some ancient blacksmith whose work had blinded him over the years.

    If the only thing that a person does is work on the farm, and they don't read any books or watch movies, their eyes will be fine. So in essence, what would be considered genetically perfect eyes 300-400 years ago are ones that require glasses or drops today.
     
  16. shaydlip

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    Primates (including humans) actually have too much gene flow and dispersion to fulfill the requirements of group selection theory.

    Kin selection has more support, but it fulfills the requirements of the selfish gene hypothesis because even if your action is detrimental to you, it supports a genetic relative so a percentage of your genes will be better fit.

    Humans are not actually that altruistic, we just have a complicated social hierarchy based on reputation. The common examples Joan Silk uses to advocate altruism in humans are things like voting and giving blood, but those are actually bad examples because of the prevalence of sticker use- "I voted!" "I gave blood!" Those stickers add to your reputation because they are associated with positive behavior in our society.

    Back to the original question. Nettdata is right, if you do exercises 2x+ daily with your eyes, focusing and unfocusing, you will improve your eyesight. The muscles in people's eyes who are nearsighted are pretty weak and can't adjust the lens properly, but I'm not sure about farsighted people. I've heard it's related to reading (but seen no evidence for this), and it's probably something like certain people in the population are more vulnerable to reduced muscle strength in the eyes than others.

    Visual acuity is actually pretty important for humans (and all old world monkeys and apes), but that's another story entirely.

    I am a PhD student in Anthropology (emphasis evolutionary anthropology).
     
  17. Roboto

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    Hold on a second, aren't nearsightedness and farsightedness the results of misshaped eyes, which causes the point of focus to be off-centered? I always thought it had nothing to do with muscle strength. If exercises actually worked, wouldn't the See Clearly Method have put eyeglass companies out of business by now?

    My suspicion is that more people have access to opthamologists and corrective eyewear now than they did a century or two ago, so poor vision only seems more prevalent today. But I'm not an expert in these fields. Is there an opthamologist on the board?
     
  18. Pan Sapiens

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    The reputation/selfish gene explanation can work, but as a survival strategy, selfishness works better within groups. Particularly if there are altruists around.

    As for gene flow in humans, there is dispersion post-neolithic revolution. Before that, humans were probably in pretty isolated bands. Besides, altruism and selfishness aren't necessarily hardwired behaviors or mutually exclusive, more likely the genes code for generalized, plastic intelligence good at navigating and manipulating social interactions. Add between group competition and the ratio of selfishness to altruism within each individual group may vary according to resource availability and severity of competition.

    In an isolated human group, the ratio will settle to a point where there are just enough altruists to make selfishness a successful strategy. This happens with everything from slime molds, to human groups. Enter between group competition. A group of altruists outcompetes a relatively selfish group. Hence, selection pressure for individual altruism in the face of group competition.
     
  19. Roboto

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    Altruism often comes with an ulterior motive, if you buy into aggrandizer theory. One who can be generous with many people can create a "culture of indebtedness" in which people owe the aggrandizer some form of goods or services in return for his generosity. I believe this is the principle behind the potlatch feasts among the Northwest coast Indians. This is more of a culture-based form of selection, rather than a biological one. Anyone who takes the gifts without providing anything later on would probably end up an outcast.



    Yeah, I'm an anthropology Ph.D student too (specialty in archaeology).
     
  20. Pan Sapiens

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    There are many cultural traditions to promote altruism and selflessness. Maybe this is a cultural mechanism used to keep selfishness under control?

    Shaydlip, Roboto, I'd actually like to continue this discussion, but I'm going to move it to PM so we don't clog this board.