Tuesday, July 05, 2005

So much more to find out....

Science Mag talks about the biggst questions to keep us busy for the next few hundred years. I've tried commenting on some them below...

> What Is the Universe Made Of?
It looked simple - Hydrogen which eventually cooked up all the visible matter. Then scientists tell us that the visible matter accounts for less than 15% of the mass of the Universe. The rest is thought to be 'dark' matter - whatever that means.

> What is the Biological Basis of Consciousness?
What distinguishes humans from a collection of cells ? Consciousness ? Soul ? Or just a collection of memories ? Does a zygote have a soul ? Or is it created when the first memories are laid down ?

> Why Do Humans Have So Few Genes?
Earlier it was thought humans have over 100,000 genes. We now know it takes less than 25,000 to spec out a human. We actually have a hundred times more in our chromosomes -mostly junk, and old forgotten copies like the old files cluttering up your hard disk.

> Can the Laws of Physics Be Unified?
Quantum theory deals with the very small. Relativity deals with the very large. Both are surprisingly accurate and yet not unified into one theory yet.

> How Much Can Human Life Span Be Extended?
There is only so much copies you can take from an original. Every second our body is built anew and the process becomes less efficient over time. Will transferring our memories to a storage medium and relying on prosthetics allow us to live forever ? Or would we learn to biologically alter our bodies to keep the going for a few centuries more ?

> Are we Alone in the Universe?
Or universes ? It is very likely we are not alone. With countless stars and countless universes, it would be amazing if only we have won the cosmic jackpiot.

> What Can Replace Cheap Oil -- and When?
Oil is a crude solution to keep the world going. Messy, polluting and noisy. Elegant solutions like Trees ( relying on solar power) or nuclear fusion might just be a few decades away.

Is ours the only universe?
Possibly not. If one universe can pop out of nothing, trillions of others can pop up too. Our universe need not be the only 'chosen one'.

What is the nature of black holes?
Black holes are the place where the two large theories of physics collide - The quantum theory and the theory of relativity. WHat exactly happens is unclear and probably will remain unclear till we hit upon an unified theory.

What is gravity?
How is it transmitted ? Do 'gravitons' exist ? Can it be blocked/bent/reflected ? no one knows.

Can we predict how proteins will fold?
Imagine a large beaded elastic band, with beads of varying sizes. Once the stretching fore is removed, the elastic band curls up into one shape from the millions available to it. As the shape of a protein molecule is crucial in its functioning, we need to understand what shapes are possible and why.

Why are some genomes really big and others quite compact?
The puffer fish genome is 400 million bases; one lungfish's is 133 billion bases long. Are these extra genomes merely junk ? Does'nt more information equal more complexity ?

What is all that "junk" doing in our genomes?
Our chromosomes are packed with junk, acquired over a few hundred million years of evolution. How long can junk continue to accumulate and is there an auto-purge mechanism to clean out this junk ?

Can cancers be controlled rather than cured?
Can you quarantine them ? Or starve them off by blocking their supplies ?

Why do we sleep?
Is it just to keep us immobile and safe in the dark ? Or does it give time for our brains to sort and file information ?

Why do we dream?
Scientists believe that brain activity during REM sleep--when dreams occur--is crucial for learning. So is the brain trying out various simulation exercises and remembers the successful outcomes ?


Post a Comment

<< Home