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Author Topic: What big science question would you like to see answered before you die?  (Read 5965 times)

Offline cheryl j

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I suppose mine would be if there's intelligent life on other planets, but there are probably others.


 

Offline CZARCAR

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what is intelligence?
 

Offline Bored chemist

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How do I achieve immortality?
 

Offline cheryl j

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what is intelligence?


yeah, or what is consciousness. Infact I might even want to know that more than life elsewhere in the universe.
 

Offline neilep

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I have no doubt that there is life on other planets and  'intelligence ' can be measured in any manner of varied ways. I so really really hope that Europa gives us an answer soonish...I just can't wait for that day !!

I would like to also know  about the nature of Universes's beginning ! and the answer to what's happening in the middle of a black hole !...If ewe could arrange these answers for me by next Tuesday I would be very grateful ! :D (not that I plan to die before next Tuesday it's just that I get all my deliveries that day and I'd like the answers before I check all my consignments...it takes a long time ewe know !)
 

Offline damocles

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I suppose mine would be if there's intelligent life on other planets, but there are probably others.

The proposition "There  is intelligent life on other planets" is a philosophically interesting and peculiar one.

(1) It belongs to the class of propositions that can (in principle) be proven but never disproven.

(2) It challenges our semantics (definitions of words).
----(2a) What is it that constitutes "life"? We have already achieved all of the necessary steps involved in manufacturing self-reproducing colonies of robots -- machine control of mining, transportation, component manufacture and assembly, energy supply, and program transfer. We have never put them together.  At what point, if any, would we start to regard robots as "life"?
----(2b) What is it that constitutes "intelligence", especially with the possibilities for divergence from our own preoccupations by truly alien, or even local life forms. For example, it is well known that the world of dogs is dominated by the sense of smell, and that sight and sound are also important for them, but secondary. If a breed of super-intelligent dogs learnt to control their own secretions. and developed a complex language based on transmission and reception of sequences of odours from these secretions, would we be likely ever to find out? If we did find out, how would we distinguish between "instinct" and "intelligence" in the dogs' interpretation of such signals?

(3) It challenges our notion of evidence, and practical problems of evidence-gathering. I would suggest that strong evidence of the presence of intelligent life in a programme like SETI would require at least three steps: reception, transmission of reply, and reception of reply to reply (or, alternatively, reception, transmission, and reception). For a planet 150 light years away, that would mean a process taking at least 450 years. But imagine the scene when the message comes in from outer space:
"hey some guy in your office sent out a coded message 350 years ago that we eventually managed to decipher after 50 years..."
"clerk, could you check the files for details of that outer space program that was cut off in the funding crisis of 340 years ago?" ;D ;D
 

Offline CliffordK

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How do I achieve immortality?

You mean like this?

 

Offline MikeS

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Is gravity between matter and antimatter attractive or repulsive?
 

Offline CliffordK

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Is gravity between matter and antimatter attractive or repulsive?

I think there is some evidence now that it is attractive.  However, obviously more research will be needed in this area, as hopefully we will eventually be able to synthesize & capture larger quantities of antimatter in the future.

Perhaps one should simply ask:

What is Space?
What is Gravity?
 

Offline imatfaal

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Is gravity between matter and antimatter attractive or repulsive?

At the moment we have no experimental evidence each way - but the theory suggests that it will be normally attractive.  to fit in as repulsive it would really need to have negative mass - and we don't currently think this that is the case.  

CERN are making more and more antihydrogen and are running tests on it - but mass tests and gravitational tests are impossible with the number of atoms they have because thermal effects are still dominant even at those low temperatures and our instruments are no where near accurate enough.

 

Offline CZARCAR

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Saw a woman on tv who had spent some time in a coma. She said coma was the most peaceful state shed ever experienced= maybe intelligence is overrated?
 

Offline grizelda

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Are there any senses other than touch?
 

Offline damocles

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Grizelda:

Of the 5 generally recognised senses,
-- the sense of touch involves the detection of physical pressure.

-- hearing could be regarded as a form of touch -- the detection of pressure waves as they impact on sensitive parts of the ear
 -- sight involves photochemical reaction, and therefore is definitely not a form of touch.
 -- smell and taste are much less well understood, but both involve some sort of chemical discrimination. The sense of touch does not.

The scientific answer to your question is "yes".
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Offline swadewade8

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Is gravity between matter and antimatter attractive or repulsive?

I think the answer is within the words themselves overall. 
 

Offline swadewade8

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Are there any senses other than touch?

There is a 6th. sense also that has recently been quantified as being within your inner ear having to do with elevation.  As an example, if you are in an airplane above or below a certain altitude your inner ear tell you so right?  I haven't seen much data on the subject but, I do believe it is now considered a sixth sense.  Feel sorry for those movie goers out there! :) Maybe a seventh sense movie is in order! :) 
 

Offline Nizzle

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My question would be:

How can we transfer our consciousness to machines/computers?
 

Offline CliffordK

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Will man supplant humanity with computers?
 

Offline grizelda

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If the goal of evolution is to produce the best entity for translating the energy of the universe into useful work, then surely "infernal replicators" swarming throughout the universe converting energy into, well, more infernal replicators is the optimal solution. Mustn't stop progress, now, must we? To paraphrase the poet, we can't make the universe stop, but we can make it run.
 

Offline Nizzle

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-- smell and taste are much less well understood, but both involve some sort of chemical discrimination. The sense of touch does not.

Since when are smell and taste much less well understood?
They're just receptors with attenuating capabilities that translate chemicals into electrical signals. In a way, they're just nerve cells with different transmembrane receptors that respond to a wider variety of molecules than just neurotransmitters or their derivates :)
 

Offline CZARCAR

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why life? Persistent incentive/drive to breed & procreate results in misery for the offspring until relief is acheived=hunger,horny,2cold,2hot,...
 

Offline Gordian Knot

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Will there ever be intelligent life on planet Earth?  ;)
 

Offline damocles

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-- smell and taste are much less well understood, but both involve some sort of chemical discrimination. The sense of touch does not.

Since when are smell and taste much less well understood?
They're just receptors with attenuating capabilities that translate chemicals into electrical signals. In a way, they're just nerve cells with different transmembrane receptors that respond to a wider variety of molecules than just neurotransmitters or their derivates :)

As a chemist I would claim that smell and taste are less well understood for the following reason:
certainly they involve "receptors with attenuating capabilities that translate chemicals into electrical signals". But that is just the start of the problem.

--Why do some chemicals with quite different molecular structure smell similar while some with quite similar structure smell different? Why do some substances have no smell?
--Why does the sense of smell or taste fail for some substances when the mouth or nose is particularly dry, but not for others?
--There are generally believed to be 4 or 5 "elements" of taste, but some debate about which number. The number of "elements" of smell is not known, as far as I am aware. Are the "elements" defined by different types of receptor, or is there an additional basis?
--To what extent does taste supplement our mental evaluation of smell, or smell supplement our mental evaluation of taste?

I do not know the scholarly literature in the biomedical area. Certainly in the chemical area there are a lot of unresolved issues where debate and new research into the chemical basis of smell is continuing.
« Last Edit: 15/11/2011 21:55:03 by damocles »
 

Offline cheryl j

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--To what extent does taste supplement our mental evaluation of smell, or smell supplement our mental evaluation of taste?

 Certainly in the chemical area there are a lot of unresolved issues where debate and new research into the chemical basis of smell is continuing.

The one thing I have always found curious about taste and smell is our limited ability to describe it. There are all sorts of descriptive adjectives for things we see or hear that can almost recreate the experience for someone else. But when it comes to taste and smell, the only way we can do it is by comparing it to some other taste or smell, eg "it has a floral scent," or it tastes "kind of nutty."  (I once tried to describe what an avocado tastes like to some one who had never eaten one and it was almost impossible.)

Which I guess is why they put those perfume strips in magazine advertisments.
But it made me wonder if it has anything to do with the part of the brain that interprets taste and smell, compared to sights and sounds, and these brain regions connection to language areas.
 

Offline Nizzle

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As a chemist I would claim that smell and taste are less well understood for the following reason:
certainly they involve "receptors with attenuating capabilities that translate chemicals into electrical signals". But that is just the start of the problem.

--Why do some chemicals with quite different molecular structure smell similar while some with quite similar structure smell different? Why do some substances have no smell?
--Why does the sense of smell or taste fail for some substances when the mouth or nose is particularly dry, but not for others?
--There are generally believed to be 4 or 5 "elements" of taste, but some debate about which number. The number of "elements" of smell is not known, as far as I am aware. Are the "elements" defined by different types of receptor, or is there an additional basis?
--To what extent does taste supplement our mental evaluation of smell, or smell supplement our mental evaluation of taste?

I do not know the scholarly literature in the biomedical area. Certainly in the chemical area there are a lot of unresolved issues where debate and new research into the chemical basis of smell is continuing.

Unlike the neurotransmitter receptors in regular nerve cells, the receptors in "smell cells" are much less specific. It's to say, one smelly molecule will fit in multiple smell receptors, and therefore quite similar molecules will active a quite similar group of receptors, not just one receptor. It is the totality of all receptors that get triggered by a molecule that generates a combined electrical signal, interpreted by the brain as a smell. This is just one part of the answer (the nose part). The other part is located in the brain (ie, the brain part). Even though some receptors are very alike, they are found on different smell cells that trigger different brain regions. The composition of all activated brain regions translates to a certain smell.
So to recap:
One molecule activates multiple receptors, found on multiple smell cells, generating a symphony of electrical signals, that are interpreted by the brain as one specific smell.
- Molecule A and B can be vastly different in molecular structure, triggering a completely different group of receptors, but in totality stimulate quite a similar brain region and thus smell similar
Molecule C and D can be quite similar in molecular structure, triggering for 90% the same group of receptors, but those 10% that they don't share can cause a very different brain region stimulus, and thus smell different.
- The fact that you sometimes smell molecules only when your nose is moist is an issue of logistics. Some hydrophobic molecules won't reach the receptors if your mouth is full of saliva or nose full of mucus, while hydrophilic molecules will require this to come in contact with receptors (Note that there are other elements to that besides hydrophobic/philic nature)
- The 5 tastes (bitter, sweet, sour, salty and umami) correspond to 5 brain regions. Overlap is possible of course. The fact that the areas of smell are uncountable is explained anatomically. While nerves from the tongue have to "bundle" to reach the brain, they get more "grouped". The nose however, is just below the brain and the smell receptors literally go up a few centimeters through the ethmoid bone and are already in the brain. No grouping is required, so consequently, no organization in brain areas.
- In the brain, smell and taste are entwined (like everything is entwined in fact), but smell is the dominant factor, that's why you can taste much better if you don't block your nose from smelling. In reverse, you can smell excellently without having any food in your mouth.
 

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