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SAMMY SCIENCE DOESN’T CARE IF YOU BELIEVE

Sammy Science back in the house, readers, ready to talk science. At least, that’s the whole idea of this web forum. I’m the scientist, you’re the readers, you write e-mails about science and I answer them as best I can. What I don’t know I find out from experts. It’s not a new idea and it’s not rocket science (That would be my department). This isn’t meant to be a debate over the merits of science. Why read a damned science Q&A blog if you don’t believe in science? By the way, the science you don’t believe in has provided your computer and the Internet, which lets you tell the whole world that you don’t believe in science. Maybe logic’s not your forte either. If this sounds like you, here’s a time saving tip: Don’t try to convince science people that science is wrong and you’re right. Huge waste of time. You see, science can be proven. Can you? Let’s see what’s in the inbox.

Dear Sammy Science: What’s the deal with that Large Hadron Collider? Who put up the dough to build the thing and why? – Benny Blanco from the Bronx

Dear Benny Blanco from the Bronx: The “deal” with the Large Hadron Collider is to search for the basic laws of science governing all matter. This elusive “Grand Unification Theory” is the holy grail of Physics. By colliding electrons at super high speeds, it will try to replicate conditions immediately following the Big Bang that was the birth of the universe as we know it. It will also seek to confirm theories on the existence of Dark Matter, attempt to reconcile anomalies at the intersection of Quantum Mechanics and the Theory of Relativity, investigate the formation of black holes and address many other complex questions. It was built for pure scientific research by the European Organization For Nuclear Research and funded by hundreds of universities and thousands of scientists and engineers from over 100 nations. It is a valuable tool for observing matter in it’s most basic, subatomic form. All in all, a pretty impressive global collaboration working to increase our collective human knowledge in many fields, and learning new stuff is always a good thing.

Dear Sammy Science: What good is science when the Mayans already told us the world will end in 2012? – Bob N. Weaver

Dear Bob N. Weaver: You’re an idiot and the world ended for the Mayans a long time ago.

Dear Sammy Science: If our bodies replace every cell every 7 years, why do our bodies age?  –  Cheri Pye

Dear Cheri Pye: Good question. It’s in our genetic code to grow old and die. Our DNA provides the blueprint for who we are, who we will become, what debilitating conditions and diseases we will develop and when we will die, subject, of course, to a million variables. There are accidents, plagues, natural disasters, pollution, exposure to toxins, famine and homicides, for example, that cause many early deaths. We can adversely affect our own life spans by smoking, drinking to excess, eating poorly, and not exercising, or positively affect how long we live by eating right, drinking moderately and regularly exercising, but for the most part some people live to be 99 and some only get 60 or 70 years because of their DNA. The nature of life is birth, growth and eventual death, and humans are no different in this respect than any other life form. Whether or not our recent breakthrough in reading DNA codes can lead us to be able to alter our natural cycle remains to be seen. Since we can’t even cure the common cold, that seems doubtful, so if you are preparing for eternal life, expect to be sorely disappointed.

Dear Sammy Science: When we eat, we do not consume human DNA, but plant or animal DNA. How does that become human DNA? – Duke Sullivan

Dear Duke Sullivan: Our bodies break the down organic matter we eat to the molecular level, and the DNA of our meals gets broken down into simple protein which is then converted to human tissue cells with our DNA code embedded therein. Much DNA does, however, survive the digestive process, seeds and other hard tissue for example, and is excreted as waste by our bodies. Even if we were cannibals and did consume human DNA, it would still be broken down by our bodies like any other meal. The old saying, “You are what you eat,” which never made much sense in the first place, should really be “you are what your DNA says you are.”

Dear Sammy Science: Does science disprove the existence of God? My friend says it only confirms it. What’s the truth? – Jack Ofalotte

Dear Jack Ofalotte: Science neither proves nor disproves the existence of God. What science and religion have in common is a search for truth, some solid explanations for the wondrous things we see and experience. Where they part ways, however, is the methods employed to discover these truths. Religion seems content to take things on faith, while science is constantly looking for proof positive. I for one am definitely not one of those scientists who feel that the discovery of scientific explanations precludes the existence of God. My specialty is the heavens, after all, and the unbelievable beauty and complexity of the universe sometimes strikes me as the handiwork of a mind far greater than we can imagine, a God if you will. When engaged in some exciting scientific observations, I feel an elevation of my spirit (a very unscientific term, to be sure) that no amount of scientific jargon about adrenaline levels or other body chemistry can fully explain.

When one looks into the structure of molecules and atoms, you can’t help but notice that these invisible building blocks of matter mirror the architecture of star systems, planets, and galaxies. There is a nucleus and orbiting bodies held in just the right balance of gravitational attraction and  magnetic repulsion so that each piece remains in it’s proper place, so there seems to be an underlying and unifying simplicity to nature that works both on the atomic and the stellar level. Contrary to what many think, scientists are very often awed and humbled by what we learn, and amazed at how much we do not know. For at least this one scientist, there is a God, and his work and his mind are even more wondrous and breathtaking than even the most religious mind can imagine.

Then there’s the ability of humans to create art, something no scientist can explain, even if we can identify what side of our brains create that art. The human mind cannot explain a great many things, and in their seeking for answers to the Big Questions, Science and Religion are not incompatible. As well as directing mankind’s minds towards something greater than ourselves in order to gain knowledge and understanding, they both have a lot of grief to answer for when both have been misapplied. For all the concrete benefits Science and Religion have given mankind, the death and destruction that have been the direct result of both quests powerfully illustrate how very far we have to go before our questions are answered. No doubt the answers will astound us.

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