Dark Energy

There are certain terms used in cosmology, like dark matter, dark energy, and anti-gravity that many people probably haven’t even heard of those terms.  Dark matter is found throughout the universe using observation and calculations.  When light is bent, the amount of mass can be calculated.  When a certain area has more potential mass than observable mass, dark matter is found.  As dark matter could behave under its own circumstances, and it is used to account for the amount of gravity a certain system has.  Dark energy has similar origins.  When observations were being made on super novae, they found the light had a red shift to it.  This meant that the universe was expanding, and in fact, with further calculations scientists were able to determine that the universe was accelerating in its expansion.  Where is this energy that is driving the universe to an accelerated expansion? They didn’t know and couldn’t see it, so the term dark energy was created.

This article, The Geometric Origin of Dark Energy by M.I. Wanas, was a captivating article providing the theory for not only dark energy, but I would argue for dark matter as well.

Einstein changed the way gravity is looked at.  Imagine in the space around you, an essence of dimensions that you cannot perceive, and this essence is traveling in the same direction.  This direction, is the vector of time.  (Time can have different magnitudes because time is relative.)  Keep in mind that even though time is interwoven in space, because it is in higher dimensions doesn’t mean the direction of time is a straight line, it most likely isn’t.  However, it is always moving forward in the same direction.  In other words, the space around you, should be termed space-time, as time is interwoven with space.

Now when an heavenly object is placed in space-time, or as we discussed, in space.  Einstein basically said this mass warps space-time creating a volume around the object in which gravity would have an attractive affect.  Any objects that are influenced by this space-time warp would have a warp of its own.  These warps influence on one another in such a way that an orbit is created between two objects in space.  And well, since gravity is the result of warped space-time, if there was an object with an extremely high mass (black hole), time would be warped to a point that there would be a noticeable affect.  What I am trying to portray, is that time is interwoven with space.

This is important because the article that I read has to do with the geometry of space-time.  Basically they were doing higher dimensional math to influence how the geometry of space-time looks.  Through pages of calculations, they could describe the shape of this space-time, but a picture could never be drawn, simply because we can only directly perceive three dimensional space and indirectly experience the fourth dimension of time.  (space-time)  They found a geometry that would actually cause space time to have a repulsive effect compared to the space-time in our part of the cosmos.  This phenomena, could account for the dark energy observation.  Of course, this is just a theory.  Which means, in order to validate such a theory some sort of experiment has to be created in order to test this theory.  And well, I would not be surprised of this theory is not testable, which is a common problem with theoretical physics.  Maybe someone will find an indirect phenomena which is dependent upon repulsive space-time, who knows.  But what I would like to know is, what causes space-time to change geometry?  I ask because I believe this could theoretically be applied to dark matter.

If space-time has a geometry that has a stronger attraction force, the warped space-time due to objects would have a more attractive effect.  This would essentially create the illusion that there is more matter there, when in reality there isn’t due to the stronger affects of warping space-time.  There is no dark matter, there is just differently rotated space-time.

Again, assuming this is true.  However, it does explain these two phenomena, and their theory would be stronger if they could explain what causes these different geometries to occur.  But all-in-all, it was a very interesting read and it gave me a cooler perspective of the universe.  That space-time itself has properties that if changed, create a different backdrop on how matter behaves.  Really really cool.

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The Unseen Potential of Neurons?

Recently a new Scientific American showed up in the periodicals section at my local library.  Of course, I jumped to read it before my next intellectual endeavor on a book written by an eastern philosopher.  After that I have some books coming my way with poetry and essays.  I’m trying to sense out how to get published being into poetry and essay writing, knowing that I am going to have to drastically change how I write my essays.  My essays tend to have some research involved, and deal with more complex issues.  I want to write to my strengths, but I also want my work to be read.  So I am seeing what I can do on how I can change for an eventual book.  I am not going to change what I am writing for this blog though.  I view this blog as a personal window view into my writing.  I write what I want to write about, and I write it in a way that I like.  What I am disappointed this most about this blog, is my writing stems from the same format.  I read something cool, and then I write about it.  I feel like I can do that with some ease, so now I have to branch on.  Considering how my money situation is, I would take an adult education course on writing, but we have to save as much money as we can.  I am just going to have to find my own way.

And well, time to start talking about this really cool article that I read.  It really made me ask more questions about how neurons behave.

Quiroga, Rodrigo, Itzak Fried, and Christof Koch. “Brain Cells for Grandmother.” Scientific American. 02 2013: 31-35. Print.

The article talks about the accepted view that when information is encoded into memory, everything to do with that memory, the person, the environment, or even concepts that you learned, are encoded in a network of neurons that span in the millions.  To cut a lot of what the article says, they then are able to look at individual neurons using technology to monitor seizures with epileptic patients.  Certain tasks are designed to elicit a memory induced response, and they are finding that only individual neurons can house a substantial amount of information, especially considering that these neurons are used again in other memories to store concepts, or different aspects of a completely different memory.  And the amount of neurons in these networks are in the thousands.  It doesn’t take nearly as much nerve power as scientists once perceived, they are finding.

What I am wondering is, how do neurons store and pass their information?  As I understand it, it is the network of neurons that encodes a memory, not just one.  However, the neurons in the circuit could be members of other circuits.  So how do they differentiate?  The only way I see how a neuron passes this information is to play so to speak with the electrical current it produces.  What I mean by that, I wonder if the neuron changes the voltage, amperage, or frequency of the electrical pulse.  This is a lot of hardware in the computer industry work.  Your network card is receiving pulses of electrical current, with different frequencies, as well as pulsation.  A certain index is created and programed in the hardware, to correlate the various frequencies and pulsations into 1’s and 0’s.  I am thinking neurons operate similarly.  Part of the different current produced, is also done by neurotransmitters.  I am sure they effect the current.  The precise current opens precisely the stored information inside the cell.  I need to read more to figure out how neurons store their information.  If it is known how information is stored and sent across the synaptic cleft, where the information is encoded again.  If that is all figured out.  That would be a grand leap on the understanding of the human brain.

The first way if this could be figured out, is if certain circuits could be determined in providing a person great turmoil or pain in their lives.  For example, a person’s OCD, or social anxiety, to even empathy.  If scientists know how the information is stored, and can encode that information in individual cells of a neural network, they could essentially reprogram the whole circuit.  Insert new data into the neural circuit, thereby changing the very nature of the circuit.  Not sure all that would happen, but it would make sense if their symptoms abated.  Another way this could turn the tide, is if we make progress in selective gene therapy.  When the cells divide, there is hopefully a new genome inside that cell, with new instructions on making proteins.  If this could be used to change the the way information is stored, new information may be encoded due to the new genome.  And, it would be possible to alter genes for a healthier neuron as well (I read an article stating there are more unhealthy neurons in patients with mental disorders compared to people who have no such disorders).  This also, could change thinking on the biological level.

I guess now that I think about it, science will be able to program a brain if they really wanted to, in the future.  A couple has a baby, and then asks for its genome.  A genome is presented (which is possible today by the way) and a genetics counselor will help the couple determine what genes are to be replaced by a better form of that gene, or discarded entirely.  The baby’s genome is on file.

The baby is born genetically with the best chance to be successful in life.

As with any environment, as the boy ages he is showing a multitude of varieties on how the genes are being expressed.  With constant financial stress, the ever subtle fear and anger is constantly there.  In his expression, his fight or flight system is desensitized.  When there is a flight situation or a fight situation, there is a wider spectrum of activity in the amygdala, amplifying his anxiety induced systems.  An anxiety disorder comes to fruition.  In our day and age, with the aid of psychotropic medicines and cognitive behavioral therapy, biologically and logically the thinking of the anxiety disorder is analyzed.  The change in thinking changes the data that the neurons store and transfer.  In the future, they could skip the CBT and reprogram the circuit(s) that are causing the disorder.

Just some thinking on my own.  I am not licensed in any of this, so just understand it is from my understandings.  So I am sure there are some inaccuracies, but hey, I enjoy writing my thoughts out.

Let me know what you guys think!

The Future is Bright

Canli, Turhan, and Klaus-Peter Lesch. “Long Story Short: The Serotonin Transporter in Emotion Regulation and Social Cognition.” Nature Neuroscience. 10.9 (2007): 1103-1109. Print.

Today I read a review study on the relationship between a specific genotype, 5-HTTLP, and its relationship toward emotional regulation, depression, and social cognition.  It was a remarkable read, because the study produces a brief window into how much scientists know, and how this could effect our future lives.  There is more knowledge on how we as human beings develop, through genetics and the effects the environment has on the genes.

Essentially this gene when transcribed, creates a protein that has to do with serotonin reuptake in the synaptic cleft.  Basically that means serotonin gets removed from the synapse after an action potential, reusing that matter for future potentials (neuron firing).  So in basic terms, this protein has a direct effect on serotonin concentration in the brain.  If more of the serotonin gets removed, this creates lower levels of serotonin, which this study focused on four things that serotonin affect (there might be more, not sure).  Emotional regulation, depression, anxiety, and social cognition were all focused in this study.  I have read previously, that the brain has low levels of serotonin when it is dealing with depression.  And where there is depression, there is anxiety and social anxiety for some people.  What I am trying to say, is that low serotonin levels therefore induces depression, anxiety, and probably promotes the feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

What is really interesting is that there are two types of this gene, 5-HTTLP.  The short and long versions.  This basically means the gene is either long or short on the DNA molecule, having different number of bases which I believe are made of amino acids.  Basically they took a look at people who had the short and long versions, and monitored amygdala activity since it is a central region of the brain that is associated with emotion, especially fear.  What they found was there was a wider spectrum of response generally when people had the short version of the gene.  The electrical activity was much less broad with the long version.  They accomplished this by doing fMRI scans of people who were watching pictures of various people portraying different emotions.  This suggest that emotions are generally more intense with people who have the short version of this gene.  Also, there were clear biological effects, like the concentration of grey matter!

Further through the review the authors talk about how the environment could effect this specific genotype.  (On a side note, something that I learned was that the environment effects the expression, or transcription, of genes.)

Occurrences in a person’s life where emotional elimination was delayed, (so prolonged fear) will strengthen the brain circuits for that specific emotion.  If this excites certain circuits of the brain, it will strengthen the pathways that effect the 5-HTTLP gene.  And if that person has the short version of that gene, they are more susceptible to depression, anxiety, social anxiety, and certain tendencies with emotional regulation.  Really interesting stuff!

What amazes me is scientists are able to manipulate the genetic code of various animals, especially lab mice.  Which means, they probably have a working theory on how to do gene therapy with humans.  Now, it would be unethical to start changing genes and seeing the effects.  So if a general theory could be constructed on specific genes and how they effect complex behaviors, I believe certain conditions could literally be cured if the gene therapy could be propagated throughout the brain.  This is what I think they are striving towards, and maybe one day the knowledge would be there to create the best starting slate so to speak with genetics.  It would be solely up to the environment at that point.  And, through the manipulation of the environment, could condition humans in a specific way.  This would not necessarily be a good thing, but it is something cool to think about.

I have more to say, but I am going to call it quits.  I need to go to bed, I am pretty tired.  Anyways, hope you enjoy and thanks for reading!

Ramblings on Human Nature

Recently I have been participating in an interesting discussion about human nature with my father.  And well, it has inspired me to write about it.

Human nature is defined as, “the psychological and social qualities that characterize humankind.”  And I suppose the first question to ask is:  Is this nature permanent? 

There are some people who think that this human nature, the essence of who we are, is the same regardless of what is presented to the individual.  That we are always self-centered, always are a part of tribalism, always value individual freedom and gain over other people, and so on.  However, there is an impression with the writer, philosopher, and psychologist Erich Fromm.  He is under the impression that the human mind from the beginning can be changed ever which way dependent upon the values of society/culture around that individual.  In other words, he leans more strongly with the environment in determining the nature of a human being.  This view compliments the view of natural selection.  If an individual is born in a certain society whose genes and environment helps produce characteristics that favors that society, they will undoubtedly produce an individual who is “successful” by the standards created by the society.  This increases the possibility that these genes will be passed down, creating individuals for the most part if their environment allows, more people who meets society’s standards.  It should be noted, that if the favored values of a society and/or culture changes, according to The Humanist and Natural Selection perspective, the values, and therefore key thinking, may change.  An interesting note, scientist did brain scans of violent prison inmates.  They found the circuit that connects the limbic system to the prefrontal cortex, is smaller and therefore weaker.  The limbic system has more to do with urges, while the prefrontal cortex has to do with suppressing those urges in a more acceptable form for the time being.  So is this circuitry created more with genes and environment?  In most cases, people would say both.

Which would mean, that if the genes were to change, as well as the environment, it would be a brewing pot for creating people with a general different perspective on life.  A little of this can be found today at different cultures and regions around the world.  The diet, to the philosophical view on life, whether it is Buddhism or Taoism, to religious views, are all shaped by environment and also genetics.  I have to say, that the theory that has to do with Natural Selection and Erich Fromm both compliment one another in one key area.  That individuals that are successful in that society create individuals who propagate values and philosophies of that society or culture.  And well through observation, that does happen.

I say all of this because it is in my belief that at some point in the future, not necessarily in my lifetime, I believe there will be a Revolution against The United States Government.  The reason why I say this, is mainly because the US Government is increasingly ignoring The United States Constitution.  It depends how The Government is going to play it.  If they are smart, they will change things that are done on Capital Hill while refusing to take certain key liberties from the people.  It could be viewed that the current debate on firearms is a removal of liberty by some, but the Government is pursuing it because there is enough people to back The Government up.  But this is most likely what The Government is doing.  And I suppose I can’t blame them to a certain extent, because the people allow these things to happen because they are content with the lives they are living.

And on this revolution, I hope humanity tries with the understanding of failure, the philosophical view of thought on human nature that suggests through genes and environment, you can create different brains so to speak, that coincides with that society’s values.  Because, I do agree that The United States was successful, it sure as hell was not perfect.  There are many things we could improve upon for humanity’s sake.  Through the nature of my writing on this blog, I do do some reading and research before I write something however probably not enough.  I wonder what scientific studies that have been done on this subject, but I doubt someone totally changed the environment and value system of a young person, as that would not be ethical.  The only way to test these theories, is to try them.  I firmly believe that.  And the possibilities that present themselves if things were changed, have to be considered.  I will share an idea on how things could be better, but a lot of that desire to change and what that change would be has already been discussed on this blog.  But I really do hope other forms of government are considered, instead of the government that was fabricated when The Puritans ran from oppressive England.  They wrote a Constitution with a segment on individual freedom.  It makes sense, because they are writing from the conditions that they were in.  All I am saying is, we should think about doing the same, and obviously, those conditions would be different.