I have been recently discussing the issue of how artists are different than the layperson to an artist friend. This is my current, and deepest theory of why we non-artists are different than artists on a neuroscientific level (written on my iPhone while waiting for my connecting flight to depart):
So I’ve been thinking of what makes artists different than regular folk and I think I’ve figured it out. Before I have said that artists have a better ability to make links between unrelated perceptual entities and to that of human emotion. I’ve slightly tweaked my theory. I think that all humans are capable of being artists, as some patients who suffer from acute neurological impairments (stroke, trauma, etc) suddenly become amazing artists, where they were not artists before. This got me thinking: it is therefore conceivable that we all are capable of being amazing artists but have the ability somehow inhibited, or silenced, if you will. Trauma and stroke in some patients therefore inhibits the inhibitor and allows the patient to create amazing works of art, complete with breathtaking complexity and metaphor. Furthermore, some autistic or mentally handicapped children create amazing works of art at an early age, whereas “normal” children of the same age are creating stick figures and terrible looking flowers.
This brings me to my theory of artists: as we grow up, we learn to objectualize more and more to the objects we normally see. For example, a horse has a long nose, bushy tail and 4 legs. A human has 4 long straight limbs, stands upright, and has a round head. From infancy we will begin to take what we visualize and create basic framework categories for each object and stow them in our brain for later identification. When asked to re-represent the object (let’s say it’s a human), the more basic classification and objectualization we have done, the more basic the output will be. If, in your brain, you have classified humans as having 4 straight limbs, stood upright, and had a round head, a stick figure would be an appropriate representation.
So how does an artist interpret the world? The artist silences the cues to categorize and form these basic classification interpretations and analyzes the whole object and is capable of re-representing the object to it’s completeness on a canvas. Of course, this is only true of the “realist” artists, where they are capable of drawing/painting a lion, beach scene, flower, bird, portrait or any other object with intricate detail. But what of meaning and metaphor of art, employed by the “true” artists (in my opinion)? Metaphor and meaning are the ability to connect unrelated perceptual cues to that of human emotion. Furthermore, what makes good art “good” is the amount of “Ah-HA!” moments that an individual has when perceiving the artwork. It is like the game “Where’s Waldo?” where the book/painting is a puzzle and when we finally identify the secret location which the artist put the meaning into the work, we have a relieving and pleasurable “Ah-HA!” moment. The amount if “Ah-HA’s” the viewer experiences, the more pleasurable the work of art is. Which is more artistic: “Juliet has blonde hair” or “Juliet is the sun”? One is literal, the other compact with metaphor and deeply rooted meaning. What about a picture of a Playboy pinup or a statue of an ancient Indian nymph? One is a half-assed image of pornography and is used for sexual arousal, the other of female identity and packed with undertones of meaning and metaphor.
The great artist is therefore capable of not only silencing the cues to categorize and objectualize different entities, but challenges entities in themselves and extracts meaning far beyond what initially existed for the object alone. The layperson is therefore capable of recognizing this great feat without being able to do it themselves. This is why we are not all artists, as only few are able to tap into the human element and challenge the world as a whole.
It is common place in society that when you’re hosting or go out to a restaurant for dinner to have coffee after your meal. I figure it’s a cultural and societal event, but after taking medical school biochemistry and physiology, I began to question the effects that this load of caffeine does to the body. Of course my parents and grandparents always ordered decaffeinated coffee, but ever since I started drinking coffee (after I started taking organic chemistry), I always chose for the regular coffee after dinner rather than decaf.
We have evolved from the “hunter gatherer” society to our common human society. In the hunter gather society the body must be able to take long breaks of time without a meal, as it took a while to hunt prey and bring it back to the camp to eat it. Of course it takes energy to move the human body and survive when one is not eating, so we gained this mechanism of storing sugars and fats in our body to use while we are not eating. This is why a supersize Big Mac meal from McDonalds tastes so good, as back in the hunter-gathering society a meal rich in fats and protein was good as we could store it and not be malnourished from not getting enough prey. And then of course as our human society moved into a more sedentary lifestyle fast food chains and Hostess has monopolized on this basic human instinct to get fats, so that’s why our obesity epidemic is the way it is.
In our body, when we are eating we stop the mechanisms of breaking down the stored fats and sugars from carbohydrates. We then begin using the fats and sugars from our meal for body energy and store the excess fats and sugars for use later when we aren’t eating. This is all accomplished by the hormone insulin. And then a while after we had a meal and our blood sugar starts to drop, our mechanisms for insulin secretion stops and then we start secreting another hormone called glucagon. Glucagon does basically the exact opposite things that insulin does on a physiological level. It starts to take stored sugars and fats and breaks them down for energy for the body to use. It is the tug-of-war relationship between these two hormones in our body on whether we should start storing fats and sugars or start to break down our stored fats and sugars.
You don’t have to read this section, but I’ll give a quick overview of the physiological mechanisms behind glucagon and its effects on cells. Glucagon is secreted from the alpha cells of the pancreas in response to low blood sugar, amino acids in the blood, or certain other stimulants like epinephrine and cortisol. Glucagon primarily targets the liver cells. When glucagon is released it binds to its hormone receptor which activates the Gs-coupled protein pathway that eventually increases the cyclic AMP within the cell. The cAMP then activates other enzymes (protein kinase A) which causes the breakdown of stored glycogen and fatty acids. The effects of glucagon on the liver cell stop when the glucagon concentration in the blood is diminished.
So where does that cup of coffee come into place? Caffeine increases the effects of glucagon. In physiological terms, it inhibits the activity of cAMP phosphodiesterase which converts the cAMP molecule into a regular AMP molecule, which then stops the whole glucagon pathway. Therefore, you’ll have a longer effect of glucagon on the liver cells even when the amounts of glucagon in the blood are low. So after that filet mignon dinner which is loaded with proteins and amino acids, you’ll increase your glucagon levels a little because of the amino acids in the blood (even though insulin will be working primarily at this time because you’ve just eaten). So after your meal and caffeinated beverage, you break down more stored fats and sugars then you regularly would, which lessens the effects of all the fats and sugars that you’re about to start storing after that big meal.
Using this methodology, it might even be more helpful to drink a cup of coffee before a meal, when glucagon levels are very high. But all in all, it might be a small way to not feel as guilty from ordering that Oreo cheesecake for dessert.
This was an answer to a question in my first philosophy class, Philosophy of Human Nature. I dug it up when I was bored when I should have been studying cell biology. Thought it has some interesting points, lacked in a few areas, but overall not too bad.
Question: A theory of human nature gives reasons why some goods are more important than others for us to pursue. What do you think is the single most important value for individual human beings to pursue? Is it fame? Fortune? Happiness? Wisdom? Love? Cultivation of our intellect? Development of our moral character? Kindness and charity towards others? Devotion to God? Some other value? State briefly what you mean by the value and why you think it is the most important.
Answer: Reality is whatever our brain tells us it is. Whatever impulses causes a conformational change in our retina, creates action potentials that travel through our optic nerve to the occipital lobe, the specific layers within the primary visual cortex it synapses on, and whatever reading that our frontal lobe interprets as something we “saw.” Our best interpretation of the world is that through our senses. Working with hundreds of psychiatric patients, I’ve realized that they truly believe what they see, just as you truly believe that you are sitting with your eyes fixated on a screen and reading these words. If our senses tell us that our mother is in the room (by sight, smell, voice, etc), and some other person (namely a healthcare worker) tells you that you’re making it up, and then you will think that the healthcare worker is crazy. Clearly, your mother is right there. So what is normal? What gives a basal level of societal “normal?”
The one value that seems to dominate over all the others is normality. Though it is difficult to define the word “normal” through philosophical means, it seems as if humans (and all animals for that matter) seek to exist in a “normal” fashion. Whether it is sociological, ecological, spiritual, physiological, economical, or mental state that one finds normality, the strife for that quest is very present.
If one examines the existence of all living species on planet earth, they will find the increase in “normal” behaviors as they go down the biological food chain. Seeing that humans are seated at the top of the food chain, and having such great intelligence to have such strange actions that other animals do not exhibit, it takes a great amount of effort to keep the human race normal. This is not only done through physical enforcement, such as police and government agencies, but throughout sociological ones, such as peer pressure.
There are many examples in which we find the venture for normality within the human animal. An amputee receives an artificial limb to return to a semi-normal life; a manic depressive loads up on Zoloft and Xanax to try to feel normal; an in-debt father takes his family out to one nice dinner to feel normal within society. All examples exhibit behaviors to achieve normality.
Even within the confines of normality do we find behaviors that human’s exhibit that are labeled as abnormal, yet humanity quickly picks up from that action and disposes of it. We are gifted yet flawed by our intelligence. A child molester exhibits very abnormal human behaviors, so humans quickly dispose of that member by locking him/her away in a cage the rest of his/her life. Yet in the child molesters mind, the only way to feel “normal” and “right” within his or her mind is to commit certain acts which society has deemed a crime.
All in all, our quest for normality is always being made through personal or collective beings as a whole. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who tries to be abnormal, and though one may oppose with the whole “teenage rebellion against the family’s normality” phase that we see in a many teenagers, the teen is actually trying to establish his/her own sense of normality as an individual. We are gifted by this trait, and it encompasses most of our actions and wellbeing in society.
Our world is limited. Limited to the physical and chemical elements it contains, the octaves the human vocal chords can produce, the life span of an individual, etc. The question is: how long and how “meaningful” will such limitations bring? Is it more meaningful to be a 125 year old person as it is to be a 2 week spontaneously aborted embryo?
Sure, we can play within the confines of our limitations, but sometimes we never realize our limitations. One can only rap in a limited number of ways about how hard the ghetto is before they start repeating themselves over, and over, and over, and over again (I’m looking at you, Snoop Dogg). I can only write of limitations in a limited number of ways within a limited world. Eventually I will tire, my fingers won’t want to press keys anymore, and I will die. It is therefore up to the individual within their own psyche to live a fulfilled life. That is what differentiates human beings.
We have obtained a certain number of biological commitments which we need to fulfill on a daily bases, but our psychological differences is what separates us. Some people desire the comfort of metaphysics, some desire denial, some desire sexual relations, some desire nature, some desire ethanol, some athleticism, some desire money, some desire coffee, some desire power, some desire unemployment, some desire pain, and some desire philosophy. This never-ending quest for normality is the only meaningful thing for an individual, and it is the difference in the subjective definition of the individualized “normal” that differentiates individuals. Treat everyone individually.
Acid Bath- Dead Girl
The sound of the ocean is dead;
It’s just the echo of the blood in your head.
“So, if evolution were true, and we came from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?” “I donno man that’s a pretty good question.” I quietly listened to two coworkers talk about their views of evolution. However, after that statement I knew I had to chime in. I explained to them the process of divergent evolution in general terms. “Oh, ok, that makes sense then” one coworker explained. I’m still not sure if the other colleague fully understood.
I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and Neuroscience under the Biology category from UCSD. I have taken many biology classes, of which included evolutionary studies, taxonomy studies, comparative physiology studies, as well as many other biological classes that touch on evolution. In the sciences evolution has been studies rigourously; from micro- to macro-scale experiments of evidence that evolution exists. Why so many studies? For 1, it’s interesting and tells us a lot about our biological ancestors, and 2, because the general public doesn’t seem to quite understand or ignore evolution.
My findings show evolution is a widely defined term from individual to individual in society. “Oh that can’t possibly be true. You think I used to be a MONKEY. Haha you’re an idiot.” “Evolution isn’t true because the bible says that God created everything, so you can’t have new thing being created.” “I don’t know, I just don’t understand it.” My goal is to alleviate some questions about evolution by not explaining fully what defined evolution, but giving examples from known facts that show that the only explanation is evolution. During my discourse I will assume that evolution is true and treat it that way. And as far as the religious ignorance to this, I can’t force it in your brain.
EVIDENCE FOR EVOLUTION
Chimp Chromosome 2a and 2b
I’ll start off with the most common topic of evolution- that humans descended from apes. To answer the question of my colleague, the answer is that the ape we see now is not the same ape that we descended from. During evolution, we see 1 animal split off in 2 different ways. For instance, for birds, a group from an area of birds may fly and occupy a new island. Well on that island there might be new challenges to the birds that it didn’t face before—climate, food suppy, food type, etc. The other birds at home are fine because they are used to the climate, food supply and food type. The new birds must adapt to their new settings. Over time (I mean, a long time) the birds may grow a larger plumage to keep themselves warmer if the new island has colder temperatures. It may have a better ability to store fats if there is a limited food supply. It may also have a different type of beak depending on the food type. Therefore, the old birds back home kept 1 set of characteristics and the birds on the new island adopted a full new set of characteristics. Now multiply that by hundreds, thousands, and millions of years, and you might find that the 2 birds that came initially from the same area, are completely different. The birds on the island could be completely different looking then their ancestors, and the birds in the same location may look totally different if some change happened to that area.
It is believed that humans and apes, as well as all life, followed the same type of evolution. The human and ape ancestor looked like a mix between an ape and a human (called Ouranopithecus). Now, we can see that the branching had to start somewhere.
In the cells in our body we have chromosomes. These chromosomes are our DNA that give rise to everything that’s a part of our body. In the humans we have 23 chromosomes, and when replicated we have a total of 46. The layout of our chromosomes is called a karyotype and it looks like this
Sometimes the chromosomes can break into smaller fragments or the end can break off and attach to another chromosome. Usually this causes the cell to die, or, if it doesn’t die, the cell can turn into being a cancer cell. There are times, however, when the chromosome can attach to another and the cell doesn’t die and the person doesn’t get cancer. Then what happens? Well the DNA starts to express different products that are different than it did before. So what is a normal cell causes either the cell to change or the whole animal to change.
Now onto the apes. Apes have 24 chromosomes (1 more than us humans do), and when replicated they have a total of 48. Here is the karyotype of the chimp chromosomes:
Notice anything different? Yes. Chromosome 2. In the picture they have chromosome 2 having 2 different parts labeled “P” and “Q” (typically it’s dubbed “A” and “B”). But interestingly, the ape chromosome 2a and 2b looks about the same length as the human chromosome 2. What does this suggest? That in the past our ancestor had 24 chromsomes total, but just by chance, the 2a and 2b were fused together to make 1 really long chromosome.
We are 98% similar to apes in our DNA. Where does the 2% lie? Chromosome 2. Where does the basis for intelligence lie? Chromosome 2. Putting the pieces together it: Just. Makes. Sense.
Why do some people have tails?
A strange question, but really, why do some people have tails like a dog? Since we are on the topic of DNA, I might as well show that our DNA is pretty amazing. Our DNA is inside every single cell in our body. It sits inside another special organelle called the nucleus. If you took our DNA out of our cell and unwound it, it would be close to 6 feet long. We have 100 trillion cells in our body that are about 10 micrometers long. That means if you took every DNA out of every cell, unwound them, and attached them end to end, you could stretch it to the sun and come back.
So how do we fit all that DNA into one tiny cell? We pack it. In fact, most of our DNA is so tightly packed that we don’t even use it. We just use the rest of it. So what goes on in that unused DNA? What does it do? What does it code for? What super special hidden secrets does it have?
There is a section of our DNA that makes us have a tail. When the DNA that should be packed and unused is suddenly not packed and unused, we express whatever it codes for. Therefore, if you code for the part of our DNA that tells us to have a tail, then you have a tail. The tail can even have fully formed vertebrae and it’s own blood supply. What does this show about evolution? That in our past, our ancestors used to have tails, but for whatever reason we decided that having a tail was not in our best living environments. Therefore we didn’t just get rid of that part of our DNA, we just packed it away and we don’t use it.
We see this all over nature. Some whales have femur (leg) bones. Whales don’t walk, but their ancestors might have. Some chickens have teeth. Normal chickens don’t have teeth but their ancestors might have. Some female humans get 6 milk ducts form on their chest in the order like a cat. We don’t need the 6 but our past animal ancestors might have.
All these hidden things that are within every cell in our body is a topic of big research in the scientific community.
I’ll add in more sections when I have the time…
Thought it was kinda interesting philosophical response so I thought I might share…
What is your motivation for participating in the activities you have described in the clinical, volunteer and community service section? How have these experiences changed you?
Working within the medical field with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners is rewarding on many levels. I have worked hand-in-hand with physicians, helping with procedures such as bronchoscopies, central line placements, chest tube placements, running code blue calls, observing surgeries, and aiding in almost every type of patient care. I have also worked on a Basic Life Support Ambulance for 3 years, responding to emergency calls, stabilizing patients with AAA’s on the way to the ER, putting traction splints on femur fractures in the middle of a highway, done CPR, controlling arterial bleeding, and many other procedures. However, medicine is not just about the procedures and individual accomplishments that one can do. There is a social level to medicine, in which educating and training the public about medicine is itself a form of treatment.
I joined the American Red Cross when I first began college because I knew that public training and service was essential for my training for medicine. I taught CPR, AED, and First Aid to hundreds of individuals. Whether the individuals were forced to be taught by me or whether it was an elective decision, I am confident that I prepared them for appropriately responding to an emergency if it were to ever happen to them. As a physician it is noble that one is able to treat another individual when the individual is in need of care. However, what able the other majority of society who may not need care and is not being treated by a physician? Furthermore, how can we make medicine the job of not only the physicians, nurses, and healthcare practitioners practicing medicine, but make medicine practiced by society as a whole?
I quickly learned that community involvement and public training was essential for a societal spread of health and healthcare. I was in many pre-medical clubs where we not only talked about our desire to practice as a physician, dentist, or other professional practitioner in 5 to 10 years, but how we can start practicing now. I introduced the topic to my pre-medical club that practicing medicine is a loosely-held term. It is inarguable that controlling a nosebleed, doing CPR, counseling another during a time of crisis, taking aspirin when one has chest pain, performing a tracheotomy for a partial airway obstruction, and performing an coronary artery bypass surgery are all forms of healthcare. Indeed, the form of practice may require certain degrees and training, but everyone is capable of performing some sort of care for another’s health or to their own health. That makes every person a healthcare practitioner. It is therefore the training of such individuals for them to learn how to be a healthcare practitioner is essential for a societal well-being. Indeed, this form of exposure and learning about medicine has better prepared me for my future in medicine, and all of which was performed by my volunteer work.
Since I moved to Erie, I encountered a dilemma. At my new apartment I didn’t have the fridge-mounted water dispenser that dispenses filtered water for me to drink. So I started to drink tap water rather than buying bottled water or buying a filter, partially because I haven’t looked for one and partially cuz I didn’t care.
I was at Target the other day in the kitchen appliances section and came across the water filters. I then began to think to myself. Tap water is shunned by society because they think it’s dirty and contains harmful chemicals. I then remembered talking to my o-chem professor about tap water. He said that at the water treatment plants for each city, they undergo extensive treatments of water that is delivered to faucets. This is because there are strict guidelines from governmental agencies to make sure the water that is being delivered to taps in palpable and safe to drink. They undergo tests to the atomic level to make sure there is the safe amounts of metals and other substances in the water.
So then I thought about bottled water. I stopped buying bottled water over 3 years ago because: 1. It’s too expensive, and 2. I didnt see the difference in just filling an aluminum bottle full of tap water. So I ended up saving over 500x the amount of money by switching to tap water rather than buying bottled. So why do people buy bottled? Cuz they think it’s dirty and it’s not good for you. WRONG.
Tap water is actually BETTER for you. Why? Because 1, it’s completely safe and is just as safe as bottled water, and 2. because bottled water leaves out the essential metals and ions that our body needs for normal physiological function. In fact, that’s why you see the Gatorade’s and the Vitamin Waters, and others because they try to put the ions and metals BACK into the filtered water that they got out initially from tap water.
So what about the taste? Some people hate the taste of tap water. Read the news article on the blind taste test. People preferred tap water’s taste then many other bottled waters in a blind test. It’s the social pressures of tap water that people think it tastes bad. So when they fill a glass full of tap water and are gonna drink it they have this thought that “This is tap water and it’s going to taste bad.” Then when they drink it they think it tastes bad.
And another thing, claims from companies like PUR and Brita that their product removes 99.9% of lead are false. What they do is at their factory they put 1g of lead in 1 liter of water and then use their filter to filter out the lead. To be dangerous, the EPA said the concentration of lead cannot exceed 15 parts per billion, or 0.0000000015g in 1 liter of water (normal lead amounts lie in concentrations much lower than that). To take out 1g of lead in a liter of water is easy as the concentration is extremely high. A simple filter can take out 99.9% of 1g of most metals in water. But to take out 0.0000000015g of a metal in a liter of water requires special crown-ether extractions, or some form of very-expensive procedure that will take out the metal. Therefore the filters we buy don’t do anything for lead!
Also, fluoride is in our tap water and it’s good for your teeth!
Thom Yorke- Black Swan
You cannot kickstart a dead horse
You just crush yourself and walk away
I don’t care what the future holds
Cause I’m writin’ out today
With your fingers you can touch me
Smashing Pumpkins- 1979
And we don’t know just where our bones will rest
To dust I guess
Forgotten and absorbed into the earth below
The street heats the urgency of now
As you see there’s no one around
Darkest Hour- Doomsayer
…and who can save you,
not their gods and not their masters
and who will free you,
look in the mirror…