Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Science/2013 July 12

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July 12[edit]

Heads of State who were also Medical Doctors?[edit]

Hi, does anyone know of any Heads of State (current or former) who were medical doctors? The only one I've been able to find is Ram Baran Yadav, President of Nepal. Thank you for your help. LastPolarBear (talk) 11:24, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

François Duvalier -- Finlay McWalterTalk 11:37, 12 July 2013 (UTC)
Mohammad Najibullah (he article says he graduated as a doctor; it doesn't say whether or not he practised as one). -- Finlay McWalterTalk 11:49, 12 July 2013 (UTC)
Sun Yat-sen. {The poster formerly known as 87.81.230.195}212.95.237.92 (talk) 12:57, 12 July 2013 (UTC)
Bashar Hafez al-Assad. OsmanRF34 (talk) 17:09, 12 July 2013 (UTC)
Not technically a head of state or "real doctor", but Grigori Rasputin's healing powers put him in a place of influence among (or over, some say) the ruling family of Russia. Depending on why you ask, he might count. InedibleHulk (talk) 03:12, July 13, 2013 (UTC)
Gro Harlem Brundtland. --NorwegianBlue talk 22:17, 14 July 2013 (UTC)
More info at List_of_physicians#Physicians_famous_as_politicians, which features among others Salvador Allende and Papa Doc (the latter already mentioned by Finlay McWalter). --NorwegianBlue talk 00:37, 15 July 2013 (UTC)
Added Radovan Karadžić to the list (as politician, he was already on the Physicians famous as criminals list). --NorwegianBlue talk 08:24, 15 July 2013 (UTC)
I've added Sir Earle Page to the list. He wasn't a head of state, but a head of government (Prime Minister) for a short time. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 08:36, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

How soon til the island of stability?[edit]

I am curious if there is anything similar to Moore's Law in regard to the creation of heavier elements? Thanks μηδείς (talk) 22:11, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

Are you really curious? Haven't you been paying attention to physics for the last three decades? The Superconducting Supercollider was canceled. The funding at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has been diverted to "bio-research." The National Ignition Facility is the last large program at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Stanford Linear Accelerator is dissociated from its parent institution and they turned the beam tube into an X-ray laser for biological research applications. Fermilab shut down the Tevatron. Brookhaven National Laboratory is shutting down their synchrotron. The Spallation Neutron Source is sputtering along at Oak Ridge. The program at Los Alamos has been shifted to theoretical work, "arsenal maintenance," and treaty compliance. No, there is not an accelerating trend in the current state-of-the-art in nuclear, heavy ion, and high energy physics. This field is very rapidly dying, especially in the United States. Nimur (talk) 23:02, 12 July 2013 (UTC)
I didn't realize one needed high-end supercolliders to do that work, does one? I thought, from reading our article, the problem was the lack of precursor. My only knowledge of the subject is from the even more decrepit Scientific American, or Guccione's sci-porn. μηδείς (talk) 23:21, 12 July 2013 (UTC)
SLAC is being used for physics as well, just not particle physics. IRWolfie- (talk) 23:48, 12 July 2013 (UTC)
Let me specify I am still confused by the above comments. I have only had enough physics to fullfil an undergrad requirement for the biology major. μηδείς (talk) 00:24, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Moore's law describes a rapidly accelerating pace of technological development, fueled by massive investment and acceleration of technology. Basic science rapidly pushes the frontier; new technology is immediately adopted by industry and put to practical use. Moore's law describes a particular state of affairs that characterized the computer and electronics industry over the last three or four decades; it has taken many forms, from the vague description of a technology "acceleration," to specific claims about technology parameters and durations. If you contrast that to the sorts of theoretical physics and basic science that are related to nuclear research, or to the industrial applications therein, you find no such acceleration or rapid progress. Technological and scientific development is slowing down in the areas of basic science related exotic nuclear physics research. Without a cold war between nuclear-armed states, there is little incentive to pour resources into the field. There is still progress on the edges of the current state-of-the-art, but it is nothing like the electronics industry. Nuclear technology is not "accelerating," and it is certainly not doubling its capabilities every two years.
At best, we can say that there's been a tiny break in the ice - after nearly forty years with no new plants, Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant was approved for a second reactor, four or five years ago; many more nuclear facilities shuttered operations during that timeframe. Existing technology is stagnant; new technology and basic science research are rapidly declining.
This state of affairs for nuclear technology is nothing like Moore's Law. The cutting-edge of nuclear technology is barely funded; existing technology is deployed at new facilities slower than a pitch drop experiment. Contrast this with Moore's Law - corporations and governments pour money and time and manpower to invent new technology; performance doubles every two or three years; existing infrastructure is totally overhauled and replaced every six or ten years. Nimur (talk) 01:07, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, that's an interesting and quite clear response. μηδείς (talk) 01:15, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Nimur is certainly knowledgeable and seems quite cogent here, yet... I wonder. To begin with, I wonder how much is being kept back from us - even as described in the island of stability article - because it has to do with making nuclear initiators. This isn't my field, but my crude understanding is that a nuke works in a way analogous to regular explosives, with a sort of "blasting cap" in the middle to set it off; this cap is made up of these exotic high-numbered isotopes. (As I recall, in the news item that ran in Nature right after India's first nuclear test, the scientists responsible were photographed holding up 2, 5, and 1 fingers respectively... which is right around the top of the public list of stable isotopes, I think) Next, there is the question of whether more and more giant accelerators are really the answer, or if there are other ways - how about "surfatrons" (plasma acceleration), tabletop neutron sources, etc.?) Is there a way to avoid the accelerator, and if not, then do the people who say that the world is better with one giant project than five national ones have a point? And of course, does scientific research really require nuclear power plants be built for routine electric power? Wnt (talk) 04:00, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Here are some nice educational web pages produced on behalf of the Nobel Foundation: on the history of the integrated circuit - the evolution of which is described by Moore's Law; and on making energy from matter - nuclear fusion, the process by which lighter elements are combined into heavier elements. You can decide for yourselves whether these technologies and the basic science that underpins them are trending in the same way. Nimur (talk) 05:41, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
I'm not sure what to make of that. But it seems like new elements are being confirmed at a fairly steady pace - Timeline of chemical elements discoveries seems to indicate this, if I'm correct in assuming that most of the "unconfirmed" discoveries will eventually count as discoveries at the times indicated. This is all the more remarkable considering that most of these things are incredibly not worth discovering in any isotope that has yet been observed, and it is possible that there is simply nothing more worth finding, though I doubt that. Wnt (talk) 06:13, 13 July 2013 (UTC)

So, how much did L Ron Hubbard actually get right...[edit]

...in terms of his theories on the human mind and mental illness? Are there any good online resources that discuss this in layman's terms? I'm looking more for things written by people who understand the subject matter they're discussing - not random haters who're all like 'bleh, the guy was an asshole... and fat - and his followers suck', etc. --87.114.56.70 (talk) 23:37, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

Perhaps it would make sense if you looked at the current state of the art with regards to the human mind and mental illness become familiar with it, and then look at his claims? IRWolfie- (talk) 23:56, 12 July 2013 (UTC)
And it should be stated, with regard to anything he may have gotten right, "even a blind dog hits the tree once in a while". --Jayron32 00:05, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Note that much of the "engrams" bit is, according to many sources, based on Freud's idea of repressed trauma. Bear in mind that Dianetics was initially an offshoot of psychology, but as the professional racket got organized Hubbard wasn't invited, so in order to remain legal he had to brand his practice as a "religion". Wnt (talk) 06:16, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
There are many conflicting stories about how Hubbard got into the religion business. One that I heard from another science fiction writer was that he initially did it to win a bet with some other writers that he could start up his own religion. If that's true then clearly things got a bit out of hand! But there are *many* "origins" stories for Dianetics. SteveBaker (talk) 14:23, 15 July 2013 (UTC)
Whatever you say about it, it's a real religion now. It has several groups that all claim to have the only True and Real version of Scientology and all hate each other utterly, for example. :) --Kurt Shaped Box (talk) 21:10, 16 July 2013 (UTC)

Natural human lifespan in the wild, without modern medicine[edit]

Gorillas live up to 37 years in the wild (I think). How long is the lifespan of a human in the wild? If someone has a minor heart attack, they just go to the hospital to get treated. But if we didn't have hospitals or any other form of modern medicine, we would no longer be artificially prolonging our lives. So how long would a human's lifespan be, then? Rebel Yeh (talk) 23:55, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

The Wikipedia article titled Life expectancy answers your question and many more. --Jayron32 00:15, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Likely worth pointing out, though, that looking at life expectancy at birth seriously exaggerates the contribution of medicine to how long you can expect to live, because the largest contribution is in the reduction of infant mortality. Still, sure, we have a better chance of reaching any given age than we would have without it, but significant numbers of people live to advanced ages with no medicine, as we think of it, at all. --Trovatore (talk) 00:27, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Are we talking about humans with no health knowledge of their own? Modern humans, whether in the big cities or in the bush, still know about bacteria, and using clean water, and how to manage certain diseases, even without drugs. HiLo48 (talk) 00:58, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Reply to Trovatore: That's broadly true. I remember studies that have shown that, for males who reach adulthood and avoid warfare, the average expected life expectancy hasn't been significantly longer today than in the past. It has never been unheard-of for such people to reach 100 years old, and lots made it into their 70s. The biggest advances have been in reducing infant mortality, childhood diseases, and women dying in childbirth. Other medical advances have only made marginal increases to lifespan for the average person. I know it isn't "humans in the wild", but there's an interesting study done in John Putnam Demos's work A Little Commonwealth on life in Plymouth Colony, and there was essentially no medicine at all to speak of, which shows broadly that adult males did not live unusually short lives. Children tended to die of things we vaccinate for today, and women died in childbirth a lot but otherwise, people who avoided those things regularly lived into their 60s and 70s. Given that the state of "medicine" in the 1600s was not significantly better than, in say, 5000 BC, I suspect that human's "natural" lifespan is roughly in the 70-100 year old range. Medicine; even modern medicine, has done little to combat the effects of senescence, which is what gets you if something else doesn't first. And human senescence, it seems, has followed roughly the same pattern for all of human history. --Jayron32 01:00, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn is an excellent book that covers this sort of comparison with the great apes. The usually quoted number is 35 years. μηδείς (talk) 01:17, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Life expectancy would be much lower without modern science. In the middle ages, the life expectancy was low due to the Black Death, that reduced the life expectancy in Europe to the same level of some African countries of today. These, in turn, are presently heavily affected by the AIDS epidemic. And Europe and North America would be at the same level as those, if they didn't have an effective public health system to deal with it. The restraining of the spread of AIDS in the USA and Europe is a proof of a successful public health intervention (which includes everything ranging from sex education, public campaigns, and availability of condoms).
Add to that, that modern science could fight other epidemics, like bubonic plague, the flu pandemic, syphilis, Malaria, TBC and many others. Indeed, I can't say that Trovatore above is right. Reducing death of child and mother at birth is certainly a great thing accomplished with minor means, but we can't know what would be life expectancy if science hadn't being there and a lot of epidemics were still present. Possibly we wouldn't be here to tell. OsmanRF34 (talk) 01:46, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
You've made several comments about AIDS, OsmanRF34, that I am not sure there's a factual basis for. There's a suggestion that HIV has become less virulent. And the prevalence of bareback sex has shown the failure of health campaigns. As far as I am aware, access to modern medicine, i.e., drugs, and not propaganda, is the reason for a higher life-expectancy in the developed West. μηδείς (talk) 02:26, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
I do not know if the virus per se is different in any way. I claim that the epidemic is not growing in all countries, but it is just under control in most countries. There is some reason why people in some African countries are infected up to 26.10% of the population according to List of countries by HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate and there is a reason why the top countries by percentage of affected people are in Africa. Modern medicine shapes public health. If someone distributes syringes among drug addicts in Canada, it helps against the spread of AIDS in North America. No matter what you do with your sexual partners, there is a lower chance that you meet an infected partner due to that. And if someone in Africa even denies the existence of HIV, then your chances are pretty low of developing an effective public health policy down there.
I do not claim that propaganda alone has a positive effect on life expectancy in the West, but I agree that legal medicine do have a positive outcome, combined with the whole range of public health tools. OsmanRF34 (talk) 23:32, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
If you read our article Black Death, you'll notice that it killed between 75 to 200 million. If you read our article 1918 flu pandemic, you'll notice that it killed 50 to 100 million people. However, if you look at the time scale, the flu pandemic was far more deadly over a unit of time. I've read a good bit about the "science" views of the plague that were held during the time, way way more primitive than in 1918. If I had to wager, I'd bet that while science can help, to a degree, the major determining factor of how lethal a virus is is the virus. Depending on what exactly plague was and how exactly it spread, we might not be much better off today. While I don't have any sources of my own to contribute, I'd agree with Trovatore; although, it does depend on exactly how much of sanitation and food safety is considered medicine (I would say they aren't, maybe others disagree).Phoenixia1177 (talk) 03:59, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
I think Trovatore has the best approach here, which is to point out that average life expectancy statistics give a really warped view of how pre-agriculture humans lived (say 10,000 years ago). Infant mortality and childbirth are huge killers, dying beyond those two events is much closer to what we'd find almost normal. That's not to undermine modern medicine's contribution either, but some of the really big chunks of that advantage go to a few discrete things: vaccines, basic antibiotics, and improvements in obstetrics. Shadowjams (talk) 06:49, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
I still maintain that no one can know what would have happen to our life expectancy in the West if we didn't had modern science (including medicine, of course, but specially including public health). Would the bubonic plague, flu pandemic, syphilis, Malaria, TBC, AIDS everywhere and others spread beyond measure? Nobody knows. No one can claim he can predict an alternative history with bubonic plague, flu pandemic, syphilis, Malaria, TBC, AIDS everywhere and others but without modern medicine. Humans in the past couldn't understand epidemics well, but they knew something about them. For example, they knew that could get contaminated if they got in contact with sick people. Knowing helped us to avoid epidemics, it was not like a meteorite striking us.
Bottom line: humans in primitive societies without any health issues have live up to many years, sometimes even over 90. But all the rest, even with a minor issue like a broken leg and without medicine would have lived much shorter lives. Epidemics have a negative effect, both in terms of size of human population and in terms of individual life expectancy, but it's not possible to calculate exactly for how much smaller would the population be or how many years less. OsmanRF34 (talk) 23:32, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
I am not quite sure what prediction is required, we know from the 20th century that the average lifespan in stone-age societies is about 35, and it was only about 45 in the West at the turn of the 1900's. The fact that some people live to their 90's in primitive societies speaks to maximum life span, not life expectancy, which is a statistical value for populations, not individuals. μηδείς (talk) 01:14, 14 July 2013 (UTC)
That was my whole point above in bringing up senescence, because that's what gets you when nothing else does. While people in the past died of disease, infection, warfare, getting eaten by lions, etc. at a far higher rate in the past than they do today, the act of "getting really old and dying of just being really old" has not changed all that much over the past 10,000 years or so. That is, when one looks at a humans "natural" lifespan, if you mean "how long can a human expect to live if nothing except being old gets them" the answer is that it's probably been roughly the same for all of recorded history and then some. Of course the average life expectancy, averaged across humanity, is significantly higher today, but only because we've eliminated the risks from all the stuff that gets you before old age does. The actual age when people just die from being old, as opposed to plague or lions or whatnot, hasn't budged much. --Jayron32 03:48, 14 July 2013 (UTC)
My poorly expressed point above follows these line. Life span with modern medicine equals life span without it. Life expectancy from birth is much higher with modern medicine. Life expectancy from 5 years on: somehow higher with modern medicine. Trying to guess what life expectancy we would have (from any age) under a hypothetical case we didn't have modern medicine is alternative history/speculation/a passtime. OsmanRF34 (talk) 08:37, 14 July 2013 (UTC)
Humans' lifespan ranges anywhere from 32 to 84 years in the wild (http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Homo_sapiens/). So a human's minimum lifespan is 32 years in the wild, and a human's maximum lifespan is 84 years in the wild. Keep in mind that this age range is huge. If you need a specific age, then the median age would have to be the "normal" lifespan of a human (in the wild), because a minimum age like 32 could be considered too short and a maximum age like 84 could be considered too long. Therefore, it would make sense to pick an age that's between the range of 32 and 84; the very middle number in that range (this would be the "average age"). That number would be 58. Thus, the lifespan of a human is 58 years in the wild, with a range of 32-84 years. Mattdillon87 (talk) 03:10, 16 July 2013 (UTC)
Ok, so it's 58 years, but can be anywhere between 32 and 84. So I guess this question is resolved then? Rebel Yeh (talk) 04:10, 16 July 2013 (UTC)
Resolved