What is your IQ?

The other day while applying for a job opening on Linkedin, a form popped-up with few questions. It had more questions than the forms I usually come across when applying for a job on Linkedin. One of the questions was “What is your IQ?”. I posed for a moment when I got to it. I did few IQ tests in the past and I remember that I usually get high score but it differs from a test to another. So I didn’t have the answer ready and I didn’t feel the question is appropriate as this stage. I ended up dismissing the form and not applying for the job.

I tend to think of myself of being smart. Probably because as a kid I was good in Math and Physics. In my early school years I had my math scores of 100/100 and in my last school year I was one of 3 classmates who scored a full mark in the physics mid-term national exam. At one point I wanted to study physics at college but I ended up doing computer science. I have so much interest in science and wish to be able to switch course at one point and contribute to science in a way or another. Having said that, I found myself verge into writing and found a new full-filling passion when I started blogging back in 2006. I used to hate languages at school, scoring lowest in Arabic and English, but then, today, I find joy in the power of words and love in imagining and telling stories.

The question about my IQ made me remember two incidents that till today makes me smile. One was at school in my 10th grade. It was a physics class and we had an exam about Newton’s physics. I used to love Newton’s physics and was very good at it. There was a question in the exam that I was sure I got it right. I remember checking with other students in class who all answered it differently. I knew that I was the only one who solved it correctly so when the teacher corrected our papers and was handing over our scores I was surprised to hear that others who answered the question differently got a full mark. I thought maybe I was wrong. But then when the teacher reached to my name, he paused. He said that he was correcting the papers and giving full marks but then when he reached to mine, he realized that what he thought was a correct answer for that question was actually wrong. He was correcting the papers wrongly. He didn’t want to go back and take out some marks he already gave, instead he rewarded me with an extra 2 marks on top of my full mark.

The class cheered and clapped for me and I felt so proud!

In a similar incident at college, I had a course about Computer Algorithms. I didn’t really enjoy that course. I think it has to do with the teacher. But then again in one of the classes, we were learning tree data structures. The teacher had a small test for us and he posted it on the black board. He asked who can solve this? I felt it was an easy job as I knew the solution instantly but I was shy to raise my hand to participate. I gave chance to others. Few raised their hands and tried but neither got it right. So the teacher raised the stakes. He said that whoever solves it, will get an extra 10 marks in final exam of the course. And that was a good motivation for me to overcome my shyness and step up. I raised my hand, he picked me, I walked to the board and solved it and got back to my seat. The teacher posed for a few seconds looking at my solution, then he said that during the past 15 years of him teaching this course, he has been posting the same problem every time and no one of his students have ever solved it. I was the first one to do so.

The class cheered for me and I felt proud again. I will never forget that moment.

Of course, I haven’t always felt smart and there has been some incidents where I felt and acted stupid. But I will leave that for another post!

Why we age and why we don’t have to? an army of researchers are on it!

Almost done reading Lifespan: Why we age and why we don’t have to by David Sinclair and I am pleased with what I read. This post may contain spoilers.

David Sinclair

At first glance one would look at the book cover and say it is a tall order. Not knowing who is David Sinclair, one would assume that this best selling book is another hocus self-help or motivational book. But once you start reading, you’d get to realize that this is the real thing. David has a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and is a researcher at Harvard Medical School. He has been working on genetic researches related to aging for many years and is well aware of the scientific advancements in that regards on almost all fronts.

The book starts with a focus on biochemistry and an outline of recent medical achievements in prolonging the lives of other living things along with researches results on human beings. The first chapters are tough to read for non medical readers but it gets better in the following chapters when David outlines his recommendations for everyone on what to do to slow down aging and potentially halt/reverse it. He goes on later in the book into addressing some societal and philosophical concerns on the effects of longer human lifespans on the way we carry on and perceive our lives.

Towards the end, he goes back to his lab at Harvard medical school, mentions many of his colleagues who are working on aging researches at different fronts. Some of whom are prominent scientists and Nobel prize winners. He lists many breakthroughs that happened in recent years and highlights the fact that all the incredible achievements he mentions in this chapter have only happened in one lab, whereas there are many of other labs, researchers and scientists working on tackling this issue all over the world.

I loved that he uses the word “army” where he says that there is an army of thousands of researchers all over the world working on understanding aging and potentially expanding healthy human lifespan to levels we have never imagined before.

The question today is not about “can we defeat aging?”, it is more about “how we do it? ” and “when will it happen?”. It is like having a million pieces jigsaw puzzle with a 100K people trying to put pieces together. We will do it, and hopefully sooner than we expect.

Loving it!

Random big thoughts

Sometimes I wish I have the time and expertise to change fields completely, study science, math and physics in depth and contribute to the human knowledge in a way or another. Unfortunately, that will remain a dream for me for the time, and maybe forever, I don’t know. But it doesn’t prevent me from reading scientific articles and wandering in thoughts of potential solutions to existential questions. And here I’d like to share with you some of them that I would explore if given the chance:

First thought:

It is big I know! and is related to our quest to send colonise Mars. And while I am not an astronomer and have little know of space beside popular science. I am wondering if there are any celestial of adequate size roaming the space between earth and Mars that we can use as stations in our future trips. We have always learnt that we have numbered planets in our solar system and that’s fine, but might it be that there are many other smaller objects orbiting the sun? objects we haven’t paid attention to and can be beneficial to us?

Can someone tell Elon Musk to explore this? It might help him achieve his dream!

Second thought:

As you know, I am very interested in the scientific advancement in biotechnology, especially those focusing in understand the ageing process and reversing it. Few months ago, a study revealed a link between gum bacteria and Alzheimer. From what I understood, it is our immune system reaction to build protective proteins shell around brain cells in order to protect it from bacteria infiltration, causing these cells to loose communication and develop the disease.

I suspect that a similar process plays a role in developing many of other age related diseases. From my read to Aubrey De Grey’s book “Ending Ageing”, I understand that the same happens to our arteries of protein accumulation over time that makes them lose their elasticity and ending in causing us strokes and heart problems. It could be like Alzheimer, an immune system reaction to protect body cells from bacteria infiltration.

I believe that Rheumatoid Arthritis is no different as well, and I think that if we focus our research in understanding the role of our microbiome in our ageing, we might be able to fix it.

Third thought:

It is about alien life! And yes, I understand the math and probability of having all those trillions planets without us detecting any form of life outside our planet. It is mind boggling and don’t make any sense. Looking at the diversity of life on our planet and the trillions of species who lived and are alive on this earth, one would wonder if that is not the case all over the universe. Having read Dan Brown’s “Origin” and the theory that states it is physical laws that predicts animate beings to pops out of inanimate objects, which very logical, then life on earth shouldn’t be that special and other celestial objects should be like microwaves with corn seeds popping life all over the space.

I think that there is something in our capabilities of seeing life on other planets. There is something that prevent us from seeing. Otherwise, life on Mars should be as diverse and common as it is here on earth.

Time will tell.

And yes my last thought is about time and space and Einstein’s theory of relativity and modern physics. I admit that I find it very difficult to understand modern physics theory and I was relieved to read the other day an article stating that maybe we are wrong trying to find a unifying theory for the universe by looking into smaller and smaller objects. And I totally agree with that. I think that we desperately need to a new model of describing the universe. We need to get out of the limitation of the time space model and think broader.

And no guys, I am not high on anything tonight!

The maid, the magic and my friend

It is funny how you spend a lot of time with a person and suddenly get surprised about a way of thinking or a certain belief in his head. Yesterday, my mother’s friend travelled to the US and she left her Filipino maid at our house. The girl is nice, but I don’t feel comfortable of the way she looks at me. She keeps on giving me some eye contact with a blushed smile!

I think she is hitting on me! I told my friend at work, who in return decided to tell me the story of their Indonisian maid. According to him, she tried to pull magic on him, a magic that would make him fall in love with her! The details is a bit disgusting – don’t read it you are oversensitive -. What she intended to do, which is accoding to another indonisian girl, is to have a drop of blood from her premenstrual into his coffe. That is how she would cast a spell on him to fall in love with her! He said that this magic is common among Indonisians! Be careful guys! 😛

Are you kidding me? Do you believe in magic? That was my reaction! The more that I find myself detached from imaginary stuff, the more I project it on people around me, and the more I got surprised. Is there many people in the 21th century with all of the scientific advancements who still believe in magic?! I really want to know!

What was really laughable is that as much as I was surprised of knowing that this educated smart 26 years old man believe in magic, as much as he was surprised of me not believing in it! He was like “You are the only person on earth who doesn’t believe in magic”! Oh really? Am I?

To prove his point, he mentioned Moses and the Pharos. It is mentioned in the Quran he said. So that is where it came from? Now seriously, regardless of how religious a person is or not, how much one can really take from religion and still be on the same side at this point of time where nearly everything can be explained scientifically? Some people are smart enough to reason different teachings in their religion in a way or another and dismiss what doesn’t make sense.

Is magic still part of people’s today religious belief? That really makes me wonder!

10 in the evening on Dream Tv: Dr. Ahmed Zewail

In rare moments, I feel flying high in the sky for achieving something I am proud of. There is a euphoria in creating something that give a humble feeling of satisfaction. For me, I must know only a femto fraction of the feeling that is reflected on Dr. Ahmed Zewail face when he created something that has never existed before in human history, or shall I say the world’s history.

In 1999, Dr. Ahmed Zewail was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering developments in femtoscience, which made it possible to observe atoms in motion.

Recently, he built on his work in femtoscience to develop a (4D) ultrafast electron microscope. To simplify things here – as I understand it -: Before such development, we only could take still pictures of human cells. That was good to diagnose whether a cell is healthy or not, but it wasn’t possible to track the movements of proteins – for instance – and moniter the behaviour of different molecules so that to find out what causes each particle to behave in a such way. The 4D microscope, and for the first time in human history, allows us to take video shots of what goes inside human cells. It is a breakthrough in science, one that opens the door for many many discoveries. It is like a door that is opened, and now we can peek in and figure out what has been going on.

One of the very interesting things Dr. Ahmed Zewail mentioned in the episode, is how Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel Corporation, donated 600 million dollar to Caltech and specified that the money should only be utilized to support innovative unconventional research that can find difficulties in securing any governmental funding. It is really amazing learning about the dedication of such people to science and humanity. Dr. Ahmed Zewail approached Gordon Moore and asked him for 20 million dollar to fund his research. Today, we have the 4D miscroscope!

Ofcourse part of the episode focused on highlighting the Egyptian origins of Dr. Ahmed Zewail and what does it mean to him working in America while declaring his origins proudly. It is something people would want to hear and reflect a kind of inferiority complex that the Arab nations carry towards the West in general. In truth, and while we, as a nation, would always be able to produce up-notch scientific individuals like Dr. Zewail, the reality of our scientific research and development situation is embarrassing at most.

I just hope for a day when the universities in the Arab world carry part of the human discoveries and contributes to the advancements of the human nations. When did science stopped to matter to us?