Seven Scientific Facts Testify that Mohamed is Sincere

The most beautiful moments in the life of the believer when he see a miracle in the sayings of the prophet (Peace be upon him), we are in the era of science and scientific explorations, so we have to make some searching in his sayings to realize these scientific signs which testify that prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon him) is sincere. This research may make a good contribution to correct west vision about that illiterate prophet (Peace be upon him).

First Fact

Prophet Mohamed says to his companions :(this subject will reach all places the same as night and day) which means that Islam will spread to reach all places the same as night and day reach every place on earth . Indeed, today statistics says that religion of Islam is in every place in the world!! As these statistics says that by the year 2025 , Islam will be the first religion all over the world according to number of followers , this is not an exaggerated saying with no doubt these numbers are real , as these figures came from non Muslim scientists.

Statistical experts confirm that Islam is the fastest growing religion and there are Muslims in all countries all over the world but with different ratios. The question, isn’t this the same as what prophet Mohamed said to his companions 1400 years ago?

Second Fact

The prophet said (ground was made for me as a place to prayer and also a method to be pure) [Narrated by Muslim]. in a new research scientists discovered that there are Antibiotics in the soil of earth , these Antibiotics can clean up and kill the most obstinate kind of bacteria , which prove that soil is a Disinfectant. In a new study scientists said that there are some kinds of soil which can remove the most obstinate kind of bacteria. Today, scientists are looking for manufacturing a killer for the most obstinate kind of bacteria extracted from soil. After many tests in laboratory they found that during 24 hour soil can remove an entire colony of bacteria but the same colony had multiplied 45 times without mud.

Scientists discovered that soil contains antibiotics, and without this feature life would not continue because of viruses and bacteria that may reach human and may eliminate his life and destroy him, but god with his mercy put the cleansing feature to ensure the continuation of our life. We have to thank god for this blessing.

Third Fact

Prophet Mohamed spoke very carefully about a scientific fact realized by scientists few years ago. He said ( God will not held day of resurrection unless Arab land returns greens and rivers again ) [Narrated by Muslim.] scientifically, it was proved that one day the Arabian peninsula was full of greens and rivers as satellite photos confirm that there are buried rivers under the sand of Arab land , one of the great scientists of the American space agency (NASA) says that the taken photos for the desert had shown that one day this area was covered with rivers and lakes like Europe and one day in the future it will back again like the past.

NASA scientists confirms that one day desert of Rub ‘ Al Khali and the Arabian Peninsula was covered with rivers, forests and animals and they confirm that this land will back again like the past , as referenced by the prophetic Hadith.

Fourth Fact  

The Prophetic Hadith about the straight way in Day of Resurrection is considered to be one of the scientific miracles in the prophetic Sunnah. In this Hadith the prophet says:( don’t you see that the lightning comes and back in an eye blink) [Narrated by Muslim] .there is complete identification between our prophet saying and the most recent discovery concerning the lightning flash as scientists had found that the lightning flash happens when a ray of lightning get out of the cloud toward the ground and back again to the cloud! In that Hadith a sign that prophet

Mohamed (Peace be upon him) talked very carefully about phases of the lightning, and also he determined the time as it is the time of an eye blink!

Scientists had found that lightning has many phases and the most important phases are going down phase and going back phase. Time of the lightning flash is 25 Fraction of a second and this is the same as time of eye blink, isn’t this the same as what prophet Mohamed said 1400 years ago?

Fifth fact

Recently, scientists had discovered that forelock area (upper and front of the brain) controls right decisions making, so as long as this are is active and efficient ,the taken decisions would be more accurate and wise .prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon him) says in his supplication (oh god, my forelock is between your hand) [Narrated by Ahmed].in this supplication there is a full submission from the prophet to his god be he exalted as god is controlling however he wants and is predetermining whatever he wants . Also scientists discovered that forelock area plays a vital role in realizing, steering, problem solving and creation. So that prophet Mohamed had submitted this area for his god.

After long studies for brain activities, scientists had discovered that the most important area is the forelock (forepart of the head ) as this area is responsible for creation and steering operations so prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon him) confirms that this area is so important , and this is a miracle which testify that the prophet is sincere . How could he know about that issue in a time when no one knows anything about it? God taught him all of that as god says: (and taught you that which you knew not. And Ever Great is the Grace of Allah unto you) (An-Nisa’- verse 113)

Sixth Fact  

Prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon him) said: (one of the signs of day of resurrection is the sudden death) [Narrated by AlTabarani]. Certainly, in this Hadith there is a scientific miracle concerning a medical fact which considered being a testimony that Mohamed is god’s prophet. United Nations statistics confirms that phenomenon of sudden death appeared in recent days and is increasing despite all preventive procedures.

Heart doctors confirm that phenomenon of sudden death spread considerably in the last few years, despite the development in medicine and number of dead people by this phenomenon are increasing. Isn’t this the same as what was indicated in the prophetic Hadith?

Seventh Fact

Most of scientists confirm that Senility is the best natural end for human, and any attempt to prolong life above certain limit will cause many effects, one of these effects is cancer. “Lee silver” from Princeton, the American University says:” any attempt to reach immortality is an opposite way against nature”. So, it was useless to spend money to treat senility as the spent money was about millions of Dollars. this is the same as what prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon him) said :(oh you ,slaves of God you have to treat yourselves from ills , as each ill has a treatment except Senility , it has no treatment.) [Narrated by Ahmed]

So science gives us some new facts to verify and prove the truthfulness of the prophet and message of Islam.

Six Facts About Microscopy

  1. The magnification of a light microscope is found by multiplying the separate magnifications of its objective and eyepiece lenses.
  2. The maximum useful magnification of a microscope depends on its resolving power.
  3. The resolution of a microscope is its ability to distinguish two close structures as separate objects.
  4. An electron microscope has a higher resolution than a light microscope and so it can be used at a higher magnification.
  5. The resolution of an electron microscope is due to the shorter wavelength of its electron beam compared to light.
  6. Staining allows cell structures to be distinguished.

Bacteria Basics

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Bacteria are the simplest of creatures that are considered alive. Bacteria are everywhere. They are in the bread you eat, the soil that plants grow in, and even inside of you. They are very simple cells that fall under the heading prokaryotic. That word means they do not have an organized nucleus. Bacteria are small single cells whose whole purpose in life is to replicate.

Okay. So we’ve told you they don’t have an organized nucleus. True. They do have DNA. It is grouped in an area called the nucleoid. They have cell membranes like other cells and even a protective cell wall. Mind you, their cell wall is not like the one in a plant. It’s a special kind that bacteria have for protection. They don’t have any organelles, just ribosomes. (These are all characteristics of prokaryotes if you remember.)

What Do Bacteria Look Like?

Very small. Very, very small. You might have seen pictures of some bacteria. Since we don’t know what you have seen, we’ll tell you there are three basic shapes. Spherical bacteria are in the shape of little spheres or balls. They usually form chains of cells like a row of circles. Rod shaped bacteria are look like the E. coli living in your intestine. You can imagine a bunch of bacteria that look like hot dogs. They can make chains like a set of linked sausages. Spiral shaped bacteria twist a little. Think about balloon animals for these shapes. It’s like a balloon animal in the shape of a corkscrew.

What Do Bacteria Do?

All sorts of things. Sorry to be so vague, but they do just about everything. Some help plants absorb nitrogen (N) from the soil. Some cause diseases like botulism. Some bacteria even live inside the stomachs of cows to help them break down cellulose. Cows on their own can digest grass and plants about as well as we do. They don’t get many nutrients out of the plants and can’t break down the cellulose. With those super bacteria, the cellulose can be broken down into sugars and then release all of the energy they need. Imagine if scientists could develop bacteria to live inside of us that would break down plants. That would be something. We could eat grass and leaves all day long.

Human Embryonic Development in The Quran

In the Holy Quran, God speaks about the stages of man’s embryonic development:

“We created man from an extract of clay.  Then We made him as a drop in a place of settlement, firmly fixed.  Then We made the drop into an alaqah (leech, suspended thing, and blood clot), then We made the alaqah into a mudghah (chewed substance)…” (Quran 23:12-14)

Literally, the Arabic word alaqah has three meanings: (1) leech, (2) suspended thing, and (3) blood clot.

In comparing a leech to an embryo in the alaqah stage, we find similarity between the two as we can see in figure 1.  Also, the embryo at this stage obtains nourishment from the blood of the mother, similar to the leech, which feeds on the blood of others.

Figure 1: Drawings illustrating the similarities in appearance between a leech and a human embryo at the alaqah stage. (Leech drawing from Human Development as Described in the Quran and Sunnah, Moore and others, p. 37, modified from Integrated Principles of Zoology, Hickman and others.  Embryo drawing from The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 73.)

The second meaning of the word alaqah is “suspended thing.”  This is what we can see in figures 2 and 3, the suspension of the embryo, during the alaqah stage, in the womb of the mother.

Figure 2: We can see in this diagram the suspension of an embryo during the alaqah stage in the womb (uterus) of the mother. (The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 66.)

Figure 3: In this photomicrograph, we can see the suspension of an embryo (marked B) during the alaqah stage (about 15 days old) in the womb of the mother.  The actual size of the embryo is about 0.6 mm. (The Developing Human, Moore, 3rd ed., p. 66, from Histology, Leeson and Leeson.)

The third meaning of the word alaqah is “blood clot.”  We find that the external appearance of the embryo and its sacs during the alaqah stage is similar to that of a blood clot.  This is due to the presence of relatively large amounts of blood present in the embryo during this stage (see figure 4).  Also during this stage, the blood in the embryo does not circulate until the end of the third week. Thus, the embryo at this stage is like a clot of blood.

Figure 4: Diagram of the primitive cardiovascular system in an embryo during the alaqah stage.  The external appearance of the embryo and its sacs is similar to that of a blood clot, due to the presence of relatively large amounts of blood present in the embryo. (The Developing Human, Moore, 5th ed., p. 65.)

So the three meanings of the word alaqah correspond accurately to the descriptions of the embryo at the alaqah stage.

The next stage mentioned in the verse is the mudghah stage.  The Arabic word mudghah means “chewed substance.”  If one were to take a piece of gum and chew it in his or her mouth and then compare it with an embryo at the mudghah stage, we would conclude that the embryo at the mudghah stage acquires the appearance of a chewed substance.  This is because of the somites at the back of the embryo that “somewhat resemble teethmarks in a chewed substance.” (see figures 5 and 6).

Figure 5: Photograph of an embryo at the mudghah stage (28 days old).  The embryo at this stage acquires the appearance of a chewed substance, because the somites at the back of the embryo somewhat resemble teeth marks in a chewed substance.  The actual size of the embryo is 4 mm. (The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 82, from Professor Hideo Nishimura, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.)

Figure 6: When comparing the appearance of an embryo at the mudghah stage with a piece of gum that has been chewed, we find similarity between the two.

A)        Drawing of an embryo at the mudghah stage.  We can see here the somites at the back of the embryo that look like teeth marks. (The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 79.)

B)        Photograph of a piece of gum that has been chewed.

How could Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, have possibly known all this 1400 years ago, when scientists have only recently discovered this using advanced equipment and powerful microscopes which did not exist at that time?  Hamm and Leeuwenhoek were the first scientists to observe human sperm cells (spermatozoa) using an improved microscope in 1677 (more than 1000 years after Muhammad).  They mistakenly thought that the sperm cell contained a miniature preformed human being that grew when it was deposited in the female genital tract.

Professor Emeritus Keith L. Moore is one of the world’s most prominent scientists in the fields of anatomy and embryology and is the author of the book entitled The Developing Human, which has been translated into eight languages.  This book is a scientific reference work and was chosen by a special committee in the United States as the best book authored by one person.  Dr. Keith Moore is Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.  There, he was Associate Dean of Basic Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and for 8 years was the Chairman of the Department of Anatomy.  In 1984, he received the most distinguished award presented in the field of anatomy in Canada, the J.C.B. Grant Award from the Canadian Association of Anatomists.  He has directed many international associations, such as the Canadian and American Association of Anatomists and the Council of the Union of Biological Sciences.

In 1981, during the Seventh Medical Conference in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Professor Moore said: “It has been a great pleasure for me to help clarify statements in the Quran about human development.  It is clear to me that these statements must have come to Muhammad from God, because almost all of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later.  This proves to me that Muhammad must have been a messenger of God.”

Consequently, Professor Moore was asked the following question: “Does this mean that you believe that the Quran is the word of God?”  He replied: “I find no difficulty in accepting this.”

During one conference, Professor Moore stated: “….Because the staging of human embryos is complex, owing to the continuous process of change during development, it is proposed that a new system of classification could be developed using the terms mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah (what Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said, did, or approved of).  The proposed system is simple, comprehensive, and conforms with present embryological knowledge.  The intensive studies of the Quran and hadeeth (reliably transmitted reports by the Prophet Muhammad’s companions of what he said, did, or approved of) in the last four years have revealed a system for classifying human embryos that is amazing since it was recorded in the seventh century A.D.  Although Aristotle, the founder of the science of embryology, realized that chick embryos developed in stages from his studies of hen’s eggs in the fourth century B.C., he did not give any details about these stages.  As far as it is known from the history of embryology, little was known about the staging and classification of human embryos until the twentieth century.  For this reason, the descriptions of the human embryo in the Quran cannot be based on scientific knowledge in the seventh century.  The only reasonable conclusion is: these descriptions were revealed to Muhammad from God.  He could not have known such details because he was an illiterate man with absolutely no scientific training.”

Programs for Certification in Assistive Technology

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Assistive technology practitioners without appropriate education and relevant experience can pose a danger to the safety of vulnerable assistive technology users. Safety and satisfaction are more likely to result when assistive technology users work with certified assistive technology practitioners. Although certification is not a license to practice, in the future it may be required by employers. Occupational therapists earning certifications as assistive technology practitioners enhance their value to their employers and clients.

California State University at Northridge Assistive Technology Applications Certificate Program

  • This program includes a mix of online and in-person classes. Completion of a project customized to the needs of a client is also required. The program encompasses using assistive technology for a wide range of applications in the home, at school, in the workplace and in the community.

    The focus is on providing existing and new assistive technologies for those needing augmentative and alternative communication, environmental controls, seating and positioning assistance, mobility devices and computer access technology. Clients served will have learning, physical, cognitive and/or sensory disabilities.

    Program participants will learn about the resources supporting assistive technology devices and services. They will be able to implement practical knowledge from the program into everyday situations. In addition, they will be able to work as part of a team through a national assessment framework.

    California State University at Northridge
    18111 Nordhoff St.
    Northridge, CA 91330
    818-677-1200
    CSUN.edu

Northern Illinois University Assistive Technology Specialist

  • Those who earn the Certificate of Graduate Study Program for Assistive Technology Specialist are able to identify and procure instructional and assistive technologies for students with multiple mild disabilities. They can assess a student’s technology needs and integrate the appropriate technology into their daily routine. In addition, they will have the knowledge and experience to provide consultation to colleagues and families regarding available assistive technologies.

    The curriculum emphasizes working with other professionals as part of the team serving the client, researching emerging technologies, translating research into practice, supporting technology in academic settings, and preparing students, teachers and parents to use instructional and assistive technologies.

    Northern Illinois University
    1425 W. Lincoln Highway
    DeKalb, IL 60115
    815-753-1000
    NIU.edu

State University of New York at Buffalo Graduate Program in Assistive Technology

  • The Advanced Graduate Certificate Program in Assistive and Rehabilitation Technology employs a dynamic, problem-based approach to learning through classroom projects, community involvement and exposure to current research literature. The goal of this program is to educate practitioners and researchers striving to improve the independence and quality of life of those with disabilities.

    Course work integrates technology to educational, vocational and independent living environments for persons with disabilities. Those completing the program can work as advanced clinical practitioners and assistive technology researchers.

    Students must complete four three-credit graduate courses oriented to the needs of practitioners and clinical researchers. Two of the courses are part of the core curriculum and two are electives. Courses typically meet one evening per week for a semester.

    University of Buffalo
    401 Kimball Tower
    3435 Main St.
    Buffalo, NY 14214
    716-829-3434
    Buffalo.edu

East Carolina University Graduate Certificate in Assistive Technology

  • This graduate certificate program is for teachers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, recreational therapists, rehabilitation counselors, physical therapists, engineers and other professionals who strive to improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

    Courses in this program are online and delivered through distance learning. Students take three core courses and one elective for 12 credits. They must also attend several sessions on the campus to acquire hands-on experience using the assistive technology equipment. Those who gain certification will have a broad-based knowledge of assistive technology and the ability to work as part of a collaborative team to serve the client.

    East Carolina University
    East Fifth Street
    Greenville, NC 27858
    252-328-6131
    ECU.edu

George Mason University Assistive Technology Certificate

  • This certificate program provides training for practitioners working with family members or colleagues who need assistive technology at school, at home, at work or in the community.

    Requirements include completing courses awarding 15 credits. Two core courses are worth five credits. One of these required courses includes a community project. Electives fulfill the remaining 10 credits.

    Flexible class scheduling makes it possible to complete all course work within a calendar year. One-credit courses last five weeks, two-credit courses last 10 weeks and three-credit courses last a full semester.

    George Mason University
    4085 University Drive
    Fairfax, VA 22030
    703-993-3798
    GMU.edu

Identity Guard Plans: Different Options to Choose From

Identity Guard is currently offering three plan options which customers can subscribe to, according to their needs and budget. There’s also a 30 days free trial, after which you choose a plan from $9.99 per month to $24.99 per month. Regardless whether you choose the Essential, Total Protection of Platinum package, you will be allowed to utilize certain features for theft protection.

 Here are Identity Guard plans

Identity Guard Essential- $9.99 monthly

This is the first plan and is developed for people on a budget and those looking to enjoy simple features. Features of this plan and their benefits include:

  • Internet Monitoring that monitors newsgroups and chat rooms, checking whether your Social Security Number, bank account or credit card number is used in a fraudulent activity.
  • Lost Wallet Protection that helps you cancel you credit cards and you get about $2,000 emergency cash to use in the meantime.
  • Identity Monitoring to monitor your Social Security Number as well as your name to identify if there is any new application for credit or fraudulent loans applied.
  • $1 Million Insurance suppose you become a victim and your information is fraudulently used
  • Recovery Assistance Being a member, you have exclusive access to a feature known as ITAC Victim Assistance, which is meant to provide expert support and advice in unfortunate cases where you become a victim.
  • Online Resource and Tools for training incase you do not understand about identity theft and the system in general. You get access to a number of educational materials at your disposal. There’s also calculators at the website, which you can use when there need be.

Total Protection- $19.99 monthly

In addition to the features above, this plan offers:

  • Antivirus software
  • Quarterly credit scores in which you can access your updated score
  • Credit analyzer that predicts your finances, both current and future finances.
  • Quarterly credit reports
  • Mobile app to use whenever you are on the go
  • Keystroke encryption software to keep your information safe when using wireless networks
  • Address monitoring that sends you an alert every time your mail receives requests.
  • Public records monitoring for changes to civil or criminal records, bankruptcy files, licenses e.t.c
  • 3 Bureau credit monitoring for changes occurring in your credit report.

Platinum Plan- $24.99

This plan includes everything from Total Protection and Essential packages, but instead of offering you quarterly credit score and credit report, you get them every month.

Innovative Ways Which Brick and Mortar Stores Leverage Technology

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When consumers consider technology and the digital economy their first thought is to online shopping. And while it’s true that online stores are the most prominent users of technology, in no way is the use of technology limited in this way.

Smart Mirrors

Have you ever taken items into a changing room and wished that you were able to easily compare them against previous items you tried on? How about what they item would like in a different color? With smart mirrors, this idea has become a reality. Leveraging technology, department stores are employing technology such as this to allow their customers to display previously tried on outfits immediately beside, and overlaid onto a reflection of their current choice.

Location Aware Search Results and Offers

Out and about running your errands and in need of local produce? Business listed with search services are displayed on your mobile device, including directions and opening hours. Looking for a discount at a department store? A quick search provides numerous offers and discounts for giants like Macy’s via their Groupon Coupons page. These location-aware searches are powerful tools which can engage potential customers in close proximity to their physical location.

In-Store Maps and Suggestions

Large furniture stores are no exception, many of which now provide an app which customers can download onto their phones which provide an interactive map along with item suggestions as they roam the store. Customers simply input the item they are looking for, and technology takes care of the rest.

Price-Checkers

While most customers take these for granted, providing customers with easy access to confirm the price of items as they roam the store has become one of the most popular uses of technology used in a brick and mortar store. The benefit of this technology is its adaptability. While, during their introduction, these scanners simply showed the price of the item, integration of larger screens has enabled stores to display offers. For example, a customer who scans a shirt can be shown the price, then be displayed an offer which advises them a second shirt can be purchased for a 50% discount.

While many analysts called technology the end-all for brick and mortar stores, savvy business owners and marketers began to turn the brick and mortar model on its head with a full embrace of technology and the benefits it has to offer.

 

What are the advantages of going to the gym?

No matter what your ageis, physical fitness must be given the utmost importance. A gym is not only for growing six pack abs; you can join a gym just to tone your body or lose extra calories. Obesity can lead to someserious, potentially fatal medical conditions. So, regular training at a gym is essential to maintaining optimal health.

Professional gyms are can be expensive for many middle-class people. Thus, many people thinkof a gymmembership as a luxury. Groupon coupons can be so helpful in successfully acquiring a membership at aprofessional gym, because they offer considerable rate discounts. There are numerous discount coupons Groupon offers, which can save a lot of money. Thus, you can join a professional gym at some incredible prices.

There are numinous benefits of going to the gym. You might think of doing aworkoutathome and losing weight. You must know that 70% of people who commit to home work outs failat following through on regularly working out at home. When you are in a gym, a trainer will be there to assist you and you will meet with different people- these things boost your energy.

Not just for weight loss, you can also join a gym just to stay fit and healthy. When you work out regularly, your body secretes happy hormones, you will be less stressed out throughout the entire day, and you will sleep better. Your body’s metabolism will be well regulated, and in this way, you will build up a strong immune system.

Denver Gyms have great reputations-unisex gyms with professional trainers. Whatever your intention is in joining agym, professional trainers there will help you achieve your goal. There are different types of membership plans. You can pay by the week, or even by the month.

These days, people are suffering from many health and psychological problems. Regularly working out is beneficial for your health as well as themind. So, you can make your future healthy and secure just by joining a gym. Denver gyms welcome people of all ages. You will feel the difference, in your mind and body, just after a week of training.

6 Great Things on Microbes

1. Microbes play defense. The oodles of microbes that live on and inside us protect us from pathogens simply by taking up space. By occupying spots where nasties could get access to and thrive, good microbes keep us healthy. As Eisen explains, “It’s sort of like how having a nice ground cover around your house can prevent weeds from taking over.”

2. Microbes boost the immune system. Researchers at Loyola University demonstrated in a 2010 study how Bacillus, a rod-shaped bacteria found in the digestive tract, bind to immune system cells and stimulate them to divide and reproduce. The research suggests that, years down the road, those with weakened immune systems could be treated by introducing these bacterial spores into the system. These microbes could potentially even help the body fight cancerous tumors.

3. Microbes protect us from auto-immune diseases. In his TEDTalk, Eisen describes being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as a teenager after “slowly wasting away until I looked like a famine victim with an unquenchable thirst.” Because microbes help train the immune system, if the microbiome is thrown out of whack, it can alter the body’s ability to differentiate between itself and foreign invaders. Recent research into Type 1 Diabetes reveals that a disturbance in the microbial community could trigger the disease, in which the body kills cells that produce insulin. In a 2009 study, researchers at Cornell University showed that introducing a benign strain of E. coli into diabetic mice set off a domino effect that led them to produce insulin. The work suggests that, someday, microbial yogurt could replace insulin shots for people with the disease. Microbial disturbances could be at the root of other auto-immune disorders too.

4. Microbes keep us slim. Microbes play an important role in our body shape by helping us digest and ferment foods, as well as by producing chemicals that shape our metabolic rates. Eisen explains, “It seems that disturbances in our microbial community may be one of the factors leading to an increase in obesity.”

5. Microbes detoxify and may even fight off stress. Just as humans breath in oxygen and release carbon dioxide, microbes in and on us take in toxins and spare us their dangerous effects. A recent study also shows that people feeling intense stress have much less diverse bacterial communities in the gut, suggesting that there is a not-yet-understood interplay between microbes and stress responses.

6. Microbes keep babies healthy. Recent studies have shown that babies born via caesarean section have very different microbiomes than those born the old-fashioned way. Why? Because during the birthing process, babies are colonized with the microbes of their mother, especially substances that aid in the digestion of milk. According to Science News, babies born via C-section are more likely to develop allergies and asthma than children born vaginally.

5 Top Ways to Boost Your Immune Health and Stay Flu-Free

If you want to join the ranks of “those people” who rarely get sick, start with the strategies listed below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does give you a general idea of how to live healthy and avoid getting sick. Other factors, like getting high-quality sleep and avoiding exposure to environmental toxins, are important too, but if you’re looking for a few simple “secrets” to get started on today … start with these …

  1. Optimize Your Vitamin D

    This takes the number one position for a reason: if you’re vitamin-D-deficient, and many are, your immune system will not activate to do its job. Just one example of an important gene that vitamin D up-regulates is your ability to fight infections, including the flu. It produces over 200 antimicrobial peptides, the most important of which is cathelicidin, a naturally occurring broad-spectrum antibiotic.

    At least five studies show an inverse association between lower respiratory tract infections and vitamin D levels. That is, the higher your vitamin D level, the lower your risk of contracting colds, flu, and other respiratory tract infections. To find out more, including your best sources of vitamin D, dosing and what proper levels should be, please watch my free one-hour lecture.

    The best way to increase your vitamin D level is by sun exposure but that is difficult for most people in the fall and winter, so next best would be to use a safe tanning bed. Neither of these methods require blood testing as long as you are getting enough exposure to get a tan. The least best way to increase your vitamin D level is by swallowing it, which will require a blood test to confirm your level is correct. Most adults require 8,000 units to reach therapeutic levels and some much more. Although that may sound too high to some, remember you can get up to 20,000 units through sun or tanning bed exposures.

  2. Optimize Your Insulin and Leptin Levels by Avoiding Sugar, Fructose

    Eating sugar, fructose and grains will increase your insulin level, which is one of the fastest ways to get sick and also experience premature aging. Leptin is another heavyweight hormone associated with disease and the aging process.

    Like your insulin levels, if your leptin levels become elevated, your body systems will develop a resistance to this hormone, which will wreak havoc in your body.

    My nutrition plan, based on natural whole foods, is your first step toward optimizing your insulin and leptin levels and increasing your chances of living a longer, healthier life. The heart of my program is the elimination, or at the very least, drastic reduction of fructose, grains and sugar in your diet, which is also important for flu prevention because sugar decreases the function of your immune system.

  3. Exercise

    If you are exercising regularly, just as if your vitamin D levels are optimized, the likelihood of your acquiring the flu or other viral illness decreases quite dramatically, and studies have clearly shown this.

    In one such study, staying active cut the risk of having a cold by 50 percent, and cut the severity of symptoms by 31 percent among those who did catch a cold. The researchers noted that each round of exercise may lead to a boost in circulating immune system cells that could help ward off a virus.

    It’s a well-known fact that exercise improves the circulation of immune cells in your blood. The job of these cells is to neutralize pathogens throughout your body. The better these cells circulate, the more efficient your immune system is at locating and defending against viruses and diseases trying to attack your body.

    Since exercise has repeatedly been proven to benefit your immune system over the long haul, it’s crucial to treat exercise like a drug that must be properly prescribed, monitored and maintained for you to enjoy the most benefits. Essentially, you need to have a varied, routine that includes high-intensity interval exercises like Peak Fitness.

  4. Eat Plenty of Raw Food

    One of the most important aspects of a healthy diet that is frequently overlooked is the issue of eating your food uncooked, in its natural raw state.

    Unfortunately, as you may be aware, over 90 percent of the food purchased by Americans is processed. And when you’re consuming these kinds of denatured and chemically altered foods, it’s no surprise we have an epidemic of chronic and degenerative diseases, not to mention way too many cases of colds and flu.

    Ideally you’ll want to eat as many foods as possible in their unprocessed state; typically organic, biodynamic foods that have been grown locally, and are therefore in season. But even when you choose the best foods available you can destroy most of the nutrition if you cook them. I believe it’s really wise to strive to get as much raw food in your diet as possible.

    I personally try to eat about 80 percent of my food raw, including raw eggs and organic, naturally raised meats.

  5. Learn How to Effectively Cope With Stress

    Stress has a major influence on the function of your immune system, which is why you’ve probably noticed you’re more likely to catch a cold or the flu when you’re under a lot of stress. This is true for both acute stressful episodes, such as preparing a big project for work, and chronic stress, such as relationship troubles or grief. Both will deteriorate your immune system and leave it less able to fight off infectious agents.

    And, in the event you do get sick, emotional stressors can actually make your cold and flu symptoms worse. So be sure you take time in life to de-stress and unwind using stress management tools like exercise, meditation, massage, and solid social support.

 

8 Incredible Facts About Human Evolution

Homo sapiens evolved about 200-150,000 years ago in Africa, but our story as a species stretches back much further than that with early human ancestors. And the evolution of Homo sapiens is itself a tangled tale, full of unanswered questions and gothic family melodrama. Here are a few facts you may not know about the human evolutionary story.

1. Early human beings left Africa over 1 million years ago

Most of us have heard the story about how Homo sapiens poured out of Africa into Europe and Asia starting about 80,000 years ago. What you may not realize is that our ancestor, Homo erectus, had been taking the same routes out of Africa on and off for over 1 million years. In fact, when Homo sapiens left Africa, they would have encountered other humans who looked very much like themselves – these would be the descendents of the common ancestor we share with Neanderthals, as well as the descendents of Homo erectus. All of these people were early humans. And they had been wandering around Eurasia for hundreds of thousands of years.

2. Humans have incredibly low genetic diversity

Humans are among the least genetically diverse apes, mostly because we all appear to be descended from a small group of humans who lived in East Africa. To describe genetic diversity, population geneticists use a measure called “effective population size.” Put extremely simply, effective population size is how many people you would need to reproduce the genetic diversity of our full population. For humans, this number hovers around 15,000 individuals, which is pretty insane when you consider our actual population size is 7 billion. As a point of comparison, some species of mice have an effective population size of 733,000.

3. You may be part Neanderthal

This is pretty widely known, but it bears repeating. Recent genetic analysis of Neanderthal bones reveals that there are some Neanderthal genes that have made their way into modern non-African populations. This suggests that when Cro-Magnons entered Europe, the Middle East and Asia, they probably had children with the local Neanderthal populations. We are all one happy human family.

4. The human population crashed about 80,000 years ago

Something mysterious happened about 80,000 years ago that reduced humanity’s effective population size. If you recall, the effective population size is not the same thing as the actual population size – it’s a measure of genetic diversity. So basically, our genetic diversity shrank by a lot 80,000 years ago. There are a lot of theories about why this might be, ranging from an apocalyptic disaster caused by the eruption of the Toba volcano, to something more mundane like interbreeding among small populations.

5. Humans navigated the Indian ocean in boats 50,000 years ago

Homo sapiens arrived in Australia roughly 50,000 years ago. How the hell did they get there from the shores of Africa? They used small boats, probably lashed together out of reeds. (Likely they were similar to the boats that brought us from Asia to the Americas over 17,000 years ago.) It was the Paleolithic equivalent of flying to the moon in a tin can. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. Using those small boats, we crossed the Pacific many times and populated an entire continent.

6. Homo sapiens has only had a culture for less than 50,000 years

While we’re talking about all the cool things that happened 50,000 years ago, it’s worth noting that many anthropologists now believe early humans probably did not develop what we would recognize as culture until around that time. This is amazing when you consider that the “mitochondrial Eve” theory suggests that we are all descended from one East African woman who lived about 200-150,000 years ago. Given that Homo sapiens evolved around the time of mitochondrial Eve, that means our species hung around for a really long time before we developed awesome things like art, symbolic communication, ornaments, and fancy bone tools. Certainly, pre-cultural humans had fairly sophisticated toolkits and fire, but we have very little evidence that they had art and symbolic communication, which are the cornerstones of that thing we call “culture.” Some anthropologists believe that we didn’t even invent language until that cultural explosion, but this is almost impossible to prove one way or the other.

7. Homo sapiens has always used fire as a tool

Homo sapiens evolved after our ancestors tamed fire and started making tools. This sounds simple, but when you start to think about it, the implications are profound. As a species, we have never existed without one of the most important tools for building a civilization: tamed fire. As a species, we are born tool users and fire makers. Some might even say that means we were born cyborgs, because our species has always been augmented by the invention of artificially made fire and tools. Whoa.

8. Homo sapiens is still evolving rapidly

Good news, everyone! Homo sapiens is still evolving – and one day our progeny will be as different from us as we are from Homo erectus. Evolutionary biologists have isolated a few areas of the human genome that are under rapid selection. That means mutations in those genes are spreading rapidly throughout the population. Many of these mutations are related to brain size and development, and others have to do with our ability to tolerate certain kinds of foods (like dairy) and disease resistance. This has led some biologists to wonder whether we are evolving to be more intelligent, but it is not yet clear whether the evolutionary changes we are seeing have anything to do with intelligence — especially since our brains are actually shrinking. Still, it’s good to know that that the genes which control one of my favorite anatomical systems is still evolving.

Service of Microscopy

Detailed Microscopic Examination

Our analysts have taken on a diverse range of projects requiring microscopic examinations. From determining general particle size distribution of water turbidity to detailed characterization of wooddust samples, we are able to customize a method of analysis for your specific project.

Cryptosporidium & Giardia

ALS Laboratory Group (ALS) offers analysis for the detection of Cryptosporidium (Crypto) and Giardia in water using the recently approved EPA method 1623 immuno-magnetic separation technique. This procedure can isolate both Crypto and Giardia using one 10L water sample resulting in improved sensitivity and the lowest possible detection of oocysts per liter.

Fungi

ALS is AIHA-LAP, LLC, accredited to perform identification and enumeration of environmental mould samples to genus and species. Our capabilities include analysis of bulk, swabs, tapes and air samples for viable moulds, as well as spore traps for non-viable moulds. Our staff is highly trained for these tests offering assistance with sampling strategies and data interpretation. This expertise, along with our AIHA-LAP, LLC, accreditation, can give you confidence in the analysis you are using in your investigations.

Benthic Invertebrates

Many laboratories offer the chemistry services required for in-depth environmental baseline studies, but ALS also offers the associated benthic and phyto/zooplankton identification services. We employ a large number of biologists capable of handling multiple project requirements and deadlines using CAEAL (ISO 17025) accredited procedures. We have analyzed fresh water benthic samples to various taxonomic levels from coast to coast, and can provide reference libraries with each project.

Algae

Blue-green (BG) algae have become an organisms of concern in drinking water sources across Canada. ALS can assist water quality professionals in identifying and monitoring BG or any other algae of concern, as well as microcystin-LR quantities. We are capable of reporting detailed identification, counts and biovolumes to ensure the accurate assessment of Canada’s water quality.

Human and Microbes

As with many things in life, humans need more than nature provides, not only to battle hazards in nature but also to battle things we have created ourselves. You’re asking, “What are these guys talking about?” Biotechnology! Scientists all over the world are experimenting with viruses, bacteria, and fungi for hundreds of reasons. Why mess around with these little creatures? They are the simplest of all organisms. They can also be the most deadly. That is reason enough to study them.

Microbes to Make Medicine

Scientists are working with microbes and the compounds they create to make new medicines to save our lives. You might be vaccinated for pox or the flu. Scientists have studied those viruses to see how they act. Then they came up with a way to teach your immune system to do battle. If you get sick at all, you will be able to fight off the infection. Labs are also developing drugs that help you fight infections after you get the disease. We already spoke about antibiotics. Labs are creating new and stronger antibiotics every day.

Microbes in War

Although nobody likes to talk about it, humans have a history of using disease and compounds created by microbes in warfare. Labs were built to create chemical compounds that would kill people. They also isolate diseases (viruses) that could be released to infect entire populations of people. Most of the world has chosen not to develop diseases for use in war. They realized how dangerous and uncontrollable these diseases are. Once they are out, they might not be able to be stopped.

Cleaning the Environment

Let’s finish on a good note. Scientists are also working with microbes to help the environment. In reality, the environment did not need help; we’re just trying to lower the negative impact we have on the environment. Good examples are the bacteria that have developed to break down oil in the water. If a tanker leaked and oil began to get into the water, these bacteria could be released to break down the oil. The resulting compounds would not hurt the environment. Scientists are also working with bacteria and fungi to help breakdown garbage.

Facts about Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy

In CLSM, a laser light beam is focused to a diffraction-limited spot in the focal plane. Images are captured by scanning the beam over the focal plane, and recording the variations in fluorescence intensity.

A pinhole aperture in front of the fluorescence detectors, placed to correspond with the focal plane (hence confocal), excludes most of the out-of-focus fluorescence. By recording fluorescence from mainly the focal plane, you acquire an image that is an “optical section” of the specimen.

Light path in a confocal microscope

Schematic outline of the light path in a confocal microscope. Illustration:Peter Ekström

By scanning consecutive focal planes, a series of optical sections can be acquired. These optical sections can be assembled in a ”z-stack”, which can be used for 3D-analysis and 3D-rendering of the fluorescent structures.

Schematic outline of optical sections

What’s so good with confocal microscopy?

The immediate gain in confocal microscopy, when compared with conventional epifluorescence microscopy, is the superior depth resolution. With a high-resolution objective (numerical aperture 1,3-1,4) it is possible to acquire an image in which most of the signal comes from a ca. 0,5 µm tick optical section! With the epifluorescence microscope (using the same objective) the image would contain light from the entire thickness of the specimen. Thus, the confocal microscope improves the signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) tremendously, making it easier to distinguish small structures in the specimen.

Please note, though, that resolution in the image plane (x/y) is only about 25% better than in conventional light microscopy. The improvement depends on that coherent laser light can be focussed into a smaller spot than non-coherent light from e.g. a Hg-lamp – in all other respects is it “the same microscope optics”. However, the combination of a dramatic improvement of S/N due to the optical sectioning, and a marginal improvement in lateral resolution, gives a superior detection of e.g. co-localized fluorescent markers.

And which are the limitations?

It is of course not possible to acquire high-resolution images of deep structures at any depth in a specimen. First, the objective’s working distance (distance between lens surface and focal point) is a physical constraint. In practice, however, it is more usual that factors like optical density and variations in the refractive index set an absolute limit at depths around 200 µm in biological specimens. If you need to study deeper volumes you should consider using multiphoton microscopy, which may work down to approximately 500 µm.

Confocal laser scanning microscopy is a good tool for studying different types of dynamic processes. However, the scan speed of the laser beam limits how fast process you can study. For studies of biological processes at the cellular level (and some biochemical processes) it may often suffice to “zoom in” and scan only a small area/volume, thus achieving an adquate frame rate. If this approach is not fast enough, you should consider using conventional (wide-field) fluorescence, TIRF, or spinning disk confocal microscopy, where temporal resolution is limited by the read-out reate of the CCD camera.

Finally: as mentioned above, the resolution (x/y) in a confocal microscope is only marginally better than in conventional light microscopy. If you need to resolve, visualize and exactly locate smaller structures using fluorescent markers, you’ll have to use one of many so-called super-resolution (or subdiffraction) microscopy methods, like STED, GSD, GSDIM, PALM, STORM, etc. Please note, though, that these methods are very specialized, have great limitations, and demand special (often not commercially available) technically advanced equipment. Another alternative is to use quantum dots that may first be visualized with fluorescence, and then exactly localized with electron microscopy!

Good and Bad Microbes

Good Microbes

With such a variety of microscopic organisms, it’s bound to happen that there are some that help the world. There will also be some that hurt the world. We will cover those in another section. We’re going to cover a few of the good ones here.

Fixing Nitrogen in Soil

There are bacteria that go through a process called fixing nitrogen. These bacteria, living in the roots of plants, actually help them absorb nitrogen from the surrounding soil. The nitrogen is very important for the growth of the plant, and these little bacteria give them an advantage for survival.
Microbes in the stomachs of cows help them eat grass

Helping Cows Eat Grass

As we said, not all protists are bad for the world. In the bacteria section we already told you about a species that lives in the digestive system in cows. These bacteria help cows break down the cellulose in plants. Similar bacteria live in all sorts of grazing animals, helping them survive off plant material. Many ecosystems are based on creatures that are called herbivores.

Mold on fruit was found to help fight bacterial diseases

Antibiotics

Scientists have even discovered fungi that will help you battle bacterial diseases. So you get sick, the doctor looks at you and says you have a bacterial infection, maybe bronchitis. He prescribes an antibiotic to help you get better. Antibiotics are drugs designed to destroy bacteria by weakening their cell walls. When the bacterial cell walls are weak, your immune cells can go in and destroy the bacteria. Although there are many types now, one of the first antibiotics was called penicillin. It was developed from a fungus (a fungus named Penicillium found on an orange, to be exact).

Bad Microbes

With such a variety of microscopic organisms, it’s bound to happen that some do not help anything in the world. Some also help the world. We cover those in another section. We’re going to cover a few of the bad ones here.

Diseases

Many species of bacteria cause disease in humans, animals, and even plants. Humans worry about bacteria that cause botulism (bacteria living in spaces without oxygen, such as cans), tetanus and E. coli. You should know that there are also some good forms of E. Coli living in your intestines. They help break down food and live a simple life (and yes, they make it smell down there). There are also E. Coli that can be passed to you from undercooked meat. These bad bacteria can make you very sick and even kill you.

A Role in Natural Selection

We don’t know of any viruses that are good for the world. They are an important piece of evolution and natural selection. Weaker and older animals are more easily infected. Those organisms are removed from the population so that healthier animals can survive. But the virus life cycle, that of a parasite, only hurts the organisms. Some even destroy cells in order to reproduce. And don’t think you are the only one to get sick. Viruses attack plants and even bacteria. No organism is safe from damage. Examples of viruses include Rabies, Pneumonia, and Meningitis.

Prokaryotes – Missing a Nucleus

prokaryotes do not have defined organelles If you’re looking to learn about cells with a nucleus, this is the wrong place. Prokaryotes do not have an organized nucleus. Their DNA is kind of floating around the cell. It’s clumped up, but not inside of a nucleus. If you want to learn about cells with a nucleus, look for information on eukaryotes. And, once again, a prokaryote is a single cell or organisms that does NOT have organized nuclei.

Can You Exist Without a Nucleus?

You can’t, but they can. What can you do without a nucleus? You can do a whole lot. Most prokaryotes are bacteria and bacteria can do amazing things. Although they are very simple organisms, they are found everywhere on the planet. Some scientists even think that they may be found on other planets (maybe even Mars). Some places you can find bacteria every day are in your intestines, a cup of natural yogurt, or a bakery. Prokaryotes are the simplest of simple organisms. Here’s the checklist.

Virus, bacterium, and amoeba (1) Prokaryotes have no organized nucleus. Like we said, the DNA is clumped in an area but there is no organized nucleus with a membrane.

(2) Prokaryotes do not usually have any organelles. They will probably have ribosomes inside of their cells, but ribosomes are not technically considered organelles. No chloroplasts. No mitochondria. No nucleus. Not much at all.

(3) Prokaryotes are very small. Because they don’t have all of the normal cell machinery, they are limited in size. As always in biology, there are exceptions, but generally, prokaryotes are very small (compared to other cells). Mind you, compared to a virus they are big, but next to an amoeba, tiny.

(4) Prokaryotes don’t have mitosis or meiosis like other cells. Scientists don’t really have a good way of describing how they duplicate, but it’s not through normal means. Check out the bacteria tutorial to get an idea.

The Littlest Organisms

Let’s study the wee ones of the world known as the microbes or the microorganisms. If you spend your life studying them, you would be a microbiologist. These are the smallest of the small and the simplest of the simple. Some of them, like viruses, may not even be alive as we currently define life.

Images of Microbes

What is a Microbe?

What makes a microbe? We suppose you need a microscope to see them. That’s about it. There is a huge variety of creatures in this section. They can work alone or in colonies. They can help you or hurt you. Most important fact is that they make up the largest number of living organisms on the planet. It helps to be that small. It’s not millions, billions, or trillions. There are trillions of trillions of trillions of microbes around the Earth. Maybe more.

Calling all Microscopes

As with all of science, discovery in biology is a huge thing. While microbes like bacteria, fungi, some algae, and protozoa have always existed, scientists did not always know they were there. They may have seen a mushroom here or there, but there were hundreds of thousands of species to be discovered.

It took one invention to change the way we see the world of microbes – the microscope. In 1673, Anton von Leeuwenhoek put a couple of lenses together and was able to see a completely new world. He made the first microscope. It wasn’t that impressive, but it started a whole history of exploration. More important to us, scientists were eventually able to discover the cause and cure of many diseases.

Too Many to Count, Too Small to Find

We’ll give the big overview on the variety of microorganisms here. There is no simple explanation of a microbe besides the fact that they are small. The list goes on. Just remember that there is a lot of variety going on here.

They can be heterotrophic or autotrophic. These two terms mean they either eat other things (hetero) or make food for themselves (auto). Think about it this way: plants are autotrophic and animals are heterotrophic.

They can be solitary or colonial. A protozoan like an amoeba might spend its whole life alone, cruising through the water. Others, like fungi, work together in colonies to help each other survive.

They can reproduce sexually or asexually. Sometimes the DNA of two microbes mixes and a new one is created (sexual reproduction). Sometimes a microbe splits into two identical pieces by itself (asexual reproduction).

Biology Facts

Fun biology facts for kids

Increase your biology knowledge with this great collection of interesting biology facts. Learn about cells, DNA, ecology, natural selection, bacteria, viruses, yeast, evolution, cloning and much more.

  • People that study biology are known as biologists.

  • Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth. Reaching over 2000 kilometres (1240 miles) in length.

  • The first person to see a live cell with a microscope was Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, in 1674.

  • Ecology is the study of ecosystems and how organisms interact with their environment.

  • While some bacteria can make you sick, others have positive benefits such as helping you digest food or even make yoghurt.

  • Moulds, yeasts and mushrooms are types of fungus.

  • The common cold is a type of virus.

  • Viruses can be treated with antiviral drugs.

  • Bacteria are extremely small and are made up of just one cell.

  • Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics.

  • Animals that eat plants as their primary food source are known as herbivores.

  • Endangered species are those that are in danger of being completely wiped out, they include blue whales, tigers and pandas. Without protection these species may eventually become extinct.

  • Born on July 5th 1996, Dolly the sheep was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell.

  • When the DNA of an organism changes and results in a new trait (characteristic) it is known as mutation.

  • French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur was well known for inventing a process to stop various foods and liquids making people sick. Called Pasteurization, it reduces the amount of microorganisms that could lead to disease without having a noticeable effect on taste and quality in a way which methods such as sterilization might.

  • Charles Darwin developed the idea of natural selection, sometimes called survival of the fittest. It is a process that involves living things with favorable traits being more likely to reproduce, passing on their favorable traits to future generations.

10 Most Mind-Bending Physics Facts

For some of us, physics was something we dreaded at school, abandoning our studies in it at the earliest opportunity, all before reaching adulthood and realising that this particular branch of science is arguably the coolest. Fortunately, there are graduates, postgrads and doctors who had more foresight than people like this humble writer and made the study of physics their life’s work. Here are some of the unbelievably cool things about physics that we have learned because of people like them.

1. Relativity Makes Space Travellers Younger (Kinda)

Both velocity and gravity have an effect on the speed of time; the higher they are, the slower time passes. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) (who are in reduced gravity compared to people on Earth but travelling at increased speed around it) experience time more slowly, at a rate of roughly 1 second ‘lost’ every 747 days.

 e mc 2

2. Without E=MC2 GPS Would Malfunction

The satellite navigation in your car or on your phone relies on a series of geostationary satellites to pinpoint your location, exchanging data using radio waves. Because of the theory of relativity, the speed at which the satellites’ onboard clocks tick is around 38,000 nanoseconds faster than clocks on the ground. Every time data is sent to the receiving device, a calculation must be applied to correct the timings to within the required 20-30 nanosecond accuracy.

speed of light

3.’The Speed Of Light’ Isn’t Constant

Most people will have heard about the speed of light (c. 671 million miles per hour), which according to all accepted laws of Physics is the fastest that anything can travel. In actual fact, this figure refers only to the speed of light in a vacuum. Really, light is slowed whenever it passes through something, being measured travelling as slowly as just 38 miles per hour at absolute zero (-273.15C) through ultra-cooled rubidium.

sugar cube

4. Humanity Could Fit In A Sugar Cube

Remember when you learned all about the basic structure of the atom – protons, neutrons, electrons? You might recall there was a lot of empty space, and you’d be right. Most of atoms is just empty space, so much so that if you gathered the entire human race together and removed the empty space of all the atoms that make them up you would be left with something no larger than a sugar cube. Incidentally…

5. That Sugar Cube Would Weigh Five Billion Tons

Why? Because all that empty space doesn’t have any mass, so the sugar cube of humanity would be extremely dense. It’s the same principle behind why 1kg of bricks and 1kg of feathers weighs the same, but a box of bricks is denser and has more mass than an equally-sized box of feathers.

question mark

6. We Don’t Know What Most Of The Universe Is

Despite all the advances made in astrophysics in recent years, not least the discovery of various exoplanets beyond our solar system, we don’t know what makes up the majority of the universe. It is possible to make reasonable estimates of the mass of the universe, except that visible matter (stars, planets, stellar objects) only accounts for 2% of that; what exactly makes up the rest – so-called ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’ – remains a mystery.

einstein funny face

7. Go Fast, Gain Weight

Our old friend relativity explains this one as well – mass and energy are equivalent, meaning that as you add energy to a moving object (i.e. increase speed) then that object’s mass increases. At ‘normal’ speeds, this mass gain is pretty negligible, but as you approach the speed of light mass begins to increase dramatically. In case you’re wondering why sprinters and cars and aeroplanes don’t get heavier because of this, don’t worry – the increase in mass as a result of increased speed is only temporary.

hydrogen bomb

8. You Could Be A Walking H-Bomb

The First Law of Thermodynamics holds that in any situation, the total amount of energy in will equal the exact same amount of energy out. As well as meaning that you can’t create energy out of nothing, this law means that you also can not destroy energy. So what happened to all the energy that came from what you put in your own body? The short answer is that most of it remains stored within your body, an average of 7×1018 joules – this amount of energy, if released all at once, would have the same power as 30 hydrogen bombs.

the big crunch

9. You Might Already Have Read This

According to Big Bang cosmology, the universe is constantly expanding. One school of thought suggests that this expansion must eventually not only slow down, but also go into reverse and cause a ‘Big Crunch’. What would happen then is a mystery, but if there is indeed a cycle of ‘bang, expansion, contraction, collapse, bang’, it may well be that the universe plays out in exactly the same way. You might have been born, lived, read this article, lived some more and died in exactly the same way over and over again and not even know it.

parralel universes

10. Another You Might Have Died Reading This

According to the multiverse theory (yes, it’s not just a Family Guy thing), there are an infinite number of universes existing parallel to one another, with each differing slightly and every possible scenario being played out in its own universe. This would mean that in at least one universe, a freak accident meant that you were hit by a meteor and killed before finishing this sentence. In another universe, you wouldn’t have even read this article in the first place, because I would have been hit by a meteor and killed before finishing writing it. For a classic 90s TV take on this theory, go look up Sliders on Youtube.

20 Amazing Facts About the Human Body

1 APPENDIX TO LIFE

The appendix gets a bad press. It is usually treated as a body part that lost its function millions of years ago. All it seems to do is occasionally get infected and cause appendicitis. Yet recently it has been discovered that the appendix is very useful to the bacteria that help your digestive system function. They use it to get respite from the strain of the frenzied activity of the gut, somewhere to breed and help keep the gut’s bacterial inhabitants topped up. So treat your appendix with respect.

2 SUPERSIZED MOLECULES

Practically everything we experience is made up of molecules. These vary in size from simple pairs of atoms, like an oxygen molecule, to complex organic structures. But the biggest molecule in nature resides in your body. It is chromosome 1. A normal human cell has 23 pairs of chromosomes in its nucleus, each a single, very long, molecule of DNA. Chromosome 1 is the biggest, containing around 10bn atoms, to pack in the amount of information that is encoded in the molecule.

3 ATOM COUNT

It is hard to grasp just how small the atoms that make up your body are until you take a look at the sheer number of them. An adult is made up of around 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms.

body chimp

4 FUR LOSS

It might seem hard to believe, but we have about the same number of hairs on our bodies as a chimpanzee, it’s just that our hairs are useless, so fine they are almost invisible. We aren’t sure quite why we lost our protective fur. It has been suggested that it may have been to help early humans sweat more easily, or to make life harder for parasites such as lice and ticks, or even because our ancestors were partly aquatic.

But perhaps the most attractive idea is that early humans needed to co-operate more when they moved out of the trees into the savanna. When animals are bred for co-operation, as we once did with wolves to produce dogs, they become more like their infants. In a fascinating 40-year experiment starting in the 1950s, Russian foxes were bred for docility. Over the period, adult foxes become more and more like large cubs, spending more time playing, and developing drooping ears, floppy tails and patterned coats. Humans similarly have some characteristics of infantile apes – large heads, small mouths and, significantly here, finer body hair.

body goosebumps

5 GOOSEBUMP EVOLUTION

Goosepimples are a remnant of our evolutionary predecessors. They occur when tiny muscles around the base of each hair tense, pulling the hair more erect. With a decent covering of fur, this would fluff up the coat, getting more air into it, making it a better insulator. But with a human’s thin body hair, it just makes our skin look strange.

Similarly we get the bristling feeling of our hair standing on end when we are scared or experience an emotive memory. Many mammals fluff up their fur when threatened, to look bigger and so more dangerous. Humans used to have a similar defensive fluffing up of their body hairs, but once again, the effect is now ruined. We still feel the sensation of hairs standing on end, but gain no visual bulk.

body astronaut

6 SPACE TRAUMA

If sci-fi movies were to be believed, terrible things would happen if your body were pushed from a spaceship without a suit. But it’s mostly fiction. There would be some discomfort as the air inside the body expanded, but nothing like the exploding body parts Hollywood loves. Although liquids do boil in a vacuum, your blood is kept under pressure by your circulatory system and would be just fine. And although space is very cold, you would not lose heat particularly quickly. As Thermos flasks demonstrate, a vacuum is a great insulator.

In practice, the thing that will kill you in space is simply the lack of air. In 1965 a test subject’s suit sprang a leak in a Nasa vacuum chamber. The victim, who survived, remained conscious for around 14 seconds. The exact survival limit isn’t known, but would probably be one to two minutes.

7 ATOMIC COLLAPSE

The atoms that make up your body are mostly empty space, so despite there being so many of them, without that space you would compress into a tiny volume. The nucleus that makes up the vast bulk of the matter in an atom is so much smaller than the whole structure that it is comparable to the size of a fly in a cathedral. If you lost all your empty atomic space, your body would fit into a cube less than 1/500th of a centimetre on each side. Neutron stars are made up of matter that has undergone exactly this kind of compression. In a single cubic centimetre of neutron star material there are around 100m tons of matter. An entire neutron star, heavier than our sun, occupies a sphere that is roughly the size across of the Isle of Wight.

8 ELECTROMAGNETIC REPULSION

The atoms that make up matter never touch each other. The closer they get, the more repulsion there is between the electrical charges on their component parts. It’s like trying to bring two intensely powerful magnets together, north pole to north pole. This even applies when objects appear to be in contact. When you sit on a chair, you don’t touch it. You float a tiny distance above, suspended by the repulsion between atoms. This electromagnetic force is vastly stronger than the force of gravity – around a billion billion billion billion times stronger. You can demonstrate the relative strength by holding a fridge magnet near a fridge and letting go. The electromagnetic force from the tiny magnet overwhelms the gravitational attraction of the whole Earth.

body atoms

9 STARDUST TO STARDUST

Every atom in your body is billions of years old. Hydrogen, the most common element in the universe and a major feature of your body, was produced in the big bang 13.7bn years ago. Heavier atoms such as carbon and oxygen were forged in stars between 7bn and 12bn years ago, and blasted across space when the stars exploded. Some of these explosions were so powerful that they also produced the elements heavier than iron, which stars can’t construct. This means that the components of your body are truly ancient: you are stardust.

10 THE QUANTUM BODY

One of the mysteries of science is how something as apparently solid and straightforward as your body can be made of strangely behaving quantum particles such as atoms and their constituents. If you ask most people to draw a picture of one of the atoms in their bodies, they will produce something like a miniature solar system, with a nucleus as the sun and electrons whizzing round like planets. This was, indeed, an early model of the atom, but it was realised that such atoms would collapse in an instant. This is because electrons have an electrical charge and accelerating a charged particle, which is necessary to keep it in orbit, would make it give off energy in the form of light, leaving the electron spiralling into the nucleus.

In reality, electrons are confined to specific orbits, as if they ran on rails. They can’t exist anywhere between these orbits but have to make a “quantum leap” from one to another. What’s more, as quantum particles, electrons exist as a collection of probabilities rather than at specific locations, so a better picture is to show the electrons as a set of fuzzy shells around the nucleus.

body blood cells

11 RED BLOODED

When you see blood oozing from a cut in your finger, you might assume that it is red because of the iron in it, rather as rust has a reddish hue. But the presence of the iron is a coincidence. The red colour arises because the iron is bound in a ring of atoms in haemoglobin called porphyrin and it’s the shape of this structure that produces the colour. Just how red your haemoglobin is depends on whether there is oxygen bound to it. When there is oxygen present, it changes the shape of the porphyrin, giving the red blood cells a more vivid shade.

body dna

12 GOING VIRAL

Surprisingly, not all the useful DNA in your chromosomes comes from your evolutionary ancestors – some of it was borrowed from elsewhere. Your DNA includes the genes from at least eight retroviruses. These are a kind of virus that makes use of the cell’s mechanisms for coding DNA to take over a cell. At some point in human history, these genes became incorporated into human DNA. These viral genes in DNA now perform important functions in human reproduction, yet they are entirely alien to our genetic ancestry.

13 OTHER LIFE

On sheer count of cells, there is more bacterial life inside you than human. There are around 10tn of your own cells, but 10 times more bacteria. Many of the bacteria that call you home are friendly in the sense that they don’t do any harm. Some are beneficial.

In the 1920s, an American engineer investigated whether animals could live without bacteria, hoping that a bacteria-free world would be a healthier one. James “Art” Reyniers made it his life’s work to produce environments where animals could be raised bacteria-free. The result was clear. It was possible. But many of Reyniers’s animals died and those that survived had to be fed on special food. This is because bacteria in the gut help with digestion. You could exist with no bacteria, but without the help of the enzymes in your gut that bacteria produce, you would need to eat food that is more loaded with nutrients than a typical diet.

body mite

14 EYELASH INVADERS

Depending on how old you are, it’s pretty likely that you have eyelash mites. These tiny creatures live on old skin cells and the natural oil (sebum) produced by human hair follicles. They are usually harmless, though they can cause an allergic reaction in a minority of people. Eyelash mites typically grow to a third of a millimetre and are near-transparent, so you are unlikely to see them with the naked eye. Put an eyelash hair or eyebrow hair under the microscope, though, and you may find them, as they spend most of their time right at the base of the hair where it meets the skin. Around half the population have them, a proportion that rises as we get older.

body eye

15 PHOTON DETECTORS

Your eyes are very sensitive, able to detect just a few photons of light. If you take a look on a very clear night at the constellation of Andromeda, a little fuzzy patch of light is just visible with the naked eye. If you can make out that tiny blob, you are seeing as far as is humanly possible without technology. Andromeda is the nearest large galaxy to our own Milky Way. But “near” is a relative term in intergalactic space – the Andromeda galaxy is 2.5m light years away. When the photons of light that hit your eye began their journey, there were no human beings. We were yet to evolve. You are seeing an almost inconceivable distance and looking back in time through 2.5m years.

16 SENSORY TALLY

Despite what you’ve probably been told, you have more than five senses. Here’s a simple example. Put your hand a few centimetres away from a hot iron. None of your five senses can tell you the iron will burn you. Yet you can feel that the iron is hot from a distance and won’t touch it. This is thanks to an extra sense – the heat sensors in your skin. Similarly we can detect pain or tell if we are upside down.

Another quick test. Close your eyes and touch your nose. You aren’t using the big five to find it, but instead proprioception. This is the sense that detects where the parts of your body are with respect to each other. It’s a meta-sense, combining your brain’s knowledge of what your muscles are doing with a feel for the size and shape of your body. Without using your basic five senses, you can still guide a hand unerringly to touch your nose.

17 REAL AGE

body ovum

Just like a chicken, your life started off with an egg. Not a chunky thing in a shell, but an egg nonetheless. However, there is a significant difference between a human egg and a chicken egg that has a surprising effect on your age. Human eggs are tiny. They are, after all, just a single cell and are typically around 0.2mm across – about the size of a printed full stop. Your egg was formed in your mother – but the surprising thing is that it was formed when she was an embryo. The formation of your egg, and the half of your DNA that came from your mother, could be considered as the very first moment of your existence. And it happened before your mother was born. Say your mother was 30 when she had you, then on your 18th birthday you were arguably over 48 years old.

18 EPIGENETIC INFLUENCE

We are used to thinking of genes as being the controlling factor that determines what each of us is like physically, but genes are only a tiny part of our DNA. The other 97% was thought to be junk until recently, but we now realise that epigenetics – the processes that go on outside the genes – also have a major influence on our development. Some parts act to control “switches” that turn genes on and off, or program the production of other key compounds. For a long time it was a puzzle how around 20,000 genes (far fewer than some breeds of rice) were enough to specify exactly what we were like. The realisation now is that the other 97% of our DNA is equally important.

19 CONSCIOUS ACTION

body mri

If you are like most people, you will locate your conscious mind roughly behind your eyes, as if there were a little person sitting there, steering the much larger automaton that is your body. You know there isn’t really a tiny figure in there, pulling the levers, but your consciousness seems to have an independent existence, telling the rest of your body what to do.

In reality, much of the control comes from your unconscious. Some tasks become automatic with practice, so that we no longer need to think about the basic actions. When this happens the process is handled by one of the most primitive parts of the brain, close to the brain stem. However even a clearly conscious action such as picking up an object seems to have some unconscious precursors, with the brain firing up before you make the decision to act. There is considerable argument over when the conscious mind plays its part, but there is no doubt that we owe a lot more to our unconscious than we often allow.

20 OPTICAL DELUSION

The picture of the world we “see” is artificial. Our brains don’t produce an image the way a video camera works. Instead, the brain constructs a model of the world from the information provided by modules that measure light and shade, edges, curvature and so on. This makes it simple for the brain to paint out the blind spot, the area of your retina where the optic nerve joins, which has no sensors. It also compensates for the rapid jerky movements of our eyes called saccades, giving a false picture of steady vision.

But the downside of this process is that it makes our eyes easy to fool. TV, films and optical illusions work by misleading the brain about what the eye is seeing. This is also why the moon appears much larger than it is and seems to vary in size: the true optical size of the moon is similar to a hole created by a hole punch held at arm’s length.

Biology is Harder than Physics?

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Biological processes of course are consequences of physics and chemistry, which is why we require our biology students to study the physical sciences. But organisms are also historical entities, and that’s where the complexities arise. The facts of physics and chemistry are constant across time and space. Any one carbon atom is the same as any other, and today’s carbon atoms are the same as those of a billion years ago. But each organism is different. That’s not just a statement that fruit flies are different from house flies. Rather, each fruit fly is different from every other fruit fly alive today, and from every other fruit fly that ever lived, and it’s the differences that make biology both thrilling and hard.

No disagreements from me here. The laws which govern physics and chemistry are contant across the universe (though there is some debate as to their constancy in time). Without the strict adherence to the laws we observe, physics and chemistry would be near impossible to understand. It is lucky for biology that this is how the world works, because, as Rosie notes, biology depends on it!

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Skipping ahead, here’s where I get confused:

Even genetically identical cells are not functionally identical. When a cell divides its molecules are randomly distributed between the two daughters; because ‘randomly’ does not mean ‘evenly’, these daughters will have inherited different sets of the proteins and RNAs that carry out their functions. And even if the two cells had identical contents, these contents would still have different interactions – repressors bump into cofactors at different times, DNA polymerase slips or doesn’t slip at different points in its progress along a chromosome. Understanding the how and why of biological phenomena thus requires us to consider historical and ecological factors that are many orders of magnitude more complex than those of physical systems.

When trying to understand biological systems (nay, any kind of system, be it a crystal or a batch of cells), much ultimately depends on the type of measurement. Every measurement does not need to take into account the histories and ecological factors that make up every individual cell – it is impossible to know them to the required resolution that such data would be useful. When and where a DNA polymerase may stall on the chromosome in a particular cell of a mL culture containing billions upon billions of cells is effectively irrelevant for a huge number of interesting experiments I might want to do with those cells — say, the study of expression of a particular gene with a gene chip.

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Continuing,

The critical word is probably ‘population’. Biologists rarely try to define it, but they use the term everywhere to refer to similar but not identical organisms or cells (or even molecules) that interact in some way. ‘Population thinking’, the realization that species are populations, not pure types, is said to have been key to Darwin’s insight that members of a species undergo natural selection. And population thinking is probably what makes biology so much more complex than the physical sciences.

Here’s where I think my ultimate displeasure with the post lies. That biology is more complex than physics (though what exactly is limited to the realm of physics is now very much in question) is a reasonable statement: the most common biological molecules are much too complicated to apply something like the Schroedinger Equation and expect to understand anything about them, but “complex” and “difficult” are not the same thing. That physics has traditionally been confined to the well-defined and “simple” systems like infinite lattices of identical carbon atoms, doesn’t make it “easier” to study than biology. I don’t even know what it could mean for one field of science to be “easier” than another, given that everyone studying a science is different, like, as Rosie mentions above, how each fruit fly is different from every other fruit fly. Some people find the mathematics required to understand physical systems extremely difficult, while others don’t have the required attention to detail to perform a successful experiment in a biology lab. To do any kind of science, however, it is the same: you require critical thinking and quantitative analysis of experiments to make any sense of your results. This is true from particle physics all the way up to ecology.

Rosie’s opening paragraph ends with the following: In reality biology is much more complex than the physical sciences, and understanding it requires more, not less, brain work.

Is Biology Reducible to the Laws of Physics?

Alex Rosenberg is unusual among philosophers of biology in adhering to the view that everything occurs in accordance with universal laws, and that adequate explanations must appeal to the laws that brought about the thing explained. He also believes that everything is ultimately determined by what happens at the physical level—and that this entails that the mind is “nothing but” the brain. For an adherent of this brand of physicalism, it is fairly evident that if there are laws at “higher” levels—laws of biology, psychology or social science—they are either deductive consequences of the laws of physics or they are not true. Hence Rosenberg is committed to the classical reductionism that aims to explain phenomena at all levels by appeal to the physical.

It is worth mentioning that, as Rosenberg explains, these views are generally assumed by contemporary philosophers of biology to be discredited. The reductionism that they reject, he says,

holds that there is a full and complete explanation of every biological fact, state, event, process, trend, or generalization, and that this explanation will cite only the interaction of macromolecules to provide this explanation.

Such views have been in decline since the 1970s, when David Hull (The Philosophy of Biological Science [1974]) pointed out that the relationship between genetic and phenotypic facts was, at best, “many/many”: Genes had effects on numerous phenotypic features, and phenotypic features were affected by many genes. A number of philosophers have elaborated on such difficulties in subsequent decades.

The question then is whether Rosenberg’s latest book, Darwinian Reductionism: Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology, constitutes a useful attack on a dogmatic orthodoxy or merely represents a failure to understand why the views of an earlier generation of philosophers of science have been abandoned. Unfortunately I fear the latter is the case. More specifically, his portrayal of the genome as a program directing development, which is the centerpiece of his reductionist account of biology, discloses a failure to appreciate the complex two-way interactions between the genome and its molecular environment that molecular biologists have been elaborating for the past several decades.

In earlier work, Rosenberg accepted the consensus among philosophers of biology that biology couldn’t be reduced to chemistry or physics. But whereas most philosophers saw this as a problem for philosophy of science, and for traditional models of reduction, Rosenberg concluded that it was a problem for biology, a problem indicating that the field’s purported explanations were neither fundamental nor true.

However, in his most recent book Rosenberg is more sanguine about biology. As the title suggests, the new idea is that recognition of the pervasiveness of Darwinism in biology will enable us to assert reductionism after all. Rosenberg is an admirer of Dobzhansky’s famous remark that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution:

Biology is history, but unlike human history, it is history for which the “iron laws” of historical change have been found, and codified in Darwin’s theory of natural selection. . . . [T]here are no laws in biology other than Darwin’s. But owing to the literal truth of Dobzhansky’s dictum, these are the only laws biology needs.

The suggestion is that something Rosenberg calls “the principle of natural selection” is actually a fundamental physical law. Natural selection, according to him, is not a statistical consequence of the operation of many other physical (or perhaps higher-level) laws, as most philosophers of biology believe. Rather, it is a new and fundamental physical law to be added to those already revealed by chemistry and physics. I won’t try to recount Rosenberg’s arguments for this implausible position.

The largest part of the book motivates reductionism from a quite different direction by defending the view that genes literally embody a program that produces development. Rosenberg introduces this view by recounting some work on the development of insect wings. There is a rather disturbing tendency in this exegesis to suggest an imputation of agency to the genes that are implementing this program. He says that the genes fringe and serrate “form the wing margin,” for example, and “wingless builds wings.” He also maintains that in Drosophila, “2500 genes . . . are under direct or indirect control of eyeless.” As the last two examples illustrate and Rosenberg explains, genes are frequently identified by what doesn’t happen when they are deleted. But Rosenberg seems quite untroubled by the dubious inference from what doesn’t happen to the conclusion that making this happen is what the genes “do” when in place. These reifications provoke a range of worries, but at a minimum, a defense of such ways of speaking will need to address another growing philosophical consensus to which Rosenberg is an exception, that the gene is a concept that no longer has an unproblematic place in contemporary biology.

Rosenberg does attempt a defense of the gene, but his arguments are unconvincing. The biggest problem is that he never says what he means by a gene. He refers uncritically to estimates of the number of genes in the human genome; although he does outline some of the difficulties with these estimates, he does not seem to appreciate their force. As a positive contribution, it appears that all he has to offer is the proposal that genes are “sculpted” out of the genome by natural selection to serve particular functions. The central point of critics of the gene concept is that functional decomposition identifies multiple overlapping and crosscutting parts of genomes. The “open reading frames” to which biologists refer when they count the genes in the human genome not only can overlap but are sometimes read in both directions. Subsequent to transcription they are broken into different lengths, edited, recombined and so on, so that one “gene” may be the ancestor of hundreds or even thousands of final protein products. Sophisticated would-be reductionists, such as Kenneth Waters, have tried to accommodate this point. Rosenberg seems just to ignore it as happily as he ignores most of the literature that has expounded the difficulties (for example, What Genes Can’t Do, by Lenny Moss [2003], and The Concept of the Gene in Development and Evolution, edited by Peter Beurton, Raphael Falk and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger [2000]).

The problem might have been ameliorated if Rosenberg had paid more attention to the increasingly diverse constituents recognized in the genome apart from the genes he needs to run his programs. The lack of concern with the genome is highlighted, for example, when in the course of a single paragraph he says that sculpting of the genome by natural selection has resulted in “a division mainly into genes” and refers to 95 percent of the human DNA sequence appearing to be “mere junk” (another hypothesis that has been widely rejected). It is conceivable that Rosenberg means to define genome so as to exclude the junk, although I have never encountered such a usage before. What is clear, though, is that he sees the genome merely as a repository for the informationally conceived genes supposed to run the developmental program. Attention to the increasingly understood complexities of the genome as a material object would have made the misguided nature of the enterprise much clearer.

A further problem is that some of the biology in the book is dated. For example, Rosenberg says that “there are about 30,000 to 60,000 genes in our genome,” but in fact there is a fairly stable consensus now that the number is about 23,000. More striking is his remark that alternative splicing is “uncommon but not unknown,” whereas it is actually widely accepted that such splicing occurs in more than 70 percent of human genes. Although Rosenberg has researched some biological topics in detail, the book contains other lapses as well. He appears to be unaware, for instance, that methylation occurs in contexts other than sexual imprinting. And I was struck by his remark that the world is now mainly populated by sexual species; in fact, the overwhelming majority of organisms now, as ever, are prokaryotes and (relatively) simple asexual eukaryotes. It is admittedly difficult or impossible to stay fully au courant with the latest in molecular biology, but a careful reading of the manuscript by a practitioner would have been very helpful.

Because I have been involved for many years in criticism of the earlier orthodoxy that Rosenberg continues to defend, it is not surprising that I am unconvinced by his reactionary argument. And it is of course very often a good thing for philosophers to confront the orthodoxies of their discipline. But the standards for undermining orthodoxy are inevitably high, and Rosenberg does not come close to meeting them.

The subtitle invites us to learn to love molecular biology. Many of the philosophers whom Rosenberg’s views contradict greatly admire the achievements of molecular biology. Love, however, is well known for being blind. I would encourage Rosenberg to settle for admiration.

Biology is Different?

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It may have occurred to you at one time or another that there are some subtle differences between Biology as a science and Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics.  Obviously, the main difference is that Biology deals with living organisms, but the ramifications of this fact go beyond just the subject matter, because it also affects the nature of the scientific methods employed by biologists.

The evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr has written extensively on the philosophical implications of evolutionary biology and has discussed (Mayr, 1982) what he sees as the fundamental points that should be incorporated into a philosophy for the biological sciences.  That these principles have not been recognized more clearly is because, according to Mayr, philosophers of science continue to use the physical sciences (especially Physics) as a model for all of the sciences.  The points raised by Mayr are summarized in the table below and are as follows:

Understanding Organisms: One approach to understanding a phenomenon is to reduce it to its fundamental aspects, and, by understanding each component, you can gain some appreciation of the overall process.  This approach, often referred to as reductionism, is useful, especially in the physical sciences, where, for example, a knowledge of the behavior of individual atoms allows you to  predict the dynamics of an reaction system.  However, the hierarchical organization of biological systems makes it impossible to understand all aspects of even a single organism by studying each of its components.  Furthermore, there are certain biological processes, like Natural Selection, which cannot be predicted based on only a knowledge of Physics and Chemistry.  In other words, the entire range of material phenomena are to be found in biological systems, whereas  Physics and Chemistry only deal with a subset of these phenomena.

History: There are many disciplines, besides History itself, where unique historical events play a critical role.  Astronomy and Geology, for example, are often concerned with individual historical  events.  In Biology, however, we study not only historical events but also the organisms which have been either directly or indirectly shaped by those events.  A good case in point is the effect of the extinction of the dinosaurs on subsequent mammalian diversification.  This historical aspect of biology is compounded by the fact that the DNA within each organism is in fact an historical record of the ancestor-descendant relationships of that particular individual.


Principles that should be included in the formation of a philosophy for the biological sciences.  From Mayr (1982).
1. That a full understanding of organisms cannot be secured through the theories of Physics and
Chemistry alone.

2. That the historical nature of organisms must be fully considered, in particular their possession
of  an historically acquired genetic program.

3. That individuals at most hierarchical levels, from the cell up, are unique and form populations,
the variance of which is one of their major characteristics.

4. That there are two biologies, functional biology, which asks proximate questions, and
evolutionary biology, which asks ultimate questions.

5. That the history of biology has been dominated by the establishment of concepts and by their
maturation, modification, and – occasionally – their rejection.

6. That the patterned complexity of living systems is hierarchically organized and that higher
levels  in the hierarchy are characterized by the emergence of novelties.

7. That observation and comparison are methods in biological research that are fully as scientific
and heuristic as the experiment.

8. That an insistence on the autonomy of biology does not mean an endorsement of vitalism,
orthogenesis, or any other theory that is in conflict with the laws of chemistry or physics.


Uniqueness: One of the things that enables research in the physical sciences to be so efficient and precise is the fact that there is so little variability in many of the entities studied.  For example, all atoms of a particular isotope of carbon behave in exactly the same way, and this means that an organic chemist can readily predict the outcome of a particular reaction.  Contrast this situation with that of a biologist, who, regardless of his or her field must deal with the fact that the subjects being investigated are not all the same, but instead differ to some degree because they have different genotypes.  Even studies at the biochemical level must take into account the possible existence of more than one protein variant in a given system.  The variance that is observed in physical systems is treated as either an error in measurement or as the result of some random “noise” factor, but in biological research the observed variance is a reflection of a fundamental aspect of living systems.

Two Approaches to Biology:  The tendency to look at some aspects of biology as being somehow less “scientific” than the physical sciences is not restricted to philosophers of science who use the physical sciences as their model; the same attitude can be found within biology because there are two main ways in which biologists can approach their research.  In studying a particular phenomenon, you can ask either proximate or ultimate questions.  The proximate aspects of a phenomenon are usually related to the question “How…?”, while the ultimate issues are usually addressed by “Why…?”.  For example, it is well known that male frogs call during the mating season in order to attract females.  You could study this phenomenon by describing the vocalization mechanism of the males, the frequencies of the sounds produced, and the auditory apparatus of the females.  Each of these is basically a functional, physiological question, but there is the other approach to the same question which is to determine the significance of what is happening.  One simple explanation  is that these calls are the only way in which the sexes can find each other in the dark.  However, an increasing amount of research shows that these calls are critical to the process of mate selection and subsequent mating success (e. g., Ryan, 1990).  Addressing this issue requires that we determine the evolutionary processes associated with the mating system – the fitness consequences of mating with a particular male, the correlation, if any, between male calling frequency and fitness, etc.   Obviously, studying this aspect of the phenomenon is not as clear cut as the physiological questions, but it is still a legitimate scientific inquiry.  In fact, those who deal with proximate questions in biology often find that the more they learn about their systems, the more they must concern themselves with the ultimate, evolutionary issues.

Concepts in Biology:  The model of the scientific method that is derived from the physical sciences leaves one with the impression that the goal of science is to generate “laws” (e. g., the statements of Newton and Kepler on general and planetary motion, respectively).  Laws in this sense are statements of fact that have been demonstrated to fit all known cases.  Biologists have occasionally suffered from a desire to emulate the physical sciences by establishing laws (e. g., Ernst Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law – “Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny”), but the historical component and intrinsic variability of biological systems make such universal statements impossible.  Biological science advances by developing general concepts which are used to guide our approach to particular phenomena.  Natural Selection is an example of a concept, and, while some have discussed it from the perspective of a law (Reed, 1981), it is merely a formal generalization about the interactions among the environment, organisms, and the genotypes of those organisms in terms of the impact of these interactions on genotypic frequencies.  The formal generalizations of biology always include exceptions that “prove the rule” and result in the modification and refinement of the concepts over time.

Hierarchy:  Students in Biology are well acquainted with the listing of the biological hierarchy that runs from molecules and cells to ecosystems and the biosphere, but few ever stop to think about the ramifications of this hierarchy for the study of biological systems.  The existence of this structure in biological systems means that we must deal with the fact of emergent properties at each level.  The concept of emergence is the idea that the entire system may exhibit properties that are not deducible from a knowledge of the individual components of the system.  This idea is often summarized by the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”.  The existence of emergent properties in living systems is what limits the usefulness of the reductionist approach to biology.  The recognition of the hierarchical structure of life on this planet has caused some to suggest that major areas of biological investigation should operate formally with this structure in mind (e. g., Eldredge, 1985; O’Neill, et al., 1986).

Observation and Comparison:  The introductory textbook description of the scientific method has scientists operating by making observations, formulating hypotheses, and conducting experiments to test their hypotheses.  This is an accurate description of how to study common, contemporary phenomena, but how, for example, do you go about scientifically studying the extinction of the dinosaurs?  The notion of the laboratory experiment as the scientific method is so ingrained that even biologists who study proximate questions in existing organisms tend to discount the efforts of those who conduct evolutionary and/or ecological research.  However, evolutionary biologists can – and do – formulate hypotheses, but only some of these hypotheses are testable through controlled laboratory or field experiments.  In many instances, evolutionary hypotheses can be tested only by comparing populations or species under different sets of conditions, or, in the case of past events, looking for evidence related to corollaries of the main hypothesis.  For example, if an asteroid impact caused the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous (Alvarez, et al., 1980), then there should be several geological and paleontological lines of evidence which would support this scenario.

Biology as an Autonomous Science:  Whenever people argue that there is an intrinsic difference between living and non-living systems, they leave themselves open to the charge that they are advocating either vitalism or orthogenesis.  Vitalism is the discredited notion that what makes living systems different is their possession of some “vital force” that when removed from the system just leaves you with a mass of organic molecules.  This concept was most recently popularized in the 20th century by the French philosopher Henri Bergson.  Orthogenesis is a related concept which holds that the evolutionary process is somehow goal-directed to produce progressively higher levels of perfection and complexity.  The application of this concept to evolution has a history that stretches from Lamarck to the theological writings of Teilhard de Chardin.  As you have seen, there is no need to postulate the existence of some metaphysical force to explain the difference between living and non-living systems.  The reason why Biology differs from the physical sciences is because of the characteristics of living systems which are, among others: (1) the importance of history in organic evolution; (2) the possession of a structured, inheritable genetic program; (3) the hierarchical structure of living systems, and the existence of emergent properties at almost every level; (4) the fact that certain processes (e. g., Natural Selection) only occur in living systems.

Biophysics

Biophysics is a bridge between biology and physics.

Biology studies life in its variety and complexity. It describes how organisms go about getting food, communicating, sensing the environment, and reproducing. On the other hand, physics looks for mathematical laws of nature and makes detailed predictions about the forces that drive idealized systems. Spanning the distance between the complexity of life and the simplicity of physical laws is the challenge of biophysics. Looking for the patterns in life and analyzing them with math and physics is a powerful way to gain insights.

Biophysics looks for principles that describe patterns. If the principles are powerful, they make detailed predictions that can be tested.

What do biophysicists study?

All of Biology is Fair Game.

Biophysicists study life at every level, from atoms and molecules to cells, organisms, and environments. As innovations come out of physics and biology labs, biophysicists find new areas to explore where they can apply their expertise, create new tools, and learn new things. The work always aims to find out how biological systems work. Biophysicists ask questions, such as:

How do protein machines work? Even though they are millions of times smaller than everyday machines, molecular  machines work on the same principles. They use energy to do work. The kinesin machine shown here is carrying a load as it walks along a track. Biophysics reveals how each step is powered forward.

How do systems of nerve cells communicate? Biophysicists invented colored protein tags for the chemicals used by cells. Each cell takes on a different color as it uses the tagged chemicals, making it possible to trace its many pathways.

How do proteins pack DNA into viruses? How do viruses invade cells? How do plants harness sunlight to make food?

Biophysics studies life at every level, from atoms and molecules to cells, organisms, and environments.

How essential is biophysics to progress in biology?

Biophysics discovers how atoms are arranged to work in DNA and proteins.
Protein molecules perform the body’s chemical reactions. They push and pull in the muscles that move your limbs.  Proteins make the parts of your eyes, ears, nose, and skin that sense your environment. They turn food into energy and light into vision. They are your immunity to illness. Proteins repair what is broken inside of cells, and regulate growth. They fire the electrical signals in your brain. They read the DNA blueprints in your body and copy the DNA for future generations.

Biophysicists are discovering how proteins work. These mysteries are solved part by part. To learn how a car works, you first need to know how the parts fit together. Now, thanks to biophysics, we know exactly where the thousands of atoms are located in more than 50,000 different proteins. Each year, over a million scientists and students from all over the world, from physicists to medical practitioners, use these protein structures for discovering how biological machines work, in health and also in diseases.

Variations in proteins make people respond to drugs differently. Understanding these differences opens new possibilities in drug design, diagnosis, and disease control. Soon, medicines will be tailored to each individual patient’s propensity for side effects.

Biophysics revealed the structure of DNA

Experiments in the 1940’s showed that genes are made of a simple chemical–DNA. How such a simple chemical could be the molecule of inheritance remained a mystery until biophysicists discovered the DNA double helix in 1953.

The structure of DNA was a great watershed. It showed how simple variations on a single chemical could generate unique individuals and perpetuate their species.

Biophysics showed how DNA serves as the book of life. Inside of cells, genes are opened, closed, read, translated, and copied, just like books. The translation leads from DNA to proteins, the molecular machinery of life.

During the 2000’s, biophysical inventions decoded all the genes in a human being. All the genes of nearly 200 different species, and some genes from more than 100,000 other species have been determined. Biophysicists analyze those  genes to learn how organisms are related and how individuals differ.

Discoveries about DNA and proteins fuel progress in preventing and curing disease.

What are the applications?

Biophysics is a wellspring of innovation for our high-tech economy. The applications of biophysics depend on society’s  needs. In the 20th century, great progress was made in treating disease. Biophysics helped create powerful vaccines against infectious diseases. It described and controlled diseases of metabolism, such as diabetes. And biophysics provided both the tools and the understanding for treating the diseases of growth known as cancers. Today we are  learning more about the biology of health and society is deeply concerned about the health of our planet. Biophysical  methods are increasingly used to serve everyday needs, from forensic science to bioremediation.

Biophysics gives us medical imaging technologies including MRI, CAT scans, PET scans, and sonograms for diagnosing diseases.

It provides the life-saving treatment methods of kidney dialysis, radiation therapy, cardiac defibrillators, and pacemakers.

Biophysicists invented instruments for detecting, purifying, imaging, and manipulating chemicals and materials.

Advanced biophysical research instruments are the daily workhorses of drug development in the world’s pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Since the 1970’s, more than 1500 biotechnology companies, employing 200,000 people, have earned more than $60 billion per year.

Biophysics applies the power of physics, chemistry, and math to understanding health, preventing disease and inventing cures.

Why is biophysics important right now?

Society is facing physical and biological problems of global proportions. How will we continue to get sufficient energy? How can we feed the world’s population? How do we remediate global warming? How do we preserve biological diversity? How do we secure clean and plentiful water? These are crises that require scientific insight and innovation. Biophysics provides that insight and technologies for meeting these challenges, based on the principles of physics and the mechanisms of biology.

Biophysics discovers how to modify microorganisms for biofuel (replacing gasoline and diesel fuel) and bioelectricity (replacing petroleum products and coal for producing electricity).

Biophysics discovers the biological cycles of heat, light, water, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, heat, and organisms throughout our planet.

Biophysics harnesses microorganisms to clean our water and to produce lifesaving drugs.

Biophysics pushes back barriers that once seemed insurmountable.

Relationship Between Physicists and Biologists


There’s some truth to this: advances in biology have frequently been driven more by technology than ideas about biology. For long time, many (not all, but many) answers to biological questions have been obvious once we have the technology to “just look at the thing.”

As a result, you have generations of biologists with little training in math, who approach their work primarily by intuitive reasoning about their system of interest. And of course you have some very clever, amazing technologies (developed by biologists as well as physicists).

Many of the fundamental questions that can be solved by just looking at things have been solved; as a result, a lot of biological research isn’t about fundamental questions – it’s about details, about how something works in a different cell type or a different organism, or at a different stage of embryonic development.

The result is that there is a growing recognition that there are important, remaining fundamental questions that can be solved by getting quantitative – by having more formal, mathematical ideas about biology. We can generate mountains of data, and we can do unbelievable, nano-scale experimental manipulations that Feynman would have loved, but do we know how to think about biology instead of technology?

Some of these important questions include how the structure of regulatory networks gives rise to the network dynamics: how do regulatory networks control gene expression in space and time? How do you get irreversible transitions in cell division or development? What types of structural features produce robust biological oscillators? How do regulatory pathways evolve – either adaptively or neutrally? How can we formally describe information transduction or processing inside of a cell in a way that leads to useful insights?

THE SUN WILL EVENTUALLY EXPIRE

And the Sun runs to its resting place. That is the decree of the Almighty, the All-Knowing. (Surah Ya Sin, 38)


The Sun has been emitting heat for around 5 billion years as a result of the constant chemical reactions taking place on its surface. At a moment determined by Allah in the future, these reactions will eventually come to an end, and the Sun will lose all its energy and finally go out. In that context, the above verse may be a reference to the Sun’s energy one day coming to an end. (Allah knows the truth.)

The Arabic word “limustaqarrin” in the verse refers to a particular place or time. The word “tajree” translated as “runs,” bears such meanings as “to move, to act swiftly, to move about, to flow.” It appears from the meanings of the words that the Sun will continue in its course in time and space, but that this motion will continue until a specific, predetermined time.  The verse “When the sun is compacted in blackness,” (Surat at-Takwir, 1) which appears in descriptions of Doomsday, tells us that such a time will be coming. The specific timing is known only to Allah.

The Arabic word “taqdeeru,” translated as “decree” in the verse, includes such meanings as “to appoint, to determine the destiny of something, to measure.” By this expression in verse 38 of Surah Ya Sin, we are told that the life span of the Sun is limited to a specific period, one ordained by Allah. Other verses of the Qur’an on the subject read:

Allah is He Who raised up the heavens without any support – you can see that – and then established Himself firmly on the Throne. He made the Sun and Moon subservient, each running for a specified term. He directs the whole affair. He makes the Signs clear so that hopefully you will be certain about the meeting with your Lord. (Surat ar- Ra’d, 2)

He makes night merge into day and day merge into night, and He has made the Sun and Moon subservient, each one running until a specified time. That is Allah, your Lord. The Kingdom is His. Those you call on besides Him have no power over even the smallest speck. (Surah Fatir, 13)

He created the heavens and the earth with truth. He wraps the night around the day and wraps the day around the night, and has made the Sun and Moon subservient, each one running for a specified term. Is He not indeed the Almighty, the Endlessly Forgiving? (Surah az-Zumar, 5)

The use of the word “musamman” in the above verses shows that the life span of the Sun will run for a “specified term.” Scientific analysis regarding the end of the Sun describes it as consuming 4 million tons of matter a second, and says that the Sun will die when that fuel has all been consumed.1 The heat and light emitted from the Sun is the energy released when matter is consumed as hydrogen nuclei turn into helium in the nuclear fusion process. The Sun’s energy, and therefore its life, will thus come to an end once this fuel has been used up. (Allah knows the truth.) A report titled “The Death of the Sun” by the BBC News Science Department says:

… The Sun will gradually die. As a star’s core crashes inwards, it eventually becomes hot enough to ignite another of its constituent atoms, helium. Helium atoms fuse together to form carbon. When the helium supply runs out, the centre collapses again and the atmosphere inflates. The Sun isn’t massive enough to fully re-ignite its core for a third time. So it goes on expanding, shedding its atmosphere in a series of bursts… The dying core eventually forms a white dwarf – a spherical diamond the size of the Earth, made of carbon and oxygen. From this point on the Sun will gradually fade away, becoming dimmer and dimmer until its light is finally snuffed out. 2

A documentary, also called “The Death of the Sun,” broadcast by National Geographic TV, provides the following description:

It (the Sun) generates heat and sustains life on our planet. But like humans, the Sun has a limited lifespan. As our star ages, it will become hotter and expand, evaporating all of our oceans and killing all life on planet Earth… The Sun will get hotter as it ages and burns fuel faster. Temperatures will increase, eventually wiping out animal life, evaporating our oceans and killing all plant life… the Sun will swell and become a red giant star, swallowing up the nearest planets. Its gravitational pull will lessen and perhaps allow Earth to escape. By the end, it will shrink into a white dwarf star, emitting a week glow for hundreds of billions of years. 3

Scientists have only recently unravelled the structure of the Sun and discovered what goes on inside it. Before that, nobody knew how the Sun obtained its energy or how it emitted heat and light. The way that such a giant mass of energy would one day consume all its energy and expire was revealed 1400 years ago in the Qur’an shows the presence of a sublime knowledge. That knowledge belongs to our Lord, Whose knowledge enfolds all things. Another verse of the Qur’an reveals:

My Lord encompasses all things in His knowledge so will you not pay heed? (Surat Al-An’am, 80)

THE SKIES WITH 'WOVEN' ORBITS

“By heaven furnished with paths;” (Surat adh-Dhariyat, 7)

The Arabic word alhubuki,” translated as “furnished with paths” in verse 7 of Surat adh-Dhariyat, comes from the verb hubeke,” meaning “to weave closely, to knit, to bind together.” The use of this word in the verse is particularly wise and represents the current state of scientific knowledge in two aspects.

The first is this: The orbits and paths in the universe are so dense and intertwined that they constitute intersecting paths, just like the threads in a piece of fabric. The Solar System we live in is made up of the Sun, the planets and their satellites and heavenly objects in constant motion such as meteors and comets. The Solar System moves through the galaxy known as the Milky Way, which contains 400 billion stars.1 It is estimated that there are billions of galaxies. Celestial bodies and systems revolving at speeds of thousands of kilometers an hour move through space without colliding with one another.

The science of astronomy was developed with the aim of mapping the positions and courses of stars, while astro-mechanics was developed in order to determine these complex motions. Astronomers used to assume that orbits were perfectly spherical. The fact is, however, that heavenly bodies are known to follow mathematical shapes, such as spherical, elliptical, parabolic or hyperbolic orbits. Dr. Carlo Rovelli of the University of Pittsburgh says, “Our space in which we live is just this enormously complicated spin network.”


Above left; the orbits of some of the bodies in the Solar System. Based on this picture and looking clockwise, it can be seen that the Solar System itself is part of even greater orbital movements.


The picture above shows some of the complex movements of stars.

The second aspect is that the description in the Qur’an of the sky using a word meaning “woven” may be a reference to the String Theory of physics. (Allah knows the truth.) According to this theory, the basic elements that comprise the universe are not point-like particles, but strings resembling miniature violin strings. These tiny, identical and one dimensional strings oscillating in the form of filaments are regarded as being like loops in appearance. It is assumed that the origin of all the diversity in the universe lies in the way these strings vibrate at different vibrations, in the same way that violin strings produce different sounds with different vibrations.

Although it is not possible to see the size of the threads in the String Theory, the only theory to bring theories such as Einstein’s theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics together in a coherent way, it can still be calculated mathematically. These strings, which scientists regard as the material from which space and time are woven, are just 1.6×10-35 m (0.000000000000000000000000000000000016 meters) in size.5 This, known as Plank’s length, is the smallest known, being just 10-20 of the protons that make up the nucleus of that atom.6 If an atom were to be magnified to the size of the Solar System, each one of these strings would be no bigger than a tree. 7 Bearing in mind that an atom is 100,000 times smaller than the smallest thing that can be seen with the naked eye, the minute scale of these strings can be more easily grasped.

 Professor of Physics Abhay Ashtekar from the University of Pennsylvania and Professor of Physics Jerzy Lewandowski from the University of Warsaw interpret the woven appearance of space as follows in an article titled “Space and Time Beyond Einstein”:

In this theory, Einstein wove the gravitational field into the very fabric of space and time… The continuum we are all used to is only an approximation. Perhaps the simplest way to visualize these ideas is to look at a piece of fabric. For all practical purposes, it represents a 2-dimensional continuum; yet it is really woven by 1-dimensional threads. The same is true of the fabric of space-time. It is only because the “quantum threads” which weave this fabric are tightly woven in the region of the universe we inhabit that we perceive a continuum. Upon intersection with a surface, each thread, or polymer excitation, endows it with a tiny “Plank quantum” of area of about 10-66 cm2. So an area of 100 cm2 has about 1068 such intersections; because the number is so huge, the intersections are very closely spaced and we have the illusion of a continuum.

An Article in the New York Times seeking an answer to the question “How Was the Universe Built?” contained the following lines:

Even the tiny quarks that make up protons, neutrons and other particles are too big to feel the bumps that may exist on the Planck scale. More recently, though, physicists have suggested that quarks and everything else are made of far tinier objects: superstrings vibrating in 10 dimensions. At the Planck level, the weave of space-time would be as apparent as when the finest Egyptian cotton is viewed under a magnifying glass, exposing the warp and woof.

In his book Three Roads to Quantum Gravity, the theoretical quantum physicist Lee Smolin devotes one chapter to “How to Weave a String” and says this on the subject:

… space may be ‘woven’ from a network of loops… just like a piece of cloth is ‘woven’ from a network of threads.

In his book Our Cosmic Habitat the cosmologist and astrophysicist Prof. Martin Rees says:
According to our present concepts, empty space is anything but simple… and on an even tinier scale, it may be a seething tangle of strings.

The way that Allah describes the universe as being woven paths and orbits in verse 7 of Surat adh-Dhariyat shows that the Qur’an is in extraordinary agreement with science. As can be seen in a great many other instances, the way that all the information revealed in the Qur’an 1400 years ago is confirmed by modern scientific data is highly thought provoking. This perfect harmony between the Qur’an and scientific developments clearly reveals that the Qur’an is the word of our Lord, the creator of and He who knows best about all things. In one verse Allah states:

“Will they not ponder the Qur’an? If it had been from other than Allah, they would have found many inconsistencies in it.” (Surat an-Nisa, 82)

Some of the Scientific Miracles in Brief

Some-of-the-Scientific-Mira.jpg

Ever since the dawn of mankind, we have sought to understand nature and our place in it.  In this quest for the purpose of life many people have turned to religion.  Most religions are based on books claimed by their followers to be divinely inspired, without any proof.  Islam is different because it is based upon reason and proof.

There are clear signs that the book of Islam, the Quran, is the word of God and we have many reasons to support this claim:

·       There are scientific and historical facts found in the Quran which were unknown to the people at the time, and have only been discovered recently by contemporary science.

·       The Quran is in a unique style of language that cannot be replicated, this is known as the ‘Inimitability of the Quran.’

·       There are prophecies made in the Quran and by the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, which have come to be pass.

This article lays out and explains the scientific facts that are found in the Quran, centuries before they were ‘discovered’ in contemporary science.  It is important to note that the Quran is not a book of science but a book of ‘signs’.  These signs are there for people to recognise God’s existence and affirm His revelation.  As we know, science sometimes takes a ‘U-turn’ where what once scientifically correct is false a few years later.  In this article only established scientific facts are considered, not just theories or hypothesis.

Scientific Facts in the Quran

The Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century.

Science at the time was primitive, there were no telescopes, microscopes or anything even close to the technology we have today.  People believed that the sun orbited the earth and that the sky was held up by big pillars at the corners of a flat earth.  Within this backdrop the Quran was revealed, and it contains many scientific facts on topics ranging from astronomy to biology, geology to sociology.

Some people may claim that the Quran was changed as new scientific facts were discovered but this cannot be the case because it is a historically documented fact that the Quran is preserved in its original language.  The Quran was written down and memorised by people during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad.  One of the copies of the Quran which was written a few years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad is preserved in a museum in Uzbekistan.  This copy is over 1400 years old and is exactly the same as the Arabic Quran that we have today.

The following are nine scientific facts found in the Quran:

1.  Origin of Life

Water is essential for all living things.  We all know that water is vital to life but the Quran makes a very unusual claim:

We made every living thing from water? Will they not believe? (Quran 21:30)

In this verse water is pointed out as the origin of all life.  All living things are made of cells.  We now know that cells are mostly made up of water.  For example, 80% of the cytoplasm (basic cell material) of a standard animal cell is described as water in biology textbooks.

The fact that living things consist mostly of water was discovered only after the invention of the microscope.  In the deserts of Arabia, the last thing someone would have guessed is that all life came from water.

2.  Iron

Iron is not natural to the earth.  It did not form on the earth but came down to earth from outer space.  This may sound strange but it’s true.  Scientists have found that billions of years ago the earth was stuck by meteorites.  These meteorites were carrying Iron from distant stars which had exploded.

The Quran says the following on the origin of Iron:

“We sent down Iron with its great inherent strength and its many benefits for humankind.” (Quran 57:25)

God uses the words ‘sent down’ for Iron.  It is clear from the verse that Iron is not an earthly material, but was sent down for the benefit of humanity.  The fact that Iron came down to earth from outer space is something which could not be known by the primitive science of the 7th century.

3.  Sky’s Protection

The sky plays a crucial role in protecting the earth.  The sky protects the earth from the lethal rays of the sun.  If the sky did not exist then the sun’s radiation would have killed off all life on earth.  It also acts like a blanket wrapped around the earth, to protect it from the freezing cold of space.  The temperature just above the sky is approximately -270oC.  If this temperature was to reach earth then the planet would freeze over instantly.  The sky also protects life on earth by warming the surface through heat retention (greenhouse effect), and reducing temperature extremes between day and night.  These are some of the many protective functions of the sky.

The Quran asks us to consider the sky in the following verse:

“We made the sky a protective ceiling.  And yet they are turning away from Our signs!” (Quran 21:32)

The Quran points to the sky’s protection as a sign of God.  The protective properties of the sky were discovered by scientific research conducted in the 20th century.

4.  Mountains

The Quran draws our attention to a very important characteristic of mountains:

“Did We not make the earth a resting place? And the mountains as stakes?” (Quran 78:6-7)

The Quran indicates that mountains have deep roots by using the word stakes to describe them.  In fact mountains do have deep roots, and the word stakes is an accurate description for them.  A book titled ‘Earth’ by Geophysicist Frank Press explains that mountains are like stakes, and are buried deep under the surface of the earth. Mount Everest (pictured below), the height of which is approximately 9 km above ground, has a root deeper than 125 km.

The fact that mountains have deep ‘stake’ like roots was not known, until after the development of the theory of plate tectonics in the beginning of the 20th century.

5.  Expansion of the Universe

At a time when the science of Astronomy was still primitive, the expansion of the universe was described in Quran:

“And it is We who have built the Universe with [Our creative] power and keep expanding it.” (Quran 51:47)

The fact that the universe is expanding was discovered in the last century.  The physicist Stephen Hawking in his book ‘A Brief History of Time’ writes, “The discovery that the universe is expanding was one of the great intellectual revolutions of the 20th century.”.

The Quran mentioned the expansion of the universe even before the invention of the telescope!

6.  Sun’s Orbit

In 1512 the astronomer Nicholas Copernicus put forward his theory that the Sun is motionless at the centre of the solar system, and that the planets revolve around it.  The belief that the Sun is stationary was widespread amongst astronomers until the 20th century.  It is now a well-established scientific fact that the Sun is not stationary, but is moving in an orbit around the centre of our Milky Way galaxy[7].

The Quran mentions the orbit of the Sun:

“It is He who created night and day, the Sun and the Moon, each floating in its orbit.” (Quran 21:33)

The Quran would have been wrong according to astronomers just a couple of decades ago.  But we now know that the Quranic account of the Sun’s motion is consistent with modern Astronomy.

7.  The Ocean

The Quran uses imagery to covey its deep meanings, here it describes the state of the unbelievers as:

“Darkness out in a deep ocean which is covered by waves, above which are waves, above which are clouds, layers of darkness, one upon the other.  When one puts out his hand [therein], he can hardly see it.  Those God gives no light to, they have no light.” (Quran 24:40)

It is commonly thought that waves only occur on the surface of the ocean.  However oceanographers have discovered that there are internal waves that take place below the surface of the ocean.  These waves are invisible to the human eye, and can only be detected by specialist equipment.  The Quran mentions darkness in a deep ocean above which are waves, above which are waves, then clouds above that.  This description is not only remarkable because it describes the internal waves in the ocean, but also because it describes darkness deep in the ocean.  A human being can dive no more than 70 metres without breathing equipment.  Light is present at that depth, but if we go down 1000 metres it is completely dark.  1400 years ago there were no submarines or specialist equipment to discover internal waves or the darkness deep inside the oceans.

8.  Lying and Movement

There was a cruel oppressive tribal leader named Abu Jahl who lived during the time of Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.  God revealed a verse of the Quran to warn him:

“No Indeed! If he does not stop, We will seize him by the forehead, his lying, sinful forehead.” (Quran 96:15-16)

God does not call this person a liar, but calls his forehead (the front part of the brain) ‘lying’ and ‘sinful’, and warns him to stop.

This verse is significant for two reasons.  The first is that the front part of our brain is responsible for voluntary movement.This is known as the frontal lobe.  A book titled ‘Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology’ which includes the results of research on the functions of this area states: The motivation and the foresight to plan and initiate movements occur in the anterior portion of the frontal lobes, the prefrontal area.  The part of the brain that is responsible for movement is said to be seized if the man does not stop.

Secondly, numerous studies have shown that this same region (frontal lobe) is responsible for the lying function of the brain.  One such study at the University of Pennsylvania in which volunteers were asked questions during a computerized interrogation, it was found that when the volunteers were lying there was significantly increased activity in the prefrontal and premotor cortices (frontal lobe region).

The front part of the brain is responsible for movement and lying.  The Quran links movement and lying to this area.  These functions of the frontal lobe were discovered with medical imaging equipment which was developed in the 20th century.

9.  Pain Receptors

For a long time it was thought that the sense of feeling and pain was dependent on the brain.  However it has been discovered that there are pain receptors present in the skin[14].  Without these pain receptors, a person would not be able to feel pain.

Consider the following verse on pain:

“We shall send those who reject Our revelations to the (Hell) Fire.  When their skins have been burned away, We shall replace them with new ones so that they may continue to feel the pain: God is Almighty, All-Wise.” (Quran 4:56)

God tells the people who reject his message that when they are in Hell and their skins are burnt off (so they can’t feel any pain), he will give them new skins so that they continue to feel the pain.

The Quran makes it clear that pain is dependent upon on the skin.  The discovery of pain receptors in the skin is a fairly recent discovery for Biology.

Conclusion

These are just some of the many scientific facts found in the Quran.  It is important to note that the Quran is not a book of science, but that it is consistent with science.  To claim that scientific facts in the Quran are due to coincidence would be irrational.  The best explanation is that God revealed this knowledge to the Prophet Muhammad.

Just like the Quran contains knowledge about the natural world, it also contains information about the inner dimensions of our souls.  It relates to our feelings, wants and needs.  The Quran informs us that we have a purpose in life, and that following God’s guidance will lead us to inner peace in this life, and Paradise in the hereafter.  And that rejection of his message will lead to depression in this life and Hellfire after death.

“We shall show them Our signs in the Universe and within themselves, until it becomes clear to them that this is the Truth.  Is it not enough that your Lord is the witness of all things?” (Quran 41:53)

The Miracle of Iron

Iron is one of the elements highlighted in the Quran. In the chapter known Al-Hadeed, meaning Iron, we are informed:

“And We also sent down iron in which there lies great force and which has many uses for mankind…” (Quran 57:25)

The word “anzalna,” translated as “sent down” and used for iron in the verse, could be thought of having a metaphorical meaning to explain that iron has been given to benefit people. But, when we take into consideration the literal meaning of the word, which is, “being physically sent down from the sky, as this word usage had not been employed in the Quran except literally, like the descending of the rain or revelation, we realize that this verse implies a very significant scientific miracle. Because, modern astronomical findings have disclosed that the iron found in our world has come from giant stars in outer space.[1]

Not only the iron on earth, but also the iron in the entire Solar System, comes from outer space, since the temperature in the Sun is inadequate for the formation of iron. The sun has a surface temperature of 6,000 degrees Celsius, and a core temperature of approximately 20 million degrees. Iron can only be produced in much larger stars than the Sun, where the temperature reaches a few hundred million degrees. When the amount of iron exceeds a certain level in a star, the star can no longer accommodate it, and it eventually explodes in what is called a “nova” or a “supernova.” These explosions make it possible for iron to be given off into space.

One scientific source provides the following information on this subject:

“There is also evidence for older supernova events: Enhanced levels of iron-60 in deep-sea sediments have been interpreted as indications that a supernova explosion occurred within 90 light-years of the sun about 5 million years ago. Iron-60 is a radioactive isotope of iron, formed in supernova explosions, which decays with a half life of 1.5 million years. An enhanced presence of this isotope in a geologic layer indicates the recent nucleosynthesis of elements nearby in space and their subsequent transport to the earth (perhaps as part of dust grains).”

All this shows that iron did not form on the Earth, but was carried from Supernovas, and was “sent down,” as stated in the verse. It is clear that this fact could not have been known in the 7th century, when the Quran was revealed. Nevertheless, this fact is related in the Quran, the Word of God, Who encompasses all things in His infinite knowledge.

The fact that the verse specifically mentions iron is quite astounding, considering that these discoveries were made at the end of the 20th century. In his book Nature’s Destiny, the well-known microbiologist Michael Denton emphasizes the importance of iron:

“Of all the metals there is none more essential to life than iron. It is the accumulation of iron in the center of a star which triggers a supernova explosion and the subsequent scattering of the vital atoms of life throughout the cosmos. It was the drawing by gravity of iron atoms to the center of the primeval earth that generated the heat which caused the initial chemical differentiation of the earth, the outgassing of the early atmosphere, and ultimately the formation of the hydrosphere. It is molten iron in the center of the earth which, acting like a gigantic dynamo, generates the earth’s magnetic field, which in turn creates the Van Allen radiation belts that shield the earth’s surface from destructive high-energy-penetrating cosmic radiation and preserve the crucial ozone layer from cosmic ray destruction…

“Without the iron atom, there would be no carbon-based life in the cosmos; no supernovae, no heating of the primitive earth, no atmosphere or hydrosphere. There would be no protective magnetic field, no Van Allen radiation belts, no ozone layer, no metal to make hemoglobin [in human blood], no metal to tame the reactivity of oxygen, and no oxidative metabolism.

“The intriguing and intimate relationship between life and iron, between the red color of blood and the dying of some distant star, not only indicates the relevance of metals to biology but also the biocentricity of the cosmos…”

This account clearly indicates the importance of the iron atom. The fact that particular attention is drawn to iron in the Quran also emphasizes the importance of the element.

Moreover, iron oxide particles were used in a cancer treatment in recent months and positive developments were observed. A team led by Dr. Andreas Jordan, at the world famous Charité Hospital in Germany, succeeded in destroying cancer cells with this new technique developed for the treatment of cancer—magnetic fluid hyperthermia (high temperature magnetic liquid). As a result of this technique, first performed on the 26-year-old Nikolaus H., no new cancer cells were observed in the patient in the following three months.

This method of treatment can be summarized as follows:

1. A liquid containing iron oxide particles is injected into the tumour by means of a special syringe. These particles spread throughout the tumour cells. This liquid consists of thousands of millions of particles, 1,000 times smaller than the red blood corpuscles, of iron oxide in 1 cm3 that can easily flow through all blood vessels.

2. The patient is then placed in a machine with a powerful magnetic field.

3. This magnetic field, applied externally, begins to set the iron particles in the tumour in motion. During this time the temperature in the tumour containing the iron oxide particles rises by up to 45 degrees.

4. In a few minutes the cancer cells, unable to protect themselves from the heat, are either weakened or destroyed. The tumour may then be completely eradicated with subsequent chemotherapy.

In this treatment it is only the cancer cells that are affected by the magnetic field, since only they contain the iron oxide particles. The spread of this technique is a major development in the treatment of this potentially lethal disease. Iron has also been found to be a cure for people suffering from anemia. In the treatment of such a widespread diseases, the use of the expression “iron in which there lies great force and which has many uses for mankind” (Quran, 57:25) in the Quran is particularly noteworthy. Indeed, in that verse, the Quran may be indicating the benefits of iron even for human health. (God knows best.)

The Quran on Seas and Rivers

Modern Science has discovered that in the places where two different seas meet, there is a barrier between them.  This barrier divides the two seas so that each sea has its own temperature, salinity, and density. For example, Mediterranean sea water is warm, saline, and less dense, compared to Atlantic ocean water.  When Mediterranean sea water enters the Atlantic over the Gibraltar sill, it moves several hundred kilometers into the Atlantic at a depth of about 1000 meters with its own warm, saline, and less dense characteristics.  The Mediterranean water stabilizes at this depth (see figure 1).

Figure 1: The Mediterranean sea water as it enters the Atlantic over the Gibraltar sill with its own warm, saline, and less dense characteristics, because of the barrier that distinguishes between them.  Temperatures are in degrees Celsius (C°). (Marine Geology, Kuenen, p. 43, with a slight enhancement.)

Although there are large waves, strong currents, and tides in these seas, they do not mix or transgress this barrier.

The Holy Quran mentioned that there is a barrier between two seas that meet and that they do not transgress.  God has said:

“He has set free the two seas meeting together.  There is a barrier between them.  They do not transgress.” (Quran 55:19-20)

But when the Quran speaks about the divider between fresh and salt water, it mentions the existence of “a forbidding partition” with the barrier.  God has said in the Quran:

“He is the one who has set free the two kinds of water, one sweet and palatable, and the other salty and bitter.  And He has made between them a barrier and a forbidding partition.” (Quran 25:53)

One may ask, why did the Quran mention the partition when speaking about the divider between fresh and salt water, but did not mention it when speaking about the divider between the two seas?

Modern science has discovered that in estuaries, where fresh (sweet) and salt water meet, the situation is somewhat different from what is found in places where two seas meet.  It has been discovered that what distinguishes fresh water from salt water in estuaries is a “pycnocline zone with a marked density discontinuity separating the two layers.” This partition (zone of separation) has a different salinity from the fresh water and from the salt water(see figure 2).

Figure 2: Longitudinal section showing salinity (parts per thousand ‰) in an estuary.  We can see here the partition (zone of separation) between the fresh and the salt water. (Introductory Oceanography, Thurman, p. 301, with a slight enhancement.)

This information has been discovered only recently, using advanced equipment to measure temperature, salinity, density, oxygen dissolubility, etc.  The human eye cannot see the difference between the two seas that meet, rather the two seas appear to us as one homogeneous sea.  Likewise, the human eye cannot see the division of water in estuaries into the three kinds: fresh water, salt water, and the partition (zone of separation).

The Quran on Mountains

A book entitled Earth is a basic reference textbook in many universities around the world.  One of its two authors is Professor Emeritus Frank Press.  He was the Science Advisor to former US President Jimmy Carter, and for 12 years was the President of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC. His book says that mountains have underlying roots.These roots are deeply embedded in the ground, thus, mountains have a shape like a peg (see figures 1, 2, and 3).

Figure 1: Mountains have deep roots under the surface of the ground. (Earth, Press and Siever, p. 413.)

Figure 2: Schematic section.  The mountains, like pegs, have deep roots embedded in the ground. (Anatomy of the Earth, Cailleux, p. 220.)

Figure 3: Another illustration shows how the mountains are peg-like in shape, due to their deep roots. (Earth Science, Tarbuck and Lutgens, p. 158.)

This is how the Quran has described mountains.  God has said in the Quran:

“Have We not made the earth as a bed, and the mountains as pegs?” (Quran 78:6-7)

Modern earth sciences have proven that mountains have deep roots under the surface of the ground (see figure 3) and that these roots can reach several times their elevations above the surface of the ground.So the most suitable word to describe mountains on the basis of this information is the word ‘peg,’ since most of a properly set peg is hidden under the surface of the ground.  The history of science tells us that the theory of mountains having deep roots was introduced only in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Mountains also play an important role in stabilizing the crust of the earth.They hinder the shaking of the earth.  God has said in the Quran:

“And He has set firm mountains in the earth so that it would not shake with you…” (Quran 16:15)

Likewise, the modern theory of plate tectonics holds that mountains work as stabilizers for the earth.  This knowledge about the role of mountains as stabilizers for the earth has just begun to be understood in the framework of plate tectonics since the late 1960’s.

Could anyone during the time of the Prophet Muhammad have known of the true shape of mountains?  Could anyone imagine that the solid massive mountain which he sees before him actually extends deep into the earth and has a root, as scientists assert?  A large number of books of geology, when discussing mountains, only describe that part which is above the surface of the earth.  This is because these books were not written by specialists in geology.  However, modern geology has confirmed the truth of the Quranic verses.

Science and Miracles (1998) Theodore M. Drange

1. The definition of “Miracle”

The problem I wish to investigate is the relation between science and religion, with a special focus on religion’s appeal to miracles. Let us define a “miracle” simply as an event which violates at least one law of nature. I realize that the term is used in other ways. For example, it is sometimes additionally required that miracles be caused by a supernatural being. For our purposes and in the interest of economy, that further requirement can be dispensed with. Alternatively, a miracle is sometimes taken to be any extraordinary event, particularly one that provides someone with a great benefit. That is certainly another use of the term in English, but not relevant to our topic, so let us disregard it. If we employ the definition initially given, that will allow us to focus on a particularly troublesome puzzle in the philosophy of science.

If miracles violate laws of nature, then they could never be explained by appeal to natural law. Note that it needs to be a genuine law of nature that is violated by a miracle, not a manmade generalization erroneously taken as a law of nature. This needs some clarification. By a law of nature I mean a proposition which describes an actual uniformity that obtains in our universe. An example would be the Archimedean Law that a floating body always displaces an amount of fluid the weight of which is equal to its own weight. And an example of a miracle which violates that law would be a man walking on water (thereby displacing an amount of fluid the weight of which would be considerably less than his own bodyweight). In science, events are explained naturalistically (i.e., by appeal to laws of nature), so a miracle would be an event that could never be explained in that way. But if events which cannot at present be explained in that way were to come to be explained naturalistically in the future, then, in retrospect, it would need to be said of them that they were never miracles, although they may at one time have (erroneously) been thought to be that. At the very least, the laws that miracles violate need to be genuine ones.

Consider an example. Centuries ago, it was regarded a law of nature that matter cannot be destroyed. Thus, an event like an atomic explosion, in which matter is destroyed, would at that time have been considered a miracle, for it violates the given law. But subsequent science came to abandon or amend the law in question in such a way that atomic explosions no longer violate natural law. A miracle, then, must be regarded, not as an event which violates current law (which may very well come to be superseded), but an event which violates one or more genuine laws, i.e., ones which can never be superseded by laws of nature which are more accurate and which cohere better with other parts of science.

What would be the status of laws of nature if miracles were actually to occur? First, would they cease to be genuine laws? If we say that a generalization that is violated by some event cannot be a genuine law of nature, then it would follow that miracles are logically impossible. That can be shown as follows:

 

(1) Miracles, by definition, are events which violate genuine laws of nature.
(2) If a generalization is violated by an event, then it cannot be a genuine law of nature.
(3) Thus, it is impossible for a genuine law of nature to be violated by any event. [from (2)]
(4) Hence, it is impossible for any event to be a miracle. [from (1) & (3)]

I think what we need to do here, to generate our philosophical issue, is to allow that it is at least logically possible for a law of nature to be violated. Let us therefore understand the concept of a law of nature in such a way that step (2) of the above proof is false. It may be that no laws of nature are ever violated, but there is no contradiction in the mere idea of it.

Another issue is that of truth. If a law of nature were to be violated, then could it still be true? One answer that might be given is: Yes, a violated law could still be true because laws of nature are only intended to describe events within the natural realm and miracles are outside the natural realm. Thus, miracles would not then render laws of nature false, for they would not show that the laws fail to correctly describe the natural realm. However, to view the matter in this way, the definition of “miracle” would need to be changed slightly. Instead of saying that miracles violate laws of nature, we would need to say that miracles are outside the natural realm and would violate laws of nature if they were in the natural realm. They would then not actually violate laws of nature, since laws of nature only describe events within the natural realm.

I do not like this way of viewing matters, because it places too much emphasis on the concept of a “natural realm.” To work with a definition of “miracles” as events outside the natural realm, we would need some criterion for deciding whether or not an event is inside or outside that realm, and we do not have any such criterion. The result would be that the term “miracle” would be obscure, perhaps even meaningless. Let us, therefore, simply go with our original definition of a miracle as an event which violates a law of nature. That results in the conclusion that if an miracle were to occur, then the law of nature which it violates would be false, since such a law would be a generalization with at least one exception to it. Thus, some laws would be false (namely, the ones violated by miracles) and other laws would be true (namely, those not violated by any miracles). This way of speaking, distinguishing true laws of nature from false ones, may sound rather peculiar, but there seems to be no other meaningful way to permit talk of miracles to enter the discussion. The idea of a law still being useful even though it is false is a familiar one. Newton’s Laws, for example, have been superseded in contemporary physics (and thus regarded as false), and yet they are still used in various practical fields. So, to speak of a law as false is not incoherent.

However, there is a problem here. Previously, a distinction was drawn between “genuine laws” and “erroneous (or superseded) laws.” How could that distinction still be drawn if we allow that even some of the genuine laws might be false? Let us say that if genuine laws are false, it is only because of isolated counter-instances which cannot be explained or predicted on the basis of any other empirical laws. But when erroneous (or superseded) laws are false, it is because of regular counter-instances which are both explainable and predictable on the basis of other empirical laws. Atomic explosions, for example, occur according to known regularities on the basis of which they could be explained and predicted. Thus, the law that matter cannot be destroyed is an erroneous (or superseded) one. But if a man were to walk on water, although that would make Archimedes’ Law false, it would not make it an erroneous law in the given sense. The counter-instance(s) would still be isolated and neither explainable nor predictable on the basis of any other empirical laws. Archimedes’ Law could still be a genuine law, though it would no doubt be somewhat suspect under such circumstances.

What would be the result if people walking on water were to become commonplace? Suppose various men were to do it every year, say, on Easter Sunday. Their action could not be explained by Archimedes’ Law, since the amount of fluid they displace as they walk on water does not correspond to a force sufficient to keep them from sinking. Some other force would be sought, but suppose that none is ever found and so their actions remain a mystery for science forever. Although such counter-instances to Archimedes’ Law would in that case not be isolated events, they would still be miracles if, indeed, the law cannot be replaced by other natural laws which are not violated by the given events. Thus, miracles need not be isolated events, but they do need to be events that violate natural law which are forever unexplainable within the system of science.

2. Scientists’ Attitudes

The philosophical issue which now comes into play is that of the relation between science and miracles (defined in the given way), particularly the attitude of scientists towards miracles. There seem to be at least the following possibilities:

(A) No scientist could ever believe in miracles under any circumstances.

(B) Scientists could believe in miracles, but not as scientists.

(C) Scientists could believe in miracles, even as scientists, but not when they are engaged in scientific research on the specific area in which the alleged miracles occur.

(D) Scientists, as scientists, could believe in miracles, even when engaged in scientific research on the specific area in which the alleged miracles occur, but such belief could not be regarded to be a result of the research or a scientific finding.

It seems clear that position (A) is incorrect, for there certainly have been scientists in the past who believed in miracles and there are still scientists today who do so (for example, many of those who identify themselves as Christians). But even if (A) is deleted, the question of which of the other positions is the correct one is rather difficult.

Certainly the last part of position (D) is correct. It could never be a scientific finding that a miracle occurred, for science is the attempt to understand reality in terms of the laws of nature. To say that a miracle occurred is to abandon the scientific (= naturalistic) perspective on the matter. If a scientist were to end up with such a belief, then it would be incompatible with the scientific point of view. It would be as if to say, “Here is something that could never be naturalistically explained and so it lies outside the domain of science.”

It might be objected here that the purpose of science is not to try to understand reality but only to predict it and thereby control it. That is, science is of significance only to the extent that it yields (or has the prospect of yielding) technological results. This is the pragmatic view of the nature of science. I don’t particularly care for it, since I find it too limited, but even if it were correct, it would still leave no room for any appeal to miracles within science. There is no way that an appeal to miracles could lead to theories which produce predictions or technological results. Thus, whether science is construed realistically or pragmatically, all appeals to miracles would be excluded from it.

But even if the last part of position (D), above, is correct, the first part of it may not be. It could be, instead, that (B) or (C) is the correct approach to take on this matter. Let us consider a hypothetical situation. Suppose a man is diagnosed with a terminal illness but then recovers fully. Such events have been known to happen and they are often termed “miracles.” Some medical researchers believe that miracles, of that sort, do indeed occur. One main question is whether, when they express such belief, they can do so as scientists, or whether they necessarily do so only as laypersons (or private citizens, as it is sometimes put).

According to position (D), it is indeed possible for medical researchers to believe, as scientists, that a miraculous cure has occurred. It is simply that they cannot put this down as a “scientific finding.” But it might be objected that if they cannot put the result down as a “scientific finding,” then when they claim that a miracle has occurred, they are not speaking as scientists at all. In order to speak as a scientist, one must be in a position to report a scientific finding, for the reporting of such findings is a major component of science. The first part of (D), therefore, conflicts with its last part, and so (D) needs to be rejected.

According to position (C), it would be possible for other scientists to claim, as scientists, that a miraculous cure has occurred, but not those scientists (medical researchers) who are engaged in the specific area of research in question. But that seems rather anomalous. Why should scientists who are outside a particular field be in any better position to speak in the name of science on a matter related to that field than those scientists who are working in the very field in question? It would seem more reasonable to say that the people best able to speak in the name of science on a particular area would be the very scientists who are working in that area. Position (C) has other difficulties as well, but this one seems sufficient to refute it.

By a process of elimination, only position (B) remains, and that is the one which I shall endorse. Scientists can claim that miracles occur, but when they do so, they do so only as laypersons, not as scientists. But what, then, are we to say about such persons? Their minds seem to be compartmentalized into at least a scientific part and a religious part. When they think in terms of their profession, they have a positive outlook on science, assuming that what it deals with is in principle explainable by appeal to natural law, but when they think religiously, they have a negative outlook on science, assuming that there are aspects of reality that can never be explained by appeal to natural law, no matter how far science advances.

Why would anyone assume that science has such limits? What possible evidence could there be that there are events which science will be forever unable to explain? The only possible evidence is that certain events have not as yet been given naturalistic explanations. However, many such events in the past later came to be explained naturalistically. Thus, the mere use of induction should lead us to infer that, eventually, the events presently unexplained may very well, and perhaps even probably will, be explained. It would seem, then, that the epistemic stance most compatible with a scientific way of thinking would be to withhold judgement on whatever events have not as yet been explained naturalistically. To reason that what has not as yet been explained can never be explained would be invalid. It would be a non sequitur (more specifically, a kind of hasty generalization). Furthermore, one should not adopt a pessimistic outlook on science by calling such events “miraculous,” for to do so would be not only unscientific, but anti-scientific as well.

Two points should be made regarding this matter. First, if there are scientists who have such a pessimistic (anti-scientific) outlook with regard to their own profession, then presumably they acquired it from religion, which partly regulates the early mental development of most children. There is certainly no scientific basis whatever for such pessimism. And, second, it may be that the belief in miracles is connected with the idea that there are aspects of reality which must be forever beyond scientific scrutiny. If one already believes that there are facts which it is impossible for science to explain, then one would be already predisposed towards a belief in miracles. Well, what sorts of facts might those be? Here are some possible candidates:

(A) Religious experiences in people
(B) Selfless love and sacrifice
(C) Objective values (e.g., morality)
(D) God and an afterlife
(E) Free will
(F) Mind or consciousness
(G) Life
(H) Basic uniformities of nature
(I) The fact that the uniformities permit life
(J) Laws of logic
(K) Abstract entities, like numbers
(L) The existence of the universe itself
(M) The fact that something exists

In each case, there are two questions: whether there is some fact there to be explained, and, if so, whether there is any hope that science might come up with a complete and adequate explanation of that fact. If, for some items on the list, the answers are “yes” and “no,” respectively, then that would predispose one towards a belief in miracles. That is, if there are other facts to be explained which science can’t possibly explain, then there is not so much involved in adding (the occurrence of) miracles to the list. I think that many of the items listed above are ones which religion appeals to as “facts beyond scientific explanation.” At any rate, if one is indoctrinated by religion to believe that there are such facts, then the acceptance of miracles would come easily. If the person should later adopt science as a profession, then the kind of compartmentalization of the person’s mind mentioned above would be an expected outcome.

It is an interesting question whether any items on the above list really have the features claimed for it by religion, that is: (1) a fact to be explained, and (2) forever incapable of any naturalistic explanation. I myself am inclined to deny it. For some of the items, it is condition (1) that fails to be met. I would say that of (C), (D), (J), (K), & (M). For all the other items, it is condition (2) that fails to be met: i.e., naturalistic explanations can be given. I shall not defend this here, for it is a large topic and beyond the scope of the present essay.

Perhaps the main question before us at this point is whether, within such mental compartmentalization as described above, the person necessarily holds incompatible beliefs. What it comes down to is the issue whether the scientist qua scientist must believe that all of reality is naturalistically explainable. If so, then scientists who believe in miracles would be inconsistent in their thinking.

We have already established that the scientist qua scientist cannot believe in miracles. But it is a further question whether he must deny that they ever occur. In other words, is the scientist qua scientist like an agnostic regarding miracles, neither believing in them nor denying them, or is he like an atheist, denying that they ever occur? If he is like an atheist, then for him to believe in miracles in some other compartment of his mind would be inconsistent, for it would contradict something that he believes in the scientific compartment. But if he is only like an agnostic, then there need be no such inconsistency. In his scientific compartment, there would (necessarily) be no belief in miracles, but there would not be anything that contradicts their occurrence either.

So, what is the answer? I argued above that when people work as scientists, they necessarily have a naturalistic worldview. But do they, in addition, necessarily believe that such a worldview is complete and not contradicted by anything else in reality? There are indeed scientists who do not regard the naturalistic worldview to be complete in that way. In their scientific work, they are only methodological naturalists and not also metaphysical naturalists. That is, they assume naturalism as an outlook presupposed by their scientific work, but they do not regard naturalism to be generally true of all reality. They might say, “I can make no reference to miracles here in science, but science is limited; there are aspects of reality that lie beyond it.” Are such scientists necessarily deficient as scientists? I shall make no pronouncement on this matter here but will leave it open. Certainly scientists who believe in miracles have compartmentalized minds, and some of the time (in their religious life) they have not only an unscientific but an anti-scientific outlook. But whether they must also have inconsistent beliefs is a further matter, one which I shall leave to the reader to judge.

Salary of a Principal Consultant

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Principal consultants may be employed by corporations or firms, and they are also private contractors. Their ranges of jobs, responsibilities and duties vary from mortgage fraud auditing, quality assurance consulting, and loan work-out consulting (loss mitigation) to investment and fund managers to business and technology consultants. There are hundreds of job titles that easily lend themselves to the job title “principal consultant.”

Salary Ranges

  • Salary ranges for principal consultants depend on the job and what kind of work it entails. The salaries depend on the industry it is in, what level of education the consultant has, how many years of experience, what region they work in and the nature of the work involved. The average salary of a principal consultant is from $94,000 to a little more than $110,000 per year.

Senior Principal Consultant

  • Senior principal consultants can be software engineers, technical support staff, software development managers, and applications engineers. Senior principal consultants earn about $76,000 per year depending on the company they work for.

Principal Consultant

  • Principal consultants in California make about $81,000 per year, per Simply Hired. The average salary in Colorado is $82,000 per year. The average in Illinois is about $80,000 per year and in New York, it is in the mid-80s ($85,000 annually). Principal consultants work in information technology, the life sciences, logistics and sales, as well as many other fields and industries.

Principal Sales Consultant

  • Principal sales consultant jobs cover a multitude of positions and skill levels. For instance, a principal sales consultant in the private sector who works with government accounts may be responsible for technical presales, functional support, mentoring less experienced sales consultants, and developing sales opportunities in need of creative solutions. They also help to develop productivity tools and training, and many are likely private contractors. On average, a principal sales consultant in Los Angeles makes around $84,000 per year and a consultant in Washington, DC makes $102,000 per year.

Companies that Hire Principal Consultants

  • All of the many different job titles and salary ranges under principal consultant cannot be covered here. This section lists the names of a few of the many companies that higher principal consultants. They are Oracle, Accenture, Sogeti USA, Keane, International Business Machines (IBM), SRA International, RCM Technologies, SAP America, Fujitsu Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers and many more. The salary ranges of principal consultants for these companies tend to fall between $80,000 to $170,000 or more per year.

How Much Money Does a Consultant Make?

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Two common types of consultants include management and IT, or information technology, consultants. Both types of consultants work with major corporations, small businesses, government offices, hospitals and other business establishments. Management consultants usually help companies solve labor, payroll, operational and product issues, such as plant efficiency. IT consultants help companies run their computer networks more efficiently. Both management and IT consultants usually earn annual salaries. Additionally, these professionals may receive bonuses and profit sharing incentives.

Average Annual Salary

  • Management consultants earn annual salaries between $63,690 and $115,194, while IT consultants earn $56,228 to $88,772 per year, according to 2011 data from PayScale.com. Including incentive payments, management consultants earn total incomes of $73,089 to $176,411 per year, while IT consultants can earn up to $59,304 to $103,418 annually. PayScale.com data does not reflect actual ranges but rather the top quarter and bottom three-quarters of salaries.

Years of Experience

  • Both management and IT consultants can expect significant salary increases as they gain experience in their respective fields. For example, management consultants with less than one year of experience earn annual salaries of $55,415 to $91,957, per PayScale.com. With five to nine years of experience, management consultants can expect to earn salaries of $76,996 to $113,693 per year. And those with 20 or more years of experience earn annual salaries of $91,844 to $158,805.

    IT consultants with less than one year of experience earn annual salaries of $45,852 to $60,612. With five to nine years of experience, they can expect to earn salaries of $61,156 to $88,136 per year. Those with at least 20 years of experience earn annual salaries between $79,476 and $118,337.

Employer Type

  • Management and IT consultants’ salaries can also vary according to their types of employers. For example, management consultants that are self-employed earn some of the highest annual salaries at $75,000 to $156,339, per PayScale.com. Those working for private practice firms also earn relatively high salaries at $66,693 to $120,372 per year.

    IT consultants also earn some of their highest salaries when self-employed at $40,000 to $122,449. Those working as contract employees also earn relatively high salaries at $50,868 to $98,722. However, contract employees do not usually receive benefits. Non-profit organizations also pay their IT consultants relatively high annual salaries at $48,788 to $90,757.

Salary by City

  • Management consultants earn some of their highest annual salaries in Chicago at $62,590 to $123,067, according to PayScale.com. Those in San Francisco and New York City also earn comparatively high salaries at $74,757 to $121,253 and $67,936 to $120,920 per year, respectively.

    IT consultants earn some of their highest annual salaries in New York City at $59,553 to $96,046. These professionals also earn relatively high salaries in Los Angeles at $59,973 to $91,128 per year. Additionally, those in Houston can expect to earn salaries between $56,373 and $90,718 per year.

About Safety Consultant Salaries

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As technology increases our standard of living, careers will continue to become increasingly specialized. Safety consultants are a subset of engineers that are employed to deal exclusively with risk-management. Those considering a career as a safety consultant should consider the job description, day to day operations and potential salary. Here’s a look at the career path and salary range of a safety consultant.

What is a safety consultant?

  • A safety consultant is someone hired by an organization to ensure that the policies and practices being utilized fall within acceptable levels of risk. For example, a safety consultant would be required where a company is working with hazardous chemicals to ensure the company is operating within the bounds of the law and that the organization is using best practices to minimize the chance of an accident.

What does a safety consultant do?

  • A safety consultant operates in an advisory or supervisory capacity. Through his use of specialized knowledge, the safety consultant works with an organization to define potential problems, conduct research, obtain data through surveys and studies, and analyzes the final data to suggest an appropriate course of action. In that sense, one might think of a safety consultant as a kind of engineering lawyer.

Median salary

  • While the median salary for a safety consultant will vary depending on the region, the average salary for a safety consultant in the United States is currently $60, 935. The low end of that salary range is $49, 946 and the high end is $83,066. Because the national average falls closer to the low end of the spectrum, prospective safety consultant should expect to earn less than the median.

Salary range over years of experience

  • Of course, one can also expect the salary of a safety consultant to climb in proportion to years of experience. On average, a safety consultant with 1 to 4 years of experience is paid $43,774 annually. An average safety consultant with 5 to 9 years of experience makes $54,082 per year. From 10 to 19 years of experience, one can expect to earn $67,922. And with over two decades of experience, a safety consultant can make $74,122. In general, those looking to enter the field should expect to work for about a decade before making near the national average.

Considerations

  • The career of safety consultant offers decent room for advancement, with the opportunity to increase one’s salary over $30,000 over two decades of work. Individuals considering the field should realize that salary growth comes at a fairly slow pace, and should not expect to see significant salary increases until they have accumulated at least a decade of experience. But for those willing to stay the course, the career of safety consultant ensures a healthy standard of living.

Principal Consultant Job Description

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A principal consultant normally works for a consulting firm that specializes in financial, technical, management, marketing or scientific industries. The consulting firm is hired by an organization to offer expertise, information, contacts, management and tools that the client cannot provide themselves. This professional typically faces strict deadlines to meet the expectations of the consulting firm’s client. A principal consultant is normally a senior member of the consulting team or a lead consultant on client projects.

Summary of the Job Description

  • The principal consultant is normally responsible for leading the team during client projects. He’s also responsible for the analysis, design, scheduling, construction and delivery of solutions to meet client expectations. The principal consultant is the main contact between the client and consulting firm and oversees the day-to-day operations of the project until completion. In some cases, the principal consultant will lead several client projects.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • The principal consultant works with clients on an assigned project to identify solutions to business problems and streamlines processes. These duties include managing and mentoring the team of consultants assigned to project; executing and completing assigned projects within the time, scope and budget negotiated with the client; evaluating existing systems and procedures and making recommendations for improvement; designing prototypes and proof of concepts that best fit the client’s needs; and ensuring client satisfaction until the project is complete.

Educational Requirements

  • A principal consultant is required to have a bachelor’s degree in the specified discipline of the consulting firm. Some firms require a master’s degree in business administration. Because the principal consultant is the team leader, he may be required to have project management certification. In addition, some jobs require prior work experience in the particular industry, such as engineering or health care.

Technical Knowlege Requirements

  • Most consulting firms prefer their principal consultants have expertise in the consulting firm’s specialty and hold any certifications applicable to it. For example, a principal consultant employed at a firm specializing in technology normally requires technical expertise in programming, development tools and methodologies and system protocols. The job may require certifications in different technologies.

Non-Technical Skill Requirements

  • Because the principal consultant is normally the lead consultant on a project, she must have time-management and planning skills, sales skills and interpersonal skills. In most cases, a principal consultant must have more than 10 years of experience.

Additional Insight

  • Because of the demands of a consulting position, principal consultants are normally promoted from within the consulting firm quickly if they excel in a specific area of expertise or have good interpersonal skills. When hiring a principal consultant, most organizations will accept some skills in different technical disciplines if the candidate offers strong interpersonal, sales and project management skills or previous experience with a consulting firm. Technical responsibilities can be delegated to other team members, and the principal consultant can manage the project to ensure delivery of expected results in a timely manner.

How to Write a Consulting Report

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Consultants play an important role in the business world. From small nonprofit organizations to large international corporations, companies rely on the expertise of consultants to make critical business decisions. Consultants are hired on a contract basis. A consultant’s final product depends on the nature of the consultation. Many consultants produce reports for their clients. The reports offer expert insight into the chosen topic. Use preparation, excellent writing ability and attention to detail to create a thorough consulting report.

Instructions

  1. Create a title page. Type your name, the name of your company, the name of the report and the name of the client. Include the date the report was delivered to the client.
  2. Include an introduction. Write an introduction that explains the purpose of the report. Outline the basic issues addressed in the report. Include methods and approaches used to analyze the given topic.
  3. Provide analysis of the issues. Give each issue a descriptive heading. For example, “Sodium Content in Lunch Entrees” is possible heading in a consulting report about school lunches. Under each heading detail the particular issue. Offer in-depth analysis of the issue. Include alternatives, possible solutions and recommendations for each issue. Use researched data and statistics.
  4. Create a list of recommendations. Gather all of the recommendations from the analysis sections into one section. List each recommendation in a concise, easy-to-understand manner. For example, “Partner with local vegetarian restaurants to serve vegetarian breakfast and lunch meals in the school once a month” is a possible recommendation for a consulting report.
  5. Write a conclusion. Provide a concise summary of the issues and findings explored in the report.
  6. Write an executive summary. An executive summary is a concise description of what the report contains. Copy important sections from the body of the report and paste them into the executive summary. Include the major findings, analysis and conclusions. According to Custom Papers, a good executive summary allows the reader to understand the basic content of the report without reading the report.
  7. Place the executive summary before the introduction.
  8. Create a table of contents. List each section of the report followed by the page number where that section is found.
  9. Place the table of contents before the executive summary.

The Average Salary of an IT Consultant

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An information technology (IT) consultant advises companies and other organizations about computer systems. He assists with selecting servers and other network items for businesses to link all the computers in a building or company together. She helps select new programs, hardware and software programs to meet a company’s needs and provide solutions to challenges. An IT consultant is responsible for handling any issues or problems that arise in clients’ computer systems, and he performs maintenance to keep such systems in good working order. According to PayScale.com, the average salary of an IT consultant depends largely upon a number of factors, such as her work experience and employer type.

Work Experience

  • An IT consultant’s salary depends largely upon how much work experience she has in the field, according to PayScale.com. In August 2009, IT consultants with less than one year of experienced earned between $49,055 and $60,632, while those with one to four years averaged $50,233 to $70,561. The average salary for five to nine years of experience was between $63,250 and $92,567. From years 10 to 19, IT consultants’ average salaries were between $72,721 and $107,227. Once he worked in the field for 20 years or more, an IT consultant earned $83,018 to $119,800.

Employer Type

  • The type of employer an IT consultant worked for also affected her average salary range. Self-employed IT consultants earn the highest maximum salaries, but also report some of the lowest average starting salaries. Hospitals, the federal government and foundations pay some of the highest starting salaries, comparatively. Some of the lowest-paying employers of IT consultants were school districts, state and local governments, and colleges and universities, where workers earned as much as 50 percent less than their peers in other areas.

Certification

  • IT consultants can earn certifications with a masterful understanding of the company’s products and services. The consultant’s certification also affected the salary. In 2009, IT consultants with Project Management Professional Certification received the highest maximum salaries at $108,502. In addition, Microsoft and Java certifications tended to result in higher salaries than Service Technician certifications or those offered for Cisco telecommunication products.

Skills

  • In August 2009, some consultants specialized in particular areas of information technology, such as UNIX systems, where consultants earned between $61,627 and $100,631. Others focused on specific programming languages, and of these, Oracle tended to result in higher pay rates than other languages like SQL or Java. A specialty in general use of Microsoft products or specifically on Windows or Office led to lower salaries than both UNIX and languages.

Education

  • An IT consultants’ education level also affected average salary ranges in August 2009. The highest-paid consultants held masters of business administration degrees, earning between $64,762 and $100,205, while those with masters of science degrees in computer science earned between $64,952 and $96,177. IT consultants who held bachelors of business management degrees in management of information systems were the lowest paid between $51,206 and $81,597.

How to Start an Information Technology Business

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As small businesses continue to grow, many companies are choosing to forego the expense of employing a full time Information Technology department and instead choosing to utilize an information technology business to keep essential systems up and running. If you have an IT background and have dreamed of owning your own business, there are a few simple steps that will have you well on your way.

Instructions

  1. Have solid credentials. This means both knowledge and formal education. A degree in computer science will be helpful, as well as degrees in related fields of computer technology. Know what systems and software are in common use today, as well as some of the lesser known equivalents. Being able to articulate the range of your knowledge to prospective customers will help to build confidence plus also make it possible to appeal to a wider range of clients.
  2. Obtain a business license. This is usually not difficult to do. In most jurisdictions, the business license for starting up a service related business such as IT support requires filling out a few forms and paying a fee. Having the business license will provide you with a degree of legitimacy in the local business community and may open some doors as well.
  3. Set up an office. Even though much of your day will involve site visits to clients to run diagnostics on servers and related components and troubleshooting minor problems, you still need a permanent location with a phone, a desk, and a couple of chairs. The existence of the office, however humble, tells potential clients you are permanent and ill be around for the long haul.
  4. Acquire your own testing equipment and hardware. This will include portable devices you can use on site, as well as equipment that you keep at the office and use when it is necessary to bring a monitor, hard drive, or server into the office for more detailed work. Also, make sure you have the proper tools to open casings and work with motherboards and other internal components without constantly having to run out to buy something.
  5. Establish your basic fees. Many IT support businesses offer one to three packages of service for a monthly fee. The packages will specify what your normal and standard services will be each month, as they relate to maintenance, repair, consultations, and other IT related functions. Offering more than one package will make it possible to earn clients with varying ranges of support needs.
  6. Network in the community. Proactively ask existing customers for recommendations. Join the local chamber of commerce and show up at gatherings. Leave business cards posted on bulletin boards and other places where business cards are routinely collected. Find a few other small business owners in the area who are willing to pass out your cards and contact information in exchange for you returning the favor.

Job Description for an Information Technology Consultant

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Information technology systems are complex and often require the services of experts to operate efficiently. Many organizations, especially smaller firms, may not have the expertise in-house. Enter the information technology consultant, who can help install equipment, and assess, troubleshoot and resolve problems. IT consultants are typically self-employed or work for consulting firms, and they may work on short- or long-term projects. An IT consultant’s job duties will vary according to her specialty or the customer’s needs.

Basic Skills and Characteristics

  • The ability to interpret complex information and develop a plan to resolve problems is a key skill for IT consultants. Information might come from a variety of sources, such as the software the customer is using, the reports from the organization’s IT staff and the employees who use the system. The IT consultant must sift through all of this data to determine what changes are necessary and how the changes may affect a project. An IT consultant must be able to work with all levels of staff in an organization, which requires excellent communication skills. She must also be able to simplify complex issues to ensure that everyone understands the nature of the problems and solutions.

Major Tasks

  • IT consultants have two primary tasks. The first is to assess an organization’s systems and procedures. They may review training procedures or test software, for example The second task is to design a solution that will improve the organization’s efficiency. The IT consultant might consult with the management and staff of an organization, and provide a cost-benefit analysis of possible upgrades or other changes. She could develop new ways to use an existing system or to increase functionality, and oversee the installation and configuration of new systems.

Secondary Duties

  • An IT consultant’s other tasks might include programming; evaluating workflows related to the organization’s information system; and developing flowcharts or other diagrams to illustrate recommended changes and activities. Most IT consultants specialize in a particular area of the field. Systems designers are typically called in to help choose and install an information technology system. Software quality analysts test systems and diagnose problems, and develop recommendations to improve the system. Programmer analysts update software, create applications and debug systems to make them operate better.

How to Get There

  • Most IT consultants have a bachelor’s degree in computer or information science, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and some employers prefer a master’s degree. In some cases, the consultant’s major is in liberal arts or another field but she has gained extensive programming and technical expertise. Consultants often need experience in the industry, and often specialize in a particular field, such as health care or finance. An IT consultant must also take classes or study on her own to remain current in the field.

How to Become a Technology Consultant

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A technology consultant provides support and system design expertise to companies and businesses looking to implement or upgrade an information technology network. To become a technology consultant, you can either get the proper training to qualify for internal, permanent positions with consulting companies or work for yourself on a contract basis.

Get the Training

  1. Do a 4-year bachelor’s degree in a technology-related field, such as computer science, information systems management or electronics. Since the focus of your consulting career is going to be providing technological support, you don’t need advanced, formal business training.
  2. Go on to take specialized courses in information technology once you graduate from college. Available through professional schools and other accredited institutions, IT education is a key way to signal yourself as a true professional in a world of “do-it-yourself” individuals without hard credentials.
  3. Consider adding a graduate degree to your education portfolio to give yourself an edge in the workplace.
  4. Keep your skill set up-to-date at all times as you get your career off the ground by enrolling in inexpensive technology classes at your local city college. Information technology changes fast. Change with it.

Start Working

  1. Do small-scale technology consulting on a freelance basis for independent businesses looking to implement some IT to their workplace. Advertise yourself locally, and work at reduced (or even free) rates until you have built up enough experience on your resume to start applying for jobs.
  2. Expect that you’ll need at least a couple of years of proven experience before you’ll start turning heads in the professional world as you try to become a technology consultant.
  3. Know that the technology consulting industry is roughly broken up into three categories: professional services, staffing companies and independents. Professional services companies are large IT consulting firms who employ a large, steady workforce to meet the needs of their clients. Staffing agencies, on the other hand, outsource IT professionals on a contract basis according to market demand.
  4. Keep an eye toward going into business for yourself, once you have built up an impressive enough resume and have access to a steady client base without the aid of an agency or consulting firm. To become an independent technology consultant, expect to work professionally for a period of at least 3 to 5 years before you’ll have the know-how to go out on your own.

How to Monitor Technology Trends

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Technology changes at a rapid pace, and new technologies and offerings come to market in a rapid manner. Keeping up to date on what trends are both emerging and fading away is the first step in understanding how technology evolves and advances. There are steps you can take to keep apprised of the trends currently impacting technology and those on the horizon.

Instructions

  1. Make a list of the technology that impacts your daily life. Use this list as a base guideline to learn about technology and the base technologies that are being used today. For example, a smart phone uses technologies such as semiconductors, microprocessors, media storage, LCD screen technology, broadband access and Bluetooth. Make notes regarding which technologies are most beneficial to you and which ones could use enhancements.
  2. Read articles, white papers, vendor-issued press releases and product specifications for vendors that you are aware of. For example, read press releases and product announcement for companies such as Research In Motion, Google and Verizon if you are still working off of your smart phone technology list. Bookmark pages and use the terms and products mentioned to further search the Internet for additional information, reviews and comparisons of the products.
  3. Read articles and information on magazine websites devoted to technology such as PC World Magazine, Computer World Magazine and the Technology News section of The New York Times. Visit the websites on a weekly basis to scan through current news and events to monitor which topics and trends are receiving the most publicity. Sign up for all news feeds and email notifications for technology topics.
  4. Read blogs written by technology-specific writers. Find the blogs through the magazine websites or by performing a search on the writer’s name. Bookmark the blogs and sign up through the blog directly for notifications of new postings and news feeds for blogs that are of interest to you.
  5. Bookmark and visit social media sites, making sure to note the feeds associated for technology and technology-specific areas. Search through groups, individual contributors and company-produced feeds to further keep track of new and timely information.
  6. Keep a running list of terms, topics and products that continually appear and get mentioned in all of the information portals and mediums you are tracking. Take notes and print out information to further examine and study the trends that you see developing.

How to Use Technology to Save Time

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Whether you’re spending too much time getting bogged down by email or your life seems to revolve around meetings, there’s no doubt that you could stand to shave off mindless minutes at work. Modern time-saving technology goes way beyond word processing and spreadsheets. With the use of a smartphone and a few computer applications that help you hold meetings, manage your tasks or keep you from time-wasting social media, you can make better use of the precious few hours in the workday.

Scheduling and Task Management

  • Use basic scheduling tools such as your Outlook calendar to lay out your daily tasks. Having a set schedule not only helps you stay on task, but it also alerts others you work with — such as a secretary or your staff — to when you’re available for impromptu questions, and when you shouldn’t be disturbed. This saves the time of having to contact everyone individually. To ensure you’re using your allotted time wisely, set a timer for each task. Apps such as TomatoTimer or Toggl help manage the time you spend on each item.

Manage Social Media

  • If you’re using social media to promote your company, you can spend a lot of time sending tweets, posting photos to Instagram, or checking in on Facebook. To save time, download a social media management tool that lets you check on multiple platforms — and post from them — all at once. Buffer, HootSuite and SproutSocial are some of the options to try. If you find yourself wasting way too much time on social media for personal use, download a blocking program, such as AntiSocial or LeechBlock, that only allows you access to your feeds during certain hours of the day.

Meet Electronically

  • Personal interaction with clients and customers is valuable, but it can also really eat up time. Instead of meeting face-to-face with that important client every week — which requires a drive across town — use an application such as Skype or Apple’s native FaceTime to meet via video chat. The same goes for meetings you have with co-workers or colleagues. Instead of spending time walking across the company campus and then waiting for everyone to assemble, spend five minutes checking in via WebEx or GoogleHangouts.

Automate Where You Can

  • If you’re a business manager or owner who spends time paying office bills, managing inventory or scheduling staff, you owe it to yourself to automate those systems. If you own a bakery, for example, it might take some time to break down your ingredients into recipe sizes and enter them into an inventory system to manage your baking inventory. But in the end, it will save you time by helping you assess how much inventory you need on a daily or weekly basis. Apps such as Inventory Tracker and Lettuce keep track of goods you have on hand and let you know when it’s time to order more. This saves you from having to sort out every detail on your own. You can also save time by setting up automatic payments for your bills so don’t have to spend time writing out checks.

How Does Technology Affect Business Decisions?

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Technology makes information available to decision makers, helping to improve the quality and speed of decision making. Technology also makes it easier for people to collaborate so they can execute joint business decisions. Organizations use communication technology to update employees on business decisions and ensure the right people implement those decisions.

Information

  • Individuals or groups who make business decisions need rapid access to information to formulate and justify their decisions. Information can include historical corporate data, customer records, market trends, financial data and competitor profiles. This information may reside in varying databases within an organization, however, making it difficult for decision makers to get a complete picture. Investing in a networked data management system enables organizations to store data in central locations that decision makers can access via a secure network.

Collection

  • Technology can also improve the collection of information needed for business decisions. Providing network links between a central database and local retail outlets, for example, enables organizations to collect the latest sales data and make decisions based on up-to-date information. Similarly, members of a supply chain can collect and share market and production data to make more accurate decisions about production and stock levels.

Process

  • Data alone cannot improve business decisions. According to Strategic Consultancy DSS Resources, data management must reflect decision-making processes. Many information technology (IT) departments believe that their responsibility is just to deliver large quantities of data to the decision maker’s desktop. Raw data, however, is unlikely to reflect the decision makers’ needs, creating a disconnect between IT and business.

Tools

  • The decision-making process consists of a number of stages including decision preparation, decision structuring, decision making, and decision management. Data requirements are different at each stage, so large volumes of raw data are unnecessary. Business intelligence software tools are available that allow users to select, analyze and manipulate data into the form they need at different stages of the process.

Groups

  • In many organizations, decision making is a group process, particularly for a project such as new product development. Technology supports decision making in a group environment by allowing all members to access essential data via a network. Groups can also use collaboration tools such as audio or video conferencing to conduct meetings between members in different locations as a way to speed up decision making.

How to Create a Technology Needs Assessment

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A Technology Needs Assessment is written to provide the management of an enterprise with the information they need to make technology investment decisions. The enterprise may be a large corporation, a small business, a non-profit, or even a small unit or office within one of these entities. In all cases the task is the same: to examine the technology needs of the study site and document these needs so that technology strategy can be planned and corresponding investments made.

Instructions

  1. Begin by surveying and documenting all the existing technology at the study site. This survey will record all hardware along with its age and condition, all software along with the release version and any patches that have been applied, and should make reference to the business processes that are supported by the technology. The survey needs to be exhaustive, accurate and well-documented.
  2. Identify deficiencies in the existing technology. Some of these will already have emerged incidentally during the initial technology sweep. You should now interview site leadership and staff with the goal of exposing all the ways in which the existing technology fails to support the mission of the enterprise. Technology deficiencies can arise due to problems with slow, outdated hardware, or software that does not work well enough, or because of a lack of additional hardware or appropriate software. Document all the known and perceived deficiencies.
  3. Research solutions to the deficiencies. This will require some expert knowledge and careful judgment. In almost all cases there is a good argument for upgrading hardware to current standards. Software upgrades require more care, since the latest version is not always the best. Consult on-line forums and technology discussion groups for the opinions of experienced professionals on these topics. Assessment site management may suggest they need some new software. Investigate this suggestion and draw conclusions about its effectiveness and suitability. Look for alternative products, and compare costs.
  4. Consult the enterprise Technology Master Plan or Strategy document, if there is one. Your recommendations should be consistent with that document. If you make proposals in ignorance of a corporate policy you may be at variance with existing standards and that compromises the value of your assessment.
  5. Write up your findings and conclusions in a comprehensive document that includes your technology survey, a listing of deficiencies and the effects these have on the site’s business function, along with your recommendations for upgrades, if any. If you recommend any new software be purchased or licensed, provide the supporting rationale in terms of improvements to business functions that will result. In all cases provide the estimated costs of any changes you recommend.

How to Use Information Technology

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Information technology is the process of using computer devices to obtain and handle information and data. It is something that is used by people all over the world in their businesses as well as in their homes. Before the information-technology age came to be, individuals had to obtain and handle their information by hand, which was quite time-consuming; however, those days are over. You don’t need to have a degree in information technology to use it. All you need is a computer device and the desire to work with information.

Instructions

  1. Use information technology to increase productivity in your home or business. Programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint can be used to create word documents, spreadsheets and presentations. By using programs such as these, you will save time and effort, instead of wasting time by writing out documents and data information with your hands.
  2. Utilize databases in your home or office that will allow you to store data on your clients and customers. Many customers, when they connect with organizations, provide information such as their name, address, telephone number, e-mail address and, sometimes, their social security numbers. By storing the client’s information in the database, you can shred the paperwork that contains confidential information. Because the information is being stored in a database, you can also have more control over who can view the information. You can assign usernames and passwords that are required to log into the database to access the information.
  3. Use information technology as a means to communicate. With so many features available, such as e-mail and instant messaging, you are sure to find a communication method that is more convenient than picking up a telephone.
  4. Use information technology to learn new information. With the power of the Internet, you have access to tons of information that some people pay to receive schooling for. You can search for any subject you would like to know about by entering the subject matter on an Internet search engine, such as Google.com, Yahoo.com, or Bing.com.
  5. Use information technology to create an online business. Through the Internet, you have access to billions more customers that will never step foot through your doors. If you have a business idea, you can market it online and make information technology work for you.
  6. Use information technology in your automobile by installing a GPS (Global Positioning System) device. The GPS device will help you to always know your location, even when you are lost. The GPS device can also help track your automobile if you should ever become the victim of auto theft.

How Does Technology Affect Economics?

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Technological change is part of the economic process. The economist Joseph Schumpeter once described economic innovation as “the perennial gale of creative destruction,” Competition and the drive to find better, more efficient ways to produce goods and provide services leads businesses to take advantage of every new technology. Technological innovation comes with a price, however, destroying some jobs while creating others.

Technology in History

  • The impact of technology has been felt for centuries. The woolen mills of the early Industrial Revolution put cottage industries operating hand looms out of business. The internal combustion engine left many harness makers and blacksmiths jobless. And the more contemporary technological revolution has displaced secretaries, postal workers and telephone operators. Technological innovation makes it possible to do more with less. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion. Instagram had 30 million customers and just 11 employees. By contrast, Kodak, which had just filed for bankruptcy, had 145,000 employees at the height of its operations. Displaced workers are usually first to feel the impact of innovation, with the middle and under classes bearing the brunt of unemployment.

Technology and Economic Growth

  • According to classical economic theory, the accumulation of physical capital – tools, trucks, bulldozers and assembly lines, for example – is responsible for increasing human productivity. You can drive a nail with a rock, a hammer or a nail gun, but you will be most productive with the latter. But capital goods do not account for all economic growth. Technology plays a significant role in fueling economic growth. The impact of technology can be seen in advances in manufacturing where robots perform precision operations and in hospitals where robots are used to make medical procedures less invasive. Advances in technology are improving batteries to create better performance in everything from hand-held devices to electric automobiles. Predicting the advances made possible by technology is challenging, but they will continue unabated.

The Downside of Technological Change

  • A negative aspect of technological change is its impact on income distribution. Workers who are displaced by technological advances may find it difficult to become re-employed as new jobs require advanced skills they do not possess. Technology impacts the number of jobs needed to produce goods and services. At the turn of the 20th century, a third of American workers were employed in agriculture. Asof publication, only 2 percent of the labor force works on the farm, producing more than their predecessors. A report from Oxford University states that 47 percent of all jobs may be automated in the coming decades. Middle-class jobs will be lost, and the gap between the haves and the have-nots will widen.

Prospering with Technological Change

  • The rate of technological change makes it necessary to take a fresh look at education. While the technological revolution opens opportunities for better jobs, workers must be retrained and re-educated to take advantage of them. Education must be less by rote and more focused on creative thinking. The Internet has made online learning an alternative to traditional classroom instruction, and many academic institutions are turning to blended learning – a mix of classroom and online. Online opportunities such as Khan Academy or the colleges that post their academic courses for anyone to audit for non-credit are examples of the technological wave that can give workers the knowledge to gain higher-paying jobs.

Information About Modern Technology

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Technology is well-established. From car remotes to medical procedures, technology is part of our lives. Each day, new technological ideas or products are introduced. Because technology is so prevalent in the modern world, it is worth exploring what effects modern technology has on us. The effects of technology can be both positive and negative.

Accountability

  • Technology has given us nearly instant communication. In addition, more people are able to view information and products than ever before. The increase in communicative ability and access to data is beneficial in that it creates a certain level of accountability. For instance, members of the media are under more pressure to report accurately, since the data they report is seen by potentially millions of people worldwide.

Travel

  • Better technology in many instances has led to better travel. Planes fly more efficiently to more places than ever before, for example. The benefit is that it is very easy to transport both people and goods from place to place. The resulting global economy keeps prices low. People do not need to work or live only in their native area. However, better travel also means that people are more likely to spread disease from place to place, and a global economy means that some inferior or unsafe products may be widely distributed.

Health Improvements

  • For the most part, increased technology has led to improvements in health. Doctors now have ways to tell how sterile an environment or tool is. They have many different machines that can monitor vital signs or that can be used in medical procedures. Without this technology, many people would not recover from their illnesses, and disease would spread more rapidly.

Health and Other Concerns

  • Although modern technology can improve health, there is concern that the excessive use of technology may promote some health problems. For instance, those who work in front of a computer screen or who watch a lot of television every day are more sedentary, which can lead to physical problems. There also is concern that technology is reducing the social skills held by people and that it allows for a decrease in safety, such as with child pornography posted on the Internet. Additionally, modern technology may be creating some problems in that it can be used improperly, such as with atomic bombs during war.

Considerations/Regulations

  • Whether technology is beneficial or harmful depends largely on the way it is used and who is wielding the technology. For instance, computer email can be used to share family photographs, or it can be used to send out attachments that damage the recipient’s computer and steal information. Some regulations on modern technology thus are needed in order to guarantee or to protect individual and social safety.

How to Install Smart House Technology

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On the shores of Lake Washington Bill Gates lives in a $113 million smart house where automation controls everything from lighting to security. Today smart house technology begins with PC based starter kits that now sell for less than $500. A smart house relies on networking, programming and automation to move many of our home’s functions to a cyber autonomic nervous system. As just one example, you could push a movie button on a touch pad which would dim your lights, close the drapes, turn on the popcorn maker, put your phone on voice mail, adjusting heating or air conditioning in unused parts of your home for the duration of the DVD, and then turn on your home theater system. If your children use this function on their own, you could also check the ratings of the DVD’s they watch, Because this technology is efficient, it can also save money. We’ll look at the benefits, and how to apply them.

Instructions

  1. Let’s start with economy. Last summer, I was working on a television show in Arizona. The entire crew stayed in a home kept in the mid seventies, while the air outside topped 115 degrees. Although signs warned us to turn the thermostat up while we were away, we usually forgot, cooling an empty home for an entire work day. A programable thermostat would have cut our energy consumption dramatically by telling the cooling system when to stop and reset so that while we were actually there we’d still be in comfort. The same programming could be applied to furnaces and hot water heaters. Many offices already use motion sensors to switch on lighting. The same sensors have now migrated into homes and can determine when a home owner goes to bed to turn off the light and adjust the thermostat. Heavy electrical use machines, like washing machines or dryers could be programmed to turn on and work at when electrical rates drop.
  2. Home safety can also be programmed. Security systems can form the networking backbone of many smart houses. In addition to alarms, cameras are now commonly available that you could watch world wide from any PC when you’re away. Many home fires are started by electrical short circuits. In your home today, every device has power fed to it. In a smart house, power is only turned on when the device is needed. If a short circuit occurs, power can be disconnected, the kind of action you’d expect from a simple circuit breaker, but here’s the additional protection. Smart houses also detect gas water leaks and monitor smoke alarms. Power would also be shut down and the appropriate agency summoned. If you look at your home today, you’ll see many DC voltage transformers for radios, fax machines, and more. These wall warts are on all the time wasting power. Smart homes allow for different kinds of current to be fed to different devices only when needed, promoting safety through lower voltages where appropriate while again saving homeowners money.
  3. To begin, analyze your needs. With your family, discuss exactly which automation features you’ll require. If you are building from scratch, your requirements will influence your home’s layout. In a retrofit, you’ll be limited by your house’s floor plan. Get advice from as many people as you can who are now using automation. What did they do wrong? What works best? Decide on whether you plan to do the installation yourself or hire a professional.
  4. Decide on your network. There are four main kinds. Structured wiring is a specialized secure network of multi-conductor cable that distributes data and power for phones, computers, home entertainment systems, and any appliances that can be controlled by a microprocessor – think a remote control or timer. It’s the best choice for new construction but is hard to install in an existing home. Wireless networks are flexible and easy to put in. However they are subject to interference from baby monitors and mobile phones. Power line networks use a home’s existing electrical wires to transmit data. They can be disrupted by power surges and failures. If your system is unencrypted it could be accessed by a neighbor on your same local transformer – so much for home security. Phone line networks control your appliances over your existing phone lines. The devices are multiplexed, assigned different frequencies, but again require hard wire installation, although the wiring is small diamater compared to a fully structured network.
  5. Once you’ve decided on your network, then choose your control devices. Smarthome.com or housesmarttech.com are good sites to browse to see what’s available.
  6. Some smart house technology has already filtered down to common uses. For example, ground fault interrupters are better than simple fuses, because they can instantly detect a potentially fatal shock where electricity could run to ground through a person. These circuits shut down immediately and are now commonly used in bathrooms, kitchens, and outside outlets.

How Does Technology Improve Customer Service?

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Customer service is the lifeblood of any organization, and it is not just a department but must be the attitude of the entire company. Employees can be trained to provide the best service possible to the customer. However, if the technology is not adequate, customers, and employees, will quickly become disheartened and frustrated. A frustrated customer (or employee) can lead to lower company revenues through lost sales or lost productivity. Technology, used properly, can help employees work more efficiently and ease customer frustrations. There are various ways technology can be used to improve customer service.

Increased automation

  • Contact centers are increasingly using voice recognition and call-routing technologies. The customer can speak to a computer or press keys that will route him or her to the appropriate department to handle the request. Call routing improves customer service by allowing the customer to go straight to the person that can handle his or her needs. This saves the customer from repeating the request to numerous representative and ultimately saves time for the customer and saves money for the organization. Research technologies and consultants can help automate routine processes. Visit similar businesses to understand how they have implemented technology in their operating processes. Interview other businesses to discover how automation has impacted their business positively and negatively.

Customer empowerment

  • Technology also empowers the customer. With technology, the customer can get what is needed from the company. Self-checkout lines have become popular in retail outlets. The customer goes into the store to get what is needed and can check out without interacting with the company’s associates. The customer is satisfied because he or she can quickly get exactly what is needed, purchase and pay for the item without a long wait. The customer may also choose not to self-checkout and prefer to use a cashier line. This, again, increases customer service because he or she has an option. The customer has control over how he or she interacts with the organization. Look to see what the company can allow the customers to access themselves. When evaluating, be prepared to change or completely eliminate some processes. Simplify the processes to make it easier for the customer.

Customer education

  • Colleges have used technology to literally educate their customers, the students. Technology has created the ability to provide online classes to students. Online colleges tout the fact that students can learn at their convenience. Online classes are often smaller than regular, university classes. The students work in a virtual classroom with a virtual whiteboard. Companies also can educate their customers about items as simple as operating hours or as drastic as company shutdowns. Airlines and hotels use technology to send customers reminders of flight check-ins or hotel reservations. This not only helps customers by helping them remember important events on behalf of the company, but it also helps the company by providing a way to confirm the customer’s initial request. Keep the external and internal channels of customer communication updated. For example, the company websites should have the most current information; this includes external websites and the company’s intranet. Have an action plan for quickly and accurately updating the company’s information. This plan should include the use of websites, social media and phone messages.

More channels of ordering

  • The internet, telephone and even social media have helped to provide customers with increased, more efficient ways of ordering products. In addition, customers can order a product or service when it is convenient for them. Review the organization’s channels of ordering. If the customer cannot order by telephone anytime, provide other channels of ordering such as through the company’s website, blog or even through social media. Check to ensure the customer can provide payment information securely via the internet and telephone. If the customer orders via mail or fax, ensure that the organization is PCI-compliant, which also keeps customer payment information secure.

Cut costs

  • Technology means getting more done in a smaller amount of time. Use technology to increase the number of products produced or to complete more processes. For example, technology is used to create more cars in a shorter amount of time. If technology were not available, the cost to create a car would be very expensive. In turn, the price of the car would be burdensome to the average family. However, with technology, the company can create the car at a fraction of the cost and charge the customer less. Technology keeps costs low while providing a quality product to the customer. Begin using technology in those areas where there is “low-hanging fruit.” For example, instead of making paper copies to send to other departments, scan the documents and place them on a shared server. This saves money in office supplies, time in document distribution and allows the receiving departments the ability to always access the information.