Citizens' Issues
Cyclone Phailin leaves trail of destruction in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh

Phailin, which left a trail of devastation in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, uprooted scores of trees and electric poles disrupting the traffic movement, while at least three mobile towers were blown away under the impact of the high-speed wind

Berhampur, the biggest city in southern Odisha, on Monday looked like a war zone as cyclone Phailin left behind a trail of destruction. The cyclone accompanied by heavy rain hit Gopalpur, about 15 km from here, and battered the city and its nearby areas.


Meanwhile, the death toll in calamity ravaged Odisha mounted to 25 in the aftermath of cyclone Phailin that triggered heavy rains and floods in some districts. While 21 persons were killed due to the high velocity cyclone, four others died due to floods in Mayurbhanj and Bhadrak districts as heavy rains pounded most parts of the State, officials said.


Scores of trees and electric poles were uprooted disrupting the traffic movement, while at least three mobile towers were blown away under the impact of the high-speed wind.


Walls of various government buildings and private houses collapsed at many places in which two persons were killed, while decorated Durga puja pandals were blown aside.


The official machinery is fully engaged in rescue and relief operations and will take a couple of days to restore normalcy in cyclone-hit Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh.


Cyclone relief camps in the district have been closed as the people have reached their homes safely. It will take two to three days to restore electricity in remote villages, while the power supply has been restored at mandal headquarters.


The district has reported one casualty, as an old woman died during a wall collapse in Ichapuram mandal.


In Odisha, 8.73 lakh people were evacuated and in Andhra Pradesh 1.35 lakh people had been evacuated.


Central Government had deployed 18 army helicopters and 12 aircraft. Six relief columns of army with relief material had been sent to Odisha and 4 relief columns to Andhra Pradesh. Besides, two Navy ships and seven Navy helicopters with relief material were kept on standby.


As many as 26 NDRF teams were deployed in Odisha, 19 in Andhra Pradesh, three in West Bengal, three in Bihar and two in Jharkhand. 44 satellite phones had been given to officials in the affected areas, which helped unstinted communication during the worst phases of the cyclone.


Meanwhile, Phailin, which left a trail of devastation in Odisha, weakened into a deep depression yesterday.


“Phailin over Odisha moved northwards with a speed of 20 kmph during the past six hours, weakened further into a deep depression and lay centred at 5.30 p.m. on 13th October over north Chhattisgarh and adjoining areas of Odisha and Jharkhand near latitude 22.50 N and longitude 83.80 E, 70 km north-northwest of Jharsuguda,” IMD said.


Questioning keeps science alive!

Science is about exploration and persistent questioning. Science can progress only if we try and understand nature, while more and more scientists are realising the futility of reductionist science

Progress is looking at the same thing from different angles. If we look at something from the same angle that our forefathers looked at, without questioning them, we would never progress. Change is progress and science is change. We have burnt our fingers in the past without change but do not seem to have learnt our lessons. Galen’s idea of the tumours as the cause of illnesses was followed, without questioning for nearly 2500 years, with disastrous consequences. Bloodletting, purging, and vomiting were the routine for any illness. Bloodletting had killed even President George Washington when applied for his typhoid fever. We ignored the free controlled studies of the poor, who could not pay the doctors, surviving with the help of their immune system. Even today, the poor do not have the ravages of the expensive modern medical quick fixes!

Science can progress only if we try and understand nature. That is called bio-mimicry. For example, the North American native black bear (ursidae) goes into hibernation for months. They do not eat or drink, neither do they pass urine or stool. But when they wake up months later they are healthier than before. Their blood urea nitrogen is so low, creatine is normal they have lean body mass, stronger bones, no thrombotic illnesses, no atherosclerosis, no muscle wasting and bone loss. They attack as soon as they wake up or an enemy disturbs them. This will be a nice case for our great nephrologists to study, to understand chronic kidney failure treatment better. Instead, we make animal models of rats, dogs; pigs etc. and study them with disastrous consequences! Learning from nature is better science.

"Shake a tree full of theorists, and twenty ideas will fall out," says Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, USA. Albert Einstein's general and special relativity theories made the astonishing assertion that time: space and matter could be squeezed and stretched like India rubber. Some sort of anti-gravity force termed "dark energy", Einstein's cosmological term, was needed to make his mathematical formulae work. It was thought that anti-gravity did not exist. The new discovery now has almost confirmed the presence of the "dark energy" as real.  Astronomers however are eyeing a few more distant supernovas to confirm its existence.

The best assessment of Western science comes from heir own herd: Paul Feyerabend. He was the professor of science philosophy at London School of Economics and later at Chicago and Zurich. In his classic, Against Method, in which he states his thesis that, “Any ideology, if not counterbalanced by other systems, is detrimental to society and stiļ¬‚es intellectual development. Science’s incontrovertible position in society today is due not to any inherent correctness in its methodologies nor to the mass of documented results stemming from these methods, but to mere chance that no serious competitors developed and the generations that followed were educated as such.”  He argues, “science should have been only a stage in the development of society, a tool to overthrow other ideologies, then itself be overthrown (or at least questioned) by a new system. Instead, science today is taught as incontrovertible fact not unlike the religious facts taught earlier during the then dominant religious ideologies.”

“Recently scientists made a powerful case that Einstein's blunder may actually have been another Nobel-worthy prediction," wrote Michael Lemonick in the Los Angeles Times, on 11 October 2011. "Tens and billions of years from now, our Milky Way galaxy will find itself alone in empty space with its nearest neighbours too far away to see. In the end, the stars will simply wink out-and the Universe will end not with a bang but with the meekest of whimpers,” he wrote. Two science teachers Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch, in their book The Golem, beautifully show how most, if not all, theories of science till to date have not been validated by laboratory experiments unequivocally! They think, and I agree with them, that science is only a Golem—kind of a scarecrow.

Let us allow people to think freely and not restrict their thinking by our rigid narrow views of science. Condemning anything that does not fit in within our tunnel vision need not be always right. Wisdom does not belong to scientists only! Some thinking would, per force, be wrong. That does not mean that we should not let people think at all. That would be throwing the bathwater out of the window with the baby inside.

Someone wrote the correct history of medicine thus:

           2000 B.C.  --Here, eat this root

           1000 A.D.  --That root is heathen, say this prayer

           1850 A.D.  --That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion

           1940 A.D.  --That potion is snake oil. Here swallow this pill

           1985 A.D.  --That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic

           2000 A.D.  --That antibiotic is dangerous. Here, eat this root


More and more scientists are realising the futility of reductionist science. Dr Mariette Gerber, National Institute of Medical Research, believes that such research methods which attempt to isolate and examine the effects of a specific nutrient are too narrowly focussed. In particular, single-agent studies may miss synergistic effects whereby different nutrients interact to lend increased disease fighting benefits. "There is no guarantee that a nutrient like vitamin C exhibits the same behaviour when consumed alone as it may when consumed as a tomato," wrote Mariette Gerber. The report from her institute issued in June 2001 states: "Holistic approach to research may provide new insights into science."


I have been writing about this for decades but no one took note. Instead, I was ridiculed! The following studies would throw a lot more light on what I have been writing and saying so far. Human chromosomes contain just about 25,000 human genes but trillions of germ genes, which have become a part of us. The meta-genome thus contains more germ genes than human genes. Evolution, therefore, is more environmental than gene -related. Let us get released from Darwin’s followers’ clutches. Genetic engineering and in vitro stem cell research needs to understand the meta-genome which today is not understandable! Studies have shown that the human body can produce its own stem cells in vivo when needed a wonderful healer inside.

Coronary heart disease, claimed to be the ace killer of this century, is linked to lifestyle risk factors as smoking, high-fat diet, sedentary habits and non-adherence to medical advice. These have had multi-billion dollar businesses built around them in the last five decades.  There have, however, been pointers even as far back as the 1950s that certain behaviour patterns might have a bearing on its incidence too. The latter was mostly swept under the carpet, as it did not generate business dollars!  The largest MRFIT study, followed up for as long as 25 years has now shown that the risk factors are not what they were thought to be. While one could alter the “so called” risk factors with drugs, one cannot change the real risk of precocious death! After spending millions of dollars and working hard for 25 years the researchers found that the MRFIT study has turned out to be a boondoggle. As far as that study goes there are no real risk factors.

A wealth of well-designed animal and human studies has shown the direct link between behaviour and coronary disease. The notable feature is that these behavioural factors predict future coronary heart disease events independently of the influence of life style risk factors that are made much of.

Max Planck, a German theoretical physicist, felt that consciousness is fundamental. All matter is derived from there. Human body is immaterial-spiritual and mental. Energy and Matter are but the two faces of the same coin! This boils down to mind being the same as the body. Naturally the body suffers when the mind feels bad! Future interventions should focus on these factors more than all the lifestyle risk factors sold to the gullible public. Two new studies ENRICHD and SADHART are looking into this and their results could alter our management strategies in coronary heart disease.

Newer studies have shown that atherosclerotic blocks (blocks seen in the angiograms) get worse with job stress. Psychosocial factors adversely affect the coronary arteries. Episodes of acute anger could bring on a heart attack. In patients with coronary disease and hostile personality, episodes of anger could bring on left ventricular dysfunction and heart failure. Similarly, in everyday life, intense anger and stressful mental activities could provoke anginal pain and even infarct. Hostility has been discovered to be the "toxic" factor in human behaviour; it has several components such as aggressive and irritable feelings about others, and hostile thoughts about others. A recent meta-analysis revealed that hostility potential was the best predictor of all-cause mortality!

Coupled with this is the data emerging from many new studies to show how time-honoured interventions like prayer could be of use in sickness. I am sure our "scientists" would be terribly angry at these studies! But, remember, anger is the worst risk factor for coronary heart disease, as shown in many elegant scientific studies. William Harris and his colleagues at the Mid-American Heart Institute and the University of California in San Diego have shown, in an elegant randomized, controlled, prospective study with impeccable study design, that "remote, intercessory (praying for others) prayer was associated with lower Coronary Care Unit scores. These results suggest that prayer might be employed as an adjunct with significant benefit in the management of heart attack patients in the acute stage.

The earlier report about Vitamin C and tomato is a good example to show how the whole need not (usually is not) necessarily be the sum total of the bits. Nothing, in my opinion, that is complicated, becomes less complicated when looked at more carefully. On the contrary, new angle of research would bring out hidden facets of the mystery. Progress could, therefore, come from an open mind. Closed minds have no place in serious science. The new Indo-European etymological root of the word science is skei, which simply means ‘to cut into’.

I feel that the only genuine scientist is an innocent child that explores anything given to it. Otherwise science would go after money and prestige although many claim that scientists do what they do for the passion. However, this might draw, at times, wretched conclusions.

Money was the driving force in reductionist sciences even from the very beginning. A glance at the early history of chemistry would show how! Alchemy was the forerunner of the modern chemistry and the former was used to fool all people all the time or to make it big by turning base metals into gold! However, chemistry could go back to its origin in the Khimi region (the land of black earth) on the Nile Delta some 4,000 years ago. The first discovery was the finding that minerals when heated could result in the isolation of metals and glasses with useful properties. Those could be sold for profit! This science of chemistry spread gradually from the Arab world to Asia-gaining en route the secrets of gunpowder manufacture from the Chinese. Gunpowder did make lots and lots of money.

 I strongly feel that more than the outwardly, intellect-based, objective education, a good scientist needs inwardly, and intuition-based, subjective education as well. The two together, in a balanced fashion, could bring forth real good scientists in the future, who have their own minds rather than the borrowed minds that cannot look at the same object from different angles. Science, like any other human endeavour, should be for the good of humankind.

(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London.)


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