Science, after all, is only making models- mathematical constructs-which, with verbal explanations, are supposed to work. When biologists get a better model, the old one goes to the dustbin. Science is change and life itself is ceaseless change until death
“Insight is not the same as scientific deduction, but even at that it may be more reliable than statistics.” — Anthony Standen, In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950)
All living things on this planet are made from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and some trace minerals. They end up becoming the same elements at the end of their journey on this planet, whatever one does with the carcass. Studies in Tennessee forests of dead animals in natural surroundings were studied. This large team of researchers, of all castes, found out that everything of the animal except bones, teeth and dry skin are eaten up by more than 522 species of living organisms, including 429 types of insects, within a week!
Man also comes and goes like that. However, do not ask me as to why the same carbon and hydrogen make the DNA for man in our case a worm in another case. I do not think there is an answer to the question “why” in positive sciences. Most “scientists” do not believe in God, and rightly so, because the hypothesis that “God does exist” is highly unscientific, as it can not be refuted!
However, we do need an explanation as to why I am a man and my cat is a cat? God could be felt though, when the stars in the sky are out and the candles in the Church are gone. Man could still be burning the coal in his heart and help others bye and bye, to feel God. Only a man in the dumps feels God, like the lepto-quarks that no physicist has seen so far, but mankind has felt atomic energy and its fall outs.
Be that as it may, I am trying to drive home the greatest scientific truth that all living things are made with the same raw materials. Naturally, they are inter-dependent and not totally independent. The gene of our organelle, inside every cell, belongs to a germ and not man. How could man be proud when he needs the permission of that germ even to lift a little finger? There are ten thousand billion germs in our gut from the mouth to the anus. They keep us alive. This interdependence comes down to the human body’s organs and cells. No organ, nay no cell, could survive in isolation to keep man alive. The question, then, of organ-based specialties is the greatest myth of modern medicine and a curse on proper research into human physiology. Like the First Law of Thermodynamics, anything that divides, eventually disappears! Reductionist sciences that look at bits and pieces, to put the whole into perspective have, per force, to go wrong. Future research should be holistic, looking at the whole to understand the bits. It is true that “the whole might not be the sum total of the bits”.
To begin with, we looked at two very closely interdependent systems of the human body-cardiovascular and respiratory. They are so closely inter-linked that a newborn baby has the heart rhythm “mode-locked” to breathing rhythm that manifests as sinus arrhythmia. When this link goes completely disjointed, man would have to die! The interconnection between the two is brought about through the greatest friend of the human machine, the autonomic nervous system.
"Mode-locking" is a concept in physics, wherein the most dominant rhythm in this universe controls all other rhythms. In the human body, the most dominant rhythm is breathing. (praana). If one learns to breathe correctly, he/she would be able to control most, if not all, systems. With very complicated, computerized three-dimensional picture of the heart’s function vis-à-vis the lungs, called HRV (heart rate variability) has been achieved by us. Further studies in our laboratory, as also a couple of centres abroad with our fellows there, have given us much more information in this direction.
The computer pictures come out after the patient breathes normally for fifteen minutes while his dynamic ECG is being computer analysed using “Wavelet coefficient” analysis. When one talks about the “P” wave or the “ST” segment in a surface ECG, one is talking of millions of wavelets, giving the summation effect. In other words, there is no linear ST segment in a human heart. So measuring the ST segment as is conventionally done and for length, placement could be as far away from the truth as is SanFransisco from Kolkata.
“CHAOS” does not mean confusion in the literal sense, neither is it an acronym, it is the name of the new science of wholism, in contrast to reductionist science that looks at the molecules and extrapolates to the whole organism. “Fractal” (fractus-part) is the word introduced by Mandelbrott, a computer scientist, to denote non-integer measures. In the human body, as in any other living thing, there are no integer measures; all of them are non-integer, although we use integer measures in all our efforts, like the EF-ejection fraction of the heart.
To give an example: the human heart is not oval, square, oblong, elliptical, or any other integer shape. It has its own shape, non-integer. What is the coastline of Sri Lanka? It depends on the measuring tape used. If one uses the yardstick instead of a centimeter measure, the difference could be hundreds of miles! There are studies showing fractal dimensions of cells like the neurons. How would you otherwise measure a neuron?
For the beginners to understand, I recommend the simple book by James Gleick named Chaos-A New Science in the Making. My simple articles in the Jr. Assoc. Physi. India are good enough for a novice in the field.
To give you a cultural shock, I would give a simple example. We have been teaching students that blood pressure is the product of cardiac output and peripheral resistance. This is based on the OHM’S Law, which states, “in a straight tube, flow pressure is a product of flow volume and flow resistance!” Where is that straight tube in the human vascular tree? Whereas the heart pumps blood upwards from the left ventricle, the aorta sooner than later, takes an about turn and then branches off losing its velocity-head in the bargain. The arterial tree after repeated branching opens eventually into the large swimming pool of the capillary bed, for the blood to be collected by the venous system. Now does one realise that our linear mathematics would not work in a dynamic human body or, for that matter, in this dynamic universe!
If our mathematics were correct, the problem of hypertension would have vanished with the introduction of the alpha-beta blockers. They are supposed to reduce both the cardiac output and the peripheral resistance at one stroke! They came, they damaged, and they disappeared! The story repeats itself for most interventions based on linear relationships. Nothing in the human physiology is static and stable; everything is dynamic and changing from second to second. I have a guess, I could be wrong, stability is death and instability is life. Our preliminary studies on blood sugar fluctuations from minute to minute have given us some lead (yet to be finalized) that those who lose these chaotic fluctuations would probably go into frank Diabetes in the near future! Conjecture, indeed! I do not understand the milieu interior of Claude Bernard! Have we not given up infusing bicarbonate, after a cardiac arrest, to balance the acid-base balance, using the King’s formula?
These could be some of my crazy ideas. Would the thinkers in medical research prove me wrong or take it from there, as many of them have access to hi-tech and expensive laboratories and enough money from research grants. I shall be happy if I am proved wrong. I always make mistakes. I do not think biology has found its Holy Grail. Biology is still in search of it. Models in biology, in Nature, are out there to be explored in the future for the good of mankind. Science, after all, is only making models- mathematical constructs-which, with verbal explanations, are supposed to work. When biologists get a better model, the old one goes to the dustbin. Science is change and life itself is ceaseless change until death. Our problems still have no definite answers, although we do not give any credit to our forefathers.
"For we, which now behold these present days,
Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise."
“As for the search for truth, I know from my own painful searching, with its many blind alleys, how hard it is to take a reliable step, be it ever so small, towards the understanding of that which is truly significant.” — Albert Einstein
(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.)