Things we know very little about
The difference between a smartass and a scientist is a smartass thinks he knows everything, while a scientist admits he knows nothing. Ask any expert in any field and they’ll admit the stuff they don’t know vastly outweighs the stuff they do.
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”
Schizophrenia gene study: what we’ve learned is how little we know
Schizophrenia is not one disease, but many – and the new genetic research, while fascinating, simply shows us how complicated that picture is.
What is clear is that the answer to schizophrenia and all mental health illnesses including depression, bipolar disorder and dementia, will not found in a genetic analysis alone. Understanding mental illness is about putting together a hugely complex jigsaw of different types of knowledge. Gradually, as the picture we are forming becomes clearer, we can design interventions and therapy which will target individuals and their different matrix of symptoms more accurately. We have a few key pieces of the mental health puzzle, but the overall picture is still fuzzy.
Dr John Williams is Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust
2) The Brain
How much do we know about the relationship between the anatomy or biology of the brain and behaviour?
Fischer: We know much more because we are only now able to examine many dimensions of brain functioning in thriving human beings. Still, we do not know very much!
Key to our understanding is how the brain functions as a system — for example, how neural networks grow and function across brain regions. Most of the recent advances in brain science have involved knowledge of the biology of single neurons and synapses, not knowledge of patterns of connection and other aspects of the brain as a system. In time the new imaging techniques will help scientists and educators to understand how brain and behaviour work together, but we have a very long way to go.
Despite all the recent advances in the cognitive and neurosciences, there’s still much about the human brain that we do not know. Here are 8 of the most baffling problems currently facing science.
1)What is consciousness?
2)How much of our personality is determined by our brain?
3) Why do we sleep and dream?
4) How do we store and access memories?
5) Are all aspects of cognition computational?
6) How does perception work?
7) Do we have free will?
8) How can we move and react so well?
A highly recommended article that can be found here: http://io9.com/8-things-we-simply-dont-understand-about-the-human-brai-949442979
3) Sleep and Dreams
How much do we really know about sleep?
We spend a third of our lives doing it, and yet we still don’t fully understand the reasons why we sleep. Tom Chivers meets the scientists devoting their lives to plumbing its mysteries – and learns the perils of ignoring its importance. “The question of why we sleep is incredibly interesting,” says Prof Russell Foster, a neuroscientist and sleep specialist at the University of Oxford. “You have to disentangle it into two parts. One, what’s going on in the human brain as we sleep, and two, why did sleep evolve? They’re related, but they’re not the same.” From an evolutionary point of view, on the surface, sleep is baffling.
4) The Ocean
Oceanographer David G. Gallo notes that we’ve explored less than 10 percent of this planet — perhaps less than 5 percent — and that astonishing things lurk down in the bottom most depths of the ocean.
Make no mistake; we’ve come a long way in creating artificial life. However, try as we might, we still can’t say for certain why life—the life all around you—arose in the first place. All we know is there was a point in Earth’s history some 3.8 billion years ago when molecules started performing increasingly-complex chemical reactions that resulted in RNA and, therefore, life. What triggered these reactions is a question no-one has the answer to.
Gravity isn’t just a pain when you’re climbing up a long flight of stairs or careening out of control down a hill on skis – it’s also a nuisance for scientists such as Stephen Hawking, who are trying to understand how this force works in the universe.
Gravity is the most far-reaching force known to man. It’s what holds you in your chair and reaches across billions of light years of space to hold clusters of galaxies together. It’s everywhere. So, you would think that something so common and familiar would have been figured out by now. In fact, its workings are still a mystery, and that mystery is a wrench in the scientific gears – or rather, an obstacle for physicists trying to come up with a single theory to describe the universe.
7) Our Biology
If we did understand every detail of how we worked we’d presumably be able to eliminate disease (assuming that’s actually better for us, which it clearly is individually, but perhaps not as a species).
8) The Universe
We don’t know why the Universe exists or how exactly it came into being.
Regularly on the news, there is a new health warning not to eat this, or to cut out that…often these warnings change as we go along. Like space, the ocean floor, and all issues theological, what we know about the benefits and harms of nutritional supplements is dwarfed by what we don’t know. And to quote a recent Secretary of Defense, we don’t even know what we don’t know.
Sure, for many minerals and vitamins, we know the minimum amounts of essential nutrients needed for survival—the recommended daily allowances (RDAs) or the daily values (DVs). But we know very little about the optimal doses you should take of those minerals and vitamins to prevent, slow, or even reverse diseases and age-related maladies.
10) Future implications of current human interventions/activities
The list is endless – extinction of species due to human crowding and poaching, climate change, fracking, genetic modification of food, cosmetic procedures – such as fillers and botox. In many ways we are operating blindly, hoping for the best.
Despite the fact that there are things we know very little about, the lesson in all of this is to adopt an attitude of respect for the world and universe in which we live in. Complacency, ignorance and believing we are the most important species, at all costs, could lead to our downfall.