Friday, June 26, 2009

Can nonrelevant phenomena be of interest to scientists? The Frog Paradox

S. S. Splash
Arawaho Fishing Reservoir, Oregon, USA.

If a frog is disturbed when sunbathing at the shore of a pool it will jump into the water (p=0.999 + 0.001, unless the frog is dead). This is a well known fact, an expected move that may pass unadverted to idle watchers. However, intelectual people may derive interesting conclusions. A philosopher may wonder whether the frog is a frog or the concept of a frog in the mind of the watcher, or whether the jump was a proof of the existence of the frog, the watcher himself or even God. A mathematician would wonder if it is possible to calculate the interval of time (in msec) that took for the frog to reach the water by integrating the trigonometric values on the variable angles described along its parabolic trajectory through the air. Someone versed in Physics would wonder, if the frog could jump at a speed faster than light, could it travel to the past without the aid of a wormhole in timespace, if that could be done in other places than blackholes? A systematics biologist would simply wonder whether it was a specimen of Rana temporaria or the rather rare in these latitudes Rana pyrenaica subsp. pyrenaica, whereas a mere dreamer would just wonder if it was a charmed prince (actually, that frog looked very much like the Prince of Wales, in appearance). A cellular physiologist would interpret that the light-sensing cells in the frog retina had been stimulated by the shadow created by the bypasser, leading to a conformational change in transmembrane receptors and ion channels, thus generating a potential that stimulated intracellularly a series of phosphorylation cascades that ultimately accelerated exocytosis at the presynaptic membranes by allowing interactions or particular SNARE complexes, leading to the activation, by similar though not exactly equal events, of a particular circuit within the neuronal network that liberated at the neuromuscular synapses the cocktail of neurotransmitters that eventually triggered actomyosin contraction in the muscle fibers with the corresponding hydrolysis of ATP. Many sensible persons in the same scenario, however, including several Nobel awardees, would not give a damn. If the frog had not jump by itself (p=0.001 + 0.001) they would have kicked it anyway…

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