What was your first memorable experiment?
Sonia Patel works in Research Formulation at Pfizer's Sandwich, UK campus, where she develops tablets and capsules for clinical trials. Working at a pharmaceutical research company is not what Sonia envisioned after her chance attendance at a pharmacology conference altered her career trajectory many years ago. Rather, she thought she would work in a hospital or local pharmacy. But after completing her Masters in Pharmacy, she decided to join Pfizer in 2002. Sonia has always loved science. As a child, her favorite possessions included a chemistry set, microscope and "Operation" game. An accomplished student of math and science, Sonia completed a study program at a local hospital at age 16 and was even able to watch a heart transplant. Ultimately, she determined surgery was not her calling as she "didn't like all the blood." Today, Sonia's work is driven by her desire to improve the lives of patients. On her travels through India, she witnessed how Pfizer medicines like Maraviroc had a profoundly uplifting affect on Indian villages ravaged by HIV. In the future, Sonia hope to have the opportunity to do hands-on work in such a community. Outside the lab, Sonia's passions include art, photography, cycling and fitness. If she was not an industrial pharmacist, she says, she'd want to be a rock star.
Question: What was your first memorable experiment?
Sonia Patel: So one of the strongest memories I have of really getting my hands on, in terms of science, and I think as a child, or even as a student, it’s all about hands on experiences and for me it was when we first dissected a pigs heart. It was so fascinating to do something like that, and I know it’s gory and quite intense in that sense. But that’s when I had a real appreciation of that, science is part of ourselves and every aspect of our life in our world. And just having that kind of hands of experience and really getting down and dirty was fantastic.
Recorded on: July 14, 2008
Dissecting a pig's heart.
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The idea of 'absolute time' is an illusion. Physics and subjective experience reveal why.
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Physics without time<p>In his book "The Order of Time," Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli suggests that our perception of time — our sense that time is forever flowing forward — could be a highly subjective projection. After all, when you look at reality on the smallest scale (using equations of quantum gravity, at least), time vanishes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If I observe the microscopic state of things," writes Rovelli, "then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between 'cause' and 'effect.'"</p><p>So, why do we perceive time as flowing <em>forward</em>? Rovelli notes that, although time disappears on extremely small scales, we still obviously perceive events occur sequentially in reality. In other words, we observe entropy: Order changing into disorder; an egg cracking and getting scrambled.</p><p>Rovelli says key aspects of time are described by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat always passes from hot to cold. This is a one-way street. For example, an ice cube melts into a hot cup of tea, never the reverse. Rovelli suggests a similar phenomenon might explain why we're only able to perceive the past and not the future.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Any time the future is definitely distinguishable from the past, there is something like heat involved," Rovelli wrote for the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ce6ef7b8-429a-11e8-93cf-67ac3a6482fd" target="_blank"><em>Financial Times</em></a>. "Thermodynamics traces the direction of time to something called the 'low entropy of the past', a still mysterious phenomenon on which discussions rage."</p>
The strange subjectivity of time<p>Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.<br></p><p>Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If you're thinking about how time is <em>currently</em> passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told <em><a href="https://gizmodo.com/why-does-time-slow-down-and-speed-up-1840133782" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a></em>.<em> "</em>The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely <em>not</em> having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."</p><p>One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/14/carlo-rovelli-exploding-commonsense-notions-order-of-time-interview" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."<br></p><p>It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What we call <em>time</em> is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told <em><a href="https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/" target="_blank">Physics Today</a>.</em> "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."</p>What <em>is</em> an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
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