• Question: if you could conduct an experiment where money and ethics weren't an issue, what would you do and why?

    Asked by menna to Sreejita, Sam, Anastasia, Adam on 21 Nov 2019.
    • Photo: Sreejita Ghosh

      Sreejita Ghosh answered on 21 Nov 2019:

      Yesterday someone asked me if it would be possible to delete some of our bad memories and nightmares. While it does have some bad effects on our lives if we delete our bad memories (we’ll forget the experience gathered from the events and might make the same mistakes again), it can help to move past traumas quicker. Our brain usually does this by repressing our memories but there is no voluntary control. Sometimes you might have noticed that during an exam instead of the required answer an annoying song is repeating in your brain, blocking out all that you had studied so painstakingly for the exam. I have been there. In those moments I felt ‘If only there was a way to switch these unnecessary things off!’
      So if money and ethics were not an issue I probably would have invested in that sort of research- a brain implant along with an external switch to turn off certain memories at certain times , so that work at hand can be done more efficiently and so as not to relive certain bad memories and traumas again and again.

    • Photo: Adam Wootton

      Adam Wootton answered on 21 Nov 2019:

      Ok, long answer and actually nothing to do with science (sort of), but given money and an ethics waiver, this is what I would like to do.
      In 1327, Edward II, King of England, was overthrown by his wife and his son, Edward III, was made King of England. Edward II’s jailors then quietly killed him afterwards. His funeral was held and he was buried in Gloucester Cathedral…OR WAS HE? In the 20th Century, somebody discovered a letter written to Edward III called the Fieschi letter, which said that there was a man in the Holy Roman Empire (now Germany) claiming to be his Dad, Edward II. Supposedly, Edward II escaped his prison and fled to Europe. To cover up their embarrassment, the jailors killed a servant and buried him in place of Edward II. Here’s a picture of the tomb in Gloucster:

      In the middle ages, if somebody was pretending to be a king or royal person who had a claim to the throne, they were dealt with very violently. It wasn’t at all nice, because this person was a threat to the actual king! However, Edward III went to Germany and met with the man claiming to be his Dad. However, instead of declaring him a fake and having him executed, he just let him carry on his way. Some historians think that this man really was Edward II, and he lived out his life in Italy before being buried at a local monastery:

      So, the experiment that I would perform (since there are no ethics here!) would be to dig up the tomb in Gloucester and do lots of DNA tests on the bones to see if it really is Edward II, or if he escaped!

    • Photo: Anastasia Aliferi

      Anastasia Aliferi answered on 22 Nov 2019:

      That’s such an awesome question! At the top of my head I have two ideas:
      1. I would get the best climate change scientists together and make them plan out the perfect most effective government policy that would help stop/reverse climate change at each country. Then I would make all countries of the world follow their respective policy for a certain period of time (maybe 1-5 years) and record the results that will prove we can fix this situation!
      2. Coming back to one of the main things I want to study, dementia, I would sequence the DNA and the epigenome (changes that happen to our DNA that are not affecting its actual sequence) of all dementia patients at every stage of the disease. I would also try to analyze samples from people that might develop dementia, like people who have a family history of it, and repeat this analysis every year of their life until they develop it or not. I would then work with a lot of data scientists in order to analyze all this information and try to get to the bottom of how we can detect and treat dementia at very early stages or even before the first symptoms!