“When a victim has died after a violent struggle, there will often have been an exchange of evidence” (Weinberg, 75).
The transfer of DNA from person to person is very interesting to me. Just from a small sampling of fingernail, forensic scientists and criminologists are able to extract vital evidence in the form of dirt, germs, skin, and hair. In this case, though, there was not enough evidence under her fingernail to perform further blood and enzyme tests. To further my understanding of this interaction, I read an article about Locard’s Exchange Principle. Locard was the one who discovered that materials are exchanged with another person anytime you make contact with them. He also brought up an interesting point regarding crimes. Not only do murderers and criminals leave behind material (DNA, hairs, etc) but they also take material away with them. This could be important information to know as we read further into the case. Hopefully in the upcoming chapters, we see Frediani being tested for Helena’s DNA.
An interesting quote from the article: “Physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot lie, it cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value.”
“The majority of geneticists were still concentrating on protein at the time, and were apparently loath to abandon something into which they had poured so much time and intellectual energy.”
A scientist may devote years to conducting their research, only receiving small advancements. They do this because of their passion for the field of study they are in, but when is enough, enough. Think of the discoveries that could have been made if scientist moved to another project after a certain amount of time. Contradictory, how many discovers wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t for their persistence? I think it a topic that needs to be discussed, when is it time to move on to anther project if you only making minor advances in the current project. Could the passion and persistence of scientists be hindering the discovery of other products, at what point should I scientist move on from their projects if they are only processing slowly?
“There’s two different communities; the white coats and the suits”
In the biotech there are two major factors. The obvious one is the scientist, “white coats”, who do the research, report their findings, and make the products. The second is “the suits”, the people that market the biotech products made by the scientists. I think this relationship can be called a symbiotic one. Without the white coats, the suits would have nothing to market. Conversely the scientists would not be able to get their product into the market without the suits. I believe that if the relationship were to lack one partner, then the biotech industry today would be way behind where we are now.
The pot was found outside with Paul’s prints on it, but originally was inside. Clearly this should be enough proof that he had to at some point enter the house. Regardless of whether the pot was outside with his print, that must mean he took it from inside the house, which should be able to further the case against him. Although there was no prints of Paul’s inside the house, I believe the prints on the pot will be substantial evidence against Paul. On the other hand, the description of the suspect in court did not match Paul. Is this description discrepancy enough to overlook the prints on the pot?
“This is why it is just as useful to look at the sparks that failed, the ideas that found their way to a promising region of the adjacent possible but somehow collapsed there” (Johnson, 72).
I can see this as true because most of the time the people who failed were the first ones that acted upon their ideas. This in turn made others try the idea, which helped produce someone who actually succeeded on the idea. It is because the people that succeeded on a specific idea were only able to do it because they knew which path was already a failure, and which path was never tried yet. This had people creating so many ideas just to see if one of their ideas actually was the better one. Ultimately, all these people, failures and perfecters, actually helped produce ideas from generation to generation. That is something that is so important because if these people never acted on their ideas, who knows if we would be able to make helpful advances for our everyday life.
“If we’re going to try to explain the mystery of where ideas come from, we’ll have to start by shaking ourselves free of this common misconception: an idea is not a single thing. It is more like a swarm” (Johnson, 45-46).
This sentence is important for us to understand. We as society tend to overlook the smaller details in the bigger picture. That is how we miss those moments where the smaller details actually mean the most. However, this is still a hard thing to do because we have so many things on our mind, I feel as if it is hard to interpret with all those ideas in our heads are actually ideas or just random thoughts. Although this may be the case, I’m kind of steering towards thinking that maybe all our thoughts in our head are all ideas, it just depends how you use those ideas in your life. You can choose to use it to benefit people, or just not use it at all and put it in the back of your mind. All and all, we must understand that an idea is not a single thing and that it is more like a swarm because everyday we are learning and seeing new things, which makes us produce many ideas everyday.
“What the adjacent possible tells us is that at any moment the world is capable of extraordinary change, but only certain changes can happen.” (Johnson 31)
I find this to be a very powerful statement that provides some real inspiration. To me, this is the idea that anything can happen at any moment but no matter what it was, good or bad, it happened for a reason. It is the idea that change is natural and must be embraced rather than fought because if you fight it you will lose. This idea gives hope to those who are going through a rough time because it lets them know that things change and will continue to change so they may be down now but they know that it won’t always be that way. The world is always changing but these changes can only be certain things that can happen. Therefore, these changes must make sense according to the laws of nature and cannot possibly happen under the circumstances. The idea that the world is ever changing is a beautiful perception of reality and how we live our lives.
“Science long ago realized that we can understand something better by studying its behavior in different contexts” (Johnson, 19).
This sentence is so very true just by looking at all the advances we have had in technology, medicine, and other helpful innovations. When we study things in different contexts, we can learn more about the thing we are studying about. This can help us produce ideas just from studying other ideas. That is why it is so important to understand that something or someone’s behavior can tell a lot about it. By studying their behavior in different situations, we can try to get a good sense on why the things act the way they act or think the way they think. I feel this strategy helps us as a country become healthier and stronger with every year that came. Furthermore, this can also help the world as a whole and strengthen us to spawn new ideas for generations to come.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a rare disorder that has seem to have a common causal factor in the few cases that have come about. This commonality is sever sexual assault at a very young age. Reading about Helena’s case, she wasn’t assaulted at a young age nor was she continuously assaulted, but it was still a traumatic experience. In psychopathology we read a case study on a woman with DID. She was sexual assaulted from the age of 5 by her father. As she grew older, she developed symptoms such as dizziness, memory loss, alcohol abuse, promiscuity, etc. When she started seeing therapy, the therapist did not consider DID because of how rare it was and how many symptoms a person has to have in order to be diagnosed with it. The main symptom one has to have are two or more distinct identities. These identities can have their own race, age, personalities, names, etc. A completely other person.
The main reason that triggered these alters was the trauma. It was the patients way of coping with the trauma that was happening with her. When her father was assaulting her, one of her other alters took over so that the host personality didn’t have to experience it. However, the host memory wouldn’t have any memory of what happened. She would wake up after sleeping and feel hungover and so confused about what just happened. This is why she wasn’t aware of what was happening to her.
Helena was assaulted when she was much older but still traumatized by what happened. I wonder if she had been assaulted also at a younger age and than again by Frediani, would it have triggered something in her to where she would have developed a disorder. Not saying DID but other common disorders would be PTSD or general anxiety disorder. Being assaulted in your home could make someone feel unsafe and anxious about their surroundings all the time. I also wonder if by throwing herself back into her work was her coping method and prevented her from thinking about it to let it worry her.
“Detective Decker and Kelly learned a lot about Helena Greenwood in the last of the day she was murdered. They took down names of her friends and business associates, found out about her activities of the previous twenty four hours, her normal routine. And for the first time, they heard the name David Paul Frediani… You don’t focus on one person until you have done all the interviews and read all the lab reports.”- Weinberg (pp.74)
In a criminal investigation, especially murder, it is important to take on all considerations. In the case of Helena’s murder it is vital to consider a list of multiple suspects than to just point to obvious person. David Paul Frediani, is the obvious person to blame because of his criminal history and the impeding sexual assault trial. I think that the detectives investigating Helena’s murder are taking the right steps in order to pinpoint the culprit. Decker and Kelly are compiling a list of possible suspects, checking alibis, and waiting for the lab reports to come in before accusing anyone of murder. Following this detective provides a solid base as to find a conclusion. Because when all other alternatives are ruled out, the one that remains must be the explanation.
It is inconceivable to think the historical, political, cultural, economic, societal, ideological, and many other powers that would have changed if 9/11 did not happen. Granted, the Phoenix Memo in this chapter was considered to have been not enough to prevent 9/11. Sure, there is logical reasoning to believe that this memo in of itself was still not enough, but what if it was enough? What if it had uncovered the plot a mere two months and a day in advance on that July 10th? The implications are so grand that it, in a morbid perspective, may have brewed another, stronger terrorist plot. 9/11 was a wake up call (now I am not condoning the tragedy of that event, just hypothetically for the sake of arguing) , but if that 9/11 was prematurely stopped, would terrorists have created an even more secretive and deadlier plot? Food for thought.
Neurons in the brain are incredibly reminiscent in a visual sense of what the Internet is portrayed as in this picture. Johnson speaks of brains as networks. These networks are no coincidence to the fact that neurons, networks, and brains all share fundamental parallels that create entities that convey and transfer information. A neuron in of itself is incredible complex, for there are billions of neurons that make up the electric-like function of the brain. The Internet was originally made up of HTML’s, URL’s, text pages, and other neuron-like forces that power the brain-like function of the internet.
The adjacent possible, as Johnson eloquently describes, is a fruitful manner in which information can be passed along to generate new and unexpected information. When you hear the sayings, “I am opening a new chapter or door to my life,” or “maybe our paths will cross again,” they illicit this same concept that the adjacent possible illustrates. Although the adjacent possible is geared more toward the spread of ideas, I also see it as a way that new people can meet each other. Through social media, we have become so interconnected, and we do not even realize it. All it takes is a couple clicks of a mouse and you can be speaking to a complete stranger. Now this may sound creepy,but our society is becoming more and more adjacent to one another. In this, we connect to people, and then those people lead us to new and different people who we would never have met otherwise. In career building, it is most important to network yourself to as many contacts as possible; to know as many people as possible you must adjacent yourself to more people. It may seem simplistic, but Johnson’s adjacent possible is as much a narrative for meeting new people as it is for ideas to renew themselves in different ways.
“I can hardly explain the reason, but there is to my mind much grandeur in the view of the outer shores of these lagoon-islands.” (- Charles Darwin) (Johnson: 7)
Sometimes it takes a long walk on the beach, a walk in the park, a good run, and sometimes even a long sleep for people to come to terms with sought after information. In Darwin’s case, he is contemplating and calculating theories, hypothesis’s , and ideas that will shake the world of its then more faith-based belief of origin. If it took a man like Darwin, traveling all over the world, probably taking many long walks on many different beaches, imagine what we could all accomplish if we pumped the breaks a bit on our lives. Meaning, if we all just took the time to take a break and go to a serene place, where ever it may be, and just sit there and ponder on moments or thoughts that we normally don’t get the chance to reflect on, we’d all be much calmer, possibly solving many mysteries in our own lives.
Ethical debates surrounding the usage and encouragement of biotechnology will only increase as time goes by. My prediction is this: the U.S. government will eventually become consumed by biotechnology in all facets of society, not just agriculture. Our patenting laws will have to comprise of more and more protections for the intellectual rights of innovators. Moreover, the legal playing field will soon begin to judge new ethical dilemmas in biotechnology that have never been conceived of in legal history.
“When the first officers arrived, Roger was sitting beside Helena, crying, gently brushing flies from her eyes.” -Weinberg, pg 70
As morbid as it sounds, this quote reminded me of when we learned about the stages of decomposition of a human body, and different ways to tell how long a person had been dead. One of those methods involved maggots, as flies would lay eggs on corpses, and you could estimate how long a person had been dead by looking at which stage of life the maggots were in. However, in this case, it’s much easier to estimate how long Helena had been dead, as we know she was on the phone just before nine, and she was found in the early afternoon; besides, I don’t know if forensic entomology was well-known or well-used in 1985, so this technique might not have been available anyway.
But we also learned about the different stages the body goes through, and about how long it takes to get to each stage. I didn’t remember exactly what those stages were or how long each took, so I looked it up.
Immediately following death, the skin becomes “tight and grey in color,” the muscles relax, and the body’s temperature starts dropping (approximately 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit per hour, depending on environmental factors). We know that Helena wasn’t found immediately following her death. So onto the next stage.
After thirty minutes, “the skin gets purple and waxy” and lips, fingernails and toenails become pale as the blood is drained from them. The blood begins to pool in the lower parts of the body, depending on the position the body is in; those parts of the body become dark purple or blue, and is called lividity. We see this in the book, describing the change in color of Helena’s back and shoulders, except the parts where there was pressure. So Helena was dead for at least half an hour. Let’s look at the next stage.
By the time four hours have passed, rigor mortis sets in. Rigor mortis is when the muscles in the body stiffen, making it difficult or impossible to change the position of the body. It isn’t clear if Helena’s body has reached this stage yet; if not, then it’s likely she had been dead less than four hours when she was found.
After reading chapter 6 from Pointing from the Grave, I was very alarmed by the events that occurred. It was very surprising to be in the midst of the trial and then to learn of Helena’s death. While this took me by surprise, I did like how the novel progressed in the field of biotechnology and forensics. In this chapter we were introduced to a new form of biotechnology and crime scene analysis through the way in which evidence was collected from the crime scene, how evidence was analyzed, and how that evidence will be used. Specifically, I thought it was interested that now we can understand DNA through skin cells gathered from underneath Helena’s fingernails. Skin cells shed every day and have many traces of DNA with in them. Yet again, we learned of a way in which DNA can be detected. The link below goes into detail about how analysts can extract the DNA from skin cells from a supernatant and a gathered pellet. The DNA can then be analyzed. I think it is very interesting that even the smallest traces of DNA play very large roles in detecting a suspect. It is also interesting to see how technology has advanced so much as seen in the explanations of the link below.
strangulation is a very physical crime, and requires great strength. It is also an intensely personal way to kill, hand on neck, flesh to flesh: there are few strangulations between strangers. (76)
There was a deep gash in the back of Helena’s head, caked with dried blood. (75)
The first quote essentially excludes any random stranger as a suspect for Helena’s murder. Also any stranger would only kill her for money and things like that, but her wallet and other possessions were not removed from the scene. This means that the crime had another motive. Because strangulation is so personal it suggests to me that perhaps Mr. Frediani committed the murder to get himself out of the sexual assault case. The fact that he had traveled to the region only weeks before also suggests a recon mission before the crime. Because Helena had a deep gash in the back of her head, which was later shown by the detective to be from having her head slammed against the gate, it shows me that the killer had a deep anger. A deep anger that drove him to not just strangle Helena but also bash her head in. All this evidence points to Mr. Frediani as the killer. What other evidence do police need to arrest him?
The first place the police looked to for a potential suspect for the murder of Helena was her husband Roger. I find it interesting how the spouse or husband of someone who is murdered is always considered a prime suspect. This seems to be a central theme in CSI television shows, but also seems to translate with real and actual crimes as well. The police interviewed Rodger for four hours, even though it appeared he could of given his credible alibi and story in under one. I think it is great to see investigations as serious as this being carried out throughly, but is this too much for a man who has just begun the process of grieving over his wife? After getting picked up by Sam outside of the station, Rodger is quoted saying, “They think I killed Helena.” I could not even imagine how Rodger could have been feeling with the combination his wife’s death and the fact he was the prime suspect of the investigation. Personally, I feel like a spouse in a situation like this should be brought in and questioned of course, however they should not be held for as long as Rodger was and should receive more emotional support immediately.
“Statistically, their are a large number of spouses in the demise of their mate, so spouses have to be interviewed early on.” (Decker 73)
Often in murder cases like Mrs. Greenwood’s, spouses are statistically leading suspects. But, why do they feel the need to kill their loved one? Do they want money? Or can they really not stand living with someone anymore so they feel compelled to kill them? Is a divorce really too much trouble and money that you’re better off just becoming a murderer? In this specific case, it was proven early on that Helena’s husband, Roger, was not a suspect because he was at work while Helena was still on the phone at home. When the spouse is not actually the one that committed the crime, isn’t is insensitive to accuse them so early on, especially if they are not the killer? If I was trying to grieve over the death of a loved one, I would not want to be interrogated as a suspect in the murder of my wife. Even if the spouse could be the murderer, I think they should at least be given time to themselves to recover from such a traumatic experience before having to deal with all the legal issues that come with it.
“To Dr. Katsuyama, these were all classic signs of death by manual strangulation” -Weinberg, p76
It is very interesting to me that an autopsy can detail so much about a person’s death in such a short amount of time. Weinberg noted that Helena’s autopsy was performed the day after she was killed and that it uncovered multiple indications of how she was killed. Since Dr. Katsuyama saw multiple signs of strangulation being the cause of her death, it was found that Helena’s attacker must have been a large man with a lot of strength. This crucial piece of evidence could not have been discovered so quickly if the autopsy was not performed. The autopsy also uncovered that there was trauma to the back of Helena’s head, which the detective recognized as being the same shape as the latch on Helena’s fence. It was directly established from the autopsy that Helena was repeatedly pushed into the latch on her gate, and from this the crime scene investigators were able to collect DNA from that latch. Clearly this autopsy lead the investigative team in directions they may not have gone on their own. In a way the autopsy provided the police with a platform from which to work. It provided the team with crucial information about where to start the investigation. In certain religions or personal beliefs autopsies are considered controversial for obvious reasons. In this case however, the allowance of an autopsy on Helena’s body may help the investigative team reach a conclusion faster than if she did not have one.
From the very beginning Murray, Helena’s attorney, has disliked Frediani. And while he is not the most likable person, and the most prominent suspect in the sexual assault case, Murray seemed to jump the gun when he suddenly believed that he was the murderer.
After Collins, Frediani’s lawyer, passed over the plea negotiation they had been debating, that seemed to solidify the reasoning for Murray.
“‘That is when it hit me. I thought, whoa, there isn’t any other motive for this crime…My God, he did this…'” (Weinberg, 78)
However there is no way for Murray to have made that conclusion other than a feeling. Even though we learned from Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From that hunches should be nourished and supported, I don’t see any traceable thoughts or evidence that led Murray to this hunch. Even Decker, the detective for the case, noted,
“‘We had reasonable suspicion–but not probable cause.'” (Weinberg, 81)
Other than this “bad feeling” that Murray has, there is no proper reasoning behind his suspicion. Maybe it is mixed with years of lawyering experience or a very passionate dislike of Frediani. Whatever it was, it sounds like he combined too many emotions with too few reasons to form this conclusion.
“This confirmed Decker’s initial suspicion that Helena’s killer was a large man – strangulation is a very physical crime, and requires great strength. – Weignberg, page 76
Autopsies are essential to crime solving, it can determine how the person died and who was most likely to do such crime. I guess this brought my attention because of how fast they could determine a physical appearance on Helena’s murderer. They were also very descriptive of what could have caused her death. It seemed like it was all done much more faster than with the fingerprint or the DNA. Nevertheless, even tough it is faster it is not as effective in a trial. People need more than autopsy to believe who was the murderer. But using DNA or fingerprint is less doubtful to prosecute someone.
In Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From, readers are able to get a glimpse into the process of creating major innovations. Johnson has already established himself as an insightful and creative author with his other books like The Ghost Map, which looks into the spread and cure of cholera in London. In each of his books, Johnson explains complicated concepts in a novel and simple way, allowing contemporary readers to understand the points he is trying to make. This book is no exception, with each chapter illuminating a different quality of the ideal idea-making process. To prove his points, Johnson uses a myriad of examples of innovation ranging from lone inventors to the exploits of coral reefs to the creation of the very first computers. Through each example in his novel, Johnson shows his idea-making concepts at work in real life. Continue reading “Where Good Ideas Come From: A Method to the Madness of Innovation?”→
“Where Good Ideas Come From” by Steven Johnson, is a book that tries to understand where innovation comes from. The author is very well recognized; he has written for several newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and is co-founder of three influential websites (“Steven johnson”). He investigates from environmental spaces how humans try to make better ideas every time. In this book, he analyzes different theories which could reveal how humans come up with ideas for innovation. He talks about the adjacent possible, the world wide web, the environment where good ideas rise and the slow hunches. Most importantly, in his first chapter he talks about how ideas work so in the rest of the book we know that ideas are networks, millions of neurons coming together. This book is interesting for making the reader question how important come to be. Continue reading “Book Review”→
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson is not just a book on how an idea comes to be, but rather it is a book on the seemingly gear-like movements that make up the origin, flow, and future of an idea. Johnson brilliantly crafts the conception of an idea as a far more complex formula than it is superficially seen to be as. To define and position this book in one particular genre would be an injustice to Johnson’s intentions; this novel purposely transcends the realms of science, economics, history, politics, technology, culture, and other societal aspects. Moreover, Johnson is a master at his storytelling, pulling together information that one would never expect to be used in conjunction with another. To some, this book may appear predominantly related to the whole domain of science, but Johnson only uses science as one of his platforms to exhibit the fabrication of ideas. Johnson even uses Charles Darwin as his symbolic character for the creation of an idea—Darwin’s epic idea of natural selection and evolution. This book comes as no surprise, for Steven Johnson’s writing career has been bred from books “about world-changing ideas and the environments that made them possible” (247). The intended audience of this book can reach out to anyone who is keen to see a perspective into how our world works from a humanistic approach; meaning, one who is curious and seeking a conceptualization of how people think of an idea that is incredibly transcendent—like air conditioning or the Internet. The greater beauty is that this book is not just narrow to curious people, but it can be read by anyone who is yearning to learn something new every page. Overall, Where Good Ideas Come From is a book that is able intellectualize the greater meaning and provocation of an idea. Continue reading “The Art of Ideas: How Innovation and Ingenuity Take Their Form”→
Theoretical and Evolutional Networking Connections
Our physical, emotional and mentally evolving universe has many known limitations in fields of chemistry, biology, biotechnology and innovative sciences overall. These limitations are nothing but mental barriers that are bound to be overcame using the basis of innovation that our great ancestors founded many years ago. Where Good Ideas Come From written by Steven Johnson makes clear and somewhat short the long and tedious step-by-step process in which innovation progressed. In this science related nonfiction piece, Steve Johnson, a formidable writer and historian, talks about the different variations of ways in which ideas come to be, how they are/were implemented, the best ways these ideas can come to surface and how they contribute to the overall spectrum of innovative thinking. This writing contains a wealth of information relative to what everything is today and how it came to be, thus making it relevant and interesting to audiences of all sorts. Continue reading “Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From”→
Many people ask where do I get ideas or how do ideas come to be. In the first book we read this semester Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson he seeks to answer that question by developing his own theory of the “slow hunch” rather than the traditional flashbulb ideas. The book is a nonfiction look at business, science, history, and psychology used to analyze innovation. Properly cited and filled to the brim with scientific facts, the book is able to defend its position in a scholarly way. Johnson is aiming his book at no particular group in general, instead calling for everyone to take a step into becoming more creative. Continue reading “Group 6 Book Where Good Ideas Come From Review”→
Imagine you are driving along a busy highway in an area you are unfamiliar with. You miss your exit and end up in what seems to be the middle of nowhere. Panicked, you grab your GPS and it reroutes to the correct destination. In this moment, do you think to yourself, where did this invention come from? How did it become so successful?
Steven Johnson’s novel, Where Good Ideas Come From, is successful in answering these questions ashe proposes the seven steps to creating good ideas in a page-turning and thought provoking novel meant for individuals of all disciplines. Johnson offers insight on how good ideas arise in such a way that has never been considered before. He proposes that good ideas come from adjacent possibles, slow hunches, liquid networks, serendipities, platforms, error, and quadrants. Johnson focuses on the theme that ideas build off one another by coexisting in a prosperous environment. Specifically, Johnson’s fascinating and flawless discussion of hunches, platforms, and serendipities are perfect examples of how readers understand some ways in which good ideas form and thrive. Continue reading “The Root of Ideas: A Review of Where Good Ideas Come From”→
Looking at our world’s most compelling innovations, theories, and discoveries, it seems as if brilliant minds of those like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Charles Darwin could produce ingenious insight in the blink of an eye. Author Steve Johnson however, believes that the components of our surrounding environment play a vital role in how we arrive at these “eureka moments” of enlightenment. In his book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Johnson documents the roots of innovation and creativity, while exploring the factors that play a role in determining how we ultimately arrive at ideas. Johnson uses seven different elements of thinking to outline our thought process; The Adjacent Possible, Liquid Networks, The Slow Hunch, Serendipity, Error, Exaptation, and Platforms. Slow hunches, densely populated areas, liquid networks, platforms are important themes our group noted as critical for the growth of innovation. Through Steven Johnson’s use of biological metaphors, scientific research, and innovative stories we are able to read where great ideas come from.Continue reading “Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From”→
Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From will walk you through how the greatest thinkers form their ideas. In fact, his book explains in depth to you exactly what the subtitle says, “The Natural History of Innovation.” Johnson’s extensive experience of technological progress shows itself inside his chapters as he fully explains his main idea of the “slow hunch” by examining hunches like “a plot involving multiple radical Islamic fundamentalists” and how different ideas about how to identify these men are more successful than others (74). By using several other microcosms like that throughout his book Johnson incorporates his knowledge about how science has progressed in a way that is engaging and fast paced. Johnson’s goal is to show us how great ideas form, and where, like how “a metropolis with a population of five million people was almost three times more creative than the average resident of a town of a hundred thousand (11). His writing is full of interesting facts such as this. As a nonfiction book, Johnson presents historical evidence in support of his analysis of how the many great ideas in science have formed. His writing is both informative and entertaining, chock full of behind the scenes looks about great scientists like Charles Darwin and how they came to the realization of their great ideas. Our society is pushed forward by great inventions like the printing press and by revolutionary ideas like the punnett square. Johnson breaks down the process of these discoveries and finds a system that identifies the keys to forming a great hunch. This system proves in fact, where good ideas come from. Continue reading “Where Good Books Come From”→
“A single print found under the lip of the teapot .. after studying it using a microscope, he found sixteen separate points of comparison, all of which matched.” .. “He (Frediani) cannot believe that he will be convicted on such flimsy evidence” – pg. 56
What constitutes significant evidence in a criminal case like this? I had to read this quote twice to make sure I was reading correctly that Frediani didn’t think his own unique fingerprint– on a teapot inside the house of the woman he is accused of sexually assaulting, would convict him of a crime. Honestly, I think this is one of the best pieces of evidence that Chaput and his team could have taken from that crime scene. Fingerprints are unique to individuals, meaning that no two people have the same fingerprint. Frediani’s fingerprint in Helena’s house is a nail in the coffin for at least burglary, and should prolong a further investigation into this incident. Highlighting the circumstances, here you have a man (Frediani) who is already a sex offender and has been convicted for public indecency and stalking in the past, who is the only suspect in this sexual assault case. With the addition of his fingerprint being found on a teapot inside the victims home, I don’t think you can classify this finger print as “flimsy evidence”.
“He looked for footprints, and found some small ones to the west of the house, where the dirt had been raked. But there was a covering of leaves over the dirt… He noticed some scrape marks on a section of the bamboo fence…” – Weinberg 72
On the two question forum, a question that came up time and time again was whether the outdoor crime scene had any effect on the case. Because the murder happened outside, was there any evidence that was contaminated or lost due to elements out of the detective’s control, such as the weather? According to all-about-forensic-science, the outdoor crime scene is by far the most vulnerable to the loss of physical evidence in such a short period of time. If the scene isn’t secured almost immediately, evidence can be lost or tampered with. Environmental conditions, such as rain, cold, snow, or in San Diego and in Helena’s case, heat, can tamper physical evidence. Likewise, there is no way to protect the evidence in its natural state: you can either move it, which is problematic, or you can leave it and hope that outside elements do not interfere.
“She was clearly delighted, but for paul it was like another heavy weight landing on the seesaw of his life”(Weinberg, 27).
When it come to how we are as adult comes to how we were raised as a child, When reading this chapter, It was intriguing to see if the development was to why Paul got to where he was, a criminal assault. He was an intelligant kid who did not apply himself, always going for pleasure over fun, and that lead to his parents being very controlling of him. But could all the restrictions that they put on him really make him a criminal? Maybe not on his clear mind, because he even said that he wondered how he got home after drinking sometimes. But being in a now happy life with a family, would that really make someone want to be sexually agressive? who knows
In chapter six Helena’s murder takes place outside and I was left wondering how do police maintain and preserve crime scenes. I learned that the first responder is usually the most important person in this regard because a crime scene can change so quickly. The article brought up a point which I hadn’t thought about before. “The patrol car should be parked away from the crime scene, both to prevent impacting evidence left by the suspect and to prevent any suspect still on the scene from observing the officer. Officer and citizen safety are of primary concern when entering a possible crime scene.” It makes sense that the safety of the officer and other people should be the top priority but the article later mentions that in achieving this goal evidence is often compromised. I wonder if it would be smart to create a specific unit of police dedicated to first responding in order to ensure the crime scenes are as accurate as possible.
As he had suspected, they were almost a perfect fit-her head, it appeared, had been repeatedly and violently bashed against the metal latch. The hairs still there, and Decker carefully collected them, and stored them in an empty cigarette packet.
It is quite amazing to learn the amount of people involved in a murder case. From the lawyers to the detectives to the doctors a murder case has many moving parts. Television shows provide a nice basis of this long and strenuous process. Each person in this case has a specific and important roll to fulfill. The lawyer has to present the compelling evidence for someone to be put in jail. The detective has to compile all the evidence and connect all the dots for the story to match the evidence. Finally the doctor must provide his professional opinion on the evidence and the victim of the murder thus providing necessary evidence for the case as a whole. Overall a murder case appears more complicated in reality than the movies or shows have portrayed to us the viewers.
Steven Johnson writes, Where Good Ideas Come From, a book dedicated to the history of innovation and how good ideas come to be. Author of many bestsellers including; The Invention Map, The Ghost Map, Everything Bad Is Good For You and more. Johnson is an avid contributor to Time, The Economist, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. Written for the curious scientist, Where Good Ideas Come From attracts a wide range of readers to partake in its in-depth investigation of the mind, including human innovation and natural curiosity. A page-turner without much need for context, Johnson is able to spark curiosity in the readers’ minds with thought provoking claims and revelatory answers. Continue reading “Book Review- Helen, Mike, Matt”→
The major difference between identical and fraternal twins are the number of fertilized eggs in the process. Identical twins come from the same fertilized egg. This happens when a single embryo splits into two after fertilization. Identical twins have the same DNA because they come from the same embryo. After much research, I found out that the splitting of an embryo happens by chance and genes are not involved. Fraternal twins happens when two separate eggs are fertilized by different sperm. Due to the different sperm the DNA of fraternal twins has to be different. Women become pregnant during ovulation when an egg is released to the sperm and is fertilized. Women usually release one egg during a cycle but for fraternal twins to happen, two eggs are released during one cycle. This is called hyper ovulation. Some women have genes that enable them to hyper ovulate while others release only one egg.
Dr.Bennet Omalu is a Nigerian doctor who is recognized worldwide for his discoveries in autopsies for football. With his many degrees and interest in pathology, Dr. Bennet Omalu conducted the autopsy of the Pittsburgh Steeler, Mike Webster. His autopsies of football players led to the discovery of a new disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have suffered a severe blow to the head. Dr.Bennet Omalu’s discovery has changed the football world and has made it necessary for advanced protection of the brain for football players. Oman’s journey to discovery can be found in the movie “Concussion”. The movie is amazing and shows examples of the adjacent possible, liquid networks and error.
Chapter 3 discusses Mendel’s discovery of genes, and how his study is known as “genetics”. Mutations can occur with genes and effects can occur such as Sickle Cell Disease. Sickle Cell can happen when one parent has the sickle cell trait and the other has an abnormal hemoglobin gene.If both parents are carriers there is a 1 and 4 chance that their child will have sickle cell. The disease is prevalent in populations in or from Africa, and the Middle East. These are major areas where malaria is prevalent. When someone has sickle cell their red blood cells become distorted into a sickle shape and provide low oxygen. There are many treatments for sickle cell such as blood transfusions and an array of pain medications. Unfortunately, no cure has been found. As a Ghanaian American with family members and friends who have sickle cell. I would like for many people to be aware of this disease and I hope some day someone is able to find a cure.
One of the most controversial topics in Pointing From the Grave, so far, has been determining whether or not the fingerprint found on the teapot is enough to incriminate Frediani. Three samples were collected: the fingerprint on the teapot, the semen, and pubic hairs. Now that the fingerprint came out to a match and qualified Frediani to be a suspect, and the samples of semen were sent to a lab, the only evidence that can be tested is the pubic hairs. However, Frediani’s attorney claims that the pubic hairs could belong to anyone including, Helena herself, her husband, or any guest that has ever slept in their bed. Through the DNA analyzing technology that we have developed we are able to analyze the DNA in hair strands. However, I did more research about the process of DNA testing using hair samples. To my surprise, hair samples do not actually provide the most accurate sample of DNA. In fact, the article claims that hair samples are the “most overestimated and misrepresented DNA samples”(Hughes). I have attached the article below. Check it out it!
“Mr. Frediani is now seeing a Dr. Thomas Samuels, a clinical psychologist, three times a week… if Mr. Frediani were going to another place… it would have already happened” – Weinberg 60
In Pointing From the Grave, insanity pleas are brought up by Weinberg, which led me to look further into the idea of a mental illness as motive to commit a crime. There are different ways courts test for legal insanity and different results which are used in court. The most common rule used in courts is the “M’Naghten Rule,” which states that the suspect or defendant didn’t understand what he or she did and doesn’t understand the difference between right and wrong because of mental illnesses. Another common standard used is courts is the “Irresistible Impulse Test,” when, due to a mental illness, a defendant is unable to control his or her impulses and therefore commits a crime. Though these rules and standards are used in courts all over America, there are a handful of states which do not allow insanity pleas. Idaho, Montana, and Utah do not allow for insanity pleas and Kansas allows for “guilty but insane” pleas where the defendant receives institutionalization rather than jail time.
Chaput reports that analysis of the semen found on the flowery pillowcase and sheets is under way at the San Mateo crime lab…”I spoke to Mona Ng, who is the criminalist doing the testing. . . She had completed two of the tests that I requested on the serological samples. She did the ABO types, which did match the defendant. She also did PGM types, which was the same as the defendant. But she said it put him as a type O secretor, which is not a terribly uncommon situation among adult males. I asked her if she could do any further testing of any other enzymes and she said she would attempt to do that” (weinberg 58)
This is one of the most biotechnological term heavy passages from this book so far. During the preliminary hearings for Mr. Frediani the prosecution is attempting to present enough evidence to convince the judge to continue with the trial. The investigating detective, Chaput, is speaking of the tests that were run on the fluids and hairs found at the scene. A serological sample according the the encyclopedia Britannica is any test run on a sample of blood serum. So assuming that the police had taken a blood sample, Mona Ng was analyzing his blood through these tests. An ABO test identifies what blood type a suspect has, either A, B, AB, or O. This test matched Mr. Frediani. A PGM tests is looking for a mutation in the suspects blood that is inherited from their parents and effects how blood clots. Because both the ABO and the PGM tests matched the prosecutors are hoping that this is enough circumstantial evidence to convince a judge to proceed to trial.
“Sam Morishima had a gut feeling that something was wrong…’I drove on the freeway past the Del Mar exit, and I had this strong feeling that I should drop by Twenty-third Street on my way. But I told myself that was stupid- I would see Helena as soon as I got to the office.” – Weinberg 69
Why did Sam get a “strong feeling” he should drop by Helena’s house on the day she was killed? Mothers have reported the same type of feelings when their children or loved ones are in trouble. Is there a scientific explanation for this phenomena? Though I searched around on Google for some kind of article that would explain this, I could find nothing that explained or addressed this. However, many people report that on the day that someone dies, they “had a feeling that they should call”, or were uneasy for no reason. It could be a placebo used to stifle guilt and grief, or a story to reassure one’s faith in the ethereal and spiritual, but no one truly knows. It is hard to scientifically identify this type of thing, but I think it shows that we have much to learn about science, psychology, and the universe itself even today.
In response to Chapter 5, I found an article in the New Yorker called “Can fingerprints lie?”. This article gives lots of information about fingerprints, and includes an interesting anecdote about an officer who was accused of murder because her fingerprints were wrongly identified. At this point in the book (Chapter 5), can we assume that the same thing has happened to David Paul Frediani? He does not match the physical description that Helena provided, but also she was not in the greatest mental state when she gave that description. Either way, this article raises some great questions about forensic science’s dependency on fingerprint evidence.
“Paul felt truly happy; at last he was becoming the person he wanted to be.
A decade later, and he was contemplating how to approach his parents to ask for money to pay an attorney to represent him in a sexual assault case.” -Weinberg, pg 66
In each chapter, it seems Weinberg deviates a little from the main narrative, either providing backstory on the main characters, or background information on the different scientific methods used in the case.
However, I’m not sure how I feel about this extensive backstory provided for Frediani. On the one hand, we don’t know yet if he’s innocent or guilty, and I understand that it’s important to view him as a complex human being, rather than just the main suspect in a sexual assault case. However, when Ms. Weinberg was writing this book, she likely already knew the outcome of the trial–she already knew if Frediani was guilty of assaulting Helena.
If he is guilty, then this backstory seems to take on a different meaning, one I’m not too sure I like. We hear all about Frediani’s strict parents and his medical problems growing up, and how happy he was to finally get to be himself at college. All this suggests that Frediani, at this point in the narrative a likely rapist, is someone we should feel sympathy for.
He had such a rough childhood, the poor man. Let’s not judge him too harshly, right?
On top of all this oh so tragic backstory, Weinberg ends the chapter with the bombshell Andrea drops on Frediani–she’s pregnant with twins.
Chapter 5 takes a look at who Paul Frediani actually is. Growing up, he suffered from complications due to his foot, which resulted in surgery. He was also constantly under pressure from his parents, who expected nothing less than satisfactory of him. Paul was demanded to get A’s in school, look a certain way, attend church on Sundays, and obey his early curfew. As a result of these demands, Paul started to become a little rebellious. Often times, childhood rebellion can be linked to adulthood behavior. According to a psychological study, the type of environment a child lives in is going to almost always have some sort of affect on who they become when they grow up. For example, the article (listed below) explains the predicament of child who grew up in a household that had high expectations. Similarly to Frediani’s parents, this child’s parents expected a lot from their child. As a result of this, the child grew up to be defensive and often times withdrew from social situations. During his adulthood, this person tended to get involved in relationships where the women were more dominating. Through this story, the author of this article really stresses the importance of a positive parental role. He writes, “Though most incidents might not be as glaring or dramatic as that illustrated by the above story, children are constantly adjusting themselves to please and protect their parents. These acts of sacrifice, large and small, create the core defenses that often hurt them as adults. In other words, we form a set of internalized parents that recreate emotions and interactions from early in our lives.” Relating this back to the book, I feel as if this psychological behavior could apply to Frediani. Perhaps, it is one of the reasons behind his criminal tendencies. http://www.psychalive.org/how-childhood-defenses-hurt-us-as-adults/
“One of the fundamental tenets of crime detention, Locard’s Exchange Principle, states that a cross transfer of evidence takes place whenever a criminal comes into contact with a victim, an object or a crime scene. When the victim has died after a violent struggle, it is almost inevitable that in the course of the fight, as they claw each other, the victim might manage to scrape vital pieces of evidence with their fingernails– skin, dirt, hair” Weinberg 75
This process really stood out to me, particularly, how true is it? I am sure that it is a well established principle in the forensic science world, and has been used over and over to find and convict guilty offenders. But in real situations, it does not seem like it is as guaranteed as the principle makes it seem. Especially since there was not enough evidence under Helena’s fingernails to identify anyone’s DNA. Maybe it is because I watch too many CSI shows and am not immersed in any way with the actual process of real cases and forensic data collection, but it seems to me that this principle applies more in theory than in real life. This seems plausible especially for well planned out murders. The murderer probably tries to decrease physical contact as much as possible, and probably tries to get it over with as fast as possible without leaving behind any evidence. I think in cases where the murderer is somewhat mentally unstable or has a personal vendetta or wants revenge on someone, then they might attempt a hand to hand murder or come in close physical contact with the victim. This seems to be the kind of case that CSI shows deal with anyway.
The description of the autopsy was very interesting and how the body ‘told the story’ of how Helena was killed. It also pointed to what the victim looked like “big” and “strong. Also it showed that the killer had a personal motive because he had to get up close and personal with her. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/visibleproofs/galleries/cases/examiner.html
This article was interesting because it went into detail about what a coroner’s job is versus what a medical examiner does but both do contribute greatly to cases.
We have recently been discussing the ethics of DNA sequencing and having a database with our sequences contained for either legal or public use. There have been so many advances in technology for collecting DNA samples and efficiently analyzing them within a lab setting. However, the beginning struggle of collecting these samples is having a sample to compare it to, in this case a perpetrator. This idea of not having a suspect at hand and having DNA that has no sample to compare it to brings the discussion of having a DNA bank with all individuals genetic information placed in it. This seems like a logical way to solve this situation but is it reasonable and ethical? There is always the statement that if you’re not doing anything illegal than why does it matter that the government has your DNA information? Our documents are not impossible to reach if they are needed in a legal situation. This is seen as an invasion of privacy and makes many people uneasy.
In my molecular genetics and synthetic biology courses, we were required to use systems such as GenBank to input sequences into a BLAST search to look for other similar sequences. It is advantageous to scientist because it can identify sequences that they might not know where it comes from.
How we approached this in molecular genetics was we had an Autorad sequence and we needed to figure out the individual ATGC arrangement, in a linear fashion: AGCCTACGATAG for example. Once we manual wrote down every base we were able to put into the blast search that would tell us what it was (enzyme, protein, etc. ), where it was mostly found (animal, plant etc.) what chromosome it is found on, and many other features. This GenBank is public information and allows other scientist around the world to compare their findings of sequencing with others.
In his book’s introductory chapter “Reef, City, Web”, Johnson gives the reader information about a few significant discoveries and theories. Johnson first begins talking about Darwin’s paradox, then moves onto negative quarter-power and superliner scaling, and the Web. Johnson’s main point in this chapter is not to inform the reader about the question Darwin asked himself while observing a reef being hit by sea waves. His main point is to introduce the “science” behind the relationship between good ideas and where they come from, hence the title of the book. I believe Johnson does a good job of opening up his novel and mapping it out for the reader. Johnson presents good information that already encourages his audience to think and question social norms. I like the fact that Johnson clearly states the objective of his book and how he will go about accomplishing it. Continue reading “Book Review – Griffin, Padawan, Jose, PF1287”→
The National DNA Database is one of the best options at the disposal of law enforcement to identify criminals. On the other hand, many people believe that it invades personal privacy because it was originally created to build a group of criminal profiles, and now it seems to have become a database for all citizens and non criminals alike. In our generation of technological savvy information systems and software, it is pretty easy to find out who exactly someone is based on their DNA and genetic information. I personally have no issue with law enforcement being able to access my DNA, but some believe that the access to this information can reveal ethnicity and disease susceptibility. Our DNA is literally everywhere, your skin cells are all over everything you touch and your saliva cells are on everything you drink or eat from. Therefore, I think it seems as if even without this DNA database, if someone wanted to get access to your DNA, or find out more about you, they would be able to anyway regardless. Furthermore, isn’t it a positive thing if the police know how to identify you? DNA analysis has helped identify missing people and human remains, so I think the pros outweigh the cons in terms of questioning whether a DNA database is ethical in our country.
In Chapter 4 of Pointing from the Grave, Frediani disputes all claims laid against only to later admit to them, claiming that he was drunk and that’s why. Along these pretences, I began to think about how often suspects lie and if it ever works in reverse; do suspects ever falsely admit to something they never actually did? After doing some research about this, I stumbled upon the Innocence Project’s website where they claim that false admissions are a huge factor in wrongful convictions. They stated that “more than 1 out of 4 people wrongfully convicted but later exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statement.” Their example was that of Damon Thibodeaux, a young man who eventually admitted to raping his cousin, whose body had been found earlier that night. His story was inconsistent with injuries on the victim and it did not make sense in a timeline but that was not sufficient enough evidence to counter his admission. Damon wrongfully served 15 years in a federal prison before DNA evidence freed him.
Everything had been going so well; he had a good job, a nice apartment in a city he loved, a pretty girlfriend, and a BMW. He had come so far, and now it was like someone was walking up to the blackboard of his life, brandishing a wet cloth. He would need his parents’ help with his attorney’s fee.
This quote struck me from the moment I read it. People’s lives can appear to perfect in one person’s eyes but radically different for another person. Paul Frediani had everything so why would he commit such a heinous act toward a woman. This could bring up the issue of metal illnesses. In the court of law mental illness is usually brought up when a person’s life is on the line as it provides a way out of capital punishment. However, as a society we often over look mental illnesses and never discover or find out the root of these problems. Mr. Frediani could have suffered from a mental illness that could have affected his decision making. Personally I feel more science and research should be poured into this field and determine if a person does or does not have the capability of being held accountable for one’s actions in a crime.
“In the Future, murderers would not be able to claim bloodstains on their shirts came from their families dinner”(Weinberg, 51).
Throughout the whole book so far, DNA has been needed to try to identify the suspect. In chapter 4, they finally use the DNA of the fingerprint and other genetic substances to identify Paul as the guilty party. Since its inception in the early 1900’s DNA has been the powerhouse of crime solving. But is it even now still not 100 percent efficient? Its known that no two people have the same fingerprints, but could two people have ones that are so close that there could be a mistake? and what if two people have similar genetic makeups, like family? There can still be error, even with its most dependency, confession could be the most effective way of finishing a crime.
The discovery in the mid-nineteenth century that no two people had the same fingerprint-each possessed a unique maze of ridges, whorls and swirls- gave rise to the science of fingerprinting, the first great leap forward in crime detection since early law enforcers faced off against their criminal prey.
It is quite astonishing to think of the incredible importance fingerprint scanning has on law enforcement. When I was in the first grade I went to the police station for a field trip and there I got my fingerprint scanned and processed. Little did I know then how important that was for me personally and the police when processing a case. Also, it is incredible to also wonder how every person in this world has a different finger print from everyone else. Its one of those unique things that makes us human beings. Not even identical twins have the same finger prints.
“Of all the fingerprints Hill had examined from the scene, only one was clear enough for full analysis, a single print found under the lip of the teapot. After studying it using a microscope, he found sixteen separate points of comparison, all of which matched” -Weinberg, p56
This quote really stuck out to me as I was reading this chapter because it shocked me that only one fingerprint from the scene was good enough to be analyzed. This was surprising to me because the attacker broke into Helena’s house through the window, therefore he had to open the window, and I assumed that some of the fingerprints that were found on the window frame would have been good enough to use. I wondered if some of the fingerprints that were lifted off the window frame were ruined because of the possibility of inexperienced police officers lifting the prints. It was also interesting to me that the attacker and his lawyer considered the sixteen points of comparison, all of which matched, as flimsy evidence. This seems like very concrete evidence to me. Is it possible to have a fingerprint that similar to someone else? These points of comparison also seemed to strike the Judge as solid evidence, but the attacker’s lawyer was able to convince him that the situation was not as serious as he was treating it. Personally, I think the fingerprint that was found on the teapot was substantial evidence, enough to assume that Frediani was Helena’s attacker, and the case should have been dealt with more seriously and in a quicker time frame.
One thing that struck me from chapter 5 was the way the hearing for Paul went down. Collins brings up a decent point about the description of his client. Paul is described in court as a 6’3 white man in his early thirties, and even without the stretch that his eyes are hazel and not brown, he doesn’t fit the description of the criminal. This brings up the whole idea of the location of the flower pot that held his print on it. Even though it was once inside the house, the pot was outside of the house when it was found. I was wondering if this lessons the credibility of the his print that the prosecutors have against him? The semen analysis is still waiting to be done, but it is mentioned that none of Paul’s fingerprints are inside of the house. It is very early on in the case, but at this point I believe that the prosecutors are going to need a lot more evidence than Paul’s print placing him outside of the house.
On page 55, Weinberg quotes Carl Hill, the supervising evidence technician at the San Mateo Sheriff’s forensic lab, as he explains fingerprint identification.
“‘They are based on the fact that fingerprints are formed in the first three to four months of the fetal period; they remain the same throughout life unless permanently scarred or decomposition sets in after death.'”
What does this say about personal identification versus how we are identified? I don’t know anyone that talks about their physical traits before their likes, dislikes, and hobbies. People don’t join clubs because all of them have whorls in their thumb prints. Yet all of those people could be assembled from a single print on a crime scene.
Furthermore, the fact that we have this trait of identification for pretty much our entire lives (where as likes, dislikes, and hobbies come and go) speaks volumes for the identity we have versus the ones we create.
In chapter 5 of the book, a good amount of time was spent discussing the childhood and teenage years of Paul Frediani. He had a lot of health problems as a kid and also did not get along with his father especially well. He didn’t have a great child but that in no way means that he would end up on the wrong end of a sexual assault case as an adult. Is a person’s personality and character traits more a product of DNA, engrained in them since birth? Or is it more about the environment you are raised in, which shapes who you are through experiences and interactions with the people surrounding you?
In Chapter 4, I think it was really interesting how they talked about the development of finger printing and DNA testing in general. Forensic science is an enormous part of everyday life in every country now, especially in law enforcement. Before forensic science, “justice” was pretty much a huge blame game, with the defendant claiming one thing and the plaintiff claiming another. Finger printing and DNA testing has eliminated the guessing game in the justice system, providing concrete evidence to back any claim made in court. But, the development of this science did not happen over night. Finger printing came first, the blood tests, and so on. Scientists all over the world were working simultaneously to transform the science in to what it is today. However, did any of these scientists work together or examine each other’s works? Could they have split up the work and developed it more quickly, or was the gradual increase of technology and knowledge necessary in making forensic science what it is today?
He analyzed the different reactions, and came to the conclusion that blood could be broken down into four groups (now known as A, B, AB, O,”-Weinberg (51).
Today we do not think twice when we learn what our blood type is or need blood and receive some from the same blood type. This classification of blood types went on to become very important in the world of criminology because it allows prosecutors to get that much more specific in identifying a criminal. One thing that stuck me about the discovery about blood types is how long it took for the find to get the recognition it deserved. When Paul Uhlenhuth, in 1900, found out that blood could in fact be analyzed to see if it is from a human, the world of prosecutors jumped on the idea with great interest. When Karl Landsteiner discovered the different types of blood his work wasn’t properly praised until around 20 years after the initial finding in 1901. Why was this finding viewed as not as important as Uhlenhuth’s?
Weinberg recounts in the preliminary hearing that Martin Murray, the prosecution against Paul Frediani, is very much against the lowering of Frediani’s bail from $100,000 to $25,000. The judge originally says she has reason to believe Frediani committed three offenses, but after Murray challenges the bail, she just says the reason for the $25,000 is for his exposure in front of the young girl. Additionally, he is going to therapy a few times a week and he has cooperated so far, not showing any signs of running.
This whole situation is a bit strange to me. I don’t understand why Murray was so against lowering the bail to begin with. Even though Frediani does not appear to be struggling with money, the difference between $25 and $100,000 for a regular person don’t seem to be that much. I don’t think Frediani could have managed either on his own anyway. But he gets very vocal when the judge suggests lowering the bail. From this angle though, it is hard to understand why the judge lowered the bail, even if that was the standard bail for exposure in front of the little girl. The judge seemed to think there was enough evidence to convict him of three crimes in trial, so why would she suddenly be okay with lowering the bail? She goes along easily with the defenses claims that Frediani was cooperating with police, even though this was his second time in court. Finally, what does this argument in the first place tell us about the importance of bail in criminal proceedings?
The beginning of chapter 2 brought up how the neighborhood where Helena was attacked was very wealthy and this brought up questions in class about the wealth of a neighborhood affecting how quickly crimes would be solved. Because of the argument about resources vs. Experience. Here is an article about how income affects the crime rate of an area.http://financesonline.com/how-income-inequality-affects-crime-rates/
Frediani life as a kid might have been unstable and rather violent when he was kid. There is a likelihood that this can be tied to the accusations of rape toward him. It is very common that most criminals that commit rape, murder etc are victims of violence at the hands of their parents when they were kids. I think that if the treatment was better in Frediani’s childhood then the crime accusations would not have existed. This also brings me to the idea that there is ultimately no choice the criminal has if he or she was raised in a similar fashion, years after years of child abuse and negative influence must make the criminal a certain amount of insane.
Frediani lies about his relevance to the crime at first, then claims that it had taken place because he was drunk. In the criminal world this idea of “blaming it on the alcohol” seems to be popular. However, it seems to increase the chances of hardened punishment. This brings me to the idea that if alcohol was not present in at least fifty percent of crime, would that fifty percent be less than it is? maybe if criminals were not drunk at the time of certain wrongdoing I feel there is a huge possibility that the crime would not happen. All in all, in the world of crime alcohol seems to be a huge accessory to some crime, if this stupidity was eliminated I feel crime rates would decrease drastically.
Reading this chapter made me think of the issue with patents discussed in class a while ago, and gives me a remembrance of the question if patents are more effective than platforms. Mendel did not receive any recognition for his work, this surely was an annoyance for him. Do you think if his work was patented and he got all the credit for his work, it would have had an effect on others implementing his work because they knew it was his. His work was ultimately a platform because even though it was his idea, others were able to feed off of it legally.
“same blood antigens are secreted into other bodily fluids- semen, saliva, tears, and sweat- by 80 percent of the population.” (Weinberg 53)
I do not understand how people can commit crimes anymore, it just doesn’t make sense to me, anybody who has seen any Law & Order, or NCIS, or Cold Case should know how effective the police are at proving you are guilty. Unless you are meticulous enough to where gloves, hair hair, most likely a mask, plastic bags over the shoes, you will be caught because you can’t be careful enough not to drop hair follicles or sweat somewhere. On the other hand how do police account for the other 20% of the population, are they just not able to be identified through these antigens, of do you they have an even more rare condition that makes it easier to identify you?
“the majority of geneticists were still concentrating on protein at the time, and were apparently loath to abandon something into which they had poured so much time and intellectual energy” (Weinberg 34)
This one belief could be one of the most frustrating part of science: scientists are stubborn enough to work on something for years even if they know it is leading to know where. This is across all fields of study, scientists who have poured their lives into an idea that will never come to fruition because it is just not right. I have always wondered how many countless technologies and theories have been struck down simply on the belief of a majority of scientists that your idea is wrong; just because a majority of scientists believe something, does not mean it is right, for 50 years before inflation theory was discovered, scientists believed that the universe was constant, Einstein himself believed this.
“there were two different communities; the white coats and the suits” (Weinberg 15)
It seems that the world’s corporations, businesses, anybody that is a force of technological change, always are in these two categories: the suits and white coats. To me it doesn’t make sense that these are two separate communities, as a business it is in your best interest to make sure that the technology that the white coats are able to “sell” their products. Additionally, the suits, the marketers should be very involved in coming up with new concepts and ideas for the white coats to work on, just because they are not scientists does not mean that they don’t have unique insights and ideas that may help a scientist.
Chapter 4 of Pointing From the Grave continues the idea of fingerprinting, and matching DNA samples to incriminate a suspect in a case. Helena’s husband receives a call to their home saying that the fingerprint sample found on the teapot outside of window has matched a criminal who has sexually abused women before. Police were able to obtain a warrant for this man’s arrest all because his fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime. This is just one of many different ways that DNA can help in criminal cases. I began to do some more research about DNA analyzing, and testing samples to match them to a suspect. I found a pretty cool article. I definitely think you guys should take a look if you get a chance. It’s about the different steps of analyzing DNA and what it can tell us about biology and genetics.The link is below. Hope you enjoy!
There have been countless cases in which heinous crimes have been committed and the defendant has pleaded guilty, despite evidence that proves otherwise. Is it fair for the victim or their families to see the person responsible for the crime in a way “get off” by going to a hospital for the criminally insane? Although they are still punished, people almost justify the terrible actions by saying “that person is insane” or “crazy.” While they obviously are to have committed such gruesome crimes, they are still guilty of taken a life, or in many cases multiple. Pictured is Jeffrey Dahmer is tried to plead guilty for sex, cannibalism, necrophilia, and dismemberment. He was denied the plea and yet the public still viewed him as criminally insane.
This article talks about David Butler, who spent eight wrongful months in prison after being convicted off of DNA testing. Butler faced murder charges after his DNA was allegedly found on the victim. The results showed a partial match of his DNA and was enough for the police to convict him. He had originally given the police his DNA before following a burglary in his mother’s home, so there was a record of him. People are beginning to believe the current climate of relying mainly on DNA testing has made police lazy. Had Butler not previously given DNA to be a partial match, would even have been linked to the murder? How many people could have also been a partial match and just not in the system? New innovations must be made to change the current system of relying on DNA or proven inaccurate eyewitness testimony.
“It was a clear case of fiction pre-dating reality, this time by more than a decade” -Weinberg, p49
This quote followed Weinberg’s description about how Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective, actually inspired the “scientific detective,” and figured out that there was an infallible test for blood stains. I was very interested to read that fiction actually predates reality in many instances, and I was very curious as to what other scientific discoveries were already thought of in fiction. I read an article on Wired, written by Nick Stockton, that discussed some of the science that is present in fiction stories that came to life in 2015. It was shocking to me to see all the present scientific advancements we have today that were actually thought up by fictional authors. The most notable inventions from fiction were genetically engineered organisms and food. Stockton mentions that in the book Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood created characters that were actually genetically modified pigs, which had been modified to have multiple copies of human organs. Now a Virginia based bioengineering firm started its own genetically modified pig-organ breeding program. Another example that Stockton mentioned which was interesting to me was that Isaac Asimov, a science fiction writer, wrote an article for the New York Times where he touched upon turkey and steaks that would one day be grown from yeast and algae. Asimov’s thought of food being grown in a petri-dish is almost a present day reality since many of the flavors that are in our foods today are synthetically created.
“They have learned nothing new– the case rests on that single fingerprint found outside Helena Greenwood’s house, together with her testimony that he has the same “height and type of build” as the man who had attacked her thirteen months previously. He cannot believe that he will be convicted on such flimsy evidence..”-Weinberg (pp. 56)
Reading this passage from Pointing from the Grave got me interested in finding a case in where an individual was convicted of a crime solely on their fingerprints. It didn’t take too long until I found something a case. In the state of Indiana Lana Canen has been convicted of murder in 2002 for the murder of Helen Sailor. The conviction has made possible through using only fingerprint analysis. The detective of crime scene, Dennis Chapman, conducted the analysis based on fingerprints found on a prescription bottle at the crime scene. The analysis concluded that the fingerprints were a match even though detective Chapman did not have no training in latent print comparisons. “This was the only evidence against Canen and she was convicted and sentenced to 55 years in prison.” After the conviction, attorney Cara Wieneke believed that Lana Canen was innocent and appealed the case. Cara Wieneke hired and independent forensic analyst that concluded that the fingerprints of Canen and from the prescription bottle did not match. The report was used in court and got conviction turned over.
A questioned posed in this chapter was how does someone distinguish between animal and human blood. People were trying to claim that blood on their clothing was from their meaty dinners instead of actual people. The experiment done to finally put an end to this mystery was using animal serum (antibodies/blood) and testing it against blood taken from humans.
This experiment reminded me of a lab technique found in cell culturing. Fetal bovin serum is extracted from calfs actually taken from slaughterhouses. It sounds pretty disgusting but it has proven to be a great way to feed cells. It is used in cell culturing because it has a low level of antibodies and provides many growth factor to a variety of eukaryotic cells. Without this serum the cells wouldn’t be able to survive or grow.
After reading this chapter, I went online to read about blood types and found information about how much more complicated blood types are than the 4 simple A, B, AB, and O blood types. Blood actually contains hundreds of antigens that can all create some form of reaction if the wrong type is given during a blood transfusion. One of the rarest blood types in the world has only nine active blood donors of this specific type in the world. Blood typing has come a long way since blood groups were originally discovered.
“Landsteiner, a shy man in his early thirties and an assistant professor of Pathology at the University of Vienna, had been drawn from medical practice and back into research out of frustration at the shortcomings of medicines in dealing with many illnesses” -Weinberg 51
Pathology- the science of the causes and effects of diseases, especially the branch of medicine that deals with the laboratory examination of samples of body tissue for diagnostic or forensic purposes (Google). Landsteiner is the man who discovered that humans have different blood types, and so for blood transfusions to be successful, their types must match.
I think Landsteiner is an example of Johnson’s slow hunch. At first look, it might look like Landsteiner just deciding to look at how blood differs and discovering blood types as serendipity, or just a happy chance or eureka moment. But at second look, Landsteiner needed his years of study and failures in the medicinal field to give him not only the idea or inspiration to look at a different problem, but also the materials and methods necessary. In other words, he trained and worked in the medicinal field and so was able to decide that that was what he didn’t want to do, and looked at a different problem/perspective with the same eyes and skills that he had used for years.
Landsteiner started out in the field of pathology, he experimented with body tissue to learn about preventing disease. But because what he was doing was not working (Johnson’s failure), he approached his problem (reversing disease) from a different perspective and found something even better- he learned another way to prevent disease.
“He could not believe that he will be convicted on such flimsy evidence, but Collins has warned him that he must be prepared to go to trial.” – Weinberg, page 56
Whether he is guilty or not, his DNA was found in a pot outside Helena’s house. We are aware that DNA is a very concrete evidence, however the fact it was outside changes a lot of things. Anyone could have touched that pot and could have been wrongly convicted. When there is a DNA role I believe that it has taken from a place that prosecutors are certain that only them could have committed the crime. If there is something that plays such a big role in finding criminals like DNA, we should be more careful of where we find it. If not, a lot of people may be convicted for wrong things.
“In addition to the seriousness of the charged crime, the amount of bail usually depends on factors such as a defendant’s past criminal record, whether a defendant is employed, and whether a defendant has close ties to relatives and the community.”
“Judges may legally deny bail altogether in some circumstances. For example, if another jurisdiction has placed a warrant (hold) on a defendant, a judge is likely to keep the defendant in custody at least long enough for the other jurisdiction to pursue its charge.”
After reading the heated debate over the bail price in the chapter I was curious how important is the price of bail and how it is set. in doing so I found an article which had two interesting quotes. The first I found interesting that bail can be based off of criminal record which can sway how people are able to pay or not pay for bail. Also I found it interesting that the judge can deny bail. Overall I don’t think bail is important as the chapter made it seem. Both quotes are from the article.
“Paul Uhlenhuth, an assistant professor at the Institute of Hygiene in Griefswald, found a method of determining the origin of unknown blood using a precipitating antiserum.”- Weinberg (pp. 50)
The use of antibodies have came a long way for the use in science. One of the most useful, cost efficient, and easy tests made in our society are in pregnancy tests. Pregnancy tests contain antibodies within them that contain antibodies. These antibodies in the test binds to a hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin, is secreted when a woman is pregnant. When present in urine the antibodies bind to the hormone and produce a positive result. The specificity of these antibodies for the hormone makes these pregnancy test very accurate for testing. Another uncommon found from using pregnancy tests is used to detect men’s testicular cancer. A study conducted found that the same HCG hormone secreted by women during pregnancy is also secreted in some cases of testicular cancer.
“When Arthur Conan Doyle wrote this, there was no way to determine whether a dried bloodstain was human or animal.” Weinberg, page 49
When the author Conan Doyle wrote the mysteries and solved them, the way he solved that one mystery was discovered not much later. It caught my attention since we are never able to know what may be just fictional or what can eventually turn into reality so easily. There are so many things that we read, but we don’t really take them into account. However, they can be the near the future without us realizing it. People that read Sherlock Holmes probably did not even think that what they were reading would actually become an essential thing for crime solving and for identifying people in other situations.
“Bizarrely, it was a fictional detective, the incomparable Sherlock Holmes, who inspired the so called scientific detectives” (Weinberg 49).
I think this is a really interesting that so much of our modern criminal science came into existence because of a fictional character. It reminded me of an article I read along time ago about how because of the character on the X files show Scully more people in particular women took an interest in forensic science. I think its neat the effect that media has on advancing science and any field because of how they are portrayed in television.
The section on fingerprinting was very interesting to me. The technology of analyzing fingerprints has become very sophisticated and is used throughout the world to help to identify criminals. It is a good method to use because no one’s fingerprints are the same and there is no way to ‘forge’ this.
This video was very interesting to me because our technology now even uses fingerprinting as a form of security. Since no one’s fingerprint is the same it’s easy to lock a phone with it as the password. This video is interesting because it talks about the technology that goes into this.
“The techniques employed to reveal–and identify–fingerprints have become increasingly sophisticated. Chemicals like ninhydrin can stain absorbed fingerprint sweat patterns on paper, making them visible, while superglue fumes can lift prints off human skin.” -Weinberg, pg 49
Reading this book makes me really glad that I took a course on forensic science in high school. Two of the main topics in this chapter, added in to help us understand the science behind Helena’s case, are subjects that we discussed in my forensics class: fingerprinting and blood typing. We learned about the different ways to reveal fingerprints, including the techniques that use ninhydrin and superglue. But when we spent a week practicing such techniques, we focused on the different kinds of fingerprinting powder–typical black powder, white or silver powder for dark surfaces, even magnetic powder for delicate surfaces that you don’t want to mar with a brush in order to remove the excess powder.
We also learned about blood typing, and practiced using anti-serums on synthetic blood to figure out which blood type we were working with. Something else we learned regarding blood types that wasn’t mentioned in the book is the Rh factor. In addition to being type A, B, AB, or O, your blood type can also be positive or negative. This refers to whether or not your blood contains a particular protein, and is also necessary information to have in order to have safe blood transfusions. Blood types that contain the protein can safely mix with blood that has the protein or doesn’t have the protein; negative blood types can only mix with other negative blood types.
I’m finding this book particularly interesting because I already possess so much background knowledge that’s helping me understand all the scientific techniques being discussed.
This chapter was fascinating because it had so much information on blood groups. Blood types have always interested me, and the fact that you can group the different types of blood, and test them in crimes. It sets to prove that each individual is very unique. If not the prints, you can always test the blood. It also surprises me that we can test dry blood stains. Truly revolutionary! Also, in the beginning, I wondered how they tested semen like blood, and pinpointed a person that way.
“The same blood antigens are secreted into other bodily fluids- semen, saliva, tears and sweat- Not only could a murderer be tracked by his blood, but a rapist by his semen” (Weinberg 53)
I feel like this was a huge leap forward for inventions in biotechnology because its use is relevant and very useful. I wonder if this leads people to commit less crime, or if they continue to not be phased that any evidence they leave behind can be tracked?
“Over the following years, Lattes, and a growing band of fellow forensic serologists, were called in to use both the precipitin test and blood grouping in an increasing number of cases. Although they acknowledged that they were nowhere near being able to tell whether a bloodstain came from a particular person- the groupings were far too large for that- and it was of no help if the victim and suspect shared the same blood type, the techniques proved to be powerful in excluding suspects, narrowing down the list of potential culprits, and above all, as tools to produce a confession” (Weinberg 53)
The discovery of the precipitin test started a trend of forensic discoveries. But each of these tools that scientists uncovered proved to be useful only in eliminating suspects, not finding guilt. Like Weinberg said “the techniques proved to be powerful in excluding suspects”. Not until the ability to profile DNA was discovered were scientists able to prove guilt of a suspect. This perhaps is why the detectives in the case of Helena and Mr. Frediani were forced to question him instead of just simply arresting him. They could prove that he was indeed on the scene but not that he committed the crime. They were using the tools that were covered in the chapter like the precipitin test to exclude other suspects and use them to “produce a confession” from Mr. Frediani.
Chapter 5 of Pointing from the Grave, rerouted back to the trail of Frediani and Helena. Throughout this chapter, results of the semen tests were shared. It was stated that the analyst was able to deduce that Frediani is an O secretor; however, it wasn’t with great confidence that this evidence was accurate. As a result Chaput asks the analyst to
“do any further testing of any other enzymes and she said she would attempt to do that” -Weinberg, p58.
I thought this was very interesting because I thought that when a test was done, all of the enzymes would be extracted. In addition, I was wondering what Chaput meant by enzymes being tested or how a PGM test was done. After doing research on PGM testing (seen in the link below), I found out that they conduct this experiment by testing the enzymes found in the red cell membrane. These are PGM’s or genetic markers are protein enzymes that are found throughout the body. In the discovery these PGM’s, there were also three phenotypes which correlated to two alleles allowing for a more highly specific genetic marker in crime scene investigations. Overall, I thought it was very interesting to see and learn of another form of forensic biotechnology used through the help of DNA. DNA really is the platform for new techniques to arise.
After reading Chapter 4 of Pointing from the Grave, it really shed light on the complexity and developments in the field of forensic science. Of course, I was familiar with the use of lifting finger prints and matching them from shows like CSI. However, realistically, I never knew how complex the process of collecting and matching fingerprints was. Attached I have posted a link that goes into detail about the of how fingerprints are lifted and examined. While there are many ways to do so, I thought it was very interested how they used immunofluorescent dye stain with orange alternate light source in order to make out a clear picture of the fingerprint. I also found this very related to my independent breast cancer research. In order to test the effects of hypoxia on the aggression of breast cancer cells I carried out an experiment in which I treated the cancer cells with different doses of Cobalt Chloride (which mimics hypoxic conditions) and then died the cells and viewed them under a confocal lens with Texas Red light. This is similar to the way in which the finger prints were stained and viewed under orange light. Overall, I thought it was interesting to see one of the ways in which fingerprints are made out and how it also overlapped with types of experiments I am running as a part of my research.
“The only evidence that linked him to the case was a single fingerprint, but that could be enough. In the courtrooms of the world, fingerprints and blood and semen stains were increasingly playing the dominant role. Forensic science was leaping from the test tube to tap criminals on their shoulders like a triumphant child in a life or death game of grandmother’s footsteps.
Forensic science plays a huge role in crime cases these days. With the expansion of technology, I am curious as to how forensic science has changed and grown. Do forensic scientists look at camera and video evidence more so than physical evidence, such as hairs and stains? In addition, as the book progresses, I am realizing that I enjoy Weinberg’s style as a writer. Thus far, she has presented the facts of the case in the way in an informative yet enthralling way. Like any crime show, Weinberg presents this case in such a way that is more than just straight facts. I especially appreciated her simile in the last sentence above.
“It’s science fiction!”
“A precursor to science fact!”
– Dr. Eric Selvig and Dr. Jane Foster from Marvel’s Thor
In the fourth chapter of “Pointing from the Grave”, Weinberg mentions how Sherlock Holmes’ discoveries led to scientists developing these innovations in real life and improving life. For instance, it was years before the blood-identifying serum was developed that Holmes “‘found a re-agent which is precipitated by chemistry and by nothing else.'” (Weinberg, 49)
It’s kind of amazing all the things that fiction and fantasy writers have thought of and developed before they were even in existence. I wonder what inventions from “The Hunger Games” researchers will think to develop.
One of the biggest contributions to both DNA and Chapter 3 of Pointing From the Grave is Gregor Mendel’s work with pea plants. Through his studies Mendel was able to learn more about how offspring inherent different genes from their parents, and about the dominance and recessiveness of different genes. The most fascinating part of Mendel’s story in my opinion is that he did not receive any response or any recognition when he presented his discoveries. It took the dawn of a new century for Mendel’s work to be understood for its greatness. This chapter got me thinking a lot about Mendel and I wanted to learn more about his advancement of genetics. Attached below is a Ted Talk that I think you guys may enjoy. After watching this video I understood Mendel’s work in a whole new light, and definitely a more visual light. Check it out!
Something new I learned this chapter was the working relationship between Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins. When I first learned the story of Rosalind Franklin, in high school, I did not know she had partner with her when she discovered the shape of DNA. Their relationship was described as:
“They were less a team than a push-me-pull-you, to the extent that Franklin refused to show Wilkins her work out of irritation at being treated as a subordinate…Wilkins believed that Franklin had been hired as his technical assistant” (Weinberg 37)
This passage puts into perspective the discrimination of women in the workplace, especially in science. I believe this hindered them from discovering the structure of DNA before Watson and Crick. If there was not as much competition and more team work, they could have made greater discoveries, and explored their hunches in more depth. It’s a shame how women were treated in science, and how some are still treated now.
“Miraculously, everything then fell into shape. Crick saw it and no matter how hard he tried, could not come up with a reason why it should not be the solution.
‘From the start we hoped for some chemical revelation that would lead to the correct structure,’ Waston wrote. ‘But we never anticipated that the answer would come so suddenly in one swoop and with such finality.
It was a true Eureka moment.” -Weinberg, pg 38-39
This section grabbed my attention immediately. After reading Johnson’s book, we learned that true ‘Eureka moments’ are much rarer than they’re made out to be. Watson and Crick are portrayed as almost overconfident in their intelligence and their abilities; it’s understandable that Watson wanted it to seem as though the answer to their DNA problem came to them so quickly.
But if we look at the rest of the chapter, we can see that their discovery wasn’t really a Eureka moment after all. Like many good ideas, it was a matter of finding and combining all the right pieces, such as the work of their colleagues before them. It was in part because of a hunch that Watson and Crick had, the idea that DNA was likely a helix structure.
The revelation that DNA is a double helix did not come to Watson and Crick all at once; it was a problem that both of them thought about for a long time, gathering bits and pieces of information that would eventually come together and lead them to the answer.
He found, to his excitement, that in almost exactly one-quarter of the cases, the characteristics of the “lost grandparent”-the “recessive”-re-emerged. Thus dwarf pea mixed with a tall one might produce tall offspring in the first generation, but when these self-fertilized, they each gave rise to a dwarf plant from one in every four seeds. (Weinberg 30)
This idea of a one in four dwarf pea immediately reminded me of the punnet square. In this case, the second generation pea plants had the following genetics, BB, Bb,Bb,bb. The first three of these would have been the tall pea plants that the monk, Gregor Mendel, observed. The only plant with the recessive dwarf gene was the last one, bb. That 25% chance of a recessive, bb, gene was what inspired the idea of dominant and recessive genes and how they operate. This discovery sparked much of what we know today about genetics and DNA. Along with Watson and Cricks, Mendel is a father of genetics.
Helena’s research on DNA probes reminded me of a technique I learned about in synthetic biology that is widely used today in science. Since these DNA probes were synthetic short single-stranded chains of DNA, they were able to adhesively attached to its complementary strand in a mixture of media. To bring it to the next step, is finding out the sequence needed in order to make that synthetic strand of DNA. Helena’s group may have had one specific sequence of interest but what if a research wanted to know the sequence of an entire genome?
Honestly, how this process works doesn’t make much sense but for researchers, it has been an amazing tool. One technique is called Shotgun Sequencing. Basically, in short terms, you “blow up” the genome into smaller fragments and a computer system puts it back together by looking for overlapping sequences. This technique was proven to be more efficient with both time and cost of the process. The previous type of sequencing took a very long time and cost a large amount of resources. However, if I remember correctly, whole genome shotgunning sequencing is not as accurate. Since you are breaking up the whole genome and putting it back together in one piece rather than piece by piece, if there is a problem with one section, theres no way of telling what section went wrong.
“Yet only a dew countries away, in an Austrian monastery, a fat amiable monk had already-literally-planted the first seeds of what came to be called genetics”-Weinberg (pp.29)
After reading the chapter third chapter. I found that it began explaining the precursors that led to the discovery of DNA. One of the scientists that helped contribute to this discovery is Gregor Mendel. His finding shows one way parents pass on their genetic traits onto their offspring. This sparked interest for me to search for inherited genetic disorders prevalent today. One of the diseases that I found was Huntington’s disease.
Huntington’s disease is an “autosomal dominant allele” that gets passed on from parents on to their offspring. Describing Huntington’s disease as ‘”autosmal dominant” means to say that if a parent is affected with the disease then their children will also suffer from the same disease. And the children will pass on the disease to their children and so forth. The signs and symptoms of this disease causes individuals to suffer from involuntary jerking, muscle problems, slowness in processing thoughts, social withdrawal, insomnia, and fatigue. With individuals affected with Huntington’s disease do not display signs at a young age they do appear around the ages of 35 to 40.
Currently, there is no cure for for Huntington disease. Physicians recommend affected patients to avoid pregnancy because of the high chance that their children will also suffer from the disorder.
Chapter four explains the process by which Mendel was able to come up with the idea of inheritance. On page 32, Weinberg goes into the explanation of how William Bateson coined the term ‘genetics.’ Weinberg writes, “Bateson subsequently immersed himself in the life and work of Gregor Mendel, translating his paper into English, and lecturing on its significance around the world. In 1909, one of his fellow disciples, the Danish evolutionary biologist Wilhelm Johannsen, game a name to Mendel’s units of inheritance – “genes” – and the science of their study became known as genetics” (Weinberg, 32). Relating this back to the book Where Good Ideas Come From, I think that Bateson and Johannsen took what they knew from Mendel’s discovery and applied to to their own. In this case, one may say that Mendel’s discovery acted as the first platform or the initial hunch which then others built upon. Likewise, all heredity discoveries can be considered platforms that are expansions of Mendel’s experiment/discoveries.
In Chapter 2 of “Pointing from the Grave”, police officials took fingerprint samples of a teapot at the scene and unfortunately did not find matching fingerprints. Although it did not work in this case, fingerprints are very important because they can identify people in a criminal case. Fingerprints are an individual characteristic and there are no identical fingerprints. During someone’s lifetime fingerprints will stay the same and remain unchanged. In addition, fingerprints have specific patterns that can be classified. The three different classes are loops, whorls and arches. Since fingerprints never change they can be very useful in criminal investigations because of the high accuracy rate. When somebody’s fingerprint is at a crime scene it is very easy to access the fingerprint information and match it to a person.
“She is finding it hard to trust her mind these days. She is more jumpy, less sure of herself “
After a sexual incident, victims are most likely prone to some range of trauma. In “Pointing From the Grave” after Helena’s assault she was very distressed and found it hard talking about the incident. Some consequences are PTSD, flashbacks, STDS, and Depression. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety that comes from a traumatic event. Flashbacks are when memories of the event come back in the present moment. Sexually Transmitted Diseases can be contracted during the incident and affect the victim for life. Depression is psychological disorder of constant. sad and hopeless mood. These feelings affects a person’s daily life and relationships. Sexual Violence has a lot of side effects that are not always easy to deal with. Evaluating one’s mental stance should be one the first things that done after the incident. Seeking counseling is a great way to deal with consequences of the incident.
There’s a documentary called “The Race for the Double Helix” which we watched in my biology class last year. This was an interesting movie because it highlighted how much work Franklin did to help Watson and Crick and how she got almost no recognition because she was a woman. They used all her ideas and passed them off as their own. It’s really interesting to look at the scientific world and how competitive it is. This race was not only based on learning information, it was also based on trying to get ahead of other scientists. This is something to consider when looking at research done by scientists.
“The academic world apparently did not have enough time to read a paper on peas Written by and unknown monk and published in an obscure journal” (Weinberg, 31).
When something that is introduced that could change the game, why is it that we are reluctant to look at it or even fear what it has to say, Brother Mendel discovered a new theory about genetics,”but there was no reaction. no response, no recognition”(31). He was also ridiculed by a bishop for it secularly, and geneticists in Russia were sent to Gulags for it being a different thought. Going back to Johnson, some things ,such as DvD’s, take a while to be accepted by the general public. It can seem odd, Why would we not immedietly accept a new finding, well we have grown up with a different view on things, and changes can take a while to digest, its just in our genes.
In the book, Weinberg writes about how Helena had an interest in science, more specifically biotech, at a young age. With all her knowledge about the field, one would think that it would help her in her case, but it did not. Clearly a traumatic experience takes a toll on our mental state, but it seemed that prior to her attack, Helena would have been capable of using her knowledge and independence for her own good. Although it is a terrible thing, it is interesting to see how trauma effects our mental state. Helena, knowing what she knew about biotech, took a shower after the incident, which removed the DNA of her attacker. When a human experiences something traumatic, they react in survival type way rather then taking into consideration a more suitable action, why does this happen? Helena responded to her attack by taking a shower, but she should’ve known that it would remove the attacker’s DNA. What happens to our brain in “survival” mode that makes us overlook other options that could be more beneficial?
After reading Chapter 3 of Pointing From The Grave, I thought it was very interested that Weinberg devoted this chapter to focusing on the development of DNA, its base pairing, and eventual uses. One part that really stuck out to me was the discussion of running DNA on an agarose gel. Specifically, Weinberg stated that,
“Using a restriction enzyme – a protein that cleaves the DNA strands at designated positions. These lengths would be immobilized by dropping them on one end of the dish of agarose gel to which an electric current would be applied” (p 41).
This discussion of using DNA on a gel in order to discover the sequence stood out to me because it related back to my time in Synthetic Biology. Today, we use gel electrophoresis, similar to the one described in the novel as a southern blot, to detect the sequences of DNA in our whole fragment. In Synthetic biology specifically we used restriction enzymes to cut as specific points in order to understand banding pattern and sequences present in yeast. In addition, this correlates to what I learned in Cancer Biology and what I am doing in my independent research of breast cancer cells. Essentially, we used Western blot to understand protein expression to characterize cancer cells and their aggression. Overall, it is very interesting to see the development of DNA and the technologies associated with it in different types of labs, whether it was synthetic or cancer related.
One thing that struck me while I was reading this particular chapter was how many scientists and people contributed to uncovering much of the mystery of DNA. I firmly believe that without any one of these intellectuals, we would not have the knowledge on DNA that we have today. Although never given the proper credit while he was alive, Gregor Mendel set the stage for future thinkers to pursue a study on DNA. Without his extensive work with plants, would Johann Friedrich Miescher have been able to discover that chromosomes in each cell nucleus were made up of more than just protein? Each geneticist building off the work of another through the years ultimately allowed Francis Crick to head the charge in uncovering the main mysteries of DNA. DNA that could one day help rightfully charge criminals like the one that broke into Helena’s house. The challenging concept that developed into DNA was a collective creative process, that although took decades to answer, was unearthed by many intelligent minds. Referring to what we discussed in class, bouncing ideas off of each other can in fact provide a better, and more complete, answer to a question or concept.
” ‘From the start we hoped for some chemical revelation that would lead to the correct structure’, Watson wrote. ‘But we never anticipated that the answer would come so suddenly in one swoop and with such finality’. It was a true Eureka moment” (Weinberg 38-39).
I think that this quote, about Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA, illustrates Steven Johnson’s point about slow hunches being the basis of all good ideas. There actually aren’t generally such things as “eureka” moments. True, it seemed as if Watson just miraculously stumbled upon the answer to DNA’s structure, but in reality his process was different. For one, he collaborated the whole time with Crick, and so his ideas were inevitably influenced by and checked by someone else.
For another thing, Watson and Crick were basically at a stumped point in their research when they went and saw Rosalin Franklin’s work of X-ray photographs of DNA. Weinberg even says that with “more earnest manipulation of their models” (Weinberg 38), they started working harder to find the solution. This basically means that competition was a driving point to them making their discovery.
Finally, the two scientists were trying the whole time to answer one question: what was the structure of DNA? They were searching for this specific answer. They had exhausted basically all other possibilities and answers when they made the discovery. From this, one could argue that they just naturally arrived at the answer from their slow hunch.
While reading chapter 3 of Weinberg’s book, I noticed that many of Johnson’s ideas on how to come about a great innovation were used by many scientists who played a role in discovering how DNA worked. This was very interesting for me to see how the ideas that we read about in our last book were implemented in a different context.
“So instead of pooling their resources—Wilkins’s theoretical advances and Franklin’s photographs of DNA…they huddled in separate labs, and moved far more slowly than they should have” – Weinberg, p37
This is a great example of how sharing your ideas with other people, one of Johnson’s main arguments, is the most efficient way of creating monumental innovations. If Wilkins and Franklin shared their ideas with one another instead of working separately, they would have been able to reach the discovery that they eventually stumbled upon much sooner in their careers.
Platforms were another one of Johnson’s ideas that was present in chapter 3 of Weinberg’s book.
“In the spring of 1900, three botanists, working separately in three countries, simultaneously stumbled upon Mendel’s paper, and credited it in their own writings on patters of inheritance” – Weinberg, p31
Without the early work of Mendel, later discoveries of DNA would not have been possible. Mendel created the platform that many other scientists were able to work off of. The lack of resources at the time impacted Mendel’s discovery, but because of Mendel’s initial interest in DNA, scientists were able to discover the secret behind it.
“It explained so much: why sibling humans can differ in hair and eye color, for example, why brown-eyed parents can have a blue-eyed child, but not the other way around; it is the way individualism is preserved.”
Brother Gregor Mendel’s discovery was not put into consideration that he got depressed and did not want to know more about science. However, his discovery was not only crucial for plant pees, but for human characteristics as well. My siblings and I are always asked why don’t we look alike, it is a common question, and he brought out the answer. However, it was not taken into consideration. In our history, it is kind of common that we feel like some discoveries are not as important. Just like in the chapter they also said that the world was not ready to know what the DNA was like. Nevertheless, they could have known if they had listened. It just took them a bit more time to accept the discovery. Brother Mendel made a great discovery using pees that it is not only helpful for plants, but for us as well.
“Every long lost dream led me to where you are/Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars/Pointing me on my way into your loving arms/This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road/That led me straight to you”
-Rascal Flatts, “Broken Road”
“You make me thank god for every mistake I ever made,/Because each one led me down the path that brought me to you.”
-Pablo Neruda, “Just knowing”
While reading this Chapter, I thought of all of the events that had to occur exactly the way they did for life as we know it today to exist. For instance, Brother Gregor Mendell had to be born to peasant farmers to know about planting. If he had not known about gardening, he would not have invested time in manipulating the “genes” (as they were eventually known by thanks to his research) of pea plants. Without Mendell’s first experiments with hereditary, Watson would not have “become polarized toward finding out the secret of the gene.” (Weinberg, 35) And if Watson had not gone to the specific seminar in Naples were he heard Maurice Wilkins speak, he would not have become “suddenly…excited about chemistry.” (Weinberg, 35). Without Watson’s (and Crick’s) chemical, genetic, and biologic pursuits, DNA and all of its benefits would not be around in the same form today.
It’s fascinating all of the things that had to fall into just the right time and place in order to happen.
“Biotechnology firms raced to turn the results of pure research into applicable technology. By luring some of the best scientific brains with salaries that academia couldn’t hope to match, they too started to push back the frontiers of knowledge, driving the world of the universities, much as they had originally had been driven” (Johnson 40)
Is money the main motive for driving the frontiers of the scientific world? When thinking about the question, I decided to research how money and the desire to profit affects the healthcare world. According to Forbes magazine, healthcare costs in the United States might be so high because there is a huge desire for profit. Russell Andrews, a neurosurgeon interviewed by the magazine claims that “we have transformed healthcare in the U.S. into an industry whose goal is to be profitable.” Another situation described by Forbes magazine is the story of Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical entrepreneur who raised the price of a life-saving HIV drug by 5000% overnight. Though Shkreli claims that the profits his company will make off of this drug (due to its high price) will fuel even more HIV research, he has made it so thousands of people who need the drug are not able to afford it.
In Chapter 3, Weinberg brings up multiple examples of society rejecting scientific developments. Helena, Gregor Mendel, and Oscar Avery all encountered difficulty telling the world what they had discovered. Mendel was “revered and reviled”, with his discoveries polarizing the scientific community. Avery was misinterpreted, and thought that rather than evidence that DNA contains the material for human life it was merely a step in the process. Did Helena face the same stubborn community that silenced many of the great minds that came before her? In my memory, the world of the late 20th and early 21st century has accepted many scientific discoveries (like Hawking’s black hole theory) almost too easily. For example, recently evidence of gravitational waves was discovered by scientists at the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Every one I talked to accepted that evidence without question, and either were excited and supportive or indifferent. However, no one opposed that discovery or said “that can’t be!” It seems that, in our modern era, people are more accepting and supportive of scientific ideas. This could be for many reasons; Rapid information transfer in the Internet Era could be to blame, or the presence of science in the media. Maybe this could even be because the world has learned from the mistaken rejections of Mendel’s philosophy in the past, and has grown to be a better place because of it.
The human body is comprised of approximately 100 trillion cells, each less than 0.1 mm across
It is quite incredible to think about the amount of cell in our body and the specific uses of each cell. The human body is truly incredible, as each cell functions with the other in unison for humans to complete their daily or routine tasks. Cells also need the remedial tasks humans encounter everyday from eating to sleeping to even breathing. For example when someone eats, cells in particular take that food and convert it to energy for that person to run, jump, and exercise in general. Cells are also in the news as stem cell research has been deemed as controversial in the scientific community. Overall the human body is incredible and that is due to the countless cells in ones body allowing us humans to live.
In Chapter three of the book, it discusses how Brother Gregor Johann Mendel was the first person to crossbreed species to see how they would turn out. While breeding different types of peas, he discovered dominate genes and ultimately figured out how they worked, with peas at least. But, he never got credit for his ideas until after his death. But, what was the reason for that? Was the scientific community just not ready for that big a leap into the field of DNA and genes? Did it seem rather unimportant to scientists at the time? In 1909, over 20 years after his death, Mendel was finally recognized for his work and his field of study was named genetics. It’s actually quite sad that Mendel would never know how truly revolutionary his experiments would become in the scientific world today.
“most sexual assault victims choke up when they come to relive the experience in court”-(Weinberg)
Clearly, Helena went through one of the most traumatic experiences a person can experience; an experience that scarred her, and caused her to forget important details which could have been used to convict her assaulter. Recently, there has been studies that have been using MDMA, the famous party drug used by concert-goers everywhere. Believed to have no medical value at all, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, otherwise known as MAPS, has been using MDMA and other psychedelics to help treat PTSD in veterans, with a very effective success rate. Sanjay Gupta recently did a very interesting piece on these studies.
Because DNA is the basis for bio chemical engineering Chapter 3 reminded me of an article I saw a few weeks ago which talks about one of the latest bio chemical advancements. The article describes that “Scientists have for the first time reengineered a building block of a geometric nanocompartment that occurs naturally in bacteria.” This is the first step in having for example and creating an Advil producing cell. While this is still a long way away I thought it was cool that we are able to produce these kinds of cells. It could be helpful as well in curing diseases as we are able to replicate lost cells.
One part of forensic science that has always interested me the most is fingerprinting and fingerprint lifting. Fingerprints are so intriguing because no one’s fingerprints are the same. Fingerprints are kind of like our own little id cards, that can leave a trail of where we were and what we did. After reading Chapter 2 of Pointing From the Grave, I spent a lot of time thinking about how detectives lift fingerprints. We have seen this process in our favorite crime shows and movies, but most of us don’t know the specifics of how its done. Check out the article I have linked below. It talks about the materials needed and steps to fingerprinting. It’s pretty cool take a look!
Annie Brown’s daughter, Isabel, was a newborn baby when the doctor told her parents she was at a high risk for cystic fibrosis. Both mom and dad were grateful to be warned of her potential risk for disease, but then quickly began to question how the doctor even had that information about their daughter. The doctor informed them that all babies in the U.S are screened for genetic diseases. This obviously raises many ethical issues and whether or not is an invasion of privacy to test newborns without the parents knowledge. Personally, I would not mind having my child tested without my knowledge because the information is for medical research and purposes. However, a majority of people do not agree with the testing and therefore should be informed.
Sexual assault scars a person for life. Often times, it can greatly affect one’s mental health. In chapter two, we begin to see how Helena handled her assault. After the attack, she still went to work and carried out with her daily, normal activities. I personally found it confusing that she did not tell her parents about the attack immediately after it occurred. If you read the article attached, you see how it notes, “…many survivors don’t want to believe that something as horrible as rape could have happened to them, so they deny that it was rape.” The article goes on to explain how often times, women do not report rape due to fear of being ostracized by people whom they surround themselves with. I am curious to know why Helena did not report the assault to her parents (or coworkers). Was she afraid?
“Syca’s main production was a system, known as Emitt, used to detect the presence of drugs— both therapeutic and abused–in the blood.”-Weinberg (p.16)
This quote I lifted off from Point From the Grave because it gave me great interest to know the science behind drug tests. Upon initial research I found that there are many ways science is used for drug testing. These tests range from examining the blood, urine, hair, breath, and even saliva. The one I specifically focused on understanding was blood testing. Because this type of drug testing was mentioned in the Samantha Weinberg’s novel. What I found were some really cool scientific facts about how the blood gets examined for drugs. Of these facts I found that blood testing is used to detect if an individual is currently under the influence of an elicit drug. Meaning that the active forms of the drugs and not the by products are detected. It is known to be a very time consuming, and expensive process to perform. Blood testing also requires a trained professional to perform the procedure due to nature of the test. Because of this blood testings are not the first choice for many law enforcement offices when testing drug use. What law enforcement do instead of blood testing are urine tests. The reason why they do this is because urine testing is easy, efficient, and inexpensive.
In Where Good Ideas Come From we learned of the power of competition, especially when patenting was involved. To counter that idea, Johnson also discussed the necessity of team work and the fourth quadrant. In Pointing from the Grave, Helena discusses how competition got the better of her company.
“Syva had poured more money than it could afford into a new, automated drug-testing machine. If it worked, it would have dominated the field. But there were technical hitches and Abbott, Syva’s main competitor, got their product out first. It was a disaster for Syva- they were forced to lay off hundreds of staff and cancel future projects” (Weinberg 17)
It is interesting to see the theories come to life. It can only be a matter of days for a competitor to beat out its competition. I can see why patents can be essential because they can protect inventions and the employees who worked on a project.
She knew her future lay in science, and already she was turning her attention to DNA, the molecule that was reorienting the worlds of biology and chemistry, smashing preconceptions, and opening vistas that spread from pre-birth to eternal life. – Weinberg, page 14
Helena in the book already knew she wanted to be a scientist. She knew a lot about how biology and technology were the future in our society. It is pretty shocking how she had so much knowledge and when it could help her life to solve her case, she could not use it. It is kind of ironic how much effort she put to it her life studying it and then not being able to use in such an important event in her life. I guess that it would also be hard for her to study it later, knowing how she could have helped herself. Nevertheless, I cannot state that as a fact, but an assumption of how I would feel.
I started this journey with only the vaguest idea of what DNA is and does, and it is in large part thanks to Matt Ridley’s erudite and informative Genome that I made it out of the starting gates – page, vii
This quote really caught my attention because what DNA has enabled us to do is massive. We have solved many mysteries by understanding the DNA. Not only crimes, but it helped us solve health mysteries. It has given us an idea of what each face could look like and not only that, but how we could be like personality wise. Of course, one of the greatest things it has done is being able to solve mysteries. If it were not for that a lot of criminals would still be out in the loose and be a danger to society.
Jennifer Jomes studied the pictures for about a minute, then picked out the one numbered 5. “If i had to pick one, it would be this one,” she said, pointing to a photograph of Frediani…”This is spooky, he really looks like the guy.” Her roommate, Catherine Scott, again thought that photo 5 looked like the man from the nose area up, but she also said she couldn’t be positive. Her sister, Lyssa, wasn’t sure it was any of the men in the photographs. Roseanne Melia thought that number 5 was the closest. (Weinberg 26)
In every crime show on television there are photo id scenes or the classic suspect lineup. In this situation several women thought they could identify #5 as the rapist, but when asked if they were positive they could not confirm. So what do police do in a situation when they know the Frediani is most likely the culprit but lack proof? Perhaps this question is what lead scientists to search for another way to convict a suspect, DNA profiling. Because the memories from assaults can be blurred from trauma it is easy to understand how none of the women could be 100% sure that #5 was their rapist, maybe DNA will serve a purpose in this investigation and assist detectives in convicting Frediani.
Helena is very invested in her work, that was proven by her father’s, coworkers’, and employer’s accounts. She is a biotechnology specialist who has been aware of the DNA molecule and all of its glory for a long time. Her greatest accomplishment, at least with Syva, was creating a machine that took apart blood and urine samples to find what part of it was drugs and what part of it was DNA. (Weinberg, 16) Since she works so closely with it, she probably knows a good majority of its properties and what it can do for people.
Evidently, DNA evidence first made its way to the courtroom in 1986. Helena’s assault took place in 1984, long after she was an established biotechnician and doctor of her field. She was so educated in her field that she must have been aware of how to connect her assailant to his crime. Perhaps this is how she got the courage to go to the hospital for sexual examination right away, a trait that many victims don’t possess.
“All the attempted assaults occurred in the same complex: there was a good chance the man was local, and if so, it was only a matter of time before he struck again.
Chaput, however, was unaware of this series of attacks.” -Weinberg, pg 21
When I saw this, I was immediately reminded of the chapter of Johnson’s book that discussed hunches, specifically the narrative regarding the 9/11 hunches, how if those two ideas could have managed to connect before September 11th, maybe the attacks could have been prevented.
We don’t yet know if the assaults in the book are related, but if they are, surely the various cases could be solved much sooner if the police departments could work together, searching for a single suspect. It just goes to show how valuable liquid networks and the free exchange of ideas really are.
After reading Chapter 2 of Pointing from the Grave, I found it very interesting that Weinberg discussed Helena’s participation in the biotechnology industry in great detail. It is interesting that she works in this industry while also being a part of a court case in which their is a great value to the use of DNA. One idea that struck me was the fact that Weinberg stated,
“It was Kohne who had developed a revolutionary new method for diagnosing infectious diseases, using DNA probes instead of traditional cultures. . . She had been following the developments in DNA as they rolled through the scientific literature like a snowball on virgin snow, and she knew it was the way the biotech industry was heading” -Weinberg, p21.
After reading this sentence, I immediately related this new innovation of a DNA probe that is being used in the medical field to the ideas that Johnson suggested in his novel, Where Good Ideas Come From. Essentially, DNA is the building block that paves the way for many new innovations to arise. In this sense it could be understood that this DNA probe is an innovation that arose from the properties and prior uses of DNA – an exaptation. However, it can also be understood that this new probe is a platform that will allow other innovations that arise from it to reach the fourth quadrant. Just like Helena suggested that this is a new discovery snowballing and leading to others, the DNA probe can be a platform or stack in which a new innovation will come about. Overall, I thought it was interesting to see the complexity of DNA and the technologies associated with it that arise through platforms or exaptations.
When Helena mentions she wants to be the bridge or connection between those that work in suits, which is referencing those working in the law field with people that work in her science based field. I wondered if she meant she would want to use her knowledge in science to improve the way law works, or did she mean she wants to use the ideas used in the field of law to improve her knowledge in her job field. From this speculation I realize that many different ideas can contribute to both fields i.e DNA. Since this discovery, the world of forensics was discovered, I wonder if any more connections between the two can help revolutionize ideas used in either field.
As we all are flawed human beings who have a limited experience and perception, we cannot truly make anything that is not colored by our personal biases and beliefs. However, we can do a lot to temper our biases and try to provide both sides of a story. In writers of nonfiction and journalists, this quality is expected if not required. I feel that in Chapter 2 of Pointing from the Grave, Weinberg doesn’t do enough to provide an unbiased picture of the lives of Helena Greenwood and David Paul Frediani. She spends the first half of the chapter explaining the childhood and personality of Helena Greenwood. She includes anecdotes about Helena’s organizational quirks, her love life, and her early fears and motivations.
When Weinberg talks about Frediani, she adopts a much different tone. She is unfeeling, and every time she talks about Frediani or his girlfriend it seems she already has the assumption in her mind that he is guilty of the sexual assaults she previously mentioned, though she makes no attempt to tell us of her convictions. To me, this is like having a detective flick where one of the characters is very obviously the villain but none of the other characters notice it. Weinberg makes almost no effort to tell us about the life of Frediani, how he met his girlfriend (she spends one sentence on the relations between Frediani and his girlfriend while she spent almost two pages describing the relations of Helena and her husband Roger), or his profession. I have not read further into the text than this, so I do not know if he is guilty or not, but her bias seems to underlie every line and passionately push readers into believing that Frediani is guilty.
This article talked a lot about how to cope with rape and how everyone has a different way of dealing with it. Helena’s personality from the start was very reserved and she did not like to talk about her problems with anyone. She figured out her own way to deal with the incident that wasn’t too public.
I thought it was interesting how the lawyers made a big deal about what the race of the rapist was. They wanted Helena to be sure and narrow down what her thoughts on his race were, even though there is no way to correctly identify which race she could of been referring to. Especially because it was dark in the room when the even occurred.
This article was very interesting to me and is having the same discussion about how race ties in with DNA and vice versa. Hopefully DNA will help with the racial problems in our country by showing that everyone’s DNA is not so different.
“It was Kohne who had developed a revolutionary new method for diagnosing infectious diseases, using DNA probes instead of traditional cultures. Helena liked them, and needed little persuading to accept their offer. She was excited about the technology– she had been following the developments in DNA as they rolled through the scientific literature like a snowball on virgin snow, and she knew that it was the way the biotech industry was heading, with Gen-Probe leading the rush.” -Weinberg 21
Helena Greenwood lands this job heading up the marketing department of Gen-Probe because the co-founder of this biotech company had seen her at international markets “present papers to scientists and salesmen alike and was impressed” (Weinberg 21). In short, Helena got the job because she was so efficient at being a scientist and salesperson. In her description of Helena, Weinberg presents her as passionately interested in science, but also as wanting to improve the field of biotechnology itself, by reconciling the business and science aspects of it, and improving the efficiency of the relationship. This is what inspires her to get into the marketing side of biotechnology to begin with.
Helena’s ability and passion to bring the two aspects of the field together are very interesting to me. It reminds me of Steven Johnson’s observation that most “geniuses” were masters of many trades and had many interests and hobbies: guys like Einstein and Ben Franklin were not only scientists and statesmen but also musicians and hobbyists.
But this leads me to ask of Helena’s great success in life: was it due to her multiple interests? If Helena had never gotten into the business side of biotechnology, would she have continued to climb the ladder? Could she have continued to advance just staying in the research side of things? I think she could have continued researching and with unlimited possibilities simply due to her intellectual capacity. But I think the true genius and the fulfillment of her potential came from her passion to combine the two aspects. I think this is an interesting question to consider regardless, because there are so many “what ifs” that can be asked of great innovators and minds of the past few centuries. Were their ideas worth a lot because they could be exapted, or did the innovator exapt themselves and their skill set and passions to an ever changing world?
Just thought that this first chapter was interesting, as I took a class last semester where we watched a 60 minutes on how DNA evidence has been brought forward years after wrongfully convicting men of crimes they never did. Often victims trying to identify their attackers was useless because they were in so much stress and such an emotional state, they were never able to pick the right person.
“‘You would concede…that there are hundreds of thousands of males in California with Mr. Frediani’s height and build?'”-page 11
One greatly under-appreciated aspect of our modern society is the widespread use of DNA mapping that Weinberg talks about in the prologue. One can only imagine how many people were incarcerated because they looked like someone who committed a crime, or because the victim’s foggy memories convinced them that the persons accused of harming them must be the ones who actually performed the crime. Using appearances and the accounts of individuals is an extremely inaccurate and tough method of identifying guilty parties, and its difficulty is part of the reason law is such an acclaimed profession. DNA mapping is a great advancement of forensic science, and it can only lead to less people being unjustly jailed and accused of crime.
In the second chapter of Pointing From the Grave it talks about how settling in the Bay area was a simple choice for both Helena and her husband, based on their career paths. In most cases, is this really how people choose where they live? If you really think about it, would you be living where you are today if work wasn’t involved? My parents lived in Baltimore for a long time before eventually moving to New York because of my dad’s job. But, I also now live in one of the most expensive counties in the country, Westchester, New York. If it weren’t for my dad’s job wouldn’t my parents have wanted to live in a cheaper place, conserving money for the future? At the same time, it is my dad’s job that allows our family to live comfortably in such an expensive place. So I believe there is a huge correlation between your career and where you choose to live, regardless of if we associate the two when we make decisions.
“If we wanted to, we could predict our life expectancy before birth, our intellectual capacity, hair color, or even our ability to run a marathon.” (Weinberg xi)
Clearly, we have the technology to decipher our own complex DNA, but yet in most cases we don’t. Is this because we are afraid of what the results may hold? I feel like most people wouldn’t want to know what the future has in store for them. But, shouldn’t we at least have a say in the matter? Most people’s parents make that decision for them before they are even born. But after that, some people probably would want to know the breakdown of their genes and see what that actually means in terms of how it effects the course of their lives. Wouldn’t people want to know if they were more susceptible to some diseases and immune to others? This could potentially influence the way they live their lives both negatively and positively.
“She knew her future lay in science, and already she was turning her attention to DNA, the molecule that was reorienting the worlds of biology and chemistry, smashing preconceptions, and opening vistas that spread from pre-birth to eternal life” -Weinberg, p14
I found it extremely interesting that Helena devoted her life to studying DNA and that it seems at this point in Weinberg’s book, that DNA could be the missing link to solving her case. Helena’s work with DNA could potentially help the police find her attacker. What scientists have discovered about DNA, and all the different things that they can do with it in this day and age is an amazing biological advancement. At this point in the book, I wondered whether or not DNA will help solve this case, and also if Helena would be one of the people that discovered the link between DNA and her attacker. I am interested to keep reading to see if Helena figures out a method to find her attacker even before the police do. This insight on DNA’s link to criminology is new to me and allowed me to view these types of cases in a new light.
“She keeps looking, but she cannot even recognize the eyes, not in the whole face. But maybe she has seen him before?” – Weinberg, p5
This quote really stuck out to me and clearly showed me how science can make evidence so much more concrete. As soon as I read it I questioned how effective it can be for the court to lay such a heavy emphasis on the victims visual idea and memory of the physical appearance of his or her attacker. After reading some more of the book it is clear that DNA, one of the greatest biotechnological advancements, can solve a case in a much easier way. Therefore it seems to me that it would be foolish to rely solely on someone’s perception when science is much more effective. In other words, I think it is hard for a person who has been through a traumatic event to recall something that is so negatively engraved in their minds, especially if it was a long time ago. Science can lead a case such as Helena Greenwood’s to being solved much more concretely than perception can. The power of DNA has made a large impact on the outcome of such cases. Before I read this chapter I had never thought about how big of an impact DNA and science vs. a persons perception had on criminal investigations.
In a highly geared industry, one expensive mistake is enough to make you drown
This quote struck me for several reasons, however one remained the most important out of all of them. The field of science and biotech in particular is a business like any other. Yes the purpose is to save lives and find solutions for humanity. Yet, in the end it is a business like anything else therefore making a profit is vital in order to stay afloat. It made me wonder has the government here made any efforts to make life easier for biotech companies to perform without the cloud of money over their heads. In order for progress to be made in this industry there needs to be incentives for companies to perform without the pressure of making a profit.
We test our fetuses for susceptibility to genetic disorders, our corpses for cause of death; rare animals are screened for DNA compatibility before breeding, sheep cloned, organs transplanted, babies born to two mothers. If we wanted to, we could predict our life expectancy before birth, our intellectual capacity, hair color, even out ability to run a marathon.” (Weinberg xi)
With all the incredible inventions biotech has brought to this world only one remains the most influential; DNA. Most people would come up with countless innovations that they view are exponentially more important than DNA, however that is not the case. DNA is used almost in everything from murder trials to breeding, there is no other innovation that rivals DNA. It is quite incredible the many uses DNA provides and how it has impacted our lives as humans.
DNA can be a very helpful thing to police in trying to find the true suspect of a crime, but if there is nothing to go on, it can almost be impossible. Even with all the correlation with the attacks that occurred around the area of the community, there was not enough evidence to get a viable suspect. Detective Chaput was not even aware of the similar attacks when the Greenwood case came to him. What is interesting to me is that there seems to only be a criminal database of fingerprints, and that leads me to wonder why when Paul was arrested, why he was not fingerprinted. Going with what his former friends said about him, and the arrest and previous events, how could they not have enough to get even some DNA?
In the first chapter, during the hearing, the defense attorney asked Helena Greenwood ” did you render an opinion about the persons race?” and she said in here statement that the person who attacked her might be. “half-black” it feels very promient in this day and age of justice that the race cad might be used when the defendant is of a certain color. Mrs. Greenwood would then go on to say that more of the factor was that the individual was athletic but slim, and was tall, nothing happened due to the color of the suspect being presented. but it could have played into the account if the persons color did come to more of an account, and that the race card would have been used as a defense.
As this chapter talked about Helena’s work on a test to detect drugs such as cocaine, it reminded me of a lecture I attended this fall. The police department has now adopted dogs at birth to train them to detect drugs that are not visible or found by the police themselves. This new technique has been proven to be successful in busting meth labs, marijuana, cocaine etc. What this lecture discussed was a case where a man was tried for possession of cocaine. However, if I remember correctly, the police officer who called for the search was only based off of probable cause. The probable cause came from his canine identifying they smelt the drug. This questioned the validity of the canines smelling ability for detection. The defendants case was that the search warrant was not granted on proper terms and he was falsely charged. Even though the canine had correctly identified the large amount of drugs that man had in his home, he won the case and was freed from all charges based on there not being a standard for canines established in the system yet.
After this case happened, canines were now put into funded training programs that is made to train them into detecting these drugs. At the end of the training they have to pass a series of exams to qualify as a legitimate DEA canine. This put an end to any further court case like the man’s described above.
What was interesting about their training is that dogs are trained in both drugs and bomb detection. Because of this, when they smell a particular oder, they walk up to it and just sit to wait for a policeman. The reason for this is because if it wore a bomb and the dog started scratching at it, it could possibly go off. Cocaine doesn’t have a scent that can be smelt by someone when it is concealed but a dogs noise is so hyperactive that it can.
“By some measure, every important innovation is fundamentally a network affair” (Johnson, 221).
If monetary gains were not an issue for innovators, perhaps works of innovation could have reached further than the have. Since we lie in a physical and online network, anyone who has an idea and wants other people’s ideas would share with others who could give suggestions and put in factors that could make it better. But most of Us are worried about the profit and try to keep it for ourselves. In the conclusion of this book, Johnson talks about the four quadrants. How a product could be in am market of the individual and the network, and the Non-market for both of them. The main difference between the individual and the network is was something created within a web, the Alphabet was created by many individuals, so it would be a network non-market, because it has no value, where a market would be ball bearings. Individual comes into play when one individual was not able to use the network due to outside factors. but the market and non-market still play a factor. But to conclude all of this, even when something is individual or of a netork, it is from one amount of extreme to another, of the size of a web. just because you thought of somehing, does not mean that someone somewhere did not think of it either. we are all connected, all ideas are in a way connected, webs are simply where good ideas come from.
While reading Pointing from a Grave, I noticed how high up Helena was climbing in the biotechnology field. Women have mad great strides in the workforce in the last 60 or so years and Helena serves as a prime example of that if you are a passionate hard worker, your gender should not matter. Earlier in the book, it was mentioned that Helena’s male colleagues were almost waiting for her to slip up so they could have a position like hers, and in 1984 I’m sure there was more gender discrimination in the workforce than there is today. As I was curious, I did some research about how women fit into the biotech field today, and I found this article.
Generation Stem talks about how women are more than capable and more than interested in pursuing jobs dealing with science, technology, engineering, and math, but are outnumbered to men 3:1 in science and tech jobs. Underneath the article there are some blog posts, but why do you think women are not pursing these jobs as much as men? Is it that men care more about careers with a high paycheck? Or is it something else?
She keeps looking, but she cannot even recognize the eyes, not in the whole face. But maybe she has seen him before? Or is this just a trick of the brain, dating an instant memory like a tea-stained piece of parchment?- Weinberg (5).
The scene when Helena is asked if she has ever seen Frediani before in court was a powerful moment thus far in this book. The attacker mentioned in these cases has always had part of his face covered, and although the women were able to identify Frediani as having a similar build and eyes, it is spotty to pencil in Frediani as guilty based off eye-witness reports. I feel like this particular quote could provide an argument for how someone who has been through such a horrible experience could have an almost mental breakdown when trying to pick an assailant in court, or in a lineup. Im not trying to say that the testimonies of these women are flat-out wrong, as they know what they have seen, but why leave anything to an eyewitness or even a trick of the brain. DNA testing from the semen and sweat of the attacker would properly showcase the truth of who broke into Helena’s house that night.
“Multiple developments precipitate this shift, starting with Gutenberg’s press, which begins to have a material impact on secular research a century and a half after the first bible hits” pg. 228
The printing press is a remarkable invention which has greatly helped millions of people. During the 1400’s a very basic for of printing existed. Letters or images were cut out on blocks of wood, the wood would be dipped in inc and put on paper. A German man named Johann Gutenberg observed this and realized he could make printing bigger and better. He wanted to make a machine and instead of using wood he chose to use metal. Today the printers are electronic and take the forms of the words with ink and transfers it to the paper. The printing press has been a wonderful invention because people can have tangible books, magazines, newspapers etc.
Psychological studies done for the last few decades prove eye-witness testimony can be very inaccurate for a variety of reason. For starters, the longer the time waited before a trial, the less likely the victim is to accurately recall details of the event. The theory of false memory proves that over time we are exposed to many details and experiences that can alter our perception of what actually happened. Even line-ups are proved to be frighteningly inaccurate because when people go through a traumatic event actual memories can be blocked. Someone who appears to look like the attacker could be selected out of a line-up, when in fact the victim unknowingly chose the wrong person is likely to not even be present. Although the method is inaccurate, people are unsure of how to change the system.
“It wasn’t enough. With no physical evidence, Joe Farmer knew he was going to have problems persuading the DA’s office to prosecute Frediani for anything other than the indecent exposure.” (Weinberg 26).
How many cases get thrown out due to a lack of physical evidence? According to the Yorkshire Post, a newspaper based out of England, almost 2/3 of police rape investigations in Yorkshire in 2014 ended with no one being charged because of this lack of evidence. Often times, eyewitness testimonies in such traumatizing cases, like sexual assault cases, are unreliable and inconsistent due to high anxiety, stress, and paranoia. The best bet for a conviction relies on physical evidence, such as semen and pubic hair DNA sampling, but these are hard to find matches for. The victim must still have this DNA on his or her body, meaning that unlike Helena they mustn’t wash off after the assault. Does the failure rate of sexual assault cases influence victims and future victims? Are victims less likely to make a case out of their assault if they were to know this statistic?
“Eyewitness misidentification is the greatest contributing factor to wrongful convictions proven by DNA testing, playing a role in more than 70% of convictions overturned through DNA testing nationwide.”- The Innocence Project
Marvin Anderson is unfortunately one of many to wrongfully accused of committing a crime due to lack of DNA testing. On July 19, 1982, Anderson was questioned by police on a rape and was innocent so believed he had nothing to lose by answering. However, despite his alibi, Anderson was convicted of rape, abduction, sodomy and robbery, largely on the basis of this eyewitness misidentification, and was sentenced to 210 years. Finally after 15 years in prison, new DNA evidence proved his innocence and he was released. Had DNA testing been present, Anderson would not have lost an entire 15 years of his life. Even today there could be people in prison wrongfully accused due to a lack of technology.
“I said that I couldn’t positively identify the person” – (Weinberg 9)
Here, the victim of a sexual assault, during her testimony, states that other than the attacker’s dark hair and athletic build, she really couldn’t recall any specific details regarding his looks. She was unsure of who the man was and when a suspect was placed in front of her, even she questioned whether or not she had ever seen this man before. This led me to the question, is eyewitness testimony reliable? Despite a lack of confidence, the victim could agree that the man in front of her was the attacker simply because the police suspect he was. She was traumatized, anxious, and dependent on the detectives and her own desire just to punish someone for her pain could lead to a wrongful conviction.
In todays forensic based world, DNA lies of great importance in finding rapists, murders etc. In chapter one, the prosecution seems to be riding on the notion that Helena will be able to identify her attacker whenever she saw him. However, she can only give broad details about his appearance including his height, build and skin color. There are many men with similar builds, ultimately leaving Helena to pick out her attacker like a needle in a haystack. What I had thought about this is what if Helena had relied on the use of his DNA from when he ejaculated on her face and pillow, this case would have been non-existent because the evidence they would have gathered would have been factual.
“Scientists have long recognized the importance of the relationship between the coral and a microscopic algae called zooxanthella” pg. 201
In a coral reef system it is normal for symbiosis to occur. Symbiosis comes from the word “sym” which means together and “biosis” which means life. When symbiosis occurs two organisms get together and benefit from each other. Corals have a symbiotic life. Inside each coral polyp lives an algae called zooxanthella. The zooxanthella gives off oxygen and other nutrients for the coral polyp to live. In return, the polyp gives the zooxanthella carbon dioxide and other things that the algae needs. Coral reefs usually grow closer to the surface of the water. There the sunshine is closer for photosynthesis to occur.
Here is an interesting video featuring coral reef symbiosis : Video
In Chapter two Weinberg mentions that it takes a long time for evidence to be discovered and Helena’s case took a long time to make any progress and sometimes there was none at all. I was curious how many cases took a long time to solve and found that most cases are rarely solved like those in the above article or remain unsolved. This was surprising to me as most crime dramas have the protagonists solving a new case every week. While obviously television is far from reality it is surprising to learn that so many cases are left unsolved because of lack of evidence and become cold.
Millennials are people born between 1977 and 2000. They are a distinctive group of people because they are living in a booming technology era. Johnson defines millennials as the “digital age mode” (pg.172). The brain of a millennial works differently because it has been exposed to various amounts of technology. These amounts of technology are readily available at their fingertips. They are exposed to a large amount of information and are able to find that information fast. Millennials are great at multi tasking, group collaborations and brainstorming. Since millennials are always around fast efficient technology, they to seek to work fast yet efficiently. In addition, millennials are open to new ideas and do not limit their thinking. I think the greatest thing about being a millennial is that we have access to networking. For example my favorite network is LinkedIn, a social network which makes it easier for people to network for jobs.
“This is a story about a murder and a molecule. It is both the history of a science, overlaid with human drama, and a human tragedy inextricably entwined with science” (Weinberg xi)
In the opening of Pointing from the Grave, we are introduced to the world of DNA. We know it will play a large factor because of the large emphasis placed on its usefulness and its abilities. I am excited to see how the role of DNA plays into our every day lives, and ultimately, how DNA solves a murder.
In the conclusion of Where Good Ideas Come From, Johnson ties together his book of good ideas with introduction of the quadrant system. He explains the fourth quadrant, and the inventions that have succeeded from this category. In his explanation, he goes back to his discussion of slow hunches…
“A slow hunch can’t readily find its way to another hunch that might complete it if there’s a tariff to be paid every time it tries to make a new serendipitous connection” (Johnson 232)
This made me wonder about the amount of good ideas that have fallen short because of patents and the economic endeavours of fellow scientists. I wondered if the fourth quadrant could start to wither in the future, for the exchange of fame.
In Chapter 1 of Pointing From the Grave the only thing I kept thinking to myself was why didn’t they test the semen stains on Helena’s pillowcase. I am sure the technology now is a lot more useful and developed than the technology during the time of Helena’s assault, but it still would have been more concrete evidence than a simple description of the intruder’s looks. This wonder led me to look up how Semen tests are conducted, and what they tell us about the person who left them. Check out this site I found. It talks about the different types of test that can be run on semen samples, and about the biological information that semen imparts on us. The link is below!
“Do you render an opinion of the assailant’s race?” “Yes or no?” “I said that I can’t positively identify the person.” -Weinberg (9)
The inability to positively identify an attacker could be due to stress Helena was going through. Negative bias against people of certain races (white, brown, black) can also contribute towards memory. This vulnerability can brings the chance for witnesses to add that elaborations stemming on their bias. A study made to research this vulnerability in human memory was conducted by Barbara Tversky and Elizabeth Marsh. They discovered participants would make error in retelling experiences. The experiences were categorized as socially cool, neutral and annoying. Participants made minimal errors in retelling the stories that were delivered from a neutral standpoint. But from the socially cool and annoying experiences, participants made many more errors and added characteristics attributed to the bias in their retelling.
Johnson asks why many good ideas flourished in the fourth quadrant, despite the lack of economic incentive. Innovations driven by economic gain usually include an expiration date. They are designed to solve a problem or make life easier in some way, but they do not always last the test of time. The typewriter was a novel innovation until computers and keyboards took over. Typewriters now lack any real monetary value, while the discovery of cell division is still relevant.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was invented in 1985 by Kary B. Mullius. This process was developed the same year that Helena Greenwood’s court case. PCR was a revolutionary discovery for the study of DNA because what it does in a nutshell, is make a ton of DNA from any time tiny bit of DNA. It basically duplicates the strands of DNA to make more and more of it so that its a substantial amount of DNA to do an analysis with. Before this, if DNA samples were taking from a crime scene, if there wasn’t a substantial amount, than only a few test would most likely be able to be done. PCR now allows for an unlimited amount of retesting because more DNA sample can be made. This process is truly amazing!
As amazing as this process is, it actually takes quite some effort. The Molecular Genetics course has a lab portion that does a lot of PCR. It is a series of heating, centrifuging, cooling, adding enzymes, etc. Heat is used to break apart the strands of DNA to than have an enzyme called DNA polymerase travel along each strand making a complimentary strand. This process continues exponentially within the tiny test tube producing a subtle sample for testing.
Testing than is done on an electrophoresis gel, that will show whether a person is a match to the DNA or not. The picture shown above is an example of a gel.
“The problem with these closed environments is that they inhibit serendipity and reduce the overall network of minds that can potentially engage with a problem.” (124)
I have never understood why people, scientists, corporations, could be so caught in the prospect of making a profit that they forget that they should be inventing because it betters society. Besides a small percent of innovations, everything we have today is a product of building upon others achievements, improving and perfecting them; patents and intellectual property rights are in place to protect the inventor but at what cost? R & D departments are the most secretive parts of corporation but they also are the ones on the cutting edge of science, science that, if shared with other R & D departments, could not only be perfected faster but also help a lot of people in the process.
“these non-market, decentralized environments do not have immense paydays to motivate their participants. But their openness creates other, power opportunities for good ideas to flourish. All of the patterns of innovation we have observed in the previous chapters—liquid networks, slow hunches, serendipity, noise, exaptation, emergent platforms— do best in open environments where ideas flow in unregulated channels.”
To me, the fourth quadrant represents the best of humanity, selflessly and persistently working with your fellow man towards a common goal, not for financial rewards but for the simple reason of moving forward into the great unknown as one; to be better than we have been, to be smarter. to be wiser. We see everyday in news about stories of seperation and conflict over our petty differences, but its the innovations in the fourth quadrant that reflect the best qualities of humans. It is reassuring to see that over the centuries we have seen an increase in the fourth quadrant because it gives me hope that one day our children won’t have to live in a world of hate and fear, this “coming together” quality of the fourth quadrant need not just refer to technology but in every aspect of human society. One of the most sobering, yet inspiring speeches ever given, that encompasses the fourth quadrant is Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.
“There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”- Carl Sagan
The invention of the Snuggie was strange in the fact that its just a blanket with arms. Who would of thought that this simple adjustment to a blanket sold like hot cakes. It was a basic design that came in different sizes and colors. Most everyone knows the struggle of being comfortable on the couch and trying to do work as well, but the fact that someone stitched arm holes into fabric made this simplistic idea be worth millions.
The idea of a free market like the one exhibited here in the United States, makes what seem to be silly innovations, be worth a ton of money. I think that in order to become a successful product it has to connect to each gender, race, age etc. Some products are geared towards one of these aspects, limiting its marketability and ultimately its success in business. Something like the Snuggie, interest anyone who enjoys relaxing on the couch watching movies. This innovation may fit in the quadrant that was made by an individual for the market.
“APL was a superb environment for inquisitive young kids, and particularly so in the Research Center. It was an environment that encouraged people to think broadly and generally about task problems, and one in which inquisitive kids felt free to follow their curiosity.” (187)
The Advanced Physics Lab is world famous for its innovation, and in its making the impossible, possible. What caught my eye in this particular passage was the fact that Johnson made sure to say that these scientists, were “inquisitive young kids”, I think the importance of these scientists being just kids is crucial to the success of the APL. Young minds ask more broad questions because they haven’t been conditioned by the older members of society to think and act a certain way, they (we) let our minds wander and wonder about the impossible because our species has proven time and time again that the impossible is most certainly possible, as long as you have the new generations asking the questions. The day we truly let our kids, and I mean kids, not young adult scientists, question everything and not chastise them for not being realistic or possible, is the day we raise the smartest and most innovative generation the world has ever seen.
As someone who has never really read or enjoyed mysteries in general, I was surprised that I am anticipating reading on in this story. I think that Weinberg does an outstanding job at intertwining science and mystery and real life. She is also an eloquent writer to begin with, and this adds to the enjoyment of reading the text.
But the way the whole trial happened that Weinberg presented raised a few questions in my mind. Firstly, I was confused why Greenwood’s case was not put before a judge until a year after the incident. This seems confusing to me especially because the first thing she did after the attack was report it to the police. This issue may be something we find out the answer to as we read on though.
The was the DA talked to Greenwood was also interesting. When he asked her how she described the race of her attacker, it seemed as if he was almost trying to put words in her mouth at one point, but she also seemed to be guarding her words or avoiding the direct question a little bit. I think that the DA was trying to protect his client, but I also do not think that Weinberg was racist herself.
After reading Chapter 1 of Pointing From the Grave, I found it very interesting and relatable to various other science courses I took. In the prologue it mentioned how DNA was first discovered and used to understand the sequencing of the genome and related to genetic makeup of humans. In my Genetics, Synthetic Biology, and Cancer Biology courses we discussed the ways in which DNA was analyzed based on RFLP (Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism Technique) analysis which allowed researchers to understand the matches in the breaks in DNA. This is described in the link below in which this techniques uses restriction enzymes to see the cuts in DNA and match the fragments to those of other pieces of DNA. It was interesting to see how DNA, the basic building block for genes, is able to be used in such a way that includes intense analysis of sequences to match the sequences of interest in a case like the one described in this chapter. If foreign DNA was detected in Helena’s saliva samples, from the bodily fluids of the assailant, it will be interesting to see how RFLP could be used to match the DNA to that of the assailant.
I am enjoying “Pointing from the Grave” thus far. Murder books and shows have always intrigued me. After reading the first chapter, I was impressed with the way it was written. Weinberg makes the story increasingly interesting by altering the chapter from present scenario to flashback. Readers are able to better understand what exactly happened the day of the incident as well as get an inside look at what is now going on inside of the courtroom. This chapter provides readers with the beginnings of the background information of the case. I am excited and curious to know how it is going to build up.
“Apple’s approach, by contrast, is much messier and more chaotic at the beginning, but it avoids this chronic problem of good ideas being hollowed out as they progress through the development chain.” (171)
I found Apple’s chaotic approach to innovation very interesting because people were encouraged to think outside the box, and those ideas were embraced. However, I thought that there could be a side effect of this process, that being could the openness of Apple’s system also side track some of their employees? As in, I feel as though many of their employees could get side tracked with ideas that are simply not feasible at the time, not because their ideas impossible, but they include technology that doesn’t exist yet. Apple has been slowly but surely making their phones thinner and thinner, however, an employee who designs a paper thin phone, as genius and innovative as it is, while not be able to make that dream possible because no technology exists to make it real. Being Apple, they could invest billions into the R &D of said paper thin phone, but they still have other projects that need that money too, making this employee’s design, that may have taken him hundreds of hours, unable to be made.
Based on a quote from Helena Greenwood in Chapter One I wanted to look into how reliable human memory is. In doing so I found a TED talk by Elizabeth Loftus who is an American cognitive psychologist who specializes in human memories. In particular she is studying how effected human memories are by other people. In the talk she notes how malleable memories are by anyone asking questions to a witness whether they intend to or not. With this in mind I was left wondering whether or not witness testimony should be considered at all because in the talk she provides a lot of evidence on how drastically the brain can alter memories.
According to the innocence project more then 25% of suspects are proven to be innocent once DNA results are returned to police. Since the discovery of how to use DNA to identify a certain person 337 people have been exonerated from crimes they did not commit. Clearly the use of DNA in forensic science is a crucial development in our justice system and assists prosecutors in convicting the right criminal. In the case of Helena Greenwood DNA would have been an easy way to discover if Mr. Frediani was in fact her rapist or if he had been wrongly accused. The evolution of science can be applied to our justice system and help us improve the decisions that come from it.
I thought it was interesting that both the prologue and the first chapter begin in a courtroom, the first appearing to be a trial regarding Helena’s murder, and the latter being the trial for her assault. Although this is a true story, Weinberg can still choose how she wants to organize it, and I like her choice to open with a piece of the story that I’m sure comes at the very end to draw her readers in before flashing back to the very beginning. It makes me wonder if the rest of the case will be presented in strict chronological order, or if there’ll be more jumps to and from the present.
Going into “Pointing From The Grave”, I was expecting murder. That I was fine with. I did not expect rather graphic sexual assault. I was very shock, and frankly disgusted. It made me rather uncomfortable to read. For this same reason I don’t watch “Law and Order: SVU” and shy away from movies like “Boys Don’t Cry”.
The information following the assault though, such as the sexual examination, I tried to understand in a technical, intellectual sense. From watching crime shows like “CSI” (which isn’t usually as gory as “Law and Order: SVU”) I understood why it was so important that she receive that examination so quickly. Sperm especially has a short life span when it exists outside of the body. So collecting that DNA needed to be done as soon as physically possible.
The issue, most of the time, is how emotionally ready a victim is for such an examination. Greenwood described it herself as a “reprise of the indignity” (Weinberg, 7)
After reading Johnson’s chapter about Quadrants, I decided to look into the idea of Quadrants a little bit more. I looked up “quadrants of innovation” on google, and after checking a few different links I stumbled upon a New York Times article that was written by Steven Johnson. The link is below.
In the article Johnson talks about how he “analyzed 300 of the most influential innovations in science, commerce and technology — from the discovery of vacuums to the vacuum tube to the vacuum cleaner — and put the innovators of each breakthrough into one of four quadrants”. He connects his science research to communism and capitalism. It’s actually pretty interesting. Check it out!
The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, invent. Build a tangled bank.” -Johnson, pg. 246
I think this is a really effective way to end the book. By offering all of these simple suggestions, Johnson goes through a quick summary of all the ideas he discussed: hunches, serendipity, errors, liquid networks, the strength of weak ties. But he’s also encouraging his readers to cultivate good ideas of their own. And maybe we won’t pioneer new platforms that spark a change in the lives of millions of people, or create an invention that changes the world. But as we’ve seen throughout the book, good ideas can come from and can be found anywhere; they’re not limited to any particular field. We can use this advice to help us come up with the topic for our next essay in our writing class, or maybe we can use it to become better problem-solvers, putting pieces together to see the big picture. Maybe we can apply this knowledge in our chemistry or biology labs, and it comes time to make a hypothesis regarding the experiment we’re about to do. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what we do with what we’ve learned from Johnson’s book, because he’s shown us a wide enough variety of innovations from all over the world and from throughout history for us to know that this knowledge can be applicable anywhere.
“Solo, amateur innovation (quadrant three) surrenders much of its lead to the rising power of networks and commerce (quadrant four).”- Johnson (p.228)
After reading Johnson’s chapter on quadrants. I was interested in finding understanding why amateur innovations would surrendered it lead to the big power of networks and commerce. Upon surfing the web I stumbled across a cool article explaining about a new innovation that will be revolutionary for trauma medicine. The invention that would lead to save many is called VetiGel.
It is a gel used as a clotting factor in animals (and in the near future humans) in extreme blood trauma situations. It can stop bleeding as fast as 12 seconds! The creator of VetiGel, Joe Landolina, created the product when he was 17. Joe is an amateur innovator interested in the pursuit for the advancement of biomedical science and technology. After further reading a dew more articles I found that one of the main reasons why Joe decided to commercialize the product was not only to set himself financially but to also for the benefit of society. By designing this product Joe also gained national and worldwide recognition and opened many doors of opportunityto continue further research.
Johnson notes how Carrier’s story “is the archetypal myth of modern innovation” (Johnson, 216). He was able to come up with his invention without the use of a liquid network, coffeehouse exaptations, or error. Similarly, just today, scientists discovered a way to detect gravitational waves. This is the first time anyone has been able to track these waves. Hundreds of years ago, Albert Einstein proposed the idea that these waves exist, but as of today, this is the first time there is proof and data to back up his claims. Just like Carrier, the scientists who made this revolutionary discovery had very minimal, if nothing, to help contribute to the discovery. Both Carrier’s discovery and today’s discovery seem to be the exceptions to Johnson’s’ steps as to where good ideas come from. Article about this discovery: http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/2/11/10966366/ligo-gravitational-waves-einstein
After reading the last chapter of Johnson’s Where Good Ideas come from it became more clear to me how the process of implementing an innovation is played out. Putting this process into four quadrants I feel helps others understand the time and commitment that must go into fully implementing a hunch or idea. What this made me wonder was in order to reach the forth quadrant when talking about a hunch or innovation, the innovator must have had many reoccurring instances of failure, if these failures for a certain hunch were used in the four quadrant process for another hunch I feel it is more than likely that the process for implementing this hunch would be a lot faster and more efficient. This is relative to the ideas seen in Chapter 3 of Johnson’s book.
“It is in the nature of good ideas to stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before them, which means that by some measure, every important innovation is fundamentally a network affair.” p.221
This was the most interesting quote to me in the conclusion because it really made me think about if we really do need to base our ideas on a great thinker before us. Does this make us not as intelligent? Are generations to come destined to not be as intelligent as the ones who came before? I hope that we use previous knowledge to make ourselves and our generation even greater than the last with technological and medical advancements that will help us live up to our full potential.
This article was very interesting and talked about modern day platforms and the advantages that this business model provided. It also says that this will create the most value in a business and help it to grow.
After reading the chapter, The Fourth Quadrant, I thought it was very interesting that Johnson displayed the sort of evolution of innovations through a four quadrant system. After reading, it made me understand the relationship between platforms and stacks and the development of innovations from one another. Essentially, over periods of time, those stacks open the doors for new innovations to occur and reach the fourth quadrant. Johnson touches upon this ideas when describing the type of environment in which innovations occur. Johnson states,
“Because innovation is subject to historical changes – many of which are themselves the result of influential innovations in the transmission of information – the four quadrants display distinct shapes at different historical periods” (p 226).
Essentially, what Johnson is saying is that to reach the fourth quadrant innovations come from the building of ideas on innovations that were already presented as the stage for further development. This clearly relates to platforms and ideas that were previously presented that allowed innovations to develop over time. This suggests that innovations reach the fourth quadrant from an environment in which ideas are constantly developing.
This idea also correlates to evolution and things I have learned in my Evolution course. Essentially, evolution is change over time, but over time new ideas or traits come about from things presented prior. This relates back to coral reefs in which Johnson talked extensively about again in this last chapter. Over an historical time period, new developments came about from observing the coral reefs.
This article from noaa states that indeed, thousands of species live on coral reefs in oceans across the world. The creatures exist on coral that is thousands of years old, even older then colonization and humans in North America at all. These corals today, and all fish and other creatures that make reefs their home, are standing on the shoulders of giants. This idea of the liquid network concludes in Johnson’s final chapter. Do humans have any responsibility for maintaining the coral? Do we have any responsibility in maintaining the shoulders we stand on in our own networks? If those shoulders crumble then we too will fall with them, so yes we do have a responsibility.
This was an interesting word to learn for me because I had never heard of it before. When I looked up the definition it was defined as “a term used in evolutionary biology to describe a trait that has been co-opted for a use other than the one for which natural selection has built it” (Google Dictionary). I was curious to see the evolution of the archaeopteryx that was talked about in the chapter so I also looked up a picture to see how it had changed.
“The fourth quadrant should be a reminder that more than one formula for innovation.”- Johnson 236
I believe that this is the main message of Johnson’s book. Clearly, he has defined methods through which innovation has developed in many different aspects of science and nature. However, Johnson never comes out and says “This is how you innovate. This method is the way that you can become a great inventor and make amazing innovations. This is mostly because a method like this doesn’t exist. Johnson does a great job showing us this, as well as showing us specific factors that influence the process of idea making. He chooses to not try to define the Eureka! moments so that we can use his advice to go out and think freely rather than try to follow some formula he claims facilitate idea-making.
Internet platforms have a great potential for the sharing of ideas and concepts. Johnson mentions Twitter in his chapter about platforms, but there are so many other areas where idea sharing can occur. The great thing about the Internet is that you don’t have to live in a specific area in order to access complex and vastly different communities, like you have to with cities. One has access to troves of information, and if you can find the right websites and forums one can expand their adjacent possible almost infinitely. In addition, the availability of blogs allows people to publish their discoveries much quicker than they would before the advent of the Web. However, this has drawbacks. For example, internet posters depend on the will of seemingly random public opinion to “go viral”, or receive recognition. Regardless, the Internet is a budding new platform that is already leading to innovation and will clearly lead to more in the future.
“Ideas, Jefferson argues, have an almost gravitational attraction toward the fourth quadrant. The natural state of ideas is flow and spill over and connection. It is society that keeps them in chains.” Johnson 241
Ideas in the fourth quadrants are “networked,” meaning that they evolved through collective, distributed processes, and involve a large amount of people. Johnson states that it is society that is holding the flow of non-marketed ideas in the fourth quadrant back, specifically in the form of patents. Are there inventions that could be improved upon or are there instances of exaptation that are being restricted because of patents? After reading this and forming these questions in my mind, I did some more research and found that several collegiate professors at MIT had actually published a study about this. They found that once someone patents his or her research, others tend to drop their research in the same area, thus stopping innovation.
Something starting out of virtually nothing, this is what this section of Johnsons book talks about. How something can be the platform for a web to eventually grow out of it. How coral polyps can eventually make an atol, how a beaver dam can create an ecosystem with many new animals coming into it, or how a talk at lunch can eventually lead to GPS. I think this is not only very interesting, but can also be also applied at every level, you could say that the platform of gold got people to go out west and the eventually settlement community of the western united states. or the platform of youtube leading to the almost dominance of internet cable.
Fourth-quadrant innovation has been assisted by another crucial development: increased flow of information
We live in an incredible day and age with the most advanced technology man kind has ever seen. Sometimes its hard to notice the incredible amount of information we have at our finger tips. The ability to search something up like quantum mechanics and have a basic understanding of it instantly from a google search is phenomenal. However, one must understand the downfall of all this information. The amount of information we have could also act as a bad thing as we do not thoroughly learn about a subject. Instead we get a basic summary about it and carry on with our lives. Therefore us humans must tread the line of this information surplus we have and use it properly and efficiently.
“Most academic research today is fourth quadrant in its approach: new ideas are published with the deliberate goal of allowing other participants to refine and build upon them, with no restrictions on their circulation beyond proper acknowledgment of their origin.” -Johnson (233)
The fourth quadrant, arguably, can be seen as innovative for all the right or all the wrong reasons. Are the financial incentives the cause of this sudden scientific revolution? Or has the advancement of society just allowed more doors to open and ideas to flourish? These quadrants all tell a story about who, what, why, and when. But all we see are the inventions that came from them. How can we subjugate all that history and work into a single quadrant? We shouldn’t, but we do. And even though we shouldn’t, the quadrants have spoken to us and proved that the method in quadrant 4 is the most effective. We should never impose a certain way of approaching things when it comes to innovation and creative process, but the quadrants don’t lie.
At the very end of the book, Johnson says that we cannot turn our governments into coral reefs, but we can create comparable environments on the scale of everyday life. In my opinion the government is a reflection of the general population, so if people are able to create “coral reefs” in everyday life, then wouldn’t the government ultimately take that form as well? Or is there a reason why we don’t want the government to take the form of a “coral reef?” Would it function better if it was continuously trying to innovate? Or should it be focusing more on creating a stable structure for it’s constantly innovating society?
“In Darwin’s language, the open connections of the tangled bank have been just as generative as the war of nature. Stephen Jay Gould makes this point powerfully in the allegory of his sandal collection: ‘The wedge of competition has been, ever since Darwin, the canonical argument for progress in normal times.’ he writes. ‘But I will claim that the wheel of quirky and unpredictable functional shift (the tire-to-sandals-principle) is the major source of what we call progress at all scales” -Johnson 239
I really agree here with Gould’s second point, that the tire-to-sandals-principle is “true” progress. I think that the most innovative and useful for moving human life forward are the principles that rely on what we have in excess or even whatever we have just lying around. Johnson illustrated this with the incubators which were made out of car parts in poorer countries where car parts were all over and easily accessible. Not only was this an efficient way of building new beneficial technology, but it ensured that it would be fixable and reliable when the time came.
Personally, I think that humans have a much greater potential for innovations such as these (sandals made from tires or the incubators made from car parts). I think that the former point made by Gould is the reason why these innovations are not made more often (or we are not made aware of them). I think part of our capitalist society is the motivation to get ahead, and so innovators, even from the fourth quadrant, tend to be focused on advancing this country, and not focused on benefiting poorer nations and people. This is obviously not necessarily always the case, as there are tons of inventions from and in developed countries that have and can help out poorer nations. But I think the focus is usually on making a prosperous country more prosperous, and finding more efficient ways to do this. I think with a cooperative effort from many prosperous nations and the creative minds within, by creating networks that are much more international and internationally accessible, we can greatly expand the “wheel of quirky and unpredictable functional shift [that] we call progress at all scales”.
The idea of platforms is ultimately formed off the notion that ideas can always build off one another in order to improve innovation all together. When thinking about this idea I come to realize that if this idea is such a success renovator then why do governments suggest the use of patents? Patents are basically the complete opposite of the idea of platforms. In my eyes I see less problems and controversy arising from the use of patents. Due to the uncertainty of creation that would arise from platforms I do see cons in this theory. Although it may help innovators come up with ideas in a much more smooth and speedy way it will eventually cause ownership problems.
In the final chapter, Johnson writes about why the “fourth quadrant” has seen great success in innovation. Throughout the book so far we have looked at the importance of working environments, also the crediting of ideas, or patents. In class we have discussed who should get credit for certain ideas that have been built upon, but in this chapter Johnson shows a clear connection to the open flow of ideas and their relative success. Johnson writes about the restrictions on private-sector firms, how they try to protect and profit off old ideas thus hindering innovation. While those in the fourth quadrant are able to come up with new ideas because they do not focus on the potential profits. In the closing chapter, Johnson collects the ideas he wrote about throughout the book and applies them to the big picture. This forces me to question the ideals behind private firms. The world has become filled with greed, so much so, that companies have lost sight of the fourth quadrant. Ideas should be “challenged, enlarged, exapted, and recycled in countless ways” (Johnson 234) and this will spur new innovations. So why have economic incentives casted a shadow over the fourth quadrant way of thinking? Johnson has clearly shown that the open flow of ideas and information leads to innovation, yet today people are so focused on finding a way to profit off what already exists. If the world was less greedy, outlandish as that may be, imagine what we would be able to accomplish.
“State-run economies were fundamentally hierarchies, not networks.”
In the beginning of the book we learned that networks come to be when things work together. At the end of this chapter, we learn how ideas can become something bigger and can change the way we live. However, in economies where the government leaves no space for people to make their decisions, and so there is no space for growth and for the adjacent possible. The government chooses what can be seen and what cannot be seen. However, in a market there is competition and people can discover new things by themselves. In my opinion its better when there is a market.
“The purpose of these laws is to give an incentive for people to develop creative works that benefit society, by ensuring they can profit from their works without fear of misappropriation by others.” Source- IP Law Article
Near the end of the final chapter Johnson mentions IP laws which allow for the protection of an intangible thing, an idea. I was really curious how the law actually has that work so I googled IP laws and found a quote which I thought was really interesting. The article I found claims that IP Laws were made to create an incentive for people to create ideas because it allows for monetary gain. I thought it was very interesting because I think that if this book is right IP laws would hinder innovation. I just thought it was an interesting question to pose.
“We may very well decide as a society that people simply deserve to profit from their good ideas, and so we have to introduce a little artificial scarcity to ensure those rewards” – Johnson, p242
This quote struck me because I was wondering about patents and whether or not they impede on the free flow of ideas. In this passage, Johnson sheds some light on the idea that has been in my head since we started reading this book; Should we do away with patents in order to promote more collaborative and connected environments? Johnson suggests that we do need some form of patent laws so that the inventors can be compensated and rewarded for their hard work. I agree with this because if there was no reward for a groundbreaking invention, I fear that people would stop trying to create great innovations. Maybe, someday the patent laws can become more lenient in a way that the inventor will still get the credit, but other people can use that idea, add to it and improve it, or exapt it to use in a different context. By doing so, we can combine some artificial scarcity with liquid networks that promote serendipity, exaptations and platforms.
Although somewhat of a complex concept, inventions since the beginning of time have spurred off the idea of another individual. I do not believe anyone can say they have had a 100% original idea that did not require a part or concept from another persons work. For example, even Thomas Edison and the inventions of electricity and the light bulb was not solely his own. The parts and pieces used to construct the lightbulb was the work of someone else. I modern times, social media would not be possible without the computer, internet, etc. By no means are collaboration, liquid networks and open platforms negative terms. Rather, it proves humans rely on interaction and the mines of each other to fully explore the adjacent impossible.
“Distant reading takes the satellite view of the literary landscape, looking for larger patterns in the history of the stories we tell each other,” -Johnson (224).
Just a couple weeks ago in my English class I was taught about the concept of close reading and how it allows us to, word by word, draw deeper meanings from a text. Johnson talks about how Franco Moretti used “distant reading” to track the genres of a bunch of books over the course of a century and a half. He argues how distant reading allows us to look at the bigger picture and, more specifically, what that means in terms to the innovation of literary genres. I would argue, however, that close reading can be just as important as distant reading when one is trying to see a bigger picture in a way like this. I believe these two types of reading should go hand in hand when trying to discern the overall genre or theme from a literary work. Sure distant reading can allow one to see the bigger picture, but does it allow one to see all of it? Close reading very carefully can reveal little things about characters in a text that can greatly shape different themes throughout the text. Recognizing seemingly hidden themes in a work can allow one to better piece together the overall genre and themes.
“But if you want to wrestle with the question one link farther up the chain–how do good ideas tend to come about– you need to take on the problem from a different angle. There’s a place for counting barnacles. But sometimes you need to zoom out and take the longer view.” (Johnson, 222)
The way that Johnson describes observing the formation of ideas reminded me of the graphics concept of perception. Pictured below are the Gestalt Six Modes of Grouping. Each mode displays a different method of perceiving an image. For example, the human brain processes the first mode, proximity, as a large group of sixteen circles, instead of individual circles that just happen to be near each other. Their proximity determines how we perceive them.
The mode that comes closest to what Johnson means is continuity. Just as Johnson encourages readers to step back from the individual works and see the system as a whole, the human brain processes the image underneath “continuity” as a cross instead of four lines intersecting. In reality, we subconsciously use Johnson’s advice every day. Perception makes all the difference.
I have been fortunate enough to know personally some amazing orthopedic surgeons. My mother has always worked in the medical field in close contact with these professionals. Ever since I was young, I had always been interested in the medical field and when I was 16 I thought I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. A close family friend took me into his operating room at 16 years old to watch a total hip and bilateral knee replacement. I was offered an opportunity that most medical students haven’t even experienced yet. During the surgery, Dr. Porth handed me a glob of white material that reminded me of play-doh. He told me to make a mushroom out of the dough and I was confused as to what it was. After about 20 minutes the material had hardened completely. What he gave me was bone cement that he was using to hold together the metal implants in the surgery. I later had put my name on it and the date to remember the moment.
When reading this chapter on platforms, I found it interesting that scientist mimicked the corals growth mechanisms to create this cement for repairing fractures. Now this cement is used world wide as a tool for holding the implants together so they wont separate. What is also amazing is that the body doesn’t usually reject it. However, its usually only found on the inside between two implants, not on the outside of them. Before reading this chapter I had no idea where the idea for such an innovative tool came from. Coral reefs have a huge effect on the ecosystem underwater but I would of never thought to use their mechanism to come up with a surgical tool.
“Platform building is, by definition, a kind of exercise in emergent behavior” (Johnson, p182).
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of platform innovations is Google. Google began as an idea for a search engine back at Stanford University. Two college students were looking for a way to bring endless amounts of information to people using an online search engine, so Google “emerged”. The Google search engine was the base foundation, or “platform” that set the ground for the large amounts of information that one can find today online. In fact Google even led to more search engines. As people saw that the innovation of Google was successful they wanted to gain some of the glory. So, they adapted the idea of Google and turned it into new search engines.
Johnson has made social media a very prominent theme throughout each chapter of “Where Good Ideas Come From. In the chapter, Platforms, he shows how different social outlets can be used as a source of information. The internet can help us share information, and help us find answers quickly, and with less effort than 30 years ago.
“Stacked platforms are like that: you think you’re fighting the Cold War, and it turns out you’re actually helping people figure out where to have lunch” (Johnson 210)
This ties back into exaptation, and using information/inventions in ways that it was not originally intended create to perform to do. With the information we have available to us on the internet, we are able to mold information into the answers we need.
The platform for the GPS system that is commonly found in cars nowadays and most definitely on everyones cellphone was set up over fifty years ago. It all started with the use of satellites to track the Sputnik in outer space, but Guier and Weiffenbach probably never imagined what would result from it. This development of satellites for GPS purposes and even other types of timing and tracking is a great example of exaptation. The general idea for the satellite was to serve one purpose, but its uses now reach in many different fields. It is used for the times on your phone, geotagging pictures on social media, and even certain apps that children play with on computers or phones.
“Third, a long tradition exists of citizens committing time and intellectual energy to tackling problems where there is a perceived civic good at stake” (Johnson, 196).
When I read this line I immediately tied to back to Twitter. Just last semester, I studied citizen journalism in my Introduction to Journalism course. Citizen journalism is becoming an increasingly prevalent activity. All that this means is that average citizens are doing reporter-type jobs, whether they may be in person or online. Out of all social media platforms, Twitter has noticed the most citizen journalism activity. As an active Twitter user, I have noticed this myself. People will often live tweet important, breaking news, sometimes including a hashtag for others can track it. Personally, I think Twitter is a good way to get news out quickly — as long as the facts are correct.
Platform building is, by definition, a kind of exercise in emergent behavior”-Johnson (pp.182)
This is a scanning electron picture of a phytoplankton. These microorgansims account for half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth. Just as the beavers described by Johnson, these organisms provide the base foundation for many other aquatic species to exist. The Nation Centers for Coastal Ocean Science explains that, “In a balanced ecosystem, phytoplankton provide food for a wide range of sea creature including whales, shrimp, snails, and jellyfish”. Without these crucial microorganisms providing nutrition and oxygen our aquatic ecosystem would not look as it is today.
The web can be imagined as a kind of archaeological site, with layers upon layers of platforms buried beneath every page…all he [Tim Berners-Lee] had to do was build a standard framework for describing hypertext pages (html) (Johnson 189).
The web built on top of a network of computers that were already communicating between themselves all across the world. For me often this idea of world wide computer communication is synonymous with the internet. But in reality the web was just another door that opened following this network. HTTP was already in practice with computers internationally. HTML is simply the language that computers use to create the web pages we look at every day. Tim Berners-Lee even based his HTML off of SGML, which was IBM technology. This is further evidence that collaboration between scientists produces at a higher rate then solo work. The web was a collective effort between many scientists, Berners-Lee just stood on the shoulders of giants like HTTP and SGML.
All the talk of recycling in this chapter (corals and zooxanthellae exchanging waste products, Constantz using carbon dioxide to grow carbonate cement) reminded me of another kind of recycling I learned about in psychology last semester: the reuptake process that our neurons use. Neurons send signals using a variety of chemicals called neurotransmitters; they’re released by terminals in the neuron’s axon, and are received by dendrites at the opposite end of the cell. And after a neuron receives those signals, it starts transferring the neurotransmitters down the axon to the opposite end of the cell. That way, the neuron can reuse the neurotransmitters the next time it needs to send a signal, and the neurotransmitters stay within the vast network of neurons rather than becoming waste.
After reading Chapter 7 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I found it interesting that Johnson described coral reefs as a platform. In the introduction of this chapter, much of the focus was on Darwin’s observations of a coral reef and the ecosystem. He often noted the life forms that existed as well as the way in which they play a role in their environment. While this was known, this chapter focused on the ideas that the coral reef is the platform for many life forms that carry out different functions, making the ecosystem successful. Essentially, coral reefs were present, and intricate food webs, flow of energy, symbiotic relationships, and functions of organisms came about. The link below details the energy flow of the coral reef and the new “innovations” or “functions” that many organisms possess due to living in a reef. It is clear that coral reefs gave rise to new relationships between organisms and their environment. Reefs set the stage for the formation of food webs, energy flow, and symbiotic relationships between animals, thus making the ecosystem successful. Therefore, Johnson’s understand of a platform as a something that sets the stage for other uses or innovations was clearly conveyed through the example of coral reefs, its inhabitants, and the success as a result of formed food webs, energy webs, and biological relationships.
“The most generative platforms come in stacks, most conspicuously in the layered platform of the Web.” – Johnson, page 189
Out of the whole chapter, the way platforms came stuck most my attention. That was because the way platforms are made help innovation. Like it all starts from small to bigger ideas. And so, when small ideas and platforms come to be, bigger come to be. For example, social media started out as something small and now it is something incredibly big where people are able to communicate. Not only are they able to communicate, but now it is a place where they can watch and read the news.
Once again, chance and happy accidents are central to narrative: a random mutation lead to the evolution of feathers selected for warmth, and by chance those feathers turn out to be useful for flying, particularly after they’ve been modified to create an airfoil.
It is incredible to me how nature is. We start getting used to how we are and then with our nature we start changing and adapting. In the beginning we don’t get it, but then we realize that nature knows what it is doing. We may think that evolution may be for one reason, but nature is always one step ahead of us. It does not only change species for one reason, but because of what might come ahead too. For examples, these feathers that came to be for one reason and then it helped them fly in a certain way.
“Platforms have a natural appetite for trash, waste, and abandoned goods… Emergent platforms derive much of their creativity from the inventive and economical reuse of existing resources…” -Johnson 199
“Nature has long built its platforms by recycling the available resources, including the waste generated by other organisms. Two things we have in abundance on this planet right now are pollution and seawater. Why not try to build a city out of them?” – Johnson 205
The first quote and idea of Johnson really struck me in regards to new ways and places of human habitation. A common theme in sic-fi books taking place in the future is proposing places where the author imagines humans will be living come some 50, 100, or even a thousand years from now. One that I came across was underground cities. At this point in life, humans had polluted the earth so much that the decided to move underground and build vast networks and infrastructures that were prosperous and habitable while sparing the earth’s bounty above. Other story lines suggest that humans trash their habitats so much that they just move on to other places and must start from scratch.
I think these two proposed situations illustrate an aspect that Johnson’s doesn’t really address about platforms and their efficiency. For one, I think that for used platforms to be successful in fostering new ideas and having ideas built on top of them, they cannot be overused or dried up. For example, humans being forced to move underground or completely abandon cities because of the level of pollution and destruction does not allow for new ideas to grow or human life to prosper, unless they be animals or organisms that can make use of the environment.
Secondly, Johnson suggests that we build cities out of pollution and seawater, his point being that we can use waste and products which are just sitting idly but largely at our disposal to create things. This lead me to wonder, with all this recent craze about moving to space and inhabiting it, are we moving/thinking in the wring direction? Should we focus on allowing human life to expand into space, which I am sure that scientists are going to be able to do, or should we focus on making use of the tons of untapped resources that are still on the earth (and maybe make existing resources a bit cleaner while we are at it)? I think it this is such a hard question to answer because there are so many factors involved. Ethics, government, profit, wealth, individual and corporate interests, country’s interests, these are all factors that make the issue complicated.
“In the online world, the most celebrated recent case study in the innovative power of stacked platforms has been the rapid evolution of the social networking service of Twitter.”
Heres a link of the growth and statistics of the use of Twitter, we read all about how innovative it was, but thought it might be interesting to actually see in numbers about how innovative it really is!
“Twitter’s creators recognized that there was another kind of competitive advantage that came from complete openness: the advantage that comes from having the largest and most diverse ecosystem of software applications being built on your platform” – Johnson, p194
This quote really stuck out to me because it was interesting to me how Twitter created this platform where anyone could add their ideas or make the software better. It also prompted me to question whether this open platform causes issues with crediting someone for their work. In other words, should the Twitter creators receive full credit for their invention or should they have to share it with tons of people because they only made the basic platform? Once everyone inputs their own ideas into a project how can we determine who should receive the credit? Should it be shared by anyone who has ever submitted an idea? It is clear to see how for Twitter having an open platform was beneficial because the site was able to grow immensely, but can this kind of platform work for other ideas, concepts, and businesses? I believe it takes a certain field, like building social media, for open platforms to really be beneficial. I cannot see large businesses benefiting from an open platform because usually when I am in a decision making setting where a lot of opinions are being considered, we do not usually reach a conclusion.
This video not only discusses the relationship between brain folding, diseases and intelligence, it also gives great examples of exaptation. It’s amazing to see the different fields that we can pull information from to better understand how the brain develops. Who would have thought math had anything to do with the way the brain is shaped? It also ties in nicely with previous discussions of surface area to volume ratios and how the human body employs wrinkles and folds in various organs brain, lungs, digestive tract, testes to fit them into small spaces and provide a greater surface for biological processes such as diffusion, absorption, gametogenesis and the processing of neural signals to occur.
The creative stack is deeper than genres, though. Genres are themselves built on top of more stable conventions and technologies.
A couple years ago I was shuffling through the radio and came across an interesting brand of music called edm. I was instantly drawn and become obsessed with the genre of music. My mom later told me that edm sounds very similar to a genre of music she listened to at my age which was house. I did a little research and found edm grew and built upon the foundations house music created in the 80s. It was very interesting to see how music grows in this day and age and see the original genre it was built upon. This platform theory is very evident in the music world today as all types of music have grown and expanded like the rise of technology.
If mutation and error and serendipity unlock new doors in the biosphere’s adjacent possible, exaptations help us explore the new possibilities that lurk behind those doors.
This quote first brings to mind the invention and innovation of the internet. Initially the internet had the purpose of providing basic information for the average person, however gradually the internet became larger and larger. Now the internet provides information, is a source of social media and video can stream in HD with the evolution of youtube which is another example of exaptions. The basic idea of the internet evolved and has become an essential part of society.
“A tool that helps you see in one context ends up helping you keep warm in another. That’s the essence of exaptation” – Johnson, p157
This quote came right after Johnson’s example of having a match to light up a dark room, which in turn helps you find a room with a fireplace, where the match can have a completely different use (lighting a fire). I thought this quote really captured what Johnson was trying to convey to his readers in this chapter because it gives a clear example of what exaptation is. Personally, I see exaptation occurring all the time in my life, even though before reading this chapter I did not know there was a word for it. Even small things such as learning information in my macroeconomics class that I can apply in my speech pathology courses, or even at the dinner table with my friends, exaptation is at work. I was able to take that information that I learned in economics and apply it to other contexts and broaden my knowledge even further.
“When it first emerged, Twitter was widely derided as a frivolous distraction that was mostly goof for telling your friends what you had for breakfast.”-Johnson (192)
When Twitter was dreamed up in 2006, the founders were not expecting the many uses for Twitter that it is used for now. I find it interesting to see how the web platform evolved from just a place to write simple thoughts to one that fosters news such as political protests, provides customer support for large corporations, and acts as a place to bypass government censorship. I would argue that, like the wings of birds from chapter 6, Twitter is an exaptation. Wings are recognized as originally existing for the purpose of being a dinosaur wrist bone, which would provide flexibility. Wings however, turned out to be used in other ways such as flying. Twitter has many better uses than just letting your friends know your every thought.
Since I was a kid, I have loved to play video games. I really enjoy watching games evolve, and I marvel at how games went from simple simulations like Pong to such varied experiences as Super Smash Bros and GTA. In many (if not most) of these games, exaptations serve as a key method to making a game feel fresh and exciting. One of my favorite games, Undertale (which released last year), takes the traditional style of an RPG like Final Fantasy and merges it with the tactics of a completely different style of game, bullet-hell shooters (games where you have to shoot or avoid a large amount of fast-moving particles, such as Galaga or Super Hexagon). Undertale uses these fast-paced mechanics to solve a problem that many gamers had with the RPG genre; namely, that there was not enough challenge and that fights quickly became repetitive and boring. This is only one way in which exaptation is used in the modern era.
“The platform builders and ecosystem engineers do not just open a door in the adjacent possible, they build an entire new floor” -Johnson (183)
Ecosystem engineers have to be the most undervalued species in any ecosystem. Whenever I read a textbook in science it always mentions the significance of ecosystem engineers, but not specific species. There are countless amounts of animals that I could name based off the knowledge Ive attained throughout my years, but not more than a few keystone species or ecosystem engineers. They have the most important job of all. Why are we not learning about them? They are the backbone of ecosystems and it seems like we don’t value them anymore than we value learning about an animal that may not contribute to their ecosystem at all. Ecosystem engineers are the reason ecosystems are sustainable or even in place to begin with. I think they deserve a little bit of recognition.
“Apple’s development cycle looks more like a coffeehouse than an assembly line.”-Johnson (170)
As a marketing major I am not only interested in the way a good company builds consumer relationships with consumers, but also what makes their creative process so great. I found Apple’s coffeehouse technique fascinating, as well as, useful. I feel that one of the reasons why Apple is at the top of the game when it comes to computers and phones is because of this creative process. Instead of using a more traditional approach and losing the creative vision along the line of what can and can’t be done, Apple makes sure each line of production has a say. Apple takes group brainstorming to a whole new level as sales people and engineers of a product will sit down and talk about the one central creative vision. This makes me wonder what other companies use this type of coffeehouse approach.
“Genius, then, lay not in conceiving an entirely new technology from scratch, but instead from borrowing a mature technology from an entirely different field, and putting it to work to solve an unrelated problem” -Johnson (153)
I feel as if every idea is sprouted from some sort of related concept. When thinking on a deeper level, its hard to imagine an idea that doesn’t somehow compare to a previous one. What then, would define an organic idea? Is every idea not part of a creative pyramid that expands as ideas are created? How then, can we argue against the idea that every “new” concept isn’t directly sprouted from another? I don’t think we can.
“If you sail due east sixteen nautical miles from Delaware’s Indian River Inlet… you will find roughly seven hundred subway cars, deposited there by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control over the past decade. The trains have been planted off the Delaware shore to create an artificial coral reef… the Delaware reefs have seen a 400 percent increase in biomass since the first cars were sunk.” Johnson 198
I lived in Delaware for over 10 years and had never heard of this project before. When I first read this passage by Johnson, I was very surprised. To me, it seemed almost counterproductive to dump a subway car, something that I assumed would be more biohazardous than helpful, into the ocean. Wouldn’t there be repercussions, such as poison from the car paint, for placing an artificial and unnatural thing in such a habitat? However, after reading the statistics, that there was a 400 percent increase in biomass, I was much more content with the idea, though without further research I do still have my concerns regarding the project happening in my own backyard.
“If open and dense networks lead to more innovation, how can we explain apple, which on the spectrum of openness is far closer to Willy Wonka’s factory than it is to Wikipedia”(Johnson, 169).
We all know the scenario, we get our special whatever order at starbucks, and we look over and see a group of people with laptops and ipads talking about who knows what. It may seem annoying, but this is small scale “coffee” liquid business networks at work. So much in recent times can seem ot be tied with these kind of meetings. So what happens when a company closes it’s doors to the outside world like apple? Well as it turns out, there can be an internal “coffeehouse” thinking of good ideas. But it also takes fire and passion, when concepts come out, it is so futuristic and innovative, that by the time it comes out it is barely an upgrade. apple has mostly been able to avoid this and stay with teh adjacent possible. Which raises the question of why companies aren’t putting as much fire and passion to push the limit of the adjacent possible.
In the chapter Johnson talks about an artificial reef off the coast of Delaware that is made entirely out of old subway cars. This reminded me of an article I saw online from a few days ago which talks about how sunken World War Two planes and ships create artificial reefs all across the Pacific. I thought that was really neat because 70 year old machines that were designed to blow stuff up and cause chaos are now in a way giving back to the planet. I also think it relates to the idea that we are recycling so much of our world and how much we are able to re purpose will play a large role in helping the planet.
“The songbird sitting in an abandoned woodpecker’s nest doesn’t need to know how to drill a hole into the side of a poplar, or how to fell a hundred-foot tree. That is the generative power of open platforms. The songbird doesn’t carry the cost of drilling and felling because the knowledge of how to do those things was openly suppled by other species in the chain. She just needs to know how to tweet.”
-Open platforms are so powerful because it allows connections to be made between peoples’ idea that may have not been made without the platforms’ existence. I want to know if people have become less curious due to open platforms. With all these ideas available to us, have we stopped seeking results ourselves rather than looking to see how other people did it. I think there is great power in open platforms, but can they hinder the drive for discoveries yourself?
Cities, then, are environments that are ripe for exaptation, because they cultivate specialized skills and interests, and they create a liquid network where information can leak out of those subcultures, and influence their neighbors in surprising ways. -Johnson 162
Are suburbs or more rural communities also suited for exaptation? I grew up in both Georgia and Delaware, two very rural and idle communities. I believe that we have liquid networks there as well, in the form of more personal relationships than people would have in a huge city. Though I have never lived in a bustling, such as NYC, I couldn’t imagine that its chaotic environment and its seemingly infinite number of residents could produce more exaptations than in a more personal and settled community.
“The most creative individuals in Ruef’s survey consistently had broad social networks that extended outside their organization and involved people from diverse field of expertise. Diverse, horizontal social networks, in Ruef’s analysis, were three time more innovative than uniform, vertical networks. In groups united by shared values and long-term familiarity, conformity and convention tended to dampen any potential creative sparks.”
I think this is an interesting excerpt for many reasons. One, being the connection to open platform and liquid networks. Throughout the whole book Johnson has written about how surrounding yourself with a variety of different people leads to more productivity, like in his comparison between city and town. Johnson really focuses on the environment of someone who is trying to create something, and here he is saying that you should be surrounded by people that think differently than you in order for ideas to be shared more quickly.
Towards the end of Chapter 6, Johnson discusses what Apple does differently to ensure innovation in their products. They use a “coffee house” approach, with continuous meetings between designers, engineers, and manufacturers. This differs from the traditional assembly line approach where ideas are passed from one department to the next with no real interaction. But, Apple has proven that their method is effective. So, why don’t more businesses attempt this approach at developing new products. I think the automobile industry could seriously benefit from an approach like this. They are always releasing new models and “cars of the future,” but by the time they actually make it to the market, many of the innovations are no longer a part of their product. Taking an approach similar to Apple could hurt efficiency, but innovation would greatly increase and I think the technology in cars would take a huge step forward. Once they make that leap they can get back to worrying about efficiency and mass production.
Since music was first played artists have been accused of stealing others music and “ripping them off”. One of the most famous examples of this when Ray Parker Jr made the Ghostbusters theme sound very similar to a Huey Lewis song. However Johnson chapter got me thinking about exaptation and if it could be applied to music. If you take a part of someone else song and use it in a way that it wasn’t intended for and is that still stealing. I used these to songs as an example because while its clear Ray Parker Jr used the same or very similar notes for the main theme, for me the two songs sound different because of the theme and the lyrics so for me its more like Ray Parker Jr re purposed the song. While this case was settled in court it made me think that if artists were willing to collaborate we could possibly get some new themes of music.
“The elevation variation in volcanic islands was immense: some tapered off a dozen feet above sea level; others, like Mauna Kea, surged ten thousand feet into the sky. Most volcanic peaks lay thousands of feet below the surface.” (Johnson, 178)
Immediately the first image that came into my head was the volcano from Disney Pixar’s short “Lava”. The animated short traces the tale of a volcano singing a love song for years. As he sings, he is eroded away. But the lava he emits creates a new volcano. So while he is descending, she shoots through the water. He descends below sea level, but because he is so much closer to the peak of the water, when she emits lava, he immediately grows to meet her.
I think it’s incredibly how accurate the short portrayed volcanic evolution. Granted it was not the most accurate representation, but it was still rather informative. If I really thought about it, I could probably recover a lot of valuable information from cartoons that I watched when I was younger.
Unlike Apple, Twitter takes full advantage of other companies and resources. The use of “#” and “@” is the ultimate adjacent impossible that can lead to millions of other connections and sources. Twitter is undoubtedly successful and it can be said the popularity is due to its open platform. Information from ultimately any official and unofficial resource can be shared and found in seconds.
“A T‑shirt for sale in the company store, which is open to the public at 1 Infinite Loop, reads: I VISITED THE APPLE CAMPUS. BUT THAT’S ALL I’M ALLOWED TO SAY.”-Adam Lashinsky
Fortune senior editor, Adam Lashinsky is author to a book that tells the secrets behind Apple and their success. He explains how Apple headquarters is designed the opposite of their air-tight reputation, with a college-like appearance including volleyball courts. However, employees and visitors have limited access to the company information and ideas. Despite their non-collaborative nature, Apple is more successful than ever.
In this chapter it was mentioned that the idea of ‘exaptation’ is central to the idea that animals develop certain adaptions and physical prowess for a specific use. Following that point, it is mentioned that after years of research on a specified animal, the function that we had thought the animal had grown a certain adaption for was for something else. For example, for decades we thought that birds had developed feathers for warmth, but it turns out that a birds feathers have many more functions that we had thought in the first place, like air regulation and flight stimulation. What I got from this idea brought up in chapter 6 was it may be possible that birds could have used this unknown trait for the specified uses stated for many years, we just hadn’t known about it. All in all, I feel that certain theories are solely based off of human idea, not biological evidence.
“Many of history’s great innovators managed to build a cross disciplinary coffeehouse environment within their own private work routines”
This is Nikola Tesla. He was an Serbian American scientist focused on the development of new technology for society. He was heavily involved in many different fields of science including physics, electrical and mechanical engineering. His interest in these different fields along with his futuristic ideas allowed for the creation of inventions that were beyond his time. By the late 1800’s Tesla went to pursue his ideas of wireless lighting and electricity. He also speculated the possibility of wireless communication, a technology used so often today. These hobbies and interests in these different fields proves as an example of how scientists can come up with great ideas by integrating concepts together.
Chapter 6 was all about exaptation, and how it can lead to new or unexpected innovation. While I was reading, I picked up on a section that discussed the media environment. This led me to begin thinking about the idea that everyone is an innovator. Every time we post a thought or status on Facebook, or any form of social media for that matter, we are publishing an idea. As people see that idea they may comment on it with their ideas, or share it with their friends. Their friends then do the same, and so on. You are left with a never ending cycle of of adapting ideas. A simple idea that we published has now caused other people to think differently about it.
“A good idea is a network. A specific constellation of neurons-thousands of them-fire in sync with each other for the first time in your brain, and an idea pops into your consciousness.” (Johnson, p.45)
I found the idea of networks to be quite interesting. We as humans explore the adjacent possible connections in our surroundings. That is how we reach new innovation. If somebody says something to us that we find interesting, we may go research it. That research may lead to another connection about that topic, and before we know it, we will have a full network of ideas that leads me to a new innovation. It is a kind of hard to believe it, but this Commonplace Book itself is a network leading to new innovations. We all post things we find interesting, and that leads others to do further research and come up with new ideas about those interesting things.
After reading the introduction of Johnson’s book, I began to question why some environments allow for better innovation. I started wondering whether or not competition strikes more innovation in environments. I immediately started to think about school, college in particularly. College students in different majors are all competing to get the best GPAs, do well on tests, and eventually graduate and find work in their field of study. However, in the process of fighting to be the best students work to out do each other and make themselves stand out. This extra effort to stand out leads to new questions, new ideas, and perhaps even new innovation. Below is a quote from Forbes Magazine that I found interesting and wanted to share.
“Human beings survived and evolved because they cooperated to compete against the elements, says Buchholz. In the working world, competition often creates cooperation, be it in team projects or in a company-wide effort to beat out the opposition” -Forbes Magazine
“Two brilliant scientists with great technological acumen stumble across evidence of the universe’s origin- evidence that would ultimately lead to a Nobel Prize for both of them- and yet their first reaction is: Our telescope must be broken.“- Johnson 139
In this chapter, Johnson proves that one of the greatest forces of innovation in the world is, strangely enough, making mistakes. Seemingly limitless amounts of inventions, from Viagra to vacuum tubes, were discovered by accident. This raises the question, “Why do schools tend to punish people so harshly for making mistakes?” I went to a kind of competitive private high school, and when it came to tests and grades (especially when taking the SAT and ACT exams) I was taught that mistakes were unacceptable. People got taunted for getting bad grades, for making tiny mistakes or misinterpreting the questions asked. My friends who went to public high school tell me similar stories, if not as extreme. If schools are supposed to teach us to generate ideas, think freely, and live independently, then why do we so aggressively attack something that is proven to be one of the greatest sources of innovation ever, specifically human error? I believe that this is a major problem with our school system today and it needs to be addressed before more people are misled into putting perfect scores before good ideas.
Did you know that people with higher IQ tend to have worse handwriting than those with lower IQ? In our scientific society, a person is considered smart when they are organized, in control, and thorough. However, the mind of the truly smart person seems to lie much closer to the stereotype of the “absentminded professor” than the “stern headmaster”. This gives me much hope, seeing that my life is constantly a mess of balancing schoolwork, friends, plans for the future, and leisure activities. Johnson clearly shows us that a mind needs randomness, or serendipity, in order to truly function to its full extent.
“–Just about anyone with intellectual ambition in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was likely to keep a commonplace book.”- Johnson 84
Both this quote and this whole chapter gave me inspiration to start up my journal again. It’s something I’ve been trying to do since I entered college, but I could never keep up on it. But after hearing about the wonderful things that keeping a journal can do, I’ve been inspired to keep one once again. It’s very hard to get into the habit of writing every single night, but its worth it just to organize your thoughts for one hour or so a day. Not only that, with the modern push to bring everything onto the Web, there are plenty of apps that one can use to journal, not to mention blogging or just writing in the notes section in cell phones. I found this article. I also found this great article that goes in-depth into different ways you can jot down your thoughts.
One of my personal philosophies is “everything in moderation”: I try to find a balance at which I can enjoy everything life throws at me, by not being too extremely inclined toward an idea or thing that I cannot consider the other options. For example, dieting is good and I try to eat healthy, but overdoing it by eating almost nothing of substance would ultimately harm me (as would eating only fatty junk foods). It seems that liquid networks work because they have a moderate amount of order; suffocating corporate environments create too little communication while TBWA/Chiat/Day’s “non-territorial” offices led to too much freedom and were a failure. Liquid networks form because of a supervisor moderating the control they have over the network, keeping enough order to keep things flowing but enough open space to stimulate conversation, creativity, and, ultimately, the growth of ideas. I think that I already employ liquid networks in my life, and I hope that others find ways to incorporate them into theirs
I really enjoyed this chapter on the Adjacent Possible. I had never thought of defining a limit of what you can do and think, and after reading this chapter I realize it’s a great tool not just for building ideas but for organizing thoughts and solving problems. One space that has a very clear adjacent possible which I think would apply very well to this concept is video games and cell phone apps. In many short games, especially apps like Jetpack Joyride and Temple Run (two apps I play way too much of), there is a clear ceiling that you are aiming to hit. In these games, your main motivation is to get money to upgrade your character so that the game gets easier. However, there is always a point where there are no more upgrades, no more reasons to continue playing the games. In a way, the goal of all game developers is to expand the adjacent possible of their games. In the games I mentioned above, the way to do that would be to add more upgrades to the game, thus expanding the amount of things you can buy. In the same fashion, adding content to a sandbox game like Grand Theft Auto expands the adjacent possible of what players can do. This is only one way to use the adjacent possible in the development of ideas that Johnson may not have had in mind when he was writing this book
“The poet and the engineer (and the coral reef) may seem a million miles apart in their particular forms of expertise, but when they bring good ideas into the world, similar patterns of development and collaboration shape that process.”- Johnson 22
This quote sticks out to me because it summarizes the concept this book is trying to prove. When I first read this, i thought that this was a very exaggerated claim to make. However, as I thought more about it, I realized that Johnson was right, and that in many cases great ideas seem to come from the some trains of thought in many different fields. We are so used to thinking of science as its own field, separate from authors or philosophers who delve into the human soul, but not too long ago this wasn’t the case. In many ways, science is simply another school of philosophy, asking the same type of questions that Socrates and Aristotle asked but backed up by hundreds of years of critical thought.
In a professional world, we tend to steer away from chaos, for we see it as unproductive. But…
“Apple’s approach, by contrast, is messier and more chaotic at the beginning, but it avoids the chronic problem of good ideas being hollowed out as they progress through the development chain” (Johnson 171)
I understand this reasoning because more ideas are available at the start of the project, and yes it might be chaotic, but great ideas can bounce off of the many ideas that are flowing through a department in the beginning, messy stages. So many devices can be created in the beginning because the ideas are fresh, and open to exaptation.
Ever since high school, my classmates and I have been constantly told ” don’t be afraid to fail.” Yet, most of us strive for perfection anyways. It seems like a thing that is said to reassure some kids, but also as a mechanism to get the top kids even further. This chapter “Error” stresses benefits of making errors, and I liked that because we are not often given reasons why it is okay to mess up sometimes.
“Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore.” (Johnson 137)
When you question your work and critique it, you might discover something unintentional, but progressive.
“A new idea is a network of cells exploring the adjacent possible of connections that they make in your mind”(Johnson,45).
This chapter talked about how when numerous minds are put together, they create a network. What stuck out to me in this section was the evolution of human innovation. What is stunning, and something that i never considered is the fact that when more people are put together, The more innovations and inventions are created. By the times cities were built, the creation of modern irrigation and structure was created, whereas in aboriginal times, when people were scattered barely anything was created. The same can be applied to today with the worldwide web, having ourselves even more connected than just 10 years ago can lead to more innovations than imaginable.
“All of us live inside our own private versions of the adjacent possible. In our work lives, in our creative pursuits, in the organizations that employ us, in the communities we inhabit – in all those different environments, we are surround by potential new configurations new ways of breaking out of our standard routines.” Johnson, p40
What I found interesting about this quote was the notion that we all reside in a personal bubble of the adjacent possible. If I live in the middle of the desert surrounded by a sea of sand and rocks, I would have access to a drastically different adjacent possible than someone living in a bustling city. I think it’s important to consider that the adjacent possible exists on separate planes for humans individually and as a species. Humanity’s adjacent possible expands as a result of individuals creating new technologies overtime and integrating them into the global network of possibility.
“After a formidable series of measurements in his Davis lab, Kleiber discovered that this scaling phenomenon stuck to an unvarying mathematical script called “negative quarter-power scaling.” If you plotted mass versus metabolism on a logarithmic grid, the result was a perfectly straight line that led from rats and pigeons all the way up to bulls and hippopotami.” Johnson, p8
Johnson goes on to describe how Kleiber’s equation to determine metabolic rates in differently sized species applies to the “metabolism” of cities. I never really thought of any city being one big organism, but in a way the thought makes sense. Cities exists as large networks of people working constantly to make the city grow and thrive. As more people come together within the confines of a city, they’re bound to form bigger and brighter ideas when so many unique minds have access to one another.
“Chance favors the connected mind.” -Johnson, pg 174
In this chapter, Johnson talks about how people like Darwin had a lot of hobbies and were interested in a wide range of fields, which helped lead them to have more good ideas since they had more information from broad subjects to draw on. And this stood out to me, because I feel that I also have a broad range of interests: chemistry and physics and music and writing and theater. And I really love finding connections between my varied interests, or even between classes that I’m taking. When I took physics in high school, I realized I could use skills I’d learned in calculus the year before in order to solve problems about velocity and acceleration. It’s things like that which remind me of one of the reasons I love learning, because I can find connections like that and see how everything I’ve learned so far can fit together.
“Policy makers at the WTO had argued that patent rights would offer corporations security for their research and help speed the transfer of new technology from developed to developing countries. So far, however, the benefits have flowed largely in the opposite direction. Where patents have been granted over biological materials and the traditional knowledge of how to use such materials, researchers in developing countries are further access to their own biological resources.” Grace, p198
Patents are supposed to support technological advancements in developing countries, but the patent system primarily benefits corporations. Corporations directly steal profits away from developing nations by claiming intellectual property rights over their resources, which in turn forces those developing nations to pay for access to any technologies derived from their own natural resources. I don’t believe that patent laws hold any sort of favor for developing countries and simply serve to protect the interests of the already powerful developed world.
“The most creative individuals in Reuf’s survey consistently had broad social networks that extended outside their organization and involved people from diverse fields of expertise… Diverse, horizontal social networks, in Reuf’s analysis, were three times more innovative than uniform, vertical networks. In groups united by shared values and long-term familiarity, conformity and convention tended to dampen any potential creative sparks” -Johnson 166
I think that most people would agree with this quote (even though it was already proven in a scientific study). Johnson alluded to this idea earlier when he suggested that the more people collaborate, the more innovative they are. But he also suggested an example where offices tried to encourage more talking between employees by having an “open” workspace, where people weren’t separated by desk barriers and behind computer screens all day. But he said that this design did not work because people preferred privacy where they could work. So if bringing people and their diverse ideas and ways of thinking together is the best way to move forward, how do we promote it? How do we “force” people to become innovative without actually “forcing” them to?
I think so far, Google has the best example. Like Johnson said, Google gives its employees mandatory time every day to work on their own project. But I think there are ways to improve upon this idea, and I think especially for companies that rely on new ideas to stay prosperous and afloat, it is a must to encourage more innovation. I think one way to do this is definitely to give employees time to work on their own projects like Google. But I think to take it a step further, employees should have to make their projects public at all times to other employees and mandatory for them to respond to a piece of positive and negative criticism once a week. This will encourage more human interaction and connections and force the more “diverse” and “horizontal” networks that Johnson refers to.
Darwin’s theories repetitively appear throughout this book and in this chapter it mentioned his “Origins of Species”. It prompted me to research more about the origins of tetrapods. Johnson mentioned how a fish evolved to now how feet to be able to walk on land. According to this website I found, it all began with ray-finned fish that slowly evolved into bony fish such as Eusthenopteron. These fish eventually continued evolving until they developed forelimbs and hindlimbs with fingers.
Organisms evolve based on their need for survival. Harsh weather can prompt an organism to use a body part, even if it wasn’t designed for that specific reason, in order to survive. The example Johnson gave was the birds feathers. The feathers were made for warmth but then they became useful for flying.
Its interesting to see how organisms keep evolving based on the environmental pressures. It makes me wonder if humans are done evolving or are we going to look different in the 22nd century? Or are we going to be extinct? I wonder.
These teachers understand that science is not a field that delivers quick answers, and through this project, they arm students with both the practical skills and the intellectual patience to quiet their minds and reject quick conclusions until all the evidence is in. – Jessica Lahey, Relearning the Lost Skill of Patience
This article in The Atlantic reminded me of the slow hunch. The idea that there ins importance in slowing down and engaging in deep, critical thinking, which is very much needed to make those crucial connections. The beauty of this is that it is applicable to many fields not just science. Hopefully, students are making meaningful connections in this course too!
You can learn a great deal about the history of innovation by examining great ideas that changed the world. – Johnson page 72
As said in a previous post, we can learn a lot from the ideas that have risen before. We learn from the mistakes and the achievements others have made in the past. This way we can learn what works in our society and what does not. Most great ideas are those that have a large impact in the world. It is important that we take into account that in order for us to know this, we have to have access to the ideas that were brought up before. This could lead to something good or bad depending on how people take it. I believe however, that ideas are to be shared and discussed so we know if it something better left untouched.
“A good Idea is a network. A specific constellation of neurons – thousands of them – fire in sync with each other for the first time in your brain, and an idea pops into your consciousness.” – Johnson, page 45
I had never really thought of how I or people come up with ideas. It is the most common thing in our every day life. Every day we wake up and have thousands of ideas. However, in this every day life occurrence, there are millions of neurons making connections so that in one second we are thinking of an idea that help us make our lives easier. It is actually a process that we take for granted. These neurons all work in sync so we can think and motivate ourselves to do something with our lives. It is a network, meaning that they are working together to make something big.
“If mutation and error and serendipity unlock new doors in the biosphere’s adjacent possible, exaptations help us explore the new possibilities that lurk behind those doors” (Johnson, 156).
Exaptation is going beyond the adjacent possible. It is using outside knowledge and applying it to something else. This idea of sharing ideas seems very beneficial, and I think many people can agree with Johnson’s claims here. Everyday we witness the sharing of ideas in the classroom. Students raise their hands, answer questions and bounce ideas off of their teacher and peers. Exaptation is especially noticeable in our class. All of us in Biotechnology exhibit signs of exploration and the desire to discover new possibilities through the questions we submit on Moodle and the ideas we talk about during our discussions.
“Coral reefs make up about one tenth of one percent of the Earth’s surface, and yet roughly one quarter of the known species of marine life make their homes there” – Johnson, page 5
This was an astonishing number that caught my attention while I was reading the introduction of this book. I know there has been more awareness to save the coral reefs. Nevertheless, I never payed as much attention as I should have had. A large number of marine animals depend on these places to live and to reproduce. If they disappear then there would be a huge problem in the marine ecosystem. They are not just places that look pretty in the ocean but they are essential for aquatic life. Now that ai
“The history of life and human culture, then, can be told as the story of gradual but relentless probing of the adjacent possible, each new innovation opening up new paths to explore” – Johnson, page 33
Our history and culture has been changing as time goes on. We are always making discoveries about life and we are always innovating the way we live. Our culture is made depending on where each “tribe” is and it derives from the history every group of people is. Our culture and history come together. As humans we are always trying to make new discoveries to live better and it always comes from the adjacent possible. Every time we discover something it is only with time that we will open a path to learn something else. For example in medicine. We always start with small discoveries which eventually lead to a discovery that can save lives.
Penicillin is an antibiotic drug discovered by accident. It was founded by Sir Alexander Fleming who at the time was experimenting with the influenza virus in a lab. The scientist took a break from experimenting and weeks later found mold on a plate. When the scientist found the mold, he investigated it and noticed the mold prevented growth of staphylococci. After this discovery, Fleming tested the mold and found out it can work against bacteria. Today, the penicillin drug treats many life threatening illnesses such as meningitis and pneumonia.
This is one of many serendipitous moments in science that has happened influencing society for the better. These accidental happenings in science are amazing and are so interesting to read out. I wonder what will be discovered next by accident.
“Silicon sits directly below carbon on the periodic table, and shares its four valence electronics . But silicon lacks carbon’s unique versatility.” pg. 50
I was interested in silicon when it was brought up in Chapter Two: Liquid Networks because I did not know much about it so I decided to do some research about it.Silicons atomic number is 14 and symbol is Si. Silicon may lack some qualities that Carbon has but silicon paired with other elements is beneficial and widely used in electronics. For example when silicon is paired with aluminum, large metallic parts can be manufactured. Silicon and aluminum creates a good fluidity balance so it can create parts with different types of shape and consistency. Silicon can also be used as a conductor when mixed with small amounts of elements such as boron. I am happy I looked into silicon because I learned so much information I did not know. Check out the link below for some cool facts!
This website discusses how amazing silicon is in our electronics
“Exaptation. An organism develops a trait optimized for a specific use, but then the trait gets hijacked for a completely different function” (Johnson 154).
Beyond the world of genetics I believe this word still has application in our daily lives. When exaptation occurs in the natural world, a trait created by genetic change, ends up having a purpose that was not the driving force behind the mutation. Like the feathers on prehistoric dinosaurs that led to flight, we often find second or third uses for goods in our lives. Creativity seems to be a cliche word used to describe someone but the human race in itself is exceptional at exapting uses beyond the intended purpose. I am interested in this reoccurring of biological processes repeating themselves in macrocosms in the world.
“The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table”(Johnson,42).
sometimes the most jumbled up ideas or the most unlikely ones can be the most effective. In reading this chapter, I have found out so many things that surprised me. Building an incubator out of machine parts to accomodate hospitals in developing countries where they are not as tech savvy, is really amazing. What also is interesting is the idea of adjacent possible. Which asks the question if something is ahead of its time. Interesting to think that if Youtube tried to come out earlier than when videos online were possible, then it would maybe not be around. Hard to think of what would have happened, if we just try outside the box.
“We are constantly making equivalent conceptual leaps from biology to culture without blinking” (Johnson, 18
We are always making new innovations and inventions. Today we are connected in a web of the internet and our communities. What stuck out to me in this reading was the Idea of the 10/10 rule. This is the term that when something is released to the general public, it usually takes about a decade for it to be generally accepted. I thought this was interesting. I remember as a kid growing up and DVD’s were just starting to come out, but it wasnt until my later years that DVD completely took over the movie streaming business. But can some things come out too soon for it’s time? is there anything that just is to futuristic for us and it is eventually cast aside? reall makes you wonder
“Typical Concerns can be divided into a number of areas, ranging from biotechnology’s effects on the environment and human health to impacts on social and economic conditions and religious and moral values”(Grace, 192)
Advances in science have always brought up the question of ethics and wether it is right for something to be done when a new science finding. A new concept coming around is genetic testing, where you can go to your doctor and see if you have any genetic diseases that have been passed onto you or what you might carry. Should people be ble to have this info? what if it is a disease that cannot be treated, is it right for the person to know? I believe that it is, and i think it could save lives if it did.
“The history of being spectacularly right has a shadow history lurking behind it: a much longer history of being spectacularly wrong, again and again” (Johnson, 134).
Innovative ideas, most of the time, come from a long process of trial and error. From a young age we are taught to strive for success and are often reprimanded for failures. However, success should not be synonymous with the absence of failure. Plenty of very successful people had to face multiple failures before they hit success. Even Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper company for lacking imagination and good ideas.
Johnson talks about the potential danger of losing serendipity in the wake of the Web. I believe that the Web can make serendipitous connections in ways that were never possible before the Web was created, but that a general sense of curiously to learn and find new things is necessary for serendipity, no matter where it comes from.
In this Ted Talk, Laura Green talks about how important it is for people in all different disciplines to talk to each other and “tell a better story” so that ideas can spread. She emphasizes how important it is in science for people outside the field to ask questions and encourage the search for new answers.
After reading Chapter 6 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I thought it was very interesting to discuss the way in which ideas arise through a term often used in evolutionary biology. Johnson describes an exaptation as when
“an organism develops a trait optimized for a specific use, but then the trait gets hijacked for a completely different function” (p154).
Essentially, Johnson is suggesting that ideas come from the a change to a trait that was originally exhibited. I think a controversial word here is “hijacked.” I believe that traits are shared and understood but new ones rise based on what is favored or how it is seen that a new idea or trait can be used – the trait is not necessarily stolen, but rather used as a basis for a which in which a new trait can have a new function. This relates a lot to my Evolution course I took. We often discussed how ancestors have shared traits however on a phylogenetic tree, it is seen that new traits arise from those older ones and evolution or change over time among populations is seen. Thus, relating back to the real world, I think sharing ideas give way for new ideas to be proposed and used in a different way. Overall, I thought relating this chapter to the ideas of evolution was a great way to describe how new altered ideas arise from ones previously seen. Like Johnson states,
“exaptations help us explore the new possibilities that lurk behind those doors” (p156).
Therefore, new ideas arise from ones that previously exist, but these new ideas are used in a different way than the original.
“Innovative environments are better at helping their inhabitants explore the adjacent possible, because they expose a wide and diverse sample of spare parts”
The concept of building ideas with one another in the adjacent possible really stuck out to me. It reminded me of an experience I had last summer when I toured Google’s New York office. Google’s office structure is not like an ordinary office. The office has wide open spaces with big tables for a collaborative feel. Employees are allowed to dress casual and have daily group meeting with people in the office and use Google hangout to video chat with employees in different countries. All of the employees at Google are from different backgrounds and come together everyday to learn from each other. Free food is available at all times for each employee. There is also a fitness center and a video game area in the offices. Google takes an innovative environment to a whole new level. I hope that many companies can form innovative offices like Google.
Here is an article that I found very interesting about Google:
In Chapter three of “Where do good ideas come from” by Steven Johnson the concept of the “slow hunch” is introduced. The slow hunch discusses setbacks that occur while forming ideas and how it takes a long time to achieve goals but eventually they will come to happen.I think that setbacks get you prepared for what is coming in the future. I wanted to encourage everyone especially my fellow college students to continue working hard. It may seem like a draining process, you can’t seem to find the right major that fits you, you are unsure of what study abroad program you want to attend, those are the many factors that effect us college students. The slow hunch will occur but there is greatness at the end. I am hear to say you can’t fail until you quit.
The trouble with error is that we have a natural tendency to dismiss it- pg. 138
We as humans make mistakes all the time. To be honest, it is in our nature. If we did everything perfectly right that would not be normal. However, when mistakes are made we should not dismiss them. Mistakes happen for a reason so we can learn from them. If something wrong happens let us not urge to dismiss the mistake but embrace it. A perfect example of a big error would be Steve Harvey announcing the wrong winner for Miss Universe 2015. Instead of announcing Miss Philippines as the winner for the pageant he said Miss Columbia. From the moment Steve Harvey knew he had made a mistake he acknowledged it and apologized.Steve Harvey made it clear to the audience who the real winner was, Miss Philippines. He was honest and corrected what happened as soon as he knew he was at fault.
In Chapter Six, “Exaptation”, exptation is described as a trait that was developed for one purpose, but is eventually used for another unrelated purpose. When I first read this, I thought of how this has affected humans. The appendix was used as an asset to the digestive system, but is not considered obsolete; one does not need it to survive. However the appendix, to me, was not a solid example because while it was designed for a purpose that it not longer performs, it did not adopt another purpose.
Because I am not well versed in biology, I could not think of another scientific example. But when I started to read about how the vacuum tube was created “to make signals louder”, and was eventually used in the Fender guitar amp in the fifties, I started to consider how music could be exaptation. (Johnson, 157)
If exaptation is the development of a trait from one purpose to another, then isn’t a shared chord between songs simply exaptated? Are Sweet Home Alabama, Werewolves of London, and All Summer Long just exaptations of each other? Or, to take it a step further, isn’t every song an exaptation because it is just a rearrangement of notes that another song has used?
“De Forest had stumbled across a classic slow hunch… In 1903, he began a series of failed experiments with placing two electrodes in gas-filled glass bulbs. He continued tinkering with the model…”-Johnson p132-133″
Reading Johnson’s Error’s reminded of other experiments and inventions performed by scientists. One of these scientists that created a breakthrough invention was Thomas Edison. Edison invented the light bulb based on idea he had concerning electricity, currents, etc. Although Edison created the light based on science concerning electricity, he did not have an immediate answer to his question. Edison required long periods of experimental testing on a trial and error basis. With time Edison finally reached a solution to a problem he posed onto himself. When asked about his failed experiments concerning the invention of the light bulb, Edison states that he did not encounter failure but found critical data for his discovery. This statement I believe is something that the entire science community abides by because although an experiment did not follow through as planned the data is critical for knowing what went wrong. By keeping these data point in lab notebooks, databases, etc., scientists can formulate a new experiment to try answer their question in manner different than before.
This chapter reminds me of a book I once read titled, Accidents May Happen. This book was about many of the greatest discoveries/inventions that were discovered by error or mistake. For example, the author of the book describes how chocolate chips cookies were created because a baker used chocolate chips instead of regular baker’s chocolate to make a dessert, but the chips did not melt, thus turning the dessert into a what would be called a cookie. This just goes to show how often times, some of the greatest (and tastiest) inventions are created as a result of an error, and that mistakes can be meaningful.
“Could you take all that knowledge and apply it to the human heart? Greatbatch stored the idea in the back of his head for the next five years…Greatbatch happened to grab the wrong resistor. When he plugged it into the oscillator it began to pulse in a familiar rhythm” (Johnson 136).
Greatbatch’s hunch that remained in his head for over five years ended up being a solution to a problem that they were not trying to solve. This discovery could produce the beat of a human heart not just monitor it. By accidentally finding this technology Greatbatch’s contribution was even larger then he could imagine when he started trying to pursue the original hunch. How often are discoveries in science accidental? Are some discoveries missed in experiments when the researcher is close-minded?
“Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore.” -Johnson, pg 137
This quote gives an excellent explanation for why making mistakes or getting something wrong shouldn’t discourage you. If you know exactly what you’re doing from the start and things turn out exactly like you planned, you won’t get to learn anything new. You won’t get to take advantage of serendipity, stumbling across something you had no intention of discovering but helps you along anyway.
I think being wrong also forces you to keep an open mindset. Johnson also mentions an experiment in which groups of students were making word associations based on colors, and their answers often became more original when actors in their groups purposefully introduced doubt to the situation. When the students weren’t a hundred percent positive that the picture they were shown was primarily blue, they were forced to stop and think, considering more possibilities.
After reading Chapter 5 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I thought it was very interesting to talk about the topic of error. Specifically, I liked how the chapter discussed error in a positive way. Often times, the word error or mistake has a negative connotation. In the chapter; however, error was described as the path to innovation. Essentially, error and mistakes, while can be discouraging, force people to look for the right answer. In looking for that right answer and exploring other choices or options, innovations come about. Johnson states a very powerful quote when he says,
“Being wrong forces you to explore” (p137).
In essence, being wrong isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it can drive the possibility for new explorations. Being wrong means looking for the right answer – it paves the path for new things to be discovered. This is very relatable in science and in research laboratories. Researchers go into an experiment with a hypothesis and prediction; however, the outcome could be totally wrong. This forces the researchers to research further eventually allowing them to be successful in finding a new cure or new treatment. Personally, I can also relate to this because I am in the process of conducting breast cancer research. My professor and I have predictions however we do not know if they will be right and we may fail. In the midst of that failure, we will find something new in a new type of experiment. Thus, this chapter was very insightful in the fact that it turned the negative connotation of error into a positive idea.
Chapter 5 of Where Good Ideas Come From concentrates on the idea that error leads to new innovation. After reading the story about De Forest and his accidental innovation, I began to ponder how important mistakes are to innovation. I did some research about mistakes and innovation and I found this short but very insightful powerpoint online. If you get a chance check it out the link is below. It talks about the ways that mistakes lead to innovation. Perhaps our parents and teachers have been right this whole time. We do learn from our mistakes.
“I didn’t know why it worked,… it just did” (pg. 134).
When reading this chapter, the quote above really stuck out to me and made me think of the past summer when I shadowed physicians at an Orthopaedic center. One physician that I shadowed in the OR was an anesthesiologist. She was absolutely brilliant and an excellent teacher. Among the many questions I asked her, I asked her how anesthesia actually works, the mechanism of it. She had the most appalling answer. She said she didn’t know. I was very confused and stunned but she said to me that the mechanism of why anesthesia works is still not understood, all they know is that it works. The drug that every person undergoing surgery relies on to keep them asleep and not in pain from the surgical procedure isn’t fully understood! How amazing is that to think about? And also how scary.
There are many theories proposed to how it works based on its compounds and what receptors it reacts with. However, it still stands as an abstract proposal since it can’t be fully proved yet.
“Without noise, evolution would stagnate, an endless series of perfect copies, incapable of change. But because DNA is susceptible to error– whether mutations in the code itself or transcription mistakes during replication– natural selection has a constant source of new possibilities to test…Error is what made humans possible in the first place” -Johnson 142
Darwin’s theory about where these variations that produced the innovations of life came forms that when a particular organ or limb was heavily used in the lifetime of an animal, it released more “gemmules” that shaped the next generation of its species (Johnson 143). As was later proved by genetics, this theory was wrong.So, as Johnson also says, Darwin erred in trying to understand error (and its successes).
This leads to the idea of wondering why Darwin might have failed at understanding completely his discoveries. He seemed to have made the discovery of natural selection in the first place from the combination of his own observations and the adjacent possible. Did he need to “tap into” the adjacent possible once again to understand the whys behind evolution? Was he trying too hard to independently force another “eureka” moment upon himself? Or maybe he simply needed more time to contemplate any slow hunches about the reason behind his observation, constantly keeping them in the back of his mind while focusing on some other problem. Maybe, if he had “slept on the problem” like other scientists who studied single topics for years at a time, he might have come up with a solution.
But looking at Darwin’s hypothesis about the reason behind the selective traits, and comparing it to the quote above, one can say that the only possible way for Darwin to come up with an idea would have been to constantly try different ideas, revising them when they were in error. Darwin actually was acting like DNA when he subjected himself to an unanswered problem (stressed environment) and attempted to answer it.
The idea of pangenesis relates back to the chapter on slow hunches. Darwin’s original theory was groundbreaking in the scientific world but was not as perfect as one may think. Darwin continued to develop his theory, resulting in this new theory of pangenesis. Even the greatest minds have to think their ideas through again and again, developing them into more and more accurate theories just as Darwin did.
“You don’t reach Serendip by plotting a course for it. You have to set out in good faith for elsewhere and lose your bearings serendipitously.” – John Barth quoted in Johnson (p108)
This quote is a very simple description of how serendipity works. John Barth confirms that sometimes it is better not to seek answers to your problems and instead let the answers come to you. Come of the world’s best ideas have been accidentally stumbled upon after years of searching for an answer that happened to in plain sight the whole time.
“Being wrong forces you to explore.” (137). This quote struck me when I initially read this chapter. The main reason for this is the view of society on failure. From getting an F on a paper, to failing to take the trash out, to buying the wrong medicine failure has haunted us all as humans. Society views failure as the worst possible outcome in almost all situations. However, in science failure is welcomed and actually encouraged. The basis of science and the goal of discovering new and efficient things in this world can be a very daunting and impossible task. For example, finding a common cure for cancer. If one scientist fails at finding a cure right off the bat should he or she just give up and let the next guy handle it. The answer is of course not and in fact failing at first is normal and beneficial. It allows one to look at the results and fix them for the next trial and test. In a world of perfection science is one of the few fields that allows for and appreciates failure.
“Error often creates a path that leads you out of your comfortable assumptions. De Forest was wrong about the utility of gas as a detector, but he kept probing at the edges of that error, until he hit upon something that was genuinely useful. Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore.”
Without error, and determination, many successful people would have accomplished what they did after meeting adversity. Not only does it force you to deal with defeat, it forces one to change the way they think. It makes me wonder about where we would be in this world if people dealt with failure differently. Basically everything in this world has errors, and those errors lead to so many opportunities. For example with technology, there will always be errors that people try to improve, imagine if Apple didn’t fix errors with their first iPhone, something most of us use everyday.
“It’s not that mistakes are the goal— they’re still mistakes, after all, which is why you want to get through them quickly. But those mistakes are an inevitable step on the path to true innovation” -Johnson, p148
I thought this quote did a good job of summarizing the message of this chapter. In this excerpt, Johnson emphasizes that mistakes are important in the process of creating a successful innovation, and that they are pieces of the puzzle that we cannot avoid. I also thought it was important that Johnson made sure to explain to his audience that he was not saying to make mistakes on purpose, but he was instead assuring his readers that when mistakes do happen they can be helpful instead of hurtful. For me personally, I always thought of mistakes as bad things, things that set me back in whatever I was doing, but after reading this chapter I feel more confident in the fact that mistakes can be beneficial and act as stepping stones that lead to great innovations.
In the beginning of the chapter there is an interesting quote the author introduces, “in a sense, dreams are the mind’s primordial soup: the medium that facilitates the serendipitous collisions of creative insight. And hunches are like those early carbon atoms, seeking out new kinds of connections to help them build new chains and rings of innovation.” (102). This quote made me wonder the power dreams have on people and ideas. When I first watched the movie Inception I first came to understand the realm of dreams. As a whole dreams affect how are day goes and sometimes experiences and interactions we have with people everyday. I for one like to study before I go the bed before a big test, so in a way the information stays with me the whole night.
The first film that was shown during the film event was “White Earth”. The short film focused on the family members of the oil field workers and how their lives have been affected by the oil boom in North Dakota. It is very clear how much these people sacrifice in an attempt to give their family a good life.
The second film, “Groundswell Rising”, was about the fracking industry and how its growth has affected those living in the areas surrounding the sites. While it may be easy to look at the big picture benefits of fracking, this film sheds a new light on what is actually happening to people living near fracking sites.
In relation to biotechnology, both of these films portrayed aspects we have discussed in class. For example in “Groundswell Rising”, one man whose water supply had been tainted by the runoff from fracking, devised a plan to help those without contaminated water. His hunch became a successful foundation that delivers water to people in need. He even got support from actor, Mark Ruffalo, added a pun to Johnson’s theory of “liquid networks”. Also these industries affect the adjust possibilities in the energy sector. Who knows what may come from oil drilling and fracking industries but there are many doors to open, with regards to new methods and such.
Great ideas usually originate from the work of many. Facebook, for example, was technically created by Mark Zuckerberg, but without the people who invited the internet, computer etc., he would not have the tools to pursue his great idea.
If innovations and inventions can occur simultaneously around the world, the questions arises how do we determine who gets the credit? I believe whoever publishes their work and receives recognition first deserves to be recognized.
In today’s society, we are attached to social media and the internet, always quick to take advantage of our resources. People’s desire to get information instantaneously has eliminated the need for creative, innovative thinking.
There can be a broad debate as to whether or not we should follow our hunches. In an emergency situation we are taught to act instantly and follow our gut reaction, although sometimes things do not go as planned. With science, following a hunch cannot necessarily go wrong.
If good ideas come from error and mistakes, then why in school from the time we are 4 years old does everyone stress perfection? School systems have grades and standards to which if not met, students are looked down upon and suffer in one way or another. On a multiple choice quiz or test, error is very likely and can be a learning experience, but why are we punished with bad grades?
“but that noise makes the rest of us smarter, more innovative, precisely because we are forced to rethink our bias, to contemplate,….”(Johnson, 148)
So putting us all in a place surrounded by errors can make us more innovative. If you would have told me that error can be good, and that it can help me with ideas, I would have said that you were crazy. I never knew that error could help so much, such as with De Forest eventually ending up with the vacuums tube after assuming that it was a surge of voltage, or the fact that error lead to the realization that plants create oxygen instead of CO2 and creates our atmosphere. So many things have been invented from error, so it now baffles me how we can be scorned for making a mistake, or that fact that we throw these things away. But what also is interesting is putting people in a room and having them intentionally say inaccurate things, because sometimes that could lead to error, but also innovation.
” The work of dreams turns out to be a particular chaotic, yet productive, way of exploring the adjacent possible”(Johnson, 102).
I would never have thought that dreams could be a possible let alone effective way of experimenting the adjacent possible. Johnson talks about how dreams were able to help people figure out hidden problems, or missing connections. Such as configurations for atoms. I previously assumed that since dreams can be forgotten in a flash, that it could not be possible. maybe i just have not dreamt hard enough
“The error is needed to set off the truth, much as a dark background is required for exhibiting the brightness of a picture.”-William James
I found this quote by William James very convincing, if one has the drive to never quit. Growing up, I was raised to never give up at things I truly wanted and it is almost impossible to imagine a world without the many inventions discovered through trial and error. As Johnson talks about, errors open new doors to the adjacent possible and I too feel they are necessary to find truths.
I found the description of this crustacean very interesting. I did not previously know that an organism can choose between producing asexually and sexually. The way this creature produces effectively asexually during the warmer months was fascinating and so is how it chooses to reproduce sexually during the winter months. Learning about this organism also made me ponder about why don’t all organisms have a choice to reproduce asexually or sexually? What are the benefits of only reproducing one way when both can seem useful.
In a sense, dreams are the mind’s primordial soup: the medium that facilitates the serendipitous collisions of creative insight (Johnson 102).
I had never given much thought to what spurs a dream, and what the contents of the dream mean. This point from chapter 4 was very interesting to me, I never thought that my dreams had meaning to them. I knew that all the faces you see in a dream are one’s you have previously seen; your mind recreates from your experiences while you sleep. However, this is the first time I have thought of a dream to have serendipitous results.
And so, most great ideas first take shape in a partial, incomplete form. They have the seeds of something profound, but they lack a key element that can turn the hunch into something powerful (Johnson 75).
I found this point from chapter 3 very intriguing. I never thought of myself as having multiple half-ideas or hunches stored away in my consciousness just waiting for the “key element” to set off the lightbulb and create that moment of revelation. A hunch is the foundation of a great idea or innovation. Without them, the magnitude of innovation our world has seen would be greatly diminished.
“An organism that constantly rescrambled the genetic code passed down to its descendants would be more innovative in its offspring, but only in the sense that those offspring would find many novel ways to perish before or shortly after birth. – Johnson, p 144
This part of the the text really caught my attention since it had to do with mutation and how we develop to become what we are. In this way we are able to survive with no dramatic change. If it would be done so drastically than it would be harder for organisms to survive. So it was interesting to understand more of the why.
“The errors of the great mind exceed in numbers those of the less vigorous ones.” Johnson 137
Here, Johnson is stating that quantity takes precedence over quality. Those who attempt time and time again in several different ways to create something stand a better chance at actually succeeding than those who put all their eggs in one basket. I found this interesting because I have always heard “quality over quantity” rather than what Johnson is suggesting. Is there proof to his statement or is that an over-generalization?
In the lecture portion of the Synthetic Biology course I took, you learn about different genome sizes, techniques for sequencing, how to build a genome from scratch etc. One of the cool things about this class is that the lab portion of this course offers you very real research experience that international. The yeast genome has recently been fully sequenced to where every nucleic acid has been identified within it. Knowing the sequences of all sections of the genome, the yeast genome project has now become the challenge of building it from raw materials, dNTPS. Every week in lab you build upon your synthetic DNA sequence making it longer and longer to eventually have a successful synthetic sequence of the genome. As awesome as this sounds, doing this is actually very difficult. When I took this course none of the material worked and I always had blank bands on my electrophoresis gel. There were also a ton of steps involved with making synthetic DNA that many errors could occur with simple techniques. Science is always tricky and takes effort to accomplish something.
“Individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network” (pg. 60).
Being that this is an international program, multiple minds are working on this same experiment of building a synthetic genome. People can learn from other’s failures in building the genome. Learn what techniques work and which ones didn’t.
“Competition between rival firms leads to innovation in their products and services” (pg. 21)
At the end of the chapter, Johnson brings up this idea of competition fueling good ideas and new innovations. It made me immediately think of Apple verses Window products. Both company’s have evolved to be both sufficient products but for some reason more people prefer one over the other. Apple products seem to be more costly and maybe their marketing strategies are better than windows. However, both companies produce updates often to keep their products running better and also adding more features to the programs for consumers, adds business. So why is one always considered better than the other? Is it always a personal preference or statistically is one more efficient than the other, or is it just marketing skills? These types of questions came to mind when I was thinking about the competition between these two companies.
I found an article online displaying reason why Mac computers are better than a PC. 1. Superior hardware, 2. Better Battery life, 3. The interface, 4. Free updates, 5. Anti-Virus protection, 6. Updating is not a nightmare, 7. Third-party services, 8. Track pad.
Some of these features a PC also has, but may be not as high in quality according to this article. I think overall Apple has become more innovative than windows and it could be due to this distinct competition between companies that thrive Apple technicians to come up with greater ideas.
We began discussing the structure of Benzene in class. Organic chemistry is the study of carbon which a fundamental part of drawing structures, includes a classic 6 membered benzene ring. However, what is benzene used for? I was curious as to how we use it and why it was so important so I looked up the historical uses of Benzene. Apparently in the 19th century, it was considered to have a nice smell to it, so men used it for after shave. Later in the 20th century it was used in decaffeinated coffees. Upon further research, benzene is actually a carcinogen and is not used for those purposes any longer. Since the danger of benzene was discovered, it is used now for manufacturing purposes: plastics, lubricants, rubbers, etc. Another great point about benzene is that is the base of many other derived chemicals.
The chapter “Error” focuses on all the inventions and discoveries that were made erroneously. The scientists that invented/discovered some of the most important things in our world (penicillin, pacemakers, and the technology that would eventually lead to the development of the computer) did not intend to do so.
Some of them intended their inventions to be for something else. For instance, Wilson Greatbatch was trying to develop an oscillator to record human heartbeats. By chance he grabbed the wrong resistor and created a device that simulates a heartbeat instead of recording them. (Johnson, 135-6)
Johnson considers this an error. Since it was an active decision that did not produce the desired result, that is true. However, as baseball defines an error, it is “a statistic charged against a fielder whose action has assisted the team on offense.” (MLB, Official Info) If Greatbatch’s actions did not cause another to succeed, was it an error? Should “error” be reserved for more grave actions?
What is the difference here between an “error” and an “accident”? Johnson also labels the creation of penicillin, when Alexander Fleming left a window open and mold invaded a culture in his lab, an “error”. Was leaving the window open an active decision, though? Did it assist someone who would not have succeeded if the action had not been made?
Where is the overlap between “error” and “accident”, and why does it matter?
“patents, digital rights management, intellectual property, trade secrets, proprietary technology… share a founding assumption: that in the long run, innovation will increase if you put restrictions on the spread of new ideas, because those restrictions will allow the creators to collect large financial rewards from their inventions”-Johnson p123-124″
This is Martin Shkreli. He was the CEO of a biotech company called Turing Pharmaceuticals. He is notoriously known from approving the raise price of very important drugs up to 4,000% from the original price. This overnight spike in the these drugs to treat infectious disease caused many people to suffer because they could not afford their medication. Some patients that could only be treated by Turing Pharmaceuticals drug would have no choice but to pay the obscenely high prices. This reminded me of when Johnson begins to talk about exclusive rights such as drug patents.Turing Pharmaceuticals raising the prices of lifesaving drugs overnight shows how easily these patents can hurt society more than benefit society. It shed light on how our government has to regulate patent laws in order to make any product affordable to the common man as well as the company.
It was a fun fact to learn that the FBI partakes in retreats in order for the whole division to get together and discuss and brainstorm together. Knowing that there is much competition to get into the FBI, and move up in the ranks, it is good that they work together to better the whole corporation. The ideas flow better, and similar hunches can be discussed.
Serendipity is built out of happy accidents, to be sure, but what makes them happy is the fact that the discovery you’ve made is meaningful to you. It completes a hunch, or opens up a door in the adjacent possible that you had overlooked. (Johnson 108)
After reading chapter four of Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From, this was the quote that seemed to resonate with me the most. It made me question, have there been times when discoveries were made that were unmeaningful to the researcher and were simply tossed aside? Could this discovery have brought serendipity to someone else? The idea that each discovery and hunch is personalized can be a scary one. It limits the influence these discoveries and hunches have simply because they are biased based on the discoverer.
Thatcher’s study suggests a counterintuitive notion: the more disorganized your brain is, the smarter you are. (Johnson 105)
This is very interesting to me because organization is so often considered a characteristic of intelligence. People say “you cant work at a dirty desk” and things such as that. But the idea that chaos indeed sparks more ideas is very convincing to me. The more chaotic your brain is the more ideas you consider and the more data you absorb. If you are more observant and take in more of the world around you it may become chaotic but it is also an environment where one can be more creative. I truly believe that a more chaotic brain creates more hunches.
“In part, his epiphany was made possible by the random connections of REM sleep. Yet it was also made possible by a slow hunch that had been lingering in the back of his mind for almost two decade” (Johnson, 103).
This section made me think back to Monday’s in-class discussion about slow hunches vs. quick hunches. A lot of us agreed that great ideas, even epiphanies, take a lot of time to fully develop. Most of the time, a brilliant idea does not just pop up out of nowhere. Background knowledge and experiences are required (majority of the time) before even the greatest epiphanies are created. This quote just proves these points and relates back to our ideas discussed on Monday.
This chapter made me think back to an article I recently read titled, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Author Nicholas Carr discusses the effect of technology on our brain. He proposes that technology is hindering us in the sense that the internet, and Google, have everything we could ever need at the click of a button. Our brains have adapted to the swiftness of the internet. No longer do we read through the entirety of texts to expand our knowledge on certain topics — our brains have adapted to skimming in order to find the bare necessities of information that we need. This article makes me wonder: Is the accessibility of information because of the internet limiting our creativity? Have our skimming habits resulted in less production of ideas?
“In a sense, dreams are the mind’s primordial soup: the medium that facilitates the serendipitous collisions of creative insight. And hunches are like those early carbon atoms, seeking out new connections to help them build new chains and rings of innovation.” -Johnson, pg 102
I thought this passage was really cool, because it connects a lot of previous ideas discussed in the book: the liquid network and hunches and carbon atoms. And I think what’s interesting about dreams is that they can sort of provide a spark for all these eureka moments we’ve talked about. We’ve talked about how these eureka moments don’t just come out of nowhere; there has to be a background, a collection of unconnected ideas that maybe you’ve been thinking about for a while, and the eureka moment is when you figure out which pieces fit together. And dreams sort of play around with our memories (the pieces we have on the table), putting them together in ways our conscious minds just wouldn’t think to do. The pieces have to be there to begin with, and sometimes it takes serendipity and the random connections of dreams to figure out new ways to put the pieces together.
Chapter 5 talks a lot about how error and mistakes can be positive. While I am all for learning from my mistakes it made me think of one of the most famous mistakes of all time. In the above picture Harry S Truman is holding up a Newspaper which wrongly printed the outcome of the presidential election the night before. This always reminds to me to not jump the gun and carefully review things which might not benefit from a mistake. I also just really like this picture because it shows that not all mistakes can lead to progress and everyone should be careful of making mistakes regardless of if there are benefits.
In this chapter it is mentioned several times that de Forest had failed many times while implementing one of his most critical innovations, I was wondering if it would had been more effective in a timeliness sense if other hunches and ideas were connected to his, or was it most effective for him to “fail forward.” This also ties back into the idea that every hunch takes a while to be fully implemented and even with that said not every hunch ends up being fully introduced.I get the feeling that “failing forward” and having a team behind you is what is best for implementation.
“The secret to organizational inspiration is to build information networks that allow hunches to persist and disperse and recombine” (Johnson, p.127)
In order to give our hunches and innovations a chance to grow and develop, organization is key. We must create an environment, such as an open database of hunches, where our hunches can mix in an organized fashion with other people’s hunches, and lead to new innovation. This connects with the idea of a Commonplace book. If Darwin didn’t write down his discoveries, his hunches never would have developed into the knowledge we have about evolution today. This commonplace book forum that we are posting in right now is an example of one of these organized environments.
This is a link to devonthink which is a website that allows users to share ideas that connect. You can archive all your thoughts and access old material. This program is able to make connections between things that you did not initially search for. This allows for more serendipity to occur than just using google. I believe that google is good when you are looking for a specific answer to one thing but devonthink allows you to access so much more information.