Scientific Anthology: Discoveries Ahead of Their Time

Introduction

Throughout time, monumental discoveries have been made that have greatly benefited society. Although every discovery eventually receives its time in the spotlight, the brilliance of many discoveries by hardworking scientists go overlooked until long after the scientists are gone. We who benefit from these discoveries end up saying that these people were “ahead of their time,” and therefore they were not recognized for their greatness and potential during the time in which they lived.

This anthology includes 20 instances where discoveries from a wide variety of scientific fields were made before the world was ready for them. Also included in these 20 examples are the profiles of scientists who did not receive the recognition they should have at the time, simply because their discovery was not made in a time period that could fully implement and comprehend their discovery’s advanced features and societal importance.

Continue reading “Scientific Anthology: Discoveries Ahead of Their Time”

Scientific Anthology: Discoveries Ahead of Their Time

The Birth of a New Industry: The Rise of Genentech

In her book Genentech, Sally Smith Hughes tells the story of the rise of the biotech giant Genentech. Hughes is a historian of biomedicine and biotechnology at the Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley. She takes us through the tumultuous early years of Genentech’s history, showing how the company grew from a trio of founders to a massive organization that made a fortune through the stock market. From Herb Boyer and Stanley Cohen’s development of recombinant DNA, to Tom Perkins and Bob Swanson offering Genentech as an IPO, Hughes makes a great effort to describe every major step that Genentech had to take and every hurdle they had to pass to find both commercial and scientific success. When a new person enters the company, Hughes describes them in detail, and her descriptions present these entrepreneurs and scientists as likeable characters who truly care about the work they do. She skillfully and simply describes both the complex science behind Genentech’s research and the caveats of the business world, which helped Genentech grow and succeed financially. To enhance the quality of the Genentech story, the book is filled with many photographs of the people discussed in the book as well as a few diagrams that add explanations of various scientific concepts such as DNA recombination. In this short but interesting book, Hughes provides insight into the origins of the biotechnology industry, as well as introduces readers to some of the problems early innovators in the industry had to face. Continue reading “The Birth of a New Industry: The Rise of Genentech”

The Birth of a New Industry: The Rise of Genentech

HGH Good For Sports?

While I was reading chapter 5 about Human Growth Hormone, I could not help but think  about the drug’s modern day reputation in sports.  It seems all too often stories about legendary sports players come out saying they used this type of performance enhancing drug at one point in their career.  The way major sports leagues ban this substance gives it a mostly negative connotation, but can this substance help athletes in more honorable ways than just cheating?  This ABC News article breaks down the possibilities of HGH in a deeper context.  One of the topics deals with how the drug can be used to help better repair hurt player’s knees.  When players tear their ACL, they can lose up to 20% of their power and agility from muscle shrinkage caused by a leakage of synovial fluid.  The Michigan doctor’s hypothesis is that HGH will activate a protein called IGF-1, which stands for insulin like growth factor, that will foster muscle growth and deter another protein that stops growth.  They are currently testing trials with men the ages 18-35 and should complete this process by 2017.  The hope is that the men’s knees will be stronger years after the surgery and that they will be closer to the effectiveness they were at before the injury.  If this ends up panning out, major sports leagues should consider the rules against HGH as its use this way could significantly help the careers of injured athletes.

HGH Good For Sports?

Modern DNA: The Prosecution’s Greatest Ally

In Samantha Weinberg’s book, Pointing from the Grave, readers are told the true story about a man named Paul Frediani and his conflict with the law. The British novelist, journalist, and travel writer tells us about how she became fascinated by the story of Helena Greenwood, a woman who was sexual assaulted and then murdered by her alleged assaulter in the 1980’s. Although Pointing from the Grave is a nonfiction book, Weinberg writes about both Frediani and Helena as if they were characters in a story, giving a fiction feel to her book. Weinberg tells the story of Helena and David Paul Frediani, her alleged assailant, as though it is unfolding before our eyes, intertwining scientific knowledge and human emotions in order to grab and hold her reader’s attention. The scientific knowledge Weinberg uses in her book stems from the biotechnology field (specifically forensics) and although she uses a lot of scientific terms that many people would be unfamiliar with, she presents the material in a clear and concise way that is easy for the average reader to understand. Continue reading “Modern DNA: The Prosecution’s Greatest Ally”

Modern DNA: The Prosecution’s Greatest Ally

NIH Grant Funding Process

Chapter 3 of Genentech mentions how Riggs applied for a grant from the National Institute of Health to conduct his research on somatostatin.  I was curious how someone, or some company, would apply for a scientific grant today from the NIH and how the process worked.  The following   webpage from the NIH’s site explains how the full process is conducted.  After determining a careful plan and deadlines, much like Riggs did with his three years of research estimation, the NIH provides a broad range of federal grant-making agencies that can provide one with funding opportunities.  Once a company applies for a grant, the NIH’s Division of Receipt and Referral, within the Center for Scientific Review, will determine the area of research the application falls in and review it based on its how relevant it is.  During months 4-8 of this process, the proposal will be peer reviewed and rightfully awarded thereafter.  Progress reports must be made during the research and all results generating by the funded experiments must be made available to the public.  I feel like the 9-10 months it takes to be awarded a grant is a long time, especially for scientists eager to test their theories, however having the process set up over this time period allows the CSR to fully review the applications.  Overall, the process is rightfully tedious for the amount of money that can be awarded for research to discover new scientific things that can benefit the public.

NIH Grant Funding Process

Selecting A Jury

While reading and learning about the serious case described in this book, I often thought about the task the jury had.  Any jury that deals with a murder case has an immense amount of responsibility and based off the fact that I have yet to be selected to be part of a jury, I was wondering how one is properly selected.  The following article does a great job explaining the process.  After 12 people are selected from the jury list, the judge in the case asks them if they have any personal experiences that may cause them to be biased about the case.  I was particularly interested in the voir dire, or interview process, that is conducted because I did not know it is often done by both of the lawyers.  The article explains how the lawyers have the option of dismissing jurors based off a cause, such as a certain relative or job that connects them to the case.  A peremptory challenge will allow a lawyer to dismiss a potential juror without any particular reason, but they are limited based on the case details and should not be biased based off of race or sex.  Overall, the jury process involves mainly lawyers and the judge agreeing on 12 people who could properly and seriously come to conclusion on a court case.

Selecting A Jury

Death Penalty Disappearing

Chapter 16 begins to get to the ladder part of the case with Frediani and brings up the possibility of him facing the death penalty.  Executions from the death penalty have occurred in thirty-four states since its coming back in the year 1976, but I was curious if the death penalty will ever be banned again.  This article does a great job providing 5 reasons why the death penalty is slowly fading away  . I will detail two of these reasons as talking about all five will be too long of a post.  Reason 1 details the fact that despite the many methods of execution that were preformed over the years, the deaths do not always go smoothly and effectively.  The older ways such as burning and electrocution clearly caused problems of slow deaths that can even take hours for the person to die, but lethal injection was not the effective way that some people thought it would be.  Pharmaceutical companies will not always supply their drug for the purpose of execution and cases of botched injections have occurred.  When there is no certain way to make these deaths quick these executions are only becoming a hassle.  Another reason listed in the article is the constant burden that the U.S. Supreme Court faces.  There is never a fine line about who should live and who should die in cases and the talks of this controversial topic will never cease to end with it still being an option.  The Time article even goes on to say that the Justices know that the modern day death penalty is set up in a failed way, and this would lead us to believe that eventually they will just get tired of trying to  “prop up this broken system”.

Death Penalty Disappearing

Evidence Planting

“Why would we want to plant evidence?”

“To close the case.” -(Weinberg 230)

While reading this chapter of Pointing From the Grave, Frediani’s interrogation by the police struck me.  When asked why they would have his DNA, Paul claimed that the police must have planted evidence against him.  Based off what I know about Paul and the case so far from the book, I do not think the officers involved with Frediani’s crimes framed him at all, but hearing about this type of tampering got me curious.  After a quick google search on evidence planting, I found this article  .  The article does a good job explaining how it is very much unclear how often evidence is planted by cops.  There are no agencies run by the government that look out for and track this type of injustice and it seems the only way people get caught is in the act itself.  The New York City example from 2008 is fascinating based off of the guilty officer’s quote.  He went on to testify that nothing will happen to the wrongly convicted, although he is being completely blind to the fact that these people he planted evidence on will have records of drug possession.  Besides trying to meet an arrest quota, like the New York cop, some officers plant evidence for personal and vengeful reasons.  The article mentions how a police sergeant planted meth in his ex wife’s car as an attempt to win custody of their kids.  How can these types of evidence planting be stopped?  Should there be more agencies that look into and monitor these falsehoods, or should policemen have no quotas and less pressure to meet a certain number of arrests?

 

Evidence Planting

Life After Prison

While reading chapter 12, I was fascinated by how quickly Paul adjusted to life outside of jail.  It seemed in a matter of no time he had another corporate job, another girlfriend in Eileen, and had regained a sense of freedom in relationship with himself again.  This got me thinking about how prisoners in general feel when they first step foot outside of prison and how they fit back into the society they have not been a part of for years.  Paul was in jail for a  relatively short sentence, unlike Otis Johnson.       This link provides a short video detailing of what life is like for 69 year old Otis Johnson, who served 44 years in jail.  In Otis’s case, life evolved so much since he was incarcerated.  He thought people walking around on their phones were members if the CIA because that was the only use of headphones he could remember.  Based off the video, I would say it is impossible for Otis and other people who served long sentences to become fully accustom to a new life outside of jail, but, like Otis, they can still enjoy the fact that they are free and the fact that the past is the past.  Otis seems like he will always find new things in society that he doesn’t recognize, however he still is optimistic about his future of being free.

Life After Prison

Genetic Fingerprinting Solving Cases

I found Alec Jeffery’s discovery of genetic fingerprinting very interesting and of course it has been very useful in solving crimes since its birth.  At this point in the book, Paul has been convicted for the sexual act against Helena Greenwood, but the fact that 14% of the total population had the same matching secretion as the semen left behind on her pillowcase makes the case a little less certain.  Paul’s attorney desperately tried to argue, even though his client matched, that 14% of the people in the area is a large number of possible offenders.  If genetic fingerprinting were to be used, prosecutors could tell for certain if the semen left at the scene of the crime was in fact Paul’s.  The same way that Colin Pitchfork was convicted for his brutal double rape and homicides, Paul could definitely revealed as the culprit.  This type of DNA analysis could also be used to find Helena’s killer.  Below is a link to an article that highlights an interview that Alec Jeffery participated in.  Jeffery’s discovery all the way back in 1984 is discussed.     

Genetic Fingerprinting Solving Cases

Are Husbands Always Suspect?

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.

Are Husbands Always Suspect?

Where Good Ideas Come From: A Method to the Madness of Innovation?

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: A Method to the Madness of Innovation?

Place of Flower Pot

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.

Place of Flower Pot

Blood Types

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?

Blood Types

Ideas Helped by a Collective Process?

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.

Ideas Helped by a Collective Process?

Women in Biotech Field

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?

Women in Biotech Field

Importance of DNA Evidence

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.

Importance of DNA Evidence

Distant/Close Reading

“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.

Distant/Close Reading

Twitter the Exaptation

“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.

Twitter the Exaptation

Apple’s Coffeehouse

“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.

 

Apple’s Coffeehouse

Errors

“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.

Errors

Water Flea Daphnia

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.

Water Flea Daphnia

9/11 Hunches

Being from the New York/New Jersey area, 9/11 can be a touchy subject.  A fellow student that went to my high school lost his father from the attack, as well as many other people in my area that lost a loved ones.  These hunches that were brought up in chapter 3 definitely make me question whether or not things could have went differently, but at the same time I realize the time needed for a slow hunch to turn into something better.  Darwin’s hunches took a while to turn into concrete theories and ideas.  Its hard to not question if, with the proper time, Ken Williams hunches could of had put security on more of an alert all the way back in 2001.

9/11 Hunches

Another Carbon?

“Without the generative links of carbon, the earth would have likely remained a lifeless soup of elements, a planet of dead chemistry,” (page 49).  I thought it was interesting to ponder if if this was the actual case, or if earth could have still have began sustaining from another element.  Could this have been possible? Or would earth still be a lifeless soup of elements without carbon.

Another Carbon?

YouTube’s 1/1 Rule

The 10/10 rule stuck out to me for the fact of how long it took for these technological advances to become the new norm.  HDTV didn’t rise to mainstream popularity overnight, but YouTube was close to doing so.  One of my questions for this section dealt with if our generation (Generation Y) had large hand in making YouTube successful at such a faster rate.  I believe that our large generation, who is always seemingly on the next social media fad, definitely contributed heavily to YouTube’s success. Even though HDTV seemed to focus on a larger and broader target audience, it still didn’t have the generational focus that Youtube had to give them this “1/1 Rule”.

YouTube’s 1/1 Rule