Scientific Anthology: Accidental Discoveries

Introduction

Throughout history many people have stumbled upon a discovery accidentally. Some examples of these accidental discoveries occur when someone is working on an experiment and it results in a completely different outcome then expected. No matter how these discoveries were made, there has been several significant discoveries that happened accidentally in history. These accidental discoveries may produce a physical product, but it also allows people to keep an open mind in their experiments, not knowing what the outcome may be. It is interesting to look at these accidental discoveries and see how one experiment can turn into something completely different. In this anthology, you will find a collection of examples of accidental discoveries. These examples were selected because we believe they have had a significant impact in the world.
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Scientific Anthology: Accidental Discoveries

Innovation Realized

Sally Smith Hughes‘s “Genetech: The Beginnings of Biotech” is a very informative look into the world of biotechnology specifically the highs and lows of the biotech company Genetech.  Ms. Hughes is a very successful writer as she has written several books about science, specifically about the biotech industry. “Genetech: The Beginnings of Biotech” is her most recent book as she has previously written “The Virus: A History of the Concept” (Heinemann, 1997) and “Making Dollars out of DNA: The First Major Patent in Biotechnology and the Commercialization of Molecular Biology, 1974-1980”. Ms. Hughes currently works at the University of California, Berkeley where she continues her work on the history of science. In each of Hughes’s books there is a strong focus on a certain area of science such as patents or viruses. However, in this case the focus is on Genetech a revolutionary biotech company. Throughout the story the audience learns what goes on to make such a profitable biotech company and the various obstacles in their way. Continue reading “Innovation Realized”

Innovation Realized

Biotech is on the Case

Samantha Weinberg’s “Pointing From the Grave” is a suspenseful story that illustrates the brilliant use of science in the world of police work. Ms. Weinberg has become a very successful writer as she has written many books from the light hearted Moneypenny Diaries which focuses on the life of the secretary of James Bond, Miss Moneypenny, to the riveting drama “Last of the Pirates: The Search for Bob Denard” which also focuses on a woman in this case a French mercenary. However, her crowning achievement is “Pointing from the Grave” as she won the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-fiction. In each of Weinberg’s books she focuses the story on a female throughout the story and in “Pointing From the Grave” it is no different. In this book Weinberg focuses on the mysterious murder of Helena Greenwood, a head of a biotech marketing team. Throughout the story the audience is taught the importance of science in particular DNA in its use of solving high profile murder cases. Continue reading “Biotech is on the Case”

Biotech is on the Case

Freudian’s eye surgery

“‘How long after you had surgery on April, 5, 1984, was it before you drove a motor car at night?’

‘It was quite a while. The vision at night was really bad…bright headlights would be excruciatingly painful and I avoided that.’

-Weinberg, 168

When Mr. Frediani was question by Murray, he was asked about the eye surgery he had received. The days following his surgery, Frediani admitted to driving during the daytime with sun glasses on, however, denied driving at night because of how painful and difficult it would’ve been. I looked online and a lot of different sources said to avoid driving at night, even to cover eyes during sleep so to protect eyes from light. I know from personal experience, the last thing you want after an eye surgery is to have a light shown into your eye, especially a headlight. The doctor will usually give patients very dark colored sunglasses to protect the eyes during recovery. I want to know why this didn’t play a bigger role in Frediani’s case. To me, that seems reliable enough to remove Frediani from the scene of the crime. This also made me wonder about how many people are proven innocent in court due to a health reason or recent surgery.

Freudian’s eye surgery

Chapter 3 – PFTG

 “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 p.34

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?

Chapter 3 – PFTG

Suits vs White coats

“There’s two different communities; the white coats and the suits”

-Weinberg p.16

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.

Suits vs White coats

Pot prints vs Suspect description

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?

Pot prints vs Suspect description

Book Review – Griffin, Padawan, Jose, PF1287

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”

Book Review – Griffin, Padawan, Jose, PF1287

Survival mode

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?

Survival mode

The Fourth Quadrant

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.

The Fourth Quadrant

Platforms

“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.”

-Johnson, 210

-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?

 

Platforms

Expectation

“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.”

-Johnson, 166

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.

Expectation

Error – Chapter 5

“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.”

-Johnson, 137

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.

Error – Chapter 5

White Earth and Groundswell Rising

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.

White Earth and Groundswell Rising

The Web and a hunch

The web came into being as an archetypal slow hunch: from a child’s exploration of a hundred-year-old-ecyclopedia, to a freelancer’s idle side project designed to help him keep track of his colleagues, to a deliberate attempt to build new information platform that could connect computers across the planet.

-Johnson, 89

The world wide web is something we use everyday, multiple times. A hunch that started  from a kid reading a book lead to one of the great tools ever invented. This is a humbling story because it shows the strength of ambition and curiosity. If Berners-Lee hadn’t read about the “portal to the world of information”, he may have never created the internet. It puts into perspective how strong a hunch and truly be.

The Web and a hunch

Phase-locking

Neurons share information by passing chemicals across the synaptic gap that connects them, but they also communicate via a more indirect channel: they synchronize their firing rates. For reasons that are not entirely understood large clusters of neurons will regularly fire at the exact same frequency […] phase-locking.

-Johnson, 104

The idea of phase-locking is extremely interesting. While our brain share information directly through synaptic gaps, neurons can also spontaneously connect. The counter side to this is that the brain needs to have periods of chaos. There needs to be a balance between chaos among neurons and the direct transferring of information.

Phase-locking

Incubators

The Meulaboh incubators were a representative sample: some studies suggest that as much as 95 percent of medical technology donated to developing countries breaks within the first five years.

-Johnson, 27

Seeing the clear issue with donating complex equipment, breakdowns, parts, and labor, Design that Matters created an amazing machine. The incubator that runs off car parts is not only incredible for the creativity that went into making it but because of the possibilities it creates. Instead of having to bring in a technical expert to fix an incubator, people who know how to change a headlight can fix these incubators.

Incubators

Superlinear Scaling

A city that was ten times larger than its neighbor wasn’t ten times more innovative, it was seventeen times more innovative […]  Something about the environment of a big city was making its residents significantly more innovative than residents of a smaller town. But what was it?

-Johnson, 11

The innovation in city can steam from many different things. Is it because of the competition people have between one another, the want to be better than the next person. Could it be the “buzz” of a city that stimulates productivity and innovation. Whatever the reason, or reasons, this is such an interesting finding.

Superlinear Scaling

Profiting From The Poor

“The global distribution of modified crop seeds and livestock, for example, reduces the diversity of food grown around the world, increases costs to farmers, and makes everyone dependent on a few large corporations for this most basic of commodities.”

-pg. 206 Biotech Unzipped

The problems with globally distributing modified seeds and livestock are not ones to be ignored, yet I just learned about it from this chapter. It can be argued that reducing the diversity of food around the world is not a good thing, incase of an outbreak with the crop for example. Also imposing a liscencing fee on farmers for using a patented and modified seed is not, in my mind, the right thing to do. There should be more exposure to the problems with global distribution of modified seed and livestock.

Profiting From The Poor