A scientific theory is a well-tested, comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature supported by evidence and facts gathered over time (Oregon State). These theories are typically proposed by one scientist or researcher and then retested and reexamined over time by other scientists and researchers, who will either agree with and add onto the original theory or will find evidence against it and eventually debunk it.
Debunked scientific theories are these theories that were once widely accepted within the mainstream scientific community but nowadays are considered to be inaccurate descriptions of nature. Often times, these debunked scientific theories are only disproven when scientists and researchers work to retest the original theory and another theory emerges from this research to replace it as the norm. In this anthology, a series of famous debunked scientific theories, such as the Flat Earth Theory or the idea of Geocentrism, are given an in-depth look.
Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech is a book that tells the story of how Genentech, one of the first biotechnology companies, was founded. It tells the story of how “The company inspired a new industrial sector transforming the biomedical and commercial landscapes ever after” (Hughes Prologue 1). It is written by Sally Smith Hughes, a historian of science at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of The Virus: A History of the Concept and Making Dollars out of DNA: The First Major Patent in Biotechnology and the Commercialization of Molecular Biology (“Sally Smith Hughes” 2012). She has lots of experience detailing the history of scientific processes and companies as she is also the creator of an extensive collection of in-depth oral histories on bioscience, biomedicine, and biotechnology. This shows in her book about Genentech, as she is able to provide lots of information on the key figures in the company’s start-up, such as Herb Boyer, Stanley Cohen, and Robert Swanson. She is also able to describe the scientific processes that made the company successful such as the use and discovery of recombinant DNA. Continue reading “Genentech: A Science-Business Hybrid”→
I was curious as we finished the book about Genentech, what they were doing in modern times. After some quick googling I learned that this year they celebrated thier 40th anniversary. In celebration the state of California created a biotechnology day on April 7th because in 1976 that is when “Biochemists Herb Boyer of the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford University’s Stanley Cohen had developed the technology to clone genetically engineered DNA molecules in foreign cells” thus founding Genentech. I thought it is really cool that California is honoring Genentech’s accomplishments because they had such an impact on the field. I think this will help increase interest in biotech as well now that it has its own day.
Pointing from the Grave: a True Story of Murder and DNA is a scientific, crime novel about the murder of Helena Greenwood, a young DNA scientist who was sexually assaulted and then murdered a year later, and the main suspect in both of these cases, David Paul Frediani. It is written by Samantha Weinberg, a British author, journalist, and politician. She has written both scientific books such as A Fish Caught in Time, the story of J. L. B. Smith who was tasked with identifying a prehistoric fish, the coelacanth, and fictional novels such as The Moneypenny Chronicles which detail the life of James Bond’s secretary, Ms. Moneypenny. She combines both of these styles of writing in Pointing from the Grave, which is written as a novel but is filled with detailed scientific processes which Weinberg explained very well. In addition to detailing the story of both Helena Greenwood and Paul Frediani’s lives, she also describes the birth of many essential modern forensic DNA techniques with chapters focused on key figures such as Kary Mullis, a Nobel Prize winning biochemist. Continue reading “Frediani: Murderer or Victim?”→
Chapter 3 focuses on a new idea instead of insulin which is the polypeptide somatostatin. I was curious what it is used for in the body because they appear to be connecting it to insulin and the pancreas. I googled it and found that Somatostatin, is a “polypeptide that inhibits the activity of certain pancreatic and gastrointestinal hormones.” (Encyclopedia Britannica) Additionally I learned that somatostatin is produced “In the pancreas, somatostatin is produced by the delta cells of the islets of Langerhans, where it serves to block the secretion of both insulin and glucagon from adjacent cells.” (Encyclopedia Britannica). I found it interesting that Alzheimers disease is found to decrease levels of the polypeptide and I wasn’t sure why. I am glad I googled what it was because I have a much clearer idea of what they are trying to accomplish and how it relates to making insulin.
The final chapter and epilogue of pointing from the grave talk about the possibility of Frediani being a sociopath and how his childhood could have influenced his actions. However that reminded me of the warrior gene which we saw in a video a few weeks ago. I did some more research into the warrior gene and found that now it is also linked to anti social behavior. That surprised me and if it is true I do not think Frediani has the Warrior gene becasue in the book Pointing from the Grave he is portrayed as very outgoing, but had I not know that I had pretty much assumed that because Frediani was so aggressive he had the gene.
In Chapter 18 it the prosecution discusses that they were given the clues to look for trace DNA evidence on Helena’s body by using blood stain analysis to determine where she was attacked. This lead them to discover areas on her body where an attacker might have left DNA such as the blood around her ankles and under her fingernails. After watching the video last week which included a segment about blood stain analysis I wanted to do a little more research on it. I learned that “Bloodstains are classified into three basic types: passive stains, transfer stains and projected or impact stains”. (Source Article) Usually most Blood Pattern Analysis happens after they have categorized the stain because certain stains are more common with certain crimes. Also often footprints and other markings can be identified and used as evidence which I thought was very neat. Overall the article has a lot of good information about blood pattern analysis and I recommend you check it out.
In chapter 15 of Pointing from the Grave Frediani is re arrested after ten years for the murder of Helena Greenwood. This is done when detective Laura Heilig obtains a warrant for his arrest. This made me curious about how warrants work. I learned that in addition to the standard search warrant that I was already familiar with, there is also a bench warrant and several different warrants which can be issued for finical reasons. I learned that “A bench warrant is initiated by and issued from the bench or court directing a law enforcement officer to bring a specified person before the court” (Dictionary definition). I found the bench warrant the most interesting because that can be issued in the middle of a trail and people can be taken into court which I found very interesting. Overall the link below was very helpful in learning more about warrants, check it out.
After reading about Kary Mullins revolutionary discovery of PCR I was curious to know more about its other uses. I think that Kary Mullins is responsible for one of the most important discovery in science because it has more uses than just forensics. For example I discovered that “PCR was used to quantify the HIV in blood in the spring of 1985. By mid-1987, a viable test was available and PCR was used to study the impact of antiviral drugs and also to screen donor blood samples for HIV” (Cheriyedath). Seeing as how AIDS and HIV were becoming an epidemic during the time I consider PCR to be extremely influential in more than just the criminal field. However I also learned in the article that “In 1987, DNA from a strand of human hair was amplified using PCR and this confirmed the ability of PCR to amplify DNA present in degraded samples part of forensic evidence” (Cheriyedath). I think its really neat that Mullins was able to develop a technique which not only was able to help expand crime solving was also able to be used in other areas of science which is really awesome.
Chapter 8 focuses on the beginning of DNA evidence and how it has become the most significant forensic advancement in recent years. This reminded me of an article that saw a few days ago which talked about a new funeral trend. A Canadian genetic company SecuriGene is offering to preserve family members DNA as a memorial. They are arguing that in addition to there being practical reasons you are honoring your family member by keeping their DNA. I thought it was interesting because something people did not know existed 200 years ago is now being a part of funeral memorials.
In chapter seven it seems that circumstantial evidence is able to place Frediani in jail. While there is some direct evidence such as the fingerprint it is largely circumstantial evidence. I did some research and found an article which talked about why some juries cant convict with circumstantial evidence. It gave examples such as the Casey Anthony case where there was a lot of circumstantial evidence but not were not able to convict because there was not enough physical evidence. The article included a quote which I liked which says its “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” This made me think that while a lot of times circumstantial evidence may make people look very guilty physical evidence should be the top priority every time.
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”→
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
On Page 117 Johnson says that if you visit the Wikipedia page for serendipity you can find access to a plethora of human inventions. In fact the page really interested me because serendipity is often linked with many accidental scientific advancements. I had no idea that penicillin, post it notes, and the microwave were accidental discoveries. Overall I just think its really neat that humanity as a species finds so much advancement through failure or just coincidence. I also had no idea so many scientific discoveries were made by accident which is really interesting that humanity even in failure is very productive.
“Early on in its history, Google famously instituted a “20 percent time” program for all Google engineers: for every four hours they spend working on official company projects they are required to spend one hour on their own pet project, guided entirely by their own interests and passions “(Johnson 93).
I just thought it was really neat that Google is encouraging the adjacent possible by allowing their engineers to work on random projects in an effort to spur creativity. I also liked that Johnson provided an example of the person who created Google News in his downtime which showed that it was positive benefits for society to let people be creative.
Near the end of Chapter 2 Johnson brings up Microsoft Building number 99 which is where their research division is and is supposed to be a building which causes creation and innovation to flourish. This made me very curious as to what a building designed with this purpose in mind. Maybe because I am not in the building but aside from looking open and flowing which was the point as said in the book I do not think I would be more creative working there. Regardless I think its cool that Microsoft has certain buildings for certain things and I included a picture of the building below.
Source of Picture found on google images http://blogs.microsoft.com/next/2011/05/03/a-tour-of-my-microsoft-workspace-steve-clayton/
Chapter one of good ideas uses an example which really made what the Adjacent Possible an easy concept for me to grasp by talking about the above scene in Apollo 13. As such I thought I’d share the scene because it just perfectly for me summed up what the Adjacent Possible is as an obscure concept. I also just love this movie because it shows how adaptable humans are and how we have really done some amazing things as a species. This movie is also a classic which spawned some really great lines and is scientifically accurate which is really cool. All credit goes to the movie Apollo 13 linked above.
“This is a book about the space of innovation. Some environments squelch new ideas; some environments seem to breed them effortlessly.” Johnson 15
I thought this quote was interesting because it reminded me of our discussion about Chapter 7 of Unzipped where we discussed patents. Patents can cause ideas not to flourish but seem to be a necessary factor in our economy. The quote also made me think of what other places can facilitate ideas and colleges and universities often facilitate ideas. I couldn’t think of an environment that doesn’t allow for the facilitation of ideas. I just found an NBC article which says the US is currently in a backlog for patents which is where the image is from. Source http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4788834/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/t/us-patent-office-swamped-backlog/
“In Human Terms, the easy access of genetic screening might place people under pressure to be tested for all sorts of situations, including marriage planning, traveling, starting a new job, or deciding when to retire. If screening comes to be seen as a social good there might be prejudice against those who choose not to be screened.” -Unzipped page 211.
I thought it was interesting that genetic screening could become advanced enough that it can be used to detect stress levels before job interviews or if you’ll have a successful marriage. I am not sure if its going to be a good or bad thing that we might be able to dodge future consequences but it is very interesting to think about.