Scientific Anthology: Serendipity

Introduction

Serendipity is defined as “luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for.” (1)

This anthology provides examples of scientific serendipity. This will introduce a number of scientists, inventions, and theories that all came about because of serendipity. This theme was clear throughout the books that we read during the semester and we wanted to prove that serendipity really exists in the scientific community as well as the world around us.

  1. (n.d.). Retrieved May 09, 2016, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/serendipity
Scientific Anthology: Serendipity

Genentech: History of Biotechnology

Sally Smith Hughes writes, Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech, a historical account about the rise of Genentech Inc. Hughes takes the reader from the beginnings of biotech in 1973, to Genentech’s creation by Robert A. Swanson and Herbert Boyer, to its Wall Street debut in 1980. Hughes is a science historian at the University of California, Berkeley contributing over 150 oral histories[1] to the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley; additionally Hughes also wrote The Virus: A History of the Concept[2]. Genentech tells the story of how a multiplicity of perspectives and personalities can affect the growth of science; and how outside sources of control and regulation, by government and private sector, can help or hamper progress in commercial and university scientific research. Continue reading “Genentech: History of Biotechnology”

Genentech: History of Biotechnology

Human Genetic Research and Ethics

On page 93, Hughes mentions that UCSF and Harvard faced some difficulties because their research used human genetic material. I wanted to know more about using human genetic material in research. I found an article that talked about human genetic research and all that it entails.

http://www.pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/policy-politique/initiatives/tcps2-eptc2/chapter13-chapitre13/

This article addresses how genetic research can violate some ethics. This is due to all the information that researches can get from a person’s genetic material. This includes ancestry and cultural background. The question is asked if this is too much to know? Does this violate a person’s privacy? The article brings up a lot of good points about this and really makes you one think about how much should be kept private.

The article also talks about the rights that the individual has when it comes to the researchers sharing the findings of the experiment and who can know the information. I was also surprised to read about genetic material banks where genetic material is collected and stored for future analysis.

This article really opened my eyes to how challenging the world of human genetic research is and how many different factors need to be considered when doing this type of research.

Human Genetic Research and Ethics

Congress Restrictions on GMO

The issue was brought up in the book on page 66 about congress restricting genetic engineering experiment. This was an interesting topic for me and made me wonder what exactly these restrictions entailed, especially dealing with genetically modified organisms. I have some previous knowledge on GMOs and how they are engineered in order to make life easier for humans. For example healthier vegetables, and crops that are designed to resist pests and bad weather. So I found an article that details all the restrictions on GMOs, opinions on them, legislation, and even how different organizations are involved with this process.

https://www.loc.gov/law/help/restrictions-on-gmos/usa.php

The article acknowledges that people do have mixed feelings towards GMOs. Some are very positive towards them and recognizes the benefits of them, but then there are some who say they would not eat genetically modified food because of unknown or modified ingredients. It then goes on to explain that GMOs are dealt with by environmental, health, and safety laws. The FDA wants to have a consultation procedure with GMO growers in order to make sure that the food is safe. The EPA makes sure that the environment is still safe when pesticides and microorganisms are introduced through genetic engineering. Although the state does not have much of a role in regulating GMOs in the United States.

This article was very surprising to me because I had no idea the process that legislation went to to define what is allowed to do and what is not.

Congress Restrictions on GMO

Inside a Sociopath

In the book a psychologist stated that Frediani has the characteristics of a sociopath and describes him as “charismatic, impulsive, hedonistic, smart, manipulative, faithless in sexual relationships, and ultimately remorseless.” (339) This got me wondering if Frediani had shown these characteristics the whole time throughout the book and what clues the author had given to this possibility.

I found an article that is title “The Six Hallmarks of a Sociopath.” This addressed the different ways to identify if someone is actually a sociopath. Many of the hallmarks fit Frediani perfectly. Especially number 5 which was “Externalizes blame. The sociopath does not take ownership or blame for his mistakes or misdeeds.” Throughout Frediani’s assault trial he did not show any signs of guilt or recognition that he had sexually assaulted Helena and he didn’t not admit that it was wrong until his trial for Helena’s murder many years later. Another one that fit Frediani was number 2 which said “Manipulates others, either from the sidelines or directly.” Frediani got many people to lie or cover for him when he felt that the police were closing in on him. He made sure to get an alibi to cover his tracks. http://blogs.psychcentral.com/childhood-neglect/2015/09/the-six-hallmarks-of-a-sociopath/

 

This article opened up my eyes to the way that Frediani acted and even offered some explanation to why he committed such horrible acts against the many women he came into contact with.

Inside a Sociopath

Death Penalty

In chapter 16 the book discussed people’s differing opinions on the death penalty. It was decided that the death penalty would have been too harsh and that the jury would not have been able to sentence Frediani to death simply based on the evidence presented. Although Heilig did not agree and she thought that yes Frediani deserved to die because of what he did to Helena. I wanted to know more about the death penalty in the United States and if most people agreed with Heilig’s mentality of an eye for an eye.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-death-penalty-deserves-the-death-penalty

I found this article that put the death penalty into a different perspective for me. Lincoln Caplan talks about how there have been “more than fourteen hundred executions in the United States”. This really puts into perspective how much the death penalty has been used throughout the years. Is this acceptable? He also goes into talking about the different ways that these people are killed and how many of these drugs have not been approved by the FDA. Also he says that 152 times people have been exonerated. Mistakes have been made and this has cost innocent people their lives.

I know that Frediani is guilty but what if he wasn’t? Is killing him because he killed Helena really a good punishment? Should the punishment always fit the crime? Before I read this article I completely agreed with Heilig, but after reading the article I have begun to rethink my stance on the death penalty.

Death Penalty

Forensic Bias

In the book on page 193, Weinberg asks the question if it creates bias that the forensic scientists knew which samples came from the suspect and which came from the victim? This got me to thinking about why would  this be allowed? And then how could this effect the results without the scientists even meaning it to? I found an article that had a study done on forensic experts and what could be a factor in their ultimate conclusion. http://www.psmag.com/politics-and-law/biased-forensics-experts-82712

The article talked about how bias, time pressure and expectations could all be a factor. Many of the experts tended to focus on the information that was given them and when examining the bodies they looked for details that would support what they already knew. This is human nature to assume what we already know is correct. It is hard to figure out what we don’t know yet. The study also says that there is a “movement underway” that will hopefully establish some guidelines to erase a lot of the bias that is present in many of these cases.

This connects back to the question in the book because it does create bias that the forensic scientists knew which samples came from which person. They would then be looking for evidence to confirm what they thought was correct instead of looking for new answers.

Forensic Bias

Sex Offenders

Since Frediani was released from prison he was listed as a sex offender, but this oddly enough did not seem to bother him. He was ready to start a new life. Although he did have a parole officer that he had to check in with every month. This made me start to wonder if there is a certain set of rules that sex offenders have to follow.

I found an article that listed all the rules that they have to follow. There are many restrictions that I would never have even thought about. Sex offenders can not have any contact with pornographic entertainment and can not go to places that promote this. It also states that they must tell any new relationships that they get into about their past. This answers the question that Frediani must have told his new girlfriend about everything that had occurred. One thing that did surprise me is that they are no longer to purchase weapons. This list from the article really brought a new view to the book and even Frediani’s new lifestyle. It makes me stop and think why he was so willing to accept the title of a sex offender when so many negative things came with that. http://www.doc.wa.gov/community/sexoffenders/rulesincommunity.asp

Sex Offenders

Autopsy

The whole idea the the man’s organs were switched by the nursing home in chapter 10 was amazing to me that the Pestinikas were so desperate to stay in operation that they tried to hide their malpractice.

I firstly did not know how organs can show that a person has been starved so i decided to research that. http://www.medicaldaily.com/now-entering-starvation-mode-what-happens-your-metabolic-processes-when-you-stop-feeding-280666 This website talked about how when you starve your body, your body begins to eat away at the protein in the muscle because it is looking for some source of energy. Muscles would be deteriorated in the dead man’s body and this would be a sure tell of starvation. Also the website said that the stomach would be bloated as well (edema).

I was also interested in knowing how easy it would be to switch the organs or remove them without anyone knowing. I did some research and found an article where a medical examiner removed the brain of a dead teen and then kept it. This was taken to court where the court ruled “There is simply no legal directive that requires a medical examiner to return organs or tissue samples derived from a lawful autopsy and retained by the medical examiner after such an autopsy”. This was so interesting to me and really shows how much power medical examiners have and that in chapter 10 it would have been very possible to remove the organs without anyone knowing.  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/12/new-york-organs-medical-examiners

 

Autopsy

Fake Blood

Ian Kelly gave blood in Colin’s place because Colin was going around asking his coworkers to give blood because he had a record. I was wondering if this occurred often because i had heard of people using someone else’s urine for a urine test but never of using blood. I found an article about a case that happened where the man also used someones else’s blood in hopes of avoiding the police. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Schneeberger

John Schneeberger avoided the police by putting blood that was not his own into his body and thus his DNA did not come up.  He implanted blood from another man so that when his blood was drawn for a DNA test his own DNA did not come up. It is very shocking that they based so much of the case on DNA because his one victim was even able to remember his sexual assault on her but this was not enough to convict John.

The case in the book and in real life really opened my eyes up to how DNA maybe should not be the only thing considered in a case since there are possible ways to fake this.

Fake Blood

The Risk of Bias

I found it very interesting and somewhat confusing that the whole court trial was conducted as if Helena were alive. They talked about her as if she were still living. I was wondering if this had to do with the jury and making sure that there was no bias present to sway their opinion. I decided to do some research on the risk of bias and found this article… http://www.ncsc.org/~/media/Files/PDF/Topics/Gender%20and%20Racial%20Fairness/IB_Strategies_033012.ashx

One risk factor that this article talked about that I thought related to Helena’s case was “certain emotional states”. The article explains that when a certain emotional state is provoked then it will produce “stereotypical judgements”. If the jury pitied Roger because he had just lost his wife then they may have been swayed to see his side. Or if the jury then believed that maybe Frediani had been involved in the death of Helena then their opinion would have also changed.

It was interesting to see how actual steps have been taken to reduce the risk of bias and how this was reflected in the novel.

The Risk of Bias

Book Review- Helen, Mike, Matt

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”

Book Review- Helen, Mike, Matt

Autopsy

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.

Autopsy

Fingerprinting

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcFYQcYdyu0

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.

Fingerprinting

Franklin and DNA

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.

Franklin and DNA

Victims

I was very curious as to what Helena could have done to receive treatment after she was attacked. Not much was addressed in the book other than her moving away from where the incident occurred. http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/rape/rape-therapy-a-treatment-for-rape-victims/

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.

Victims

Race & DNA

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.

http://mg.co.za/article/2016-02-04-dna-recasts-race-issues-in-the-us

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.

Race & DNA

Giants

“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.

 

Giants

Exaptation

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.

http://10e.devbio.com/article.php?ch=16&id=161

This article gives a good time line on how this creature evolved into what our modern day birds look like.

Exaptation

Error

I found this chapter so interesting because it brought up a very different way of thinking about technological and scientific advancements. Not all things are discovered by careful analysis and processes. Things mainly happen because of error. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/38870091/ns/technology_and_science-innovation/t/greatest-accidental-inventions-all-time/#.VryZ9cc-C1s

This list also was interesting to see how many things that are used today were never supposed to be invented!

Error

Serendipity

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.

http://www.devontechnologies.com/products/devonthink/overview.html

Serendipity

Slow Hunches

Johnson talked about the idea of slow hunches and how this was the rule. No one really has light bulb ideas like Sherlock Holmes who quickly puts together clues in less than a day. It takes time to process ideas and come to a realization about what makes the most sense. Even Darwin took almost a year to realize what all his research about evolution meant. This made me realize the importance of slowing down and really taking time to look over ideas instead of just posting or sharing your idea right away, which is what happens a lot now because of social media.

Slow Hunches

NeoNurture

This is a good invention that is not only more reasonable to make but also easier to fix. The scientists and inventors at work on this project are helping to lower infant mortality rates and improve the quality of life in third world countries. The pros outweigh any cons. Although there is the worry about prices of this invention and if it will be made available to those who really need it who might not be able to afford it.

NeoNurture

The Long Zoom

“When we look at the history of innovation from the vantage point of the long zoom, what we find is that unusually generative environments display similar patterns of creativity at multiple scales simultaneously.” p.20

This quote is showing that you can’t look at a big picture of an environment; you have to look much deeper and look at each singular organism and its part in helping the environment function.

The Long Zoom

Building Better Humans

“Once the techniques of gene modification have been developed, they are open to misuse, tempting those in power to alter genes for reasons other than eliminating disease.” p.213

There are many positives and negatives to gene modification. I believe that the positives do outweigh the negatives. Scientists and doctors would be able to work together to find cures for diseases that are killing many people throughout the world. People would be stronger and lead healthier lives due to this research. Although I believe that there should be some government intervention that would ensure that this research would not be used in the wrong way and help to protect the safety of those that use it.

Building Better Humans