Science is all about discovery and invention. Discoveries can come from slow hunches or even spontaneously. What isn’t normally considered is the possibility of the same discovery occurring by two different people. The concept of multiple discovery, otherwise known as simultaneous invention, suggests that scientific discoveries are typically made independently of one another but simultaneously by many scientists. Essentially, more than one scientist has independently discovered the same thing.
This anthology profiles 15 examples of multiple discoveries in various historical situations and books that we have read this semester. From the discovery of evolution to the discovery of a carbon nanotube, it is important to understand the many types of discoveries, the time frame, and the context in which each item was discovered. Furthermore, while these examples are offered, this anthology aims to aid in the understanding of how multiple discoveries contribute to the success of of the scientific field.
Continue reading “A Scientific Anthology: Multiple Discoveries”
Do you ever wonder what it takes for a company to be successful? Sally Smith Hughes’ book, Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech, answers this question with an inside look at the makings of Genentech, a California-based biotech company, and their quest to make human insulin and growth hormone commercialized. Hughes has established herself as an academic scholar through her study of the history of science and her oral stories such as “Making Dollars out of DNA: The First Major Patent in Biotechnology and the Commercialization of Molecular Biology” as she looks into discoveries and commercialization (Berkeley). Similarly, in Genentech, she integrates scientific, legal and corporate ideas to portray the biotech startup and challenges it faced. The most important challenges are competition, patentability, and partnerships with corporate companies, all of which Hughes uses to give readers who are unfamiliar with these fields a better understanding. Continue reading “The Success of Genentech: Integrating Science, Law, and Corporate Business”
Genentech informs a lot about the creation of insulin and briefly mentions the company’s experiences with both human insulin and animal insulin. Up until the 1980s, animal insulin was extracted from the pancreas’ of cows and pigs. As seen in the book, animal insulin eventually lost its usefulness. One major fear of doctors and those who required animal insulin was the possibility of getting bovine spongiform encephalopathy or “mad cow disease.” I was curious to know other reasons why human or genetically modified insulin is better than animal insulin. Live Strong informs that human insulin and animal insulin are not the same. One of the main advantages genetically modified insulin has over animal insulin is that it requires fewer resources to make and can be made quicker. GMO insulin can multiply rapidly, ultimately resulting in large quantities of the product, whereas animal insulin requires development of the animal pancreas, which can take years. Prior to the use of human and genetically modified insulin, researchers were skeptical as to whether or not animal insulin was as consistent. The insulin made by genetic engineering proved to be identical to human insulin produced by the pancreas, giving it yet another advantage over animal insulin. As for function, scientists discovered that animal insulin was ineffective in some patients. After a certain amount of treatment time, some diabetics developed antibodies against animal insulin. In addition, researchers found that animal insulin was transmitting diseases to humans. This is not a worry for GMO insulin users, as the production of the product involves no cross-contamination. On the other hand, there are a few disadvantages to the use of GMO insulin. For example, some patients have experienced severe allergic reactions, a few even resulting in death or severe sickness. Furthermore, GMO insulin is limited, making it difficult or expensive to obtain. Overall, this is interesting to consider as we continue to read Genentech.
“We were young, and when you are successful, it helps enormously with your whole state of mind. It helps with your confidence; it helps with the publications you write; it helps with your future, with your career” (Hughes 51).
This quote is taken from Heyneker as he recalled the thrill he felt when he learned that synthetic DNA could be immortalized. After reading this, I was curious to know the psychology behind success and failure and how it affects the brain and the body. I looked to the article, Psychology Today, for more information, and found some interesting facts. For example, psychologists study something referred to as the Cycle of Failure. This is the time period when failure sets in, resulting in various mental effects. The cycle progresses as follows: Unconscious fear, Wish Fulfilment or Desire to Fail, Overconfidence or Lack of Confidence, Perception of Failure, Anger with oneself and others, Sorrow and grief, Loss of Confidence/Motivation, Unconscious Fear. Clearly, this is a cycle filled with pain and general unhappy feelings, creating continuous domino-effect results in the brain. Another interesting concept I came across was that failure weakens our ability to think creatively due to the fact that once we fail once, we fear failing again. According to the article, failure we start to perceive failure as being too risky, thus we limit our ability to create new ideas. On the other hand, happiness obviously bears a more positive weight psychologically and ultimately gives us an advantage in life and work. According to Forbes, success results in increased motivation, self-confidence, improved leadership skills, and overall happiness. These ideas are interesting to consider as Genentech continues.
Do you ever find yourself watching Crime Scene Investigators (CSI) and wonder: How do they trace a killer in 45 minutes? Samantha Weinberg’s book, Pointing from the Grave, answers this question as she follows the court case involving the sexual assault and murder of Helena Greenwood. Weinberg has established herself as a scientific author through her other books like A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth where she explores the process of scientific discovery to explain the evolutionary history and ecological importance of this organism. While Weinberg expresses interest in evolutionary science, in an astonishing crime and science thriller, Pointing from the Grave, she pieces together genetic technology, forensic science, and courtroom laws to formulate an exciting tale of a crime solving. Weinberg presents readers unfamiliar with the field of science with reliable scientific explanations, an in-depth understanding of the trial, and an inside look into the perspectives of various individuals involved to effectively tell the story of the murder of Helena Greenwood and the tracing of her killer, Paul Frediani, fifteen years later. Continue reading “It Isn’t Just CSI: Piecing Together DNA, the Courtroom, and Perspectives”
Chapter 19 once again discusses the idea that Frediani re-positioned Helena’s body at the crime scene, and I was intrigued to learn more about this course of action, which happens to be utilized by many murderers. After some searching on Google, I came across an informative website. It turns out that crime scene staging and positioning of the body play a huge part in the ultimate success of the investigation process. It makes sense that the manipulation of the body or any other elements of the crime scene makes it difficult to evaluate. Researchers have discovered that some murders stage the body for a few different reasons. First, some do it to mislead investigators. Often, this can be done with the purpose of making the homicide look like a suicide. Furthermore, some stage crime scenes in order to meet psychological needs. Positioning the body in a certain way so that it looks like an object, symbol, etc. almost always has some kind of significance. In this case, the position of the body could account for a message the murderer is trying to make. Lastly, the murderer may position the body in such a way as to leave a personal “trademark.” A lot of the time this is what is portrayed on television shows such as “Criminal Minds.” Overall, there is almost always a purpose for the re-positioning of the body, and this is an interesting point to consider given the state that Helena was left in.
Lawyers are faced with the critical task of choosing individuals to make up their jury. In civil cases, a jury can be made up of anywhere from six to twelve people, while most federal cases consist of a twelve-person jury. One of the main responsibilities that these lawyers are obligated to carry out not only involves gathering a group of 6-12, but finding the right group, made up of people who can be trusted to tell the truth at all times. As I have limited knowledge when it comes to lawyers and jurors, I looked to Mental Floss to better my understanding of how the selection process works, and I learned that many different components are taken into consideration — some even slightly surprising. The first factor listed as part of the selection process is relationships. Lawyers look to make sure that one’s relationships do not affect their opinions. For example, any linkage to someone in law enforcement (police officers, jailers, probation officers) can create too much of a bias. Going off of this, lawyers are also going to look at one’s previous experience with the law. Even if there is no direct relationship to the people listed above, bias can still exist about these people based upon personal experience. Unwanted experience with the law, for example, may impact a juror’s handling of the case. The ideal candidate is someone who is accepting, open-minded, and trusting of the law. Another way to pick out bias is to do a background check of the potential jurors on the internet, as it is helpful in revealing information about a juror that the juror themselves may not directly state.
The following components of the selection process came as no surprise to me: body language, attitude, leadership skills, and religion. Little did I know that lawyers will even consider hair and clothing. These factors seem appropriate from the stakeholder of an employer conducting a job interview, but the fact that lawyers pay attention to them struck me as surprising. The website informed me that “open and receptive jurors will have hair that is casual and naturally flowing, rather than highly styled or gelled or plastered to the head.” Same for clothes; open and accepting jurors will dress casual. A rather superficial point to consider, but I suppose it makes sense in a courtroom setting.
After reading this chapter I was really interested to learn more about the Innocence Project, so I looked to their website. Founded in 1992 at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University by Barry Schneck and Peter Neufeld, the Innocence Project looks to assist those who have been wrongfully convicted. As of 2016, more than 300 people in the US have been exonerated as a result of DNA testing, a portion of these individuals even serving time on death row. The average imprisonment time for these innocent individuals was 14 years. Clearly, this is not fair to them or their families. The overall goal of the project is to free the innocent who still remain in jail. Those who work for the project include attorneys and Cardozo students, as mentioned in Pointing From the Grave. Their studies show that more times than not, those who have been wrongfully convicted arise from systematic defects during the DNA testing process. The website also shows some current cases that the project is dealing with. For example, there is one man, Joseph Buffey, who was convicted in 2002 and was imprisoned as a result of assumed rape and robbery. Since then, Buffey has been freed from prison and the real perpetrator has been found, but that does not make up for the 13 years he spent behind bars. The website informs that he was convicted wrongfully on account of eyewitness misidentification. I think that the Innocence Project is a great cause for the innocent and their families, and I am curious to see whether or not it will somehow apply to Frediani in the future.
In this chapter, Frediani is required to submit a blood test before he is considered a “free man” (Weinberg, 180). The testing is necessary of him as a result of a new law that was established in 1988, stating that “convicted sexual assault offenders provide blood samples to the Department of Justice” (Weinberg, 109). This test is done mainly for future reference, as it makes it easier for future DNA analysis. I was interested to know more information about this law and the DNA database, and looked to Legal Match to better my knowledge. The website informed me that while DNA collection is currently mandatory in all states, 47 states require that DNA samples be taken from all convicted felons, some even from juvenile offenders. Since all suspects may be required to provide tests/samples depending on the state, ethics are brought into question. Some believe that DNA testing interferes with privacy. Blood samples, in particular, are often believed to be a bodily invasion of privacy. Some argue that the DNA database is too easily accessible, and should be kept more private. It is especially a concern when dealing with juveniles, who can be tracked down by those with access to the DNA database. This issue brings up the question of whether or not DNA testing is a violation of the Constitution. The FBI’s Combined DNA Database System is a collection of all DNA samples across the 50 states, but some argue that it violates the Fourth Amendment, which states that unauthorized searches are prohibited. A person, guilty for crime or not, can be called into question simply because they have a sample of DNA in the database that is similar to the DNA found at a crime scene.
It was suspicious that the prosecution had never mentioned at the time that Mrs. Liu had seen a black man in the neighborhood on the night that Helena Greenwood was attacked. “In all fairness, do you want your government to suppress that kind of evidence? To hide it from you?” (Weinberg 106).
This quote ties into another important issue that is seen in court cases all of the time – deciding how much information and what kinds of information to reveal to the public. This issue brings up the questions: how much is enough? How much is necessary? What kinds of information need to be revealed? Often times, there is not a definitive answer, but I am aware that a general standard of how to handle the disclosing of information does exist. The revealing/secrecy of information can be categorized in three ways: the right to know, the need to know, and the want to know. The right to know would include most governmental information that the public should be knowledgeable of. For example, the public has the right to know of governmental meetings. The want to know includes information that the public would want to know for their general pleasure, an example being entertainment news. Lastly, the need to know would be information that is critical to everyday life. An example here would be information that affects the safety of the public, such as harmful threats or severe weather conditions. In the case of Helena Greenwood, I think the public has a right to know that a black man was in the neighborhood the night of the attack. Who knows, this could be a key piece of information. But then again, the court needs to investigate further into who this man is and find out what other characteristics he possesses. It is possible that he could be Frediani, who also has rather dark, tan skin.
“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.”
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 as he 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”
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.
“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.
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.
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?
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.
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
“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.
“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.
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.
“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?
“Liquid networks create an environment where those partial ideas can connect; they provide a kind of dating service for promising hunches. They make it easier to disseminate good ideas, of course, but they also do something more sublime: they help complete ideas” (Johnson, 75).
I found this quote very insightful. I never really thought of liquid networks in this sense, but I understand where Johnson is coming from. Not all good ideas are created in one swift motion. Often, they require outside knowledge to be complete. I think we can all relate to this on the educational level. We have all been apart of group work before whether we enjoyed it or not. I would consider group work to be a type of liquid network. When working with a group of students, coming up with good ideas is more efficient since there are more minds working together. Ideas and “hunches” are able to be bounced off of one another. By the end of the work/project, such idea and “hunches” finally come to together.
We recently discussed different types of learning environments in my Media Ethics class. My professor proposed the idea that the act of working alone allows the mind to wander. She explained how research indicates that our spontaneously technological lives are dampening our creativity. My professor would most likely argue against the quote above. She believes that working alone allows for the greatest ideas to truly develop, and that other people, and even technology, are nothing but distractions.
“For the first time, humans began forming groups that numbered in the thousands, or tens of thousands. After millennia of living in an intimate cluster of extended family, they began sharing a space crowded with strangers. With that increase in population came a crucial increase in the number of possible connections that could be formed within the group” (Johnson, 53).
This quote relates back to the earlier chapter about cities and reefs. Previously, I wondered if cities produced greater ideas than smaller towns did because of their access to resources, but now I better understand that it really is just because of the population. Cities have more people, thus they generate more ideas. People easily bounce ideas off of each other. The people in cities are just like the neurons in the brain — both make connections with the other people/neurons in their environments. Some of the greatest ideas come out of cities such as New York City, Los Angeles and Boston — all places where many big businesses and people are located.
“We take the ideas we’ve inherited or that we’ve stumbled across, and we jigger them together into some new shape. We like to think of our ideas as $40,000 incubators, shipped direct from the factory, but in reality they’ve been cobbled together with spare parts that happened to be sitting in the garage” (Johnson, 29).
This passage really stood out to me. It is so true — the best ideas do not always have to be the ones that are unprecedented. Sometimes, the best ideas come from prior knowledge and experience; from taking what you know and using it to your advantage. For example, Facebook, one of the most successful websites, started as a small idea that eventually blossomed into what it is today. (The movie, The Social Network, portrays Mark Zuckerberg’s transition from small idea to success very nicely). There are so many expectations in the world today, and this quote is just a nice reminder that you do not always have to be the best of the best to succeed.
“Something about the environment of a big city was making its residents significantly more innovative than residents of smaller towns” (11).”
West brings up a very interesting study here. His research suggests that those residents who live in big cities as compared to smaller towns are able to generate ideas quicker and overall, are more creative. Reading this made sense to me. Large cities always seem to be the first places where ideas/inventions generate from. Perhaps it is because they are more wealthy, so they are able to afford more resources. Or perhaps there more people working together to come up with these ideas/inventions. Either way, I found this interesting to consider as I never have done so before.
The price of patented drugs, however, is often artificially inflated due to the monopoly, putting them out of reach of many people and increasing health insurance costs (Johnson, 207).
Before reading this chapter, I had no idea that this happened and was very surprised to discover that it does. Although these patented drugs have the potential to benefit so many, they are out of reach for most people financially. I understand why people could have ethical issues with this. Maintaining a healthy life should not come at an inflated price. Personally, I find it unfair for the individuals and families who may need these drugs but cannot afford them.