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.
Continue reading “Scientific Anthology: Accidental Discoveries”

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

Science Cities

“”After considering various locations, Swanson and Perkins met with the mayor of South San Francisco, who encouraged them to locate in “The Industrial City,” as block letters proclaimed on a freeway hillside”” (Hughes 77-78).

Science is has always been about the spreading of ideas. From the dawn of science it has been paramount that the ideas and results of science be shared throughout the world. Therefore it is also important for cities to provide an environment in which ideas can flow smoothly. In the United States that city is San Francisco and Silicon Valley. There is no place on earth that offers the accessibility of capital and the most important companies on earth concentrated in one area. Venture capitalists allow for biotech companies like in the book to prosper. It also allows for ideas and medication to be brought to the free market. Overall the importance of having a city like San Francisco is vital for the progress of science as the ability of capital and the easy ability to spread ideas faster than ever before.

Science Cities

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

The Politics of Science

“The biomedical research community, Cohen and Boyer prominently included, mounted an intense lobbying effort to persuade Congress not to impose legislative controls on scientifically significant research” (Hughes 66)

Throughout the course we have learned there are many obstacles in the way of scientific progress from money, police enforcement, and even trade. However, it appears that the biggest roadblock in the way of science might be the government. Throughout this book it seems that there are bureaucratic measures taken by the government that in turn results in the lack of progress in the world of science. However, it should be the case that science and government work hand in hand. The government should go out of the way to provide more opportunities to scientists rather than limit them. In today’s day and age scientists are looking for funding from venture capitalists rather grants or government subsidies. Therefore it appears to me the government should increase its involvement with science in order to provide improvement in the industry.

The Politics of Science

The Similarities of Law and Science

“They were still forbidden from discussing the case with each other or their families” (Weinberg 322).

During a case the jury is not allowed to talk to or discuss any of the legal proceedings in the case besides with the jurors themselves. This law or standard put in place is very similar to how patents and other laws that protect the ability from two different labs or research firms having the ability to talk about experiment and findings. In both cases the argument can stated that this stalls progress rather than improves upon it. In both cases the jury and the scientists can discuss and learn more about their findings rather than just having the opinions of their colleagues. It enhances both science and law as more people are aware and attentive to what is going on in the world and in turn solve the problem at hand. There must be some way that jurors and scientists are able to freely talk about their ideas and findings in order to progress both science and the law.

The Similarities of Law and Science

The Truth of DNA

“In the United States, Governor George Ryan of Illinois, a pro-death-penalty Republican, imposed a moratorium on capital punishment after thirteenth wrongly convicted man was released from death row in his state following DNA confirmation of his innocence”-(Weinberg 249-250)

The general consensus for DNA is that it is the best form of evidence when dealing with high profile cases. Often it has been used to put away the right people however, there have been cases to which the DNA was tampered with leaving innocent people in jail or worse dead. The death penalty is something very unique to this country as most developed nations have gone away from using capital punishment. There have been instances in which the prosecution or defense tampers with the DNA results leaving the jury to make an imperfect decision. Therefore what is the best solution to this very serious problem. I for one believe there should be more government intervention in order to avoid this problem of killing innocent people. Yet, in this case DNA here spared a man’s life as it proved his innocence.

The Truth of DNA

OJ Simpson vs. DNA

“Pre-O. J., few people had ever heard of DNA; the trial changed all that; to this day, in the US at least, its three initials are inextricably linked to Simpson’s two.”- (Weinberg 202)

Few cases have ever garnered so much media attention at once. However, the OJ Simpson case was one of those few cases that become a media sensation. DNA was a piece of evidence rarely used in court before however, due to the magnitude of the case it was essential. It appeared in the text that the DNA used in court was tampered with and switched leading to believe that Mr. Simpson did not commit the crime. Recently I saw the ESPN 30 for 30 on the Duke lacrosse scandal. The documentary pointed out the prosecution running his own DNA test and thus tampering with the results leading to believe that the lacrosse players committed the crime. Eventually all players were found innocent and prosecutor was disbarred. Both these high profile cases illustrate the issues with DNA testing. Once brought up in court it is very hard to argue DNA tests even if in the end they are wrong. This brings up the issue of the negatives of DNA testing and how science can easily be manipulated.

OJ Simpson vs. DNA

Progress vs Protection

“But there are plenty of business knocking at the commercial labs’ doors, and there were compelling commercial incentives for each lab to keep its products and processes secret” -(Weinberg 178)

Each year science and scientific research has become more expensive. Now in order to keep a laboratory running one must have enough grant money to keep the investment afloat. DNA research and experimentation is one the businesses in which scientists seek to keep their products and processes a secret due to the competition in the market. If a labs DNA tests or processes came out then eventually that lab would shut down as another company would use that research to profit. Therefore it is a necessity for labs to keep their DNA results secret. However, on the other side it could halt or impede upon scientific progress. If new discoveries in DNA were kept secret due to a lab fearing of other companies using the research then does it stop the flow of ideas in science. It is a very tough question to answer and one option could be the government spending more money on biotechnology research or providing more subsidies for labs.

Progress vs Protection

Science vs Police

“Eventually tracked down by a marriage between science and police work” -(Weinberg 125)

Science is often seen as revolutionary and and answer for all things. However in some aspects of society specifically religion it is seen as a rival or conflict. In the book “Pointing From The Grave” the author illustrates the importance of a successful and productive marriage between science and police work. In pop culture especially in CSI shows science and police always go hand in hand from finger print scanning to the autopsy to even blood stains on a carpet. However in reality it seems that with the increasing police force and need for more guns and ammunition, forensics and science almost seemed to be cast aside. There have been even politician trying to cut scientific research for the need of military and defense spending. However, as with the view of history there needs to be a strong relationship between science and police work. In the end science offers and answers all the important questions posed by the police force.

Science vs Police

A Murder Case

As he had suspected, they were almost a perfect fit-her head, it appeared, had been repeatedly and violently bashed against the metal latch. The hairs still there, and Decker carefully collected them, and stored them in an empty cigarette packet.

It is quite amazing to learn the amount of people involved in a murder case. From the lawyers to the detectives to the doctors a murder case has many moving parts. Television shows provide a nice basis of this long and strenuous process. Each person in this case has a specific and important roll to fulfill. The lawyer has to present the compelling evidence for someone to be put in jail. The detective has to compile all the evidence and connect all the dots for the story to match the evidence. Finally the doctor must provide his professional opinion on the evidence and the victim of the murder thus providing necessary evidence for the case as a whole. Overall a murder case appears more complicated in reality than the movies or shows have portrayed to us the viewers.

A Murder Case

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

Mental Illnesses

Everything had been going so well; he had a good job, a nice apartment in a city he loved, a pretty girlfriend, and a BMW. He had come so far, and now it was like someone was walking up to the blackboard of his life, brandishing a wet cloth. He would need his parents’ help with his attorney’s fee.

This quote struck me from the moment I read it. People’s lives can appear to perfect in one person’s eyes but radically different for another person. Paul Frediani had everything so why would he commit such a heinous act toward a woman. This could bring up the issue of metal illnesses. In the court of law mental illness is usually brought up when a person’s life is on the line as it provides a way out of capital punishment. However, as a society we often over look mental illnesses and never discover or find out the root of these problems. Mr. Frediani could have suffered from a mental illness that could have affected his decision making. Personally I feel more science and research should be poured into this field and determine if a person does or does not have the capability of being held accountable for one’s actions in a crime.

Mental Illnesses

Fingerprints

The discovery in the mid-nineteenth century that no two people had the same fingerprint-each possessed a unique maze of ridges, whorls and swirls- gave rise to the science of fingerprinting, the first great leap forward in crime detection since early law enforcers faced off against their criminal prey.

It is quite astonishing to think of the incredible importance fingerprint scanning has on law enforcement. When I was in the first grade I went to the police station for a field trip and there I got my fingerprint scanned and processed. Little did I know then how important that was for me personally and the police when processing a case. Also, it is incredible to also wonder how every person in this world has a different finger print from everyone else. Its one of those unique things that makes us human beings. Not even identical twins have the same finger prints.

Fingerprints

Cells

The human body is comprised of approximately 100 trillion cells, each less than 0.1 mm across

It is quite incredible to think about the amount of cell in our body and the specific uses of each cell. The human body is truly incredible, as each cell functions with the other in unison for humans to complete their daily or routine tasks. Cells also need the remedial tasks humans encounter everyday from eating to sleeping to even breathing. For example when someone eats, cells in particular take that food and convert it to energy for that person to run, jump, and exercise in general. Cells are also in the news as stem cell research has been deemed as controversial in the scientific community. Overall the human body is incredible and that is due to the countless cells in ones body allowing us humans to live.

Cells

It is just Business

In a highly geared industry, one expensive mistake is enough to make you drown

This quote struck me for several reasons, however one remained the most important out of all of them. The field of science and biotech in particular is a business like any other. Yes the purpose is to save lives and find solutions for humanity. Yet, in the end it is a business like anything else therefore making a profit is vital in order to stay afloat. It made me wonder has the government here made any efforts to make life easier for biotech companies to perform without the cloud of money over their heads. In order for progress to be made in this industry there needs to be incentives for companies to perform without the pressure of making a profit.

It is just Business

DNA

We test our fetuses for susceptibility to genetic disorders, our corpses for cause of death; rare animals are screened for DNA compatibility before breeding, sheep cloned, organs transplanted, babies born to two mothers. If we wanted to, we could predict our life expectancy before birth, our intellectual capacity, hair color, even out ability to run a marathon.” (Weinberg xi)

With all the incredible inventions biotech has brought to this world only one remains the most influential; DNA. Most people would come up with countless innovations that they view are exponentially more important than DNA, however that is not the case. DNA is used almost in everything from murder trials to breeding, there is no other innovation that rivals DNA. It is quite incredible the many uses DNA provides and how it has impacted our lives as humans.

DNA

The Fourth Quadrant

Fourth-quadrant innovation has been assisted by another crucial development: increased flow of information

We live in an incredible day and age with the most advanced technology man kind has ever seen. Sometimes its hard to notice the incredible amount of information we have at our finger tips. The ability to search something up like quantum mechanics and have a basic understanding of it instantly from a google search is phenomenal. However, one must understand the downfall of all this information. The amount of information we have could also act as a bad thing as we do not thoroughly learn about a subject. Instead we get a basic summary about it and carry on with our lives. Therefore us humans must tread the line of this information surplus we have and use it properly and efficiently.

The Fourth Quadrant

Platforms

The creative stack is deeper than genres, though. Genres are themselves built on top of more stable conventions and technologies.

A couple years ago I was shuffling through the radio and came across an interesting brand of music called edm. I was instantly drawn and become obsessed with the genre of music. My mom later told me that edm sounds very similar to a genre of music she listened to at my age which was house. I did a little research and found edm grew and built upon the foundations house music created in the 80s. It was very interesting to see how music grows in this day and age and see the original genre it was built upon. This platform theory is very evident in the music world today as all types of music have grown and expanded like the rise of technology.

Platforms

Exaption

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.

This quote first brings to mind the invention and innovation of the internet. Initially the internet had the purpose of providing basic information for the average person, however gradually the internet became larger and larger. Now the internet provides information, is a source of social media and video can stream in HD with the evolution of youtube which is another example of exaptions. The basic idea of the internet evolved and has become an essential part of society.

Exaption

Trial and Error

“Being wrong forces you to explore.” (137). This quote struck me when I initially read this chapter. The main reason for this is the view of society on failure. From getting an F on a paper, to failing to take the trash out, to buying the wrong medicine failure has haunted us all as humans. Society views failure as the worst possible outcome in almost all situations. However, in science failure is welcomed and actually encouraged. The basis of science and the goal of discovering new and efficient things in this world can be a very daunting and impossible task. For example, finding a common cure for cancer. If one scientist fails at finding a cure right off the bat should he or she just give up and let the next guy handle it. The answer is of course not and in fact failing at first is normal and beneficial. It allows one to look at the results and fix them for the next trial and test. In a world of perfection science is one of the few fields that allows for and appreciates failure.

Trial and Error

The power of dreams

In the beginning of the chapter there is an interesting quote the author introduces, “in a sense, dreams are the mind’s primordial soup: the medium that facilitates the serendipitous collisions of creative insight. And hunches are like those early carbon atoms, seeking out new kinds of connections to help them build new chains and rings of innovation.” (102).  This quote made me wonder the power dreams have on people and ideas. When I first watched the movie Inception I first came to understand the realm of dreams. As a whole dreams affect how are day goes and sometimes experiences and interactions we have with people everyday. I for one like to study before I go the bed before a big test, so in a way the information stays with me the whole night.

The power of dreams

Hunches

Science is a very unique subject, due to the ability of providing answers to very difficult and complicated questions. So it was very interesting in reading this chapter when the author brought up what makes a good idea, “most great ideas first take shape in a partial, incomplete form.” Therefore one can conclude that answers that come from science initially are born with a hunch. Sir Isaac Newton had a hunch about why an apple falls from a tree and hits one in the head which later become known as the law of gravity. Hunches are basically like pre-born hypotheses, however the difference is taking that one step further and actually testing it. Persistence and the ability to care allows for hunches to become realities in the world of science.

Hunches

Spillover

Toward the middle of this chapter the author introduced the use of spillover in the form of spreading ideas. It means to “capture the essential liquidity of information in dense settlements.” The author also goes on to say “when you share a common civic culture with thousands of other people, good ideas have a tendency to flow from mind to mind, even when their creators try to keep them secret.” This made me wonder how this could illustrate some of the problems in the scientific community. Groupthink over the years has hindered progress in science in general as many scientists think the same way. The prime example is the power the FDA has in this country and its ability to damage small competitors. However, science is all about the spreading of new ideas and as history has shown in the past the brilliant minds of the world rise to the top and provide ground breaking results and findings.

Spillover

The Adjacent Possible

“The history of life and human culture, then, can be told as the story of a gradual but relentless probing of the adjacent possible, each new innovation opening up new paths to explore.” This quote struck me for a variety of reasons, but one in particular. With the rapid increase in technology and social media there has been a recent concern over safety. Technology has greatly benefited society in almost every aspect, but over the past couple the years it has also caused problems. One example can various privacy issues facing celebrities and even the US government. Overall the adjacent possible theory has been very beneficial to the science field, yet some question whether or not one’s safety or even country is in constant jeopardy.

The Adjacent Possible