A Scientific Anthology: Multiple Discoveries

Introduction

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”

A Scientific Anthology: Multiple Discoveries

The Success of Genentech: Integrating Science, Law, and Corporate Business

      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”

The Success of Genentech: Integrating Science, Law, and Corporate Business

Competition and Insulin Production

Chapter 4 of Genentech posed some interesting points as they discussed the discovery and production of human insulin. While most of the chapter did focus on the technical and science aspects of actually synthesizing human insulin, there was a lot of discussion between the development of insulin through the influence of competition. It was stated that both UCSF and Harvard were competing to produce insulin first and when they thought they did, it was really only found to be a precursor to insulin, rather, an inactive form. After this was discovered, Genentech was able to successfully synthesize human insulin. It is interesting to look at the external influences that cause discoveries to be made. Rather than just playing around  with compounds or molecules, competition, essentially, drove the creation of insulin. This relates to things that people see in their everyday lives. Under pressure and competing with others allows one to create the best output. In a video, Goeddel, discusses the fierce competition that helped Genentech prosper in the synthesis of human insulin. It is interesting to see the perspectives of scientists and researchers involved as they experienced the pressure and competition first hand. Thus, this chapter gave us readers an interesting look into what it takes for something to be successful – while intellectual faculty and knowledge plays a major role, sometimes the external environment and competition between people produces the best results.

Competition and Insulin Production

It Isn’t Just CSI: Piecing Together DNA, the Courtroom, and Perspectives

       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”

It Isn’t Just CSI: Piecing Together DNA, the Courtroom, and Perspectives

Happy Accidents and Recombinant DNA

Sally Smith Hughes’ book, Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech, discusses the importance of biotechnology in the modern world of science. Specifically, she delves into the creation of Genentech as a biotechnology company, but first talks how recombinant DNA played a large role in the biotechnology community. She refers to recombinant DNA as a form of genetic engineering that is widely used. What is the most interesting about this chapter is the experiments conducted by Boyer and Cohen in which recombinant DNA was further investigated. Specifically, research was done on plasmids to understand if these forms of circular DNA would pick up different pieces of DNA and then be expressed in an organism different from the type of organism in which the original DNA came from. The great thing about science, is experiments can go wrong but allow for new discoveries to come about. This is exactly what happened with Boyer and Cohen. Hughes states,

“Boyer and Hellig examined the electrophoresis gels displaying the various DNA fragments. There in plain sight was telltale band composed of two types of plasmid DNA standing out in fluorescent orange . To their inestimable joy, they had not only recombined DNA – they cloned it! The engineered plasmids with their ability to reproduce themselves in the bacterial cells had also faithfully cloned the foreign DNA inserted into them” (p15).

This was interesting because it related directly back to Steven Johnson’s ideas of “happy accidents.” Boyer, Hellig, and Cohen were working to recombine DNA and to their surprise another result occurred. This now opened opportunities to investigate the cloning process and how DNA of many different organisms can be cloned and reproduced. Overall, this first chapter offers insight into the power of biotechnology and understanding how genes work.

Happy Accidents and Recombinant DNA

Frediani and Nature vs. Nurture

The close of the novel was a very interesting one. Frediani was found guilty and brought to prison; however, his time in prison was what stood out most. Weinberg stated that Frediani was part of a psychological case study that dealt with parenting styles and behavior, very similar to the nature vs. nurture debate that states that either it’s your genes that make up your behaviors or its the external forces and influences of the environment that shape behavior. During this case study Frediani suggests that his parents were very strict, his dad had a macho attitude, and his mother rarely stood up to him. During his adolescent years Frediani stated that he had built up an enormous resentment towards his parents and started acting out. This idea was very interesting because it was also brought up but quickly overlooked at the very beginning of the novel. It is interesting to think about whether it was Frediani’s life and the influences of his parents that made him have mood swings and exhibit irregular behavior at times. While genes make up the traits of an individual, there is a heavy influence of external environment and parenting styles that shape the behavior of an individual. It was also interesting because Frediani was referred to as possessing the characteristics of a sociopath early in Chapter 21. This makes an interesting connection between the way in which Frediani described his young life and the behaviors exhibited in his new self. Below is a link that explains the nature vs. nurture debate in more depth and it is interesting to see the connections between Frediani’s external influences and how that shaped his behavior with the debate below.

Frediani and Nature vs. Nurture

Risks of Genetic Testing

While Chapter 16 discussed issues involving the verdict of the case, there was heavy discussion on the importance and advancements of DNA. Particularly involving the Human Genome Project and the ability to genetically identify individuals characteristics, traits, and diseases based on their genome and genetic sequence. In regard to these ideas, there was talk of inappropriate reasons for genetic testing such as genetic engineering if children, and aborting fetuses due to unhappiness with traits that are expressed by fetuses. I thought this was very interesting however, with such a new advancement Weinberg never touched upon the risks of genetic testing. She stated that individuals terminate pregnancies due to unwanted characteristics in the fetus however, can genetic testing also cause that unwanted characteristic? Are there risks? Below is a link from the NIH listing the risks of genetic testing. While it suggests that risks are low due to only using blood samples or cheek swabs, there is severe risk of harming the baby and causing disabilities when doing prenatal testing such as amniocentesis. Thus, it is also important to look at the risks of doing such procedures before looking at the strengths immediately for such a new advancement.

https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/testing/riskslimitations

Risks of Genetic Testing

Investment Blinds Reality

After reading Chapter 14 of Pointing from the Grave, the Laura Heilig was introduced as she described how she would go through the files of sexual assault cases. One thing that was very interesting was the fact that she stated she was always very invested in the cases and knew every detail down to eye color or the names of their brothers and sisters. I found this very interesting because it brings up the question of when knowing too much information is going too far. Essentially, as a part of Laura’s job, it is important to know the details of the case; however, there is a point when someone can become too invested. According to principles of cognitive psychology, when this investment occurs at an extensive level, it is typical that the real facts or reality can be blinded – people ignore the obvious due to a concept called willful blindness. Essentially, people become so invested in an idea that they do not want to believe something that they think is wrong or could not be an option. Below is a link with a TED talk of the ideas laid out by principles of psychology. So after watching this, is it possible that Laura could be blinded by the facts if she gets too involved or did that aid in her discovery of Helena’s assailant? In the end of the chapter it is revealed that her assailant was matched, however, this is still an issue that is seen in many court cases that was interesting to see throughout this book. Thus, when does becoming invested hit the point of going too far?

https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/08/27/willful-blindness-margaret-heffernan/

Investment Blinds Reality

PCR as a Platform

Chapter 11 of Pointing from the Grave extensively discusses the benefits of PCR as a DNA technology advancement. Specifically, there is discussion of the widespread of the use of PCR worldwide demonstrating its contributions to the way in which small samples of DNA can be used. Prior the PCR, DNA samples that were too small could not be used as conclusive evidence. However, after PCR, DNA could be amplified in order to use small samples. This changed the world of forensic science, because samples that could not originally be used could now be used and could ultimately change a court case immediately. Upon reading Chapter 11, I found it very interesting that Weinberg referred to PCR as

                                    “the word processor of biochemistry” (p 175).

How could this relate to Johnson’s ideas of platforms in the novel Where Good Ideas Come From? Essentially, PCR set the stage for new developments in DNA to occur. Before PCR, it seemed as though things were at a halt – small samples could not be used. Once PCR was developed, it set the stage for new innovation for new uses. It began to serve as the foundation for court cases. Overall, after reading this chapter, I was able to relate the ideas of PCR to the way in which Johnson described platforms. It seems as though PCR is a platform because it is setting the stage for new advancements in DNA technology.

PCR as a Platform

Emotions in Court

Chapter 7 of Pointing from The Grave was very interesting because it addressed the height of the trail and introduced us to the way in which the jury decided Frediani’s verdict. One thing I thought was very interested was the fact that Weinberg stated that Frediani for the first time exhibited emotions in court. He described him as shocked and in disbelief. I thought this was very interesting because after watching live court cases on TV it is also crucial to see the emotions of the defendants as they sometimes change your mind when thinking if they did or did not commit a crime. It is normal to think that if someone shows disbelief or exhibits sadness they did not do it. While Frediani did seem upset, he was still found guilty. Below is a link to a blog of emotions that are shown in court and how they could be interpreted by the judge or jurors that could ultimately make or break a decision. If Frediani seemed more upset would that have changed minds?

http://www.matternmendozalaw.com/5-reasons-you-must-control-your-emotions-in-court/

Emotions in Court

Skin Cells and DNA

After reading chapter 6 from Pointing from the Grave, I was very alarmed by the events that occurred. It was very surprising to be in the midst of the trial and then to learn of Helena’s death. While this took me by surprise, I did like how the novel progressed in the field of biotechnology and forensics. In this chapter we were introduced to a new form of biotechnology and crime scene analysis through the way in which evidence was collected from the crime scene, how evidence was analyzed, and how that evidence will be used. Specifically, I thought it was interested that now we can understand DNA through skin cells gathered from underneath Helena’s fingernails. Skin cells shed every day and have many traces of DNA with in them. Yet again, we learned of a way in which DNA can be detected. The link below goes into detail about how analysts can extract the DNA from skin cells from a supernatant and a gathered pellet. The DNA can then be analyzed. I think it is very interesting that even the smallest traces of DNA play very large roles in detecting a suspect. It is also interesting to see how technology has advanced so much as seen in the explanations of the link below.

http://www.forensicmag.com/articles/2012/06/touch-dna-analysis-using-literature-help-answer-some-common-questions

Skin Cells and DNA

The Root of Ideas: A Review of Where Good Ideas Come From

    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”

The Root of Ideas: A Review of Where Good Ideas Come From

PGM Testing

Chapter 5 of Pointing from the Grave, rerouted back to the trail of Frediani and Helena. Throughout this chapter, results of the semen tests were shared. It was stated that the analyst was able to deduce that Frediani is an O secretor; however, it wasn’t with great confidence that this evidence was accurate. As a result Chaput asks the analyst to

“do any further testing of any other enzymes and she said she would attempt to do that” -Weinberg, p58.

I thought this was very interesting because I thought that when a test was done, all of the enzymes would be extracted. In addition, I was wondering what Chaput meant by enzymes being tested or how a PGM test was done. After doing research on PGM testing (seen in the link below), I found out that they conduct this experiment by testing the enzymes found in the red cell membrane. These are PGM’s or genetic markers are protein enzymes that are found throughout the body. In the discovery these PGM’s, there were also three phenotypes which correlated to two alleles allowing for a more highly specific genetic marker in crime scene investigations. Overall, I thought it was very interesting to see and learn of another form of forensic biotechnology used through the help of DNA. DNA really is the platform for new techniques to arise.

http://www.practicalhomicide.com/Research/LOjun2010.htm

PGM Testing

Fingerprinting

After reading Chapter 4 of Pointing from the Grave, it really shed light on the complexity and developments in the field of forensic science. Of course, I was familiar with the use of lifting finger prints and matching them from shows like CSI. However, realistically, I never knew how complex the process of collecting and matching fingerprints was. Attached I have posted a link that goes into detail about the of how fingerprints are lifted and examined. While there are many ways to do so, I thought it was very interested how they used immunofluorescent dye stain with orange alternate light source in order to make out a clear picture of the fingerprint. I also found this very related to my independent breast cancer research. In order to test the effects of hypoxia on the aggression of breast cancer cells I carried out an experiment in which I treated the cancer cells with different doses of Cobalt Chloride (which mimics hypoxic conditions) and then died the cells and viewed them under a confocal lens with Texas Red light. This is similar to the way in which the finger prints were stained and viewed under orange light. Overall, I thought it was interesting to see one of the ways in which fingerprints are made out and how it also overlapped with types of experiments I am running as a part of my research.

http://www.forensicsciencesimplified.org/prints/how.html

Fingerprinting

Discovering DNA Sequence

After reading Chapter 3 of Pointing From The Grave, I thought it was very interested that Weinberg devoted this chapter to focusing on the development of DNA, its base pairing, and eventual uses. One part that really stuck out to me was the discussion of running DNA on an agarose gel. Specifically, Weinberg stated that,

“Using a restriction enzyme – a protein that cleaves the DNA strands at designated positions. These lengths would be immobilized by dropping them on one end of the dish of agarose gel to which an electric current would be applied” (p 41).

This discussion of using DNA on a gel in order to discover the sequence stood out to me because it related back to my time in Synthetic Biology. Today, we use gel electrophoresis, similar to the one described in the novel as a southern blot, to detect the sequences of DNA in our whole fragment. In Synthetic biology specifically we used restriction enzymes to cut as specific points in order to understand banding pattern and sequences present in yeast. In addition, this correlates to what I learned in Cancer Biology and what I am doing in my independent research of breast cancer cells. Essentially, we used Western blot to understand protein expression to characterize cancer cells and their aggression. Overall, it is very interesting to see the development of DNA and the technologies associated with it in different types of labs, whether it was synthetic or cancer related.

Discovering DNA Sequence

DNA: A Platform and Exaptation

After reading Chapter 2 of Pointing from the Grave, I found it very interesting that Weinberg discussed Helena’s participation in the biotechnology industry in great detail. It is interesting that she works in this industry while also being a part of a court case in which their is a great value to the use of DNA. One idea that struck me was the fact that Weinberg stated,

“It was Kohne who had developed a revolutionary new method for diagnosing infectious diseases, using DNA probes instead of traditional cultures. . .  She had been following the developments in DNA as they rolled through the scientific literature like a snowball on virgin snow, and she knew it was the way the biotech industry was heading” -Weinberg, p21.

After reading this sentence, I immediately related this new innovation of a DNA probe that is being used in the medical field to the ideas that Johnson suggested in his novel, Where Good Ideas Come From. Essentially, DNA is the building block that paves the way for many new innovations to arise. In this sense it could be understood that this DNA probe is an innovation that arose from the properties and prior uses of DNA – an exaptation. However, it can also be understood that this new probe is a platform that will allow other innovations that arise from it to reach the fourth quadrant. Just like Helena suggested that this is a new discovery snowballing and leading to others, the DNA probe can be a platform or stack in which a new innovation will come about. Overall, I thought it was interesting to see the complexity of DNA and the technologies associated with it that arise through platforms or exaptations.

DNA: A Platform and Exaptation

DNA Analysis

After reading Chapter 1 of Pointing From the Grave, I found it very interesting and relatable to various other science courses I took. In the prologue it mentioned how DNA was first discovered and used to understand the sequencing of the genome and related to genetic makeup of humans. In my Genetics, Synthetic Biology, and Cancer Biology courses we discussed the ways in which DNA was analyzed based on RFLP (Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism Technique) analysis which allowed researchers to understand the matches in the breaks in DNA. This is described in the link below in which this techniques uses restriction enzymes to see the cuts in DNA and match the fragments to those of other pieces of DNA. It was interesting to see how DNA, the basic building block for genes, is able to be used in such a way that includes intense analysis of sequences to match the sequences  of interest in a case like the one described in this chapter. If foreign DNA was detected in Helena’s saliva samples, from the bodily fluids of the assailant, it will be interesting to see how RFLP could be used to match the DNA to that of the assailant.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/dna-evidence-its-genes-30060.html

DNA Analysis

The Four Quadrants

After reading the chapter, The Fourth Quadrant, I thought it was very interesting that Johnson displayed the sort of evolution of innovations through a four quadrant system. After reading, it made me understand the relationship between platforms and stacks and the development of innovations from one another. Essentially, over periods of time, those stacks open the doors for new innovations to occur and reach the fourth quadrant. Johnson touches upon this ideas when describing the type of environment in which innovations occur. Johnson states,

“Because innovation is subject to historical changes – many of which are themselves the result of influential innovations in the transmission of information – the four quadrants display distinct shapes at different historical periods” (p 226).

Essentially, what Johnson is saying is that to reach the fourth quadrant innovations come from the building of ideas on innovations that were already presented as the stage for further development. This clearly relates to platforms and ideas that were previously presented that allowed innovations to develop over time. This suggests that innovations reach the fourth quadrant from an environment in which ideas are constantly developing.

This idea also correlates to evolution and things I have learned in my Evolution course. Essentially, evolution is change over time, but over time new ideas or traits come about from things presented prior. This relates back to coral reefs in which Johnson talked extensively about again in this last chapter. Over an historical time period, new developments came about from observing the coral reefs.

The Four Quadrants

Coral Reefs and Platforms

After reading Chapter 7 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I found it interesting that Johnson described coral reefs as a platform. In the introduction of this chapter, much of the focus was on Darwin’s observations of a coral reef and the ecosystem. He often noted the life forms that existed as well as the way in which they play a role in their environment. While this was known, this chapter focused on the ideas that the coral reef is the platform for many life forms that carry out different functions, making the ecosystem successful. Essentially, coral reefs were present, and intricate food webs, flow of energy, symbiotic relationships, and functions of organisms came about. The link below details the energy flow of the coral reef and the new “innovations” or “functions” that many organisms possess due to living in a reef. It is clear that coral reefs gave rise to new relationships between organisms and their environment. Reefs set the stage for the formation of food webs, energy flow, and symbiotic relationships between animals, thus making the ecosystem successful. Therefore, Johnson’s understand of a platform as a something that sets the stage for other uses or innovations was clearly conveyed through the example of coral reefs, its inhabitants, and the success as a result of formed food webs, energy webs, and biological relationships.

http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/hew06.sci.life.reg.foodweb/energy-flow-in-the-coral-reef-ecosystem/

Coral Reefs and Platforms

Exaptation and Ideas

After reading Chapter 6 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I thought it was very interesting to discuss the way in which ideas arise through a term often used in evolutionary biology. Johnson describes an exaptation as when

“an organism develops a trait optimized for a specific use, but then the trait gets hijacked for a completely different function” (p154).

Essentially, Johnson is suggesting that ideas come from the a change to a trait that was originally exhibited. I think a controversial word here is “hijacked.” I believe that traits are shared and understood but new ones rise based on what is favored or how it is seen that a new idea or trait can be used – the trait is not necessarily stolen, but rather used as a basis for a which in which a new trait can have a new function. This relates a lot to my Evolution course I took. We often discussed how ancestors have shared traits however on a phylogenetic tree, it is seen that new traits arise from those older ones and evolution or change over time among populations is seen. Thus, relating back to the real world, I think sharing ideas give way for new ideas to be proposed and used in a different way. Overall, I thought relating this chapter to the ideas of evolution was a great way to describe how new altered ideas arise from ones previously seen. Like Johnson states,

“exaptations help us explore the new possibilities that lurk behind those doors” (p156).

Therefore, new ideas arise from ones that previously exist, but these new ideas are used in a different way than the original.

Exaptation and Ideas

Error drives Innovation

After reading Chapter 5 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I thought it was very interesting to talk about the topic of error. Specifically, I liked how the chapter discussed error in a positive way. Often times, the word error or mistake has a negative connotation. In the chapter; however, error was described as the path to innovation. Essentially, error and mistakes, while can be discouraging, force people to look for the right answer. In looking for that right answer and exploring other choices or options, innovations come about. Johnson states a very powerful quote when he says,

“Being wrong forces you to explore” (p137).

In essence, being wrong isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it can drive the possibility for new explorations. Being wrong means looking for the right answer – it paves the path for new things to be discovered. This is very relatable in science and in research laboratories. Researchers go into an experiment with a hypothesis and prediction; however, the outcome could be totally wrong. This forces the researchers to research further eventually allowing them to be successful in finding a new cure or new treatment. Personally, I can also relate to this because I am in the process of conducting breast cancer research. My professor and I have predictions however we do not know if they will be right and we may fail. In the midst of that failure, we will find something new in a new type of experiment. Thus, this chapter was very insightful in the fact that it turned the negative connotation of error into a positive idea.

Error drives Innovation

Serendipity and Progress

After reading Chapter 4 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I thought the discussion on serendipities was very interesting. I liked how everything connected back to innovation and even just “happy accidents” coupled with other ideas can lead to progress. As this novel progresses, each chapter seems to build on one another. Ideas came from predictions, those predictions were connected, and those connections lead to “happy accidents” in which connections and networks thrive and lead to innovation. The last line of the chapter was very powerful when relating the idea of serendipities back to a database. Johnson states,

“By making the ideas public, and by ensuring that they remain stored in the database, these systems create an architecture for ogranizational serendipity. They give good ideas new ways to connect” (p128).

Essentially, Johnson is suggesting that good ideas come from the connections that happen to cross and recombine – they are “happy accidents.” I think this idea is very interesting because going through a lot of science classes we are alway taught that things have a definite answer and came about from a definite and specific process. With these ideas, Johnson proposes that not all mechanisms come about from a definite process but rather that process created an innovative mechanism from “happy accidents” or ideas combining by change to create a good idea. Overall, I think this idea is very interesting when relating it back to the scientific world – a world where definite answers are always desired. Essentially, things don’t need to be definite but rather can be spontaneous or accidental.

In addition, it was also interesting to see these ideas related to sexual reproduction. Essentially, we want to understand the mechanisms and answers behind it, but, in reality, it just happened from a happy accident. This is similar to where good ideas come from – happy accidents.

Serendipity and Progress

The Slow Hunch

After reading Chapter 3, “The Slow Hunch” in Where Good Ideas Came From I found many of the ideas presented by Johnson very insightful. I thought it was really interesting how everything discussed related back to using others’ ideas, networks, connections, and the adjacent possible. Essentially, everything builds on one another and while individuals can have hunches, those hunches aren’t relevant until they are combined with the thoughts of others. Johnson states,

“Most great ideas first take shape in the in a partial, incomplete form. They have the seeds of something profound, but they lack a key element that can turn the hunch into something truly powerful” (p75).

Johnson is suggesting that hunches while they can be good need to be nurtured by connections and thoughts of other people. The missing piece becomes complete when it is combined with a similar hunch that another individual has. In essence, complete ideas come about through the connections and networks made from a slow hunch instead of one lone idea trying to be proven. In the example of predicting the 9/11, that slow hunch was not complete because it was not built upon by other hunches or other individuals. Thus, this chapter is very important because it emphasizes the role of networks, connections, and the adjacent possible in making a hunch into a complete idea – everything is related and relevant to one another.

I also thought these ideas were really interesting because they related to the reason why we believe in evolution and natural selection. Darwin observed and made hunches, but until those ideas were coupled with other observations and predictions, they were not complete. In understanding evolution and even the scientific method, it is important to understand the role of hunches and ideas that were made to make theories and ideas real. As I learned in my Evolution course, Darwin kept a journal of everything he saw and observed while on his trip to the Galapagos. These ideas and hunches contributed to his theories once he made connections and networks between them.

The Slow Hunch

Networks and Connections

I thought Chapter 2 was very interesting because it discussed the ability to thrive and create new ideas by networks and connections in relation to the adjacent possible. I liked how the chapter related these ideas back to liquids as networks, for example, freezing liquid to create solids. In relating to General Chemistry courses, we also learned that solids and liquids exist, not just because, but rather as a result of hot or cold that allow things to melt or freeze. In this case those external forces of hot and cold were the “networks” or connections. In relating to the entire chapter, I thought it was interesting to relate these ideas back to the adjacent possible. Essentially, the adjacent possible is understood through connections, networks, and interactions between things. The last line of the chapter stating,

Exploring the adjacent possible can be as simple as opening a door. But sometimes you need to move a wall” -Johnson, p65

was a very powerful statement. Essentially, there is no strict answer or reason that something exists, but one has to dig deeper to understand the connections and networks as to why things exist or came about. Moving a wall is much harder than opening a door. You have to break it down into pieces to see the connections.

Networks and Connections

Darwin’s Reefs

After reading this section of the novel, I thought it was very interesting to start off with Darwin. I found this portion very relatable as I have taken an Evolution course and learned about Darwin’s ideas and theories of natural selection and competition. I think it is very interesting to understand advancements in an ecosystem through the new innovations that arise from competition and natural selection among species. This quote really stood out to me. The author states,

“Darwin’s coral reefs create and environment where biological innovations can flourish” -Johnson, p17.

Essentially, Darwin suggests that changes in the environment and things affecting ecosystems cause changes that are innovative. These changes or advancements allow things to flourish, survive in a new way, and become more complex. These all relate to the ideas of evolution and biotechnology in that new innovations create a more complex world.

Darwin’s Reefs

Adjacent Possibles

After reading Chapter 1 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I found it very interesting when they discussed the ideas of new advancements or innovations as adjacent possible’s. Essentially, everything we do in a society builds on one another, an adjacent possible, the next invention. I think this idea is interesting because, while science often is described as the exploration of new things or new developments, I never thought machinery or technology as the gathering of many ideas to increase complexity. Everything is based off of the previous and builds in it complexity. While this is believed to be true, I thought the example of Babbage’s Analytical Engine was noteworthy. In this example, it was proposed that the

“machine was so complicated it never got passed the blueprint stage” -Johnson, p37.

I think this idea is extremely important, because while technology leads to  the future, one consequence deals with complexity. Are we ever going to get to a point in which the world is too complex to keep moving forward? Will things come to a halt? I think these ideas are very important to think about especially living in a world today in which technology is so advanced and new things are created every day.

Adjacent Possibles

Building Better Humans

While reading Chapter 7 of Biotechnology Unzipped I found it very interesting when the authors touched upon the ideas of “building better humans” referring to the use of gene therapy and genetic modification/alteration to either detect and prevent serious genetic illness or disease as well as genetic modification of genes to get a desired phenotype for one’s offspring. I thought that these ideas were very interesting and relate back to a lot of discussion I had in my Genetics course and the ethics of using gene therapy for these particular reasons. Specifically, I think it is strange how there are sometimes no boundaries on the use of gene therapy. Gene therapy and detection of genes and modification of genes should be used for detection of diseases and prevention of those diseases from being passed to later generations. While this is a benefit of gene therapy, this form of biotechnology can be taken advantage of when individuals desire certain traits in their offspring and thus genetically modify their gametes. These ideas directly relate to  the quote in the passage when it says

“It’s the start of a slippery slope. 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” -Grace, p213.

I think this is a very powerful statement, because while biotechnology can be beneficial and leads to many medical advancements and preventative measures, there is a great deal of misuse in which this form of technology is not being used for the correct reasons it was invented for. Overall, I thought this quote was very powerful and really opens the mind to discussion on whether boundaries should be set in regards to the use of gene modification in humans.

Building Better Humans