Scientific Anthology: Mediocre Scientists That Turned Out to be Brilliant

Introduction

Many people have the belief that successful scientists were geniuses since the day they were born. They think that scientists were straight A students in grade school and in high school. Many, even believe that school was not hard for them at all However, it is quite the opposite. Many scientists were not so brilliant when they were in school, and is not until later that they discovered their true potential. Some scientists that are admired by everyone were simply okay students and others were not good students at all. It wasn’t until they actually started working that they became brilliant scientists. It was their hard work and passion they had for their job that lead them to be as successful as they became.

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Scientific Anthology: Mediocre Scientists That Turned Out to be Brilliant

The full spectrum of scientific ingenuity

 Sally Smith Hughes is an Academic Specialist in History of Science. She studied at the University of California, Berkley. She does research in biology which reflect her areas of interest. Moreover, she published a book called Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech. This book focuses on the beginning of the company Genentech. The company struggled through various obstacles including obstacles with the government and within the company. In the prologue the author notes, “The making of Genentech was in fact racked by problems, internal and external” (i). Despite of all the obstacles, the company managed to grow and make life changing discoveries.

The two founders of Genentech Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer both worked on the basic-research techniques. However, “they immediately foresaw its practical applications in making plentiful quantities of insulin, growth hormone, and other useful substances in bacteria,” (1). This brought internal problems because they started seeing a different direction of what they wanted to discover. Some wanted to go straight to the discovery of insulin, while others wanted to discover somatostatin. Even though it wasn’t as a strong fight as the others, their differences started to show. Their problems grew when they started publishing articles, “Then a heated dispute over authorship broke out,” (65). The more they were able to do, the more complicated it became for them. Robert Swanson started helping in managing the company and focused on getting financial security for the company. Nevertheless, some did not love the way he managed things. The author notes, “As his severest critics put it, he was ‘selling out to the industry,’” (71). It is obvious that working in such a huge project isn’t easy, and all of their fights proved that. Continue reading “The full spectrum of scientific ingenuity”

The full spectrum of scientific ingenuity

Scientific Incentives

 “Political, social, and economic factors and strategic scientific, financial, and business decisions” – Hughes 165

What incentives are there for scientists? Well, that question isn’t too hard to answer. But what is their motivating factor when conducting their work?

Its obvious that scientists usually pursue a field that sparks interest to them. But how can we be sure that money, fame, and recognition aren’t just as significant, if not more significant? The answer is that we don’t, we just have to assume they’re doing it for all the right reasons.

But put yourself in the shoes of a scientist. Clearly you’ve devoted your life to discovery and scientific ingenuity. But, was your motivation science itself, or was it the perks and incentives that came with it? Its a difficult topic to think about, but when digging deeper the options become more apparent.

The fame, recognition, and money that come along with large groundbreaking discoveries in a certain field can skew the minds of scientists. But those truly committed to their work will do it for the right reasons. So given this, what do you think the motivation was at Genetech? I know my answer, but everyone is entitles to their own opinion.

Scientific Incentives

Funding Dilemmas

“Swanson’s experience as a venture capitalist had centered on young Silicone Vally companies, each with products that had been prototyped and were nearing or on the market. Genetech presented a very different situation.” – Hughes (49)

The unfortunate reality, is that in order to conduct experiments and discover new things, you need resources, and resources are funded by money. Thus, in order to conduct experiments and move forward with your endeavor, you have to have funding; money.

The way in which most scientists go is that they search for investors that would be willing to sponsor and fund the project. the scientist(s) will then show this investor what they are working on and their current progress. However, earning the funds from venture capitalists has become increasingly difficult as the years have gone on. The competition is higher and there are simply more people looking for investors. It helps promote a higher level of discovery, but many groups projects get out on fault until they find someway to pay for their projects.

An alternative is to apply for a government grant. The government grant is something that scientists don’t necessarily drool over, but its something to get the wheels off the ground. Since its a government grant, it isn’t as efficient or lenient as a venture capitalist but again, its money that these groups of scientists need to move forward.

But go into the mind of a scientist, how would you like to be funded? Most people would answer venture capitalist. But whats the significance? Well, the significance is that Genetech had no prototype or model.In todays society it would be impossible to receive funding this way, however the guys at Genetech managed to earn money for their incredible work without having a tangible model to show what they were trying to accomplish. Its remarkable really. But, the important thing is that were able to somewhat avoid this difficult process of putting their project on hold to receive funds. They were still at the first stage of discovery so they were able to just hit the ground running with money, and go from there. Very unique situation.

Funding Dilemmas

Opportune Timing of Discovery

“Pointing from the Grave” by Samantha Weinberg is a captivating murder-mystery novel. Weinberg received her degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and went on to become a journalist, novelist, and travel writer. In this book, she focuses on the journey of a man who had been prosecuted for several years. She talks about the scientific evidence and the evolution science has played to solve crimes. She touches the themes of fingerprints, DNA evidence, and psychopath characteristics. Her book is aimed to people with curiosity about criminal investigations. In 1985 Helena Greenwood was attacked and sexually assaulted at her home in Southern California. Ironically, Helena Greenwood was in the biotechnology realm where DNA evidence was on its way to being discovered. This was the start of an investigation that lasted over a decade, and involved the use of innovative technology. Continue reading “Opportune Timing of Discovery”

Opportune Timing of Discovery

Disguise

“Paul is the kind of guy who sends Christmas cards and thank you cards on time. I keep thinking, did I miss something? Did I see any anger brewing up where it might have become uncontrollable? And the answer is no.”-Weinberg (p.341)

Frediani is described many times throughout the book as having multiple personalities. Many tried to link him to someone with multiple personality disorder and Kathy testifies to this idea. As she states, its apparent that Frediani had, or at least created the illusion that, he was two-faced. We’ve known thus all along so why is this significant? Well, if someone is unable to comprehend Frediani as committing these crimes than he must’ve had to have been a very genuine person. If someone states a fact and you still have trouble understanding, your counterargument must be very strong. We may not be able to comprehend it to the extent of Kathy because we are viewing the situation from an external point of view. But, if we put ourselves in her shoes and try imagining this in our own lives, Im sure it wouldn’t seem so crazy. If someone you knew very well and you admired was accused of the same crimes as Frediani, I’m sure we would all have our doubts. But, that is what separates us from felons. We don’t wear guiles to cover who we truly are. Frediani was a murderer and he was crazy enough to hide it. He was two people in one, and the worse half got the better of him. Our perception on the whole case is skewed because we cannot truly understand the emotions that run high during a time like this. But, Frediani was tow faced as we know, but it placed the most significant part in his life, and was ultimately the reason for his demise.

Disguise

Insanity

“Scared to death of him” – Weinberg (185)

Frediani has a tendency to get into relationships that end in catastrophe. My father’s interpretation of insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over and expecting different results. Frediani’s relationships usually end poorly, yet Frediani never seems to take a different approach. In my father’s eyes, Frediani would be insane.

Frediani’s relationships usually run smoothly at the beginning; he falls for this girl that he can envision himself marrying, then Frediani’s temper gets the best of him and the relationships go south. If you think about it, Frediani probably has no idea why this is happening. Just based off of the fact that all of his relationships go the same way, its fair to say that he is oblivious that he is the problem. If he has made girls feel “scared to death” on multiple occasions, how has he not realized he might be the problem?

Maybe because Frediani is insane. We all understand Frediani has some screws loose upstairs, but his insanity may be overlooked. No one in the right frame of mind would continue to get into questionable relationships that end in disaster without asking the question “am I the problem?” Frediani clearly isn’t in the right fram of mind, but its baffling that he never considers himself the issue.

Insanity

Significance of Networking

“To make your mind more innovative, you have to place it inside environments that share the same network signature: networks of ideas or people that mimic the neutral networks of a mind exploring the boundaries of the adjacent possible.” – Johnson (47)

Ideas, in my mind, are like babies. They must be incubated, nurtured, and talked about. One person coming up with a great idea without any sort of advice, adjustments, or critiquing, is almost unheard of. When a great idea comes to mind, it only makes sense to put it to the test and see what type of response its gets from your peers. The people in these liquid networks are what elevate mediocre ideas into great ideas. These networks provide a platform where ideas can be edited and enhanced in an intellectually competent environment. Liquid networks push individuals to think on another level and get advice to further develop these ideas. Whether it be a laboratory or a coffee shop, liquid networks positively contribute to idea development. Its almost hard to imagine a scenario where networks wouldn’t contribute to the development of an idea. These networks are what allow ideas to develop and mature, while maybe inspiring new ideas in the process.development-cycle-idea-22605745

Significance of Networking

The Adjacent Possible

“The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow figure, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.” – Johnson (31)

The adjacent possible explicates how simply following an idea, and digging deeper into the subject matter, can lead to wonderful things. I’ve always been a person who never settled for “just because…” I always wanted to know why things were they way they were. What circumstances and scenarios led to this happening? The adjacent possible would tell me to dig deeper, and to find out why. Who knows what I might find, or what ideas may be sparked in the process. The important thing is that just by analyzing and searching for understanding, there are endless possibilities of what I might find or what I might discover. There are so many different ways to reach the same objective, its all about taking that first step and digging deeper. This opens up new doors of discovery and inspiration, which we may never have gotten if we just settled for “just because…” The adjacent possible reveals to us, how the world is capable of extraordinary change, but we’d never know if we just settled for the basic answers. The adjacent possible is what keeps discovery interesting and reminds us how truly capable the world is of change.

The Adjacent Possible

Technological Acceleration

“This Acceleration reflects not only the flood of new products, but also outgrowing willingness to embrace these strange new devices and put them to use.” – Johnson (13)

It is amazing how fast we are adapting to new technologies, and then moving on to the next big thing. Technological progress has been greater in the past 50 years than all of humanity combined. We are developing new technologies at a ridiculously fast rate that its becoming tough to stay up to date with current technologies. Its forcing us to learn these technologies and further our technological knowledge. Unless of course, you decide you don’t want to adapt to societies technological progression, which is becoming very difficult to do as technology plays a larger role in our lives every year. A study conducted by The Emerging Future predicts that in the next 20 years, we will have surpassed our technical progress one million-fold. At this rate, it seems impossible to be able to adapt based upon one current lifestyles. It will be interesting to see how our lives will change when all this technology is released. speed-technological-advancement_20years

Technological Acceleration

DNA Reference

“Tucked away in one of the genes we were studying was this peculiar stuttered piece of DNA that actually gave us the golden key that unlocked the door to [the evolution of genes].” (Weinberg, 113)

Its interesting how this can relate to serendipity in Johnson’s book. They weren’t necessarily looking for this “key”, but through experiment, they found it. Although they were conducting an entirely separate experiment, this breakthrough presented itself. Johnson told us how this can apply to real life situations and this was a first hand testament to Johnson’s idea. The concepts in biotechnology actually range across the whole realm of science, forensic science in particular. Johnson would appreciate knowing that his ideas were brought to life in a separate realm of science.

DNA Reference

Book Review

“Where Good Ideas Come From” by Steven Johnson, is a book that tries to understand where innovation comes from. The author is very well recognized; he has written for several newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and is co-founder of three influential websites (“Steven johnson”). He investigates from environmental spaces how humans try to make better ideas every time. In this book, he analyzes different theories which could reveal how humans come up with ideas for innovation. He talks about the adjacent possible, the world wide web, the environment where good ideas rise and the slow hunches. Most importantly, in his first chapter he talks about how ideas work so in the rest of the book we know that ideas are networks, millions of neurons coming together. This book is interesting for making the reader question how important come to be. Continue reading “Book Review”

Book Review

Quadrants

“Most academic research today is fourth quadrant in its approach: new ideas are published with the deliberate goal of allowing other participants to refine and build upon them, with no restrictions on their circulation beyond proper acknowledgment of their origin.” -Johnson (233)

The fourth quadrant, arguably, can be seen as innovative for all the right or all the wrong reasons. Are the financial incentives the cause of this sudden scientific revolution? Or has the advancement of society just allowed more doors to open and ideas to flourish? These quadrants all tell a story about who, what, why, and when. But all we see are the inventions that came from them. How can we subjugate all that history and work into a single quadrant? We shouldn’t,  but we do. And even though we shouldn’t, the quadrants have spoken to us and proved that the method in quadrant 4 is the most effective. We should never impose a certain way of approaching things when it comes to innovation and creative process, but the quadrants don’t lie.

The 4 Quadrants
The 4 Quadrants
Quadrants

Keystone Species

“The platform builders and ecosystem engineers do not just open a door in the adjacent possible, they build an entire new floor” -Johnson (183)

Ecosystem engineers have to be the most undervalued species in any ecosystem. Whenever  I read a textbook in science it always mentions the significance of ecosystem engineers, but not specific species. There are countless amounts of animals that I could name based off the knowledge Ive attained throughout my years, but not more than a few keystone species or ecosystem engineers. They have the most important job of all. Why are we not learning about them? They are the backbone of ecosystems and it seems like we don’t value them anymore than we value learning about an animal that may not contribute to their ecosystem at all. Ecosystem engineers are the reason ecosystems are sustainable or even in place to begin with. I think they deserve a little bit of recognition.

Keystone Species

Ideas

“Genius, then, lay not in conceiving an entirely new technology from scratch, but instead from borrowing a mature technology from an entirely different field, and putting it to work to solve an unrelated problem” -Johnson (153)

I feel as if every idea is sprouted from some sort of related concept. When thinking on a deeper level, its hard to imagine an idea that doesn’t somehow compare to a previous one. What then, would define an organic idea? Is every idea not part of a creative pyramid that expands as ideas are created? How then, can we argue against the idea that every “new” concept isn’t directly sprouted from another? I don’t think we can.

Ideas

Silver lining to failure

“The errors of the great mind exceed in number those of the less vigorous one” -Johnson (137)

The idea that failure can ultimately lead to knowledge and understanding. It amazes me how such a simple idea is so overlooked. In society if you’re wrong about something, you get told to your face and there is no way to justify your thoughts. However, people are imperfect, and sometimes need more experience to learn from their failures and use it to their advantage. Our failures actually positively impact us in the future, so why are we so scared of it? Why don’t we just take that leap if we know its going to benefit us? These are just my thoughts throughout the reading.

Silver lining to failure