Scientific Anthology: How Hobbies Affect Scientific Exploration

Introduction

As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” What they don’t tell you is that it also makes Jack less likely to succeed at work. In the next fifteen examples, you will see the value of play–hobbies–in addition to work, specifically scientific exploration. In his book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson reports how hobbies have benefited the scientific community through many generations.

 

“Legendary innovators like Franklin, Snow, and Darwin all possess some common intellectual qualities—a certain quickness of mind, unbounded curiosity—but they also share one other defining attribute. They have a lot of hobbies” (Johnson, 172).

The innovative power that comes from balancing work and play–career and hobbies–has always been present in scientific exploration. This anthology will describe how that power is still at work today.

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Scientific Anthology: How Hobbies Affect Scientific Exploration

How the Culture Affects the Workers

At the end of Chapter five, Hughes mentions some very interesting points about the culture of the Genentech company. In particular, this quote from a female scientist that worked at the company sparked interest with me:

“‘The company seemed to operate like a boys’ locker room, and the place reeked of testosterone. No prank was too outrageous, no poker bet too high, and no woman was part of the inner circle.'” -Hughes, 151

I wonder how in particular this environment was both promoted by and affected the workers in the company. First, it is no secret that there is a considerable lack of women in the STEM fields (the attached statistics are taken from twenty-first century surveys, so I would imagine that in the 1980s the numbers were much lower). Therefore I’m sure there was a natural promotion by these employees.

The affects of it, however, are unclear. Evidently it may have been detrimental for women to get ahead and succeed in the biotechnology field if it is mainly male driven, especially if no women were invited into the “inner circle”.

This may point to the reason women are not encouraged to succeed in STEM fields, despite their obvious capabilities.

 

How the Culture Affects the Workers

Irony

In Chapter 16, Weinberg takes a trip to visit Helena’s father, Sydney Greenwood. During her visit, Sydney recounts many memories of his life as a young man, and of Helena’s life. He prided on her accomplishments, and when speaking on her life and murder said:

“Her killer took her life, but he did not silence her. It has taken fifteen years, but I know Helena has spoken from the grave to indict her killer” (244)

This passage gave me chills because it acknowledges the irony of Helena’s career and its connection to her death. Helena had studied the versatility of DNA, and it is ironic to see what a large part it plays in her murder case. Would she be proud of the advancements of her field even though she was a clear sacrifice for its progression? It is grim subject, but I cannot help but wonder.

Irony

Location and Careers

In the second chapter of Pointing From the Grave it talks about how settling in the Bay area was a simple choice for both Helena and her husband, based on their career paths.  In most cases, is this really how people choose where they live?  If you really think about it, would you be living where you are today if work wasn’t involved?  My parents lived in Baltimore for a long time before eventually moving to New York because of my dad’s job.  But, I also now live in one of the most expensive counties in the country, Westchester, New York.  If it weren’t for my dad’s job wouldn’t my parents have wanted to live in a cheaper place, conserving money for the future?  At the same time, it is my dad’s job that allows our family to live comfortably in such an expensive place.  So I believe there is a huge correlation between your career and where you choose to live, regardless of if we associate the two when we make decisions.

Location and Careers

DNA: Her Line of Work and What Could Solve Her Case

“She knew her future lay in science, and already she was turning her attention to DNA, the molecule that was reorienting the worlds of biology and chemistry, smashing preconceptions, and opening vistas that spread from pre-birth to eternal life” -Weinberg, p14

I found it extremely interesting that Helena devoted her life to studying DNA and that it seems at this point in Weinberg’s book, that DNA could be the missing link to solving her case. Helena’s work with DNA could potentially help the police find her attacker. What scientists have discovered about DNA, and all the different things that they can do with it in this day and age is an amazing biological advancement. At this point in the book, I wondered whether or not DNA will help solve this case, and also if Helena would be one of the people that discovered the link between DNA and her attacker. I am interested to keep reading to see if Helena figures out a method to find her attacker even before the police do. This insight on DNA’s link to criminology is new to me and allowed me to view these types of cases in a new light.

DNA: Her Line of Work and What Could Solve Her Case