Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Experiments with sex and drugs

Now that I have your undivided attention let me get into the meat of the issue. Experiments with sex and drugs also known as 'the effect of penicillin on the cell cycle of S. aureus'. It’s unfortunate but science does not use sneaky tactics (like I just employed) to get attention. Now some of you may say that the scientific method is based on a rigorous process dedicated to report facts and people should be able to appreciate it on that merit.
One word for you, *snore*.

Scientologists: “Hamare paas Tom Cruise hai, John Travolta hai, tumhare paas kya hai?”
Kabbalah: “Hamare paas Madonna, Britney, Paris and Ashton hai”.
Science (puts on nerd glasses): “Does Al Gore count as a celebrity?”

The few celebrity supporters science has are the likes of Christopher Reeves and Michael J. Fox who have been afflicted by some disability themselves. Surely we can rally up some support in Hollywood. After all they have been reaping the benefits of liposuction and nose jobs and making millions.
Scientist 1: Ouch! That is such a shallow image for science. Let’s not make boob jobs our poster child please.
Crys: It’s time we shed our snob factor and embrace everything that science has given us. Boob jobs, birth control, nukes and pacemakers and everything in between. Let’s all proudly gloat over the shallow and deep benefits of supporting science.

Hollywood has been busy warning us about the perils of science for years on end (those ungrateful bastards…they use the very technology that science developed against it). From Frankenstein to Jurassic Park, Hollywood is dedicated to perpetuating the mad scientist cliché and unleashing monsters on society. Science urgently needs some spin doctors to put a positive spin on the negative image that has been generated for decades.

The unpopularity of science was apparent when communal indifference (as a result of ignorance) to science reached a new high with the Dover trial. Historically, the scientific community has not put any extra effort to relay their complicated finding in a manner that was consumable for the masses unless the scientific process/funding was in jeopardy. This complacency in communication was greatly exploited by the intelligent design quacks who cleverly disguised their god of gaps in a coat of seemingly factual armor. The scientific community was left scrambling to come up with a suitable defense because they were simply not taking this seriously. They thought that the idea of people rallying in support of this sham of a theory was preposterous. Needless to say the researchers underestimated their opponents.

While the researchers were oblivious to the quack science propaganda, the ID proponents gained a lot of ground victimizing one ignorant mind after another. The ID quacks got enough support and convinced hoards of people to demand that intelligent design be not only accepted as a scientific theory but also be taught in science classrooms. Soon the researchers realized what was blaringly obvious to them was not necessarily as evident to the layman.

The ID proponents were ready to make their presence felt in the science classrooms. The researchers had to promptly pick up their jaws that were left hanging in total disbelief at the sucker coefficient of the masses and wage a full-fledged war. It was a hard battle because by the very act of engaging with the quacks, the researchers were left with a bitter taste of giving the ID proponents unwarranted credibility. Finally rationality prevailed as the court ruled in favor of the researchers. If anything, this epic battle opened the eyes of the scientific community to the responsibility of leading the masses to the wisdom that they painstakingly research.

There are renewed efforts by scientists to better communicate their findings. Yet the journey has only begun. It’s not a menial task to simplify the mind boggling findings to consumer friendly tid-bits of fun facts. A couple of weeks ago my university had an open forum where the scientists could present their findings and address questions to the volunteers, donors and other lay-people. One of the questions that were asked was, “Well if we have been researching so hard on cancer why don’t we have a cure yet?” Some of the graduate students were ready to pull out their hair, some wanted to laugh, others wanted to cry, mostly the sentiment of what a thankless job it is to communicate were reverberating in their heads but even so they tried to explain the challenges in biology.

If it were easy it would have been done already.

Foraging into the field of biology armed (and often limited) by our rationality and imagination is quite an adventure. Often times the carefully laid plans don’t lead to fruition. The journey is plagued with failures. Success is rare. The questions lead to more questions. But even so the curiosity never fades. We tickle our brain cells with intrigue. We keep at it, battling low wages and streaks of failures with nobody waiting in the alleys to applaud our uncommon success.

I have a little treat for all you fellow biologists and biology enthusiasts. This is an animation made by XVIVO in an effort to cultivate interest in the molecular biology program at Harvard. The animation illustrates unseen molecular mechanisms and the ones they trigger, specifically how white blood cells sense and respond to their surroundings and external stimuli. I immensely enjoyed it. I had all these images in my head about the enzymes nicking and the DNA strand unwinding. Finally here it was…a form to my vision. Hope you enjoy it too.

Inner life of a cell


Cruel Intentions said...

eH, Meant only for the Biology People?

Crystal blur said...

Oops I did it again?
As a biologist, I was trying to communicate the perils of not communicating science to the layman. Ironically, I seem to have failed in communicating that (sob!)

May be I should provide links to the inteliigent design debate and the dover trial (?)

Hyde said...

Errmm... not sure if the previous comment about liking the video but not understanding a thing (:-P)made it... :-S

cheti said...

This entire ID debate was so humorous ! I guess you still have that website on Nooodle god or somesuch thing !!!

The Animation was amazing ! Saw it withe no soud ! but just the visualisation of certian things was mindboggling !

Cruel Intentions said...

I Understand computers and logic, are they like enough to understand you?

Crystal blur said...

The video shows all the activities going on in the cell at a molecular level and whatever they have shown is happening in your cells as you read this. Cool eh? :)

Yeah the Flying spaghetti monster was a riot.

well, in addition you would have to know the intelligent design understand this blog.

Hyde said...

Err... I kinda figured that part. :-D I sent the link to a friend who is into such things. Last time I heard, he's planning to do some research on zebrafish... after conducting enough experiments on houseflies. Or were they fruit flies?