Category: Biological Insights

Hand of God or A Viral Shockwave?

Let’s talk about what happened when Europeans first tried to settle North America. They failed and never came back. The entire Eastern seaboard was covered Native American farms and there was hardly a fertile spot left. And the Native Americans overwhelmed the settlers and drove them out.

I am, of course, talking about the Vikings who tried to settle Newfoundland and failed.

Continue reading “Hand of God or A Viral Shockwave?”

If You Can’t Culture It, It Doesn’t Exist

We were taught in medical school that the bladder was sterile. That’s because urine is sterile. So naturally, so is the bladder, right?

Wrong. It turns out that there are numerous organisms in the bladder, and that probiotics that might change the microbiome in the bladder may enhance effectiveness of chemotherapy for bladder cancer.

The reason we thought bladder was sterile is Continue reading “If You Can’t Culture It, It Doesn’t Exist”

Terra Incognita of Science

“Drug Development: When Scientists Try to Build Things”

In 1968, Gunther Stent, a prominent biologist and part of the “band” that included Watson and Crick, wrote a famous paper, subsequently followed by a book. In it, he bemoaned the fact that everything there was to know about molecular biology had already been discovered. That there was to be no more Continue reading “Terra Incognita of Science”

Reductionism and Redundancy

When Xerox launched model 914, the first real copier in history, they didn’t know if it would be a success or a miserable failure. Before then, no one copied anything, mainly because it would take hours to days to make a single copy of a single page of a document, and it was horrendously expensive. In short, there was no market for copiers. The initial estimates were that the entire market may be a few million dollars. Continue reading “Reductionism and Redundancy”

Emergent Phenomena

“Reductionism: Instagram approach to science”

One of the greatest strengths, and one of the greatest failings, of modern science is reductionism. Reductionism has allowed us to dissect and understand some of the most important natural phenomena. Some would argue that reductionism is at the heart of the Scientific Method. Marvin Minsky has said, “In science one can learn the most by Continue reading “Emergent Phenomena”

Hiding in Plain Sight

Jakob Vinther was the first person who figured out that you could tell what colors dinosaurs were by looking at melanosomes, the tiny bags that hold pigments in a cell.

The first time he discovered the melanosomes in dinosaur fossils, he was just a graduate student. Elated, he immediately sent photos of them to his mentor, Derek Briggs. Briggs almost laughed. Continue reading “Hiding in Plain Sight”