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Friday, November 24, 2006

First Post - How many biologists does it take to fix a radio?

  I think it's time to relaunch my blog. No fanfare, no emails.. just a quiet "one more blog added to the web" un-event. Sort of like in Alice in Wonderland, where the Mad Hatter et al celebrate their un-birthdays, which I'm sure get tedious somewhere near the 360th of each year.

  In any case, I've been thinking of way too many rants to keep quiet about, and a chance discovery at the printer this morning had me grinning like a fool, so I figured it would be a good time to start sharing with the world, again.

  What's the discovery, you ask?

  I came across an article titled Can a Biologist Fix a Radio? - or, What I Learned while Studying Apoptosis. With a title like that, who could resist reading the intro... or the whole article.

  In essence, it's a call to arms for the biological community to develop useful terminology, and to re-assess how we look at our subjects. In his example, Dr. Lazebnik asks how would biologists fix a radio. A wonderful quote from the article goes as follows:

How would we begin? First, we would secure funds to obtain a large supply of identical functioning radios in order to dissect and compare them to the one that is broken. We would eventually find how to open the radios and will find objects of various shape, color and size. We would describe and classify them into families according to their appearance.

  He then goes on to describe various methods where biologists start pulling objects out of the radio, one by one, and naming the components by their effect on the radio, and making nice acronyms for each one.

  And that's what I really found striking. Biologists, Biochemists and anyone dissecting cells is guilty of that crime - not seeing the big picture. In many cases, there is no way to see the big picture, but if we try to understand a radio in terms of resistor #58, versus understanding why we have resistors, we end up with two very different world views.

  So, where's this all going? I've just spent the last week looking for "nails that stick up" on cancer cells (very successfully, I'd like to think), with the aim of beating them down. Maybe it's time I start looking at what these nails are holding together.


Blogger Karen said...

Excellent first post, I like the analogy.

November 24, 2006 4:19:00 PM PST  

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