Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Ingenuity of Science

Science is a vast area of study that mankind has spent thousands of years perfecting and improving from the earliest successful “experiment” of domesticating maize nearly 10,000 years ago by ancient Mexicans (1) up to the creation of 28 whole new elements in recent years. As science began to progress at a faster and faster rate the scientific method was developed establishing a rough framework on which science experiments are modeled. With a method developed that captured the general process of experiments those who weren’t scientists saw the work of scientists as being procedural with little ingenuity going into new experiments. Despite how science appears to the outside world, scientists have never stopped being imaginative and creative while carrying out their work.
With the scientific process developed to outline the process of science experiments then all experiments should be the exact same with an expected result if the process is followed correctly. This is anything expect true, proven by one of the greatest science discoveries not just of the age but in the history of mankind, CRISPR (2). CRISPR repeats were first observed nearly three decades ago by dairy scientists trying to improve bacterial cultures used in yogurt and cheeses. It wasn’t for several years that the true potential of CRISPR was realized in 2013 when it was used to target human and mouse genes (3). If the science were procedural the dairy scientists would have successfully improved the bacterial cultures as that was the intended goal instead of stumbling across the CRISPR gene sequence in the bacteria. This also shows how ingenuity plays a role in science. When the scientists discovered the CRISPR gene they could have just overlooked it as it wasn’t what they were looking for, but instead of ignoring it more and more scientists studied it and came up with the idea that the gene sequence could, in some way, be used to alter gene sequences in other organisms, including humans.
Ingenuity not only applies to biologists but to all scientists, notably physicists.  Whenever people think of physicists CERN comes to mind but another word that should also come to mind is imagination. Without imagination, the work of physicists at the CERN research center in Geneva would never have started. The work at CERN mainly focuses on discovering and analyzing new subatomic particles that people can’t even imagine… unless you’re a scientist working at CERN. Some of the most major discoveries at CERN include the discovery of the Higgs Boson a particle that gives other particles mass, weak nuclear currents that explain weak nuclear interaction, W and Z Bosons particles used in the weak nuclear force, light neutrinos particles that rarely interact with other particles, antimatter particles with the opposite charge of their matter counterpart, charge parity violation an explanation of the existence of matter and antimatter, and the invention of the world wide web (4). Most of the particles discovered come straight from science fiction yet through the imagination and hard work of physicists these particles have been proven to exist.
Science is filled with imagination despite being a field of study filled with facts, laws, and theories. Science experiments thrive on imagination and creativity as without any thought every experiment would be the same dull thing and science would cease to progress as no new groundbreaking discoveries would be made. Take Gregor Mendel for example, everyone could see that the peas were expressing different physical traits yet Mendel asked why and studied the pea plants. Using some imagination he concluded that the differences arose from there being more than one allele per gene, something that couldn’t be proved with the technology at the time yet in the 1900 Mendel’s findings were proven true(5). Science thrives on curiosity and imagination to flourish and drive it, and without it, science would “die” out ceasing to progress.

1 "Evolution of Corn." Evolution of Corn. Learn.Genetics, 1 July 2013. Web. 17 Dec. 2016
2 Zimmer, Carl. "Breakthrough DNA Editor Born of Bacteria." Quanta Magazine. Quanta Magazine, 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.
3 "CRISPR Timeline." CRISPR Update. AATI, 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016
4 Lewis, Tanya. "7 Big Discoveries Made at CERN." Live Science. Live Science, 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.
5 "Concept 1 Children Resemble Their Parents." Mendel as the Father of Genetics: DNA from the Beginning. The Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Evolution Outdone by Mankind

Out of the newest set of articles, I saw the clearest link to biology class with this article (and I also couldn't find the full article about the Sports Science at the Olympics article) I chose to read about the bionic leaf. Personally, I found this article quite interesting since science and technology have come so far that we are able to effectively reproduce and better a biological process that has hundreds of millions of years to evolve and become as efficient as possible. This also seemed to be a semi-plausible solution to the air pollution problem as the bionic leaves clean the air of CO2 and create a clean fuel in the process. 

Overall I think this article was one of the most straight forward of the ones I have read, and it also the month studying photosynthesis and cellular respiration helped me understand some of the more complex biology behind the article which wasn't mentioned in great detail. I did have one big question after reading the article which is, what kind of microbes are they using to covery CO2 into alcohol? One last thought I had after reading the article is if the bionic leaf could somehow be altered to take in CO2 and emit oxygen back into the air as this could possibly help with all of the deforestation going on in the world.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Scavenger Hunt Part I

 Free music event at the farmer's market at Dartmouth College for the summer scavenger hunt.
Moose at the Montshire Museum in VT near Hanover, NH. Got in for free so I don't have a ticket stub and don't know if it will count towards the summer scavenger hunt, but still an interesting picture.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

CRISPR Genetic Research

Personally, I think this week's article was the most interesting and intriguing of the four articles so far. The CRISPR research shows a clear relationship between biology and healthcare, something I'm very interested in. One overall part of the article I did find the most interesting was the part where it said the results can be extremely beneficial for patients compared to chemo.While chemo is quite harmful to the body it sounds as if CRISPR can be just as harmful as chemo if done incorrectly. If the modified cells aren't properly examined and given back to the patient the result of CRISPR would be on par with any chemo treatment. An autoimmune response would be triggered and the body's healthy cells would be attacked, slowly killing the patient just as chemo does.

This article did make me think about some previous things have learned, mostly in the past week at Dartmouth. While at DHMC I learned a bit about one of the most advanced cancer treatments possible outside of genetics. Using an MRI doctors are essentially able to target only cancer cells and heat them up with the MRI, killing the cancer cells. This is much safer than chemo as it doesn't attack all the cells in your body. Another cool snippet of information I learned at Dartmouth related to genetics and overall health. Doctors and research have found that extreme stress can actually shorten telomeres on our chromosomes increasing the risk cellular mutation and thus cancer. On the other hand, relaxation and happiness can lengthen shortened telomeres, decreasing the risk of cellular mutation and cancer.

I can see CRISPR as having great potential in the future if the current tests with lung cancer go well. CRISPR could eliminate the need for chemo in cancer treatment, possibly be the cure for cancer, may allow us to treat autoimmune disease such as type I diabetes, and allow us to treat incurable diseases such as FOP (Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva).

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Hybrids: Not Actually a Thing of the Future

After recently seeing an article about how hybrid animals were becoming a result of climate change I was intrigued and read the article. The results shown in the article were overall not too shocking to me. It was found that birds will have the highest chance of hybrid possibilities, not shocking considering most birds can easily move to different geographical locations. Mammals and amphibians had a much lower chance of hybrid possibilities. Considering how hard it would be for many mammals and amphibians to move to a suitable climate and the competition they would face with the native species the results seem plausible.

Looking at the full article I did find surprising things from what I could understand. The graph showing where all the overlapping species would meet and concentration of the overlapping species only depicted the Americas. Species overlapping can't only occur in the Americas so I was curious to why the graphic representation only showed the Americas. Another thing that caught my attention was that all most all of the projected overlapping pairs were in South America and very little in North or Central America. I thought this might be due to the fact that the Amazon Rainforest is in South America, but I'm not completely sure.

Going back to the shortened article I realized that the only hybrid talked about was the grolar bear and decided to do some more research on hybrid animals. My search yielded a plethora of different hybrids including the famous Liger, a combination between a male lion and female tiger. I also found the Tigon, a combination between a male tiger and female lion. This I found interesting because the same two species were bred, but just by switching the gender of the animals being bred changed the outcome. I'm wondering if the gender of the two species breeding plays any role in different hybrids or if the Tigon and Liger are actually the same species of animal. One final thing that caught my attention was the Litigon hybrid, a rare second generation hybrid from a female tigon and male lion. I was curious to know if the Litigon could exist and if it ever has existed and if any hybrids could be bred to make other hybrids. I'm only wondering this because of the fact the mules, a very common hybrid, can't be bred.