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.