(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Rosalind Franklin

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change”*…

 

dyson640

 

In the near future, we will be in possession of genetic engineering technology which allows us to move genes precisely and massively from one species to another. Careless or commercially driven use of this technology could make the concept of species meaningless, mixing up populations and mating systems so that much of the individuality of species would be lost. Cultural evolution gave us the power to do this. To preserve our wildlife as nature evolved it, the machinery of biological evolution must be protected from the homogenizing effects of cultural evolution.

Unfortunately, the first of our two tasks, the nurture of a brotherhood of man, has been made possible only by the dominant role of cultural evolution in recent centuries. The cultural evolution that damages and endangers natural diversity is the same force that drives human brotherhood through the mutual understanding of diverse societies. Wells’s vision of human history as an accumulation of cultures, Dawkins’s vision of memes bringing us together by sharing our arts and sciences, Pääbo’s vision of our cousins in the cave sharing our language and our genes, show us how cultural evolution has made us what we are. Cultural evolution will be the main force driving our future…

An important essay by Freeman Dyson, emeritus professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton: “Biological and Cultural Evolution– Six Characters in Search of an Author.”

* Leon C. Megginson (often misattributed to Darwin, on whose observations Megginson based his own)

###

As we agonize over the anthropocene, we might recall that it was on this date in 1968 that James Watson’s The Double Helix was published.  A memoir, it describes– with manifest hubris– “perhaps the most famous event in biology since Darwin’s book,” the 1953 discovery, published by Watson and Francis Crick, of the now-famous double helix structure of the DNA molecule.

Crick, however, viewed Watson’s book as “far too much gossip,” and believed it gave short shrift to Rosalind Franklin’s vital contribution via clues from her X-ray crystallography results.  It was originally slated to be published by Harvard University Press, Watson’s home university,  Harvard dropped the arrangement after protests from Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins (their supervisor, who shared the Nobel Prize);  it was published instead by Atheneum in the United States and Weidenfeld & Nicolson in the UK.

In any case, the book opens a window into the competitiveness, struggles, doubts, and human foibles that were baked into this landmark in science.

220px-TheDoubleHelix source

 

“Geographers never get lost. They just do accidental field work.”*…

 

A Facebook friend recently noted that Turkey was “a remarkably rectangular country.” I wondered how it compared to other countries, and this post shows my answers (Turkey is 15th; Egypt is the most rectangular; full table below). I defined the rectangularness of a country as its maximum percentage overlap with a rectangle of the same area, working in the equirectangular projection (i.e., x = longitude, y = latitude). Ideally each country would get its own projection, but equirectangular rectangles feel at least linguistically thematic and are easier to code…

David Barry‘s ranking of “The rectangularness of countries.”

* Nicholas Chrisman, Professor of Geomatic Sciences, Université Laval

###

As we get square, we might send paradigm-shaping birthday greetings to a woman who enabled mapping of an altogether different– and world-changing– sort: Rosalind Franklin; she was born on this date in 1920. A biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer, Franklin captured the X-ray diffraction images of DNA that were, in the words of Francis Crick, “the data we actually used” when he and James Watson developed their “double helix” hypothesis for the structure of DNA. Indeed, it was Franklin who argued to Crick and Watson that the backbones of the molecule had to be on the outside (something that neither they nor their competitor in the race to understand DNA, Linus Pauling, had understood).  Franklin never received the recognition she deserved for her independent work– her paper was published in Nature after Crick and Watson’s, which barely mentioned her– and she died of cancer four years before Crick, Watson, and their lab director Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize for the discovery.

 source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 25, 2016 at 1:01 am

Connections…

 

Everyone knows the old saw that “no technology exists in a vacuum.”  Less clear to our linear-narrative-obsessed culture is the fact that no technology was invented in one, either.  The strands that connect the dots of a technology’s path from invention to deployment to adoption criss and cross much more than we give them credit for, even in TED Talks.  History Mesh is an interactive timeline tracing the interconnected history of four technology megatrends over the past four millennia, using the London Tube Map as graphic inspiration.  Think the history of computation started in the 1950s and has nothing to do with “water puppet theater” in the third century B.C.E.?  Think again…

Read the whole story here, then explore History Mesh.

###

As we appreciate the shoulders of those on whom we stand, we might send paradigm-shaping birthday greetings to Rosalind Franklin; she was born on this date in 1920.  A biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer, Franklin captured the X-ray diffraction images of DNA that were, in the words of Francis Crick, “the data we actually used” when he and James Watson developed their “double helix” hypothesis for the structure of DNA. Indeed, it was Franklin who argued to Crick and Watson that the backbones of the molecule had to be on the outside (something that neither they nor their competitor in the race to understand DNA, Linus Pauling, had understood).  Franklin never received the recognition she deserved for her independent work– her paper was published in Nature after Crick and Watson’s, which barely mentioned her– and she died of cancer four years before Crick, Watson, and their lab director Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize for the discovery.

 source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 25, 2013 at 1:01 am

We are collaborators in creation*…

 full image here

Scientists have developed a way to carve shapes from DNA canvases, including all the letters of the Roman alphabet, emoticons and an eagle’s head.

Bryan Wei, a postdoctoral scholar at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and his colleagues make these shapes out of single strands of DNA just 42 letters long. Each strand is unique, and folds to form a rectangular tile. When mixed, neighbouring tiles stick to each other in a brick-wall pattern, and shorter boundary tiles lock the edges in place…

Read the story on Nature‘s blog (or the full paper in Nature).

As CoDesign observes,

Creating a DNA alphabet was simply a vivid way for the scientists to demonstrate the flexibility and atomic-level accuracy of their system. But you don’t even need a PhD in order to use it, because they also created a graphical user interface that lets anyone with a mouse (and access to an atomic force microscope, the device that “draws” the DNA) sketch out the shape they want without mucking around with code or technical specs.

Still, the DNAlphabet could actually have intriguing applications of its own. Security-minded (or just plain egomaniacal) researchers could use these microscopic structures to watermark their synthetic-biological products, just like that scene in Blade Runner. Even cooler: “One can imagine we can use the shapes as invisible ink in a secret-agent way,” says Wei. “High density information can be delivered in a test tube or simply as powder.”

* “Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”  – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

***

As we reach for the tweezers, we might recall that it was on this date that Marie Skłodowska-Curie (AKA Madame Curie) went before the examination committee at the University of Paris for her PhD. She was awarded the degree… and later that year, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for her work on “radioactivity” (a term she coined).  She became the first female professor at the University, and went on to win another Nobel (the second, in Chemistry)– the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to date to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences… on the basis of which, in 1995, she became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon.

Her work was central to a wave of research that enabled the development of x-ray crystallography, the tool used by Rosalind Franklin in making critical contributions to the project that unravelled the fine molecular structures of DNA (for which Crick, Watson, and Wilkins won the Nobel Prize).

Marie Curie

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 25, 2012 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: