Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mad Scientists and the Wonders they Work

As a scientist, one of my favorite things to hear about is when an unexpected discovery is made from an unexpected quarter. That's one of the beauties of science- the whole point of science is to map out the unknown, and just like the early European explorers had no idea what they were encountering when they first mapped out new physical lands, scientists have no idea most of the time what 's happening when they put certain things in contact with each other.

My example, and the reason I am pontificating on this topic, is an article I saw earlier this week discussing how scientists recently discovered that rats with spinal injuries could retain their ability to walk and were not paralyzed if their spines were injected with a dye called brilliant blue G (abbreviated BBG). Granted they walked with a limp, but that seems to be a better fate than being permanently paralyzed from the waist down. The only observable negative side effect was that the rats temporarily turned blue in their extremities- we are talking about the dye used to color blue M&Ms, after all.

But honestly, who thinks of using food dyes to treat spinal injuries? This is what we really call thinking outside the box.

A second article I read is another kind of thinking outside the box, albeit one that I consider to be more humorous. Apparently there are Japanese scientists who are working on developing a kind of fabric that works well for space travel- meaning that astronauts can wear it for extended periods of time without unpleasant odors being emitted. They did a trial run this month on one willing astronaut who wore the same underwear for a month straight and will be turning it over to the scientists upon his return to earth for their inspection. Bless those scientists- someone's got to do the dirty work. (Incidentally, there was a notice in the last copy of my company newsletter that two techs from the company just got married- and they both work in the fecal matter and parasitology lab. Thinking about their romance makes me giggle a lot more than it should).

Lastly, I hope this one will not win me any enemies, but a comprehensive review of studies done on organic versus non-organically grown produce over the last 50 years indicates strongly that there are not any noticeable benefits to eating organic produce. This makes me pleased, since I must admit that I think that the organic movement is largely hype and costs more than its worth. Now, whether the pesticides used in growing produce are substantially worse for the environment than organic crops, I am not prepared to make a statement. It's quite possible that chemical pesticide treated crops are substantially worse for the environment. But if we're just talking about human consumption, the two are essentially identical, friends.

1 comment:

JHB said...

How did you feel the first time when you called yourself a scientist? I was laughed at (this is Jared B by the way)