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Xipe Totec

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Current location: The Republic of Texas
Member since: Thu Apr 8, 2004, 06:04 PM
Number of posts: 43,705

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My first encounter with a real girl scientist.

This was back in Houston, in one of the suburbs around the Johnson Space Center.

On a hot summer day, my boys were playing in the back yard with a bunch of neighborhood friends. I was in charge of keeping an eye on them, but I was distracted inside. Can't remember what I was doing. Suddenly several of the kids burst in through the back door, screaming that there's a snake in the yard. This is Houston, we're surrounded by rice paddies, so my first thought is copperhead or cotton mouth. Both deadly vipers. I run to the garage, grab a machete and race to the backyard. I can see rustling in the raised flower beds. It's a big one, but I can't tell what it is; the ferns are three feet tall and thick. I track it to the corner. There's about a dozen kids in the yard and I feel I have no choice but to whack first, ask questions later. So I do.

One, two, three slashes, and I finally nail the snake. Head severed a few inches back from the neck. I pull the body out and, lo and behold, it is a garter snake. Absolutely harmless. I feel like shit.

I wanted to make the best of a bad situation, so I decided this was a good moment for an anatomy lesson. I grab some X-acto knives and head back to the back yard. I cut the snake lengthwise along the belly, exposing stomach, the one lung and a still beating heart. The kids recoil in horror. All save one; a little girl, about four years old. She is fascinated. She is squatting in front of the snake, mesmerized. She asks me to open the stomach to see what's inside. The rest of the kids including my sons have already moved to the other side of the yard. They want no part of this. I open the stomach and there's a couple of small mice, and a frog. She looks at them intently and asks me to turn them over to see them from all sides...

THAT!, my friend, is what a scientists looks like. Male, female, or otherwise, that's the hallmark; that insatiable curiosity.

That little girl is a surgeon now.

She may be the very same person who holds your life in her hands the next time you go to the hospital.

Pray that she is, for then you will be in the best hands. You will be in the hands of a real scientist.

1st Ever SPACE SHUTTLE Landing - I was there for this one

By a colossal mistake, I turned right when I should have turned left.

Instead of watching this historic flight with the rest of the contractors, I was seated in the VIP section in Mission Control, surrounded by military brass and the families of the astronauts.

If I had to do it over, I'd screw up just the same.

Homo Scientificus According to Beckett

One of the truly profound essays I have read in my life.


It has been over 35 years since I first read this essay by Max Delbrück, and it still inspires me and haunts me today.

What is the nature of the scientific mind? What drives a scientist?

Delbrück was a German-American biophysicist. He won the Nobel prize for discovering that bacteria become resistant to viruses (phages) as a result of genetic mutations.

In a recent article in Scientific American; The Right Way to Get It Wrong, it mentions Delbrück, along with Neils Bohr and Enrico Fermi, as scientists who have made spectacular mistakes that have driven science forward. Quote:

"In the 1940s Max Delbrück, the key founder of molecular biology, based his research on a number of incorrect and misleading assumptions. He would go on to win a Nobel Prize."
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