“The future will not, in crucial ways, be anything like the past, even the very recent past of a month or two ago,” the author Rebecca Solnit, M.A. ’84, wrote of the pandemic in the Guardian in early April. In a crisis, Solnit wrote, “Our focus shifts, and what matters shifts. What is weak breaks under new pressure, what is strong holds, and what was hidden emerges.”
IN THE SUMMER OF 1984 the senior scientists of Cetus Corp., a Berkeley biotech company, found themselves in a bind. One of their employees, a promising young scientist named Kary Mullis, had dreamed up a technique to exponentially replicate tiny scraps of DNA. He called it polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and if it worked it would change the world and likely earn Cetus a mountain of money. The only problem was Mullis was an interpersonal wrecking ball.
On April 13, 1888, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who made millions turning his invention into munitions and selling them to the armies of the world, was aghast to read a story in a Paris newspaper that mistakenly reported his death.
It was actually his older brother, Ludvig, who had died, but Alfred was horrified by the headline: “The merchant of death is dead.”
The story went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever, died yesterday.”
Posted on October 16, 2017 - 2:08pm
When Randy Schekman looks up from his computer screen, which he now spends more time staring at than petri dishes, his eyes sometimes fall on a faded copy of Cell displayed nearby. The issue is dated June 17, 1994, and the cover depicts a swarm of magnified vesicles—tiny sacs that transport molecules inside cells—resembling a crowd of miniature suns.
The popular science press went bonkers last month with news that fossilized bones of a previously unknown hominid had been discovered in a cave system in South Africa. Dubbed Homo naledi by lead researcher and University of the Witwatersrand paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, these proto-humans appeared to have lived somewhere between 1 to 3 million years ago, used tools, walked upright, and may have buried their dead, a practice that has only been attributed to our own species, Homo sapiens, and Neanderthals.
Posted on October 1, 2015 - 1:55pm