Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Greatest (Science Geek) Stories Ever Told.




To be more precise, drawn...

With crayons.

Megan Gambino explains, over at the Smithsonian Institute's blog thingy:

...The idea came to Volker Steger while he was riding his bike from Munich to Milan. For an upcoming assignment with an Italian magazine, the German photographer was instructed to take portraits of a dozen Nobel Prize winners in science. His subjects would sit on his kitchen chair, and, to bubble up their personalities, he would ask them Proust-style questions. But, what if after the commercial shoot, while he still had the Nobel laureates in his presence, he ran his own artistic experiment?

Steger gave it a whirl. He handed the scientists large pieces of white paper and some crayons and asked them, on the spot, to draw their award-winning discoveries. Once they finished, he photographed them with their sketches in poses of their choosing....


The image at the top of the post was drawn by a guy named Martin Chalfie.

It elegantly and simply explains his champagne experiment from the early '90's that sent him down the road to Nobel prize immortality, in the Chemistry category, with a couple of other guys, in 2008.

Essentially, what Chalfie's group did was to take a gene already characterized by somebody else (one of the other 2008 Nobel winners) from a jelly fish. The interesting thing about this particular gene is that it codes for a protein that glows green when you shine UV light on it in a test tube.

So Chalfie et al. banged the gene into little tiny round-worms and, voila, when he shined a little UV on the creepy crawlers a subset of their cells glowed green.

The upshot of it all is that we can now attach these little fluorescent proteins, and a rainbow of multicoloured variants (subsequently generated by the other guy who won that 2008 prize) to just about any molecule we want in just about any kind of cell so that we can watch where the molecules go and see what they do.

In real time.

I cannot overstate how this has completely revolutionized cell biology - so much so that even punters like me and mine can use these fluoresenct protein tags to decorate things like wee-little Christmas tree ornaments made up of teeny-tiny balls of cells in a tissue culture dish...


And what do these tissue engineered clusters of cells squirt into the hollow central part of the ball?...Well, that would pretty much give away the game if I told you...But feel free to guess...
Not to get all pedagogical on the first cloudy evening in weeks or anything, but...One of the things I always say to the sharp young kids that work with me is..."If you can't explain things in simple language so that your Mom can grasp the gist of it  you probably don't really understand what the heck you're doing yourself."...
You can have a look at all of Mr. Steger's photos of the drawings from the Nobelizers....Here
Way, way off-topic, but....Hey, media mavens!...Anybody have any idea where the (soon-to-be-no-longer) VSun's JFowlie is going?



Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Is it a clone of Pavel Bure?

North Van's Grumps said...

North Van's Grumps said...

JFowlie???? leaving the Sun??? at a faster pace than VPalmer who slipped/shipped off of his long held ledge/perch on A3 to "It's your Choice Today!"

Cathie from Canada said...

Thanks -- this is a very interesting project and shows the creativity of photographers as well as of scientists.

RossK said...



If only....

Small matter of missing X, however.

(as in chromosome)


RossK said...


Good try - no brains or neurons in the clusters though.

However...there is a bit of control from the brain...In fact we have to add a hormone released from little walnut at the base of the brain to get the balls to inflate and do their thing.


Regarding the changing of the Dean's guard...Maybe he wants to make like RW (Johnny) Apple in his twilight years?


Don F. said...

Not my area of expertise but very interesting. One day all the pieces will fit and much will come from their efforts, my concern is do we have time?
Definitely a great for the photography.

RossK said...


Not to mention the importance of long distance bicycle rides.

(for the creativity, I mean)



There's always time...

Heckfire - until you gave me a hand I never thought I'd be able to make music even half-way listenable.

Funny thing is, one of the reasons I became a biologist was to get away from math and physics...And now that so much of what we do is fancy optics I've actually had to re-learn a little of both.