Sunday, June 13, 2010

Camp Curie: Wendesday: Biology, Design (continued), Communicating a cause.

Wendesday:  Biology, Design  (continued), Communicating a cause.
Rosalind Franklin – Actual discoverer of the shape of DNA
Barbara McClintock,  - how inheritance occurs through genetic expression
Helen Harrison – re-designing
Jane Poynter - Biosphere 2 


This is her blog:


DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME - tree frog experiment.

Poison Dart Frog Challenge - DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME (REALLY - IT'S VERY DANGEROUS) from Amphibian Avenger on Vimeo.

Chytrid Fungus (responsible for killing of MANY MANY frogs - with a light soundtrack

Chytrid fungus under the microscope from Amphibian Avenger on Vimeo.

You can learn more about the serious trouble amphibians are in at PBS.  They did a whole show called 
"THE THIN GREEN LINE" - which you can watch the whole episode if you click here.

Part of "a Thin Green Line"


Strawberry dart frog

Planet Earth frogs




“She had Charisma, she was fascinating, very attractive woman, and she affected all of us in a very deep way.  Her friends and students have a great difficulty thinking about her because it is so painful.”
- Kenneth C. Holmes  (friend of Rosalind's)

Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920-1962), Chemist, X-ray Crystallographer, Discovers the structure of DNA - well....  almost
Rosalind Franklin was one of the most accomplished and yet least recognized women in science.  Before her death at age 37, she made revolutionary discoveries in three different projects, published dozens of articles that are still sited today, and it seems like everyone she worked with, later went on to win a Noble Prize.  She is most famous for “Photo 51”, the DNA image that James Watson and Francis Crick based their model on Rosalind was always interested in science.  She preferred math, memory games, and building things rather than playing with dolls and at age 15, she had decided to become a scientist.  She graduated early and was accepted to Cambridge University.
Franklin was interested in the technique of Crystallography, a process using an x-ray beam shot at very fine objects (like a molecule).  Some of the beam penetrates straight through the molecule but others bounce off the atoms that are in the way, imagine a mini-blind.  Using film, the resulting x-ray pattern is recorded as an image and then mathematically plotted for the position of atoms within that molecule.  Before Franklin, they could only take images of solid crystal forms, but she pioneered the ability to take images from disordered matter (like Carbon), and complicated biological molecules.
When she started working, World War II was underway.  To help with the war effort, she studied coal and discovered structural changes when coal carbons are heated.  Her work was vital to improving coal efficiency, high strength carbon fibers, improving gas masks, and extremely useful to the coal and nuclear industry.
Franklin’s incredible skills working with crystallography got her a job at Kings College to work on solving the structure of DNA and understanding how hereditary information is passed on.  It was physicist John Randell, who had assembled an interdisciplinary team to work on the problem and turned over the imaging / structure portion of the project over “lock, stock, and barrel” to Franklin and graduate student Raymond Gosling. 
Maurice Wilkins had been working in the lab on the same subject prior, and was on vacation at the time that Franklin was hired.  He assumed that she was going to be his assistant, but returned to an improved laboratory, with Franklin making magnificent progress.  She was doing better work, more articulate, and was far more qualified than him.
Franklin’s manner is often discussed more often then her work. She was known for her strong personality, opinions, and principles.  She was not interested in lofty theories or speculations, but believed that you needed to support your ideas with evidence.  She was a fantastic experimentalist, kept immaculate notes, and was very precise.  She spoke her mind and was not shy about it, and was extremely driven to succeed in everything she did.  All characteristics that if she were a man would be glorified for.  Her colleges had a hard time dealing with this.  They, obviously intimidated, tried to write her off and exclude her.  They gave her nasty nicknames behind her back, like “Rosy”, and “the Dark Lady”, 
“I’m afraid we always used to adopt – let’s say, a patronizing attitude towards her.” – Francis Crick
Franklin and Wilkins did not get along.  Wilkins was soft spoken, indecisive, speculative, passive, shy, and indirect.  All things that clashed with Franklin’s way of working with proofs and debates.  Franklin was very quick, direct and intense.  When Wilkins was pressed for information, he would just clam up.  Franklin needed a collaborator.  It was the one thing that held her back from discovering the entire DNA ordeal herself.  It wasn’t going to be Wilkins, even though he was suppose to help her, and definitely not someone who was constantly trying to belittle her.   Gosling had no problems working with her, and they got along wonderfully.  She later went on to work very well in other teams, especially during her virus work.  It wasn’t about her so much as it was other people’s hang-ups on gender rolls.  As she put it, “There are certain disadvantages to being a daughter”. 
Franklin took the clearest images ever taken of DNA.  Before, people were using thick clumps of it, and getting images that were slices of DNA on top of each other that were impossible to distinguish what went where.  There was some idea of a helix, but no image clear enough to be useful.  Franklin took a more organized approach.  With a glass rod and a microscope, she pulled thin fibers of DNA, lined up 20 of them, and then bundled them up, making them about the thickness of a human hair.  She also changed the size of her x-ray beam to match the diameter of the fibers.
Most scientists hate the drudgery of experimentation, doing a project over and over again to compare results and add up data, they just want the answer.  Franklin felt that gathering data was the most important part of gaining fact backed and based answers, but also the only way to a complete understanding of the subject so even more answers could be found.  When Franklin noticed that her images changed slightly from day to day, she decided to test how humidity affected the shape of the DNA.
Sure enough, DNA came in 2 different forms.  A-Form was the “dry form”, achieving the same results in the images taken before her.  There was a lot of information, and important details, but confusing to the whole picture.  B-Form was the “wet form”.  At 95% humidity, the water molecules were able to hold the DNA molecules in place.  The DNA strand swelled to 25% longer, and the result was an image that had fewer details than the dry form, but what was important was the big X that was made from this technique.  This was definitely the characteristic of a helix.  Also, because the molecule could absorb and give off water, she was able to conclude that the location of the phosphates and sugars chains were on the outside, leaving the bases on the inside of the structure, looking something like a staircase. 
She was leagues ahead of anyone at this point understanding the shape of DNA, but she was stuck on one point.  It was obvious that the B-Form was a helix, and she knew that form A was probably a helix, but probably wasn’t good enough, she needed proof. 
There were 4 major pieces to understanding the shape of DNA:
1)    The phosphate and sugars strands are on the outside, and the bases are on the inside.
2)    There are 2 phosphate strands winding together shaped like a helix.
3)    One strand goes up, and the other down.  They both hold the same information, but one side of it is read in one direction, and the other is in the opposite direction.
4)    Each of the “steps in the staircase”, are 2 pairs of bases.
She had the first part, and if you look at her notes, she had little bits of everything else and was teetering on the whole solution. She probably had a very good idea of what it would look like, but she wasn’t into speculation, she needed evidence to back her good idea to being the right one.
Around this time, word was getting out about the work on DNA happening at Kings College.  This was tantalizing for the young, cocky, American; James Watson caught wind of it and wanted to be part of the action.  He applied to join the Kings College research team, but was turned down.  He eventually wound up working at Cambridge.  Watson was brash, social, laid back and a real “mans-man”, getting most of his scientific research from casually chit chatting with other male scientists.  “Except for my writing, all my work has been getting other people to help me.  If I have to use someone else to get the answer, I’ll do it… The most important thing in science is getting the answer, not showing that you’ve done it yourself…  It helps you doing science if you’re very social.”   - James Watson
In November 1951, Franklin gave a lecture about her to date findings on DNA structure.  She showed the 2 different forms, her conclusions of the placement of the phosphates, sugars, bases, and the definite helix pattern in B-Form and the probability A-Form was the same.  She refused to state it as a fact though because there was no evidence to back her speculations about A-Form.  A British graduate student, named Francis Crick who was working with Watson, asked him to attend Franklin’s lecture.  He sat in the audience smugly and making it clear that he was not going to take any notes.  In fact, he wasn’t even really listening, but spent the whole time assessing Franklin’s looks. 
Franklin was very striking, so it says quite a lot about Watson when you read his description of her in his book he wrote later, The Race for the Double Helix, giving his account of the events that lead to this major discovery. “There was not a trace of warmth or frivolity in her words,”  “how she would look if she took off her glasses and did something novel with her hair.”  Franklin never wore glasses.  And as far as fashion was concerned, she always had the latest.  She made her own cloths and was constantly changing her hemlines to keep up with the current look. 
Watson was so fixated on checking her out that he did not check the information he brought back to Crick.  He got it completely wrong, and was a huge embarrassment to Cambridge when Watson and Crick hastily built a model off his miss information and then bragged to the whole science community about it.  They caused a huge noise about their model, but when Franklin and her team came to see it, it was Franklin who looked at it and bluntly pointed out - one, two, three - where their model was wrong.  They had put the phosphate and sugar chain on the inside and the bases on the outside.  Clearly, Watson did not pay attention to what was in her lecture.
Sir Lawrence Bragg, head of the department was so humiliated, he banned Watson and Crick from working on the model on the account that it was invasive and rude.  Bragg said, “Horning on a King’s College project was not good sportsmanship – especially when you were wrong.”
It was in the spring of 1952 that Franklin made the infamous “Photo 51”, a 62-hour exposure of B-Form.  It was beautiful, and still is one of the best today.  What she saw in it, she already knew, and turned her focus back on proving that A-Form was also a helix.  She put her image in a drawer for the mean time.  She needed the math to prove the information that she already knew was right. There was no way of determining whether a model was right or wrong, without the correct information to build it.
Linus Paulling, an American chemist who won 2 Nobel Prizes, and if perhaps he had seen Franklin’s work and met with her, he would have had 3.  Paulling was coming up with his own theories about DNA.  He had sent a draft of his work to his son, Paul Paulling who studying at Cambridge to review it.  Paul Paulling knew that Watson was interested in the subject, so he passed it along to him.  Watson then took the paper to Franklin.
The information in the draft was nothing new and was making all the same mistakes made before because Paulling was basing his information off of a doubled up image taken 5 years ago.  Watson’s visit was particularly offensive because she had written Paulling’s department several times to talk about what she’d found and looking for someone to converse with and give her some new direction.  Nobody had written her back.  And now, there’s Watson, with access to information that she was denied, who had done no research of his own just synthesizing from the work of others and was more interested in socializing than collecting data.  She was a busy woman, who had at this point collected 2 years worth of an immense about of data on DNA.  At this point knew more than anyone about it.  She asked him to leave.  In Watson’s book, he makes claims that she was going to beat him up if he didn’t leave and he had to run right out of her office in order to escape the battering.  It’s kind of amusing to imagine 32 year old, thin framed Franklin, all of 5’6” of her taking on the over 6 foot, 25 year old.
In Watson’s “dash for safety”, he ran into Wilkins in the hallway and they began to commiserate.  Wilkins goes into the drawer where Franklin’s perfect B-Form image was and hastily showed it to Watson in order to vent his frustrations that she was still focused on proving A-Form when it was clearly seen in B-Form that DNA was helical.  Wilkins had just given it away, and without Franklin ever finding out about it. “They would not have gone on to their model, their correct model, without the data developed here.  They had that – I blame myself.” Wilkins later said.
Watson sees what Franklin has been saying about the Phosphate / sugars being on the outside, and the bases on the inside.  From the image you can easily see the number and placement of the bases.  It took 2 years to build to this data, and Watson walked off with it in a glance.  He goes back to Crick, and they start furiously building a new model.  Crick looks at the sketched image Watson brought back, and notices it’s similarities to horse hemoglobin he had studied during his PhD, in which the outside strands run in opposite directions of each other.  This means that you have 2 identical copies of the information, and to replicate, all the DNA has to do is unzip, and line up another copy of itself. 
Stumped on a few details, through some social angling, Watson gets a hold of more of Franklin’s yet unpublished work.  All of the Kings Colleges data was collected in the Medical Resource Council.  This information is not classified, but at the same time was not suppose to be used or seen without the permission of the scientist who collected the data.  Ironically, the papers they were looking at was the same information she gave in her lecture in 1951, which Watson was at but not paying attention.
Franklin had no idea that this is all happening behind her back.  At the same time as this was going on, she had pulled out her B-form image and started with it again and started making some of the same realizations completely on her own.  Meanwhile, Watson and Crick are talking to everyone else, except Franklin and Watson, about how to build this model.  Franklin put together her findings and wrote her article first, but Watson and Crick turned their article in to the Nature Journal first.  When the earth shattering issue of Nature came out, it was laid out in such a way to make Franklin’s work look like supporting evidence of Watson and Cricks.  This was their solution to the ever-embarrassing fact that they had done none of the research themselves.  Their article was 1 page long, less than 1000 words.  It was a hypothesis, with no proof, no authorities sited or credit given to any other scientist but themselves.  They struck up a deal with the Journal for the arrangement of their article first; one from Wilkins next, and Franklin’s last that had all the data to prove the hypotheses.  To insure against a lawsuit if the truth was ever found, Watson and Crick added at the bottom of their article, “We have also been stimulated of the knowledge of the general nature of the unpublished experimental results and ideas of Dr. M. H. F. Wilkins, Dr. F. E. Franklin, and coworkers at Kings College, London.”
Watson claimed in his book that Franklin didn’t understand information in the images she was taking.  He was “surprised” when Franklin came to see their new model and recognized it as the correct structure immediately.  Of course she would because it was based entirely from her work.  In her notebook, she works out different models of DNA structure.  You can see all these little sketches of figure 8’s and S forms trying to figure out this symmetry due to the identical strands running opposite directions would work.  She was so close it hurts.  Worst of all, had Watson and Crick not seen her B-Form image, they’d had never discovered it at all.  Neither of them were able to take the pictures themselves and they had been working from that same overlapped picture taken 5 years ago that everyone else was using.  It must be made clear that she died, never knowing that Watson and Crick had seen her B-Form image and were using her unpublished notes. 
Franklin was taken off DNA research and it was handed over to Watson and Crick.  She leaves Kings College and goes to work at Birkbeck College.  She forms a team and begins research on the structure of viruses.  She not only built a ground breaking model Tobacco Mosaic Virus, first of it’s kind and that so many more were based from, but she also made huge strides into understanding how viruses reproduce without being technically alive.  Probably one of the biggest discoveries she made was that Ribonucleic acid, RNA, (DNA’s contractors that tell the cells what to do) is not housed inside the nucleus but is actually housed in the protein coat.  She discovered how proteins and nucleic acid fit together and transfer information.
It was her work on viruses that got her the most attention.  She got invited to speak at several different schools, but was constantly trying to battle the nasty reputation Watson was spreading.  She never sunk to his level with bad talk and name-calling.  Each place she went, she proceeded to debunk his impressions by being her amazing self. 
In the summer of 1956, she is diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  Many speculate that its onset had something to do with her constant exposure to x-rays during her DNA research at Kings College.  She told few people about her painful illness and continued to work.  She was so dedicated that when the pain was so great that she couldn’t walk, she would pull herself up the stairs to her lab.  Many students said they offered to help, but she insisted on doing it herself.  After 2 years of painful experimental chemotherapy, she realized that her illness was terminal.  Instead of slowing her down, she only worked harder.  She took on more risky research, like working with live Polioviruses.  She brought her research along to work on while she was in the hospital when she died.  She had published 17 articles in the 5 years she was at Birkbeck College, and death wasn’t about to stop her.  She loved science and believed in its purpose more than anything.  The week before she died, she organized her research so those she was working with could pick up right where she left off. 
One of those people was one of her closest friends, Aaron Klug.  He later went on to direct one of the leading Molecular Biology Medical Research organizations at Cambridge.  He also, went on in 1982 to win a Nobel Prize in chemistry.  Unlike Watson, Wilkins, and Crick, he sited Rosalind Franklin as a collaborator and inspiration in his acceptance speech. 
Franklin’s unknowing participation in cracking the mystery of DNA would have been forgotten if not unknown, but thanks to Watson’ bragging about how he duped Franklin and stole her research in his book, it has brought light to her lifetime achievements.  In a way, the same man that stole her discovery solidified her place in scientific history, both for her research and her personality.  In her defense of her character, Aaron Klug stated, “…It would have gone quite unremarked if she’d been a man.  But she stood up for things.  She was rather persistent.” and that can be said at a minimum.  She was brilliant, dedicated, accomplished, and above all able to put aside the gossip about her and focus on what was really important, her passion for factual science.  Not just the answers, but every single aspect of it.      

Another Twist in the DNA Double Helix, presented by Janice Voltzow

Play made about the discovery (With bad music)

Another Artist's take on Rosalind Franklin's work

Her medical insitute

Helen Harrison – re-designing  

Helen Meyer Harrison             Artist and Ecologist
Helen Harrison and her husband, Newton Harrison, developed something they call Eco-politics and Eco-poetry.  They traveled the globe, looking for ways to environmentally solve problems like damns that were falling apart, polluted rivers, even attempted to create a self-sufficient ecosystem within a gallery space modeled after an Estuary.  None of these are small tasks seeing these were not just works of art for a temporary exhibition, nor a short run experiment, but large living thing.  It was created in our environment - to protect our environment, so it couldn’t just be a study, it really had to work! 
In the early 1970’s, coinciding with the rising interest in environmentalism, thanks to Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, the Harrisons decided that it would be easier to work along side nature, including ourselves as part of our ecosystem, rather than trying to conquer it.  In the long term, it would be more economical to take the small steps it would take to prevent a catastrophe, in comparison to the cost of the massive repairs an environmental crisis would cause in the long run.
When it came to co-existing, it wasn’t just an ideal the preached, nor was it just to co-exist with their natural environment, but they included their social environment as well.  They brought together scientists, artists, landscape architects, politicians, and the surrounding community with its citizens to find a solution to these problems.  Rather than having these people work against each other, they were working together as a team, towards a healthy goal.  Everyone needed to combine the resources that each other had and their skills to make this thing work.  This same concept applies to how we should interact with our ecosystem.  Every living thing serves a purpose, is valuable, and has huge repercussions once it is lost. 
Helen Harrison isn’t just an artist, a scientist, and an environmentalist: she is a peacemaker.

"Among the leading pioneers of the eco-art movement, the collaborative team of Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison (often referred to simply as "the Harrisons") have worked for almost forty years with biologists, ecologists, architects, urban planners and other artists to initiate collaborative dialogues to uncover ideas and solutions which support biodiversity and community development.
The Harrison's concept of art embraces a breathtaking range of disciplines. They are historians, diplomats, ecologists, investigators, emissaries and art activists. Their work involves proposing solutions and involves not only public discussion, but extensive mapping and documentation of these proposals in an art context.
Past projects have focused on watershed restoration, urban renewal, agriculture and forestry issues among others. The Harrisons’ visionary projects have often led to changes in governmental policy and have expanded dialogue around previously unexplored issues leading to practical implementations throughout the United States and Europe.
"Our work begins when we perceive an anomaly in the environment that is the result of opposing beliefs or contradictory metaphors. Moments when reality no longer appears seamless and the cost of belief has become outrageous offer the opportunity to create new spaces - first in the mind and thereafter in everyday life."
By the early ‘90s, the Harrisons perceived that every work they were doing either needed or engendered a collaborative group. As a consequence, they formed the Harrison Studio and Associates. It’s earliest manifestation was at the Bauhaus Dessau in 1993 in a team that centered around Bauhaus personnel with Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, Vera Westergaard and Gabriel Harrison, working collectively on the Mulde River watershed. Thereafter, the Harrison Studio has formed and reformed many times. There was the Harrison Studio in Borna, South Leipzig. In Bonn, with the Endangered Meadows. In Gouda, with Greenheart Vision. Most recently, the Harrison Studio Britain and, as an offshoot, the Harrison Studio Devon.
Their work process is singular. It begins with the question, “How Big is Here?” Here may be a street corner, as in California Wash or a sub-continent, such as Peninsula Europe. They only do work that is the outcome of an invitation to engage a particular place or situation. Typically, they agree to go to such a place to see, think, speak, research and engage a broad spectrum of people and groups. They will only take on a work if there is a general agreement that their actual client is the environment itself. The agenda is created by the artists in discourse with the larger community. Thus, the Harrisons see themselves simultaneously as guests and co-workers. They stay only as long as the invitation continues, or until they deem that they have done all that is possible for them to do."  --> 
Taken from their own website so we could see them in their own words:

Barbara McClintock,  - how inheritance occurs through genetic expression  Genetics.  Nobel Prize winner

"In early 1929, McClintock published her Ph.D. dissertation in Genetics, then the foremost journal in the field. Within two years, she had published six other articles in major journals, all of which made important contributions to the newly emerging field of plant cytogenetics, and furthered the world's knowledge about the location of genes on chromosomes. She collaborated with students on the most notable of these investigations.
Instructor McClintock gave graduate students Henry Hill and Harriet Creighton two important projects for their thesis research and co-authored these pioneering contributions with them. The first was a method to connect chromosomes with linkage groups in corn (McClintock & Hill 1931) and the second was the cytological proof for crossing over (McClintock 1931, Creighton & McClintock 1931). Creighton and McClintock's significant study gave further confirmation to T. H. Morgan's chromosome theory of inheritance, for which he won a Nobel Prize in 1933. These collaborative projects were based on important work that McClintock had pioneered: identification of corn's ten chromosomes at mitosis (and later at meiotic pachytene stage), confirmation of Belling's translocation hypothesis, and the sequence of the genes in Chromosome 9. Creighton (Ph.D. 1933) became head of Botany at Wellesley College and President of the Botanical Society of America in 1956."  Taken from:









Jane Poynter: Life in Biosphere 2

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