New blog series on ideas that sculpted biology

 

© Siddharth Kankaria

Hello everyone,

I know it’s been a long time since my last post, but I was really trying to figure a niche for my blog before I made my next post. And, now that I have finally hit upon it, I thought I might as well begin my first blog series.

“Tinkering with Biology”

If you thought I was going to reveal my blog’s exact niche here, well no, I won’t do that since, I specifically want all of you reading my blog to tinker around – basically interpret, define and shape it – in your own unique way, as we go along, so that niche becomes self-apparent.

Oh, and by the way, my new blog series is called “Tinkering with Biology”!

Now, since, I’m eternally fascinated by science, and biology in particular, I am going to be writing about some of the most interesting ideas, concepts, discoveries, and inventions that define biology. These posts about biological concepts would neither be in chronological order of their first historical occurrence, nor would they denote any ranking of their importance or impact in biology.

An eclectic mix of both ancient and modern papers, famous as well as forgotten ideas, principal and peripheral concepts, alike

In fact, I’m would be covering an eclectic mix of both ancient and modern papers, famous as well as forgotten ideas, principal and peripheral concepts, alike. A major chunk of the papers I will be writing about, were a result of a rendezvous with scientific thinking that I had as part of a course titled, “General Biology”. This wonderfully thought-provoking and at times eye-opening course, is the brain-child of Professor Renee M. Borges, who is presently the Chairperson of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

The title of the blog series, “Tinkering with Biology” is of course inspired from Francois Jacob’s quote, “Evolution is a tinkerer”. While I’m confident I will be dedicating at least one detailed post to discussing the evolution as a tinkerer paradigm, I shall take a moment here to explain why I specifically chose this title. I have chiefly three reasons:

1.

One of the ways dictionary.com defines the verb ‘tinker with’ is: to play, fiddle, or meddle (with), especially while undertaking repairs.  This lies at the heart of evolution being non-deterministic. Which is basically a jargon to denote that evolution makes do with whatever is available, in order to reach the best possible (yet unknown) conclusion – much like a tinkerer – rather than actively causing the alterations required to carve out the desired product – much like an engineer.

Evolution is much like a tinkerer, rather than an engineer

The entire biosphere around us is thus, a glaring testimony to the millions of years of blind tinkering around that has been performed by natural selection and our surroundings, in concert. The fact that we have survived so many years of tinkering around and are still, not just living, breathing and growing but also prospering, thriving and evolving, is nothing short of a miracle. And it is this sense of awe of being shaped by such intricate, affectionate and yet consequential meddling around, that I want to depict by the word ‘tinkering’.

2.

Much of present day biological research also works on the guidelines of slowly, gradually and patiently exploring, modifying and tinkering around with the already controllable variables, in order to reach some conclusion. This is not to say planning and foresight are not important in biology – on the contrary, many great discoveries in biology have been a result of meticulously planned experiments.

Tinkering – an unspoken yet undeniable guiding force for how much of biology is done today

However, given the complexity of the variables involved in any biological system, any planned experiment can only play around with a few variables at a time. Thus, the idea of tinkering and playing around has been an unspoken yet undeniable guiding force for how much of biology is done today.

3.

Lastly, we – both, me as a writer, and you as a reader – are here to learn, unlearn and re-learn a lot of things about biology, and perhaps even life. And thus, there is no doubt there we are going to be doing a lot of tinkering. I’m going to be tinkering around a lot to understand a paper, analyze its key concepts, test its suitability and feasibility to be included as part of this series, and finally express those concepts in my own words here.

The primary function of this blog series itself is to encourage ourselves to tinker around some fascinating biological concepts

While, at the same time, you as a reader would tinker around too, when deciding whether the heading looks interesting enough to read on, when trying to gauge the content of the posts, when learning about a new concept, or seeing something you already knew with fresh perspective. And of course, the primary function of this blog series itself is to encourage ourselves to tinker around some fascinating biological concepts.

 

Actually aren’t we all eternal tinkerers already, in our own peculiar yet distinctive ways?

Thinking about it further, we all make mistakes and learn from them. We all try to make the best of what we have got, and ignore what we have not. We all fall, only to get up and then move on in life. We all drag along on some not-so-happy days, and yet strive to make some other days memorable, in our small ways.

Let me know if you consider yourself a tinkerer, too

Feel free to let me know if you consider yourself a tinkerer, too, and if so in what particular way? I would love to hear your thoughts on this eternal tinkerer analogy in the comments section. Please like, share and follow my posts if you like them. I would really welcome your comments and criticism about my posts, too, so that I can tinker around and improve them. Lastly, please suggest biological ideas / concepts / papers that you would like to see included as part of this series.

Thanks for reading!

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