Monday, October 06, 2014

Biological hack Labs

Martin Perl, in his lab at Stanford in 1995,  
 Credit John G. Mabanglo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
As major research funding has diminished, and large academic laboratories have been left relatively idle, the age of the hack lab has come. Just as backyard tinkering spaces have in the past, driven industrial expansion, the new age of science may be DIY.

There is some risk when the guy next door may be mixing up biological concoctions, but there is greater risk when people are left idle. It's not the busy hands that do the devils work, but those left untrained in matters of physical reality and unresponsive to the call of assuring the growth of human knowledge.  As teaching of science has become more and more by rote and less experiential students of science are inclined to take matters into their own hands. You can read about bio hacker labs here: Biology Hacklabs. The movement was also described in a segment of Science Friday on NPR: Community Science Labs Practice Do-It-Yourself Biology.

Along the same vein, A reader sent a link to the obituary of Martin Perl, Nobel laureate, 1995 in Physics for the discovery of a subatomic particle.
The discovery of the subatomic particle, the tau lepton, as it is formally known, was a crucial step in figuring out the jigsaw puzzle of elementary particles that form the bedrock of material reality.
Dr. Perl took particular delight in the gritty mechanical and physical details of doing experiments, an interest he traced to his boyhood joy in playing with construction toys like Lincoln Logs. To make up for his lack of an Erector Set while growing up, he later amassed a large collection of them and other construction toys. “He really saw those toys as the germ out of which experimental creativity could come,”

In recent years, Perl traveled in India and Japan lecturing about creativity and his concern that science education was becoming too rigid. He urged students to keep a journal and write down crazy ideas. But he also urged them and his colleagues not to get too far ahead of the fundamental truth of experiment in science.
Today in the wood shop, I'll be sanding boxes. I've gone through several iterations in my making of a lego™ that can be printed on the school's 3-D printer. As I look at it more closely, I discover details that I had missed, and to make it so that it exactly fits other legs™ requires perfection. In getting the details of its design down perfect for sketchup, the students will have to follow the instructions to a perfect T.

Make, fix and create...

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