Why I love science 🧬
I have loved science ever since I was a kid. For me, it’s the only way to understand the world that makes sense, really. That is not to say that science is perfect because it has does have its flaws. In fact, one of the things I hate most about science is the way the academic world is set up. All the prestige, all the rush to publish academic papers. Yikes!
I just love when scientists are curious about something and just decide to start asking questions. One of my favourite researchers goes by the name of Shinya Yamanaka and embodies this philosophy perfectly. In 2006, Yamanaka published a paper that changed the field of biology. Yamanaka discovered how to make iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells).
In a nutshell, cells can have different types of potency. Potency is the ability of a cell to become another more specialized cell. For example, a cell with pluripotency might be able to become a neuron, a skin cell, an immune cell or a sperm cell (the list goes on). All these examples of cells are very specialized and they can only do one job.
The beauty of pluripotent cells is that they can become almost any type of cell they want. This is very useful because once you become an adult, most of your cells are very specialized (with a few exceptions of course).
So, if you ever lose some type of tissue, pluripotent cells could be differentiated (or converted) into that tissue. Ideally then, you would inject them to replace the lost tissue.
I say ideally because this is still a work in progress. As of 2022, you can’t just inject pluripotent cells and hope they fix everything. Actually, if you do that, it’s very likely that a type of cancer tissue will form called teratocarcinoma¹.
What Shinya Yamanaka discovered was a way to take a skin cell and convert it to a pluripotent cell. This might seem trivial, but it’s extremely hard to do. Remember, skin cells are very specialized and they only do one job. The human equivalent would be taking a lawyer and teaching it to become a Nobel-prize winning physicist in a matter of weeks!
What Yamanaka found out was that by just using some “simple” factors, this could be achieved! A skin cell could become pluripotent and essentially become any time of cell type. Isn’t that amazing?
But what I love about Yamanaka is not only this amazing discovery but how he achieved it.
How Yamanaka Discovered iPS Cells and Why I Love It
There is a famous aphorism in academia called “Publish or perish”. It speaks to the fact there is quite a lot of pressure on scientists to publish relevant scientific papers to important publications.
So much so, that your scientific career might even depend on how frequently you publish and how significant your results are. This means that there is no time to play around or try things that are deemed impossible to achieve. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I love. And that’s exactly what Yamanaka loves as well.
Yamanaka tried something that everyone thought was impossible to achieve: converting a specialized cell into any other type of cell.
As Nessa Carey explained in her book “The Epigenetics Revolution” (which I highly recommend if you like this topic):
“It seemed a long shot and there was always the worry that if the results were negative — i.e. if none of the cells went ‘backwards’ — he wouldn’t know if it was because it just wasn’t possible or if he just hadn’t got the experimental conditions right. This was a risk for an established scientist like Yamanaka….” — Nessa Carey in The Epigenetics Revolution
I would say that it worked quite well for him since 6 years later he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine alongside 1.1 million dollars.
That’s exactly why I love science, because sometimes by just being curious about something and asking basic questions² you can achieve things that can literally change the world and impact the lives of millions of people.
Why I love coding 👨💻
Coincidentally, coding is also something I have been passionate about ever since I was a teenager. There is something about trying to fix coding errors and hopelessly searching the internet for solutions. It’s just magical to me!✨
I also absolutely love how with coding you can accomplish truly amazing things: you can connect people, you can build an app or a website really valuable for someone on the opposite side of the globe or everything in between.
We live in an unprecedented age where everyone can speak to anyone within seconds and everyone has access to all of the human knowledge at the tip of their fingertips. Just think of how incredible that is for a moment.
And the best part is: it all happens through code and computers. So, to me being a coder feels like being a wizard while everyone else that doesn’t know how to code is a muggle.
With code you can spark revolutions, you can give voice to the voiceless and you can impact millions of lives. You can change the world just by moving your fingers in an orderly manner. Don’t you think that’s amazing?
On top of that, computer science and coding can be applied to virtually every field: medicine, law, art, science, business, etc. With the rise of machine learning and AI technologies, our world is going to change in ways we can’t even begin to predict.
And it’s all because of code (and science).
Thank you so much for reading and sorry if this article is all over the place.
Just a quick note that if you enjoy what I write about here, you can also check out my Medium thegreencode.medium.com. Also if you really really like what I do, make sure you check out my Patreon. All the money I make through Medium or my blog goes into financing new projects and ideas (websites) or it gets donated to charity.
I’ll make a future blog post explaining more about how I want to manage money (if I make any of course), but in a nutshell, I want to reinvest everything I make into Green Code. The only money I really keep (to you know, eat and stuff) is thanks to the supporters at Patron.
So if you like what I do and want to get access to some cool features, consider supporting me 🙂
No pressure of course. The fact that you are read my posts is more than enough for me :).
: This type of cancer is truly terrifying. They are known to possibly have hair and teeth growing out of them. Oh, and of course, they can kill you. (I’m not including an image here on purpose to not traumatize anyone. However, you can search for an image of a teratocarcinoma on google. Do it at your own risk though :).
: It’s obviously much more complicated than that, but at its core science is being curious and testing your understanding of a particular subject.
Last updated: February 25, 2022