Scientific Obscurity

August 11th, 2010 by Potato

Netbug asks: “I always wondered about theses in the modern environment. The topics must be getting more and more obscure and specific so as not to tread on old ground…”

Well, to a certain extent, yeah. It’s tough to be a scientist (or any kind of academic for that matter) and know that the odds are high that everything you do is just going to be lost to the archives of some library and not do much. For the most part, we’re destined to toil in obscurity.

But even these specialized topics lead to surprising discoveries, that can open up entirely new fields and capture the public imagination.

Watson & Crick were doing obscure x-ray crystallography of some biological molecules when the structure that they saw — a paired double-helix — suggested a way for the molecule to copy itself. And that opened up a whole new field of study. Multiple fields of study.

One of which was to attempt to take dinosaur DNA from fossilized mosquitos and create cloned versions. They weren’t quite true to the original as time had caused a lot of decay, necessitating the incorporation of some newt and frog DNA to fill the holes. That unfortunately gave the dinosaurs the ability to change gender, so even though only females were bred, it wasn’t long before the dinosaurs were reproducing on their own. And now, because of that, another scientist has to do research on raptor-proofing structures, balancing the heat exchange needs of central Costa Rica.

Ah, the glorious cycle of discovery continues!

2 Responses to “Scientific Obscurity”

  1. wayfare Says:


  2. Alex C Says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA. This made my day. I’ve tried explaining my science job to my parents and they have no idea what I ever do, so I’ve taken a similar route and usually tell them something different each time but with obscure science words to see if they catch on