Saturday, November 26, 2011

Where was I?

I hate digressing. It’s a habit I didn’t realize I had till the time I was almost 25 and I’ve been at it to remove this demon from my life. I was oblivious to the term “digress” till around that age. Yes it was the chance fortune of coming across the word in some text that the revelation occurred. Ah! Revelation; the chapter in the New Testament. There was this distant uncle, chased by the ghosts zombies of his head, who showed me some text in this chapter that described a demon coming out of the sea (I don’t remember clearly anymore). I think I was eight then and especially petrified of grotesque zombies after I happened to have watched the flick “Evil Dead –part 1”. Nightmare hath no fright like an insecure little Indian Christian boy after a horror movie. So after that, every time I held the Bible, I made sure I never even accidentally open that chapter because there sat the thing that’d make me lose my nocturnal equilibrium for days as I’d try to stop my mind from generating a graphic image of the description in vain. Ah! Equilibrium! You know it’s embarrassing how I miscalculated the Equilibrium-Unfolding data from a recent experiment and was about to send it to the bottomless pit of the “Shift-Delete” combo, till my guide looked at it changed my perspective in a second. VOILA! This was not at all trashy, I conveniently overlooked the fact that I missed the “K” in the “Kcal”. I was really embarrassed to see that 1394.95 ±135.38 looked very different from 1.4 ±0.14 but was essentially the same value divided by 1000 and rounded off! Hmmm!

Anyway, I had data that looked pretty but no clue about what it meant conceptually. “Duh! So what, it’s gonna get you a publication someday anyway” said a part of my brain but the other part resisted, and so I sat down to read about Equilibrium Unfolding (once again, sigh!). No sooner had I reached the second paragraph of the text that I came across the name of a scientist I hadn’t heard, "Anson", it said. “Surely they mean Anfinsen or something” I thought, “Who is Anson? Never heard of him”. Having said that, I’m not one who knows or puts in too much of an effort to learn about the pioneers of my fields (humph! so does that qualify me as a bad researcher?); Anson might as well be well known. It’s just that Wikipedia doesn’t say much about him unlike say Linus Pauling.

Ah! The bliss of “hyperlinks” that fuels digression to such a degree that one ends up scratching his ass when his nose itches and keeps the person perpetually itchy. I had to find out about Anson so I opened Wikipediaà Mortimer (Tim) Louis Anson (1901 – 16 October 1968); Wikipedia has neither the exact date of birth, nor a picture of this early protein scientist. This was the pioneer of protein unfolding studies that I am carrying out with my subject. Even the diminutive information that Wikipedia carries about him doesn’t stop me from being impressed. He was the founding editor of the Advances in Protein Chemistry,  which to this day is a respectable journal. He was married to a theatre artist Nina Anton who died in 1963. Funny how Wikipedia says “they had at least one daughter, Jill (Mrs. John Szarkowski)” of course there are no hyperlinks to either Jill or Nina. “At least one daughter!!” how unknown was this guy and his kids!! I now know that Tim was also a friend of Béla Viktor János Bartók (who I have no clue about either but he sure is hyperlinked). Tim also worked with Alfred Mirsky on protein unfolding studies who published a paper with Linus Pauling (who we all know) on the general theory of protein structure. Of course the famous Pauling was given the Nobel twice, one for Chemistry and the other for Peace. When I remember all my chemistry teachers, I am absolutely befuddled to think how someone who has studied chemistry could be nice enough to win a Nobel Peace Prize; he sure must’ve been different. Anyway, let's not digress and stick to Anson. Here’s an excerpt from his Wiki-page
Anson was haunted by the suffering caused in the underdeveloped world by poor nutrition, and in 1942, left a prestigious research position at the Rockefeller Institute to investigate biochemical and genetic methods for improving the nutrition of foods, e.g., amino acid fortification.”

He also worked with the Nobel laureate John Northrop, whose father died in a lab explosion two weeks before he was born. Awful! What misery afflicts great scientists…some even before they’re born. I guess that’s what makes them go out hunting for the “reasons”.
What can you say, Tim died in 1968. I think he actually realized how miserable the world was and that broke his heart…thrice. Yes, the third heart-attack took him out.

Anyway, I was talking about digression. It’s a bad habit and one I think I’m done with. Then I also read this word “misconception” somewhere but I knew that word way before I knew “digression”. Also I longed for someone to read bedtime stories to me but barring two (that my mom did), I was always left in the lurch, so I guess I learned a thing or two about weaving yarns myself. What’s that word…”autodidact”. Thank you for your attention.


Tarun said...

As always, I loved reading this!

anujesse said...

You have nicely penned down your thoughts and findings yet another time. Enjoyed reading it :)