Samrajni Patil

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10th May 2010

Honestly all I knew about this competition was that it had something to do with biology and it was the memory of how much I used to love biology back in the tenth grade that motivated me to take it up. Also, there's a bit of a science fiction fan inside me!

We started work today. The majority of us being purely Art students came with the little knowledge that high school biology provides. We learned that we have missed out on a lot of details and that there is a sea of information out there that we need to know in order to fully and effectively exercise our creative skills.

Although I love biology I realised that I remember very little of what I had been taught, so I asked myself, how much do I remember? Though it seemed like a lot, the group discussion made me realise that it was hardly anything; most of what I remembered was either jumbled up with something else or was too vague and flimsy, and there was also quiet a lot of stuff that came out of no where...spontaneous generation? ha!...figments of my imagination!

We spoke about each of our perceptions on biology, a system, cells, DNA, genes and proteins, genetic splicing and what genetic engineering is all about. The theories on the origin of life and from where or how living cells came into existence, especially with so much diversity was another thing we discussed. Every theory makes sense in its own way, even with Pasteur's simple experiment to disprove the theory of spontaneous generation, no one can explain how the first cells, if there is a first that is, came into existence. As Karthik pointed out our brains are practically hardwired with the theory of cause and reaction, it is only natural that we assume that everything has an origin, things can't just pop out of nowhere. I personally believe that we don't know enough to disregard or discard seemingly irrational theories. Anything is possible.

The bbc documentary on cells gave us substantial insight into the history of the discovery of the cell and about the invention of the microscope; about Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and the other pioneers who planted major landmarks in the world of science.

We were also constantly trying to make sense of how we can contribute our skills as artists and designers to this world. When we started to learn about what genetic engineers did and about gene splicing and gene sequencing, it made sense, it's all an art; a gene sequence is like a colour, mixing different sequences would produce different results, i.e. different colours, the way you compose them on a canvas is the art. Once you get a hang of how to make the different colours, you can compose it anyway you like.

11th May 2010

I got my kiddie microscope to class today, it isn't too bad, magnifies up to 600x. We placed a droplet of muddy water on the slide and we were able to see what looked like little translucent worms, but we weren't sure if it was just the dust and scratches on the lens or if it was in the water. Then we tried placing a thin piece of sliced leaf and saw the pores on its surface. We tried making a microscope using an old Logitech webcam, it was interesting to know that all we had to do after dismantling the webcam was invert the lens! This made me realise that there's a lot of old stuff in all our homes which we could play around with and create new things; recycle and rebuild for some other purposes.

Then we watched videos on the Mendelian theory, how he observed and theorised the process of genetic inheritance using the pea plants, we were given examples of how this works in human beings. We learned about genomes, chromosomes and genes, a chromosome is sort of like a complex pack of genes. A gene in itself contains strands of DNA, which in turn contain pairs of bases-ATs and CGs.

For me, the coolest part was that Mendel was a monk and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was an apprentice to a cloth merchant; and both of them are now seen as the forefathers of today’s Science. Growing up in a time when the Arts and the Sciences for the most part were perceived as immiscible, it was empowering and reassuring to learn that just about anyone could be the next person to go down in history for discovering or coming up with an idea that could prove to be invaluable to the world.