Saturday, May 14, 2016

Science builds science

One of the coolest things I realized while working on our research proposal was how science evolves. As we looked at countless research articles about solar cells and photosynthesis and Photosystem II, we realized a clear evolution of the research over time: each paper contributed to the accumulated knowledge, and each new advancement used this to build up on it.

How cool is this???  We're not simply talking about collaboration among different research groups. We are talking about collaboration amongst generations, where people who do not know each other and perhaps have never met contribute to each other's work. Let me show an example:

How difficult do you think it is to figure out how these researchers purified Photosystem II?
Answer: very.

X et al 2016: PS II was isolated according to previous methods (Y et al 2004).
Y et al 2004: Isolation of PS II was performed as described in Z et al 1990.
Z et al 1990: PS II was isolated using (insert important components here), with F et al. 1986's protocol.

Until you finally find that one paper that dates back to the ice age, good luck figuring out how they actually isolated photosystem II. Spoiler: they used spinach. I want to imagine it looked something like this:

Anyways, back to the original question. As you can see, some guy in the Neolithic age discovered how to purify Photosystem II, and paved the way to incredible research on this protein, ultimately allowing its use as a source of electricity. This is amazing collaboration- not only across peers, but across history. 

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