flying_bear (flying_bear) wrote,

Постньютоновская физика и биохимия как алхимия

Вынесено из другой дискуссии:

I do not know if it is possible to tell a master from a masterpiece or find some general tendencies and correlations. Creativity comes in unexpected guises. The reality is too messed up, too complex. The two of the founding figures of my own field, physical chemistry - Robert Wood and Irving Langmuir - where over-the-top, enthusiactic fighters with pseudoscience. Another one, Cyril Hinshelwood, spent the post-war years on kinetic theory of bacterial growth that was... well, not exactly science - and fighting bitterly with genetics, regressing into the type of behavior incomprehensible in a scientist of his stature (and in addition to being a Nobel winner in chemistry, he was also a celebrated Chinese scholar). It is the fruit of his labors, inter alia, that Cambridge eclipsed Oxford in molecular biology. Perphaps both mastership and masters are too irregular to follow into patterns. All I can see is a parade of characters

И Ленгмюр, и Вуд, судя по тому, что я о них читал, мне крайне несимпатичны. Что, разумеется, не умаляет их величия, а говорит всего лишь о моих научных вкусах. Мне трудно представить, скажем, Ферми или Эйнштейна (мои главные научные герои) в таком амплуа.

Похожие высказывания по поводу фильмов встречались у nemuri_neko - нет великих режиссеров, есть великие фильмы. Вероятно, это глубокое утверждение. Но вот что я заметил - в моей науке любая идея, в конце концов, прослеживается до одного из, максимум, десяти имен - ну, Ферми, Ландау, Пайерлс, Бете, Фейнман, Онсагер...

Wood was an incurable snob obsessed with making it into the British science establishment and Langmuir was an industrial chemist who plunged into government work since the beginning of WWII. But they are the tip of the iceberg. Haber (who was Einstein's close friend) and Franck (who was Fermi's close friend) did worse things, but neither Einstein nor Fermi ever doubted their mastery. In chemistry and biochemistry, one-time great discoverers are the norm. Watson discovered DNA and that's it, Hodgkin determined the structure of insulin, and that's it. Perutz spent his entirely life on globins, and that's it; Mitchell had his chemoosmosis theory and that's it. Each step was a major discovery, but that was it. They were all masters producing a single masterpiece.

По поводу биохимии - замечание потрясающе интересное. В теорфизике такое, если и есть, то в виде редчайшего исключения. И даже у рано погибших Майораны или Шубина можно назвать более чем одну выдающуюся работу. Шубин, про которого я знаю довольно много, хороший пример: он опубликовал всего восемнадцать статей, из них, по меньшей мере, шесть, бесспорно, выдающиеся: о тонах мембраны, закрепленной в конечном числе точек (с Виттом); о жидких металлах; о фотоэффекте (с Таммом); три статьи по полярной модели (с Вонсовским). Это оценка снизу - остальные тоже очень хороши.

О чем это говорит? О чем-то важном, несомненно, но я слишком невежествен, чтоб делать выводы. Что такого особенного в биохимии (или, наоборот, в теоретической физике)? Как в других науках? Может, кто-то, кто знает лучше, подскажет?

It comes from the subject itself. Every protein is a masterpiece and understanding how it works is a major undertaking. I can give the example of my own father. He spent 20 years on just one protein: the bacteriorhodopsin. Then he spent another 15 years on the peroxidase. In chemistry, you do not find this level of dedication; I am certainly incapable of it. But in biology, you find a person who studied a species of horseshoe crab for 50 years. The biology to such a person is whatever it takes to understand the horseshoe crab. It is if you would do graphene and only graphene all of your life, and nobody would find anything exceptional about it. It is the other way round: if you switch to something else -- that means that you were not serious about studying the horseshoe crab. No wonder that people that find something great [literally, a universe in a grain of sand] are these kind of people. And it pays off. The Japanese guy who discovered GFP (the last Nobel prize) studied cnidarians all of his life, and the discovery of GFP in the jellies is what all of his professional life boiled down to. There is nothing else there which is of general interest. The UCSD chemist who shared the GFP prize spent the last 20 years of his life solely on GFP, to the exclusion of everything else. Together they've made GFP into the workhorse of molecular biology. Behind every Nobel prize of this kind there is a life dedicated to a protein complex, an ion channel, etc. I know an Israeli biophysicist (she'll get a Nobel one day) who spent 35 years (!) trying to crystallize the ribosome. She succeeded. What IS mastery if not such total dedication to one's study crowned by excellence and achievement? In this sense, it is like theoretical physics, but the criterions for excellence and dedication are different. People may publish a lot, but these are stepping stones converging on that one paper that makes it big. It's a different word from physics.

Why? You are a post-Newtonian scientist. Biochemists call themselves scientists, but that's to keep people from getting overly suspicious.

They are unreformed, unapologetical alchemists.
Tags: наука умеет много гитик 3

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