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Dave DeamerRSS Feed of this column.

My research focuses on a variety of topics related to membrane biophysics, including the origin of cell membranes and the use of transmembrane nanopores to analyze nucleic acids. Over the past

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    In a column posted a few days ago (November 1) I mentioned that my friend John Evans, a Cambridge (England) mathematician, has developed a general formula for estimating biocomplexity. It is quite simple, using only two variables: the number of units in a system, and the number of connections (interactions) each unit has with other units in the system. Today, in fact, biologists publish ‘interactomes” with furry ball figures that illustrate the number of proteins in a given cell and the number of interactions each protein has with other proteins. The concept of complex interactomes has become embedded in systems biology. 

John Evans, a mathematician friend of mine in Cambridge England, came up with a formula that specifically allows one to estimate the relative complexity of nervous systems in the animal kingdom, from C. elegans to the human brain. It takes into account not just the number of neurons in the brain, but also the number of synaptic connections that link neurons to one another, and in a second version, the encephalization quotient.

A few days ago, I was working at home when the phone rang. I answered, and was surprised to hear a soft, accented voice asking for me. It was Lada Tsokolova, calling from Germany, with the sad news that her husband Sergey had just died of cancer.  I was stunned. Sergey was young! He had spent nearly a year in my lab in 2005-06, on a Fulbright Fellowship, and I had seen him recently at scientific meetings in Kyoto and Heidelberg, but he never mentioned that he was ill.

In his July 23 column, Gary Herstein presented a thoughtful discussion and analysis of scientific controversies (What Does A Real Scientific Controversy Look Like?), with an example from physics. Perhaps readers of Scientific Blogging will be interested in another scientific controversy that emerged in biophysics over a 20 year period. 

Michael White recently blogged about Rock Stars of Science (July 8), which is an educational effort to attract kids to careers in science.  (Michael characterized this as “another hopeless attempt to make nerds look cool.”) 

    Part of the enjoyment of doing research is that ideas pop into your head all the time. Everyone has ideas, but the hard part is to choose which should be subjected to critical tests that have the primary aim of proving them wrong. That’s the most efficient way to discard bad ideas, because most of them in fact don’t work. Only after an idea survives the crucible of initial testing can it be taken more seriously and tested further. Then, if it still survives, you can publish.