appreciating the people of science and beyond

Almost half a year ago I was reading Better You Than Me: Scientists Sicken Mosquitoes To Stop Dengue and I recall dropping my Professor an email about it. Just a week ago, I happened to chance upon A Scientist’s 20-Year Quest To Defeat Dengue Fever again and wanted to write about it but a tight work schedule put this off until today.

A quick summary – an Australian scientist, Scott O’Neill has an idea to prevent the spread of dengue. The article tells us how despite the difficulties of injecting the Wolbachia bacteria into mosquito eggs, O’Neill persevered for the past 20 years and more to come, working out how to infect mosquitoes with this strain of unique bacteria such that they can no longer spread dengue. Of course more problems could develop when the mosquitoes develop resistance and so forth, but I’ll leave the details of this significant research for your own reading at the links above.

Without scientific expert opinion, I discuss this solely out of admiration for O’Neill’s persistence in creating a positive impact for the dengue communities, a prevalent problem for those living in tropical areas. This also brings to mind Robert Koch. After a series of studies on anthrax and tuberculosis, Koch’s attempt to prove that vibrio bacterium as a cause of cholera was fraught with challenges due to the miasma theory of disease. In short, the miasma theory postulated that disease proliferation was caused by a lethal form of “bad air” or “pollution”. This gave little credit to Koch’s work, which fundamentally supported the germ theory. I would time and again emphasize the importance of Professor Ferdinand Cohn, who had in all his brilliance as one of the first botanists in Europe teaching with living plant samples, recognised Koch’s humble request to meet for a presentation of his earlier findings.

I draw two main learning points from here.

1. I am thankful and inspired by the good people out there who are still doing research for the better of communities. With monetary incentives in place, I have heard of some black-sheep researchers squandering a good amount of resources on absolutely unhelpful equipment without valid reason. I do not imagine that scientific research yields results spontaneously – a good many number of years is definitely needed to translate an idea into a discovery for cure.

2. It sometimes takes a lot of luck and fate to have that “rare stranger” acknowledge your work. Koch, without academic credentials, was given the opportunity by Cohn to demonstrate revolutionary experiments before himself and Cohnheim. Koch later also received Professor Cohn’s encouragement for journal publications soon after. I quote a few lines from Thomas D. Brock (1988). Robert Koch: A Life in Medicine and Bacteriology. ASM Press, p. 48. “Koch’s success was not only through the elegance of his research, but also through the force of his personality. Cohn, an especially good judge of character, was charmed by Koch’s sympathetic personality … … Koch found in Cohn not only a fatherly figure but a valued advisor of immense integrity”.

I’m always thankful for the random people who show up in my life, somewhere out of the blue, who have recognised my abilities and guided me along in my career.
Have you met one of these brilliant people in life?
If you have been fortunate to, yet have not been in touch with your “rare stranger” for awhile, maybe it’s time to re-connect and share a word of thanks too. 🙂

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history and its mysteries

I was about to look into picking up another course on World Heritage Studies when I realised that I couldn’t qualify for the entry requirements of certain specialisations in order to take this as a Masters. This however, has not stopped me from pursuing my interests…

I’ve taken to expanding my personal knowledge of history and am hoping that some day I can do something more than just “knowing”.  For starters, let me begin with how there were two occasions of inspirations that had such a strong impact on my life. Of which, both were derived from the study of history.

A shelf of seemingly similar topics – 54 books on one rack, with the same title, yet each proposing a different viewpoint that have oftentimes been neglected as a “me-too” argument. Each idea and concept, presented from a different individual perspective, gives great knowledge, unreachable to those who stopped at the edge of the shelf. Do not be complacent with the first completed reading – it limits the mind to a narrow alley of stubborn thoughts. Do not read the print. Read the content. Read between the lines. Read the overarching theme. Read and process. Do not read only to satisfy a course requirement in your education.

There is no formula behind this amazing combination of art and science; it is in itself, a journey of discovery so vast that a lifetime cannot suffice. The lack of understanding hence impoverishes life.

Name one item that can be absolutely divorced from history, hence disprove the prevalence of history. It is all in the argument 😉

Who has dismissed it as a boring regurgitation of facts and dates? Who has disregarded it as the perpetrator of information overload inapplicable to modern society?
Nihilism from the Narodniks, Reichdeputationshauptshluss, Chollima Movement: How much do you know of these? Nothing here which is officially provided in formal education, but this should not deter knowledge acquisition. If formal education should be the boundaries of learning, I do not comprehend the evolution from the homo habilis. On a lighter note, the study of history need not be mentally embedded in school-education. It is open to adoption as an interest, for those who believe.

There is no intent, in the course of writing here, to disregard any other fields of studies. There exists merely a need to remind all, to give history studies a fair chance in your consideration set, and to the rest, to continue the pursuit.

The beauty of history that has not been appreciated; these appalling thoughts, mysterious, deep, unfathomable memories, so unbelievable yet so real, of the Great War.

How history presents itself discreetly, quietly, unassumingly yet so charmingly to the ugly, crude, selfish faces of modernity, one cannot comprehend. One can only applaud the beauty that was once cast in the past…revealed and rediscovered only by those who try, who feel, and who really care.

What did war really mean? What was the basis of resistance and revolution?
Why did technology develop from the ENIAC to what we have today?
Who remembers the story of Robert Koch & his discoveries?

History has lived, and relived, undyingly, against the shells of anger, firing of criticism, shields of facades and barrages of lies, only a true believer understands.

No-one simply forgets/forgives.

where are the real geniuses residing?

On a rare and fortunate occasion I’d met someone who’d once said: “there is nothing warm-blooded in this course” – this caught my attention right away. No need for the pretense of “rapport” or “likeability” – a man truly supportive of genuine knowledge, someone who distinguishes between real hard-work and that of a charlatan, a no-nonsense established character who recognises and appreciates those who work and try over those who pretend. I do not purport to know this person well but I am grateful for having met someone different, and in my opinion, true.

Rare, indeed. How many of such people do we know in life? As far as I’m concerned, way too few. How often do we see hypocrites pander and masquerade, and these seemingly-smart people valued? Compare them to the quiet character who does not engage but strives for perfection. And history repeats itself.

It almost seems like the top factor for success is pretence. How do people today “recognise talent”? By popularity, favouritism, pure preference? How much faith do we have in this process? Do we still rightfully reward those worthy of credit, or have we today given more emphasis to sly attention-seekers?

I bring us back to the beginning of this statement. I recall a humble genius who’d put up a front as an arrogant old-fashioned man. It was no surprise that many hated him, maybe for his guts, maybe for his shrewd mind. A man who could remember for an extended period, something he had seen once, and even personalise it! How amazing could this mind be, so full of knowledge that it almost held a library within? More than just an academic trove of information, this mind converted words into applicable life skills and conveyed them for others. All I had was respect – and re-emphasizing a biased opinion, I saw him as a humble man. Indeed – humble in exhibiting his real intellectual capacity. How did a man of such a great mind  patiently and open-mindedly accept arguments that even an average recluse like myself felt was absurd and had the urge of wringing the necks of the proposer? High IQ, even higher EQ. Yet not sufficiently appreciated – what could I say? The world loved those who appeared friendly, optimistic, warm… … And anything else was highly unacceptable. This apparently high-handed, cold and unwavering demeanor was more often than not criticised as negative.

So as my respect for this wonderful individual grows, it came to my realisation that the genius had spurred me to think critically and view the world with multi-perspectives. It made a cynic more cynical, but none of which was negative. Nothing could express my gratitude…

I am no Robert Koch, but I do still wish to meet the rare Professor Cohns of the world…
And the story of Koch deserves a full post to himself in the days ahead…

In the meantime…I continue to wonder how the world around us changes with a face so unfathomable…