Monday, August 29, 2011
Question of the Day: Physics or Genetics?
Some people love physics and math. With a few observations here and there, a physicist can infer the whole workings of the universe. "Oh, the moons of Jupiter seem to orbit around Jupiter at various speeds." Ahah! "The speed of light is finite!" He can do this because physics is so elegant and its rules are so universal. Even though it's all theoretical, there's a sort of inevitability to physics that makes it so appealing to me. Reading Eintein and Hawking, I've come to discover how the universe works in one way, and that is how it has to be. Let me put it this way: the same principles governing the way an apple falls from a tree is also the same principle underlying black holes forming from pulsars billions of light years away. It's so fascinating.
On the other hand, genetics and biology don't follow universal rules, and theories involving such a dynamic and living thing are never absolute or inevitable. Life is so dynamic; a biologist cannot make accurate inferences about life billions of years ago based on life today, and we may never know. An organism has a gene for lactose catabolism? So many different ways it could have acquires those genes. Independently, through lateral gene transfer, through a million simultaneous base substitutions, etc. Not to belabor the point, but it is inelegant in contrast to physics.
So which do you prefer, biology or physics? Do the isotopes in the stars interest you more, or do you prefer the study of animals and the causes of diseases?
I mentioned isotopes because I needed something to segue to what I did today; I cleaned up a super radioactive microfuge in the lab I work at today. The readings of tritium were off the charts, and so I did a pre-cleaning liquid scintillation count and two post-cleaning counts. Given the inherent danger of exposure to radioactivity, I still managed to have a blast.