#SciFoo Lightning talk [reloaded] — Part 1

By Fabiana Kubke 12/08/2010

At SciFoo I got a chance to give a lightning talk. These are 5 minute talks, similar to Ignites and PechaKuchas. It is fair to say that is was nerve-wracking! And 5 minutes seem like an eternity when you are that nervous!

But I am rehashing it here as an extended version of the 5 minutes, 2 or 3 slides at a time, over several posts.

[Slides 1 and 2]

When I started University in Argentina, there wasn’t a neuroscience programme. (I had actually gotten interested in science after reading the microbe hunters as a kid, so I should have really been a microbiologist.) But neuroscience was taught pretty much in every course, and I became fascinated with it, and by the middle of my 6 year undergraduate I had joined a research group to study brain development.

At about that time, I took a course in biophysics. One of the best I think I took and loved it. It was common back then that all courses had several hours a week dedicated to reading and discussing (and dissecting!) the primary literature. But biophysics did something different.  We didn’t just read *the* papers, but also all of the work that led to those significant papers. And the results were discussed taking into account the historical context during which they were obtained.

This was really interesting for two reasons: First, we were not only learning a discipline but also the evolution of ideas within the discipline: the evolution of scientific thought. Second, it gave me an appreciation of the treasures that were hidden in old volumes of journals.

I think I owe to this course my love for the history of science, and my eagerness to blow off the dust of old journal covers in search of science gems. In the process, I have come to realise that many of what we may consider new or groundbreaking results, are actually answering questions that were posed long ago.

Throughout the history of science I find heaps of questions that remain unanswered waiting for the development of technology that lets scientists take the next step. Some of these questions resurface, many times without reference to the original ideas, some remain buried waiting to be rediscovered by someone willing to browse through old archives and willing to reexamine them with modern tools.

I decided to talk about this because this is something I love about science: that serendipitous marriage between scientific ideas and technological development, which I also think aligns with the spirit of SciFoo.