Friday, March 09, 2012

Science and Engineering

Science and engineering have been intricately linked since the beginning. New developments in science frequently spring from exploitation of engineering triumphs, and fundamental advances in science usually trigger an explosion in engineering innovation. This was brought home to me in recent discussions with some important biologists who describe what they do as biological engineering.

The radical advances in electrodynamics and thermodynamics in the nineteenth century led to the rapid economic and technological advances of the latter part of that century and the first half of the twentieth. The twentieth century exploration of the atomic scale gave rise to the transistor and molecular biology. So far, the twenty-first century is looking like the age of biological engineering.

Some of the things that these bio-engineers are up to look downright weird to this old-timer: building logic gates based on cellular signalling and regulator proteins, or protein and nucleic acid signalling chains. Others seem more natural but still radical, such as using supervised evolution to build new catalytic proteins out of non-canonical amino acids.

None of these bio-engineers appeared to believe that there were a lot of fundamental mysteries in biology or biochemistry to unravel, though they all seemed to think that there were plenty of fun technical tricks still to learn.

According to Blogger, this is my 4000th post - but who's counting?

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations:-)
    Engineering drives, science is in the medieval age: Dark Energy, Dark Matter, Black holes, concepts of ignorance.
    Of course there are ways to evade from that.

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