As a research scientist it’s easy to forget just how esoteric your work can appear to the rest of the world. Today for instance, I Tweeted about a 'fascinating' article demonstrating DNA repair was coupled to the swarming mechanism in Salmonella. Can’t for the life of me understand it, but the simple joys of battling pathogenic bugs via their DNA processing mechanisms isn't high on everyone’s agenda. Who’d have thought that!? It elicited a swift response by email from a fellow ‘scientist’, an intelligent human being with a keen general science interest, “I didn’t know you could break it! ;-)”. It surprised me a little. Jestful? Yes, partly, though a series of pertinent questions assured me a basic misapprehension was in need of some attention, and no, I wasn’t the subject of a urinary extraction exercise.
Like many -or ‘most’?- scientists, I can rapidly disappear up my own backside when presented with a semi-willing ear to bend, hardly noticing glazed eyes and a fidgety disposition. Arrogance on my part, disinterest or a simple lack of understanding on the audiences part, I'm not yet sure, but whatever the reason it's my fault. Erroneously stupid assumptions about basic general knowledge and a droning monotone don't help, result = swiftly induced torpor or a blisteringly quick exit, my voice trailing into the distance.... "Why aren't you excited by this? It's flipping stunning". The same as anyone else, I easily forget that the vast majority of people -in their day-to-day existence- don’t give much of a stuff about what the person ahead of them in the Latte queue will be doing today, let alone how the Salmonella bacterium deals with genotoxic antibiotics, or 'that DNA repair mechanism......thingy!' On the other hand, give them some pretty images of Io, one of Jupiter's moons, and you get 'Wow! Amazing!'...me included.
I would love people to be equally enthused about things closer to home. Recently discovering a puppy like enthusiasm to bore for England about science, (blame my participation in IAS2010) I'm going to try and do something positive to redress the balance. I’ll attempt a non-specialist guide to what gets my scientific juices flowing and post it in upcoming blogs.....No! Don't Leave!...it won't be Eew!.....I promise, no daily vomit into print about my 'Oh so interesting' latest experimental successes and failures, or an 'Aren't I so cleaver knowing this and you don't' type of post. At least I hope not and invite a metaphorical slapping if things turn out that way. We've all got DNA and it takes a hell of a daily battering, bleating on about how life copes with this assault is my first task. Could it be as interesting as the Jovian moons? I like to think so. Could I make it as interesting as the Jovian moons, Gulp! yes...of course,.....piece of cake *fidgets nervously*. I'll try and present what gets me excited and why, hopefully in a way the non-specialist might enjoy reading. Unfortunately I'm bound to make a few howling mistakes, but truthfully, I‘d really like to know if I hit the mark or completely miss. If it’s too detailed, tell me, if it’s too simple, tell me, if it’s plain wrong really, really tell me. If it’s interesting, please tell my ego and above all, if it’s boring, castigate, ridicule and harass me to improve it. All 'constructive' suggestions received gratefully. Nothing like setting the bar high ;-)