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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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January 11, 2005

Right In Front of You

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Posted by Derek

Regular reader Qetzal pointed out in a comment to the "More Fun With DNA" post that a lot of neat discoveries seem - after you've heard about them - to be something that you could have thought up yourself. I know what he means. I've had that same "Yeah. . .that would work, wouldn't it. . ." feeling several times.

There's an even higher degree of the same thing, thinking that surely that new discovery has already been done. Hasn't it? Didn't I read that somewhere a year or so ago? I'm trying to remember the British literary/political figure who said it, but the quote was that the most important thing he had learned at Cambridge was not to be afraid of the obvious. I think that a lot of us are, and it's not to our benefit.

So there's a useful New Year's resolution, if anyone has room for a spare one. Shut that voice up once in a while, the one that shows up in your head when you have a wild idea, the one that says that if this were really as good as it sounds, someone would already have done it. A lot of really great stuff hasn't been done, and if too many people listen to the lesser side of their natures, it won't be.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Who Discovers and Why


1. SP on January 12, 2005 10:29 AM writes...

You have to be careful with terms, though- there's a legal definition to "obvious" which is different from something that seems obvious in retrospect.

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2. jsinger on January 12, 2005 10:34 AM writes...

PCR itself is perhaps the single best example that I can think of...

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3. TallDave on January 12, 2005 11:37 AM writes...

I heartily second the motion! I took an idea from an amateur bodybuilding discussion group I frequented and turned it into a small business with credit cards and sweat. We've been profitable every month and our sales should break $1 million this year.

It's easy now to forget how consumed with doubt I was at the start. Surely someone else had already done this idea, or knew why it couldn't work. I remember one night at the start when I was lying with my girlfriend on the couch watching TV, my whole body literally twitching every time I thought about the problems I was sure were going to wreck everything.

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4. qetzal on January 12, 2005 1:45 PM writes...

jsinger, I agree with you on PCR, except that one was even more humbling to me.

I was in grad school when PCR started getting attention. When I first heard of it, I thought, "So what? How often are you going to want lots of copies of one little piece of DNA?"

Pretty sad, considering I was doing my grad work in molecular biology! Of course, we were still doing chemical DNA sequencing back then, and polymerase-based sequencing methods were just starting to take off. But still....

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