Sunday, July 26, 2009

Plant genetics

When I grow up, I too want to be the Sibthorpian Professor of Plant Science at Oxford, like Nicholas Harberd, if only for the title. He gave the Sunday lecture tonight on his book, Seed to Seed: The Secret Life of Plants. It seems that thale cress is a small, common weed that is the fruit fly of the plant world - a small genome, and reproduces quickly, making it ideal for scientists studying plant genetics. Harberd and his team have studied the plant and determined that it has a mechanism for inhibiting growth when necessary, a big discovery. The book explains his next step after this discovery. A few quotes from his talk tonight:

"The perception of things previously unknown and unfelt" is what science really is.

"Wonder is certainly what drives me as a scientist, but the way science works right now makes it very difficult to express wonder."

He's inspired by this drawing by Albrecht Durer, "The Great Piece of Turf," that shows a community of plants growing together in a meadow:

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