Writing in the autobiography, the Nobel laureate Franзois Jacob described the way the means of science was actually quite different from what was eventually written and published into the peer-reviewed literature. 1 He related how Sydney Brenner to his research and Matthew Meselsen initially had setbacks if they tried to identify a hypothesized intermediary molecule that took information from genes and allowed protein to be synthesized inside cells. He and his colleagues attempted, without luck, to demonstrate that the factor, which today we realize as mRNA, attached itself to ribosomes, the cell’s protein-manufacturing machinery. So 1 day, discouraged, Jacob said, he and Brenner took a break and decided to go to a Pacific Ocean beach, where Brenner at some time exclaimed that magnesium was very important to binding.
If the two returned to the laboratory, they added enough magnesium to their experiments and then showed the factor connected with ribosomes. The mRNA would not attach to ribosomes without sufficient magnesium. The scientists had provided evidence for the presence of mRNA, which we now know transcribes information from DNA into a language that ribosomes can understand. Nevertheless the paper reporting the results, which appeared in general in 1961, was not a historical narrative of what happened. The scientific paper explained mRNA’s binding to ribosomes as a function for the concentration of magnesium, without mention of the eureka moment in the beach.
Jacob compared the limitations of a scientific publication to capture the “truth” associated with scientific process to a snapshot of a horse race. He said that scientific writing transforms and formalizes research and substitutes order when it comes to disorder and agitation that animate life in a laboratory. Continue reading what exactly is when you look at the literature differs from the process that is scientific