July 15, 2013
Hello, hello! First, I must mention the remarkable fireworks that I saw last night for Bastille Day. I have never seen fireworks like that before in my life. The streets were packed, and I had to weave in and out of all the crowds as I wandered down to the Eiffel Tower district. The fireworks went on for over 45 minutes. There was about four times that I thought, “Wow, this must be the finale!” ….but then the sky would light up again and the Eiffel Tower would begin to sparkle. You should go watch a video of the celebration, or fly to Paris for the next Bastille Day. It was incredible.
But today is the 15th, the national holiday has come and gone, and so I am back to work. This morning I finished editing the ‘broader impacts’ sections on Bianca’s website, and then started to read sections of Bruno Latour’s Science in Action. It was very well written, and endlessly interesting. It focused on the displacement between a scientific article and the work that was done in the lab that lead to the article. The idea that science is an objective craft is incorrect, and Latour explains how there are multiple ways to dispute scientific ‘facts’. This can be framed by the idea of classifying the different epistemic/non-epistemic values that are mixed into the scientific process. When exploited, these values show how the ‘facts’ that a scientific experiment purports to show are fundamentally contingent on the metaphysical beliefs of the scientist.
This concept of highlighting the values behind scientific research is complicated, but I will attempt to further explain these ideas in a post that I am working on that focuses on the epistemic values inherent in scientific research (and more specifically in Bianca’s lab). Anyways, I need to re-read the chapter on Latour as well as some other papers on epistemic values before I submit that post.
However, I could not focus all of my time today on Latour and epistemology. I spent some time working on my research report, which explains the experiments that I have done in Bianca’s lab. Tomorrow I will hear back from the sequencing lab and I will know the sequence of the base pairs of the DNA fragment that I made during the first month of experimenting. Then I will spend the rest of this week in the lab testing the relationship between the growth rate and where the promoter was inserted onto the chromosome. These experiments will lead to the construction of graphs and data. I will become the spokesman for the data, and attempt to express the data into a report. This relationship between the experiments, the data, the spokesman for the data and the audience of the report is central to Latour’s work. It will be really interesting to have first hand experience in each step of the scientific process. I will be a scientist, an interpreter (spokesman) and also the audience!