TED Conversations

Yu-An Chen


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Why don't we have more "Kitchen" scientists?

When people hear the word "Science", they often think of fancy labs with high technology equipment, and this is not too far off-- In my Bioelectricity class, for example, we learned about patch clamp experiments, which use tiny electrical recorders called micropipettes to record electrical currents from single ion channels in cells, and the voltage clamp experiments performed by Hodgkin and Huxley, in which they managed to thread wires through a single axon! These experiments, and a lot of other important experiments outside this field, require a lot of expensive machinery, chemicals and facilities. But does science always have to be a luxury? For example, instead of using expensive fish-eye lens for photography experiment, we could simply buy a much cheaper door viewer to get the same barrel distortion effect. Or you can go online and buy kits to record from brains, or if you live in New York City, you can join the community laboratory called GenSpace, take workshops, trainings, or can work on our own projects!

How do you think we can help science become more accessible to everyone? The more people, both amateur and professional, who contribute to science, the more ideas will be created!


Closing Statement from Yu-An Chen

Thank you all for the comments and suggestions. I got to know a lot of new resources by going through the comments. It seems like most people will be glad to see more kitchen scientists. We can start with turning off TV and explore more about the world. Science is all around us, if one has the heart, anyone can become a kitchen scientist.

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  • Feb 10 2012: I firmly believe that in the next decade we will see an emergence of truly great scientific discovery coming from unknown people and places, particularly in the biosciences. Community based citizen science lab spaces such as BioCurious, or GenSpace are bringing basic tools to anyone with the desire to use them. The internet is making collaboration possible like never before. And, the archaic formulas for choosing the "best" scientists to fund with large institution coffers have yet to yield really innovative approaches to "meet unmet needs" or treat diseases like cancers, alzheimer's, or cardiovascular disease, for which those billions of dollars were intended.

    Science has always been about discovering the unexpected. Kitchen scientists, DIY biologists, citizen scientists ARE the unexpected. I am very excited to find out what paradigm shifting discoveries may be fermenting in someones kitchen sink or glowing in their garage laser microscope. Based on the history of science, I would be willing to bet that those breakthrough treatments are more likely to come from such a lab than a large biotech or endowed academic lab.
    • W T 100+

      • 0
      Feb 11 2012: So optimistic....let's hope so!!!

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