Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Esquire Writing - on "New Biologist" Eric Schadt & Extreme Health

There's piece of writing in the latest Esquire that both has solid content and makes me think about words and what writers think about when they pen them...

The profile by Tom Junod is "Adventures in Extreme Science" and looks at brainiac Eric Schadt and his "emperor has no clothes" approach to conventional wisdom in the field of molecular biology.

Schadt makes for an interesting topic with his proselytizing about the vast networks and cause-effect relationships within the body... and how that runs counter to the previous belief that things within ran independently enough that successful mapping of human DNA would start us on the road to disease cure. In terms of this new viewpoint, the book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is cited as being both the source of the term "paradigm shift" and one of Schadt's early influences around the idea of necessary breaking away from conventional belief.

Junod details not just the intelligence and contrarian viewpoint of Schadt, but also his propensity to get out in front of his ideas and advocate loudly for him. Lest that statement make him appear a simple self-promoter, also noted in the profile is Schadt's collaborative approach to solving problems and curing disease... regardless of whether it's he or his company getting the credit and subsequent revenue. Really interesting reading on the guy.


Above is about the content of the piece... which by itself is me thinks worth a read. What struck me within it though was a specific anecdote written about the subject. Schadt early on is described as being a breaking from convention kind of guy and torch bearer for "New Biology"... in short, a whole new approach. After this was established about Schadt, Junod related how he "likes to do his supercomputing on planes." The further description of this was how Schadt would figure out what data he needs run and then simply hop onto a plane's WiFi network and order that data run via Amazon servers.

It's a remarkable detail that carries both a "whadda know? that's interesting" feel to it and shot across the bow backing for the "New" advocated for by Schadt. Maybe it's just because I'm a sucker for funky (and yet important) detail, but this anecdote made it much easier for me as a reader to embrace a paradigm shift idea (or someone extolling the virtues of one), simply because the tools available are also a paradigm shift from previously capabilities.

It was a really cool inclusion by Junod and as a interested reader type guy, I really wonder whether he put as much gravitas behind the anecdote about server time via Amazon as I took from it.


Also of interest from this issue was the concept of Extreme Heath as written about in multiple short pieces. Featured were a number of otherwise common folk who decided to push themselves to do uncommon things... including surfer Laird Hamilton, subject of a "What I've Learned" piece.

Not that I necessarily want to go all crazy with it at this point, but I think there a lot to be said for the idea of pushing to see what you can accomplish.