Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Importance of Different Perspectives in Science

I feel like I've recently had a certain revelation about the research I'm working on, and it's all thanks to the new Brad Pitt movie, Fury.  Richard Fernandez at PJ media wrote an interesting piece about the tank battles depicted in the movie and whether or not  the German Panther and Tiger tanks were superior to the American Sherman tanks.  He refers to research done by Steven Zaloga in the book Panther vs. Sherman.  In this book Zaloga proposes that the key to almost all tank battles was who fired first.  In his view, battles were won by the side that occupied the high ground first and initiated the hostilities against their enemies.  Everything was decided in that first crucial minute.

In reading the piece by Fernandez I couldn't help but think of the old quote by General Robert Barrow, "Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics."  As Zaloga points out, the tactics of tank combat didn't matter as much as the logistics of how the tanks came upon the enemy and initiated hostilities.  If you wanted to study why a certain force won a battle, you needed to understand the logistics of how it got there.

The article led me to have a revelation about the research I am doing.  My current work involves the examination of RNA binding proteins and how they compete against each other to bind their particular substrate.  In this research, my lab and most others have been delving into the mechanisms these proteins use to recognize the RNA itself as the key to understanding how they compete against each other.  It hit me though, that here we are looking at tactics, when the solution might rely in the realm of logistics.  What if the important thing is not how the protein binds the RNA but how it gets to the RNA.  What if the cell has a pathway for getting a particular protein to a particular point on the RNA at a particular time?  I think I've answered that question for the system I am studying, now I'm just trying to come up with experiments to prove my hypothesis.

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