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Polymerase chain reaction is a cornerstone of molecular biology research. Using short pieces of single-stranded DNA called primers the previously invisible becomes tangible.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Dispassionate Rendering

I’ve always been a sucker for the detached stoic ones. Kazuo Ishiguro’s, Never Let Me Go, is the story of Kathy H, a woman reflecting on life after her friends have lost theirs. Her matter-of-fact descriptions of friendship and love, at first seem trivial and well worn. She grew up in a boarding school. She made friends. She had crushes. She admired some teachers, feared others. Wait a minute. Wasn’t I put onto this book by a review in the journal Nature? (A braver, newer world, Nature 435, 427-427 (26 May 2005))

By the time I’d remembered that I was reading a science fiction book about the ethical issues presented by the progress of science and medicine, I had already invested in the idea that this was just a story about a woman who was trying to make sense of her life after her friends’ pre-determined early death. Ah, there they are. As I read about Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, I suppressed information that set them apart. Why die early? Were their deaths really pre-determined? Was Kathy’s controlled, measured and dispassionate rendering of her life a defense or truly an indication of her nature? They were, after all, so familiar. So ordinary. Or so I allowed myself to believe.

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