Coronavirus: unrealistic expectations of the scientific process

I blame movies/series in part for creating unrealistic expectations of the scientific process.

A disease outbreak in a movie is usually caused by a mad scientist in an obscure lab, plotting world domination.

Disease outbreaks when they occur, are swiftly dealt with. Vaccines always work on first trial, DNA from crime scenes are processed in a blink of a commercial break.

The ordinary man therefore cannot fathom that the best way to deal with this current outbreak is frequent hand washing.

“Hand washing?”, they say,” where is the science in that?”. The ordinary man who sees vaccines magically produced in movies cannot for the life of him believe that in our reality a vaccine if and when produced, will take close to 18 months to be available to the population.

In reality, scientific progress can be slow and promising ideas often lead to nowhere. A good day in the lab is hoping that:

  • After 4 hours of PCR and gel electrophoresis, you get distinct sharp bands.
  • You get colonies on your agar plates after enduring hours of DNA purification, enzyme digestion and transformation.
  • Your cells survive the processes of transfection.
  • There is no contamination or smearing in your Western blots.
  • Your sequencing results produce sharp peaks
  • You finally get it right after the 4th time trying.

The scientific process is gruelling and far from fantasy. It takes time. Meanwhile, as we all deal with this pandemic, do heed the advice of experts and professionals.

  • Regular hand washing with soap.
  • Practise and maintain self-hygiene
  • Cover mouth when coughing or sneezing or wear face mask when feeling unwell
  • Avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose
  • Practice social distancing, stay away from large crowds and gatherings

Do not panic, be circumspect about the source and content of information on the internet regarding covid-19. When in doubt, visit the WHO website for updates. God bless us all!

By Regina Kwarteng

Categories: News

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