Rita Levi Montalcini

October 5th: Chicken

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Memories. Thoughts. The precious skills required to make a delicious frittata. All stored and processed in the brain. An intricate net of nerves growing around and interconnecting of which we know a lot and yet still too little.

What regulates nerves growth was only discovered in the 1950s when Rita Levi Montalcini identified the Nerve Growth Factor, the protein complex that regulates the growth and survival of neuron cells. For the study, she used a chicken. A chicken embryo to be precise. She cracked an egg opened, implanted a piece of a mice tumour in the chicken embryo and waited. Around the tumor, nerves started growing not only from the tumor cells but also in the chicken cells all around. The tumor was releasing a substance that would stimulate the growth of nerves – the nerve growth factor!

I hope you add this story to the memories you can recall the next time you will prepare your breakfast.


Talking of memories, the very first science divulgation book I have ever read was “Abbi il coraggio di conoscere” by Rita Levi Montalcini. The title is the Italian translation of Kant’s Sapere Aude, “Dare to be wise”, and the whole book is an ode to knowledge and to push oneself over their boundaries and self-imposed limitations. I would lie if I’d say this reading did not help to shape who I am.


If you are wondering what’s going on here, look at this post: Inking Science

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Rock Chicken Rock!

The Last Jedi is on the big screens, Christmas carols are all around the streets, kids have already looked secretly at their presents.. and while the festive atmosphere fills the air, I am writing my PhD thesis.

In the search for the best dissertation title, I have shortlisted:

  1. What Bobafett and a chick have in common?
  2. How to use The Force to study biology?
  3. Pietrisycamollaviadelrechiotemexity

Only number 3 is true and scientifically accurate, but also quite depressing (translated from Sunny Baudelaire’s language to English, it sound something like “I must admit I don’t have the faintest idea of what is going on” – according to Lemony Snicket). Therefore I have to choose between the first two options. Seeking for your help in my difficult task, I better explain a little bit more.

Continue reading “Rock Chicken Rock!”

The Author… unveiled

Who am I? Not the philosophical way… but more, what do I do everyday? You can discover part of my days by following the very unregular update of my LEARN posts.

But I never answered the annoying question, what is my research about? Some hints here and there.. but not a great deal of details

Since younger me was more motivated than the empty shell currently writing this blog, I let her telling you… (there is also a more “mature” version of it.. less swearing, compensated by some sexual innuendo)

Continue reading “The Author… unveiled”

Let’s kick the Quantum Beat

As a newbie in the field of biophysics, I had to take some course in biology. In my case, the course, luckily, was addressed to physicists, and one of the suggested reading was Schroedinger’s “What is life?”. I did not know that Schroedinger wrote about this topic and, of course, I was curious and puzzled. I wanted to read it, and if you want to find a book nowadays, you usually type amazon.com and look for it. The problem with this approach is that Amazon, though really helpful, is sneaky and starts this evil suggestions thing in which I usually get trapped. This time the trap was more than well placed. Among the suggested readings, there was this: Life on the Edge: the Coming of Age of Quantum Biology. 

Now, if there is something you need to know about me is that the mere word Quantum must trigger something in my mind and you immediately have my fully devoted attention.

“I would like to have 200 gr of brown bread, please.”

“Classic or Quantum?”

“…”

“Would you like to have the Classic brown bread or the Quantum one, then?”

“Give me 5 kg of the quantum one!”

And it may works to let me buy things. So my mind turned blank about Schroedinger’s one (now in my wishlist) and I bought Life on the Edge instead.

Continue reading “Let’s kick the Quantum Beat”