ToK: Photosynthesis

The lollipop experiment used to work out the biochemical details of the

Calvin cycle shows considerable creativity. To what extent is the creation of

an elegant protocol similar to the creation of a work of art?

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10 comments on “ToK: Photosynthesis

  1. Creativity is described as the generations of original ideas or concepts. There are many arguments about whether creativity is a one off spontaneous event, or whether it is an entire process of idea development. However, one thing that people can unite on is the fact that creativity is fuelled by imagination.

    It is easy to attribute the way of knowing of imagination to the area of knowledge art; this is because people assume that art is something that can only be produced after going through the creative process. However, this was not always the case. In the 20th and 19th century, European areas in particular where Catholicism prevailed, the creative process was completely rejected and the mass population thought that new innovations came from divine intervention. What this meant is that they completely disregarded imagination as a way of knowing, but attributed all creative ideas to divine intervention and messages from the heavenly. This can be traced back to earlier periods of time such as the 16th century, when Shakespeare for example used ghosts and divine elements to send messages to his main protagonists such as in Hamlet. This meant that in this period of time neither art nor science was considered a creative occurrence, but only perceived as something sent down from the heavens and thus both followed the same process of merely receiving information.

    Moreover, looking back further into time we can see that this ideology was not always present. If you look at ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato, whom describes art as “merely imitating” we can see a feature in the area of knowledge science that we do not in the arts. Art can be described as capturing and idea or object. All art is inspired from an existing concept, other wise no one would be able to relate to it, or that it would not be able to evoke reactions. This means that all art stems from a tangible way of knowing that is not imagination; whether it be emotion such in songs by Taylor swift describing the never-ending struggle of turbulent love in “We Are Never Getting Back Together” or sense perception in Salvador Dali’s surrealistic paintings that merely show reality in a different perspective. Science however, requires imagination in its conceptualization. When Isaac Newton observed the apple fall, he just observed what every one else did. Everyone saw the apple fall, but what Isaac did that no one else did was question. Creativity is the bridge between now and the future, and questions are the support beams. I believe that the key to the way of knowing imagination is questions, also known to the IB learner as enquiry. Imagination is simply a sequence of ideas that coincide with reality if they are not questioned or further investigated. Much like genetic mutations, imagination is the one way of knowing that is unpredictable. When questions are somehow induced in the brain by scientist they must be carried through and investigated, or they’ll die off.

    This is why I personally believe that the creation of a complex protocol is almost perpendicular to creating pieces of art, they are completely separate. The word “Creative” comes from the Latin word for create, sure artists ‘create’ sculptures, but in reality all that they do is copy an existing object or concept and mimic it. There is inherently no personal imagination process going on, purely mimicry. In science imagination and creativity is required to question and to CREATE hypotheses. Science does not need a tangible or relatable concept to be developed, most scientist base their hypotheses on pure imagination and intuition. Such as the romans, they just knew that if you cut gold up into pieces, the pieces would get smaller and smaller until you could not cut them any more. They were describing the atom, but no physical or emotional area of knowing or other wise told them this. It was pure imagination and intuition.

  2. Melvin Calvin led a team in the late 1940s and early 1950s to work on experiments and discover the early products of photosynthesis as the final products of the process were already quite well known. This research of his involved the creation of the now famous ‘lollipop’ apparatus. This specially designed apparatus was actually a flattened flask that was used to house algal cells carrying out photosynthesis. Through the incorporation of radioactive tracer experiments with this particular apparatus, Calvin was successful in his studies.

    It is a widely accepted concept that the field of arts is based on objectivity and the field of science based on subjectivity. However, both these field share many common factors most of which are from the human hierarchy of needs. For example, the concept of ‘self-actualization’. Artists create art to express moral views, creativity and to be spontaneous and similarly scientist research and experiment because it’s an acceptance of facts, lacks prejudice and involves problem solving.

    Specifically referring to the topic of creativity as a way of knowing, I believe it is the only link between the two diverse fields. For example, not everyone is capable to appreciate the creativity of Picasso’s work unless they hold knowledge regarding abstract art. In a similar vein, the works of Einstein is not seen as creative unless and until one acknowledges its importance in our understanding of the world. Thus, creativity is essential for the appreciation of both artistic and scientific work.

    Further on, Einstein is known for personifying the opposite scientific stereotypes. When questioned in an interview in 1929 on whether his scientific discoveries resulted from inspiration or intuition he said, “I’m enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination, which I think is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Through this we can understand that scientific discoveries root from several factors including intelligence however the need of ‘creativity’ stands in lieu of the rest.

    Lastly, I believe there are different forms of creativity, such as creativity in science as compared to creativity in the arts. Even though the demand for creativity is high in both domains, both the domains are very different in their practices; requires a completely distinct set of skills and talents.

    In conclusion the field of science witnessed the innovation of many scientific theories that have all required a certain input of creativity. Examples of such theories include that of relativity, quantum theory, genetic engineering, gene mapping and many more.

  3. In Calvin’s lollipop experiment, he used elegant protocol to devise a mechanism that would elucidate the carboxylation of RuBP. In this experiment, he used Chlorella algae placed in a thin glass vessel called the lollipop vessel, and gave it plenty of light, carbon dioxide and hydrogen carbonate. Then, he replaced the carbon compounds with radioactive carbon, and took samples of algae at different time intervals. When the carbon compounds were separated by chromatography, samples revealed the progress of the Calvin cycle, as it showed the G3P produced as the first product of carbon fixation, and continued. This experiment was conducted with significant level of creativity aided by previous improvements in technology such as the discovery of radioactive carbon by Kamen and Ruben. Although the lollipop experiment was created based on creativity and carefully planned protocol, I believe this was only possible with previous discoveries made by scientists.
    Art, in this case, is very similar to the elegant protocol devised with creativity. Art can take various forms ranging from the visual art, music, athletics, or even psychology. It all depends on how one defines the word “art”. On the other hand, these art forms is not limited to a single form, meaning it has large areas of creativity to freely expand on. Additionally, art is a constructed, planned idea that is formulated into solid form to suggest meanings behind artist’s intentions. In this case, like art, elegant protocol is devised under many pre-based knowledge and ideas built from years ago, only to use creativity to enhance the validity of the results. Art also takes other art styles into account, such as the symbolism and expressionism that has lasted few eras ago. All these past knowledge and various of ideas formulates into a single, solid work that carries important aim behind.
    Elegant protocol, like art, carries combination of ideas from past eras, using creative ways to solidify the experiments.

  4. The lollipop experiment aided in Melvin Calvin’s discovery of the Calvin cycle (he worked w/his team in the late 1940s and early 1950s.) The experiment involved a suspension of Chlorella being placed in a thin glass vessel (lollipop vessel) and being illuminated . The Chlorella was supplied w/hydrogen carbonate and carbon dioxide. Calvin worked with his team to collect samples of the algae at very short time intervals; they immediately killed them after collection and fixed them with hot methanol. They then proceeded to extorting the carbon compounds,separating them through using chromatography – this allowed them to find which carbon compounds in the algae contained radioactive (14) C by autoradiography. The results of the lollipop experiment showed that glycerate 3-phosphate was the first product of carbon fixation.

    Some would consider the creation of this protocol (lollipop experiment) equivalent to a creation of artwork. This is possible for several reasons, one being that there is no absolute definition of what art is and thus the area of knowledge of visual arts allows for different interpretations of what is and isn’t art. With that being said, using definitions such as ”art is often considered to be the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations and ways of expression, including music, literature, film, sculpture and paintings.” allows for a logical interpretation that ”human activities/creations” such as the creation of scientific protocols involves a creative process (i.e. gaining knowledge through the ways of knowing such as imagination – plays a role in creativity). For example, the ”General Theory of Relativity” extrapolates three-dimensional observations of gravity to a four-dimensional space-time universe. In a similar manner, many scientists define the physical structure of their theoretical models on abstract mathematical equations that are not defined by their observational experiences but by knowledge they gained through imagination. In essence, if discovery precedes knowingness, then it’s often our imagination that initiates the studies which reveal the very information and data we refer to as knowledge

    Similarly, a lot of knowledge in the area of knowledge of visual arts is gained through imagination. Artists tend to draw from the knowledge they gained through their imagination to create pieces of artwork – imagination plays a central role in an artist’s creative process the same way it does in a scientist’s one.

    Thus the creation of scientific protocols may be considered the same as the creation of art because both serve a similar purpose of encouraging societal development (which is very important as w/o imagination the risk of reproducing past results is very high = stagnation). The creation of scientific protocols solves the many issues we haven’t figured out, the problems we have created and combat the threats of nature. Similarly, the creation of piece of artwork serves the purpose of refining elements of function/style and making life more enjoyable.

  5. Creativity is the mother of innovation. The ability to use one’s imagination to create something new is what allows society to keep up with the world’s ever-changing needs. In the 1940s, scientists were aware of the general conditions needed for photosynthesis and the products that the reaction yielded; however the intermediary reactions involved in photosynthesis were yet to be discovered (HowStuffWorks, 2015). Melvin Calvin took an interdisciplinary approach to solving this scientific problem and succeeded by formulating a method to deduce how carbon dioxide is assimilated in green plants during photosynthesis. This led to him discovering the intermediary reactions in photosynthesis, commonly known as the “Calvin Cycle”.

    The ingeniously simple lollipop experiment used by Calvin to determine the biochemical details of the Calvin cycle involved growing green alga chlorella in a “lollipop flask” filled with water and exposed to light (HowStuffWorks, 2015). Radioactive carbon 14 was added to the mixture and was taken in by the chlorella as it produced carbohydrates. As such, the carbon 14 isotope behaved as a tracer, allowing Calvin to map out the path of carbon and therefore determine the biochemical mechanisms by which photosynthesis functions.

    Art is the vehicle for an expression of imagination or a communication of emotion. Art has the ability to transcend boundaries and annihilate both space and time, thus making it an extremely difficult term to define because it encompasses a wide range of both tangible and intangible entities. Within the way of knowing reason, the area of knowledge art can be evaluated using inductive reasoning in order to establish whether or not the creation of an elegant protocol is similar to the creation of a work of art. The first premise is that by definition, all art is creative. The second premise is that a truly innovative scientific discovery has to be creative in order to succeed. As such it can be inferred that scientific discoveries can indeed be similar, if not identical to the creation of art, as both require creativity. In fact, the lexeme of the English word “creativity” has developed from the Latin term “to create” or “to make” (Runco & Albert, 2010), further validating the aforementioned claim.

    In relation to Melvin Calvin, this phenomenon is extremely relevant as Calvin’s teachers often criticized him by saying that he could not become a scientist because he would not collect all the necessary data before attempting to solve a problem. Years later, Calvin responded to this criticism in his autobiography Melvin Calvin: Following the Trail of Light: A Scientific Odyssey (Profiles, Pathways, and Dreams) by writing that “the synthesis of a really new concept requires some sort of union in one mind of the pertinent aspects of several disciplines” (Calvin , 1992). Calvin went on to say that “it’s no trick to get the right answer when you have all the data. The real creative trick is to get the right answer when you have only half of the data in hand and half of it is wrong and you don’t know which half is wrong. When you get the right answer under these circumstances, you are doing something creative.” (Calvin , 1992). This creative interdisciplinary approach to solving a centuries-old question is what earned Calvin the 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Therefore it can be concluded that the creation of an elegant protocol is similar to the creation of a work of art to a to a large extent as both accomplishments require imagination and creativity, which lie at the heart of all art.

    Bibliography:
    • Calvin , M. (1992). Melvin Calvin: Following the Trail of Light: A Scientific Odyssey (Profiles, Pathways, and Dreams). American Chemical Society.
    • HowStuffWorks. (2015, January 26). Melvin Calvin. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from How Stuff Works Science: http://science.howstuffworks.com/dictionary/famous-scientists/chemists/melvin-calvin-info.htm
    • Runco, M. A., & Albert, R. S. (2010). The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity. (J. C. Kaufman, & R. J. Sternberg, Eds.) Cambridge University Press.

  6. Melvin Calvin, an American scientist, came up with a complex model called the Calvin cycle which explains the three phases to the light dependent reactions. The three phases are carbon fixation, reduction reactiona, and the regeneration of ribulose 1,5-biphosphate (RuBP). He used an elegant protocol that would explain the carbonxylation of RuBP. In the lollipop experiment, he used Chlorella agae which was placed in a glass vessel which was provided with a great amount of light,
    and science as it. Many scientists have been working on research about photosynthesis so the Calvin used the build up of years worth of research to come up with his piece hydrongen carbonate and carbon dioxide. Afterwards, he placed radioactive carbon with carbon compounds. He also took samples of algae at different times. Then, a chromatography experiment was carried out so that the carbon compounds would get separated which displayed the Calvin cycle.
    Art is “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.” (Dictionary.com).
    This process is similar to a work of art as it was extremely creative. The art of the process helped the world advance in and science.

  7. Creativity is often described as a person’s way of producing creative ideas and the use of one’s imagination. People do argue on the fact creativity is not an idea development process.
    Melvin Calvin was an American chemist that designed a method of determining how carbon dioxide is absorbed by green plants during the processes of photosynthesis. For Calvin to discover the process in light-independent reaction, he had to devise just an experiment to trace the path of carbon through a photosynthesising organism from carbon dioxide gas to starch. Chlorella was used as the subject of the investigation because the plant Chlorella is known to be photosynthetic research. Calvin used a radioactive isotope Carbon, along with the chlorella and conducted a chromatography experiment to separate the carbon compounds henceforth showed the Calvin cycle.

  8. The Calvin Cycle is basically a set of chemical reactions that take place in chloroplasts during photosynthesis. Melvin Calvin basically discovered the Calvin Cycle through experimenting with innovative ideas – he used a thin “lollipop flask” in order to grow Chloera algae, with the aim of finding out how much carbon dioxide is assimilated in the process of photosynthesis. For this, he was rewarded with a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1961.

    Creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. Creativity can also be defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.

    Some could say that the use of a “lollipop flask” was a new creative idea, and could be used as an artwork. To do this, he used imagination as a way of knowing. There are two different elements to imagination – developing knowledge without the use of senses, and the ability to make a leap of understanding without necessarily knowing how and why. Imagination is not just limited to the visual arts, it can also be used in scientific protocols, as it adds a new method and way to obtain reliable data. However, it is not a common way of obtaining knowledge in the sciences, because it is often regarded as something a little unpredictable, and in some cultures, mistrusted, since imagination is not necessarily based on palpable evidence.

    The visual arts, however, arguably uses more imagination that the sciences. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein. Imagination is not limited to specific boundaries, it can encompass any idea and find a solution – although the rationality of the solution may be a bit problematic. For this reason, imagination is unpredictable and can be used for any. In terms of art, imagination is often fueled by emotion and previous knowledge.

    Therefore, in conclusion, imagination is a very flexible way of knowing that uses a mixture of emotion and prior knowledge, and can be used to find innovative new solutions. By using imagination as a way of knowing, one is going outside the normal, logical, standard methods, and obtain a new method, which could obtain better more reliable, results.

  9. In science, there are different ways of gaining knowledge other than reason. For example, using imagination as a way of knowing increases the creativity. Creativity is essential in the sciences as any discoveries without it would not be possible to be able to think outside the box, such as the discovery of gravity by Newton. The common man does not usually associate creativity with the sciences as they have a very academic appeal. Moreover, creativity is not just about paintings, each theory in its own sense is creative, which is subjective to each different perspective. The definition of art is subjective itself and lies in the beholder of the eye, which could be a scientist or photographer.

  10. Creativity is the basis of all scientific discoveries. In the 1940s, scientists were aware of the general conditions needed for photosynthesis and the products that the reaction yielded; however the intermediary reactions involved in photosynthesis were yet to be discovered (HowStuffWorks, 2015). Melvin Calvin led a team in the late 1940s and early 1950s to work on experiments. He aimed to discover the reactants of photosynthesis, as the products of the process were already known. In Calvin’s lollipop experiment, he used elegant protocol to devise a mechanism that would elucidate the carboxylation of RuBP. He used Chlorella algae and placed it in a thin glass vessel called the “lollipop vessel”. He then gave it plenty of light, carbon dioxide and hydrogen carbonate. Then, he replaced the carbon compounds with radioactive carbon, and took samples (using chromatography) of algae at different time intervals. This experiment was conducted with a distinct level of creativity supported by previous advancements in technology such as the discovery of radioactive carbon by Kamen and Ruben. Although the lollipop experiment was created based on creativity and carefully planned protocol, I believe that this experiment wouldn’t of have happened without previous discoveries made by scientists.

    Art, on the other hand, in my opinion, is immediately sprung from creativity and inner thoughts and emotions. But it can be argued that there are two premises by which art can be defined. The first premise is all art is creative. The second premise is that a truly original scientific discovery has to be creative in order to succeed. As such it can be inferred that scientific discoveries can indeed be similar, if not identical to the creation of art, as both require creativity.
    In relation to Melvin Calvin, this phenomenon is extremely relevant as Calvin’s teachers often criticized him by saying that he could not become a scientist because he did not collect all the necessary data before attempting to solve a problem. But what they didn’t realize at the time that he was creatively creating scientific discoveries that weren’t entirely based on statistics.
    Years later, Calvin responded to this criticism in his autobiography and said “it’s no trick to get the right answer when you have all the data. The real creative trick is to get the right answer when you have only half of the data in hand and half of it is wrong and you don’t know which half is wrong. When you get the right answer under these circumstances, you are doing something creative.” (Calvin , 1992).
    This creative approach to solving a centuries-old question is what earned Calvin the 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Therefore it can be derived that the creation of an elegant protocol is similar to the creation of a work of art to a to a large extent as both accomplishments require imagination and creativity, which ultimately is what art is made up of.

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