If I were a time traveler, I would have traveled back exactly 121 years to witness one of the most important discoveries of modern medicine: x-ray. The photograph above on the left is the first ever recorded x-ray photograph of human anatomy and on the right is the photo of Wilhelm Röntgen, the man who took this picture. The hand in the picture is thought to depict Röntgen’s wife Bertha wearing her wedding ring.
X-ray was recognized back then as an unexplained physical phenomenon. Sir William Crooke noticed an odd phenomenon of blurry photographic papers that he used to wrap the vacuum tubes he was studying. No one could exactly explain this phenomenon well enough. This was despite Hermann von Helmholtz’s formulation of mathematical equations to predict the existence of x-ray without ever experimenting with them.
With ‘Hand mit Ringen’ photograph, Röntgen demonstrated unequivocally, the unique property of x-ray to travel through structures that were other wise thought to be impenetrable. This discovery started an important era in modern medicine: one that belongs to diagnostic medicine. X-ray is in many ways, one of the earliest diagnostic tools. The physics behind x-rays was difficult to understand, but a simple picture of the bones of the hand captivated the imagination of the scientists as well as the general public. Immediately after the publication of ‘Hand mit Ringen’ photograph, there was a huge uptick in number of scientific publications dealing with these mysterious and powerful light sources. Even the general public weren’t immune to the charm of the mysterious x-rays. Among the general public, x-rays were often considered as magical phenomenon bordering on the paranormal.
An important lesson I would have learned from my time travelling adventure: the importance of capturing public’s imagination. As the old adage goes, a photograph is worth more than a thousand words. Surprisingly, modern medicine has a lot of work to do, when it comes to communicating some of its incredible feats to the public: clearly, eloquently and without distorting the facts.
In an age where hyperbole and mythical fantasies dominate the news cycle, a simple time travelling thought experiment would reveal the exact same events happening to us as human beings, at every juncture in our history. For individuals who understand the physical world better than most, we have a responsibility to convey our ideas, messages and findings; with great conviction and confidence.
Another lesson I would have learned from my journey to the pages of history is the importance of understanding the physical phenomenon to master the biological world. We often venture into experimentation and trial & error with very little grasp of some of the underlying phenomenon. In this day and age of powerful computing, development of simulation models to test the physical theories of interactions are easier and yet ever more important to create sophisticated biological experiments. Simulations and mathematical models often help us solve problems faster, despite the initial sweat and elbow grease associated with it.
To create the next generation cure for cancer, I am confident that the first step is to build simulation and mathematical models of how some of these sophisticated drugs work. As part of nanoveda’s ongoing attempts to advance cancer therapy, we are using advanced simulation tools to build models to predict how some of the drugs we have designed will work.
For continuing this work, we are running a crowdfunding campaign using gofundme‘s awesome platform. Donation or not, please share our crowdfunding campaign and support our cause.
Donate here: gofundme page for nanoveda.