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Psi Wavefunction

At last, a thoughtful, personal piece on Margulis' passing. While I happen to vehemently disagree with pretty much everything of hers besides plastid and mitochondrial endosymbioses, the vitriol and condescension with which some of the posts were written about her was definitely uncalled for, and frankly irrelevant at this time. And I think there is truth to the thought that a similar character led to both revitalising endosymbiosis research in what is now accepted beyond doubt, and some of her quirkier ideas.

Moreover, while many are prone to opine on the superiority of one approach to science over another, I think we need all (or most) of the approaches. We unarguably need cautious, conservative detail-oriented thinkers who test a small idea a million times over before letting it out, but we also need people who generate hypothesis and synthesise large swaths of fields to do so, and everything in-between, and all sorts of permutations thereof. It is the diversity of thinking that makes science so vibrant, and with this diversity come outliers. Often it is hard to tell what really is a crazy idea, and how mainstream it is does not always correlate with that. I believe there's no harm in publishing *everything*, no matter how absurd an idea may sound -- even something as probably outright wrong as HIV-causing spirochaetes, flagellar endosymbiosis and the jarring term "protoctista" (which, btw, does have historic taxonomic validity at some level). While it's easy to dismiss someone so 'off' as a crackpot, it's a bit harder to do with someone in your own field, especially when this someone has probably done more than anyone in recent memory to publicise the field. For that I do owe gratitude to Margulis, even though we've sadly never met. (perhaps we might have, had it not snowed half a metre that day I was visiting Northampton, MA...)

Lastly, I remember this book I really enjoyed using as a reference when looking at pond water through a microscope as a kid. It had really nice illustrations showing the microorganisms and the habitats they were found it -- creating a much-needed macroscopic context for them. A few months ago, when cleaning some stuff out at my parents' house, I found this book again -- Lynn Margulis et al., The Illustrated Five Kingdoms: A Guide to the Diversity of Life on Earth http://www.amazon.com/Illustrated-Five-Kingdoms-Guide-Diversity/dp/006500843X Little did I know back then that this was to be the first of my ever-expanding collection of protistology books, now directly relevant to making my living!


Elio, I'm sorry for your personal loss.

-Psi-

Psi,

I can't thank you enough. You have composed a fair and decent view of Lynn's scientific life. I have seen no other such nuanced description of who she was and what she did. I am grateful to you because it expresses my sentiments better than I could.

Elio

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