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The complexity of a single cell


How being a scientist affects the way one sees the world
Francis Crick Scientist
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When you go… go into a garden you’re conscious of photosynthesis or things of this sort which the average person wouldn’t do, or you… you know something about the range of… way petals are around… arranged on a rose, you know, they’re arranged on a spiral, they’re not necessarily arranged in just five fold symmetry and things like that. There are lots of little things like that you know and… and I think they complement what… what the more direct aesthetic feelings that people have. But I say sometimes they can get in the way. There are lines of poetry which I used to like and now I realise, you know, I don’t like because… because they’re unrealistic. I’m not sure I can quote the one about, 'Oh God make small the old star-eaten blanket of the sky that I may wrap around it and in comfort lie'. Well, the fact is that when the star… you see all the stars at night, it isn’t a blanket at all, it’s extremely cold because the radiation's going off into space, you see, and what sounds like, I used to think, was a remarkable bit of imagery, I can’t enjoy anymore now because he's got it back to front, you see, you’d never think of that as a blanket if you were a tramp. You would know that when… if you were sleeping out, you would know that when it was cloudy it was going to be a warm night and when it was clear it was going to be cold. So… so, there are a few cases like that where you feel the poet simply didn’t understand what he was talking about. But in… by and large you don’t get much of a conflict, I would say.

The late Francis Crick, one of Britain's most famous scientists, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. He is best known for his discovery, jointly with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, of the double helix structure of DNA, though he also made important contributions in understanding the genetic code and was exploring the basis of consciousness in the years leading up to his death in 2004.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: photosynthesis, flower, poetry, poem, night, poet

Duration: 1 minute, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: 1993

Date story went live: 08 January 2010