Moon landing and mRNA

Posted in Random thoughts, Technology trends at 5:34 pm by ducky

It does not seem appropriate to feel proud for things I had no part in. I don’t feel proud that the Sony recording of Saint-Saens: Cello Concerto No. 1 / Piano Concerto No. 2 / Violin Concerto No. 3 is awesome, for example.

However, I am proud of the moon landing. Not personally, but as a human. I am incredibly proud that we — collectively, over the centuries — managed to land on another celestial body.

The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter by Joseph Henrich makes the case that “learning from others” is what sets humans apart from all the other animals. Apparently we are really really good at learning from others compared to other animals.

The moon landing is a great example of this. To get to the moon, we had to build upon many technological achievements. We humans invented writing and governments and paper and books and lending libraries and addition and subtraction and exponents and the zero and protractors and slide rules and furnaces and tin snips and fireworks and rockets and tubes and space suits and we did it! Us humans!

I am also proud, as a human being, of mRNA vaccines.

Not at first — I was a little nervous about the mRNA vaccines when they first got approved for use against COVID-19. The mRNA vaccine was a very new technology, and there was a huge amount of pressure. Did corners get cut, sacrificing safety for speed?

But after reading a bit about it (especially this explanation), I was in absolute awe. The mRNA vaccines are sort of like “pre-vaccines”, which convince our own bodies to make the things we want our bodies to recognize and destroy. Instead of injecting us with millions of SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins, we get injected with instructions for our cells to make bazillions of spike proteins. This makes the mRNA vaccines 95% effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

From xkcd

The mRNA vaccines are so beautiful (and effective) that they make all other vaccines now look primitive to me, like clumsy bumblings of extremely lucky ignoramuses. (“How did they ever work???”, I marvel.)

We humans — collectively, over the centuries — managed to figure out chemistry and anatomy and microscopes and cells and X-Rays and DNA and stop codons and antibodies and sequencing and ribosomes and introns and synthesis and how to do randomized clinical trials lipid nanoparticles and proline substitution and we did it!

Go humans!

1 Comment

  1. David Pablo Cohn said,

    January 24, 2021 at 4:45 pm

    Yes yes yes!