It’s Motherfucking Physiology!!!1!1!

October 5, 2008

Arlenna at ChemicalBiLOLogy has a great post up today about her vision of chemical biology as a scientific discpline. The entire post is worth reading, but I just want to comment on two things she said:

The more I read and tried things, and the more systems I started to think about, the better I came to understand this fundamental underlying common thread that: really, if you can find, define and categorize the basic units of a system, any system, and how they interact according to the principles of whatever scale you’re looking at (which always comes down to molecular physical properties if you zoom in close enough), YOU CAN UNDERSTAND ANYTHING.

That’s what chemical bilology training should be all about: teaching people to find the systems organization in things, characterize their molecular principles in your head, and think of them as nodes to explore, perturb and manipulate–no matter what degree of complexity the system comes at you with.

Yo, Arlenna! Guess what? You just described the essence of MOTHERFUCKING PHYSIOLOGY!!!11!11!eleventy!! w00t!!!!!


34 Responses to “It’s Motherfucking Physiology!!!1!1!”

  1. George Smiley Says:

    “(which always comes down to molecular physical properties if you zoom in close enough)”

    Yup. The foundation of life is biochemistry. Couldn’t have said it better myself. ;-).

  2. Yeah, but once you dumbfuck biochemists grind the motherfucking tissue up like childhood George W Bush playing with a motherfucking frog, you lose all information concerning the “principles of whatever scale you’re looking at” at the scales of cells, tissues, organs, and organisms.

    (Why do I let a dumbfuck biochemist troll me on my own motherfucking blog?)

  3. PP is on the money with this one. Physiology and biology are like a massive jigsaw puzzle and examining each individual piece in isolation or trying to make sense of it all by studying 1000 pieces that have been mixed up and thrown all over the floor is meaningless. I prefer to look at the big picture when the puzzle is fully assembled and zoom in on relevant parts to find how the pieces fit together.

  4. Arlenna Says:

    And that’s what us chemical bilologists do: we build tools to do the zooming in with. Of course, most chemical biologists don’t really get those more sophisticated contextual aspects of it until they have done the biology part themselves rather than handing it off to some other lab or collaborator to get data with. That’s why everybody who gets trained in my lab is gonna do the whole hog: make their own peptides, grow their own cells, do their own westerns, PCR their own PCRs, everything. If we ever get to the point where we’re using animals, people on those projects will do their own animals to begin with until they understand what working with them is like.

  5. George Smiley Says:

    If we’re such dumbfucks (and we are, I assure you), how come we walk away with so many of the Nobel Prizes in “physiology”?

    I mean, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. The physiologists have done an outstanding job of identifying problems that they couldn’t solve (oooooh. how do these channels achieve both speed and selectivity?), but which were solved once a properly biochemical approach was taken.

    You folks are, of course, very good at poking things with needles. Wouldn’t dare to take that away from you.


  6. juniorprof Says:

    You biochemists and physiologists would be lost without us pharmacologists. But really, what successful biological scientist doesn’t utilize the basics of biochemistry, physiology and pharmacology in their daily approach to solving problems in the lab. The walls between the fields don’t really exist anymore. I imagine that any of us could just as easily be in 3 or 4 other departments within our institutions and with cross appointments probably are.

  7. PP, I don’t know if we have discussed this before, but Dr. Isis is a physiologist and it really pisses her off when people start to give other names to physiology. Systems biology? Chemical biology? It’s all bullshit.

    Once, when Dr. Isis was a wee lass she took apart her father’s clock radio. Do you know she had? A non-functioning radio and a bunch of useless parts. That’s what non-physiologists are doing to biology — taking apart its fucking clock radio so that it can’t wake up to NPR.

  8. drugmonkey Says:

    it really pisses her off when people start to give other names to physiology

    hahahaha! quick quiz, what is a “neuroscientist”?

  9. George Smiley Says:

    Systems Biology. Can we all agree that THAT is the biggest steaming-load-of-rewarmed bullshit to enter biology since Lamarckiansim? Ho-lee-SHIT what a bargeload of rotting fecal matter that “field” is.

    Drugmonkey: a neuroscientist is a scientist who destroys neurons, obviously. His own, or those belonging to other creatures.

  10. Muse142 Says:


    As an undergrad hoping to be a neuroscientist, my motherfucking heart is broken!

    BTW, I wanted to say that I ❤ the happy-noodle-boy-esque punctuating swears. NEUROSCIENCE, FUCK?!!


  11. If I may follow on from our young pupil, Grasshopper JuniorProf, pharmacology is the original “chemical biology.” We pharmacologists respect all other disciplines and incorporate the crucial aspects of all in what I like to call “the interdisciplinary discipline.” We are also one of the few truly inclusive disciplines that pay appropriate homage to our chemist colleagues – you cannot simply PCR up a small heterocyclic nanomolar enzyme inhibitor.

    Moreover, I will tell a story that should please our humble host. As an undergrad I asked my prof and dept chair where we could expect the hottest new drugs to come from. He told me to follow advances in physiology. Only by understanding the interrelationship of physiological processes and homeostatic regulatory mechanisms can we devise effective drugs.

  12. juniorprof Says:

    Right on Abel!!

  13. George Smiley Says:

    Credit where it’s due — outstanding comment, Abel.

  14. whoever Says:

    Can I go to Arlenna’s lab when they get to the stage of growing their own animals?

  15. juniorprof Says:

    Can I go to Arlenna’s lab when they get to the stage of growing their own animals?

    We’re already doing that. Its crazy what you can do with chia-pets these days.

  16. Nat Blair Says:

    Best. Post. Title. Evar.

    Physiology rocks.

  17. You’re just a motherfucking neurophysiologist, DrugMonkey. Unless you grind up your neurons and put them on gels and then who gives a shit anyway?

    Wow, being able to come over here and swear is really, really freeing.

  18. Nat Blair Says:

    Another case of neuro-envy.

  19. Arlenna Says:

    WORKING with the animals, foo.

    I may be pretty damn awesome at making stuff, but I am not that awesome.

    And to all you chemical biology haters: Hell, I applied to a lot of jobs that were called all kinds of things from biomedical engineering to chemistry to proteomics. And not a one of them gave me an interview, because when you do the kind of research I do, people in physiology departments go “But what would she DO? Her BACKGROUND just isn’t going to FIT.” The engineers said I wasn’t REALLY and engineer, and the chemists said I wasn’t REALLY a chemist.

    It was the pharmacologists and medicinal chemists who finally perked up and said, “Wait a minute–this is exactly the kind of random-ass research we want to have going on in our department! This person could help bridge the training gap between synthetic chemistry in one lab and real biology in another!” That’s why I love pharmacologists the best! They gave me a job to do this crazy version of physiology that does all the building of its own tools AND the biology to boot.

  20. Arlenna Says:

    And by the way all y’all haterzzz: it was an organic chemistry BA, a synthetic medicinal chemistry PhD and a wacked-out crossdisciplinary postdoc that got me so exquisitely trained in what you are helping cross-define as physiology, with NARY a biology or physiology class along the way!

  21. whoever Says:

    Arlenna, I hear you.
    I started off – many years ago – as a marine biologist and today I rip the heart and lungs out of rats.

  22. George Smiley Says:

    This might be my favorite discussion so far on PP’s blog. Makes my day each time I come back. You all rawk — even the physiologists-by-name!

  23. Sven DiMilo Says:

    Damn straight. As I tell all my classes, Day 1: All–all–human experience and endeavor is of necessity filtered through physiological mechanisms. Life is physiology; physiology is Life.

  24. drugmonkey Says:

    life may be physiology and vice versa but as far as the human experience goes…there are far more interesting things to talk about.

  25. Arlenna Says:


    from an NIH MLSI list email:

    “An upcoming *chemical neurobiology* meeting will take place on Nov 14, 2008 at Room 201, Washington DC Convention Center preceding the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience”

  26. Physiogroupie IV Says:

    Hah, CPP’s ways seem to be rubbing off on Dr. Isis. Or did she always say motherfucking before?

  27. PhysiogroupieIV, I only come over hear to use my potty mouth. Remember that I am someone’s mother and I have a certain image to maintain.

  28. Sven DIMilo Says:

    as far as the human experience goes…there are far more interesting things to talk about.

    Of course there are. And yet, to experience that experience and to talk about it are both physiological in mechanism. All I’m sayin.

  29. Systems Biology. Can we all agree that THAT is the biggest steaming-load-of-rewarmed bullshit to enter biology since Lamarckiansim?

    Wait a minute . . . why is systems biology bullshit? I’m genuinely curious. It’s because these people send me an invitation to an extension course every year:

    It’s not the field I’m interested in entering. But I’m no kind of a scientist yet and I don’t know enough to know why loverz of glorious biochem (yeah!) think it’s bullshit, nevertheless.

  30. George Smiley Says:

    “Systems biology” is bullshit because it does not describe a coherent approach to inderstanding biology. It is a marketing term that has been used primarily to secure grant funding.

    At most, systems biology is simply the combination of mathematical modeling (which physiologists and genetecists and biochemists and evolutionary biologists have all been doing for at least a hundred years) with assembly-line approaches that generate a lot of data.

    Another thing “systems biology” institutes like to do is to put physicists and engineers and chemists together with biologists. Well, BFD. Physicists and engineers and chemists have been at the center of the biological enterprise, again, for at least a hundred years (engineers a bit less, but their field, unlike biology, was still young a hndred years ago).

    The late Bill Hicks had some words for the marketers of the world.

  31. George Smiley Says:

    I should add that not too long after Harvard started its Systems Biology department, one of the founding faculty of that department described it to me as “Cell Biology II — we just wanted to start a new department from scratch.”

  32. Heh, I guess the repeated definition of the SysBio challenge as “data rich, concept and hypothesis poor” should have clued me in. Iterative process that is all science notwithstanding . . .

    (‘Course, my favorite professor has drilled the recognition that none of the historical sciences have truly analytical (theory-derived) units YET deep into my brain, thereby making biology and its ever-fractioning into “new” disciplines and paradigms starkly conceptually terrifying/way more fun for me. There’s that constantly dizzying my judgment, too.)

    I wonder if I’ll think “marketer minion of Satan” whenever I come across references to Denis Noble from now on. Anyway, thank you George and the rest of you for a thread that was really educational for me at the candy store window.

  33. George Smiley Says:

    I should add that just because something comes from a systems biology department or institute does not mean it’s crap. A lot of good scientists are in those places. My specific objection is to the term and the manner in which it’s used, not to science or to scientists.

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