Is it by accident that both Google first ladies are biologists?

larrypageinwhitecoatOr is it the strongest personal indication of the future of technology? No, it’s not my job to answer this question, but I could be optimistic about the consequences of it. By now the story of Anne Wojcicki, Sergey Brin and 23andMe is a commonplace in the blogosphere. While Anne is graduated with a BS in Biology from Yale, Larry Page’s future wife Lucy Southworth happens to be a biology (genetics) grad student at Stanford interested in aging research too.

Learning new things from your partner is the most effective way of quickly acquiring ordered, contextual and practical knowledge. A good example is Aubrey de Grey who learned biology from his wife, experimental drosophilist and fine-tuned scientist of chromosomal mechanics Adelaide Carpenter.

For instance here is how Lucy explains nerve structure and Multiplex sclerosis: Look, Larry you’re familiar with this…

electric wireMany nerves are like an electric cord. An electric cord usually contains a thin metal wire covered in plastic that insulates the metal. The plastic layer keeps the electricity from leaving the wire. This can both speed up the electrical flow and keep nearby objects safe from the electricity.

But this could be interesting for you too: The metal wire in a nerve cell is called the axon. This is the part that carries the electrical signal. The insulation on a nerve cell is called myelin. Like in the electric cord, the myelin keeps the electrical signal from leaving the nerve.

As I said, in MS a patient’s immune system attacks the myelin destroying it. This affects a patient’s nerves like stripping the insulation off an electric cord does. Some of the electricity will short out causing the nerve to not conduct electricity as well any more. Also the electricity might jump off the axon and affect other nerves.

IT friendly explanation, isn’t it? Now I can imagine an average conversation amongst Lucy and Larry on how to solve the following problem: With an ordinary FACS machine, how long does it take to count 10-100 trillion cells which is the order of magnitude of the human body? (the question is coming from my old Google Biolabs post)

I admit sometimes we can decode useful hidden information from intelligent gossips and this is one reason why Valleywag is so popular amongst geeks who are interested in technology news. But while I enjoy reading rumors on the Silicon Valley tech establishment, I am completely uninterested in Gawker or Defamer.

6 thoughts on “Is it by accident that both Google first ladies are biologists?

  1. Grady, I really appreciate your Perpetual First Commenter role, but this time let Larry and Lucy think about the problem themselves, even if it is tricky. 🙂 That’s why I delete the relevant part of your smart answer to preserve the space for thinking. Menawhile I offer you this video with all my respect. Attila.

  2. Dammit, Attila, how come I am your wife and work in search marketing? More or less coincidence.

    Now as I cannot and would not give back my MAs in English and Hungarian, but I deeply enjoy your phenomenal presence, I think I’ll just sit down and start learning PHP, MySQL, Java, Ajax and Ruby on Rahan.

  3. Your post puts me in mind of my own parents, who met while both working on the Mark I computer in Manchester, in the 1950s. My dad was an electronic engineer and my mother one of the operators (paper tape!!) when they first met. Lord Bowden (then Vivien Bowden) was the leader of the computing effort– he wrote a famous book at around that time called “Faster than thought”. When my father died recently I was going through his (very many) books and I found this one, very old and tattered. I looked inside and the very first page is a black and white photo of my parents on their wedding day, captioned “a programmer and an engineer”.
    Being their child, I was not privy to whether they had any coversations along the lines of Lucy and Larry’s or Attila and Anna’s ;-), but next time you visit, Attila, remind me to show you the picture and the book.

  4. I’d just like to clarify that the low end of my answer was orders of magnitude higher than it has been edited to read. If you’d rather let others speculate so you can listen in, I’ll just leave it at that. 😉

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