Protagonist-Science.com

Protagonist Science

A new narrative for the future

I believe it is the stories we tell ourselves that pave the way for a future worth living. Ask yourself, what story are we living today? How do we feel about the uncertain future ahead of us? I believe we are a story-telling species in dire need of a new narrative. Protagonist science was created to help write part of that story. If you are like me, tired of heading towards a dystopian future written by others, get inspired by the possibilities and beauty of science and become a protagonist of our shared future.

Understand

Science is not about trust, but understanding.

Get inspired

Science holds the keys to a world full of beauty and possibilities

Change

Become a protagonist of your own future. The limit is, as always, our own imagination.

Protagonist Science presents:

Asymmetric power in the information age

This investigative article will require some patience. It is a deep exploration of how a (largely) social media-driven epistemic crisis interferes with democratic processes, arguably one of the most important topics to understand in today’s world. Using a complexity science framework, this article will provide systemic insights using available scientific research, well-documented case examples, and expert opinions, because we are running out of time.

Philipp Markolin, PhD

Science writer

How an infodemic is reshaping the world
Protagonist Science Youtube

Transhumanist Technologies Series

I am currently working on a video series exploring the science behind transhumanist fictions; from brain-machine interfaces to cryonics, longevity and mind emulations.
Protagonist Science Youtube

A youtube channel like no other

From genomics to evolutionary blind spots, covering algorithmic biases and logical fallacies, I try to shed light on the human element in our technological future.
Advances in biological science

Science writing

I'm creator and editor behind the 'Advances in biological science' online medium publication.
Science communication is important and the 'slower' blog writing format lends itself to do proper deep dives into scientific data and concepts that shape our world. From gene drives to T-cell therapies, memory enhancing drugs, brain implants, nanopore sequencing or the origins of SARS-CoV-2, expect to be amazed and humbled by our own human ingenuity.

by Philipp Markolin

ISRIB, the inside story of the first proven cognitive enhancer

Carmela started her scientific career with as an undergraduate research fellow in Buenos Aires, Argentina before moving to the US to perform graduate work at Tyler Jacks lab at MIT...

by Philipp Markolin

Nanopore proteomics are on the horizon

Sequencing in biology usually refers to the process of determining the exact order of nucleotides (DNA/RNA) or amino acids (proteins) in large biological molecules that build life...

by Philipp Markolin

Explained: The hard evidence why the SARS-CoV-2 genome was not engineered

The origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19, have been investigated since at least January 2020, when the virus has been isolated and sequenced from patient samples in Wuhan, China...

by Philipp Markolin & Laura de Vargas Roditi

How corruptive forces are chewing on science from the inside

Scientific papers today are the primary way of distributing one’s research with the scientific community. Back in the 17th century, scientific papers were an invention that enabled researchers...

A protagonist future original science fiction story

Less than noble

They say reality sometimes writes the best stories. I don’t agree. Reality sucks. It’s messy and complicated, often goes against our intuition or sense of justice. Real stories are usually not very sexy or intriguing, most of the time they are ordinary. When things go wrong, there is no great spiritual evil pulling the strings, merely a common mixture of human incompetence, bad luck and plain arrogance leading to collapse or catastrophe.

I would know, since I am no evil mastermind yet blood is on my hands too.

See, I was a researcher once. Not one of the famous kind, more like the average, thoughtful kind. When I started, the creation of knowledge was still a noble pursuit. I cherished the dinosaurs of science, spending their lives trying to find small pieces for a puzzle of unknown size and shape; you might call it reality.

Yet times have changed, in general, but also for medical science.

Not knowing’ went out of fashion, so did waiting for ‘conclusive results’. Generation instant-gratification is about the immediate sell, before attention waivers. I knew it, we all did.

And so when science facts were increasingly replaced by science fictions, the spoils went to the best narrators, not the pesky objectors. I know you probably don’t care. The scientific process is still an enigma for most. But I should have known better.

I should have cared that the humble puzzlers were being replaced by the well-connected or politically gifted; the silver-tongued, the career-savvy, the immoral. Too long I turned a blind eye to keep my head down and my lab’s pockets filled as well. ‘If we run out of money, we can’t do any science anymore’, I rationalized. Publish or perish.

I exhaled forcefully, the all-too-known acid spit of resentment in my mouth.

My room was as dark as my train-of-thought. I did not need to switch on the TV, I knew my face would be on there. Unshaven, bespectacled deep eyes, hipster green scarf with the letters “CRISPR” stitched on it. The hopeful face of the gene editing revolution.

And its untimely vanquisher. One can ignore reality for a long time, but at some point it will catch up and crush you.

Seventeen dead children. Leukemia patients, sure, their lives were hanging on a thread anyway. But I could have saved them, with more time. At least not do harm. Things were not adding up, more tests needed to be done. Still, they asked me to proceed, to be the first, because of China, the threat of competition, and the fame and the money it will bring for our University.

Obviously, they’ve bought themselves a PR nightmare, which they still might’ve handled if I were to go silently. But the old dinosaurs wouldn’t go extinct without a big impact either.

So I’ve drafted my last scientific publication: ‘Reproducibility crisis, incentive malalignment and gaming the system’, a dry report on the state of academic affairs. When I put my laptop aside, I realized that part of me never let go of being a meticulous researcher. I had kept all the original data backed up in a secret storage. The incomplete genome editing in cell culture lines. The mouse experiments showing resistance to CRISPR cell therapy. The patients covertly excluded from clinical trials. Data about all the prominent people involved who cut corners, cherry-picked the data, lied a little here and there so they can get their stories published, their narratives financed and their careers rolling. At what price?

Like I said, in reality, great evil often comes from the ordinary and mundane, when we fail to care about little wrongs for as long as they suit us.

When my report was predictably rejected by all major academic publishers, I send it to the press. There, it hit like a bombshell. Now the other cockroaches finally smell the gasoline, but it is too late for them as well. I lit the match that set myself on fire, and I will not be going out alone.

When cells in our body become malignant, sometimes they still manage to initiate apoptosis, the programmed cell death. A suicide to protect the rest of the body from corruption.

This necessary correction is the last story reality has on offer for people like me.

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About me?

I think I was born a scientist, but most of my formal education comes from top European universities. My trajectory has always been forward, but never linear; I wandered through chemistry, biology, computer science & science journalism. Currently, I work in a communication role in a startup making semiconductor microchips for probing neural networks.

I love to experiment with chemicals, cells, data, or language. I also create occasional videos and you might have already heard me in a podcast or two.

The foundational belief is that science holds the keys to a future full of beauty and wonder.

So why don't we explore that together?

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