plant phys use in breeding

Tony Travis ajt at
Tue Sep 29 04:48:35 EST 1992

In article <92829004627.MIN-LJVAa06603.bionet-news at> you wrote:
: [...]
: Tony, I don't think you quite understand what I mean by "technology driven"
: science. I'm not talking about the internal or philosophical motivations
: of the investigator, but rather the ability of the investigator to control
: the progress of work.  In highly technology diriven science, new techniques
: are applied to old problems in traditional ways - if you don't do a certain
: experiment, it is a certainly that someone else soon will.  I vaguely remember
: Thomas Kuhn (sp?) refferring to this type of work as "consolidation" science.	

There is an alternative view (which I subscribe to) that science is
_limited_ by technology rather than driven by it.  Many areas of work
were inaccessible before the advent of the electron microscope for

The "technology driven science" you describe implies a passive
relationship between science and technology.  In my view, technology is
more often developed to meet a particular scientific need.  This does
not, of course, preclude serendipity.

: As to your more general comment that knowledge improves our ability to solve
: problems, it would be very hard for me to argue against that point. It just
: reminds me of a scene in the movie "Animal House"  where the statue of the
: founder of the University  is shown with the inscription "Knowledge is Good!"

I confess to never having seen "Animal House", but I guess you are
saying that I stated the obvious.  It is surprising how often people
overlook the obvious in pursuit of scientific knowledge.  I was taught
the value of Occam's razor ...

: The point I'm trying to make is that our new technical tools can be used in 
: a wide variety of different ways. Some of these applications will have 
: positive social impacts and some applications will have negative impacts. All
: that I'm asking is that those of us in a position to analyze these impacts
: stop the treadmill for a few moments now and then and think about where our
: own work is headed.

Yes, I agree with you Stuart - One of my jobs, in the past, was to
develop an automated system for detecting weed seeds in batches of crop
seeds for OSTS at NIAB in Cambridge (UK).

I thought it was an appropriate application of image analysis and
computer technology to an area of work that was tedious and boring. 
The people employed as seed analysts were not quite so convinced and
saw the development as a threat to their jobs.

In fact, I succeeded in convincing the seed analysts that the
technology was just a way of reducing the most tedious aspect of their
work by screening samples and it could *improve* the quality of their

Sadly, at the time, the computer technology needed to accomplish the
task was not available at a cost that would justify it's use, and the
technology we could afford was inadequate.  However, I think that
similar work is presently underway in the statistics department at
Edinburgh University supervised by Colin Aitken and Mike Talbot.

If anyone is interested (!) part of this work is described in: Travis,
A.J. and Draper, S.R. (1985) A computer based system for the
recognition of seed shape, Seed Science and Technology, 13, 813-820.

Dr. A.J.Travis,                       |  Tony Travis
Rowett Research Institute,            |  JANET: <ajt at>
Greenburn Road, Bucksburn,            |  other: <ajt at>
Aberdeen, AB2 9SB. UK.                |  phone: 0224-712751

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