Timing is everything.
One aspect of my research is measuring cytokine secretion. You could analogize cytokines to smells; cells detect cytokines floating around in the environment and respond accordingly. But it’s not so simple to secrete cytokines. The gene for the cytokine needs to be turned on, then the RNA transcribed, then the protein translated, then it has to be transported out of the cell. This takes several hours.
Other lab members measure the status of signaling proteins. This is on a completely different time scale, directly after you give the cell a stimulus of some sort (poke it chemically). When you poke a cell with a chemical, this triggers a receptor to change shape, which triggers it to change the shape of signaling components, often resulting in those components migrating to the nucleus at the center of the cell, causing gene expression (for example, cytokines!). So measuring status of signaling proteins has to happen minutes after you poke the cell, not hours.
Monday night, I was at lab late to end an experiment, since it takes hours to secrete cytokine. Driving home, the light turned green ahead of me, so I accelerated to go through the intersection. A second before I reached the intersection, a huge gas tanker bombed through from my left, blatantly running his red light.
If I’d finished my experiment 1 second sooner, I’d have been in that intersection, and pasted against the front of that tanker. (Since it came from my left, I didn’t even have the cushion of the passenger side of the car.)
This morning, I took a little longer to get ready than normal, as Robin has a nasty cold and didn’t feel like prepping J’s normal lunchtime quesadilla. No big deal, I packed dinner leftovers, and we were on our way a few minutes late. A couple minutes into our ride to preschool, the car in front of us stopped suddenly in the middle of the street, well before the light. A mommy duck with a HUGE passle of clearly newborn ducklings crossed in front of it, and J and I squealed as we watched the ducklings struggle to clear the curb.
A minute later, we saw a rainbow ever so briefly before the clouds rolled over us.
Timing is everything.