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The Systems Biology Hoax

I know I'm supposed to give a talk at this meeting, called something with Systems Biology, and I have only 16 hours left to sort out my slides. Sixteen hours is not so much time, if you are still jetlagged from the long flight to Japan, and you know the tiredness will come in 5 hours from now.
So what shall I do ?  I already gave a talk yesterday at another institute near Tokyo, but this was o.k., this was not about the Hoax "Systems Biology", but this was about something real biological, some molecular processes of stem-cell stability and long-term cancer risk. But tomorrow, everybody will talk about Systems Biology, and most of them have no clue what a System means, what modules are, what interactions or feedback means, and how this can only be understand with highly sophisticated mathematics: differential equations, topology, non-linear algebra and the like. But tomorrow a bunch of mediocre biologists are going to meet, to mask their limitted biology knowledge behind the Title:  Systems Biology. 
I just can not take them seriously.
The view out of my hotel room at the 14th floor is amazing:  An ocean of lights and illuminated bill-boards, despite the pledge by the Japanese gouvernment to reduce all unneccessary consumption of electricity after the 2011 Fukushima disaster ripped the country of a larger part of its nuclear energy supply. In daily life, you feel little committment to switch off electricity: At least every toilet seat in the country has an electric heater that is always on. Funny to see, that even the toilets could not be used if there is a black-out. In the Kimi-Ryokan in Tokyo, the service personal used to install huge hot-air blowers each time they change the blankets in the rooms.They explained me that the blankets are still wet, when they get them from the laundry, and by blowing hot air through the newly covered beds, they make sure the guest can sleep under a dry cover.
I forgot what this has to do with Systems Biology ? Only as much as at tomorrows conference some people from Fukushima will talk about the long term health consequences of the 2011 accident. Hot air, blown everywhere around.


  1. Good luck with your talk Michael. Maybe you can go around Tokyo after your meeting and relax :)

  2. Thanks for the wishes. We had a good time. I am always surprised by how the Japanese manage to unite their many traditions in social, cultural and family life with this hyper-modern technical civilization. After the conference, we stoud in Tokyo in an typical family-style guesthouse ( , with tatami mats to sleep on, japanese wodden bath-tube and paper-blinds on the windows. It is really a good advise, for everyone considering to visit Tokyo. I'm sure it is also listed in Lonely Planet.


  3. Dude - I am so jealous of you right now. :( Did you see this latest development?

  4. hi just-a-peasant, when you say jealous, i guess you are not refering to my participation at this systems biology meeting in chiba, but to Japan in general. i am currently sorting the photographies to put on blog. Tokyo is so full of visual ads, in particular in the subway trains every inch is plastered with ads for cosmetics, food, holiday resorts, movies etc. And I always was wondering if any of them shows Misaki Ito's smile.
    I found it strange, that the county is so polite, and very friendly and helpful. But on the other hand, people rarely look a stranger in the eyes.
    About the next research scandal appearing on the horizon (the STAP stem cells from the Riken institute, it really seems to be another example of the unhealthy alliance of fame-addicted scientists and journal editors (in this case NATURE and NEJM) who neglect their duties of critically and carefully assesing the manuscripts, only because they want be the first to publish and increase their impact factor and the money they can then make with adverts. it is really synergism between two bad intentions to result in a worse scenario.
    greetings michael