Home > Art, Review, Science, Talk, Video > Failomics talk: the review

Failomics talk: the review

The talk at Biopolis on September 11, 2010 was well attended. I was hoping to post the video of the event, but it seems like there was a technical failure on the camera side. Never mind, there are other means of revisiting the talk. Today, I bring you some reviews of the talk.


After the talk, I was assaulted, mostly by students, demanding, and rightly so, some answers to their very pressing questions. Here are some extracts, complete with my answers:

I enjoyed your talk, but I thought it wasn’t complete enough. I wish you could have explained a bit more, and I was even hoping I’d learn how to avoid failure altogether”. That one had me stumped. A brief discussion followed, where my interlocutor remained unconvinced that you can only produce new results by making mistakes along the way.

“I would like to know how you generated the data to produce the figure showing the generation of failures in the lab with time”. Of course, this student was referring to this animation. When I replied that I had walked into the lab and collected information that I then transformed into the animation, he remained skeptical, adding “I don’t think you could call those fractals”. I accepted graciously to remove the term. He remained unconvinced and claimed that whatever method I was using, it had to be “reproducible”. To which I replied that, like in history, you could not follow the exact same set of mistakes twice.

“Do you ever work with other types of failures?” [other than those from biological sciences?]. To this I answered that those were particularly nice to work with because the methodology came with them, but the results should apply to all failures of course.

Overheard: “I thought it might be contemporary art, when she told us she’d been growing her own failures…”. I would say: do not believe everything you hear.


From the Prime Minister’s Office:

An email asking me to do a “factual check” on their review. This was done, and the resulting article will be in next month’s Challenge Magazine. The review insists on the “large amounts of failure required for a just a few drops of success” and turning failures into success stories (Paul Lauterbur’s Noble Prize for MRI story).

From a Japanese website

A review published here. I wish I could understand Japanese though.

On Genewired

A review by Dr Erwin Chan (SMU). Dr Chan would like to see the idea refined to get more Singaporeans to see failure as part of the thought-process.

I’d say… we’re getting there. And to finish, the only bit of video available from the event so far… yeah, technology also can fail.

Categories: Art, Review, Science, Talk, Video
  1. October 22, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Wish I could have heard you. Well, the translation of the Japanese language according to Google Translate is this:

    Atisutorashii with a background in molecular biology. Failomics was talking of such a failure.
    I tried to map it to classify cases to accumulate various failed experiments. The images that curled like a vine to branch out. Trial and error really fit the word. He hates to do nothing and if that fails, it does not come often found life anything. I do not know what’s the next species, I think it is certainly interesting.

    Footnote: Chinese characters for ‘Atisutorashii’ means biologist, I think.

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