One of the nice aspects of riding a bus in Chapel Hill is that it provides time to leaf through journals and other paper items.  While going through a paper copy of a journal may seem archaic, it permits me to see articles that I would not normally see. On occasion, such articles can be very useful in solving an unrelated problem; a concept which can be labeled as serendipitous.  While I don’t know where I might be going with the Nature letter on crystal growth, I thought that it was a clever article.  Chung and coworker reported that hydroxycitrate inhibited crystal growth by promoting the dissolution of the crystal rather than by inhibiting crystal growth.  These investigators promote the evaluation of hydroxycitrate for the treatment of kidney stones.  A quick PubMed check of the literature revealed that hydroxycitrate had diverse effects on metabolism.  If nothing else, it provided some much needed brain candy while working on revising the Handbook of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Chung, J., Granja, I., Taylor, M.G., et al., Molecular modifiers reveal a mechanism of pathological crystal growth inhibition, Nature 536, 446-450, 2016

The above article stimulated me to look in the matter of serendipity and science.  There was a talk by a British scientist some years ago at a FASEB meeting in San Diego but those notes have disappeared.   I came across a number of articles but one work in particular caught my attention.  Conroe (Conroe, J;H., Jr., Roast pig and scientific discovery. Part !., Am.Rev.Respir.Dis. 115, 853-860, 1977) describes the discovery of roast pig as a result of burning a barn in China. That is bit like one of several stories on the discovery of lutefisk which told of a  burning  smokehouse following by snow. So action of ashes and water over a period time provided the alkaline conditions required for the process.  It must have been accidental because I know of nobody who set out to make lutefisk.  The article by Conroe is well worth reading. 

September 20, 2016  Chapel Hill NC