I have been teaching life sciences for nearly a decade now. Still something keeps giving me mental distress each time I think of it. I feel no representations of cell biology can convey information in a truly bona fide fashion.
Think about the following example. If I want to know about tigers, a text description will help.
Many tigers possess stripes on their face, sides, legs and stomach. The striping is varied in width, length, whether they are single or double-looped, coloration from a light brown to dark black and are not symmetrical from one side of the tiger to the other. (source: https://seaworld.org/animals/all-about/tiger/characteristics)
Still, a much better representation of a tiger is a photograph, as it gives much more direct knowledge about a tiger. Before the invention of full-color photography, the best thing I could get was below.
This black-and-white photo is even worse than the painting, because it removes the essential colors. It is the invention of full-color photography and videos that would eventually give me the most direct knowledge about a tiger.
With the analogy of a tiger, I can better describe limitations of information carried by existing forms of life sciences materials. For example, one day I want to learn transcription factors and their control of gene expression. I can find a piece of text on this topic:
Some transcription factors bind to a DNA promoter sequence near the transcription start site and help form the transcription initiation complex. Other transcription factors bind to regulatory sequences, such as enhancer sequences, and can either stimulate or repress transcription of the related gene. (source: https://www.nature.com/scitable/definition/transcription-factor-167/#:~:text=Some%20transcription%20factors%20bind%20to,transcription%20of%20the%20related%20gene.)
But I feel this is not enough to give me an intuition about TF. I then found an image representation of the process.
This abstract image is a complement to the text. But I don't feel it insightful enough. The next helpful thing I found was a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkUgkDLp2iE. And the searching process stopped there.
Does current technology allow for truly bona fide representation of cell biology in the same sense as a tiger is represented by a full-color photograph? For students who have strong imaginations, they don't find learning cell biology too much of a trouble. For those that lack imagination, I must strive to find something that gives them as much of an intuition as possible.
The ideal tool to represent cell biology is something that presents the products of imagination for the strong minds in a directly accessible manner. I'm afraid this goes far beyond current technologies. Is it so?