Kunal Mehta
July 28, 2014

Scientific literature has a reputation for being dry, unromantic, a recitation of data and technical details. Although this is indeed its main purpose, in the first few paragraphs of every paper we try to motivate the work we're telling you about, and put it in a broader context. These thoughts are often expressed with surprisingly delightful language; this is a collection of some of the better opening lines in papers I've come across, skewed of course to the fields I have experience or interest in:
Photosynthesis, a process catalysed by plants, algae and cyanobacteria converts sunlight to energy thus sustaining all higher life on Earth.
Kupitz, C. et al. Serial time-resolved crystallography of photosystem II using a femtosecond X-ray laser. Nature 1-19 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13453
The advent of photosynthesis is one of the central events in the early development of life on Earth.
Xiong, J., Fischer, W. M., Inoue, K., Nakahara, M. & Bauer, C. E. Molecular evidence for the early evolution of photosynthesis. Science 289, 1724-1730 (2000)
Oxygenic photosynthesis is the primary source of nearly all biological energy.
Shih, P. M., Zarzycki, J., Niyogi, K. K. & Kerfeld, C. A. Introduction of a Synthetic CO2-fixing Photorespiratory Bypass into a Cyanobacterium. Journal of Biological Chemistry 289, 9493–9500 (2014).
Sunlight is the most abundant and sustainable source of energy available to humanity. ... [It] vastly exceeds the current annual worldwide energy consumption rate of ~15 TW and any conceivable future needs in this century.
Blankenship, R. E. et al. Comparing Photosynthetic and Photovoltaic Efficiencies and Recognizing the Potential for Improvement. Science 332, 805-809 (2011).
Cyanobacteria are of profound biological and biogeochemical importance. Oxygenic photosynthesis carried out by primitive cyanobacteria ... provided for the evolution of complex aerobic life.
Pisciotta, J. M., Zou, Y. & Baskakov, I. V. Light-dependent electrogenic activity of cyanobacteria. PLoS ONE 5, e10821 (2010).
Since Morrison and Cocconi published the suggestion that there might be advanced societies elsewhere in the Galaxy, superior to ourselves in technological development, who are beaming transmissions at us on a frequency of 1,420 Mc./s., Drake has described equipment under construction to look for such transmissions.
Bracewell, R. N. Communications from superior galactic communities. Nature 196, 670-671 (1960)
Man inhabits a universe composed of a great variety of elements and their isotopes. In Table I, a count of the stable and radioactive elements and isotopes is listed.
Burbidge, E., Burbidge, G., Fowler, W. & Hoyle, F. Synthesis of the Elements in Stars. Reviews of Modern Physics 29, 547-650 (1957)
Several questions about the origin of life have been answered, but much remains to be studied.
Miller, S. L. & Urey, H. C. Organic compound synthesis on the primitive earth. Science 130, 245-251 (1959) This list may be updated in the future.
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