On the subject of the PCR Reaction: PCR is extremely widely used, and is a highly variable technique. There are dozens of different slight variations on the DNA polymerase, lots of ways of designing primers to get them to stick just right, dozens of different machines (called thermal cyclers) that heat and cool the DNA to keep the enzyme, DNA strands and primers happy (and everyone has their own settings for the machines). Entire cultures build up around the PCR reaction. Someone I work with told me a story about their previous lab having a little statue to a PCR God, to bless the thermal cycling machines.
Anyway, as a result the image that a PCR company projects is pretty damn important for tapping into these cultural norms (polymerases are described as High Fidelity or Lightening Fast, and have names like UltraFusion and Pfx Platinum). The master of this game is the lab technology company Bio-Rad. They sponsor the Nature Podcast, and their adverts always seem to stick in my head with worrying efficiency (from memory: ‘The Nature Podcast is brought to you by Bio-Rad’s 1000-series thermal cycling platform: when you rethink PCR, you think about how easy it can be’).
However, the most, er, interesting viral advertising they attempted came about last year. They produced a song, with a music video, with scientists singing the praises of PCR. I kid you not…
I also just learned that they produced a second, Disco-style PCR song. Quick warning: it is horrific.
Incidentally, I learned about the second song from PZ Myers’ recent post Battle of the Biology Bands. For more biology-related geek music, check out Null Hypothesis’s two virtual geek-pop festivals: Geek Pop ’08 and Geek Pop ’09