Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Conrats Rey and Tom

I have several things that I want to post, but for now I'll just send out my congrats to my sister Rey and Tom who got engaged over Thanksgiving. I thought something was odd during the Thanksgiving dinner when my dad asked Tom to say grace...then Tom said a nice prayer and then had everyone say two things that they are thankful for. We went around the table and Tom went last. He said he was thankful for our family welcoming him into our family and then for my sister. It was at this point that it dawned on me that he was going to propose...my instinct was to say "oh you're going to propose." Fortunately I didn't blow the moment by opening my mouth. It was very nice, and Tom welcome to the family.

Tom and my sister Renee'

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Politics of Science

I spent the day sitting at a 10 hour long meeting in which I received plenty of criticism (well it wasn’t directed at me personally, but I take full responsibility for the data I collected and that was being “attacked”). First off I’ll admit that it was hard on my pride to have my mistakes criticized in an open forum for 10 hours…especially since I’ve been doing this on a daily basis for most of the past week since these problems first surfaced. Apart from my personal annoyance with this aspect, I also lost some interest in research as a career path. I love doing research, but I’m pretty sure that I love it for reasons separate from the majority.

This meeting was just like the last one I attended in which the lions share of the talk was criticizing the experiments (mind you the previous meeting the experiment hadn’t even started yet). This seems odd to me because the “objective” of the program was to produce computer simulations that could predict our results, which in the end one was in the ballpark while the other was out in left field. Now I fully admit that I have many errors that still need to be sorted out (that was a given when I have weeks to process a years worth of data), but the trends of the data are not going to be totally different no matter how long I stare at the data files. The general approach was to assume that if the experimental data didn’t match the simulations the experiment must be wrong, but it was already given that the code neglected certain physical phenomena that we showed was present…my question at the end of the day is why did their data match so many conditions.

I then went back to the hotel to get some sleep before starting day 2 of these meetings (the 2nd day should be much easier than the 1st). I fell asleep contemplating the above points when I was awaken by my phone (I actually thought it was my alarm since I use my phone as an alarm clock when on the road and started getting ready for the day only to realize it was 10pm not 6:30am). At this point I was too awake to go back to sleep and decided to do a little reading. I began reading “Christianity and Literature”, a paper C.S. Lewis wrote in Theology. What he wrote about literature, I think, illustrates the cause of some of my frustrations with research.

“The Christian will take literature a little less seriously than the cultured Pagan…The unbeliever is always apt to make a kind of religion of his aesthetic experiences…The real frivolity, the solemn vacuity, is all with those who make literature a self-existent thing to be valued for its own sake.”

Lewis then at the end of his paper contrasts the unbelievers created “religion” associated with his craft to that of a believer portrayed in Paradiso.

“…Pope Gregory, arrived in Heaven, discovered that his theory of the hierarchies, on which presumably he had taken pains, was quite wrong. We are told how the redeemed soul behaved; it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard.”

The connection between these excerpts and my story may not be obvious, but trust me there is a point. In my view I only pursue research because I’m interested solely in better understanding God’s creation. So my attitude about the meeting is hey lets be honest with the situation, everyone did some really impressive work, but the bottom line is “blah blah blah” (I’ll spare you any specifics here). To everyone else they are even better aware of the bottom line than I am, but it is more important to them that it is shown just how good their work really was. Their main interest being that while this technology was feasible it is important to show the sponsors that they really are good at what they do and hopefully get more money from them for a different project. Now I’ll admit that they have every right and probably even an obligation to do this, but for me this whole “game” is a waste of time and effort. I’ve known this for awhile, but today was one of those days that the fact that stupid politics will have to be dealt with in order to get funding to do research. Thus I’m left with the dilemma of whether my love for research out weights my hatred towards politics.

....also I'll share a short quote from Lewis that I felt like sharing because why not (man I should have made this into a list so I this totally unrelated quote won't stand out).

Walter Hooper (friend of Lewis) told Lewis about an epitaph on someone's tombstone that read "Here lies an atheist, all dressed up but with nowhere to go." To which Lewis replied: "I bet he wishes that were so."