Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's the little things that (you) count

  "I didn't think I would be doing all these little annoying things as a scientist!" I'm paraphrasing a graduate student's recent complaint, but the sentiment is familiar to grad students and postdocs. Tagging along with the amount of writing we do, the amount of small tasks we deal with seems incongruent with the big science we want to do. And it's hard to tell a new undergraduate, or to realize as a grad student, or to remind yourself as a postdoc, that those small things necessary and essential to the big science. What do I mean by 'little things'?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Forcing yourself to write

  For someone in the sciences, I sure write a lot. That's not a surprise to anyone in academia, I think, or indeed in a professional career. We can't get away from grant writing, job cover letters, manuscripts at various stages, emailing colleagues, posters, and (in some cases) blogs. And yet whenever I teach science writing, or have a science course that emphasizes writing, students complain about that aspect and how it's not 'real science'.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Trying to decide if I'm ambivalent

  A recent article by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker magazine examined audio recordings and advances in high-fidelity listening experiences. It's behind a paywall, but don't worry - understanding today's theme doesn't depend on understanding 3D sound. In the article, Gopnik explains a hard life choice he had to make to an old mentor, Albert Bregman. Here's Bregman's reaction: 

"'Oh,' he said, springing back up cheerfully. 'In that case, it doesn’t matter. If it’s a hard decision, then there’s always lots to be said on both sides, so either choice is likely to be good in its way. Hard choices are always unimportant.'"