Wednesday, December 20, 2006

'Tis the season

'Tis the season when the local newspaper receives multiple letters complaining about the "War on Christmas".
There isn't one.
'Tis the season when saying "Happy Holidays!" is construed to be a slight against Christianity.
It isn't.
'Tis the season when politicians preach good will towards all men.
They don't mean it.
'Tis the season when rampant consumerism goes way beyond "rampant".
Not what it should be about.
'Tis the season when homeless people freeze to death unnoticed.
Remember them?
'Tis the season when genocide goes unchecked while the first world turns the other way.
'Tis the season when many of us eat more in a day than many others have for a week.
Do you really need a third helping? Do I?

But despite all this,
'Tis the season where I wish one and all


And that is the word of the day. No definition required.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thoughts on thinking

Ever think about the form in which you think? I have been lately. As I type this I'm thinking in words, more or less. But I also sometimes think in pictures, both static and moving. Or mixtures of words and pictures. Although I haven't talked to people about this, I suspect this is true for many people. But those aren't the only forms in which I think...

When I think about my science, my research, I think in molecules. Spinning, writhing, twisting, tumbling molecules. Amino acids, peptides and proteins. Water and ions. Atoms bonded to one another, interacting with bangs, thumps and bright colorful sparks. Molecules dancing around one another, twisting in knots. Crashing into one another. Sticking to each other like tiny fragments of velcro, or being flung apart by rainbow sheets of repulsive energy.

I see a weird and wonderful world in my head that cannot be seen using existing technology. This of course can be a bit of a problem for me. I can "see" in my head how some of the systems I work on behave, but I don't have the tools in the laboratory required to measure what I see. This can be frustrating. Of course what I see in my head could be wrong. But I don't think it can be completely wrong. My molecule thoughts have their basis in what I've found during my research, what I've read, and from talking to fellow scientists. I think my molecule thoughts are more right than wrong. But I can't prove it.

There are many scientists who would respond to my admission by deriding it as pure fantasy, nonsense, or the product of a disturbed mind (which it may well be). Not, I'd wager, those whom I admire, whose work has, and continues to have, profound influence upon mine. They might think in molecules. Or they might not. It doesn't matter. They would understand.

So there you have it. I'm weirder than you thought, if that's possible. Accept it, move on, and tell me, in what forms do you think?

Word of the post:


A sense that something is about to occur; a premonition.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Unsolicited advice

Don't eat beans before a plane ride.

Word of the post:

im·prov·i·dent [im-prov-i-duhnt]

1. not provident; lacking foresight; incautious; unwary.
2. neglecting to provide for future needs.

Example: See story linked above.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Yes, yes, I know...'s been a long time between posts. It's not that I have nothing to say. There's just so much to choose from; Darfur, Microsoft's Zune, Iraq, the Ashes series in Australia, the perennial blather topic of Bush, Docstymie's discovery that he is one degree of separation from J. Robert Oppenheimer, Father of the Atomic Bomb (which means I'm also one degree of separation from him, and we're both two degrees of separation from Edward Teller, and probably no more than three from Albert Einstein)... No, it's not a lack of subjects. It's a lack of time. So, dear readers, I present you with this gem from Norway, land of smoked salmon and tax-free strippers.

Word of the post:

ineluctable \in-ih-LUCK-tuh-buhl-adjective

Impossible to avoid or evade; inevitable.

Example: “Those war plans rested on a belief in the ineluctable superiority of the offense over the defense” (Jack Beatty).