Words from Wiser People

At the advice of one of my committee members*, I have begun to read more popular science books written by eminent scientists.  Dawkins is obviously on this list and so is Gould, Hawkins and probably several author I haven’t begun to consider yet.  Much of my prior readings have been the classics, Frankenstein, Dracula, I am Legend, On the Road, ect.  I never really read popular science books, mostly because I spent all my day in classes learning about actual science, it seemed redundant to go home and read about it.  While I do not think this was a mistake**, it has been impressed upon me the importance of broadening my horizons.  In graduate school you read literature from a very specific sub field.  The only exposure you get to ideas outside of your field are talks you attend and what you hear from your fellow graduate students, both of which are good, however, they are also quite specific.  Reading popular science allows one to broaden their perspective, without reading millions of journal articles.  It also allows one to get a proper perspective on what is going on so with that I have decided to begin to read more popular books. Gould seemed like a good place to start, and I have very specific reasons, but I don’t care to elaborate on them at this point. I bought a collection of essays and have been working on it diligently.

Today I decided to settle down and read a little bit before Pam got home, and I read a very good essay, talking about a scientist who was apparently duped.  The people who duped him tried to show him the error of his ways and how he had been tricked, but the scientist thought he was on to something monumental and out of vanity he published anyway.  Well, he was torn apart and his reputation tarnished***.  Gould went on to talk about something different, but what struck me was that the scientist was shown hard evidence that he was going to report something that just is not true.  Despite this he pushed forward believing that what he had was monumental and of greatest importance to prove something.  To me this speaks volumes about scientists.  We desire to shake the Earth and find something of great importance.  I know when I first started to work here this Summer, I thought I had found something monumental****.  The lesson I took from Gould’s essay was it is better to report something minor that is true than something monumental that is false.  In one of the classes I am taking this Fall, the professor has stressed to us the only thing we have and the only thing that really matters is our name.  If you put your name to something, make sure it is of quality because it is out there forever in the archives*****.  Right now my name is a blank slate, and it could become anything, it is important to protect my name and develop it in to one that is associated with good science and a sharp mind.  That is my goal from here out.


*He doesn’t know he is on my committee yet.

** I really only read during Summers when I had more free time, that appears to be changing now since I am developing a semi regular schedule.

***Though Gould points out the people who duped him were punished severely while the dupee remained a respected member of the science community.

****Looking back, even if what I had observed was as important as I thought it wouldn’t have gotten published in anything higher than a medium impact journal.

*****Part of the reason why I write anonymously


~ by epiphron13 on October 12, 2010.

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