Tuesday, July 14, 2009


We've got friends coming over soon with two, very poorly behaved young girls. They're not bad girls, it's just that their parents are of the no-scold type. So of course, the kids cry when I tell them, "no, please don't do that," which I refrain from saying for as long as I can stand it. To mitigate my stress, (i) we put away all we can and lock all doors we can and (ii) I'm having a couple beers prior to their arrival. (Update: keeping the kids outside in combination with a number of beers made for a fun time)

Another thing that gets me heated is reading certain people's papers. There are just a few groups in the world who can do what my collaborators and I can do. Instead, of reveling in this exclusivity, the other groups have this ongoing sniping. Where, might you ask, is the sniping taking place? Why, in the printed pages of journals. Of course, this makes no sense forcing future readers to figure out what's what. Instead, it seems obvious to me, our groups should be communicating (by phone, email, or, heaving forbid, in person) directly and resolving these issues and attacks. If we agree, then we publish that, and if not, we acknowledge the difference of opinion. Instead, as an example, we have now in print our original paper, followed by a paper by group 2 which says we are wrong about something. Then along comes group 3 who says we are right about that, but our explanation of another point is wrong. So our next paper will likely address this latter point, and who knows what group 2 will put in print next. Ridiculous.

Some interesting links:

  • cool pic of supersonic plane
  • flying self-contained robots
  • videos explaining physics symbols
  • When I was little, I dreamed of owning a Ferrari someday. I thought them beautiful and the idea of driving one spiritual (I argued I wasn't being materialistic since I didn't want to show it off, and would be happy just renting one whenever I wanted to drive one). That dream has faded a bit, but this post renews my interest.

Finally, I'll close by addressing the utility of mentoring as addressed today by the FSP. She notes that women seem to gain more benefit from having a mentor than men. I have no ideas about that, but I do have doubts that any such study could remove the influence of an unofficial mentor who may not even be at the same institution.

I maintain some bitterness (neh, anger?) about the help that I've seen ``competitors" get from certain, more senior folks in the committee. In certain cases, one sees some senior person essentially adopt a young researcher, getting them invitations to talk, authorship of review articles, etc. Just a couple of such moves have an inordinate effect, because then more invitations and attention flows because people hop on the bandwagon. This young researcher then becomes a de factor spokesperson for the field, independent of the merits of their research. If the young person is reasonably friendly and a good speaker, their career is largely set.
I suppose I'm bitter because my entire career could have been different given a couple such efforts of others. Not just that, but I've also been a bit betrayed by a couple folks in whom I had hopes of being such a mentor. I really don't mean to sound so self-pitying. I suppose I just want to stress to the young folk out there, is to scope out such possible benefactors, and kiss their ass like your career depends on it.