Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cool research, outside the academy

music

Last months in Adamawa
After the last post, electricity returned, and we've had so many hours per day now that I'm mildly sleep-deprived. Basically, whenever we have power, I'm up "using" it, to watch DVDs, read, etc. Watching Indian films now : finaly saw Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, a tearjerker love story with all the biggest names (except Aishwarya), Girlfriends is a surprising thriller - think Fatal Attraction but with girlfriends ;), there was a comedy called mujhse-shaadi karogi (Will You Marry Me?)that draws me to Goa , and I fell asleep watching more last night.

My answer, finally, to the first cry in this blog, dated July 2005, that I've discovered no new science...well, it is silly that I expected to be a researcher in 2004. (OK, 2005 less silly.) It takes time (for some people, for me) to have anything to say. I think the time will come, come soon even, but sad that I didn't know how to have more realistic expectations. Perhaps it's something that PhD programs can teach more to reduce the angst and pain. Ideally, though, it won't be in our trade papers that I do all or even most of my work, because I'm special and prefer higher impact even if it's unusual. That, does not come easily to many scientists. Although my gradschool advisor is way cooler than average, it's still a funny bunch that elects to live in Caltech. Ah yes, I'm planning to go back to grad school, in spite of being certain to be unhappy there, unhappy at least relative to eating cheaply and living simply in Adamawa State.

Compare Pasadena, the town in which I was somehow always a little sad. At least I learned a lot, including this work-life balance thing, how to be productive and relevant while selfishly keeping oodles of ME time. How to get knocked down and get up again. Not to mention practical things like driving and googling. Met some assholes and some lovely people, learned about white people and their civilization, enjoyed wealth for a bit (not that I was making a mega-salary but that the ambiance - the landscaping and the big-money equipment and everybody round having food and health, clothing and shelter, internet and extra, and the time and equipment to be scientists...it was quite a wealthy community.) The sad thing is that I wasn't even one of the sadder people around. What manner of progress ends up with sad people? At Howard, with black folk, there were sometimes delays, annoying people, but not the general sadness at 'Tech. Maybe things have changed since the President changed - he had a clue as to how to make a people sad: work long and hard on "interesting" problems without a clear view as to the real-world solutions and impact of the work. That's the winning formula for sadness.

Finally, the research
What could be more important than better understanding infant care? I watched this thing on Oprah years ago in which a chic analysed and classified baby cries so that you can see scientifically "why" the baby is crying. I wish more girls would do science and have fun with it. In
The Secret Language of Babies: The Five Cries of Newborns
Priscilla Dunstan [claims] babies of different races and culture all have the same five cries ... and since we all have the same reflexes the sounds are the same. (Check the five sounds here, get the DVD)


If you're into this astrology thing, The Pisces Effect is intriguing. Kenneth Mitchell scientifically relates Zodiac sun signs to specific Olympic sports, finding for instance that the percentage of medals in a sport such as swimming or archery, is not evenly distributed among the 12 signs, but actually skewed in favour of their corresponding signs: Pisces and Sagittarius.

Why would I want to be a synchronized swimmer of all things: some attractions - movement, rhythm, it's not goal-oriented in the narrow way that besting your fastest time in running or swimming is, it's more "aesthetic" and "cultural," it's low-impact (safe, no injuries), and it involves teammates so that the stress is lower. Basically you have fun trying it, happy if you win, whatevs if you don't. Makes sense that a Taurean would dig it. Taureans are the synchro queens, per The Pisces Effect. And I dreamt of doing synchro years before reading this, you know?

And great news
TWO cybercafes just opened in my area, feet from the university. 50% lower price even. And they may soon have a wireless subscription. My XO laptop aka One Laptop Per Child, would come in handy then, since electricity is not guaranteed. Can't wait to test the laptop out if/when it arrives.

3 comments:

Erik Donald France said...

That's so cool you got one of those "world laptops" -- how well does it work? (I just got a hand crank solar radio that's pretty cool, for $25)

Excellent stuff here!

Erik Donald France said...

As a Sagittarius, looks like I jumped the gun on your laptop ;->

Hope it comes soon and works handily.

t said...

Priscilla Dunstan's Sound Reflex theory on Wikipedia: Baby Language