Monday, November 12, 2012

My problem with science

Even though it has been almost 5 years since I last wrote a post, something I read today really made me want to write about it. It's an adaptation of the commencement speech given by Richard Feynman at Caltech about 38 years ago! What's amazing is that it still seems so relevant, probably even more than before. I guess the timing of my reading it was pretty appropriate. I've been sitting here with my laptop, with my thesis proposal presentation half-done. I should've been working on it. Instead, I was caught up worrying about the implications of these experiments (tons of negative data and some apparently contradicting what others have published). Of course, these thoughts led to other 'bigger picture' questions:

"Do I enjoy doing experiments? Can I deal with this stress? Can I do this for a living? Can I do this for life?"

I really think you should read the lecture, especially if you're a scientist. I should admit that I haven't stated "my problem with science" as I mentioned in the title. It's just that this lecture is one the most well-written ones regarding this sensitive (if I may say so) topic and reflects my thoughts in a much better way than I could have ever done myself.

It's the last paragraph that really moved me.  It didn't answer any of my questions but it helped me realize that it's not the 'failing' experiments, the stress or the money that are the problem. It's beyond all of that. It's the way science is done. Having said that, I think I am a novice in the field and hope that my opinion is one of a pessimist's and not a realist's.

Here's the paragraph:

"So I have just one wish for you--the good luck to be somewhere
where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have
described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain
your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on,
to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom."


Please tell me that there is some hope of finding that freedom and making science fun again.