Sunday, 24 May 2009

question and hope

A couple of quotes from Knots: Mathematics with a Twist by Alexei Sossinsky.
So the arithmetic of knots has not helped us to classify them. But there is scant reason to talk of failure here: Schubert’s theorem <that every knot decomposes uniquely into prime knots> does not need any applications; it is mathematical art for art’s sake, and of the most exalted kind.
Research always begins with a question, and hope.

the anarchy and oligarchy of science

Part 3 of The new information ecosystem: cultures of anarchy and closure by Siva Vaidhyanathan was written some six years ago but remains as relevant now.
Science has always been global, cosmopolitan, messy, inefficient, and troublesome.
Yes, inefficient (or “low-throughput”, as in this blog’s name). All these aspects of science attract me.
Despite some elements of oligarchy, science as a practice succeeds because of, not despite, its ideology of relative openness. Credentialism is more an imperfection rather than a corruption of science.
Of course, credentialism is not a corruption of science: it is its inherent feature. The golden age of science free of credentialism never existed, thus nobody could corrupt it in that way. Still, the other possibilities of corruption are always abound.
As in so many other areas of life — from music to political action — just as communicative technology has allowed the flowering of a new scientific revolution, the oligarchic concerns of commerce and national security have crowded out these democratic values at their sources — the university and laboratory.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

working full-time in science

For the last 20 years, I was working full-time in science. I mean, if molecular biology is a science, then I was working in science. It does not automatically mean I was doing science. Let me elaborate on this a little.

There are very few people out there actually doing Science. A lot of people are said to be “working in science” though. Maybe they are working in places which have scientificky-sounding names, for instance “Department of Molecular Biology”. Here, “working” means they are get paid for being there. (Check Wikipedia for many other meanings of work.) When one has a chance to leave this kind of employment for something less esoteric but never uses this chance, (s)he is said to choose “staying in science”. I like the expression “staying in science” more than “working in science” because it, obviously, does not imply any work.

I am not employed any longer full-time (or part-time for that matter) in science or otherwise. Therefore, I can write whatever I please, about science and other stuff one always wants to write while in full-time employment but never has any time.

Wordle: low-throughput

I mean, they can’t kick me out.