08 October 2011

Bob Dylan live

Last Thursday night I crossed an item off my bucket list by seeing Bob Dylan play live (though presumably the real time pressure is him kicking the bucket rather than me). Dylan is easily my all time favorite artist, and I've been thinking for a while that I want to see him live before he retires or dies. Carl and I left work around lunchtime and bringing only the tickets, my passport, wallet and toothbrush, flew to Dublin (on Ryanair, which turns out to be essentially the only way to get from England to Dublin. Horrible.). We checked into a hotel room and then headed to a pub where we had a couple of pints of Guinness and took a conference call. We grabbed some dinner and then headed for the main event.

06 October 2011

Words to live by

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
-Steve Jobs

05 October 2011

Humility and Science

I was intrigued (as people from all scientific disciplines were, I imagine) when scientists announced last week that neutrinos had traveled from CERN to Gran Sasso faster than the speed of light. I'm skeptical of the result, and look forward to seeing the physics community scrutinize the results. What struck me even more, however, is the humble way in which the authors presented their results.

Many scientists discover something (apparently) groundbreaking and hold press conferences declaring that they've rewritten the rules (c.f. the Arsenic Life debacle), and start reading up on the protocol of how to address the King of Sweden (especially at this time of year). By contrast, Ereditato and colleagues readily admit that this result could be caused by an undiscovered error in their analysis. "We wanted to find a mistake - trivial mistakes, more complicated mistakes, or nasty effects - and we didn't. When you don't find anything, then you say 'well, now I'm forced to go out and ask the community to scrutinise this'."

I just found it so refreshing to hear from someone with a remarkable result who didn't immediately think they were the greatest scientist in the world. A lesson all practicing scientists should take to heart:

"we are not claiming things, we want just to be helped by the community in understanding our crazy result - because it is crazy"