March 31, 2003

Tough to get things revving on Monday

It's always so tough to get started and motivated on Monday's for me. Most normal people (i.e. scientists) out there can't wait to get into the lab and get going on Monday's. I only get those bursts of excitement occasionally nowadays. I've been reading James Watson's "The Double Helix" in the hopes of trying to spark that motivation once again. Honestly, reading his recollections of those momentous years is quite comforting, given the fact that he also had difficulty engaging in those scientific pursuits that he had to follow. I get the impression that his mind was always wandering towards other "distractions"--but the difference between me and him is that his other distractions were other scientific problems and not the distractions that I'm tempted with, like the war news coverage, or just any news coverage in general. I could be wrong though. I'm also currently enjoying another occupation--being a dad. I wouldn't say he's just another "distraction." He's more than that, he's now my life. I'll leave with an interesting quote from the book. When talking about Linus Pauling, James Watson says:

...The key to Linus' success was his reliance on the simple laws of structural chemistry. The a-helix had not been found by only staring at X-ray pictures; the essential trick, instead, was to ask which atoms like to sit next to each other. In place of pencil and paper the main working tools were a set of molecular models superficially resembling the toys of preschool children.
     We could thus see no reason why we should not solve DNA in the same way. All we had to do was to construct a set of molecular models and begin to play--with luck, the structure would be a helix. Any other type of configuration would be much more complicated. Worrying about complications before ruling out the possibility that the answer was simple would have been damned foolishness. Pauling never got anywhere by seeking out messes.
p. 38 (Watson, 1968)

Words that ring true not just to science, but to all aspects of life. The simplest explanations tend to be the truthful ones. Watson here just described the age-old adage--Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Use it to evaluate the scientific hypotheses that come across your desk, use it to evaluate the news, use it to evaluate your vocation in life. Let me know if it works for you.

Posted by johnvu at March 31, 2003 04:09 PM
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