Monday, December 1, 2008

White Hot Science

For this month's Scientiae Carnival, Isis the Scientist has asked us all to tell what makes our science "hotter than Dr. Isis's Naughty Monkeys". Well, here goes...

I'd like to start by discussing the meaning of the term 'hot'. Because we don't all mean the same thing when we say something is 'hot'. Sometimes we mean trendy - the 'hot' areas of science are the ones that are rapidly growing - it seems like 'everyone' is talking about and trying to get into this field. We could also say that a particular field is 'hot' because it is producing a lot of interesting or even unexpected results.

I've got both of these covered by my white hot science. I'm not going to come right out and tell you what that field is - it's so hot, that if I told you, the shock and awe might kill you. And if it didn't, I'd have to hunt you down and kill you myself.

I study things that people have been studying for a long time, but I look at these things in a fundamentally different way. Not a lot of labs are really set up to do the kind of work that is the bread and butter of the lab in which I am doing my thesis research. We have no shortage of potential collaborators - labs that have been studying a system for a long time who want to add a new approach, but aren't in a position to do what we do for themselves. Our approach is 'hot'. I hope it persists in its hotness (though perhaps mellowing a bit as the field ages) because I kind of like the fact that I am sometimes considered 'hot' by association.

I also think my science is 'hot' because I have gotten to see phenomena that were predicted and described in theoretical work in the 1970's and early 1980's, but were not observable until recently. In fact, I have not been able to find ten papers that report observing, in any system, the phenomena I characterize in the paper I am just now writing. I hadn't really thought about it, until someone mentioned how 'cool' they thought it was that I cited all these 'ancient' papers in my recent talk. I had thought of them as these wonderful old chestnuts, that everyone simply must read to understand the field. But then I realized that the authors of those papers have been waiting for decades for someone to figure out how to directly observe what they predicted - so they could find out if they were right! If that isn't 'hot', I don't know what is.

5 comments:

Academic said...

I wonder how the theories will hold up in light of now being observable. Sounds like fun!

Comrade PhysioProf said...

That shit sounds motherfucking cool! w00t!!!!

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde said...

Super mega hot, by the description of it. Rock on.

Amelie said...

That does sound hot. Wow!

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