Oct 27, 2008
Journal of Negative Results, among other things
Posted in: Miscellaneous
It's been a while. Hi.
(This is a long post, but you won't complain, right?)
Item the first: The Journal of Negative Results.
My advisor and 9.12 professor Carlos Lois unwittingly helped me discover my ultimate goal in life during class two weeks ago, when we were discussing the isolation of the Clock gene in mice. Clock is the result of a point mutation in chromosome 5, leading to an extension of the circadian period from ~24 hours to a little over 25 hours. To express this mutation, scientists injected isogenic male mice with ENU, a nasty little mutagen that initially causes sterility while creating point mutations all over the place. After the period of sterility, the mice were bred with normal female mice to produce a generation of offspring with random point mutations. Scientists then observed the circadian periods of all of the offspring, looking for any mice expressing an extended circadian period but otherwise normal.
Although it was really the only effective way to perform this study, there are a ton of things inherently flawed with this quick-and-dirty method of looking for a mutation, the most obvious one being the sheer improbability of randomly changing the correct base pair and hitting upon the correct point mutation. Sure enough, of the 304 offspring, only one showed any change in circadian period. It was pure luck that it didn't have other major mutations.
To this, Carlos said, "This is typical of many scientific studies. About 95% of the work people do in research never gets published. What do you expect? There's no Journal of Negative Results." He was joking. I am not.
I immediately decided that my life's goal (previously just "not to live in a cardboard box after graduation") would be to establish the Journal of Negative Results, dedicated to the epic failures in science, engineering, and life. The inaugural issue would include the existence of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Thomas Edison's hundreds of failed attempts at inventing a commercially useful incandescent lightbulb, and the Fox Network's repeated cancellation of critically acclaimed television shows.
Currently, no one I have spoken to about this idea has approved.
I'm just trying to make everyone feel better about themselves, okay?
Item the second: Stairs, and falling down them.
As you can probably deduce from the above subheading, I fell down a bunch of steps the other day. This occurred outside the end of the Infinite across from Building 18. There was no snow or rain to justify my fall. As far as I can tell, I tripped over myself before sliding down six steps on my right thigh, all the while doing some strange rotation straight out of The Matrix. Frantic paddling through the air was involved.
Chris '12 described it as both an "epic fall" and an "epic fail." He also laughed at me for about five minutes (after making sure I was still alive, of course).
Item the third: The importance of revolving doors.
Remember that one time I was stuck in an airport overnight? The next day, I and 1,203 other people were sworn in as US citizens. 103 of the other 1,203 were Jamaican. 170 were Haitian. 441 were Cuban. I love living in Miami.
(I mailed my absentee ballot today. It was exciting.)
That should be enough to get you to understand the first half of the first sentence of this email, because the rest of Laurie '11's message is one of the strangest things I've ever seen.
In honor of your new US citizenship, I think you should write a blog about revolving doors at MIT. I don't know how these things are related, but I think it would be cool.
Apparently they're kind of a big deal, environmentally speaking:
(The report is actually kind of funny, especially in the part where it addresses student complaints with revolving doors, bottom of page 5.)
If you do, I will totally buy you a pint of ice cream, and that's a fact."
I love the people I live with. (Laurie: Ben and Jerry's Peach Cobbler. Yes, you may have some.)
(Note: For the record, I have never fallen into or through a revolving door. Just thought you all should know.)
Item the fourth: My 9.10 exam, and how it is representative of everything in my life.
Due to a combination of awesome scheduling skillz and sheer luck on my part, this semester I have no classes on Fridays and a total of one midterm and one final. That midterm was this morning, in 9.10 (Cognitive Neuroscience). I am determined not to fail at life this semester, so I studied the crap out of that exam.
After waking up at 5:30PM on Sunday night having only previously looked at the study questions for about half a second, that is.
Don't judge me. I've been suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome for a few years, and it's been particularly severe this semester. I'm sleeping upwards of twelve hours every day, and I'm still exhausted all the time. I've been to Medical. All of my tests are normal. This is a serious issue. Inform your children.
Wait, where was I?
Oh, right. Failing at life. More specifically, not doing it.
I worked until 4 AM with a 9.10 study group on the most epic Google Doc ever to grace the face of the earth, containing eighteen pages of answers to all of the review questions. We spent over two hours on a particularly dense, detailed lecture on motor systems - I now know motor systems better than essential items permanently etched in my brain, like lyrics to the entirety of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures and the script of every episode of Futurama. (You know, important things.)
Go ahead. Ask me about experiments on the trade-off between speed and accuracy, open-loop control, sensorimotor adaptation, whatever. DO IT.
Most of you probably know where this is going, so I'll spare you the details and skip to the depressing numbers.
Number of review questions on motor systems (out of ~60): 15.
Number of exam questions on motor systems (out of 18): 0.
Hate at everything.
HATE AT EVERYTHING.
(In case you didn't catch that, here's what I said: HATE. AT. EVERYTHING.)
Item the fifth: How girls in indie bands are the cutest beings alive.
Ahmed told me he might be blogging this, so I won't steal his thunder. Just know that the WMBRlive concerts have shown me something important about life:
If I could take the St. Mannequins and the girl from Drug Rug, stick them in a tiny box, and just carry the box of adorable girls playing music about dinosaurs and elephants around with me all the time, I would be eternally happy.
This is the most important revelation I have had this semester.
Second only to the Journal of Negative Results, of course.