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MIT student blogger Keri G. '10

Journal of Negative Results, among other things by Keri G. '10

Absurdities I encounter while livin' my life.

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.

“Hi Keri,

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.”

…um. Okay.


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.


(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.

21 responses to “Journal of Negative Results, among other things”

  1. Reena says:

    1. Journal of Negative Results – YES
    2. Revolving doors… are awesome. But why are so many of them always… locked? (Or unpushable. Or something.) Last time I was at MIT I encountered two revolving doors, neither of which worked. And was like “…If I happen to get in, I’m seeing if I can do something about this.”
    (If anyone is reading this and does something about that… if in fact it’s still the case… well, thanks :D I love you.)

    Anyhow. Liked the post! smile

  2. Anonymous says:

    Journal of Negative Results is the best idea ever.

  3. Reena says:

    …man, I was actually first. And I didn’t say it, knowing that probably wouldn’t happen.

    How in-the-spirit with this blog entry, right?

  4. deng says:

    you only have one midterm and one final? do some professors not give those exams or something?

  5. LSK says:

    I would like a journal documenting experiments in which a lofty hypothesis was shot down.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “Fox Network’s repeated cancellation of critically acclaimed television shows”


    Someone count the ways, please.

    Firefly, Action, etc.

  7. D@MIT says:

    “Item the first: The Journal of Negative Results. … Currently, no one I have spoken to about this idea has approved.”

    Right there — game, set, and match!

  8. Rebeca says:

    The Journal of Negative Results is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time!! =D

    (Maybe this is due to the fact that I just did two experiments – one in psych and one in chem – and neither of my hypotheses were correct. Can you put me in your journal?)

    As a really belated response to the stuck in the airport thing… I got stuck in the airport on my way back from visiting MIT this summer. Apparantly it was raining in my good ol’ homestate of Florida and the planes are like the Wicked Witch of the West or something, so all flights in were cancelled until the afternoon of the following day.

  9. Ahmed says:

    I have been re-listening to that concert almost nonstop since Saturday.

    SO CUTE!

  10. hamsi says:

    lolll this entry was fun to read
    i’m definitely lovin’ the journal of negative results idea – and YAY COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE. if i get into mit, that’s what i want to study

  11. Chris B. '12 says:

    1) The fact that you are alive means I can therefore laugh at the incident with no shame. I’m sad i didn’t whip out my phone though.

    2) I don’t know if the amount of photos was enough for a full pint. Laurie, yo should only get her half a pint

  12. omar '10 says:

    i approve of the journal, it might be a good way for me to get published one day. maybe i could even include the number of times i tried to distill X chemical just to find it combusted instead of pure.

    haha at you falling down the stairs. i’m also glad you’re alive.

    you don’t fail at life, not anymore than i do at least. your test story just reminds me of the multiple grades below 50 i’ve gotten since I started sophomore year as course 10. some of those were B+/A-.

  13. Matt A. says:

    Make sure that journal of negative results is well publicized, I’ll want a copy.

  14. Oasis '11 says:

    You should blog more. smile

  15. Paul says:

    I remember hearing about this revolving door back in the summer. I think Laurie should have put some sort of expiration date on her offer. smile

    Glad to see you blogging again.

  16. Snoop says:

    Welcome to the real world.

  17. exhibit a says:

    So basically, a journal made of fail.

    …yes, I *did* just say that. I felt like someone was going to eventually, so I figured I’d go ahead and be the one. Cheers!

  18. Laurie '11 says:

    It’s about time! smile

    I remember the “OMG revolving doors” thing, but I totally forgot about the ice cream promise, lol. In any case, I will buy you a pint of delicious peachy cobblery ice-cold B&Js; the next time I am in the vicinity of La Verdes.

    Why do the revolving door links not work?

  19. Charlotte says:

    Guys, guys, the Journal of Negative Results has long been out there:

  20. Anonymous says:

    umm… so hey I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while, but do you know of any experiments on the trade-off between speed and accuracy, open-loop control, sensorimotor adaptation, whatever?

  21. Ivan says:

    Great Post

    When you publish your “Journal of Negative Results”,add these two phrases by Thomas Edison:

    1.”Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. “

    2. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”

    So you didn’t just find only one offspring that showed any change in circadian period, you also found 303 other … (I can’t think of something creative/correct to say right now, but I’m sure this is a perfect ending to the phrase).

    Will you post about MIT’s “Journal of Negative Results”? (You could ask your friends what researches they have tried to do and the outcome may not have come out the way they were hoping for/expecting).