Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Science and Other Stuff
Agnostic Mom has been putting out a call for greater support of the sciences. Gregg100 laid out a great challenge to her and others detailing what he believes it will take. The task is formidable. Gregg also sets out a rather daunting scenario as regards the difficult future anyone looking to engineering or other sciences is likely to face. It can be a hard and uncertain road. I certainly don't dispute his assertions.
However, I think it should be said that it's tough all over. The only areas of study which seem to pretty much always promise a bright future are business management and marketing. MBAs seem to generally write their own ticket. Otherwise, finding good and steady work is generally difficult for about everyone. It's even tough for graduating doctors, dentists and attorneys.
I have a nephew who has a PhD in English Literature. Over the last 3 years or so he has sent out several hundred resumes in response to available teaching positions at colleges and universities all over the country. He has taken dozens of interviews. He can't get arrested. He is hardly alone.
Things do change. Who knows, maybe someday there will be an administration more friendly to the sciences. Perhaps there will be a shift in attitudes. Maybe astronomers will detect an asteroid on a collision course with earth, and there will be a call for scientists of all kinds to figure out how to save our bacon.
As I note above, business seems to be the only area which consistently offers a rosy future. Of course, business at any level is competitive, even cut throat. But it is consumerism that rules the roost in this country and much of the west. A few months ago I was perusing a rack of novelties at a truck stop on the way to Chicago. Prominently displayed at the top of the rack were several packages of plastic vomit. Yeah, plastic vomit! A closer look at the brightly printed package revealed to me that it wasn't just plastic vomit. It was "New and Improved" plastic vomit. New and improved? Who improved it? How? Why? How good does plastic vomit have to be?
I immediately conjured an image of a group of r&d people spending months, perhaps years, of their professional lives researching how to improve plastic vomit. Imagine all their efforts. All the mis-steps, the disappointments, the blind alleys, the taking one step forward, only to wind up taking two steps back. Then, that eureka! moment. Perhaps, just as the young chemist is settling in for a long winter's nap, it comes to him in a flash. By jove, he's got it!!! He rips the covers off, and barely dressed, his shirt mis-buttoned, his pocket protector askew, he speeds off to his workplace in his '79 Plymouth Volare, excitedly calling his colleagues beseeching them to drop everything and make haste to the lab while repeatedly pushing his bottle lensed glasses back up the bridge of his nose. After they mull over hundreds of complicated mathematical equations and various chemical formulae, they mix the proper polywhatevers, and voila! THE PLASTIC VOMIT FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. Oh, the glory!!!
I often wonder how good many products we use have to be? Razors? Toothbrushes? Detergents? How much time, effort and money are going into continually improving these and other products? How many talented and well educated design engineers, chemists, geneticists, even physicists are involved? What more useful things could they be doing with their time, education and talents? Do we really need improved razors or toothbrushes or detergents? Or plastic vomit?
PS - To Agnostic Mom - You Arizonans got our splendid running back. The Edge is now a Cardinal. A Cardinal for crying out loud! Oh, Edgerrin, we hardly new ye! And Peyton? Watch your back!