Sunday 26 February 2017

Nothing worse?

Since September at The Institute I've been the adult in the room AIRT for a group of final year students doing their research projects. In an ideal world, this would occupy a very large chunk of their time: putting all they have learned in the previous three years into scientific practice. In fact it takes up a mere a chunk [rather than v.l. ditto] and we continue to lurry in more curriculum content which only helps to impede the crucial sifting and integration of facts and concepts. These students, let's call them the A-Team because that's what they call themselves, have chosen to push the frontiers of molecular evolution using computers, software and databases rather than by flipping Eppendorfs or pouring Petri dishes. We have great esprit de corps and typically spend the first few minutes of each class with some gossip and slaggin' before everyone turns to the work before them.

I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Isaac Newton
The great thing about science is that there are plenty of pebbles to go round!

The other day, who knows how? we were talking about cookies and someone pipes up "There's nothing worse when you bite into what you think is a chocolate chip cookie and your teeth encounter a raisin" to which one of her pals calls out "You should try HIV".

In the fracas over the stitching up of Sergeant McCabe by circulating a covert and demonstrably incorrect report that he was an abuser of children, many politicians and journalists referred to the accusation as the worst thing that could be said about anyone.  Hmmm, that shows a distinct, and lazy, want of imagination.

It reminds me of a very old frisson joke (must be old: I heard it is school and that was before the first war):
Young person is told by person in authority that s/he has done wrong and will be punished with a whipping:
"No No not the whip, anything but the whip."
"The whip! The whip!"

And that put me back 50 years to the place where I received a chunk of my very expensive education between 1968 and 1972. My older brother, in his last year in school, was promoted to being the boy in charge BIC of a large group of smaller chaps. He was like the non-commissioned officer managing the HR with a specified adult called the house-master. Civil rights were in the air and these two young men decided that corporal punishment - hitting small boys with a stick - was no longer going to happen on their watch. They issued a diktat to that effect, adding that transgressors would be called in to reflect on their sins and misdemeanours; the better to understand why such behaviour was unacceptable in that society. Well there was mutiny in the ranks! Most thirteen year old boys can put up with [indeed embrace in many cases] physical hardship, not to dwell on the pain, but are much less well equipped for Ethics 101.

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