On his triteness

I wrote the following about 8 years ago (the last line was written first, and the rest followed fairly naturally), and I sent it to a few friends who could see what I mean; now I feel the urge to put it out, with a bit of tinkering. Why now? Like its subject matter, it was an exaggeration, even at the time; and I have since changed fields and no longer feel quite as irrelevant. But it still contains some truth. There is enormous excitement in modern molecular biology but I sometimes wonder whether scientific standards are being upheld consistently in the process.

Nonetheless, please do not construe this as serious commentary. That may follow sometime, but not now.

With those disclaimers, here goes…


When I consider how my life is spent
Ere half my days in this bright world of science,
With assumptions, handwaving, and reliance
On toy models that aren’t worth a cent,
In hopes that a paper will soon be sent
To PRL, to Nature or to Science,
Or if nowhere else, perhaps, in defiance,
To a conference or such event:
When funding agencies murmur, “What use
Is it?” I point to goals lofty and high,
It sounds better when I exaggerate.
When experts tell me, that does not excuse
My lack of rigour: to them I reply,
They also research who only speculate.
(2001, revised 2008)

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3 Comments

  1. Milton references can’t be that common in scientific papers?

    Reply
  2. For some reason, questions of relevance did not bother me too much. I assumed with John Donne that we are all connected and what we do touches a few. The problem seems to be with excesses which seems more apparent now with the flow of information.

    Reply
  3. Rahul: Nice poem.

    Reply

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