duermemucho's diary

duermemucho's Diaryland Diary


science fails

I've said before that I went into science not because I like it but because I hate everything else. That isn't completely true, however. The hard sciences tend to attract people like me because they are emotionally safe. By that I mean one can obtain, interpret, and describe one's data without incurring from it any particular emotion (ignoring for the moment the micromanaging ways of one's dissertation advisor), and without having to rely on one's emotions for guidance. That is a monumental advantage for someone like me, for whom emotions are always difficult, no matter what they are.

A week or two ago I was helping Lark and her parents move some things out of her former house, which is now up for sale. Her three year old daughter was along for the ride, since there was nobody to watch her otherwise. She came along to find this house, which before her current residence is the only place she can remember living, completely gutted and cleared of all furniture and most personal belongings, with a gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling (the result of water leakage). At a moment when the two of us were alone in one room while I collected loose items, she blurted out "what happened with this house?", in a voice that was not so much sad as genuinely confused. Her reaction, as far as I could tell, was emotionally neutral.

I never answered her question. I can't do things like that. I couldn't have said "Well, the roof partially caved in and everything is filthy because nobody's lived here in a few months, since your parents got divorced. And while that may not be your fault, it would be a lie to say you had nothing to do with it, since if you weren't around they probably would not have worried so much about what would happen in the near future, had you not existed." It was not a scientific question (regardless of her emotionless tone of voice), so answering it was not something I could manage. A little girl's sadness generally doesn't depend upon whether such-and-such hormone receptor contains fibronectin type III domains. No human suffering hinges on whether or not the heat liberated by olefin polymerization can be dissipated by an ambient-pressure cooled water jacket. Whatever answer you get to those problems, nobody is going to go home hungry or sad.


My cat has been joined by a second cat, much younger, male, and (unlike my sweet but uptight adult cat) playful. As I type this he is purring wildly and trying to drag my old camera off the desk by its carrying strap. I don't know if my other cat will forgive me. She seems genuinely depressed and confused...still sitting in my lap but not purring, going to the food dish or litter box only with great hesitation, fearful that her playful little brother is about to leap out from around a corner and sink his teeth into her tail. Again, science fails me.

7:19 p.m. - 2007-01-30


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