a slant and fact slam

There were two reader comments to the nuclear energy overview:

Bibi wrote:

Don’t you think that it would have been better for your career if you would have sticked more to the math and physics you were dealing with in your daily work than with this quite political stuff? As I understood nuclear science is not your speicality so I bet there are enough nuclear scientists who could do a better job than you in explaining the above. For example you could discuss articles in your subject or report about talks. For your art and design audience you could for example explain basic but essential things like vector diagrams.

Victor wrote:

Hi Bibi – I am Victor but I am no diagram! :-)
You are right, important science should explained by experts.
Nuclear tech is clean tech. Author is non-expert.
But randform blog is entertaining. Gives me good times.
Bibi did you see blog post with title: “randform was a bit on the sites” ?
Unemployed randform author says Bill Gates investment in
TWR technology is probably critical! So funny.

This post is an answer to the above comments. The answer includes also a brief outlook on future randform activities.



Bibi wrote: Don’t you think that it would have been better for your career if you would have sticked more to the math and physics you were dealing with in your daily work than with this quite political stuff?

I wrote here (and repeated it here) that it is important to distinguish between aspects which can be rather scientifically assessed (which refer to “scientific FACTS or arguments”) and emotional/political aspects (which refer to personal “opinions or SLANTS”). From the comment on we-make-money-not-art:

Let me explain what I mean with political descisions: I think I would myself opt for using nuclear energy e.g. if nothing works anymore and everybody would be starving. Luckily we are not yet at that point. I would not opt to use nuclear energy so that jetting around becomes easy and cheap, since I know about the risks of nuclear energy. One could avoid a lot of that waste of energy without too much pain. So in a political debate you have to balance the known scientific facts. And people have to be informed. Especially about the risks.

Hence you are right my claim -that I think it is currently better to stay away from nuclear power generation- is a personal choice and it is a political statement. In the posts I tried to list and link the scientific arguments on which this political claim is balanced. In particular if you come up with strong enough scientific arguments, like important arguments that I haven’t considered or arguments which correct a scientific fact or interpretation I might change my opinion. However I have thought about this issue for quite a bit and weighed the arguments quite a lot forth and back.

So the blog posts on nuclear energy were intended as a collection of science related links and they are not a political rant. In general I think it is -especially as a scientist- important to make also a political statement, because it gives those people a guideline, who do not know all the scientific facts. It is however important to mark what is a personal opinion,i.e. something which is balanced on scientific facts but which is still an opinion. (In some cases it will not be easy to distinguish between personal opinion and scientific claims, because for example the scientific data might be too blurry, incomplete or contradicting, one could call this then may be a scientific opinion). I think it would be useful if every scientist would make at least some of her/his opinions visible (but mark them as such).

Bibi wrote: As I understood nuclear science is not your speicality so I bet there are enough nuclear scientists who could do a better job than you in explaining the above.

Yes nuclear science is not my speciality, i.e. I am not an expert but -this refers also to Victor – I am also not a non-expert. I.e. I put quite some care in being scientifically correct (which doesn’t exclude that there are mistakes, which I hope my readers will point out to me). And I know what it means to be scientifically correct. Apart from this it certainly helped that I received a scientific training and that I have -last but not least due to my university studies- an above average knowledge of math and physics (amongst others I had also to pass a german diploma examination in nuclear science). The training enables me to treat the involved scientific issues eventually faster and/or maybe more careful than this would be done without such a training. It should also be mentioned that a lot of the science which is involved here is rather basic. Like the chain reacton and simple reactor types used to be part of Bavarian high school physics education (Gymnasium) in my times. (I write in my times because the high school education in Bavaria was just recently drastically shortened, so this might have fallen off the curricula, like other important things did.)

You are also right that it would probably have more impact if an established faculty member with a high scientific reputation in physics or nuclear engineering would state that what I stated in the nuclear energy posts (if this faculty member would have only few teaching obligations that would be even easier for this faculty member than for me). So I understand that you regard my work here on the blog as a futile effort. Whatsoever – I got the impression that there are not too many such faculty members who express their concerns in the way I did in the posts and I just think the issue is incredibly important. So -yes maybe- this is/was a futile effort, but on the other hand I can’t do much about my present status and this issue is too important to be not adressed.

Concerning the career issue: I don’t think that my discussion of nuclear energy on randform had a big negative impact on my scientific career (i might be wrong though???). That is -of course- I spend a lot of time on that issue. Time which I could have spend on my special subject and such a “waste of time” impairs your “scientific competitvity”, but as said already I think every scientist should spend some time on issues of public interest. Please see also this article on an online scientific parliament/information service (for further information on that article see also here)

But apart from societal relevant issues I think it is also scientifically important to look across disciplines/subjects. I may be quite overtopping the banks in my cross-disciplinary approaches (especially in the recent past) but I know that in general cross-disciplinary approaches are seen critically by a lot of people (while they may eventually use your inspiration) and I received very direct encounters where people expressed their disapproval of my attitude and I had concrete scientific disadvantages due to this. But this is my way of doing science and I feel unhappy if I have to stick to one very special rather incomplete appearing way of treating and seeing things.

I think it is this point which had a strong influence on my career path, rather than the blog posts about nuclear energy. But there are much more components which influenced the reasons why my “academic career” went the way it went, like social and personal reasons etc. It is a complex mixture to be discussed elsewhere.

For example you could discuss articles in your subject or report about talks. For your art and design audience you could for example explain basic but essential things like vector diagrams.

I eventually discuss talks (e.g. here) or issues from my subject (e.g. here), but this is mainly a blog which discusses issues between math, physics and art and design, rather than special topics from the separate disciplines. If I should discuss purely scientific issues on randform then this is because I think the scientific information may also be interesting/important for an art/design audience. In particular I think the nuclear energy and also the climate issue is important for everybody! But as said the main content of this blog deals with issues between the disciplines; issues which eventually link the disciplines (->see also here). A big part of the blog topics deal for example with perception and cognitive aspects, which play a big role in art and design. But amongst others these aspects are in the turn important for the communication of science. I do think that there is a still a great need for improving the communication of science. And I am not sure if the academic discipline of didactics is flexible enough and sufficiently outreaching in order to adress this need as it could be adressed (No, I will now not talk about certain things in the math book of my daughter…also if I could!). Another big part of randform deals with the application of scientific knowledge in art and design. This used to be mainly centered about uses in graphic design/interactive arts which is partially due to the jReality project. However I recently started to care again more about topics in product design (see e.g. here or here). As the reader might have noticed last but not least due to the discussions about climate change randform has put an emphasis on eco art and sustainable design (see e.g. here or here) In particular in the future I may discuss more topics in the intersection about physics/math/science and sustainable product design/eco art. I was even thinking to eventually put up a small communication platform/database about materials and chemical/physical processes where sustainable product designers/artists/scientists may exchange their knowledge.

Last but not least due to my – as it looks – terminated academic career as a mathematical physicist* I currently started to have some concrete projects in product design (one is actually in between graphic design and product design) about which I will eventually talk here on this blog (I currently can’t get back to the projects due to the laptop crash). I am not sure how much money I can make with this (I have actually a cousin who is a product designer) especially since one project is a non-commercial project but it appears to me to be more money than I can make with writing a math paper without a having a job*. While working at the realization of the projects I had noticed that there is quite a need for such a design database. However I am a bit afraid of the work which is involved with such an online environment, so I may first only set up a personal but open datacollection and then see who is joining in. If you know of such a database please let me know. I have sofar only found separate information portals, like about bioplastics, solar cells, rural production metods and traditions (like e.g. this) or closed information portals etc.

Victor wrote: Bibi did you see blog post with title: “randform was a bit on the sites” ?
Unemployed randform author says Bill Gates investment in
TWR technology is probably critical! So funny.

I didn’t write that “Bill Gates investment in TWR technology is probably critical” but that – given the information I could find about it – that the TWR concept appears to me as quite futuristic! I should maybe point out that the mathematical discussion and analysis of specific solitonic models and mathematical topics which are related to these models was at the center of my previous mathematical/physical research, this influenced my opinion.
Bill Gates has certainly more information on that project and he has certainly his reasons to think that the TWR is a good investment – maybe also in monetary terms.
With my comment on Azimuth I had hoped that someone could explain more about the TWR.
But speaking of Bill Gates – for me it would also be interesting to hear what he thinks about how a rather aggressive patenting policy goes together with fighting AIDS.

*footnote: I haven’t yet finished a research paper, but since it anyways contains already now – in its highly unfinished state – way too many graphics for putting it on the archive, I am currently thinking of making it into an art project.

8 Responses to “a slant and fact slam”

  1. Victor Says:

    Nadya,

    You wrote:”So -yes maybe- this is/was a futile effort, but on the other hand I can’t do much about my present status and this issue is too important to be not adressed.”

    People want to listen to winners not to loosers!
    If you do not want enter competition, you said in this randform post:
    http://www.randform.org/blog/?p=2622

    then nobody wants listen to you. Bibi knows that…right Bibi?
    “early bird catches fat worm….:-)….:-)”

  2. Bibi Says:

    nad wrote: “Time which I could have spend on my special subject and such a “waste of time” impairs your “scientific competitvity”, but as said already I think every scientist should spend some time on issues of public interest.”

    I think nobody objects if you write a little blogpost on the side, especially if it is of general scientific interest. Like for example if you report about new ceramic tilings found in an art historic context. If you are smart and quick enough than this should also have no effect on your competivity. Last but not least there are enough sucessful science bloggers in the blogosphere.

    I don’t think that scientist should make their political opinion public. They should stick to the scientific facts. There are a lot of doubtful scientists which cover their scientific incapability by claiming that there were “more important things” (of very dubious nature) to do. Like would you like to support a scientist who goes to Bugwahn guru sex camps (or how are those called ?) and proclaims his weird ideas about that instead of writing scientific articles?

  3. Victor Says:

    I know, why I get no answer to comment I wrote above: people
    don’t like to hear inconvenient truth!

  4. nad Says:

    @Bibi

    Apparently I should have explained better, what I mean above with the term “scientific opinion.”
    In particular such an opinion shall be as scientific as possible. Opinions which are mostly based on unique personal experiences, i.e. in particular not on scientiific facts are thus not what I wouls call a scientific opinion.

    @Victor
    I was hesitating to answer your comments, because I think I need to explain more, why I see competitions critical and I have currently other things to do.
    You are right, nobody wants to listen to inconvenient truths, but usually it is better to know about inconvenient truths the earlier the better, because you have usually more navigation space to do something about the inconvenient part.

    Whatsoever I am not sure wether I understand what you mean with inconvenient truth in your above comment. The fact that not many people are paying attention to my nuclear power critque? And as I understood you think this is due to the “fact” that I am not willing to take part in some competition?
    So first: -even if I would have a higher academic status and more people would be willing to listen to my critique this wouldn’t be enough. As pointed out above there need to be much more scientists who think about these issues in a profound way and then justify their opinion. Unfortunately I fear not so many want to do this. Moreover – since they don’t take the time to think about these issues long enough themselves – they are more prone to parrot what they think is the common scientific belief. Thus I see for example the sublimal advertising campaigns of the nuclear industry very critical. What does happen to a scientists brain that sees every day with the twinkling of an eye a nice greenish looking banner which praises the advantages of CLEAN and GREEN nuclear?! Something like this was up for months on MIT’s Tech review! I bet most of you didn’t even notice that consciously.

    and secondly: regarding the competition – I sort of plan to write more about that, but again there are competitions were one really wouldn’t want to take part at and there are competitions were one would even be happy to be a “looser”.

  5. birdie in a treadmill Says:

    Where would Microsoft be now without its patenting policy?

  6. Bibi Says:

    You could reach a bigger audience by making your blog a bit less technical
    and a bit more emotional appealing like for example if you write more about your private life, show images of your kids etc. then your blog wouldn’t be so dry and I think you could attract more visitors.

  7. sugar Says:

    # Bibi Said:
    March 1st, 2011 at 9:34 am

    “You could reach a bigger audience by making your blog a bit less technical
    and a bit more emotional appealing like for example if you write more about your private life, show images of your kids etc. then your blog wouldn’t be so dry and I think you could attract more visitors.”

    Yeah ! everybody shows images of their kids! I mean I hope your kids are not handicapped, retarted or ugly (then this would actually be not so good for promoting, I think people are tired of problems), but in general I think Bibi is fully right.

  8. nad Says:

    @Bibi and sugar

    The question wether my kids are handicapped, retarded or ugly is not relevant
    for the question wether I want to show them here on the blog or not.
    As a parent you need to love them regardless how handicapped, retarded or
    ugly they are.

    There is no need to show them to or discuss about them with a bigger audience. We don’t want to make them popular, we try to let them have a normal childhood.
    I would find it problematic to instrumentalize them for some outer purpose, like for the popularity of this blog.

    It is clear that celebrities can’t fully hide their kids. There is too much public interest,
    i.e. people want to know a bit about the private lifes of their “leaders”, but even
    in this case it is difficult to tell how much this is needed. And often this public interest is rather dangerous for the kids.

    However, luckily I am no celebrity so I can just easily say: I prefer not to show images of my kids or discuss about them on this blog.

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