Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lazyness and research

A commentator mentioned his lazyness in asking a question over in a comment thread. Didn't occur to me just now to mention this aspect; I merely made what answer I could.

The thing is, one of the important parts of doing science is to find out what is already known. For the topic at hand there, details of Antarctic ice shelf structure and responses. People have been tramping around the Antarctic ice shelves, taking cores, doing seismic study, last few decades have included satellite remote sensing, etc.. So you'd think that most questions that could be asked simply would already have answers. Proper scientific thing to do is find out if it's already been answered. In this case, it looks like maybe it hasn't. Or hasn't been much.

So, excitement! There's something researchable out there that hasn't been beaten to death! Now, if you're not in a position to do the research yourself, it can be frustrating. But what I do in that case is become an informed spectator. I now know a topic that something very interesting to me will have some papers coming out. I don't know when, but I know it's going to happen. When it does, I can be all over it. It's a bit like watching a movie then. You may think you know how it's going to come out, good defeats evil, the girl gets the guy, whatever. But even if you're right, you can enjoy a lot about how you get from the start of the show to the final triumph.

I've also made use of the asking questions approach. Don't call it lazyness. I had an interesting idea far enough from my main work that I wasn't confident it was new. Seemed to be, but ... not sure. I could have racked my brains some and spent a lot of time tracking down the literature, and still not been confident since this particular problem goes back over 100 years. Instead, I asked a friend who does know that area and has published in it. Turns out my notion is indeed novel, and it probably explains a lot more than I thought it did. ... which is actually what I should be working on now (it isn't something related to my day job) instead of blogging. oops. More about this one when I get the paper submitted and get the response. (Journals don't like it if you publish the ideas elsewhere before the journal gets it out.)

1 comment:

What Makes a Man Good or Bad? said...

Grumbine,
Very interesting.. I too get frustrated when I find even some simple things are not in my control to be tested.

Then the best way out is to speculate with all the other information fully available to us. There is excitement in this activity. But our expectation may not turn out to be true in the actual research results!

This is very interesting blog :)