The peculiar subject line is to introduce a new series of posts I'll be making -- scientific spectating. My idea is that there is too much science in the universe for us (any of us) to be expert about all of it. On the other hand, same as there are too many sports to be expert at doing them all, we can all learn to be good spectators. And being an informed spectator is its own kind of rewarding activity.
It can be helpful to keep Science Jabberwocky in mind. Individual terms can be pretty mystifying, but it can be obvious that certain ones are important -- CCR5 means nothing to me directly, but I know that it has something or other to do with plague and partial resistance that some Europeans have towards AIDS. In a similar vein, you can know that Shaquille O'Neal is a center, without knowing exactly what a basketball center does. On the other hand, you will find it easier to follow basketball if you know that he is a center. Knowing that, you can watch what he does, and what other centers do. After some time of that, you can appreciate watching the game much more.
It was in this vein that I appreciated some papers and comments in the late 1990s and early 2000s, regarding the expansion of the universe. The expansion of the universe (the 'toves') had been expected to be slowing ('slithy'). After all, gravity was pulling everything together. But then there were some observations presented which said that the toves were not slithy after all (that the expansion of the universe was not slowing). It turned out that the expansion of the universe looked to be accelerating (mimsy). In terms of doing the science myself, it may as well have been Jabberwocky. But I could spectate -- clearly there was a conflict between the expected slithy-ness and the newly-observed mimsy-ness.
As a spectator, I knew to start looking for papers defending the slithy-ness of the toves, or attacking the claimed observations of the mimsy-ness, or both. That, or even newer papers supporting the recently new claims of the mimsy-ness of the toves (er, accelerating expansion of the universe). And I saw just that. As it worked out, the papers supporting the mimsy-ness of the toves were stronger, and held the field. I was able to watch and appreciate that much. In the same vein, I can appreciate watching a college basketball game -- seeing one team take up a zone defense, and the other break the zone by feeding the ball to their excellent outside shooter, or fail in their attempt to do so. As a spectator, I know that the offensive team has to do something to counter the zone defense, and look for it.
It is this that the series will attempt to do -- help educate readers in how to be good spectators of science. A related point being, most of the best spectators of sports are people who love playing the game themselves (whatever the game is). You may not be professional level, any more than I am at basketball (or any other sport!). But it can be more fun to spectate when you play the game sometimes yourself. To that end, see my 'project folder' links, and keep asking questions.
Since I like a conversational approach to blogging, I'll invite comments, questions, suggestions at this point as to how you'd like to see this series go, whether you think it can be useful (and how), and so forth.
Beaufort Gyre guest blog
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