Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Conferences can be a bit humiliating. You go to learn what everybody else has done, and it usually sounds so exciting. (Not always--a couple of talks were: "We found a bug and so we don't really have anything to report right now.") And sometimes the results really are impressive. A lot of the time the results aren't very dramatic, but represent a lot of necessary hard work to support said impressive results.

One's own accomplishments tend to look inconspicuous. Two aspects of my recent work are archive and backup--neither interesting at all until something goes badly wrong. (We're twiddling our thumbs on the archive plan: not sure if the delay is a NSF vs DOE thing or lower level negotiators.)

Go to collaboration meetings for a few years in a row and the patterns emerge. The great product that will ease everybody's life actually is, but it takes quite a bit longer to get into service than they estimated. The promising approach doesn't work so well as hoped, and the noise simulation still doesn't quite match the data. But it is closer.

Talk about your inconspicuous service! Estimating the noise rates accurately is critical for a number of different low energy analyses (e.g. supernova detection), but it doesn't have the same ring on the resume as "cosmological neutrinos". It probably needs a couple more man-years of work, too.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

I saw a Bart Campolo video years ago in which he was comforting his wife at a conference they were attending. She was sobbing in his arms, saying "Everyone else has all these exciting ministries that are being blessed and we just keep beating our heads against the same wall!"

"Aw, honey," he consoled. "You're an evangelist's wife. You know those stories aren't true."

Texan99 said...

I don't know. Distinguishing noise from signal strikes me as an honorable life's work in any field.