One of my favorite quotes is "The mountainous research laboratories of the country, staffed to the top with Ph.D.'s, labor and bring forth microscopic mice."
This comment was made by James Knox Millen in his book Your Nose Knows, which I read when I was an undergraduate.
Microscopic mice. What a great metaphor for the triviality of so many of the products of academic research.
Now, the reason I am posting about this (other than just thinking of that quote recently) is that when I did a Google search on "bring forth microscopic mice," two sites came up: one from Google Books, with the section of Millen's book, and a second, a LJ post I apparently made on April 25, 2017. I do vaguely remember authoring the post, and I think at the time I was trying to remember the source. But the strange thing is, when I clicked on the link for that Google hit, instead of the post about microscopic mice, up came an April 25, 2017 post titled "LJ 18th anniversary" with a congratulations for being on LJ for 13 years and 10 months and some stats on the number of my posts, my comments, and comments received. Why the heck did this replace my post on microscopic mice?
I searched for the microscopic mice post with The Wayback Machine. No dice. What are the Russians up to?
This morning as I was doing my daily yoga I started thinking that it had been quite some time since I last checked into LJ. Indeed, it has been over three years. Facebook has really displaced this medium. Logging in, I found that the Russians have a whole new user's agreement that allows them to terminate my account here if I do not log in at least once every six month. This, despite the fact that I paid for a lifetime account prior to the Russian takeover. Oh well, guess I will drop in a little more often.
It's been over two years since I posted here. A lot of amazing things are happening these days. The synchronicities and connections are downright magical.
From the outset it seemed that certain signs were advising me against using LiveJournal. I joined initially because I liked reading the entries of a long-time acquaintance. Within weeks of signing up for a paid account, my friend was banned from LJ. Whatever. I came to enjoy the postings of other individuals and stayed with LJ. Then, one by one, they disappeared. Still not completely discouraged, I leaped at the chance to buy a permanent account. And then Facebook seemed to take over the world by storm. People were abandoning LJ for Facebook, and I found myself spending more and more time there myself and less time with LJ. These days I hardly read or post to LJ at all. My main activity with this site seems to be deleting Russian spam postings and emails. I am sad about this.
Since Thursday I have been in New Paltz, NY (for the first time), attending the annual meeting of the NorthEastern Evolutionary Psychology Society (NEEPS) (for the first time. It has been a great experience. It is so great to be in a large group of people, all of whom agree that seeing the world evolutionary eyes is where its at. And New Paltz is one cool, funky college town.
There have been so many times in my life that I have bemoaned inefficiency. Both my own and others. I look at my long list of unfinished projects and the semi-chaos of my office, and I wonder if I am worth what I am paid for the amount of useful knowledge I produce.
I don't know whether to feel better or worse as I scan the contents of the dozen or so journals I look at on a regular basis. My reaction to 99 out of 100 articles is usually, "Who would give a shit about this?" There was a phrase from a book I read decades ago that I think represents the triviality of most of what academics produce, something like, "Laboratories labor and bring forth microscopic mice."
I try to comfort myself by reminding myself that this is just the way life is. Thousands of scientists flounder about, exploring things from a variety of angles, and only rarely will something of great value emerge from all of this activity. If we had a formula for guaranteeing great scientific discoveries every time we undertake research, we could just apply it and very quickly increase useful knowledge.
In some ways, the progress of science is like the evolution of life itself. Amongst all the varieties, some are better able to cope with the challenges of survival and reproduction and therefore become more frequent in the next generation. But the surviving forms are far from perfect, full of useless junk DNA. They are only "good enough" to get into the next generation, just as some articles are "good enough" to get into the journals.