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Celebrating Failures!

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

As I have seen in my own work of collecting stories of failures and debris from scientists, it is much easier to deal with other people’s failures than your own. Part of it is that you are not as emotionally involved of course, but also, you have a different perspective. Through time and interviews, I find that when you ask people to talk about their failures and they agree to share (and a certain amount of trust must be present between the two parties or else you shouldn’t expect an answer), the stories will often have a happy ending, such as “and then I decided to do this”…). Now, I have compiled the list of my own failures – much harder but also fun to do, especially if there is a bit of time since that last failure. And do you know what? I feel I haven’t failed enough lately… not done enough and not taken enough risks. So, here’s my lastest risk-taking venture:

I have come across a man who claims he will hire people who fail. I am sending him my CV (see for yourself below) and let’s see what he says…

1. He hires me.  I win.

2. He doesn’t reply. I add this to my list of failures. I win

3. He replies he doesn’t want to hire me. I add this too… I won’t be so hopeful that we could start a discussion on the topic… but you never know. I win

In the meantime, this CV is a work in progress. I would love it if you had ideas on how to improve it…

Oh, and it seems I am not the only one suggesting one’s failures should be neatly compiled. Melanie Stefan says it too in Nature no less.

* Update: 3 weeks have passed and still no response from Jeff Stibel. Oh well, I’ll file that failure. Time to move on to the next one.

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New Family of Reliquum discovered.

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Making mistakes is not easy. It requires that you tried at least. We’re talking active contributions to the field of failures. Now, we have uncovered a new family of such failures (or Reliquum). It seems that they have been around for a while, but nobody had described them scientifically, hence they are now officially “discovered”: Premature causations.

Making inferences is what we do all day, we need those to help us make decisions. But our brain is not very good at identifying the pitfalls of making inferences, resulting in sometimes disastrous consequences. It is a difficult concept to explain, that correlation and causation are two different things.

These statistics make a great job at explaining – visually – why just because two things happen at the same time, they are not necessary directly correlated. They will show you how to create your own correlation!

Categories: Idea, News, Review, Science

Faster than the speed of light… Could scientists be wrong (again)?

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

The world is a-buzz with the latest news coming from CERN, Switzerland. “What? Particles going faster than light?”

What I like about this is several things:

1. Most of us would be incapable of explaining why this puts into question Einstein’s theory of relativity. There’s this thing about the theory of relativity, which states that no particle can travel faster then light… but what does it really mean?

2. Most of us are excited at the prospect of something so complicated and unintelligible in the first place being called “WRONG”. Of course it’s not “Wrong” per se… it’s just true somewhere else. The same hoo-ha was created when the theory of relativity was shown to be incompatible with Newton’s Physics. It’s not like apples started falling the other way.

3. The scientists are acting the way we romantically wish all scientists would work: they find something weird; they doubt it but they don’t dismiss it; they put their results and calculations out there for all to see, criticise and tell them where they might have gone wrong.

4. In my view, science always corroborate old wives tales… remember when they (finally) scientifically proved that having wet feet might give you a cold? Now, we’ve all moaned about life going faster and faster, and about how hard it is to keep up with changes that appear too fast for us to follow. Now we know why: since Einstein last measured, it seems that particles have been going faster… vindicated!

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