Stranger Fruit

Ask A Scienceblogger

This week’s question is:

Assuming that time and money were not obstacles, what area of scientific research, outside of your own discipline, would you most like to explore? Why?

I’m going to force myself to choose something totally outside the biological sciences and go with some area of physics. In high school and college in the ’80s, I was good at physics, particularly stuff like thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, and traditional mechanics. There was a beauty to it – an appreciation that I think I got from my father (who was an engineer) from an early age. Unfortunately my mathematical abilities (and my interest in organismal biology) precluded me keeping up with physics. I think I could find things a little easier now with the availability of software like Matlab and Mathematica (which I use for my current research). Having taught Newton’s Principia to honors freshmen, most of whom were non-physics majors, I think I could struggle through with a bit of help. As for a specific area – probably something related to astronomy/astrophysics, fields which ASU has a great track record.


  1. #1 Nalin
    June 11, 2006

    “Unfortunately my mathematical abilities…”

    Bah, I know of very few fellow engineering students who actually *enjoy* math. Its why engineers have nice terms like “truncate”, “negligible”, and “factor of safety”.

    “…the availability of software like Matlab and Mathematica…”

    As for the ubiquity of computational tools, I defer to Dr. Marc Mignolet: “garbage in, garbage out.” I’ve used a TI-36X solar scientific calculator since 9th grade… sure, I can’t invert matrices as fast, but after 4 years of college engineering education I honestly feel that I understand fundamentals better than many of my esteemed peers sporting the latest TI-89 or HP-49G+. Anyone with patience can read a software manual and generate some really cool numbers… but if the numbers coming out aren’t intepreted correctly, then bridges collapse, airplanes crash, and NASA wastes a billion more dollars.


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