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August 02, 2007

An extension of the brief hiatus

Last week I returned from the Boulder School on Biophysics, which was a fascinating experience in which I learned all sorts of stuff about the way physicists operate in and think about biology. (For instance, they're most comfortable when talking about things like single-molecule dynamics, where the forces are clear, or simple diffusion or stochastic processes.) One reassuring behavior I observed was that biophysicists get just as unmoored when they don't have "first principles" to work from as I feel sometimes working on networks and complex systems in general. Another interesting thing I learned is that machine learning techniques aren't very well known among experimental or theoretical biophysicists, but that among the younger folk, there was a great deal of interest in using computation to extract meaningful things from data.

I also became familiar with two wonderful quotations. The first is from Lord Rutherford, who supposedly said "If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment." I can imagine that this statement was uttered in a slight growl; of course, the deep irony is that his intellectual descendents, the high energy physicists, are perhaps some of the best statisticians in physics! (For instance, see this excellent entry by John over at Cosmic Variance about bump hunting in data.) The second is from 'Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead' (imdb), which goes "Audiences know what they expect and that is all they are prepared to believe in."

Anyway, this week I've been furiously trying to get some work I did over the last two weeks of the summer school into the form of a paper. Needless to say, this has consumed most of my time this week, hence the lack of blogorific prose. Next week, I'll be completely offline, frolicking in the surf in South Carolina. Then, it's back to the grind stone of producing bloggable events and thoughts...

posted August 2, 2007 02:59 AM in Blog Maintenance | permalink