Friday, February 11, 2005

I was just guessing at numbers and figures

The title of this post should read: In which I celebrate and bemoan science.

Not really, because when have I ever been able to write a post on one, focused topic? Let me see... that was back in... never.

However, the LA Times reports today that scientists have figured out how to determine the true color of the ocean. I know, I know, that just seems like some kitschy basic-science type of nonsense that makes you scratch your head and wonder why research dollars went to such an endeavour. Well, bitches, that's because news headlines are always about sensationalism. What's important about this breakthough is that it will now be possible to measure changes in phytoplankton levels in the ocean.

Can I just say that I love phytoplankton? These little bitty things that exhale oxygen. I have a tendency to be very anthropomorphic. So I always picture these plankton vigorously blowing little bubbles of oxygen out as they travel around the ocean, just as I always picture trees snoring carbon dioxide at night. Yes, I'm a dork. At any rate, I love the concept of these tiny organisms that collectively are the lungs of the ocean, and in turn the world. Measuring phytoplankton growth may also seem like an exercise in whatever-ness to some, but given the role of phytoplankton in the ecosystem of the ocean, scientists will be better able to understand the effects of pollution and climate change on the ocean.

So why would I bemoan something so admittedly cool? Perhaps bemoan is not the right word. I get really amped when I read about things like this. But then I read this:
One of the trickiest parts of measuring this, said David Siegel, a UC Santa Barbara geology professor, was correcting for brighter light bouncing back from land and the atmosphere. "The ocean isn't the brightest target," he said.

Siegel likened the project, which is being published by the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, to fiddling with the settings for color and brightness on a television set.

In this case, the new mathematical formula to achieve those settings took a decade to perfect
A DECADE?!? I am disheartened by the sheer labor involved. Suddenly, I imagine a graduate student, sitting in a little cube, slaving away, dishevelled and unkempt. And for every one of these successful graduate students, there are likely 5-6 working on the same thing but failing to solve the problem. Yikes. I am simultaneously impressed and depressed. I should probably note here that I was one of those graduate students once (sort of), and the futility of it all was too much for me to take. Which is why I am even more impressed by those who pursue basic research. I can see the need for it, my nature just prevents me from participating. I am an instant-gratification kind of a girl, apparently.

Because it wouldn't be a post without some random tangent- Moonlight Mile is the movie that cinched the untoward fascination I have with Jake Gyellenhall, which started with Donnie Darko. I must admit, however, that I am a complete sucker for a good soundtrack. Both the aforementioned films have excellent soundtracks. Darko's is better, but Mile's is perfect in terms of pitch and feel of the film. So, it's hard to tell if Moonlight Mile was a good movie in and of itself. General good will towards an actor + non-sucky script + above average soundtrack = happy me.

Also... if I don't get to see Born into Brothels this weekend, someone's going to pay.

And one question for the blogosphere- should I go see The Killers or will I be annoyed by all the little punk-rock kids at the show??

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