Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What could be more fun than extending the boundaries of the sum of human knowledge?

Not too long back I got into a conversation with a friend of mine, who was complaining about his job and how little he enjoys it. It is always difficult for me to be properly sympathetic in such conversations. Having learned as a child that “work” or “a job” meant "something unpleasant that people had to do but didn’t want to do", I have done my best to avoid ever having to do such a thing myself. Indeed, this was one of the largest motivating factors in my decision to be a life-long scholar—to stay happily in the academic world, learning interesting things.

When my academic career progressed to the point of undertaking a PhD project I was totally excited about it—I was about to learn something new, something that no one else ever knew before. This is heady stuff. Sure, there can be a fair bit of tedium in research, but that is more than offset by the ability to set one’s own hours and choose for oneself the topic and direction of the research. Having finished the PhD and moved on to a post-doc position doing experimental petrology I find that I am still expanding the bounds of human knowledge. The experiments I’m doing are ones that no one has done before—each run I do provides new information that needs to be analyzed—looked at, compared with the previous information, and understood.

I am aware that there are people out there who have the misfortune to spend their days doing things that don’t interest them, and I am grateful that I am not one of them—that I have the joy that comes from learning new things. Not just new to me, but new to everyone. What could be more fun than that?

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