Thursday, June 07, 2007

Magic Mirror Gate

Kind men find that they are cruel. Brave men find that they are truly cowards. Confronted with their true selves, most men run away screaming.

--Neverending Story

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Living Life to the Fullest

"As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to
ever let you down probably will. You will have your heart broken probably
more than once and it's harder every time. You'll break hearts too, so
remember how it felt when yours was broken. You'll fight with your best
friend. You'll blame a new love for things an old one did. You'll cry
because time is passing too fast, and you'll eventually lose someone you
love. So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never
been hurt because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of
happiness you'll never get back.
Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin."


Friday, November 03, 2006

Uh-oh...More thinking...

{Okay, okay. I know. I think too much. But it's kind of hard to stop when you've been doing it all of your life. ;)}

I used to think that it was impossible for me to be happy. Sure, I could be okay, content, feeling pretty good, or even feeling pretty damn good, but never happy. The reason is that because I noticed that whenever things were going well for me, inevitably, someone close to me was having a rough time. Of course, it worked the other way around, too. But I never wanted happiness unless I could share it with others. It just wasn't fair for me to be happy when everyone else was miserable. And since my observations indicated that there will always be someone close to me who is having a rough time, I decided that it was impossible for me to be happy. Now, I didn't stop there, either. I took it to a more global level. How could I be happy when there was so much suffering in the world? How would my happiness help a starving child in Africa? That being the case, I decided that my happiness wasn't important. What was important was that I spend my life helping others.

Hehe. Sometimes, I amaze myself. Too rarely, I surprise myself with the realization of how clever I am. This is not that day. Today, I have surprised myself with the realization of just how dumb I can be. Because of course, how is being miserable going to help that child in Africa? Not a damn bit. The only people my happiness or unhappiness will affect are the people close to me. And while I'm sitting around waiting for the world to change so that I can finally be happy, I'm hurting the ones I love the most. So why wait? Get a move on. If you wait for the world to be "perfect," you'll have a long wait. Besides, is it really about withholding happiness until everyone can share, or is about sharing the happiness that we have? Should the question be, "Why should I be happy when someone else is suffering?" or "Why should that person suffer when I'm so happy?" In both cases, I think it's the latter.

Of course, this reasoning works in the local universe, too. Wait for everything to be "perfect" for everyone else in your life, and you'll have a long wait. So, let's go to center of the galaxy. Wait for everything to be "perfect" within yourself, and you'll have a long wait.

Moral of the story: Happiness is not "perfection", and "perfection" is not happiness. Look for "perfection," and you'll never find it. Look for happiness, and I guarantee that you'll find it.

So, yes, change the things you don't like about yourself, but never loathe yourself. Love yourself. And if you find that hard, be still and listen, and your heart will tell you who you are. And whoever that is, he or she is who you should love. I think that if we all did that, then most, if not all, of our problems would go away. Too many of us spend so much time wishing we were someone else, or at least "better" in some way. That's why we write about super heroes. Well, look around you. Do you see any super heroes? Neither do I. I see heroes. I see a lot of those (about 6 billion if you're only counting humans...of course, we should include animals, but I have no number for that...;) ), but no "super" heroes. Why is that? Is it because it's impossible? Not really (although, in many cases, I'd say so...;) ). It's because we don't need them. The truth is that the world really doesn't need a Superman. Every problem that we have is something that we can solve by just being who we are and doing what we can do. You don't have to be anything else. YOU ARE ALREADY PERFECT. You can never become better or worse, you can only understand.

I think that's the problem with the world. Not enough people understand or are even trying. That's why there's evil in the world. Not because of some guy holding a pitchfork waiting for your soul to enter Hell. I, personally, don't believe in Hell or the guy with the pitchfork. People do evil things because they don't understand. And in my opinion, a benevolent God would not eternally damn anyone for a lack of understanding. You don't condemn a five year-old for stealing a piece of candy, right? Same principle. Of course, you do explain to the five year-old that it's wrong and why. Well, same thing happens to "evil" people. A friend of mine once told me that at the end of our lives, we review our lives and come to understand where we have succeeded and where we have failed so that we can learn and come to a better understanding. In my opinion, this is what is meant by Purgatory: when we have to face ourselves, our shortcomings and our merits, and we learn. As we go through several lifetimes, we learn and understand better. So, it really is like growing up. Those who we consider "evil" are possibly very young souls who don't know any better. As we get "older," we come to understand better, and we do fewer and fewer bad things. So, should we condemn, or should we teach? If a teacher walks into the classroom and yells at the top of her lungs, which do the students hear: the screaming or the lesson? Exactly. The students can't help but hear the screaming, and the lesson is lost. This is also why you don't punish your children while angry. They can tell the difference between just punishment and punishment out of anger (and too many parents make that mistake). For these reasons, not only should we not condemn others, but we shouldn't condemn ourselves. "Evil" people are "evil" because they don't understand, they don't accept and love themselves. And if they can't accept and love themselves, how can they possibly love others? They don't understand what love is. That's not a person you should hate, but a person you should pity. Obviously, I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately, and I've realized that all of the people who have ever hurt me or tried to, I can look beneath their surface and see. And I pitied what I saw. Of course, I'm not quite mature enough to get past anger completely, but I do understand better. It was the same thing everytime. They didn't see and love themselves, so they couldn't see and love anyone else. So, of course, I got burned. But I hope I'll never forget that they are suffering ever so much more than I ever will.

So, to make a long point short (ha...too late): Ultimately, we are supposed to learn what it means to love and be loved. We should look within and find out who we truly are (not what we or others think we "should" be) and love and accept that. Only then, can we be truly happy, and yes, we all deserve to be happy.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Two things

There are two things I have on my mind. Take from them what you must.

The Vorlons on Babylon 5 have a saying. "Understanding is a three-edged sword: your side, their side, and the truth."

If you follow your heart, you can never go wrong.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Okay...this is starting to feel like a cartoon...

Skiing Day 2

So, after getting bored with Meet the Fockers, I decide to go to bed so that I could wake up early. I manage to forget to set my alarm, but I realize when I get up that it wouldn't have done me any good anyway. By this point, the battery in my cell phone has run out and my charger doesn't seem to work. Damn. But it's okay. I wake up about the time one of the undergrads comes in from shift. I get up, get ready, and go to breakfast. After the other undergrad (the one who went skiing with me the day before) comes to breakfast, we all pile in the car and head out for day two of our adventure. The post-doc tells me that this day is much clearer than the day before. In addition to being glad because we'll get to ski in better weather, I was disappointed because that meant the other group would have to take shift all night. [Amazingly, I felt sorry for them that day, but I don't feel sorry for myself, today, eventhough there is not a single cloud in the sky.]

Well, anyway, we get to the ski place, and forget all this practice stuff and forget the bunny slope (closed, anyway), we're ready to try the intermediate slopes because we're undaunted. That is until we reach the ski lift. I think everything is going fine, but when I and the undergrad get up to the point, the guy is trying to tell me to move sideways. I don't realize this because all I can hear is, "Mas, mas, mas!" More what? I don't know. So the lift hits me as it comes around and it swings and hits the other girl. Ouch! Cruel machine. So we get away from the lift area. I check on the other girl who is a little rattled and decides to sit down for awhile. I brilliantly decide to get on the same lift and go up to find the post-doc who was already on the lift when we fell. As I go up the lift, I see him skiing down a slope I know to be the hard one. Uh-oh. That means that he thinks I stayed behind with the other girl. I realize at that point that that's what I should have done. Too late now. So, I get up there and think that maybe I should stay where I am. But it could take the post-doc more than an hour to catch up with me, so I get the genius idea that I should ski down the slope and wait for him at the bottom. I look at the map and figure out which slope is the intermediate slope. I ski down that one. "Wow! I'm going way too fast! Okay, don't panic. Just slow down. I can't slow down! Okay, what do you do when you're going too fast?" Poof! I fall. I do this sequence several times. I finally make it to the bottom of the first slope with much falling but without injury, but I realize that it wasn't the smartest thing in the world to have done. I should have stayed at the top because now the post-doc might think that I went down the wrong slope. "Should I wait for him? Yeah. Hopefully, he thinks that I'm smart enough to look at a map and avoid the hard slope while not smart enough to stay where I am." Well, by the time I looked at another map and did battle with putting on my skis (snow on the bottom of the boots can make that difficult), I realize that a lot of time has passed. Plus, my only alternative was to go on one of the other lifts. There is no other way down except to go on a lift and ski down. So, wait, I do. I start looking for a guy with a red jacket and a girl with a yellow one. At one point, I see a guy with a red jacket stop and look back at a girl with a yellow jacket who has fallen. "That has to be they." Nope. Turns out to be someone else. "Darn. Well? How long should I wait? Should I walk back? It's a long way. Let's wait a little longer." At some point, a red jacket is skiing towards me. I recognize him as the post-doc. He skis up chuckling and says that he was worried that I had taken another route. I tell him that I looked at the map figuring that I could find him down here. When I saw other lifts, I realized that he could have gone on any of them at that point, so I decided to stay there. He tells me what I already know: That the only way down is up. He suggests one lift. The one which I had already decided was probably the best idea after looking at a map. I turns out to be the lift with poles. You have to stick the poles between your legs and ski up the slope. Simple enough, right? Wrong. I fell on those stupid poles. Twice. "Damn ski lifts." I mean, I start out okay. I get the pole between my legs and start skiing up, but I wasn't paying attention to where my skis were going, so one of my skis would always disconnect with my boot. Well that's no good, so I fall, trek back to where I can put my skis back on and put them back on. After the second time, the post-doc suggests that we take a normal ski lift to a slightly harder route. This we do without problems. I go down the first slope. "Wow! This one is even steeper than the first one!" Poof! "Okay. Get up." Poof! Eventually, I begin to understand for real why skiers do diagonals and turns: to slow the frick down. After much ado on the first slope, I manage to get the hang of it more, and go down the second slope. This one is not as steep, so I have less trouble, though I still fall a bunch of times. At some point, I fall and decide that since I'm just sitting there, I might as well take a picture. I take a picture of the mountains (which are absolutely beautiful) and the post-doc. Towards the last slope, I start to get the hang of it. But the last slope is as hard as the first slope of the second leg. I fall a bunch of times, but manage to make it back to the base. Yay! I made it! And I'm not dead! Yay!

We find the other girl who, by this point, has made quite an impressive snowman. We tell her about the slope and she decides to come with us this time. We get to the first leg. I start skiing along and realize that I really have started to get the hang of it. I'm going slow and I'm not falling. Whew! Vroom! "What was that?" I look for my post-doc and the undergrad. "There's the post-doc. Just ahead of me. Where's the undergrad? Damn! She's down there already? Hehe. That's exactly what I did on this slope. She doesn't know to make diagonals. Ah well. She'll get it." I and the post-doc ski after her. We catch up to her and we all get on the second lift. At the top, I take another picture since I had forgotten last time I was there. Then, we all ski down the slope. Naturally, the undergrad falls a lot. It's good for me because this means that I stop after one or two diagonals to help her, or at least see where she went. About half way down the slope, she starts to get the hang of it, but she typically gets through one diagonal and falls on the second. She's doing even better than I did. I don't think I got there until the second slope. At some point, she falls, and I swerve to go help her. But the course is marked by packed snow and deep snow along the sides. I ski into the deep snow. As I look at my skis and realize that they are under about half a foot of snow, I think, "Okay, how do I get out of this predicament without taking off my skis?" Well, I wasn't about to take off my skis. After the number of times I had fallen and lost skis (or taken off skis to look at maps) and had to put them back on with great difficulty, I wasn't about to do it again. But I certainly couldn't walk out of the deep snow, either. So, I sat down in the snow and using my butt as a fulcrum, I lift my skis out of the snow. Of course, this means that I'm now lying on the snow with my skis above me. Now, I have to get myself out of the snow without putting my skis back in it. This had to have been the funniest sight. Hell, even I thought it was the funniest thing in the world. I'm thrashing about with my body and my skis trying to make it back to the slope. My skis are all over the place and pinwheeling through the air. Eventually, I make it back to the slope without taking off my skis. We ski down the remainder of that slope and make it to the second slope of the second leg. This being a more gentle slope, the undergrad has fewer problems, and I don't fall at all. We finally make it to the last slope. She goes down the slope and I lose track of her. I ski down and fall like three times. About halfway down the slope, I start to get the hang of it again, and I ski the remainder without falling anymore. Yay! I did it twice! It is now 3:15. Wow! We had gotten there at like 11:00. That took over four hours! "No wonder I'm hungry." We sit down to eat the food we had brought with us (the cafeteria is expensive), and the post-doc decides that we can ski alone without killing ourselves. He wants to ski a hard course, so we bid him farewell. The other girl wants to ski the last leg of the course we just skiied. I decide that I'm not going to try the poles again, so I want to ski the whole course again. Besides, once you've been through the whole course, what's the point of doing the short one? As I go up the lifts, I watch for the other girl. There she is; hanging on for dear life on the poles. But she hasn't fallen. Ah well. Some people can take them. Some can't. I reach the top and ski the whole course for the third time. I didn't fall as much as I had before, but I still fall quite a bit. On the gentle slopes, I don't fall at all. I get to the bottom, and I see the post-doc again. He says that he's going to get on the poles near the top and ski the course he had originally suggested. I'm tired and by this time, it's 4:30, so I don't have time to ski the whole course again, so I go into the cafeteria. I find a table with much difficulty and get a menu. Right after that, the undergrad comes in. She looks exhausted. I order hot chocolate and we wait for the post-doc. He comes in, gets coffee, and tells me that the poles are difficult. He had also fallen on them. And a bunch of other people had fallen, too. Not such an easy thing after all. We laugh about the trials and tribulations of the day, and then we go home. We're so exhausted that we all sleep like babies until 1 pm or later the next day.

And that's my first skiing experience...Yay!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Look, Mom! No...


So, I went skiing the past couple of days. If you can call what I did skiing. I think it was more like falling and never actually staying on my feet. Okay, so I exaggerate a little as you all (yeah, an army of one...woohoo!) know I am prone to do. But I'm not far off the mark. ;)

Skiing Pre-days

So, one of the biggest reasons for doing shift in Argentina in the middle of Southern Hemisphere winter is that we could go skiing. While I wasn't thrilled about having to do shift (it can be pretty dull), I thought that at least I would finally be able to do some skiing. I had never gotten a chance, and everyone who had was always telling me that it was great. So, I had always wanted to try it at least once. Well, we get here, and, stupid me, I volunteer for the first shift crew. Okay, not so stupid me. We had some good times and got some data without much ado. It turned out that shift wasn't as dull as I thought it was going to be. Quite the opposite as a matter of fact, but that's another story.

So, we finally switch shift groups, so we don't have to do shift for the next couple of days. Yay! The other group had already been skiing, and we got to see their pictures. Amazing! Despite the fact that I was very nervous just thinking about skiing, I found that I couldn't wait for my turn. The first non-shift day, we go to rent the ski equipment. There weren't any difficulties there, but at one point, the post-doc asks me to tell him my weight (he needed it for my skis). I wish I could have seen my face then, because I'm told that I looked absolutely horrified. Of course, knowing that he needed to know, I told him my weight, but I was thoroughly mortified, until I realized how funny it was. No one seems to care about that except me. ;)

Skiing Day 1

We begin our day by awaking at what I consider an ungodly hour, especially after I spent half of the night talking (I know, I just can't shut up...;) ). I and the other girl I was with looked completely asleep at breakfast. That earned us a chuckle from the post-doc. After that, we get ourselves together and set off on our little adventure. When we get there, we realize that the weather is quite a bit less than optimal for skiing. Oh well, we already paid and we only had two days (plus, the hotel had vouchers which knocked off like half of the price as long as we skiied two days!). So, we get to the practice area, and the post-doc teaches us the finer points of skiing. ;) After practicing for a little while, we decide that we're ready to brave the bunny slope. So, we head towards the ski lifts (cruel machines, it turns out...), naturally. I get on the lift with the other girl, and it surprised both of us. I mean, you get up to the point and stick your behind out (that's funny enough). You think that this seat comes up so that you can just sit down. Well, that's sort of how it works. Boom! We are tripped into the seat. Ohhkaaayy. But we're on the lift. When we get to the top, we wait for our post-doc. Then, we brave the slope for the first time. Yay! Poof! I fall within the first few minutes. On the bunny slope? That's sad. Well, I managed to make it down the rest of the slope without falling...until the very end. Well, past the end, actually. I and the other girl both managed to go the wrong way. Instead of turning we just kept going straight. There's a lift in front of us leading to another slope! "What? Why is this person coming towards me?" Luckily, we missed the people, so we didn't hit anyone, but there was a bump right after that ski lift. I'm skiing along (and it's probably a good thing that bump was there or else I'd have kept going), thinking everything is great, and yay, I didn't fall again, and all the sudden, "Whoa! Where'd the ground go?" Poof! I'm in the snow. The post-doc skis up to us, laughs, and tells us that we were supposed to turn. So, we hit the slope again. "Wow! I actually didn't fall this time." At some point, we went to lunch. I and the other girl are wet, but ski pants are amazing things. Even when wet, they're still warm. The only real problem was the gloves. Those things are good for awhile, but if they get wet from too much snow, and it's already very cold, they're useless. After lunch, we took the bunny slope once more. By the time we went outside, it had started snowing harder. As I went down the slope, I was faced with a dilemma. I couldn't see because the snow flakes would hit my eyes and I'd squint. I'd try putting my goggles, but they had a lot of condensation on them, so I couldn't see through them. So, I had to choose between not seeing and not seeing. Hmmm... Tough choice, that one. I opted for putting the goggles on because limited visibility through them was better that not being able to see at all. I ended up falling. Surprisingly, it was only once. When I get to the bottom of the slope, I realize that my gloves are all but useless at that point. My fingers are so cold that they are hurting. This is a bad sign. My jacket and hat (actually borrowed from other people) are also wet. The the other girl is in the same boat, so we go back to the cafeteria to have a coffee and warm up. The post-doc, who isn't nearly as wet as we are, decides that this is his chance to hit the much tougher slopes. So, we bid him farewell and seek shelter from the cold. About an hour later, he appears. He's soaking wet. He tell us that he had intended to find one of the intermediate slopes that he was thinking we could try the next day, but it was closed, so he took another slope. No one knew which way the trail went, so he took one of the paths that was open. It turned out to be an advanced course. He fell a bunch of times, hence why he was soaking wet. We finally got a chance to return the laughs. Even after that, he still wants to ski. His gloves are soaking wet, though, so he borrows mine, since they had been by the radiator for a little while. After about an hour, he comes back, still soaking, and has a cup of coffee. Then, we head home. Now, it so happened that the car we had rented from the airport was absolutely dirty. Literally. There was dirt all over the outside of the car and some on the inside. This was our fault. That's yet another long story, but it's funny also. As a matter of fact, there was so much dirt that the girl I went skiing with drew a cosmic ray airshower in it. Well, no more. Amusingly, just after we had been musing about whether we should clean the car before we return it, the snow cleaned it for us. Ask and ye shall receive. Of course, the snow on the road back meant that the other group wasn't going to be getting data that night. I'm still trying to decide if we were disappointed about that.

So, after we got back, all of the Chicago people go out to this trout place. They all thought that I was going to have a heart attack because of eating fish. I didn't, but I did feel bad about it. I mean, I knew that I still make exceptions for fish, maybe even more than my allowed "dosage" if circumstances are such that it is warranted. At that point, I knew the Spanish speakers were starting to get sick of having to make sure that I didn't have a hint of meat on my dish in a country where vegetarianism isn't nearly as widespread as it is in the U.S. I feel bad about that. I certainly don't want to be a burden on anyone, but at this point, meat (except for fish, that is) probably would make me sick. Plus, the alternative was to stay at the observatory despite the fact that I wasn't on shift and either be forced to find food myself (and take some big risks there since I don't speak the language), or eat with someone who speaks Spitaliano and have to answer her questions about why they didn't invite her to the trout place and allow her to very nearly drive me crazy. Another long story. Put it this way, realizing that the only other real option was to eat dinner with the crazy Spitaliano speaker, I knew that my peace of mind would be more disrupted by this alternative than by eating fish. However, even knowing this and accepting it didn't make me feel any less guilty. Kind of bothers me, that. Not so much that I was upset about eating fish. After all, that's why I chose this lifestyle in the first place. The thing is that I don't want this to become a way for me to judge others. I've said it often, but I'll say it again, I'm a vegetarian because I realized that I can live a healthy and happier lifestyle without eating meat. Sailor Moon once quoted an old Japanese proverb (Chinese? and forgive me for messing this up), "There is no path on which I am better, so I choose this one." However, I'm not one of those vegetarians who thinks everyone else should be one. Well, not really. I do think that in the ideal world, everyone would be a vegetarian. But this is not the ideal world. People have health and psychological concerns that factor into the equation. Everyone has to weigh all of their options and choose the lifestyle they think suits them. Now, I definitely think that everyone should choose or try to find the lifestyle which provides them with personal improvement, and I do have problems with people who don't do that. But that goes above and beyond choosing to eat or not eat meat, and vegetarianism is not always going to be part of that lifestyle, anyway. Hence, vegetarianism is not for everyone. Finally getting to my point, it shouldn't be a hard moralistic issue. A person who eats meat is no more a bad person than a person who refuses meat is a good one. It's one thing to say it's wrong for me to eat meat. It's a completely different thing to say it's wrong to eat meat. I hope that I felt the way I did because of the smaller moral issue instead of forcing it to be the bigger moral issue.

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I Hate it When A Biologist Says...

"Physicists are stupid because their experiments exist only to prove their theories and if the experiments disagree with the theories, physicists say that there's something wrong with the experiment instead of examining the theory..."

[Disclaimer: Okay, so any biologist who says something like that isn’t much of a biologist. Clearly, he/she doesn't understand how science works. So, this is not meant to be a rant about biologists. However, I have heard something like this said not once, but twice; and both times, it came from someone who was involved in biological sciences….Carolyn Day and Jared, be sure to read carefully…]

I will say, quite boldly, that this is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard for the reasons listed below. Taking a deep breath, I begin...

1. I don't know what they do in the Biological Sciences, but I will say this about Physics: It is NEVER true that an experiment exists to prove a theory. Nor does it exist to disprove a theory. Physics, like any other science, is an experimental science, and that's not what experimental science is about. Experiments exist to investigate phenomena. Now, do experiments investigate phenomena that are connected to someone's theory? Yes, very often they do. Here's why: Physicists actually want to understand the physical universe (and I mean REALLY understand). In order to truly do this, Physics requires BOTH theory and experiment (okay, so that was as much a lecture for physicists as it was for anyone else...;) ). Theory gives you the understanding of the physical laws of the universe. Experiment gives you the facts. In order for a field to be considered a science, you cannot have one without the other (notice, Miss Day, that the social sciences are starting to rely more and more on the techniques provided by the natural sciences...and by that, I don't necessarily mean Biology) and still call what you are doing science. This is the legacy that was passed down to us by Galileo Galilei and others of that generation. Science went from being philosophy and theology to being more like the science we know and love today. [This is also the reason why string theory is often criticized for not being science but math or philosophy: because right now, string theory cannot be experimentally tested.] Does that mean that all we care about is experiment (as is often implied by philosophers and mathematicians)? No! Without theory, you have no idea what the data mean! We need BOTH!

2. This is the nature of science. I want to understand something. I get an idea about this something. I design an experiment to test this idea. I (or someone else…as I can’t get my hands dirty with data…;) ) run the experiment. I get results. I determine whether the results are reliable (and yes, this matters). If the results aren't reliable, I run another experiment (NOT uphold my hypothesis as it is so wrongly assumed). If the results are reliable, I determine whether they agree or disagree with my hypothesis. If they agree, my hypothesis becomes a theory (and no, hypothesis is not the same as theory) and what are we arguing about? If they don't, then what's wrong with the hypothesis (NOT what's wrong with the experiment as it is also wrongly assumed)? This is the crux of what we call the scientific method. This is how it is done in Physics, like every other science. I have worked in both experiment and theory, and I know that when experiment and theory disagree, there's only one time when someone says there must be something wrong with the experiment: when there's something wrong with the experiment. What these two pseudo-biologists (neither were really biologists) wrongly criticize are circumstances in which there really is something wrong with the data or the data aren't enough to rule out a theory (and no, I don't mean hypothesis...theories have some experimental basis already; if you have to throw out a theory, you either have to go back and reinterpret the old data, or determine if there was something wrong with the old data). Both situations happen in any science field. Sometimes data is corrupted because of mistakes. This is sad, but corrupt data doesn't tell anyone anything. [Surely, you guys aren't suggesting that we should base our understanding on unreliable data, are you?] And sometimes, our experiments just aren't good enough to rule out a theory. Data plagued by huge error bars aren't going to tell you much, either. Sure, they can rule out theories with outrageous predictions, but they can't rule out ones that make more reasonable predictions. In this case, no one, and I mean NO ONE, ever says that there's something wrong with the data. They always say that the data are not inconsistent with some theory. This actually makes experimenters happy. Why? Because they have even more of an excuse to do another experiment. The only situation that I can think of in which theorists weren't ready to throw away a theory in the face of seemingly inconsistent data was that of the famous Solar Neutrino Problem. The idea is that the Sun is powered by nuclear fusion. The nuclear fusion processes give off the light and heat that we enjoy from the Sun. However, if we believe Nuclear and Particle Physics, then we know that these nuclear processes also emit neutrinos. Experiments were designed to detect neutrinos produced by in the Sun through nuclear fusion. One experiment found that there were many fewer neutrinos than expected. At first, no one believed this experiment. Why? Because other experiments didn't see the same result. Later, more experiments came out and also found a dearth of neutrinos. However, astrophysicists weren't ready to throw away the theory. Why? Because we had gone down the list of possible explanations for how stars do what they do. The only thing that we could think of that worked was nuclear fusion. If it turned out that our theory was wrong, we'd have to throw out all of stellar astrophysics! Okay, so I know what you're saying: "So, you'd have to go back to the drawing board. Isn't that what you're supposed to do?" Yes, that is if you really understand what the data are saying. See, astrophysical experiments were consistent with stellar theory. So, whose experiments should you believe? Also, which part of the theory is wrong? The nuclear furnace interpretation? The nuclear fusion processes? Nuclear Physics? Particle Physics? So, no. We weren't ready to give up on a theory that explained astronomical observations of stars because of data that we didn't understand. That was our argument. Are we sure we truly understand the data? Now, before you dismiss that as a cop-out, know that it's a fair argument. After all, how often do you miscommunicate a message because of lack of understanding of what someone else said? Ever play Telephone? This was the Solar Neutrino Problem. Particle physicists insisted that the astrophysicists were wrong, and astrophysicists insisted that the particle physicists were wrong. Who was right? The astrophysicists. The answer was that we really didn't understand what the solar neutrino data was telling us. It wasn't that stars aren't powered by nuclear fusion. It's that the neutrinos we expected to see (electron type neutrinos) were changing flavors to types that the experiments couldn't see. Later experiments verified this, and that was the resolution of the Solar Neutrino Problem. There was nothing wrong with the experiments, and no one said that there was, but there was nothing wrong with the theory that was supposedly inconsistent with the data, either. We just didn't understand what the data actually meant.

3. How often is someone going to throw money at you for running an experiment for no real reason? Never. When someone proposes an experiment, very often, it is for the sake of testing theory. There's a good reason for that. How do you know that an experiment is going to give you something useful, otherwise? Without theory, you could very well end up wasting a lot of time and money. So, when scientists (experimenters AND theorists) propose an experiment, theory is nearly always the motivation. Does this mean that experiments are the slaves of theory? No. In Physics, we go through periods in which experiment is ahead of theory and vice versa. A perfect example of a period in which experiment is ahead of theory is the present period in cosmology. Right now, cosmology tells us that we understand only 4% of the universe. 'Nuff said. What tells us this? Certainly not theory. It was experiment that told us that we have dark matter and dark energy. And it's experiment that's probing the questions provided by both now. We do have theories for dark matter and dark energy, but if you back a cosmologist into a corner (well, actually, you don't have to, they use this fact to drum up excitement), they'll admit that there really aren't any good ideas. Why? Because we don't really know anything about the properties of dark matter and dark energy. Sure, we know that dark matter interacts gravitationally (that's how we found it in the first place), but that's all we know. Dark energy? We know even less about that. Need I say more? Besides, it's not always the case that experiments are motivated by any particular theory. Take the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. It's main motivation is to map out a large portion of the sky. This is very important for theory, especially cosmology, but there's no particular theory that's being tested. These types of survey studies are not only common in astrophysics, but also essential for the study and understanding of astrophysical phenomena. Experiments the slaves of theory? I don’t think so.