Category Archives: Graduate school

research news

My lab’s recent microgravity flights gave us some good data to demonstrate that we’re not totally crazy with this flux-pinned spacecraft idea. In fact, it actually works. We were able to get mockup CubeSat-sized spacecraft to pin together without touching, and use magnetic fields to form a non-contacting hinge.

An article just appeared in the Cornell Chronicle about our stuff.

We’ll be applying to fly a refined experiment on the Vomit Comet next summer, as well, through the NASA FAST program. (Check out the link to our video on the FAST front page!)

on healthcare and research

I have two things to write down some thoughts about.

First, while I do some of the more mechanical computer modeling work during the day, I’ve been listening to a lot of NPR streamed over the Tubes. Today, I learned some factoids that basically break down as follows:

  1. If you figure out how many people in America get health care and the quality of care they recieve, you find that we actually have the most “rationed” healthcare system of industrialized nations. That is, in a country with omg-we-can’t-have-that single-payer healthcare, or even anything not as vile and disgusting as that, more people get the care they need when they need it than in the USA.
  2. If you figure out how much health care costs in this country, and compare it to the cost of health care in other countries – not just premiums, mind you, but tax money that goes into health care as well – you find that Americans have the most expensive health care system in the world.

If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, it’s that the GOP is neither morally nor fiscally responsible; and that they are not really “conservative” in any actual definition of the word. If you’re not thinking that, you’re probably a Republican and have just pegged me as a pinko commie godless bleeding-heart Massachusetts liberal. (I will give you three of the words in that phrase, contend that there’s nothing wrong with at least those three, and the rest I contest.) In fact, I am merely a scientist and engineer, and I know how to read numbers and am willing to make policy decisions based on data. I’m also insulin-dependent diabetic, and would seriously appreciate a much lower cost and more assurance of the efficacy of the treatments just keeping myself alive.

Second, I have been hoping to come up with some good theoretical results to present in a conference paper on my research later this summer, and it just hasn’t happened. I’ve been too busy with other work-related things, and now I’m in a summer internship at NASA and don’t have the time to spare, so results are not going to be forthcoming before the paper deadline. This leads me to conclude that I much prefer being an experimentalist to being a theoretician. The reason is that labs sometimes go the experimenter’s way, and sometimes they don’t – but part of that is uncontrollable. The experimenter can, though, usually sift through data to find some useful results. Even negative results are useful. Any results at all will at least shed light on the techniques employed. If theoretical work doesn’t go the theoretician’s way, however…you are just left with a theoretician staring blankly at a piece of paper with a lot of scratchwork. And a lack of results just means that the theoretician hasn’t done the right thing or worked hard enough yet.

In other words, I have no results and it’s my own damn fault. I can’t even blame fault apparatus, numerical noise, or experimental error. I just didn’t do enough, or the right kind of, work. And that just makes me less motivated to continue this line of inquiry.