Monday, October 08, 2007

Chocolate Ice Cream

Is better than God. At least, according to Jim Watson. I quote: "I like chocolate ice cream so much I don't need an afterlife. I can fulfill myself every day."

The talk was awesome. That was my favorite quote, followed shortly for wackyness by "I think Erectile Dysfunctional Disorder, which we can now treat with Cialis, has been evolutionarily selected for."

In terms of substantive stuff, he talked about how we can't get young people to want to be scientists unless we make it a fun place to be; interminable and badly paid graduate school, long postdoctoral careers with no way out, and the end-goal being paid less than a major league baseball Umpire. He also said it was silly for the P.I. to get his name on every paper leaving a lab, unless the P.I. really did contribute significantly to every paper in the lab. And that he thought going into science now was grimmer than when he was going into science.

He had his standard crazy things, talking about "new ways of thinking" that amount to pseudo-Darwinian semi-nonsense, for example the idea that Jews are smart because they were polygamous the longest; so extraordinary men had more wives and more children. His comment that "it might be wrong, but it's a new way of thinking" pretty much sums that one up in my opinion.

My favorite substantive comment that he made was on congeniality and science. What he said was, basically, that you absolutely have to talk to everyone you can in science. It doesn't matter if that person is mean, nasty, if you're afraid of them, if you're competing with them, whatever. You need to be able to walk into their office unannounced and talk about your project. Especially, he said, with competitors. Reason being that your competitors are the other people interested in your subject. One of the most interesting things he said was actually about Rosalind Franklin. He said that had she been able to sit down and talk to Crick, shown him her data and her stumbling block, Crick would have given her the missing piece to her logic and we would all be talking about Franklin's structure of DNA instead of Watson and Crick's structure of DNA. But she couldn't, and so she didn't, and so Watson and Crick are famous and have movies made about them and she died alone, bitter, and four years before she could have won the Nobel prize. Which is an interesting way of looking at it.

In any case, the talk was great, I have his new book, and man does James Watson have an annoying laugh.


ayn said...

Well, if his laugh is annoying then I guess we do not want to party with him, anyway.

Duff said...

I have always thought that James Watson would be nice to have at a party initially, until one realized that no one else is speaking, and the event has become not so much a party, but a speech.