Sunday, September 25, 2005


I was doing some research today, and found myself googling an article I had written in a former life - when I was a graduate student in Theoretical Chemistry at Boston University. The article is here: (OK, I admit it, I needed a break and my mind was wandering backwards...)

Looking back at that, I have trouble putting myself back into the self that wrote that paper. I do remember arguing with my research advisor about publishing some of the results. He was *sure* I had made an error. The results for the OCS scattering graph were significantly (factor of 10 at least, I think) different than the known experimental results. Once we double and triple checked my results, we went with it, but with a possible explanation for the large deviation. Turned out (in another paper published a year or two after mine) that the experimental results had been wrong - they had made a major calibration error! That still feels cool when I think about it. There's something very sweet about uncovering the truth.

I can't say I could do the same calculations today, or even understand much of what I wrote back then. But that thread of my life has had a life of its own. There have been 25 citations for that paper - as recently as two months ago!

I don't think I would have been as happy as a theoretical chemist as I am as a software developer. But it still feels good to know that something of my scientific self is still living on - like a wave hitting a distant shore.

So if there are many possible lives we could have lived, how do we know that we are living the best of all possibilities? I think I may be in way too nostalgic a mood today.

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