Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dear Hypothesis

Dear Hypothesis,

It’s after midnight, and I’m sitting all alone in the lab, thinking of you. I recall fondly how in the rush of spring meetings, you first revealed yourself to me though the coy implications of supposedly unrelated talks. I remember the passionate nights that followed, chasing up all the relevant studies, and probing the mysterious gaps in the literature with the passion of youthful expectation and optimism. The revelation that we had the analytical setup necessary to cement our relationship thrilled me to no end, and I wasted no time devising a scientific protocol. While I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I threw myself into the challenges and groundwork. Those were the days, when your geoanalytical implications beckoned with wild abandon.

Even then, I realized that confirmation could be testing, and though I was naive to the ion optical prowess necessary to perform the analysis, I none-the-less soldiered on. We all fantasize about the beauty of supporting experimental data, and I was obviously setting myself up in this regard. While our dataset can be called many things, beautiful isn’t one of them. Mass spectrometry is hard, and the scars can be disfiguring. Never-the-less, it was a learning experience. And while it isn’t perfectly clear cut, it is clear enough to tell me that we’re through.

I know this hard. It isn’t what I wanted either. But at this point, there isn’t much choice. Even our fat, round error curves are not broad enough to cover the observed scatter. You could show me perfect spots of countrate-limited beauty from now until dawn, and our probability of fit would still be negligible in the morning. I might as well just shut down the instrument.

I won’t, of course. I have a reputation to maintain, and even if I know our relationship is doomed, we’re booked in here for the rest of the night. So I’ll keep going through the motions until morning. The boys would think less of me if I packed up now, and I don’t want to come across as a wimp. But really, it’s over.

Please don’t be one of those hypotheses who keeps hanging around after your time. I’ll admit that I haven’t come up with a new hypothesis yet. As long as I thought there was a chance for us, I was loyal. But even if you do hide in the error bars and keep calling from the shelter of hypothetical artifacts, I don’t fancy your chances. I’m on the lookout for someone new, and you’ll only beat yourself up watching us go. I do wish you all the best, of course. You’re a very attractive hypothesis, and I’m sure there are lots of theorists out there willing to overlook your lack of actual data. And while I hope you don’t rebound into the eye of a delusional crackpot, it’s a bit awkward for me to give advice at this point in time.

In fact, you have every right to be angry. We were in love, and I really thought it would work out. Had the data allowed, I was ready to give you my name make you my Theory. It just wasn’t to be. Despite all that, I do need to stress that I am faultless in this matter. Science is to blame.
sincerely,
your EX-perimentalist

15 comments:

Evelyn Mervine said...

Best post ever!

Anne Jefferson said...

Fantastic!

Matt said...

Brilliant post.

But really? You didn't have another hypothesis on the side? At least you must have occasionally thought of other hypotheses, even if you never acted on the urge to 'investigate' them.

Umberto said...

WOW ... I am speechless. You gave me the strength, I wasn't able to find, to deal with mine.

Ron Schott said...

We are not worthy! We are not worthy!

Lockwood said...

I know it's tough, but don't worry: another hypothesis will come along. (wonderful post!)

Steve Gough said...

Brilliant and inspiring. Lesser men settle for a trophy hypothesis.

andrew said...

'Tis better to have hypothesized and lost than never to have hypothesized at all.

Silver Fox said...

:)

jrepka said...

I will forevermore break into giggles whenever anyone mentions "multiple working hypotheses."

Denise said...

Awesome!

Brian Romans said...

So good. Submit to Open Lab compilation ... NOW

Chuck said...

jrepka beat me to the answer to Matt's question. Some folks cultivate veritable harems of multiply working hypotheses, all striving for attention and favor. These are never either truely rejected nor fully embraced. I don't have the intellectual flexibility or stamina for that approach; my brain is only big enough for one hypothesis at a time.

Anonymous said...

At first I thought this was one of those smutty hypotheses-gone-wild websites, but your story was rather romantic and touching. Made me cry.

Mother of Grad Student said...

This is what I paid tuition for?

At least you learned scientific serial monogamy from your father and me.