Friday, July 11, 2008

PIc your words

I distinctly remember this free physics class on a Wednesday when I was in first year of college. We were each asked to speak for five minutes about someone who had inspired us, whose contributions to the world we thought significant and important. Two weeks before that Wednesday, I had read an article in Reader's Digest about how much the scientific world had progressed fifty years since the discovery of the double helix in 1953. There was also a short interview with James Watson. I'd never had a hero before, someone I wanted to be like, but James Watson had impressed me. I scribbled some notes before I went behind the podium and gave a short talk about James Watson, what he had done and how much of an impact it had had on science, and on me.

Four years later, as a graduate student, when I first stepped on to the campus of Cold Spring Harbor Labs and someone told me that James Watson lived down Bungtown road, I was hyper. I frequently spotted the Nobel laureate in the Winship bar, in post-doctoral candidate seminars, sometimes asking questions I never understood and once a while driving around in his shiny car. Over the next one year, the image of the hero I portrayed in my five minute extempore those years back slowly degenerated into a senile old man with no regard for others' feelings. Maybe I judge him too harshly, but that is all that I have witnessed of this great scientist.

Political correctness is one thing, but to outrightly shun races, call someone unintelligent and make random conclusions from non-existent data is plain unacceptable. The first digression from the image was when I realized that the questions he asked in the seminars were not non-understandable, they were irrelevant. The statements he made about African people being less intelligent and that having a possible genetic explanation were shoddy and utterly baseless. But what triggered me to write this post was mostly what he said at a recent URP meeting (Undergraduate Research Program). I don't know if my writing my opinions on my blog is politically incorrect (PIc). But I suppose they aren't any more PIc than what Jim Watson had to say as an answer to some of the questions the URPs asked him. Totally unrelated to what the questions was (as the URP related to me) Watson actually announced that~
"Nothing good has come of Asia in the last 2000 years."

Unless someone was buried underground with ear plugs on and a frozen brain, they wouldn't make a statement like that. If I quote too many examples it would sound like I am defending my continent. I've had to defend India under many circumstances, especially from people who have this image of my country as a place that has elephants and snakes all over the streets and dancers swaying to music all day long. But since most of us know what Asia as a continent means to the rest of the world, I'll just state what I think is the recent biggest achievement in science. Yamanaka's reprogramming of differentiated cells into stem cells is a wow paper that everyone doing science must read.
That said, I am in need of a new role model. My boss is someone I hope to be like when I am his age. Dignified, extremely brilliant, passionate, respected and loved.



Bin said...

don't take the word from such a idiot so serious

Sandeep said...

aww.. disappointment!

nice writing.