Tuesday, February 01, 2005

First day of spring semester

Had the first lectures of 3 of the 4 classes I'm signed up for, and, at a first glance, they all look pretty good. If my fourth class ends up also looking good, I'll have a bit of a dilemma, namely whether to absorb the pain of taking 4 classes while also trying to get something done in the lab or having to pick a class to drop.

The demographics in my molecular biology class were different from anything I've seen so far: women outnumbered men 3:1 or 4:1, and 50-60% of the women were Asian. Even taking into account something I seem to remember reading about the current trend being that more women than men are going into biology [and cheerfully ignoring such statistical issues as whether this time around the class just happens to have a demographic significantly skewed from the usual distribution], that's quite a departure from the common norm of male-dominated science/engineering classes. Weird.

And another entry from the "Only at MIT" category: the subway car I was in had a poster advertising the magazine "Science", and made reference to Thomas Edison. Somebody had scrawled "Thief of Tesla's work !" beside the bit about Edison, a reference to Nikolai Tesla, a physics genius who invented the alternating current (AC) system of electricity distribution [and lots of other stuff]. Apparently, Tesla and Edison had a bit of a falling-out over Tesla's redesign of Edison's direct current (DC) generator, as well as the fact that Tesla's AC equipment was technically better than the DC stuff Edison was pushing. Now, I ask you, where in the world would somebody actually know this somewhat obscure fact and be moved to call attention to it by scrawling it on a poster ? Only at a place deeply committed to geekery [like MIT]; while a student from Hah-vahd [which lies on the same subway line] could technically also have done it, that possibility seems much less probable than it being an MIT student. [I'm disregarding all the other people who ride the subway because, by a super-scientific process of elimination based on no evidence whatsoever, I just don't think they're serious candidates =)].


2 Comments:

Blogger tano said...

Curious to know why your mind did not wonder or you did not bother to comment on Larry Summers during this musing?

10:54 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Tano - Good question =) Somehow, I just failed to make that connection. In general, my reaction to the Larry Summers flap is that the flap over what he said was ridiculous. If you can't even raise the possibility that there are biological differences between men and women without being branded a cave-man trying to sustain the patriarchy, there's a serious speech code in effect.

7:03 AM  

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