After writing 2,300 words to introduce myself and the new blog yesterday, I hope you’ll grant me license for something more lighthearted but still scientifically fascinating.
I’ve recently been writing over at Terra Sigillata about the need for creativity-rejuvenating activity outside the laboratory or office. Perhaps it’s due to my training in Florida and Colorado after spending half my life in New Jersey and Philadelphia, but I feel that getting outdoors and doing anything but labwork on occasion is absolutely essential to continued success and, more importantly, one’s mental health in this critical and demanding business.
This idea came up last week when I served on a chemistry/pharma blogger discussion panel at the national American Cancer Society meeting in Boston with such heavy hitters as Derek Lowe (In the Pipeline) and Ed Silverman (Pharmalot) and liveblogged here at The Haystack by Lisa Jarvis. The discussion of whether graduate students should be “allowed” to blog came up.
I held that as long as a student didn’t write about specific internal lab issues that might compromise research or lab relationships that we (as lab directors) have no more business interfering with a student’s hobby than we do being concerned if they play softball, rock climb, or anything else. A person’s private time is just that.
Much groaning laughter and grumbling ensued. Several of those in attendance remarked that they had been, or currently are, the subject of oppression by their lab director that anything not related to science takes time away from the conduct of science. And when I posted on this, several commenters confirmed that many lab directors are, well, a bit crazy (in one or another DSM-IV categories) or, well, just plain asses.
This is a long way of saying that, IMHO, time spent in pursuits outside of lab are not only necessary for health but may also enhance one’s performance when returning to the lab.
A case in point was brought to me by one of my new friends and colleagues, C&EN associate editor (and former laser chemist) Dr. Lauren Wolf, who pointed me to a post from July at Newscripts, the online companion to the weekly column she writes with fellow Gator Rachel Pepling and Dr. Bethany Halford:
Last Saturday, C&EN colleague Carmen Drahl and I headed to the American Film Institute’s SilverDocs festival just outside Washington, D.C. During our day at the film fest, which ran June 21–27, we screened a quirky, highly entertaining documentary about science, the art of invention, and how to pick out a new camera by smelling it.
The two videos from the documentary, “The Invention of Dr. NakaMats” are so hysterical, but incredibly insightful, that I want to see the whole documentary. Telling the story of inventor, Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu, you learn that he is at his most creative while depriving himself of oxygen while swimming – even inventing a notepad for him to sketch his ideas while underwater. “Oxygen is bad for the brain,” he says.
I’ll leave it to you to view the video on a product called LoveJet, not an adult toy but rather a concoction, probably herbal, that does away with the need for foreplay.
My brain was deprived of oxygen from laughter when he said, “I have tested it on 10,000 women. I did not do the sex but I read the meters.”
But he’s not a crank – he holds over 3,300 patents including that for the floppy disk, CD, and karaoke machine, the latter of which provides alcohol-fueled enjoyment for graduate students worldwide.
This is too good not to share with you so please go to Lauren’s post to see the videos.