Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Grass is Greener?

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

--Sir Winston Churchill

Something startled me, today, as I made my way through the unusually drab, dirty-gray, abandoned-hospital-like hallway back to my office. This was after my Drug Metabolism cranial drubbing and I was feeling rather, well, beaten and walked slowly. I was heading towards the stairwell and I noticed a brand-spanking new incubator, still in the box, loaded on a pallet just at the base of the stairs. Being an opportunistic graduate student only truly interested in self-preservation and the propogation of my thesis to all science-deprived souls of the world (along with the end of oppression and world hunger, of course), I stopped to check it out. That's when I realized something odd about our world.

Something startled me on the box. The words "Round Euro Styling" was written in fancy font on two sides of the box. Apparently, for scientists in the US and other Non-European countries (yes there are others that value science)the styling of one's incubators is an important consideration.

This fact ALONE leads me to a plethora of concerns about the future of scientific discovery in the world. For example a concern that someday the value of my work will be diminished because my incubator did not have EURO styled corners. (And that, I know now, is round.) In addition to plots and data and pages of intelli-speak regarding my discoveries or proofs, I will have to submit a floor plan of my workspace with visuals of my equipment. Style points is now not only a measure of College Athletics Bowl Potential, but also a measure of our abilities to contribute on the global scientific stage.

Ok, so my real question is this:
Since we seem to have a fixation on Euro styling, do the Europeans driving around in Audis and BMWs gaze at billboards of Chevys and Fords and just think "Wow, that is the style I wish I had!" or "That US style is really where Europe should be!" Dream on. Who on earth tries to emulate the US anymore in style?

Do the scientists in Europe even CARE about the shape of their incubators? I would be willing to bet they do not. I would be willing to bet their incubators don't really have round corners. I would be willing to bet the results they get from their incubators, however they are shaped, are remarkably similar to our incubators. Sure, we Americans are infatuated with trying to be trendy or even up-to-date with technology, style and fashion (will never happen). Science certainly is not immune to this. There is "trendy" science all around us, and the hot topic will certainly change.

In my eyes, it is a poor musician who blames his instrument. Or, a poor scientist who cares about the styling of his incubator.

And when the scientists pull up to their offices for another day of whipping their graduate slaves, they are thinking "Man, I sure am glad I drive a non-american car."

And thats anywhere in the world.


mossygirl said...

I think the corner rounding is more for overall scientific happiness while you're incubating. Maybe the logic is: if you have round corners, you'll be happier, and therefore, better at your science. So, logically, (ha ha) your science would be better and therefore such judgement would be warranted.

However, if that were the case, and you submitted your grad school digs to the "trend and style committee," grad student work would never pass; corporate biotech will always have nicer accomodations and be cleaner due to the absence of grad students, whom I hear are more filty (if it's possible) than college girls.

Just get your work done and get out of there before such things come to pass.

Flex said...

First of all, European styling is shorthand for not designed in America. This implies European engineering, which every BMW driver knows is better. (I'll bet that the incubator also conforms to ISO standards, and probably carries a CE mark, both EU related.)

Even if it is not any better in function, better looks will probably sell a particular model out of the catalog. Better still, the "modern laboratory" containing all the newest rounded corners and "in" colors may help convince the local administrator or funding body that the lab in question is more sucessful than that drab hole down the hall. "We do like to support winners, so here's an extra bit of space, or some discretionary funding so you can look even better when the next tour of politicos trundles through." Most of those slick shots that universities (and companies)use to attract donors have nothing to do with the research - it's always colored liquids being pipetted into a gel. I'ts one cut above the bubbling beakers of horror movies.

Of course the EU lab rats don't want American styling - they already have rounded corners - and probably would not be interested in fins - unless some Swedish style wonk decided to bring them back. I bet they do care more than American's about style, but don't have to try so hard to be ... European. What I want to know is why nobody is trying to be Chinese.