nothing is something

Christian gave his defense to a group of about ten of us: three professors charged with reviewing his thesis and asking him the hard questions behind closed doors, and seven others, charged with listening patiently while he presented overheads that represented, in some slight way, his two years of work.

I sat for forty minutes, listening carefully, trying to wrap my arts-and-literature brain around circuits and electrolytes and semiconductors and dye-sensitized solar cells.

And at the end of the forty minutes of shuffling papers and pointing with a meter stick, Christian showed us an overhead and said, "so as you can see, my work shows that there is no significant difference between the admittance when the dye is either exposed to light, or to no light at all."

I sat up and looked at the overhead.

"What you mean," I thought, "is that you spent two years testing this and that, recording data, shifting configurations, and tearing your hair out, and in the end, your tests conclusively prove that there is *no* relationship where you thought there might have been one.?"

And when I spoke with him later, Christian was clear: "That's exactly it," he said (in so many words), "sometimes, in the end, your results tell you nothing. And sometimes nothing is significant enough in and of itself."

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This page contains a single entry by Jeremy published on July 9, 1999 12:00 AM.

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