Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fish are boring

On the bright side, I now have more faith in my instincts. When we met on Saturday, I got two vague impressions: awkward and cynical. But I couldn't remember anything in particular that made me feel that way. So I decided to give her a chance. Well. Three miserable hours later I've got to tip my hat to you, instincts. Usually, I find a touch of awkwardness endearing. But not with this one. There was nothing endearing about this one. What bothered me the most was her lack of empathy. Second most was her aggressive commitment to unfounded opinions. I've got this friend who's a grad student in the fisheries department and on Saturday her friend made out with his friend. So, naturally, our conversation migrated toward fish. We didn’t even get the chance to discuss what a person in the fisheries department might actually do before she let me know how boring she thinks "watching fish all day" would be. Clearly, the only thing she needed to form this opinion was the word “fish.” And -- as with everything else we talked about -- there would be no compromise. I felt that I should point out that it could be really interesting. I've always been amazed at how schools of fish move together. So fluidly. Almost like a single living, breathing, organism. But each fish is acting and reacting according to an isolated set of rules in its little fishy brain. No one orchestrates the behavior of the group. It just happens. Like magic. I think that imagining and testing simple rules that explain seemingly complex phenomena is probably the most creative, elegant, and fun part of science. “It’s fish. Who cares?” I felt that I should point out that a similar self-organizing system of things -- neurons -- makes us us. Maybe studying systems like fish can lead to insights about the very nature of thought! Wouldn’t that be interesting? Nope. Fish are boring.

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