Your cartoonist ist a big aviation enthusiast. One particular design that’s always fascinated him is the German WW2 era Bachem Ba 349 Natter (“Adder”), developed just before the end of the war. It was a tiny, vertically-launching rocket plane designed to shoot down incoming bombers. Constructed mainly of wood it was designed for speeds of up to 1,000 km/h. It was also partially disposable, with the main rocket engine and the pilot returning to the ground by parachute. It only flew once, immediately crashed, killing the unlucky test pilot. It’s designer went on to build caravans after the war – probably a bit less dangerous.
A big fan of space travel, your cartoonist only recently noticed that NASA got rid of its great “worm” logo, consisting of the word NASA in futuristic red letters. Looked great on the sides of rockets and space ships and inspired countless logos of other space administrations (ESA, JAXA, etc). Instead, they went back to the boring logo from the 1950s. Yawn. The worm logo ist still used, though, by the NASA Federal Credit Union which is an organisation that lends money to NASA employees, retirees an a bunch of other people. Double yawn.
As a scientific researcher you are always on the hunt for novelty (and by that I don’t mean gimmicks you can buy in a shop). Often such newness comes from solving old problems by doing some difficult new method à la “it’s never been done before”. Of course, this goes wrong a lot – that’s why research feels hard and often seems to lead nowhere. In many cases not even to a permanent job.
Being an “academician” doesn’t start when you’ve finished your last university degree. Oh no, sir. To be admitted into the ivory tower with a permanent job you must first prove that you can cut the mustard as a researcher (if you’re not a certified genius). That means: short contracts, long hours, pressure of finding own funding and publishing as much as you can. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
In academic research there is a division line between people who secretly think they are geniuses and people who know they aren’t. Come to think of it, that probably applies everywhere on the intellectual spectrum. All the way from Mensa down to the people deciding car parking policies in your artist’s local council.
Szpylbert is annoyed with an article on artificial intelligence in The Economist (09/05/2015), claiming that there “is no result from decades of neuroscientific research to suggest that the brain is anything other than a machine, made of ordinary atoms, employing ordinary forces, and obeying ordinary laws of nature”. If your cartoonist isn’t entirely wrong, then the article is about the possibility of creating an artificial mind. However, for good reasons, a mind can only be completely unlike a machine (c.f. Thomas Nagel). It should therefore be impossible to create anything like an artificial mind at our current level of thinking...
Again a post about working as a postdoctoral researcher at a university. Modest pay, short contracts, project work, and a lot of egos to please. Doing a lot of Doodle polls that nobody bothers to reply to. Ah, yes, I sometimes forget, it’s also about research.