Halloween is absolutely one of my favorite times of the year, second only to Christmas. And, when you think about it, science and Halloween are really only distant cousins. After all, without one you wouldn’t get the other. Don’t laugh or role your eyes. It’s true! For example:
1. Dr. Frankenstein – what would Halloween be without the mad scientist villain? (I admit, not quite the depiction Shelley was going for in the book.)
2. The Mummy – Archeology is a science, after all.
3. Witches, Warlocks, and Sorcerers – I still maintain they are just misunderstood grad students and their PIs.
4. Zombies – we just had a lecture in Biochem relating age to misfolded proteins.
5. Magic in general – I personally think crystallography is black magic. Others might site NMR.
And without the whimsy and creativeness of all things Halloween related, where would science be today? What discoveries would we have missed out on if people stopped observing, questioning, and testing processes in the natural world?
From the grad student perspective, now that we have finished two exams and are starting to feel the five week strain a bit, trick or treat-ing pretty much sums up our life right now. Like those little trick or treaters (think Charlie Brown here) who dress up in awesome costumes and ring doorbells, hoping to get their favorite confection, so too grad students dress up every morning, go to school, either run an experiment or take a test, and hope to get a reward, i.e. awesome data or awesome grades. Unfortunately, lately, like Charlie Brown, I’ve been getting a lot of rocks. It took four weeks for my PCR to produce actual bands. We had two Friday evening exams within a week of each other (thank you Biochem and Genetics). I lost my wallet (ok, technically not a science related event). I was forced to explain a paper I did not fully understand in front of a class where barely anyone had the paper, let alone read it….the list really could go on and on. Lots of rocks here, no chocolate.
But, just as you start to feel like Linus sitting alone in the pumpkin patch, waiting for the Great Pumpkin, something does rise out of the darkness. Bands suddenly appear on your gel. Classes suddenly become more interesting and, dare I say, clearer. You attend a couple of seminars and you start forming clearer ideas of research you actually want to do, not just find interesting. So, the moral of this analogy, I think, is that science will give you tricks or treats and it is up to you to decide if you got a rock or a chocolate. Happy Halloween and may science be with you!