John C. Kirk (johnckirk) wrote,
John C. Kirk

I've been reading "The Science of Discworld II: The Globe" over the weekend. While it's still slower going than a normal Discworld novel, I'm getting through this book faster than the previous one. I'm not sure whether that's just the content, or whether all the studying I've done recently has given my brain some exercise. One interesting quote from it: "Most civilised folk now don't know why the Moon changes its shape, let alone why or where the pole star is. Yes, all right, you do, and it's not surprising. Others don't, and don't think what they don't know is worth knowing." Looking at previous comments in the book, they say that "there's never enough shelf space", even though "for a lot of people, two books were an enormous library." So, I think it's fair to say that they know their target audience.

On the wider theme of science and education, people sometimes ask me why I want to do a PhD (particularly in view of my recent rejections). The short answer is that I want to use it as a prelude to a career in research. And the reason I want to do research is partly that I want to keep studying, and actually cover new ground. In most companies, training is regarded as a necessary evil - you give up a few days for your staff to learn new skills, then you want them to use those skills repeatedly for the next couple of years, until the next upgrade comes along. The other motivation for research is that I want to do something worthwhile with my life - something that matters. The other reason for a PhD is a bit more shallow - I want the respect and recognition that comes with it. More specifically, I'm looking to get that from my peers. I already have vocational qualifications, and my former employers clearly valued my skills (based on my salary), but it's a bit like the Groucho Marx problem ("I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member") - I want to impress the people who aren't impressed by me.
Tags: books, postgrad

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