Previous Current Older Next Contact

2007-02-08 1:08 p.m.

universal principles

I had a phone interview last night with the head of one of the graduate programs I'm applying to. The program I'm probably most interested in, in fact. While it is a good sign that they wanted to interview me, my gut feeling is that it didn't go particularly well. It was quite short, and, while it didn't actually go as follows, it felt like it went like this:

Them: "Do you have any research experience in bioinformatics?"

Me: "Uhh… No?"

Them: "What are you doing in Japan? Does that have anything to do with bioinformatics?"

Me: "No…"

Them: "Okay, so you're translating patents now. Are they biotechnology-related patents?"

Me: "Nooooo…"

Them: "Alright, I think we're done here."

Me: "Uhh… What?"


I feel like these graduate schools, especially the upper tier ones, all want people who are only interested in that one thing, who have only ever been interested in that one thing, to the exclusion of everything else. It's frustrating, because that's just not me. I'm interested in EVERYTHING. (Except law.) It reminds me of a quote from The Glass Bead Game, where he refers to college as “a course of studies designed to prepare the student as thoroughly as possible in the shortest possible time for a specialty in which he could earn his livelihood, and to stamp out whatever sense of freedom and universality he may have had.” (Though I must say, from what I've seen, that's probably less of a problem in American universities than it is pretty much everywhere else in the world.)

You know, I've come to call Go "the glass bead game" in my head. Yesterday I realized that one of the major things that draws me to Go also draws me to the study of biochemistry and molecular biology. And that's the fact that both are extremely complex worlds built on extremely simple building blocks. The rules of Go are stupid simple and all of biology basically boils down to the four DNA bases, but the strategy of Go is most likely more complex than any game ever invented, and it goes without saying that the details of how those four DNA bases are translated into life are pretty intricate as well. I love that paradox, that yin/yang.

I just reread the first book I ever read on Go, and was a bit surprised to find that I learned a lot from rereading it. When I first read the book, having essentially zero playing experience, most of the suggestions made sense. I nodded and moved on. What I didn't realize is that a lot of those suggested moves are not the first ideas that pop into the mind of a beginning player when those situations actually show up on the board. Now that I have a fair amount of experience as context, I appreciate some of the tips in that book a lot more.

Whenever I close my eyes anymore, I see Go. It seems to me to be the fundamental game of the universe, or at least the first two dimensions of it.

"The rules of go are so elegant, organic and rigorously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe they almost certainly play go." –Edward Lasker

My mp3 player was broken. The sound wasn't coming through the headphones properly. So I got a screwdriver, opened it up, and fixed it. Just what I did to fix it remains a mystery, since I didn't really do anything to it, but, hey, problem solved. I tried to use the same magic on my TV and received nothing but an electric shock for my efforts. It was worth it, though. For the shock, I mean.

maybe there isn't a vein of stars calling out my name,