Field of Science

The story of Psi, and why I blog under a pseudonym

Some people may be wondering why the hell I'm posting under a pseudonym; and why, of all things, 'Psi Wavefunction'?

First off, a brief story of Psi:
'twas the night before my first physics final, while I was still innocent and optimistic about the whole exam concept. I was so sure I was gonna totally pwn all my finals, since ass-kicking in highschool apparently implied intelligence or something, at the time. Pwnage did happen, but not in the expected direction. But I digress. I was stupid enough to sign up for a hard-core first year integrated sciences program, and thus our physics curriculum was on steroids. And crack. Also, said program was called 'Science One', and the symbol devised by prior students was an uppercase Ψ with the middle stroke being shaped like a 1. Quite fun to write.

We were playing around with Schroedinger's equations, with something about a wavefunction being like Ψ(x) = scary stuff I forgot by now. That was also a lot of fun to write. My friend down the hall was a comic artist, so I was kind of envious of the massive perpetual party hosted inside her head. So with exam stress building up, somehow a pair of eyes happened atop Ψ(x), and thus Psi Wavefunction, the Son of Schrö, was born.

I think he looks kinda cute. And yes, Psi thinks 'Sigh'. haha. Later, Partial, hNu, Neuron et al. came along, and I even had a few comic strips involving them, but sadly never got around to making any storyline with them, which would have been fun. Still, he got to live on as my internet alias. There is the inconvenience of being contacted by physicists thinking I'm one of their ilk, only to find out I fled from PHYS101 with flailing arms after the second time...

The most abstract (and therefore, cute-prone) geeky characters tend to come from physics and math, where the whole subject is fairly abstract. Biology is much harder to cutify, especially since adding humanoid eyes to other animals and beyond would be kinda weird. I do have some viruses surfing on E.coli somewhere though... (before I started doodling protists on my notes, it was cartoonified molecules and cells...)

Our prof mentioned that exonucleases were 'like pacman', and this is the horrible, horrible result.

I have no idea why 'Euglena has 4 chloroplasts' was mentioned, but that doesn't sound right at all... I can't find anything about 'four chloroplasts' in Euglena, and a quick image search reveals the statement to be rather questionable. This is what happens when a zoologist starts talking about protists... can you imagine making a statement like "Fish have 5 fins" and getting away with it? But making a similar statement about a 'lower eukaryote' is perfectly acceptable... but I digress again:

Since we're on the topic of classroom doodling, obligatory protist doodles:

Fun times... anyway, how did we get distracted from Psi?

Next topic: Why blog under a pseudonym?
Some people assume that writing under anonymity or a pseudonym is for propagating potentially offensive or insulting views while being safe from the repercussions. Sure, some people do take advantage of internet anonymity to act like total assholes without any consequences. And that's what free speech is all about anyway: it protects erudite ideas as well as vulgar obscenities and utterly moronic statements. The same goes for acting under an alias: sometimes it gets abused for flaming and spamming, sometimes it can be perfectly benign or even beneficial.

However, that's not really the reason I do it. I'm probably more upfront and aggressive in person, especially to those I know. Here I target my posts at strangers, so a fair bit of politeness comes out naturally. I generally refrain from referring to sub-par ideas here as 'totally fucking moronic', as it's not a particularly constructive form of discourse. In real life, however, it can be a perfectly acceptable and satisfying way to share your disagreements in certain circumstances, eg. with your friends.

One of the main reasons I use a pseudonym is in case a putative future employer accidentally chances upon this, and gets to know my blog before getting to know me in person. I'd like to be in modest control over how someone gets a first impression of myself, especially where it matters. While I don't write anything here I wouldn't say in real life, some of the stuff I wouldn't say in an interview. It feels like a blog post rids you of the ability to choose who gets to see it and in what context.

Also, since I don't currently work in the field of protistology, it feels awkward to write about it, especially with true experts on the prowl (literally, as I found out yesterday... hi there!). An undergrad isn't really supposed to keep a science blog, so I try to diffuse that little detail with an alias. That said, don't adjust standards accordingly: please let me know of any inaccuracies or outright bullshit!

Lastly, I'm trying to keep my department affiliations kind of hidden (and really failing at it...), just in case. I woudln't want to unintentionally embarass them by writing something stupid here, so it's best if the readership is for the most part unaware of who'd be insane enough to employ this freak =P

And one last note... in case it looks weird that I don't blog about my own research: I do find it fascinating and am dying to write about it, but the Arabidopsis field is quite competitive so it's best to keep scoopable material hidden until publication. I could write about some published works, but most of the stuff I read relates directly to our current work, and might give some ideas/clues to certain labs that have screwed us in the past. Not that there's any real probability of them showing up here of all places, but if it were to only happen once my boss (and labmates) would probably rip my head off and autoclave it. (Would that be Risk Group III?)

That said, I have gels to run and drugs to do... on my plants. Toodles~


  1. I just happened on Your blog by googling mysterious term "psi travelling" as supposedly be a way to find home used by cats.

    I was at first amused, as your style of writing is really good(storytelling like s. king whos books sometimes are boring but his style just hipnotize me somehow) and i just kept reading from post to post. Once I wanted to become microbiology type of scientist, even got to uni but life is life and what is left is at least enough to read through your material fairly understanding what is going on and when to laugh.
    It's one of those lazy mornings and untill coffeine hits I usually just cruise and surf and jump around but today I found a gem.


  2. I don't comment on blogs. In fact, this is my first (comment, that is. ever. seriously.) but had to say that you are a terrific and engaging writer so I hope you keep it going. Scientists (myself included) aren't usually known for their lit skills. Nice job.

  3. Loved the pics and comments on early Hoosier ocean life. I took lots of mortality plates from those rdcuts down on the 37 when I was at IU. Maybe you could do us all a favor and go explore the bizarre wacko blown-up fossil brachiopods, crinoid heads etc that populate one particular level (Salem formation?) in the area. Find them in Yellowstone(?) creek near you at IUB. All along that creek. Many are hollow and infilled w/ quartz & goethite xls. When I was there 10 years ago and prior, there was speculation as to how this particular formed or expanded so wildly, but I didn't get the impression there was definitive or consensus.
    new follower,

  4. <3

    I have critter ADD, but am a Practicing Plant Taxonomist and warper^H^H^H^H^H^H teacher of young minds. Bwahahahahaha. I'd love to use your phylogeny in class if I might. I adore higher level phylogeny, and yours really is top notch (IMO).

    and your sense of humor rocks.

  5. Stumbled upon your blog when I was searching up the habitats of onychophorans, whether they live in forest or meadows etc. I really enjoyed reading the social onychoporan post. You are honestly hilarious and have quite a way with words. I don't normally read blogs or follow people but how can one not follow your posts. :)))


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