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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Seven Years Of Science

Today is sort of a special day for me, because exactly seven years ago, your humble narrator took his first fumbling steps into scientific research.

So far it has been... interesting.

I am aware that seven years' experience isn't much for a research career, but there are many young people who are just starting out and might like to have an idea of what doing science in Singapore is all about.

Instead of piling out stacks of boring details, I would like to illustrate my personal experience using one short, simple story.

It goes like this:

A long time ago, while studying in Canada, I went with a bunch of hostel mates to a dinner theatre.

It was the first time I had ever been to such an activity. You start with the dinner, which is a buffet-type spread, before the stage play begins.

While we were eating, one of the Canadian students pointed out a dish of wasabi next to a large plate of sushi.

Although I was familiar with sushi, I had never tasted wasabi before.

She said: "You're not going to like it - it's really hot."

Now that got me all worked up.

"Really hot?" I sneered.

Perhaps she had overlooked the simple fact that your humble narrator grew up in Singapore and had been thoroughly "trained" to eat some of the hottest and deadliest curries and chillies in the history of the Universe.

Why, I can chomp down one entire chilli padi directly without batting an eyelid, thank you very much.

Hot? HOT?!??


Weak-minded Canadians.

So I scooped up a big dollop of wasabi, plopped it onto my sushi and stuffed the whole thing into my mouth...


The pain was immediate - a massive stinging explosion shot right up my nose, leaving me stunned in silence as tears slowly rolled down my cheeks.

Noticing my distressed expression, the concerned student asked:

"Are you OK? Is it hot?"

I weakly replied:

"Yeah... you're right... it is hot. I didn't know... wow... it is hot."

At that point in time, I wasn't struck as much by the inane imprecision of the English language as I was struck by the feeling of confusion and embarrassment.

How could I have felt so well-prepared, but still caught completely off-guard??!?

That, my dear readers, is what doing science feels like.


Glendon Mellow: The Flying Trilobite said...

This story is gold.

On behalf of Canada, sorry abou the wasabi thing. Cheers.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

To Glendon:

Actually I blame the British for inventing the English language - especially for assigning a few dozen meanings to a single word "hot".

I blame the Japanese for creating wasabi - which lo and behold has exactly the same shade of green as green tea ice-cream.

Coincidence? I think not!

And I blame Canada for not opening a Tim Hortons in Singapore.

angry doc said...

"On behalf of Canada, sorry abou the wasabi thing."

What about Bryan Adams?

Lab Rat said...

An acquaintence of mine, upon encountering sushi and wasabi the first time, thought that the little green lump was some kind of pre-meal mint candy. Now that really catches you off guard.