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Generalist

I've just realised; if I could help organise everyone else to talk about the stuff they know... For example on here... Hey, who wants to share something (else) about their field of knowledge that they think people in the other feilds or the average person are unlikely to know? Even if they are generally knowledgeable about science? Like useful organising principles and solutions to specific problems. Technical is good, not bad, if you can explain it to somebody who has no clue what it is!

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Generalist

The point would be for someone else to spot an application of that solution or conclusion in the field they usually work in... And, I've realised that won't work because you have to already know both the solution and the problem before your brain has a chance of connecting them. The connection is the tricky bit. But it'd still be interesting to hear from people!

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Generalist

Yikes, I'm rambling! Apologies...

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LittleSwirls

No worries, I think your enthusiasm for science is really cool!

 

I am not sure how well that would work though. I am a biologist and a lot of the specific knowledge I know isn't even that useful in other aspects of biology. Take for example ..... comparing nuclear DNA to mitochondrial DNA to look for evidence of hybridization between species. It's just so specific to what I'm looking at right? On the other hand, some of the more general patterns such as.... we often see the greatest distinction between two closely related species where their ranges overlap (natural selection is favouring individuals who are not crossbreeding as doing so would lower their fitness, so distinct traits are more successful -> get passed down -> become more exaggerated). idek???

On the other hand, areas where I think cross disciplinary work could really be cool don't necessarily involve bringing ideas from one side over to another, but utilise each fields specific skill sets to compliment each other. Take, for example, an archeological dig where historians and anthropologists with knowledge of human movements and cultures, chemists that can date artifacts and soil composition, biologists that can assess DNA and preserved organic material, a whole slew of engineering expertise to run the whole operation, etc!

 

edit: @Generalist

Edited by littleswirls
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DarkStormyKnight

I feel similarly but I'm thinking of going into teaching at a small college or something like that. That way I can teach about general knowledge in the field and run a (small) lab as well. I won't be getting into any journals, but it's still doing research and contributing.

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uhtred
12 hours ago, Generalist said:

I've just realised; if I could help organise everyone else to talk about the stuff they know... For example on here... Hey, who wants to share something (else) about their field of knowledge that they think people in the other feilds or the average person are unlikely to know? Even if they are generally knowledgeable about science? Like useful organising principles and solutions to specific problems. Technical is good, not bad, if you can explain it to somebody who has no clue what it is!

OK.  Getting data back from deep space spacecraft (like New Horizons, Cassini, etc) takes a huge amount of power and is one of the limits to deep space missions. Modern missions can collect far more data than they can possibly send back to earth.  There are very few tricks:  the transmitters are efficient, and the receivers are limited by the background noise of space.   

 

So far transmission has been with radio waves - using a as high a frequency as possible so that the transmit beam is as small as possible for the largest antenna dish that can fit on the spacecraft. The frequency is limited by what can be transmitted through the earths atmosphere.  

 

In the future lasers could be used because they can form much narrower beams - but figuring out how to point them correctly toward an earth-based receiver is extremely difficult and laser detectors are very noisy (optical photons are very high energy (~1 electron volt) as opposed to the ~.001 electron volt noise of an good cryogenic radio receiver).  so it doesn't help as much as you might think, but it does help

 

This is the type of problem people working on spacecraft systems think about. 

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LittleSwirls
21 hours ago, DarkStormyKnight said:

I feel similarly but I'm thinking of going into teaching at a small college or something like that. That way I can teach about general knowledge in the field and run a (small) lab as well. I won't be getting into any journals, but it's still doing research and contributing.

Honestly if you love teaching and actually doing hands-on research, this is a really nice way to go. The PI in my old lab back at uni basically spends his entire day writing proposals, finding money, and advising the phd/masters/4th yr students working in the lab.

I absolutely love research! I worked in a lab for 3 years and the mixture of hands-on with what is essentially puzzle solving a theory felt amazing. However, I love the teaching side of education even more so I got my teaching degree with the aim of teaching high school Bio/Chem. I thought for a hot moment of continuing in academia and teaching from that side of the equation ... but the likelihood of getting a job was way too low for my comfort. Teaching at a small college seems like a happy middle ground that still has room for the research side of things and honestly, I'm totally here for it!

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Generalist
On 12/11/2019 at 4:14 AM, LittleSwirls said:

On the other hand, some of the more general patterns such as.... we often see the greatest distinction between two closely related species where their ranges overlap

Exactly! I bet someone who knew about information theory would have something to say about that, maybe other places it applies, not just in biological populations. Ex. cultures evolve. Maybe recently separated religious sects diverge more where the two sects interact. Anyone who knows about it, what would you say?

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Generalist

@uhtred that's a fascinating problem! So the answer is probably lasers, but the technical details are what needs to be figured out? Do you think the problem is completely specific to spacecrafts? Will technological innovations in general, for other applications, provide the solution in the future?

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uhtred
1 hour ago, Generalist said:

@uhtred that's a fascinating problem! So the answer is probably lasers, but the technical details are what needs to be figured out? Do you think the problem is completely specific to spacecrafts? Will technological innovations in general, for other applications, provide the solution in the future?

I think there are a lot of cases where the "science" is understood at some level, but the technology is extremely difficult.  Among the many problmes with lasers, is aiming them.   The round trip times to the outer planets are so long that the receive and transmit directions from the spacecraft to earth are different. Its in principal possible to calculate, but actually knowing where everything is in real time is not that easy.   Still, my friends at NASA have started doing some laser communication tests as far as the moon. 

 

One difficulty about space projects is that the technology needs to be extremely conservative.  The mission duration can be 20 years, and every one of the subsystems has to work or the entire mission is a failure, and there my not be another chance in your lifetime (aside from the billion dollar scale cost) 

 

Some parts of communication for space benefit from earth experience, like using "turbo codes" for better data transmission efficiency. Other parts are unique to spacecraft (environment, ,lack of repair possibility, very long signal latencies etc). 

 

 

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Generalist

I should give an example of the connection I mean. Here's one: In the early 20th c, Claude Shannon realised that call-routing technology and Boolean logic could be combined to solve the problem of how to transmit any type of information electronically. 

He said he was the one who had the insight because "no one else was familiar with both those fields at the same time".

And now we have computers.

It's a pretty good argument for being familiar with lots of fields.

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Generalist

@uhtred Gosh, yeah. Pretty unique to space, then. I know they bounce lasers off the moon to measure the distance. But they are testing something to do with direction changing? Also, "my friends at NASA". That is so awesome :)

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daveb
9 hours ago, Generalist said:

It's a pretty good argument for being familiar with lots of fields.

Come to think of it, that's one reason for working in teams or in collaboration with other scientists in other fields or in similar fields with different focuses. It's not always realistic to expect one person to have enough breadth of knowledge. On the other hand, I think it can be good to aid and encourage scientists to explore things outside their primary focus, too. I think generalists and specialists are both needed (like in medicine where you have GPs and all sorts of specialists, often working in tandem).

 

I vaguely recall reading a sci-fi story many years ago where the science specialists called in generalists (who weren't necessarily scientists) to help them solve some major issue.

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uhtred
10 hours ago, Generalist said:

@uhtred Gosh, yeah. Pretty unique to space, then. I know they bounce lasers off the moon to measure the distance. But they are testing something to do with direction changing? Also, "my friends at NASA". That is so awesome :)

Not really direction changing, but  round trip to Saturn is a few hours for light  So if you see the laser arrive from earth and try to send it back along the same path, the earth will have moved out of the way by the time it gets there.   Just one example of a huge range of technical issues - all of them solvable, just a lot of work and time to do it.

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Generalist

@daveb

11 hours ago, daveb said:

where the science specialists called in generalists (who weren't necessarily scientists) to help them solve some major issue.

That's me. I'm a generalist!! Let me know if you ever remember what the story was called.

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daveb
10 minutes ago, Generalist said:

@daveb

That's me. I'm a generalist!! Let me know if you ever remember what the story was called.

It was decades ago, probably in some anthology. The chances I will ever remember is vanishingly small. :lol: 

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Generalist

 @davebOK 😁

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