Of moths and ferns: the Internet as a window to the past

27 01 2008

I’m home sick for 3 days now, and have been doing nothing but sleeping, coughing, surfing the net and thinking. Maybe thinking too much, as you can see below.

The Internet is typically regarded as a window to the future, a glimpse of things yet to come, showing what can be possible in the future. Recently though, there seems to be more and more evidence that it works in both directions. Things that were long forgotten come back to your attention, the Internet equivalent of finding the Death Sea Scrolls. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. But when you browse YouTube and see Brazilian ads from the 70’s, find old soccer collectible cards, and get LinkedIn invites from folks you haven’t seen since the 8th grade, you can’t help but wonder if your whole life will be digitalized one day.

A few weeks ago, I googled my own name and found evidence of my previous life as a biologist: a paper I had co-written back in the early 90’s about the interactions between an epiphytic Brazilian fern and a moth:

Microgramma Paper

At the time, I used to think that my research was pointless and boring, but now I miss those days. Research work is tough, under-appreciated and sometimes lonely, but once you start getting results, it feels good to know you are contributing to the overall body of knowledge of humanity. One of my mentors used to say that science is all about creating little bricks that one day will be used to build walls and buildings. Cheesy but true. It’s also likely that some bricks will never be used, but you won’t know that up front. The fabulous pea plant experiments by Mendel were not recognized until way after this death.

All that led me to think about how our lives are shaped by decisions made every day, some small, some large. What if I had stayed in University as a researcher? Would I be bored now? Would I be famous (in the Academia world at least)? Both my sister and my brother-in-law are biologists and they seem to be very happy with the path they chose. In an ideal world, I’d like to be able to use my background as a researcher and a biologist in my IT endeavours. That would be really cool. Or maybe it’s time to cut on this NeoCitron tea.

Update: fixed the image link.

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