Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bleeding from the Cutting Edge of Science

Originally uploaded by Waldie's World.
Ok, so this week is over, and a bit of relaxation can now take place. But earlier this week, it was far from relaxing, most notably on Wednesday afternoon. I work for Prof. David Willer and help to run experiments testing several theories of Network Exchange. We use a web-based program in our lab that allows us to log on numerous subjects so that they can participate in the experiment. High tech, but pretty easy to use. Unless, of course, things go wrong.

Long story short- all those worst case scenarios that you know probably will never happen all happened at the same time. First, my partner Rachel and I couldn’t get one of the computers to log in. We waited and waited and nothing happened. So we tried to reload everything. But now the hall was filling up with our participants, dutifully arriving on time (early, actually) so we get nervous. Still nothing. Finally, I bite the bullet and go get the Professer. (These are of course NOT the type of things you want to bother your Professer about). So Willer and his PhD student / sidekick Pam come down and try to help, but nothin’s doing. Finally Pam gets it set up, but we’re now fully 15 minutes late in starting the study. But it’s OK, cuz everything’s ready to go- except that only 5 people showed up, and we need six to run the experiment. @#%*!!

Rachel must run around the building looking for someone to fill in the spot. Finally we find a willing Grad student, and all is ready to go…until the whole system crashes. Which means we have to shut down and bring up the program on all seven computers- in front of the subjects, who must think we’re absolute morons (cuz we must look like it). Finally, we do get the experiment up and running smoothly…until about a third of the way through when I realize that in the chaos of the moment, I logged the computers in in the wrong order and thusly realize that we have supplied a bunch of vital info to the wrong subjects. So we must run around and explain and correct the mistake, again looking very much the idiot. In the end, we got it running and- it ran OK. And Willer wasn’t annoyed at all. He was actually quite amused that so much went wrong at once. So all in all, it was fine. But damned if it wasn’t a bit stressful. Thanks, cutting edge of science. Could you get me a band-aid now?

1 comment:

Theresa said...

ah, yes, when it rains, it pours. Somehow I think it more often than not happens like that. I know this comment is a bit belated, but my sympathies for the bad science day.