Equifinality

In one of the runners-up for this year's "Subtle Science" short story competition (part of the Oxford Literary Festival), a writer describes the conflict between the world of a child and that of her scientist parent

N.E.A. Carter
Jul 12, 2007
You may have noticed that a dead fish floats on its back? Well a wooden fish can have this same peculiarity, as you will see if you make this toy. -E.M. Goodrick, Fun for One'... for the R-A-E... you know - like I was telling you about - Research Assessment Exercise. Well, apparently I need guidance. Then, just as I was about to leave, he asked me if I'd sponsor him - something to do with his kid's school. And I stood there and got this picture in my head of him falling out the plane and pulling on the chord and nothing coming out except his stupid little offprints...' Why does my mum talk about her boss like that? Imagine if Mrs Gradinsky, my headteacher, was doing a parachute jump and it was for charity. I'd get Mum to give me a pound so I could sponsor her.'...
Mu-um
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...and what's more is that James O'Callaghan has got himself shacked up at the field station - full board, probably with a room to himself, whereas I'm sleeping under a plastic sheet out in the sticks. No privacy. It gets really wet out here. So far the infra red gas analyser has got soaked - I've had to put it away. So making photosynthesis measurements has become an unbelievable chore. Then there are the leeches and black cobras - they provide the only excitement. I don't know what it is. Never been an issue really before. All I've ever needed is my research question - my focus, my goal. It's what's kept me going. Same with James O, I guess, but now to the nth degree. James has had it so easy in recent years - climate scientists, I can't tell you. Take his research project - fully funded, 5-year NERC project for which he is Principal Investigator. It's the kind that gets your Head of Department's attention. I kid you not - the day before I left for the field I was talking to the HoD about my forthcoming sabbatical and all he could do was stare at my chest. That's all the attention I get these days...
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post-natal depression
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why has he got a different colour skin?
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quieter'Well, what do you mean by it?'
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The Bina Harmonium #15 of India By Sukhdev BediI'd guessed you were a hitter: raised by the Bina family on the lean streets of Bombay, along with their fattened prize cows. I'd studied your form for hours: pamphlets, live footage and spoke with seasoned professionals in folk business towers. I felt prepared, face to face in the basement studio, with my screwdriver in chase of the classic drone combination of C, G, D and A: a standard of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra for their duration. There you stood wheezing with your reeds and reach, your stage presence, dynastic plumage and perfect record. It began. I opened you up immediately: came in deft, scratched the Eb plate; right, after left. Again, I came, but from the back; instructions bellowed out from the corner man that I took as flack. A rabbit punch to the Bb plate, but you didn't slide a demi-tone too late. I had lost in clumps of knuckle: my tactics were more wooden and my movements less supple. Failing to re-tune what I could not understand signalled an abrupt end to my career in an Anglo-Indo folk-country band.
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Animal Farm
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Sukhdev,I saw the psychologist, Dr Hughes, on Wednesday at St James's and she wasn't any clearer on the way forward at this time, except that we may have no option but to start medication. Things are definitely getting worse. On Tuesday she launched herself at two girls, grabbed them both by the hair and batted their heads together like conkers (Mrs Gradinsky's words). Blood everywhere and I had to leave Governing Body and pick her up. Sorry - I should have let you know about it sooner, but I've been so tied up with work and dealing with the school. Obviously it's all escalated since the divorce, but the problem Dr Hughes said was a matter of what they call equifinality...
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AcknowledgementsScitalkThe ScientistBedrockTendernessmail@the-scientist.comhttp://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53375

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