Opinion: 6 impossible things

Why biomedical research is stressful, and how it can be slightly less so

Douglas R. Green
Jan 3, 2011
Science, this very creative human endeavor to understand the nature of the reality that exists independently of ourselves, is impossible. By "impossible," I am not saying "very, very difficult," although it is that, as well. We use our senses and instruments to extend them to try to map reality (at least those bits we care about) onto our consciousness and perceive that the map we collectively share is the reality. I know I am being very Cartesian here, but hopefully you can see what the problem is: the "map" is not the reality. So the endeavor is, therefore, impossible.
Flickr, Evil Erin
My mandate here is to identify the sources of stress in our scientific lives, and to suggest ways to deal with them. I have taken the Red Queen's advice regarding a number of impossible things (by which I mean "very, very difficult") that might be believed before breakfast....
Thing #1. You Are Not in Control of the AnswersThing #2. Ideas Come from the Eighth DimensionThing #3. You Cannot Multitask Your ResearchThing #4. Stress Can Be Good for YouThing #5. Be an AthleteThing #6. You Are Your Support Group
Douglas R. Green
linkurl:Douglas R. Green;http://www.stjude.org/stjude/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=cdb410e88ce70110VgnVCM1000001e0215acRCRD studies cell death and survival at the Department of Immunology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN. This essay is a shortened version of "Stress in biomedical research: Six impossible things," linkurl:Mol Cell,;http://www.cell.com/molecular-cell/abstract/S1097-2765%2810%2900783-5 40:176-178, 2010. He is also the author of linkurl:Means to an End: Apoptosis and Other Cell Death Mechanisms,;http://www.cshlpress.com/default.tpl?action=full&--eqskudatarq=884 available from Cold Spring Harbor Press. He is a member of the Faculty of Cell Biology at F1000. For his latest evaluations, linkurl:click here.;http://www.f1000.com/thefaculty/member/1782036998295682