Couldn’t blog on the train this morning, and pushing back the frontiers of science has occupied me since then. And news is scarce, as it often seems to be in mid-August. So I’ll throw out a dual question to the readership, building on one that got started in the comments section the other day.
A. What was the biggest waste of time, in retrospect, that you’ve been part of in your scientific career?
B. What was the best thing that you thought would be a waste of time, but turned out to be valuable?
For my part, in the first category, I can think of a couple of projects from some years ago that were basically doomed pretty much from the start, so those are strong contenders. I did manage to salvage some interesting chemistry (and a few good stories) from them, though, so it’s hard to mark them down as total losses. The time certainly could have been better spent, however! In the grad-school answer division, I can’t say that the class time I spent learning about electron spin resonance has ever paid off very much, looking back on it.
As for the second category, I don’t think I’ve ever regretted learning any of the (modern) analytical techniques that I’ve picked up over the years, even if I wasn’t sure that I’d ever need to run them again. And like anyone else, I’ve pursued some unlikely-looking compound series, just to be complete about things, that turned out to be real, and really useful. But I’d have to say that another project outcompetes those: I didn’t intend for this blog to be a waste of time per se, but the original idea was just to have something to do in the evenings, just for the heck of it. I would not have been able to predict that I’d still be doing it (and enjoying it) in 2016, that’s for sure, so it’s definitely turned out to be much more than I’d thought.