The common-sense scientific method, where are you?

You can go on and on about what the scientific method entails. If you are after some mild controversy you can just check out the wikipedia talk page. Anyhow, I do not want to discuss its philosophy here, what I really want to briefly rant about is the fact that it in its most common sense form is being forgotten, even in some of the “leading research institution” (what the hell a leading research institution is can be the subject of another lengthy discussion, but I digress). Let’s first clarify what is meant when I use the term “common-sense scientific method”. It is the process of making an educated guess based on some prior knowledge about a system or phenomenon, computing the consequences and implications of the aforementioned guess, checking the veracity of the guess through observations and experiment, and then repeating the process if the guess turns out to be rubbish (Check out this legendary Feynman’s lecture on it if you have time). 

Now, I do not know what happened, and when it happened for that matter. I have some culprits in mind for the rise of this apparent disregard for the common-sense scientific method, particularly the hacker/agile bull-shit entrepreneur culture, but I haven’t been able to really pin it on them. Is their world view the reason for this disregard or they are its product. We never will know the answer. I even tried to blame the baby boomers for it, sure they are definitely at fault; at some points they just decided to maximise their own pay-offs with no respect for facts. But I still really cannot solely blame them. They just took advantage of a mood in the society where everyone stopped appreciating doing anything systematically based on hard facts. I don’t know what can be done except for begging my students (who are going to be engineers soon) to maybe, just maybe, consider doing things in a bit old-fashioned way.

The echoes of a distant motherland

I rarely think about the place where I spent the first twenty two years of my life. That place has a name, and it is Iran. I don’t know the reason. Maybe I am just too caught up with the daily life. Or I just don’t want to think about it. Perhaps, I just don’t care anymore. On a second thought, probbaly it is because I feel the same about Iran as James Joyce did about Ireland. With some minor modifications, really just chaning a few names, what he said in his lecture, Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages can be applied to Iran. Here is the updated version of Joyce’s, and my, sentiment.

Continue reading “The echoes of a distant motherland”

CSPLab Visiting Early Career Scholars Program

The Control and Signal Processing (CSP) Lab in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, at the University of Melbourne invites expressions of interest for a visiting position under the CSPLab Visiting Early Career Scholars program. This scholarship is intended to provide opportunities for emerging engineers with interest in the areas of optimisation, signal processing, and control to spend three to four weeks at the CSP Lab. Final year PhD candidates and recent graduates with fewer than three years of post-doctoral experience are eligible for this scholarship. The scholarship will cover airfares and accommodation for the duration of the visit. They will be provided with a desk and computer resources at the CSP Lab where they will have research interactions with CSP Lab faculty members, research fellows, and PhD students. It is expected that the visiting scholars will deliver a seminar during their visit.

There are no deadlines for the expressions of the interest and up to two CSPLab Visiting Early Career Scholars will be supported every year.

The expressions of interest should be emailed to Dr. Iman Shames (iman.shames@unimelb.edu.au) or Prof. Michael Cantoni (cantoni@unimelb.edu.au) with the subject “CSPLab Visiting Early Career Scholars Program” and must include a CV and a brief proposal outlining the research that is planned to be carried out in the duration of the visit.

Etihad Airways: the worst airline in the world?

Ok, I was travelling from Amsterdam to Melbourne via Abu Dhabi. Then I realised that I am not checked in my second leg (AUH-MEL) since the flight was overbooked. As a result I have to wait for 24 hours for my next flight. It is not all bad you might say, but it is the second time that it has happened to me in the last 32 days. Last time I had to wait 17 hours and I made a complaint. They offered me 25,000 FF miles, I was planning to answer them when I am back in Melbourne, then this happened. So I sent them the following email:

Dear (name),

I wanted to wait until I am back at my place in Melbourne so that I can reply to your email with a cool head. But, unfortunately, Etihad Airways did not let this happen. On my flight back from Schiphol via Abu Dhabi, I wasn’t checked in the leg from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne for whatever reason, even though I had a full-fare ticket, and now I am stranded in the airport for 24 hours. Well done you managed to increase 7 hours to my waiting time at the airport since the fiasco I had to go through last time, 32 days ago. My interaction with the Etihad Airways has started to sound like a tragic comedy. Currently there are two questions in my mind. First, I am wondering, and I hope you forgive my paranoia, if me going through this again has anything to do with my complaining last time. Second, is Etihad Airways genuinely a terrible airline or I am just very unlucky? I would be happy if you can clarify this.
Going back to the previous complaint, I have to clarify that it had NOTHING to do with the delay. I understand that delays happen. My complaint was on why on Earth I was not placed on a more suitable flight than the one that was 17 hours later, there was a flight to CDG in one hour and it was not full. Anyways, that is history now.
Regarding the offer of 25000 miles on an Etihad FF account; I have to reject it. It is of no use to me since I haven’t used Etihad on a regular basis (maybe 5 times in total in last 6-7 years) and even if I had any plan of using it in future, those plans are out of the window. I will do all my best not to fly with Etihad. There are always other options.
My complaint had another component to it as well, and I have not heard from you on it. I think the interaction that I had with Etihad Help was utterly unacceptable (as documented in my original complaint.) They sent me on a wild goose chase across the airport looking for “managers that will take care of me”. Alas, such promises never went further than mere pointless promises. That was infuriating, my time has more worth than just being wasted by people who want to pretend they are helping.
And seriously, why can’t I just go to the gate and board planes without going through this bizarre freak show?
I expect an answer from you. Of course, you can refuse to answer me, which might prove my point that Etihad Airways and its customer service are insincere as well as incompetent.
Best,
Iman Shames