Changing of the guard

At 12 midnight, under most circumstances, you would think the day is done and everything is winding down, hardly anyone around or doing anything.

Not so on a 24-hr operations research expedition. It’s time to change shifts, the noon to midnight hand over what they’ve done to the midnight to noon shift. The lab is bustling with both groups in the same place at the same time. Exchanging information of what happened, what analyses results are saying – or might be saying. Ideas and conjectures are moving around the room, and especially at this time of the cruise.

There is enough data to say something, but not enough to say anything concise. Is it a time of confusion? Maybe, but it’s calculated confusion, it’s the point in time when you know enough to say with certainty ‘I really don’t know’. It reminds me of conversations I’ve had with John Forney, the former (now former, former) director of the Cornell Field Station on Oneida Lake, NY where I did my Ph.D. He established the field station in 1956, after doing his Ph.D. there over the several preceding years. Talking with him after he’s studied the lake for the past 40 years, when I ask him a question, he would be very thoughtful and after a while reply ‘You know Nasseer, I really don’t know’.

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