Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Occupational Hazards

It occurs to me that my job is one of the few where one frequently carries the equivalent of 50,000 or 100,000 dollars in one hand. And it doesn't seem like a big deal, until I think , "this bit-error-rate test-set is worth as much as everything I own." Maybe I should be careful.

Other such occupations include jeweler, classical musician, and museum curator.


  1. jamaal2:34 PM


    If you are going to carry a BERT around use TWO HANDS, not one. And don't put it on the floor so someone can step on it!

    You thunk you would have learned that already grad school.

  2. Worse is the knowledge that what one is carrying is literally irreplaceable by anyone other than oneself. I frequently find myself manipulating small, fragile samples that took something like three months of work to produce, and whose destruction would require the repetition of said work. (This knowledge does not help steady my legendarily shaky hands.) Such situations are why synthetic chemists are instructed in the art of the "floor extraction," whereby the spilled contents of a reaction flask may be recovered through the vigorous use of absorbent materials followed by an extensive set of purifications. Many laboratory scientists and engineers find themselves in this predicament, and it may very well be unique to that line of work.

    Worse yet are the jobs where one can do untold amounts of damage with one hand due to the magical leverage provided by control systems. The story that comes to mind here is the (possibly apocryphal) tale of a hapless postdoc whose failure to follow proper shutdown procedures did millions of dollars of damage to a research tokomak and shut down the experiment for months. Other occupations with this hazard include operators of large-scale transportat vehicles, such as airline pilots and oil tanker captains.

    The hazards of having the launch codes for most of the world's supply of nuclear weapons in the hands of drug-abusing idiot fratboys and dictatorial ex-KGB lunatics should be obvious to the observer