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31 July 2010 @ 03:05 pm
I am a hoopier frood than Archimedes.  
As if to demonstrate that Life Goes On, I just had an Archimedes moment: I ran out of the shower, towel wrapped 'round my waist, shouting "EUREKA!"

You see, I finally figured out a series of graphics that would explain to observers just what I was seeing in all that Elkhorn Slough data back in 2004-2005. I was trying to get a coherent article out of three or four different studies, each of which insisted that the Big Erosion Hotspot was in a different part of the Slough. Unfortunately, because their studies found erosion and deposition occurring at opposite ends of the Slough, the PhDs responsible for two of the papers each had ... issues ... with the other.

Bear in mind that these gentlemen were supposed to be my co-authors.

Bear in mind as well that I'm the only guy who looked at all four and a half data sets spanning 15 years.

Of course, any hypothesis that reconciled these supposedly-contradictory datasets was going to get lambasted from both ends.

Of course, after staring at all that data for three years, I came up with one:

Elkhorn Slough would experience Big Erosion Events that would dump a lot of sediment at the head of the Slough, and it would work its way down to the mouth over a period of years, thus giving the pattern of "Erosion here, deposition there" in one study, and "Erosion there, deposition here" a few years later.

I just figured out how to make maps that show the bulge of sediment moving down the slough.

It's clearly visible in the "flip chart" of cross-sections I carried around with me during that whole project, but I just figured out a way to display the data in four or five Q&D maps, rather than making people scrutinize Excel graphs for three years to see the pattern emerge.

So, yeah, "Eureka".

And you know what's even better?

When I rattled this off to thoughtsdriftby, who's an engineer, he said, "oh, yeah. that's plug flow."

  1. I still have all that data on my desktop hard drive.
  2. And I have an open-source GIS program that I've been wanting to figure out.
  3. And I want closure, dammit.

I may have material for a Master's Thesis here.

I feel: excitedexcited
Bobyourbob on July 31st, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC)
Very cool.

It's always even cooler when you talk to someone outside the discipline who says something like "oh, yeah. that's plug flow."
Moral Explorernotthebuddha on July 31st, 2010 10:33 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on the breakthrough!

Could you indulge a fellow, undergraduate academic who is mystified about the half dataset? Incomplete coverage?
Your Obedient Serpent: barcodeathelind on August 1st, 2010 06:22 am (UTC)
Honestly, calling that first survey "half" a data set is being generous—it only covers a fraction of the length of the Slough, right near the mouth and under the Highway 1 bridge.
Tombfyretombfyre on July 31st, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
Woo, that's definitely some sweet data n' ideas right there. ^^ If you could get a thesis out of it all, I'd encourage you to go n' make it happen. :D
ArchTeryxarchteryx on July 31st, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
Congrats on a real Eureka moment! I've only had one of those my whole career, but it led to my first-author paper and ultimately my dissertation.
Itisme: chai tea in stylenewwaytowrite on August 1st, 2010 12:40 am (UTC)
the shower is good for hygiene and Master Thesis problem solving results.

You smell good and you are smart. How cool is that?
Your Obedient Serpent: facepalmathelind on August 1st, 2010 06:23 am (UTC)
Re: apparently
Yeah, if I'd realized that, I would have showered years ago.

Come to think of it, that might have helped with the job hunt, too!
one in a billionsiege on August 1st, 2010 01:57 am (UTC)
These your thesis, my friend, and enjoy.
Araquan Skytracer: Sciencearaquan on August 1st, 2010 01:41 pm (UTC)
Hafochafoc on August 2nd, 2010 04:20 am (UTC)
Nothing quite like the feeling of the lightbulb turning on, is there? Be sure to bring that "plug flow" into your write-up. That's just the sort of cross-disciplinary information that could be really useful.
Your Obedient Serpent: big ideasathelind on August 2nd, 2010 05:24 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's exactly the kind of "hook" that takes a half-baked idea and turns it into the seed of a real thesis.

thoughtsdriftby did some further research, and thinks it's probably closer to "dune flow", which makes even more sense in this context.
ebony14 on August 2nd, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)
Did you put pants on before you spoke with thoughtsdriftby? That was old Archie's problem; he leapt out of the bath and started babbling about fluid displacement and all that, and no one took him seriously until he put a toga on. :)

Seriously though, it sounds like you need to get this sucker down on paper. If anything, you might be able to get some recognition in your chosen field.
Your Obedient Serpentathelind on August 2nd, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC)
Hence the subject header on the original post; old Archie didn't know where his towel was.

And I've already got a rough outline slapped together -- not to mention 11.5 GB of GIS data dumped onto the laptop from my desktop's hard drive.

(Alas, when I look at the cross-section data again, the dune flow isn't quite as overt as I remembered.)

Edited at 2010-08-02 04:11 pm (UTC)