Thesis Countdown (part 2)

35 days to go.

I sit here writing a few words at a time while simulations run. They’re producing quite pretty pictures. This pleases me. While I’d love to sit and make pretty pictures all day, though, I have to keep sight of the fact that they serve a specific purpose. They’re designed to demonstrate the mathematics of the Theory section in my thesis, and no more. Perhaps I will come back to them later and see what else I can do with them.

I spent quite some time fretting last night over why my oscillator model wasn’t beating. The panic started to set in and I gave up for the night. First thing this morning, I realised I was just plotting the wrong variable due to a typo in my Matlab script.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Having finished that work, it appears that my second major pass on the Theory chapter is done. I think it’s looking quite nice, and I am pleased enough with it to leave it alone for a while. I turn my attention to tearing more sections out of the results chapters – 25 pages down in the same number of minutes. That sounds bad, but with a little restructuring the chapter in question is reading a lot better. I’m beginning to think that many of these removed parts won’t even make appendices, which is a little disappointing. Still, we don’t need pictures like this:

Not even interesting if I describe it.

Not even interesting if I describe it. Just a sine wave.

That would take up about a page all told, when accompanied by text. It’s just not information dense enough or even particularly important. Having said that, there is something which I dislike about modern science: pictures like this tend to be missing altogether too often. The small details and bits of information which eliminate doubts or questions, those are important to someone trying to repeat your work. The sad fact is that they’re not at all interesting to your reader/examiner in any other case, and therefore aren’t worth the page space.

Today’s main panic is about Chapter 7, which is about only very recent data. With this, I’ve been going back and forth on what it actually means. Originally, I was quite happy that it was the effect I was looking for because I saw a nice little tail in the data on one side. More recently, I did a bit more modelling to try to support my claim about the data’s expected shape – and I reproduced something useful. But then I realised that my data only follow the predicted shape in a few of the cases I’ve measured – many more fail to see a characteristic “tail” towards the left hand side (which is important). No hypothesis I’ve come up with explains this observation, and when that type of thing happens you’re quite open to the accusation that you simply did a bad experiment.

Now, I think that I did a pretty good experiment considering the time I had. But it worries me that I can’t narrow down why I saw what I did. I suppose I could explain it if I thought very hard and came up with a very elaborate reason, but complicated claims require exponentially more complicated proof, which the data do not support.

One of these days I’m going to explain why I feel my PhD has been unusually difficult in this regard. In the mean time, it’s on to writing Chapter 1: The Beginninging.


About stoove

A physicist, researcher, and gamesman. Likes to think about the mathematics and mechanics behind all sorts of different things, and writing up the thoughts for you to read. A competent programmer, enjoys public speaking and mechanical keyboards. Has opinions which might even change from time to time.
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