Friday, June 22, 2012

A key fact: Present yourself well!

This past weekend, I was in Vancouver attended the Canadian Society of Biomechanics 2012 conference. It was quite interesting to see that Canada is a leading power in biomechanics. With so many research going on in biomechanics, motor control, muscle-motor, injury biomechanics and many more areas. However, one thing many admitted was despite such celebrity and leading roles in the world, there is lack of industry or if there is any they are in dieing condition. To summarize that the research being done at the University does not translate to industrial product in many occasion, unless it is bought by American or Europeans.
I don't want to talk about that particular problem of what should be done to get Canadian industries going or even how to increase federal and provincial funding that are already flattening in biomedical engineering since 2009 and the trend seems to be staying with us.
I would like to dedicate this write up to popular culture and the use of those notions in a presentation and specifically in biomechanics presentations. There were 6 keynote speakers for four days conference and two of them were intended for the public forum. The speakers were from broad spectrum, but one of which I thought might be the least important was Professor E. Paul Zehr , the Director of Centre for Biomedical Research at the University of Victoria, BC, Canada.
He gave a talk that was quite impressive in my opinion. I quite enjoyed the fact that how you could relate many aspects of what you may have enjoyed in your childhood to do and relate those to the science that we study.
He stated that he always wondered if there was possibility to become one of the superheros comics that he has been reading. His love for marshal arts and as he joked to be at the level of his older brother made him to learn marshal arts and then he started to wonder how can someone be as fast as those marshal arts performers and apply the fastest and strongest punch,h for example.
He well described his intention from early research work. Thus, further his love of the comic books and marshal arts combined to ask "is it possible to be someone similar to Batman or Iron-man" using today's technology or even what we know using many hints that he found in the comic books. He related his love for comic strips of batman and beautifully and how he simply encouraged him to shape his work.
What was amazing that he is full professor and seems to be quite young.
I think his study was quite sample but then he put them in great context which made you to follow his work.
So, I think in comparison to other presenters I came to a conclusion, the key is how to say things and how to your present them. That has a huge influence.

I have received the following response from Radius to my short essay above. As any newspaper does the response to an article must be put up to the same place, I have added that here. I may later answer to it, if I get time:) . Before anything, many can disagree with my posts:) that is where you discuss things!

Dear Alireza, Today I have to tell you that I disagree with your post about the importance of self-presentation. I have certain objections that in the long term a poor publicity is a major factor if real values will be recognised. I know we are living in a world where publicity, advertisement, media-coverage are all big factors in the economy. But come on, lets take cars as an example: Fiat or General Motors dont do worse TV spots than BMW or Audi. In fact FIAT or Renault/Peugot are sometimes much more creative in their advertisment campaigns than Mercedes Benz or BMW. Anyhow, FIAT and the Renault are considered less reliable cars. In fact the most presticious cars (Porsche, Mazzarati, Aston Martin) dont do TV ads at all. And still everybody knows that they are the top of engineering. You can take computers or mobile devises the same: Blackberry had adverts in all the business journals and newspapers (FT, NYT, Wallstreet Journal, Harold Tribune etc.), when Samsung was still a no-name, cheap korean cell-phone maker. But within 2 years, their high quality and innovation standard set the benchmark of mobile communication, whereas the former leaders Blackberry or Nokia are struggeling to survive. What I want to say, that on the long run it is quality that matters, not presentation. And in science, i.e. the field where you and me are working, it is the same. The real big names, the real ground-breaking discoveries all came from places and from people which were not heavily promoted or in the news-papers head-lines. In genetics, it was Greg Ventor (from Celera Genomics Inc.) and Francis Collins (from the US Human Genome Project) who made it couple of years ago to the cover pages of Times Magazin and Newsweek. But not because they did a great discovery, but merely because they were able to organize this hugh effort of sequencing the human genome in a multi-national approach and spending several 100 millions of public spending for this. Of course it hit the major news, it made them famous, but both of them agree that it was not a big intellectual achievement, rather an organisational and political challenge.
Having the choice, I much more appreciate people for what they have done (technical inventions, arts, music or scientific achievements), than what they did to become famous. I recently (while helping the kids of a colleague of mine with some maths) found that one of my most favorite ancient Iranian poets/philosophers (Omar Al-Khayyam) was in fact also one of the most gifted mathematicians at the turn of the millenium. He invented what in the west is called "Pascal's triangle". Obviously, he did not made a lot of publicity around it, he did not even thought about calling it Al-Khayyoums triangle. But it was him, whom we have to thank for this, and for some of the most enchanting and brilliant poetic miniatures. Here again you clearly see that on the long term, mankind will always remember peoples real achivements, not neccesarrily they self-promotion.

An example that is more relevant to our times (in particular now that we have to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of the Teheran's student liberation movement) is the case of the assasinated Neda Agha-Soltan. Her picture went around the world, and she will always remain the symbol of the braveness of the young Iranians in their battle for freedom and civil rights. But another girl, who shared with Neda not more than a very similar name ("Neda Soltani") now jumped on the band-waggon and exploited a confusion about her Facebook name and the name of the 2009 political victim Neda Agha-Soltan. The second (false) Neda now wrote a book about the confusion of the two names, how she was later mis-identified, how her photos were shown even in some news-papers (claiming that this is Neda, the murdered young girl from Tehrans Karekar-Boulevard. Finally, the wrong Neda Soltani exploits this wrong identity. She is travelling around Germany at the moment and promotes her book and fills the lecture halls. And she even dares to give the impression that the 2009 students movement were only a misled minority and that the current government is liberal and tolerant and democratic.
(read more about this at the website

I mean here again you can see how someone tries to overcome the reality by strong publicity and self-advertisement. It might work for a while, before people realize that there is very little real value behind this.

Dear Radius, 
Thank you for your long essay. I agree with some points and of course I disagree with some other points.
Let me clarify this, The GM Mazda or Kia cars have advertisements have poorly been done when you compare them to BMW, Mercedes, AUDI, Infinity or even VW. So, I have been always more impressed by advertisements done by better car companies. 
I never intended to underestimate creative works. I personally didn't know Prof. Zehr  and his work. What I meant to say was if you present well no matter what you will be regarded well. 
Let's take a look at what you write, two guys went on the Times magazine cover because they were able to mobilize and organize some work that people previously had done. 
That was exactly my point. No matter what you have done, if you fail to present well, it may be not highly regarded work by many (of course experts will understand). My point was as much as we spend time doing novel research, it may be necessary to organize and re-organize those findings to get something even better in comparison to the past findings.
Therefore, the political context is also another aspect. I think Ms. Soltani has mentioned that her name/photo were taken wrongly by some people and she was afraid of the things may happen to her due to the fact that regime of Iran may think she is the same person or etc. However, I can see how with this fact in mind and she has decided to leave Iran for the same reason described can start to promote the Iran regime is liberal or tolerant. I wonder how come she has left Iran, though. 
So, all and all, I did not mean you should advertise yourself, however, I think you can publicize your work and present it in a manner that is highly regarded. :) Thanks for reading.   

Friday, June 01, 2012

Mano Gonjishkaye khaoneh!

I went towards the window in Jam hospital in my room, the lights went off! The red alarm could be heard from the nursing station. Bombardment had just started. I had recently an eye surgery on my right eye and could not see well on that eye. However, the other eye was fine. I saw series of anti-aircraft missiles lit the sky. The nurse stop by my door instructing me to return to bed or get a way from the window. As any 6 years of age may do, ignoring the command of an adult, I ignore it. I heard a few explosion in the far distances and the whole thing was finished in less than 3 to 5 min. I went to bed, didn't feel sleeping. Now I heard another song from the nursing station: The house birds and I are used to seeing you (Mano gonjishkeye khoneh didanet baramon adatemoneh)... It has always been your name the onset and the end of all of sentences ( hamisheh Esme to Bodeh avalo akhare harfa)... and again The house birds and I are used to seeing you (Mano gonjishkeye khoneh didanet baramon adatemoneh), for the sake of seeing you, we shall fly out from the nest ( be havaye didane to par migirim az to loneh).... My sister used to love him, and since I wished to be different I tried to say I didn't like Googoosh. Now, I am a big fan, though. The last part of song, flying out from the nest kept repeating in my ear, I should fly away. Yesterday, I came across a new version of Man o gojishkaye khoneh of Ms. Googoosh with flamenco guitar of Babak Amini and Googoosh mesmerizing voice. Now, rather than the last part, the part of "your name..." keeps playing in my ears! Enjoy!