Friday, October 27, 2006

Research Metaphors

There are few things that I enjoy more than an unexplained metaphor, the kind that are left out like cookies for Santa, waiting for you to digest them when no-one is looking. Yesterday, I was waiting to speak with my advisor during her office hours and stuck my head in to say hello to the professor in the office across the hall. I hadn't seen her in a while and she asked how I was. I told her that I was moving forward, but that I was still pretty confused and at sea and not at all confident that I had the first clue as to what I was doing. She looked at me and then offered me two facts without further comment on my current situation, and I will do the same for you:

1) When a cancer metastasizes from one part of the body to another, it is still in the form of the original cancer. So if you have, for instance, breast cancer, and it metastasizes to your bones, you have breast cancer in your bones, not bone cancer. You can have liver cancer in your spine or lung cancer in your gut. Just because it is located in one place doesn't mean it began there, and close examination will reveal exactly what kind of cancer cells are living in a particular location.

2) The colors we see are not, in fact, the color objects really are. The colors we see are, really and truly, the colors an object isn't. The colors we see are the wavelengths of light rejected, not taken in. "Look at that filing cabinet," Metaphor Professor said. "It's not red. It's every color but red. Red is the color it didn't absorb. It's what we see because it's what the filing cabinet spit out."

Do with that what you will. My plan is to do quite a lot.


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