Machine meltdown – Week 28 as a PhD student

I have said it before, and I will say it again, flexibility is one of the best things that a PhD can provide. It is Friday; It is 24°C, and I am tired. Because of this, I am not doing any work. I will catch back up with my work tomorrow.

In the UK, when we get decent sunshine for the first time of the year, often the last time of the year as well, society changes. The streets are far busier as everyone is out enjoying the sun, and people get taken off guard by the heat and become lethargic due to the heat. I am no exception. If we had consistent sunny weather during the summers, I suspect we would be better at dealing with it. However, as a rule, In the UK you do not expect to have a nice summer; you will find old people talking about the great summers they had in the past as if they are one in a lifetime occurrences. The legendary summer of 76, which occurred long before I was born, is practically folklore at this point.

I am hot and lethargic, which is why I am writing this instead of working on a figure for a paper I have been working on for most of the week. I have been working on two things this week, the first which I have just mentioned is a figure for a paper, and the second is a calculation for some practical work I have done previously. The latter has been a thorn in my side for a couple of weeks now as I knew there was something wrong with the calculation, but I could not debug it and find the problem until yesterday. The calculation was for determining the amount of ammonia in my samples, and it had seven variables that needed to be plugged in to achieve the end quantity of ammonia. Everything worked fine but the result from the calculation was off for some reason, and I figured it out yesterday. It came down to the fact that ‘dilution factor can be written two ways’ as an integer such as 21, meaning a 21 times dilution, or like this ‘1/21 = 0.048’. The difference between 21 and 0.048 is huge, although both are technically correct. I was using the former, and the latter was the way the formula wanted ‘dilution factor’ represented. Such a simple difference cost me a lot of hours of work, this is part of learning and problem-solving, and sometimes it is the way it goes.

Except for the formula fiasco, my experiments have been going well for the last couple of weeks. I am in a period of relative stability and quiet, or as it is sometimes known ‘ the calm before the storm’.What goes up must come down, and I have an experiment growing salad rocket at different temperatures that will be ready to harvest soon. There is a wide variety of things that could go wrong with this experiment, so there is a lot of trepidation coming my way over the coming weeks.

Outside of my PhD, I have been learning about machine learning. I have been learning computer programming now for a few years and needed a new challenge to stretch myself. I have been enjoying learning about machine learning so far, and it is certainly a step up in logical thinking than what I have been doing recently. The more I learn about it, the less worried I am about an AI takeover. So far it seems that machine learning is just the old-fashioned trial and error approach applied to large-scale data sets with the objective of predicting some future value based on past values. Although, if I were a sentient AI, I would definitely make it seem as if I could not possibly become sentient. Maybe I would have a blog to blend in with society.

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Author: ljphd

Spend less than you earn, Invest the surplus, avoid debt. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

5 thoughts on “Machine meltdown – Week 28 as a PhD student”

  1. I hope the last paragraph is witty or inspirational. It is somewhat headache provoking to look at especially at the end of the day as my screen grows orange to counteract blue light! Is there a translation for the code? Enjoy the sunshine.

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  2. We have sunshine all summer from May- September. Then a gloomy November—April. It’s hard to get with done in spring -autumn because we KNOW we have all those dull weeks coming up!

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