One of the benefits of being a student is that there is always someone standing over your shoulder, watching the choices you make. In school you choices result in a score of some sort. Out in the world, your choices have bigger consequences than letter grades.

As in school, the Big Big World is always under time pressure. Better, Faster, Cheaper. There isn’t always time to deliberate on the global optimum solution. In industry, sometimes the choice you make is the first one that shows any promise. Experienced business people know that everything takes longer and costs more than you first realize. There is no substitute for an early start.

What results from this need to jumpstart a project is the failure to question your basic assumptions.  In chemistry, a person may slide into the seductive notion that you are an expert in a process and, of course, you know that your process will work on a particular analog. But, do you really?

Non-linear phenomena are particularly troublesome.  Or phenomena that are polynomial in description.  It is hard to intuit outcomes when terms that were previously small become dominant in the equation. There is no substitute for measurement. If you want to truly understand a thing, eventually you are going to have to make measurements and plot a curve.

Like a lot of people fresh from Grad School, I was sometimes an arrogant turd. Just ask around. Today I am much more cautious about my abilities and knowledge. Periodically I am reminded that intuition can fail. Like a 2×4 between the eyes.

While I can’t give details, I have had to drastically recalibrate my intuition about some things that I believed I had a handle on. It involved mass transport concepts. The separation of substances can be subject to constraints that aren’t so obvious to someone who has only been through the ACS-approved chemistry curriculum. An engineer might have looked at my circumstance and solved the problem in a New York minute.

But Th’ Gaussling had to learn the hard way. What else is new?

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