We're a little crazy, about science!

An ounce of preparation

What a week. It’s only Wednesday and it feels like it’s just never going to end. There are three major events coming up this week, meaning I will be working this weekend unfortunately, but at least I made it through the day. Tomorrow will be a major event for me, dare I say bigger than my proposal defense just two days away.

I hate doing this since I keep talking about it, but tomorrow we are finally going to do the first “big idea” experiment. It will be a very long day and after some last minute schedule changes, it just got longer. Which is why I spent almost 12 hours today prepping for tomorrow. Things will need to happen without too much trouble, so everything needs to be ready to go.

I am already so tired, so very, very tired.

Sometimes you don’t know what you’ll need or what you’ve forgotten until you start getting everything ready and going through the final checks. Today I ran into a lot of software problems due to the new equipment we purchased. While “big idea” was mostly handmade equipment (designed and constructed by yours truly), there were some purchases that we made to help us get the most out of the stuff I’ve built. A lot of purchases, which means a whole lot of new equipment.

That turned out to be an issue because the software we use to collect all our data from the fancy new equipment seems to not like the stuff much. It’s probably because we’ve maxed out what we can do with the software after our latest purchases, so it has already given us weird errors and crashed without warning. Meaning tomorrow will be slightly scary! If the software crashes while we’re doing the experiment we could, in theory, lose our one of a kind dataset.

However, after a lot of adjustments, I think I’ve gotten most of the bugs worked out. There was some very last minute crafting I had to do, which tacked on an extra hour or so to my already incredibly long day, but it ended up being okay. I had a minor (not so minor) freak out because I thought my brilliant crafting idea was going to turn out to not work, but before I left for the day I tested everything and it looks like we’re good to go.

As usual, top secret stuff going on. However, I can talk about the type of stuff I like to have ready for when we go into an experiment. Normally I will make a little experiment list, think of it as the bullet point guide of what we’re doing. It helps me make sure we hit everything and having it written out helps me make sure the workflow makes sense. Since we do experiments with humans, we need to minimize the time we need for the actual experiment. We can’t keep a person for more than a few hours because they get tired, bored, hungry, etc. Ideally our experiments will be as short as possible, just 1-2 hours with less than 30 minutes for setup. Teardown can be done without the person generally speaking, so we don’t typically count that. My little experiment list helps me determine just how much time we need, plus a little wiggle room, because nothing ever goes 100% correctly.

I can also get the equipment mostly setup, there are single use stickers, attachments, cables, software, and other tools I can organize/arrange for the day of the experiment and having everything ready in the place we need it makes life much easier. You don’t realize how much time each little step adds to an experiment until you have to do it all while the person is waiting. I found that out the hard way when I did my first experiment and it took almost five hours with ~2-3 hours of that being basic setup.

Unfortunately with the change in plans for tomorrow, setup also changed so today was a lot of readjusting things to be ready. Also due to the change in plans, we will only be given a short window to do the experiment, so we need to get in, hurry up, and get out. It will be a slightly messy start to something I hope will be a huge success.

Tomorrow will be a big step towards my ultimate goal for “big idea,” which of course, is a secret… for now.

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