/ My Failures; I like to lead a peaceful life - A bucket of perspiration for this!
Thomas Edison failed many times before successfully inventing the modern electric light bulb. He said, "If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." Reflect on a challenge you overcame through persistence.
As a rule, I like to lead a peaceful life. I avoid piling up homework, finish my chores early and enjoy 9 hours of sleep a day. So you can imagine my shock when I found myself muttering unintelligible curses at the computer screen at 4 AM.
Perhaps I should start from the beginning. As part of the IB Diploma program, every candidate must submit an Extended Essay on any subject, which, for me, meant physics. Being the adventurous type, I refused to settle for any of the typical topics available, and chose to investigate 'antibubbles', mostly on the basis that they sounded very, very interesting. Almost immediately, I ran into trouble. Unlike normal soap bubbles, which are slow moving and last for quite a while, antibubbles move quickly and last for no more than a few seconds. Further adding to my problems was the fact that antibubbles are very small, no more than a centimeter in diameter! But I figured that a normal video camera should have the necessary resolution to analyze the antibubble radius on a computer, and so I moved on to the experimentation stage. It was here that my troubles really began.
As I might have implied earlier, antibubbles aren't the most stable entities. The slightest vibration, potential difference or contamination stops them from forming, or, at best, slow the rate of formation. Add to this the fact that the room was shared between over 30 students, each conducting various experiments, and you might get a feel for how difficult it was for me to create a controlled test environment. In order to prevent other experiments from interfering with my own, I often had to conduct them at odd hours when nobody else was present, often resulting in late nights and overdue homework. But I kept going, and eventually collecting all my data. Midway through my hours of analysis, however, instead of finding a pattern I found -
Failure No. 1
I had not taken into account that fact that, as I increased the concentration of the surfactant, the solution got more and more opaque. This meant that, by the time I reached the maximum concentration, all I could see was a murky green liquid; not very conductive to analysis. The obvious solution would be to use artificial lighting - but there was one big drawback. With the amount of lighting I would need, the temperature of the solution would easily go up by 4-5 degrees, which could have an effect on the results... so it was back to square one for me. With a sigh, I once again began my experimentation, pausing every now and then to glare at the setup, the room or any unfortunate passerby. Eventually, I found myself at the same point as before, only to be once again confronted by -
Failure No. 2
To my abject horror, I realized, too late, that part of my method was absolute rot. The force with which the antibubbles were created, an integral part of the experiment and something that should have been carefully controlled, had not been. I had been dripping some of the solution down into the main tank using a burette, but had not maintained the fluid level in the burette itself. This meant that the force with which the stream hit the main body changed with time, and therefore rendered all my results invalid. It was while I was recovering from the shock of this discovery that I realized that it was 4 AM.
I was tired. Tired, sleepy, frustrated and angry. I had lost a great deal of sleep, and spent far more time on the Extended Essay than was necessary. Every fiber of my sleep-deprived body urged me to quit, to choose an easier topic, to give up. For a fraction of a second, I considered it. But I'm not the giving up type, and so after admonishing myself for even thinking of giving up, I got right back to work.
It didn't end there, though (This is hardly a fairy tale, after all). I faced several more obstacles, including having chosen an inappropriate spread of independent variable, broken equipment and a lost video camera. But eventually, I completed my analysis to my satisfaction, wrote up the paper (Which paled in comparison), and submitted the essay. The process was long and hard, but I realized that most scientific and technological discoveries aren't made by people spending time aimlessly, but through hard work and perseverance. As Edison also said, "Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration".
So... what do you guys think?