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Life is constant risk-benefit analysis January 6, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Musings.

There is a thread going over at Carbon Based Curiosities that has wandered into the area of the cancer risks of working in chemistry labs. Some of the posts induce thoughts of a wide variety.

First, the audience there are mainly very young people, mid 20s or younger. So the life experiences are still limited. Death is a rare and highly traumatizing thing to some. For someone like me I realize, as everyone eventually does, that entropy aways wins. Death in part of life. You try to minimize the chances, but avoiding it is not an option. Only defering it is.

Cancer especially scares people. Unfortunately my father’s family is one of those with the genetic predisposition towards breat cancer. I’ve lost a sister, two aunts, and a cousin to that. Being aware and careful helps, but sucky genetics are sucky genetics.

One of my friends in grad school, a post doc, died from leukemia during that time, wasting away with as positive an attitude as I’ll ever see. He had lived an accomplished life for someone only 31 and accepted the shitty roll of fate’s dice.

Life has risks. You cannot avoid them, even cloistured you have some. You make choices of how you want to live, what you want to do and then prudently do them. You cut down the risks, but know they are still there. You made the balanced choices to do things. The piper might need to be paid now or eventually.



1. Tania - February 4, 2009

Ugh, I liked!


2. Dave Eaton - March 16, 2009

I thought a lot about that thread. I was especially moved by the youngster who just couldn’t believe people would take measured risks because science is just so interesting.

I’m in my 40’s now, and while death is hopefully decades away, barring misadventure or some dread illness, mortality has a way of reminding me every now and then that it looms.

I don’t think of my life as a chemist as being horribly hazardous, despite the risks that I know are there, and that I try and minimize. Still, and I say this as a person old enough to have had a few scares, and to have seen the decline of some those I love- I would not do anything else. This speaks to me in a manner nothing else ever has. Leaving chemistry would be like losing a limb, or more like a lobotomy. If it erases a year or two at the margin, it has made the other years scintillate. I’ve paid my money, now I’ll take my chances.

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