Today, via Photo Matt, I discovered a phrase that I wish I had known about years ago:

“The adage, “Why should I care what color the bikeshed is?“, means: just because you are capable of building a bikeshed does not mean you should stop others from building one just because you do not like the color they plan to paint it.”

This does not, of course, refer to real bikesheds, but to a cluster of bureaucratic phenomena common in the planning of major scientific and/or technical projects. In general, scientists and engineers hate administrative duties and sneer at professional cults, but they (and I) often suffer from a specific kind of systematic dogmatism.

The rest of the Wikipedia definition rang bells as big as a minus-eighty. I have been present at standards meetings of an international scientific software project where actual hatred was generated by discussions of the very matters—indentation formatting and naming conventions—cited in the definition. And I have also been unfortunate (or fortunate) enough to have worked through the re-building of two large laboratory buildings in two different locations—in one case my boss was the Professor given the job of divvying up the new space amongst his colleagues. During these developments, if someone had distributed the text of that Wikipedia entry by email to the occupants of gutted labs across each site then it would have raised plenty of weary smiles.

Talking of systematic dogmatism, over at the post I recommended at Baggage Reclaim, an entertaining thread has developed. Do have another look, especially if you enjoy watching sneering pseudo-cleverness unravelled by sweet reason.

Did you know that Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd invented a fridge?