Research papers are usually stodgy affairs, full of passive voice and a total lack of personal pronouns. It’s the style, and it’s almost always painfully unreadable, so we all read abstract, captions, and conclusions, and just skim the rest unless it’s of vital importance.
But every now and then, someone produces a piece of formal science writing that is lovely. The newly-minted Dr. Chudek is one of those wordsmiths, carefully crafting his writing for maximum impact. (PhD dissertation link coming once it clears the paperwork-lineup!) But for his dissertation defense, he took it a step farther.
These ideas, for which I am merely a tool,
These ideas that have kept me so, so long in school,
are so wonderfully, fascinatingly,
– M. Chudek, Unadulterated Academic Enthusiasm
The first twenty minutes of his defense were a poetic presentation, a rhyming introduction to the evolution of culture, and why it is such a puzzling, fascinating contradiction in human behaviour. A static hardcopy pales in comparison to his dramatic recital (and a few rhymes work far better in his Australian accent instead of my North American one), but if you’ve ever been even the tiniest bit curious as to why humans live in groups, create cultures, and construct ever-more-complicated social structures, read it.