Rain, sleet, snow, music and science blogs

By Grant Jacobs 18/09/2010

I’m sitting here in my armchair next to the ranch-slider, laptop on my knees, as the rain turns to sleet. The cat is buried in my beanbag as she likes to on colder days.

She’s not on the beanbag, she’s in it. As she settles in she wriggles and sinks with the bag folding around her. Someday I swear I’ll be reporting a feline drowning by beanbag. (It’s hilarious watching Aimee trying to get out of the beanbag she’s gotten into. It’s kind-of a floundering swim to the edge, then a flop, although sometimes she manages a vaulted leap out.)

It‘s great afternoon for writing with a cup of hot chocolate, a comfortable chair and a laptop. The attack on the springtime growth in the garden will have to wait.

While some in the science writing world are planning the perfect murder with the nocebo effect*1 another reports he

’Promised a beautiful girl I’d be at the hip secret art party in Liverpool tonight. Instead I’m writing about the sex life of zombies. #FML’

Me? I’d be at the party. I guess that makes me a less-than-dedicated blogger. (Then again, here I am on a Saturday afternoon, um, blogging.)

What is it with the sex life of zombies anyway?

Can they actually feel anything?

And the attraction. I mean a naked zombie… errm, let’s not go there.


Looking over the valley higher on the hills snow has settled. We’re regressing back to winter instead of forward to summer. What I get for living in lower latitudes.

Over the past few days women science bloggers have noted the paucity of women in the ranks of the new science blogging collectives and bloggers of both sexes are bogged down wondering why. (Should that be all sexes? Especially if we have to include zombies.)

I’m curious, too, as some of the bloggers I like to follow are women. Scicurious is often hilarious with great science. Jennifer Rohn’s ’In which’ series is always exposing slices of lab life to the world. Closer to home, but on the ‘wrong’ side of the Tasman, is Captain Skellett, and on the list goes. And, of course, there are those on our own forum.*2

David Dobbs has suggested that events post-‘PepsiCoGate’ has lead to this bias and that it’s not a reflection of the recruiting schemes or the wider picture.

It’s a good thought, but to me it only raises another question. Why wasn’t the recruitment taken more widely than mainly scienceblogs writers? Reading on past his comment, others have the same thought*3 and David suggests that these people were the low-hanging fruit, easy to pick.

The skies are clearing ever so slightly and I’ve let Leonard Cohen fill the silence with songs from 30-odds years past (Tour of ’79):

’Oh, why do you stand by the window, abandoned to beauty and pride? …’*4

Aimee is giving me That Look. Querulous. Cats are good at that. Still hasn’t budged from wallowing in the bean bag though. She’s been in there for hours: cats are good at that too.

As Leonard laments life’s bleaker moments, I’m reading Ed Yong’s article about a recent application of gene therapy in humans, treating a patient with B-thalassemia, a genetic condition that prevents the production of normal haemoglobin that is needed to transport the oxygen in your blood from the lung to the tissues that use it and carbon dioxide away from them.

John Wilkins at Whewell’s Ghost is calling for offerings on ’How scientists think’ (a book proposal), writing that he cannot find a book that ’one might think of as the Scientists’ Operating Manual’, for his reasoning skills class. He points back to Morris Cohen and Ernest Nagel’s Introduction to Logic and the Scientific Method from the 1950s, but says that even this is too heavy. Anyone?

An earlier article on Whewell’s Ghost points to the September 2010 edition the excellent history of science carnival The giant’s shoulders. (No pictures in the carnival listing, though!)

Ah, the sun has come out. Briefly. The cat is so descended into the bag that only her head catches the light. Leonard has moved on to parting sorrows:

’… our kisses deep and warm. Your hair up on the pillow like a sleepy golden storm, yes, many loved before us, I know that we are not new, in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,’*5

There’s a great photograph of a Banded Alder Borer over at What’s That Bug. Click on the image to zoom in. It’s an amazing looking thing.

Starts With a Bang writes about Focault’s pendulum, also the title of Umberto Eco’s novel. Focault’s pendulum has always struck me as such an elegant demonstration that the earth moves. Just watch the path of a ball on a stick.

’You left when I told you I was curious. Did I ever say that I was brave?’*6

I’ve got to get up to put another CD on, but let me leave you by adding my thoughts to the password advice at Scientific American. One way to make up password that can be remembered without using words in the password is to take a phrase, and use the first (second, last, etc) letters from the words in the phrase, tossing in a few numbers or other characters.

’Your hair up on the pillow like a sleepy golden storm’ might come out as ‘Yh^otp=asgs’.*7


*1: You can quibble if this is effect is real or not. Either I am sure someone is plotting to include it in their next crime thriller.

*2: I’ve already tweeted all the woman science bloggers on sciblogs.co.nz for Martin to add to his list. (I hope he’s still looking at the that hashtag!)

*3: I haven’t gotten past the first 50 comments. I’ll have to come back later, there is just too much there…! There is further commentary over at GimpyBlog and elsewhere.

*4: The opening lines of The Window.

*5: From Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.

*6: From So long, Marianne.

*7: No, I don’t base my passwords on Cohen’s lyrics.

Other article in Code for life:

Autism – looking for parent-of-origin effects

Neurological shorts

Science-y reading and open book thread

Vitamin C, swine flu, media, lawyers

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