Here at Nothing in Biology, we are big fans of making stuff up (but, uh, not on the blog… or in our scientific publications… or on our tax returns… or, well, you get the point). So a few of us are thinking of entering some of our fantastical(ly bad) evolutionary theories to the Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses. This festival is dedicated to “well-argued and thoroughly researched but completely incorrect evolutionary theory”. To get an idea of what it’s about, see the video below. If you’re in or near the Bay Area or Cambridge, Mass this October, think about checking it out!
Apparently, that Science cover was pretty bad and plenty of people cared.
I got 75 responses in time to make the above figure (where the width of the blocks are proportional to the number of responses in each category)- 80% said the cover image was either very or kind of poorly chosen and 55% said they cared at least a little bit. The colored “lines” between the two answers depict how frequently two answers were chosen together and clicking the image will make it bigger. Thanks to everyone who gave me their 2 cents – such science. such wow.
Computer Virus Catalog, provides us with an illustrated history of the worst computer viruses in history.
It also has an artistic interpretation of each virus, which look really cool! Below are some of my favorites!
“Marburg infects .EXE and .SCR files and draws the all too familiar critical error icon everywhere on your screen. The Windows virus spread like crazy in August ’98, when it was included on the master CD of popular MGM/EA game ‘Wargames'”
“Created in the late ’60s, Cookie Monster is the world’s first computer virus. After infection, Cookie Monster freezes all system activity and demands cookies. Don’t sweat it. You simply unlock your computer again by typing the word ‘cookie’_”
“Stuxnet is a joint effort of the US and Israel, designed to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. This highly sophisticated Windows worm reportedly destroyed roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, by causing them to spin out of control. Mission accomplished_”
“Ika-Tako (Japanese for squid-octopus) spreads via P2P file sharing network Winny, disguising itself as a music file. When executed, the Windows virus replaces photos, applications and vital system files with images of squids_”
The July 11 cover of Sciencegot a lot of press coverage last week. You can read about the variety of responses here, here, here, here or here (to name a few). But if you haven’t heard, Science chose to feature transgender sex workers from Jakarta on the cover of their “Staying a step ahead of HIV/AIDS” special issue, allegedly to highlight this “at risk” group. Unfortunately, the choice felt mostly like objectification and/or exploitation to some because the image was sexual (high heels, short skirts and the women were head/face-less). After a Twitter storm – including some pretty unprofessional responses from a Science editor – Science issued a short apology (cover image can be seen here too).
I’ve been wondering what the masses really think about this.
(survey now closed – results are here!)
… for people to please answer as honestly as possible. Basically, how well chosen do you think the cover art was and how much do you care?
Thanks you guys! I’ll post the responses in a week or so. Did I mention please answer? There are even “I don’t know” and “I don’t care” options, so everyone can participate!
On the scale of Bruce Banner to Incredible Hulk – how angry are you?
PS – All the “Staying a step ahead of HIV/AIDS” articles are open access! Check ‘em out!
Basic science = scientific questions that are founded in understanding theory, or the natural world around us
Applied science = scientific research that is directly applicable to humans. i.e. Cancer research
The last few years of financial crisis have seen a rise in criticism over basic scientific research. NPR does a great job of summarizing the criticisms and explaining why seeking to understand duck genitalia is a solid biological question.
I’ve just registered (a whole two days ahead of the deadline!) for the 2014 Evolution meetings, which this year are hosted by NESCent at Raleigh, North Carolina. Up to now, my strongest association with Raleigh is from a childhood of watching The Andy Griffith Show, in which Raleigh is the big city from Mayberry’s point of view—particularly this episode where Andy and Barney drive up to town to apply for membership in a posh social club:
(Click here to go direct to the awkwardness.)
… actually, now that I re-watch this, Barney’s performance is a pretty good primer on how not to behave at scientific meetings, too. “Oh, you remember genotyping-by-sequencing, Andy! It’s genotyping. Done by, er, sequencing.”
When I first heard about Twitter (several years before I actually understood what it was) – I remember thinking it sounded silly. Who cares what celebrities are thinking (Figure 1)? I dismissed everything Twitter-related as irrelevant and continued on my merry way. I think it was during Evolution 2011 that Jeremy (from this blog) suggested I join Twitter because you can follow interesting talks and remain engaged throughout conferences. It took a little while for me to work up a real affection for Twitter but the longer I’ve been a member (and perhaps the longer Science and scientists have had to assimilate it into our work world), the more useful I find it (Figure 2).
Figure 1: An example of the “Why bother?” side of Twitter. And why 103,000 people bothered repeating this via “retweeting” is beyond me. It gets dumber each time I read it.
Figure 2: Why you actually should bother. Devin’s posts include (top to bottom) – passing along a job opportunity, interesting publication, a professional interaction about science spam, a second paper and link to our blog!
Regarding social media and scientists in general, Bik & Goldstein have written a great introduction. They discuss the pros and cons of several platforms (i.e., blogs, Facebook, Twitter) and how to choose amongst these depending on your interests. For example – are you most interested in communicating science to the “general public”? TO THE FLOW CHART! Perhaps creating your own content in the form of a blog is for you. Alternatively, are you more interested in compiling cool stuff you’ve found from across the world wide web? Consider Facebook.
Despite the ubiquity of social media in our world, many scientists are reluctant to embrace it. That’s somewhat understandable – “Why bother?” is an easy question to ask and get no answer to if you’re “unplugged”. Bik & Goldstein outline four major “research benefits from an online presence”.
Over at the New York Times, science writer Ferris Jabr wrestles with the difficulty of differentiating living things from non-living things—viruses can reproduce themselves and evolve, but need host cells to do it; inorganic crystals can grow and (sort of) reproduce. He concludes that although “life” as we know it is a useful concept, it’s just that—a concept: “We find it useful to think of some things as alive and others as inanimate, but this division exists only in our heads.”
From there, Jabr goes on to a conclusion that (judging from my Twitter stream) has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad idea:
BAHFest , the Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses, is a competition to develop “well-argued and thoroughly researched but completely incorrect evolutionary theory.” The whole thing was originally proposed in a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip proposing that human infants have been evolutionarily optimized for long-distance dispersal by catapult.
Coming up with “obviously wrong” scientific hypotheses is clever because it helps us think about why, exactly, we choose to believe the hypotheses that we do, and how we use (and misuse) evidence to make those judgements. My personal favorite example is a 1983 article, published in the journal Evolution, which evaluates all the possible reasons that natural selection has made offspring smaller than their parents [PDF]—smaller offspring are easier to hide, cheaper to make, easier to disperse, and easier to control in the event that their interests conflict with their parents’—but completely (and deliberately) misses the obvious, actual reason.
Last year’s BAHFest winner, Tomer Ullman, proposed that babies cry because the irritating, high-pitched noise helps prepare their caretakers for battle:
The next iterations of BAHFest are scheduled for 25 October in San Francisco, and a date to be announced in Boston.
Ellstrand NC. 1983. Why are juveniles smaller than their parents? Evolution. 37(5): 1091-4. doi: 10.2307/2408423.
This is a guest post by Reid Brennan, a Ph.D. student studying the genomics of adaptation in response to environmental stress as part of Andrew Whitehead’s lab at the University of California, Davis.
Ken Ham hates evolution. Bill Nye hates creationism. After Nye released the great video “Creationism is not appropriate for children“, Ham decided to personally respond in a number of videos (link, link). Eventually Ham challenged Nye to a debate, a challenge that Nye accepted.
For those of you not closely following the creationist crowd, Ken Ham is the founder of Answers in Genesis, the anti-evolution organization responsible for the Creation Museum and Ark Park (That’s right, an amusement park featuring a full sized ark on which all the animals of the world were saved from the flood). On February 4th at 7PM ET, Ham and Nye will meet to debate the following topic/question: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?”