Friday coffee break

Coffee flasks

Siphoned coffee.

Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte.

From Sarah: Psychological studies suggest thankfulness is good for your mental well-being.

Research by McCullough and others finds that giving thanks is a potent emotion that feeds on itself, almost the equivalent of being victorious. It could be called a vicious circle, but it’s anything but vicious.

From Devin: An alternative to the academic tenure-track could be research institutes, with shorter-term contracts.

Remove the security blanket of tenure, says [Sean] Eddy, and he is driven to work harder, and to assess his research programme more frequently to make sure that it is still on the right track. Furthermore, he says, tenure, which is especially coveted in the United States, brings its own job-related anxieties. “If I’m tenured at Washington University or anywhere, they can’t fire me, but they can put me in a closet and take away my space,” he says. “I prefer it this way — I think it’s appropriate to have a little fire under you.”

From Jeremy: Turns out The Lord of the Rings is about getting a Ph.D.

After Frodo has completed his first project, Gandalf (along with head of department Elrond) proposes that the work should be extended. He assembles a large research group, including visiting students Gimli and Legolas, the foreign postdoc Boromir, and several of Frodo’s own friends from his undergraduate days. Frodo agrees to tackle this larger project, though he has mixed feelings about it. (“‘I will take the Ring’, he said, ‘although I do not know the way.'”)