Friday, September 29, 2006

Great Divas

Why do we even have male singers? Who likes them? Who needs them?

I'm looking at my iTunes library and Sting is pretty much the only male singer there, and definitely not for his singing, just for his songs. OK, there is Lenny Kravitz who seriously rocks, and R.E.M. / Michael Stipe, and U2 with Bono, but there we go again to the songs rather than the singing being the "beef".

Could be that it's just because I'm a guy and like girls in general, but I think in jazz this should be a strict rule: female singers only. The various cringe-inducing scatting franksinatras can take their scooby doos and scaba dahs and go to Country Clubs and sing to the overweight and post-middle-aged matrons. And wear a thong for tips.

But, as I'm passing the evening hours at work trying to finish a paper, I'm being mesmerised by the great Divas. Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, and of course the unfortunate, delicate and spellbinding Billie Holiday. How can Lady Day sound so strong and so fragile, so harsh and so tender at the same time? The list of amazing vocalists goes on: Aretha Franklin, Patricia Barber, the contemporary Billie Holiday-soundalike Madeleine Peyroux, Diana Krall, Susheela Raman and on the more pop-py side, Patricia Kaas, Eva Cassidy, Lisa Nilsson etc.. They rule.

And even though all these songs have lyrics, I can easily ignore them and just listen to these voices as instruments, wrap their smooth sounds around me and keep tapping the keyboard in the dark, autumny evening.

If you haven't already, go and buy Verve's Ultimate Diva Collection. Now.

BTW, thanks to DJ Bunny for most of these songs and having a great voice herself.

P.S. Found the exceptions to the rule (the general rule, not the jazz-one): Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright. I listen to both because I like their voices. Funnily, both are (or in Buckley's case were) gay. :-)

(Pic: William P. Gottlieb)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Agghh, I guess nobody likes it, but I hate it. Asking for money. Which involves filling in applications, writing research proposals, polishing the CV, asking people to be your referees and then printing, copying and mailing everything somewhere, in X copies.

The most awkward part is the asking for referees -bit. This means asking for professors, supervisors and other very busy people to write a couple of pages of praise of you and your work for some other busy people who are not likely to read it anyway. Putting overworked and underpaid people under even more stress so that you can also get to be an underpaid and overworked person for a while.

It's that time of the year, the new academic year starting and deadlines for every possible source of funding coinciding with this nerve-wracking season (great planning, whoever is responsible for this...). I'm only trying to find someone to pay for my last months as a PhD now, but soon I'll need to become a professional beggar to secure a post-doc somewhere. Not looking forward to that process at all.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Work update

So, this blog was supposed to be about tracking my progress towards PhD. As even a quick glance of the index of the blog tells, I've been rambling about, blogging about this and that and even avoiding work-related stuff. It's time to change that.

So, where are we, now that the end of the final year is getting closer?

Not quite at the end. I promised to make sure I'd generate more text to my thesis than to my blog. That hasn't quite worked, as I realise there isn't much more text that I could call PhD thesis now, compared to when I started the blog. While, of course, there is a lot of stuff in the blog. Luckily this doesn't mean I haven't been working, and it doesn't mean I have skipped work to write this blog either. It just means I haven't reached the writing-up phase yet, not properly anyway.

I feel so much better about my work now than what I did a couple of months ago. I have now run enough experiments, so I don't need more data for my PhD. Remember when I was contemplating whether to learn to use the gear properly or just get on with the experiment? I actually ended up learning how to use it, as it was the only way to proceed, but needed the extra unit anyway, as it was somehow broken and couldn't stretch to doing what I needed it to. So, not either or, but both... :-)

The BIG conference in Bologna was a success and I'm pleased to report the follow-up has been interesting. I've got many emails from people, wanting to know more about my work, I've been emailing people I met there and whose work I've been interested in, and in general I feel much more confident about my work now than ever before. I think I have been putting off writing up, and I have been putting off writing those articles I need to churn out, partly because I haven't felt I have the "command of the field" that I need. Now I feel that I know what I'm talking about, and while there are still a lot of things that I need to clarify and learn more about, I know that my data is good, the methods of analysing the data are solid "industry standard", and that I have enough knowledge to interpret the data and discuss the implications of the results.

So, what's going to happen now? I'm currently looking at a couple of promising analysis methods, but they might be superfluous and not worth the trouble trying to apply now. Once I've checked them out (sounds much simpler than it is, as there's a lot of physics and maths involved, plus some new software etc.) I will write up the first article: I've decided to submit the new data as a "brief article" which means the referee process is much simpler and the paper should come out quicker than normal.

After that I will progress to reanalysing and writing up two other articles. These will form the core of my thesis data chapters. I know I will need to do a different write-up for the articles and for the thesis, the latter taking priority. So, if it seems like I'm running out of time, I'll just focus on the thesis and leave the articles for later. The fact is, I will need those articles to get a job afterwards, that's why I'm even thinking about them.

Hmm, there's a scary thought, a job. I haven't really given it much thought yet, but of course I should be applying for post-doctoral positions as we speak. Again, I will try to, but at the moment it seems that my head is not big enough to hold both thoughts at the same time, finishing the thesis and finding a new job.

In general, I'm approaching the cut-off-point. That is the point to which your thesis is up-to-date. The point up to which you know everything about your field, but after which you don't include any new stuff, no matter how relevant that might be. It's the point where you stop searching for new methods to analyse your data, stop adding to the theoretical background and stop honing your "approach". No more approaches, it's all about arrival.

(Pic: © Voodoo8Witch)

Amazing work...

Happy ends are great. Remember the Chinese vases in Fitzwilliam museum that were smashed to pieces by a spectator? The first one has been fixed, and the two others will be soon. The first restorated vase was displayed in an exhibition called "Mission Impossible", where the "ethics and choices" of restauration were displayed. I saw it on Saturday, the second last day it was on.

The exhibition occupied only one gallery, but it was a very interesting entity, showing how different materials decay over time, how environmental factors like excess light contribute to the damage, and most interestingly was asking questions about what is the "right thing" to do with a number of exhibits. Fixing old things is not always as straight-forward as you might think.

For instance, a number of paintings have been restorated over the years, some better than others. As modern technology such as x-rays and ultralight would allow you to see what's original and what is added, would you try to restore the painting to its original state or just keep it as it is? What if the painting was last fixed 300 years ago by someone now famous? Or, if you have an old musical instrument, which of course is not a display item but whose function stems from it being used, and using it would mean that you would eventually need to replace its moving parts, strings etc., and perhaps eventually lead to structural damage, would you keep using the instrument as it was supposed to or do you deprive it of its function and make a showcase item out of it?

The centerpiece of the exhibition was the Qing-vase now glued together by the amazing Penny Bendall. The vase was safely inside a strong glass box (that looked bullet proof...). Accompanying it was a video that showed the process of fixing the vase, from dividing the staircase into areas, collecting each piece and spec of dust that might have come from the vases into labelled boxes, then proceeding to assemble the puzzles, glueing them together, restoring the glazing and decorations...

Brilliant work, but I didn't realise she needed to do so much repainting of the decorations. This issue was BTW discussed in one showcase, where they showed examples of Eastern restoration style: in China and in Japan they also traditionally have fixed broken vases and plates etc., but unlike in the Western tradition, where the restauration is made as invisible as possible, they tend to make the restoration as visible as possible, and the items become demonstrations of the conservator's skills. The cracks are filled with lacquer, and the lacquer is eventually gilded with leaf gold, so that the fault line shines and at the same time the object gets a new life.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


First for everything

Being an atheist and having diametrically opposite views on some things with the Catholic church, I have to say to my surprise that I do side with the Pope on the recent "clash". Being misquoted on Islam seems to be easier than falling downwards nowadays, and thus one could perhaps argue that he/his speechwriters should have been more careful with the wording of his original speech at Regensburg. But, I think the damage control was done in an excellent way, the Vatican immediately issuing clarification and then the Pope himself regretting his words, which is pretty generous, especially considering that the Pope is supposed to be infallible. Those who didn't accept his apology and keep demanding that he'd jump through more hoops they arbitrarily have set, are just plain insensitive and have no respect for the Pope or his status, or the religion he represents. How can they ask for respect for their prophet when they themselves are not willing to show any for other religions and their leaders?

(I oppose organised religions in general, but accept the fact that we can't really get rid of either Islam, Christianity or Judaism, and also think that that would not solve the problems in the Middle east or anywhere else, as the source of the problems is not the religion, even though the problems are exacerbated by hostlie actions, inflexibility and bigotry fuelled and excused by religions and differences thereof.)

No such thing as a stupid question

Hmm, not sure about that... Here's a top 3 of funny questions tourists have asked me when trying to find their way in Cambridge.

3) Excuse me, how do I get to Mill Road?
(a guy in the van, about 2 miles from Mill Road, on the exactly opposite side of town, facing the wrong way)

2) Excuse me, where is Trumpington street?
(a lady on Trumpington Street (one of the main entry/exit roads to the city centre))

1) Sorry, is this restaurant called 'Browns'?
(a girl, pointing to the sign on top of the restaurant door saying "Loch Fyne Restaurant". Browns is almost next door)

Bubbling under: Mate, can you tell me where the station is?
(a guy in a car, next to a sign pointing to the Railway station)

Well, at least these people found what they are looking for (perhaps apart from the first guy, because he was so far off that I could only point him to the general direction, tell him he has to drive around the whole town centre and then stop again and ask for new directions). I wonder how many men are still aimlessly wondering around Cambridge as they are too proud/stupid to ask for instructions.

Food. More food.

I made sandwiches at home and brought them to work to eat for lunch. Then on the way to work, I stopped at a sandwich shop to get some sandwiches to eat for lunch. All I need to do now is to forget to eat any of them. Seen my brain anywhere?

EDIT: the food is proving useful as my supervisor came back from holiday today, wants to have a meeting with me tomorrow and so I'm basically pulling an all-nighter to get ready.

EDIT2: forgot to include the following item:

Drivers counter safety measures by being more reckless

This phenomenon has been documented before, I think. When ever new safety systems are put on cars, people driving them get more careless and take larger risks that offset the safety measures. The introduction of ABS brakes, airbags and all sorts of computer-based safety features have made cars safer, but made drivers more complacent and willing to take risks. Now it's been shown that car drivers are offsetting not only their own safety measures but also those of cyclists. Overtaking drivers leave more room for people cycling without helmet and women cyclists. (The male researcher was actully run over twice in the course of the experiments, both times he was wearing a helmet, luckily.)

Maybe I should wear a wig under my helmet so that the Barrys and Nigels in their white vans would give me some space...

Monday, September 18, 2006

More ding dong

The "premature Christmas" -watch continues. It seems that the policy to start carefully by putting up one shelf of X-mas stuff is a general one. In addition to Co-op, at least Debenhams has it already. Travel agencies are also on the move, which is a bit more understandable as hotels and flights are generally booked more in advance than boxes of chocolate.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Loads of useful trivia. Addicting game as well.

Ding dong merrily on high...

And so it is Christmas. Soon anyway. In fact, only 102 nights until Christmas day, and the shops are getting ready. Of course, this shop in Edinburgh is always ready, but yesterday our local Co-op supermarket started their yuletide promotions with boxes of candy on sale, on a shelf appropriately decorated in red and green ornaments saying "Buy Early for Christmas". At least they admit it's a tad early with temperatures over 25 outside and people shopping for icecream and barbeques.

(Pic: Kevin Duffy)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Climate change - links to hurricanes

Now that even the most stubborn sceptics have accepted that human activity is causing global warming which in turn has potentially catastrophic consequences, they are still not convinced that the recent increase in the intensity of storms and the damages storms and hurricanes cause have any links to human activities.

The theory has been out there for a while. We know how hurricanes work: they are vorteces that spiral around the eye where the air pressure is very low. Warm, humid air from the bottom rises up in a spiral, while cool, drier air from higher up falls down the eye, as it gets sucked in by the low pressure. Hurricanes are born and bred over the sea and they will rapidly weaken as they hit the land, as they quite literally run out of steam, or the warm and humid air. The theory linking global warming to the intensity of the storms is that even a modest rise to seal water temperature would boost these systems, as the air down at sea level would be warmer and more humid.

While the hurricane season, incidence of tropical storms at certain time of a year, is a natural phenomenon that would take place regardless of human activity, the question is whether the amount and intensity of hurricanes have actually risen, and whether this is due to global warming (which now finally is accepted to be largely antropogenic, or originating in human activity). Showing that this link exists would have a major impact on the debate on climate change and what could or should be done about it. To be blunt, it would allow a price tag to be put on how much the American taxpayers are currently paying for the damage their carbon emissions cause. This, in turn, would help to put the costs of lowering those emissions into proportion and make the economic impact of carbon emission cutting more acceptable for politicians, businesses, and citizens.

So far it has been an uphill battle to show that a) climate is changing, b) this would have bad consequences, c) the change is our fault and, d) we can do something about it and finally f) we can afford to do it, in fact, we can't afford not to.

Recent studies, as reported by BBC today, suggest that the link between human activity and storm intensity exists. The researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California concluded that "84 percent chance that external forcing (such as human-caused increases in greenhouse gases, ozone and various aerosol particles) accounts for at least 67 percent of the observed rise in SSTs in the Atlantic and Pacific hurricane formation regions." SST means sea surface temperature, the critical factor in brewing strong storm systems.

So, 84% chance that two thirds of the rise of SST is caused by humans. Doesn't sound convincing enough? Well, to put it the other way around, it is very unlikely if not completely impossible that the rise could have happened without human involvement. And this is the crucial message to take home.

Of course, since climate research is a science, not religion, there is no such thing as "proof" and as the systems involved are mind-bogglingly complex (remember the chaos theory pet example of a butterfly fluttering wings in the Amazon causing hurricanes in the Gulf...) we will never get more than a probability and a theory corroborated by some data. A field day for sceptics, who can complain that the models are missing crucial variables, the results are not bulletproof, historical comparisons of measurements is dodgy due to lack of reliable old data etc.
But, the evidence is cropping up to support the antropogenic theory. And while the cost to deal with the issue is huge, not dealing with it is even more enormous, and is more likely to involve massive loss of human lives, not just inconvenience or loss of property. Just how much more costly it would be not to act, we are beginning to find out.

(Pic: BBC)

Monday, September 11, 2006


Pick a random number.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Brainrinsing and procrastination

Two ways of clearing your mind from clutter...


Dice wars

Go on, waste you day...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Test the nation

Good old Beebs run a national IQ test again. Some of you might already know that I'm against IQ testing because it is useless at best and often misleading, and gives people the wrong idea about intelligence in general, their own abilities, and those of others'. But as the whole thing was done under BBC Entertainment rather than their otherwise excellent science and nature section, let's look at it as entertainment.

As such, it was boring. Going through all the questions one by one, twice, was mind-numbing, and while Anne "The Weakest Link" Robinson is fab, the other host wasn't. He probably thinks he's the funniest guy alive, but unfortunately nobody else thinks so.

I liked the idea to bring a bunch of groups to the studio to do the test and be compared. There they were, public school kids taking on the state school kids, butchers battling it out with vegetarians. Estate agents are probably generally hated and considered stupid and useless, at least in relation to the fees they charge for their "services". Footballers wifes, or WAGs are modern bimbos that are known for their imaginative ways of spending money but aren't necessarily otherwise considered as the sharpest tools in the box.

The climax of the programme was when Teddy Sheringham's girlfriend confessed that she really, honestly thought that Winston Churchill was USA's first black president. It's anyone's guess why she thought he was the president of the United States, but she had a very good explanation on why she thought he was black: there's a statue of him close to where she lives, and the statue is... yes, black. Priceless... BTW, funny, how they all looked like clones.

I must make a couple of points about the actual methods and "scientific" content of the otherwise entertaining (not) show. First, I don't quite understand why they had visual illusions such as the Muller-Lyer illusion as test items. Second, as the programme was at parts trying to be educational, as there were two experts explaining the test items and what was being probed, they could have said a word or two about sampling (or I might have missed that in the beginning). The audience at home scored higher than average and higher than most studio teams, which reflects the availability of broadband at home, those with higher level of education are more likely to have it, and as we know IQ tests measure primarily your ability to score in IQ tests, and secondarily this correlates well with the number of years you've spent at school.

Finally, while the public school students scored the most correct answers, the vegetarians scored the highest IQ of the studio teams. This is because converting the scores to IQ points takes your age into account. Ageing is of course highly individual, especially when it comes to your mental age, and so the error from using a universal conversion table for everyone is likely to be large. The person in the studio getting the highest score was an old but very active lady, one of the vegetarians. The highest scoring member of the audience at home was funnily enough a policeman. The scale ended at 146, and both these and one of the celebrity quests scored 146, so there's a slight ceiling effect there. This is understandable, as the test gets very unreliable outside the score range that about 95% of population will get, between about 85 and 115.

As you'd expect, WAGs, butchers, estate agents and the studio team of "celebrities" scored lowest, the differences being very small. School kids are being tested constantly, and this was reflected in their higher scores. I suppose the vegetarians had a relatively high education level, and they were helped to the victory by the age-sensitive conversion.

Looking forward to the next one in a year? Not really, I prefer the Weakest Link.

(Pic: BBC / Wikipedia)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Social responsibility

The end is nigh... A report by Oxford Research Group sums up the global threats and places them into four interrelated baskets: climate change, competition over resources, growing socio-economic divisions and global militarisation. There aren't any "news" in the report, it's just a nice summary of things most of us know are going on, and it does a good job in showing how they are all connected. The report is very anglo-american in its point of view, as it primarily aims to show that terrorism is not the number one global threat, contrary to what the news say in the UK and the US. In fact, the report claims that the global war on terrorism is not working and it is just exacerbating the real problems while failing to fix the ones it is supposed to.

But, What can scientists (or perhaps I'd better say academics) do to prevent the looming doom? Some are directly involved, as they develop cleaner energy sources, try to find a cure for HIV/AIDS, or try to solve the puzzles of global economy. How about the rest of us? Of course we all have options to act as individual citizens, through our choices as consumers, donating to organisations etc. But being in academia gives us something most others don't have. Credibility. For some reason, people think that professors and other academics are smart and when they say something it's more profound or important than when a teen-mom from Croydon says the same thing. Could it be the accent? :-)

Actually, academics often know very little about anything outside the scope of their own research and are often more ignorant about the goings-on of the "real world" than others. Regardeless, I think it's still a good idea to harness some of the brain-power of the doctorati to the good cause of saving the planet. Politicians have had ample chance to do it themselves but it doesn't look promising. Non-governmental organisations are needed as partners and people who know how to network internationally, analyse and synthesise huge amounts of information, generate theories and find solutions are needed. Sounds like jobs for scientists?

It's very rare that a scientific conference hosts a political meeting. We had one in the end of our conference in Bologna. The convenors made it very clear that we were meeting as individuals, the meeting wasn't part of the actual conference and none of the scientific societies present endorsed the meeting. ¨This reminded me of those licence agreements no one reads when installing new software.

About 10% of the participants attended, which must be considered an OK turnout considering it was the final evening of a week-long conference, and many people took the opportunity to visit the beautiful Bologna and perhaps do some shopping. It also felt a bit difficult to switch off the "conference mode" and so it was a bit "academic", and not many concrete results were obtained.

Everyone was challenged to propose actions that would take place by next conference in two years. I don't think people were ready to take that step yet, these things take a bit of time, and everyone needs to get some information first, look into options, find partners, use a bit of time to consider the best approaches and most importantly discuss the plans with their home institutions. In that way the meeting was a disappointment and I think the aims of the organisers didn't meet the expectations of the attendees too well. I was hoping to spend a bit more time on discussing how we are planning to work together for these goals. I expected some kind of a support network to be formed, some framework or structure, a website or a blog that would bring us together after the conference and help us to find more information, partners etc. I do realise that the projects we were expected to propose and commit to would be small-scale local projects and individual activism, and not institutionalised endeavours. It would be impossible to engage academic organisations for essentially political work, but I was hoping we could have set up a network, some sort of support structure and run that as a common project, without having to commit to the content of everything that goes on within that structure.

So, perhaps that could be the thing I could do? Plan, develop and propose, and then get involved in running and moderating this support structure. There are already plenty of organisations and networks of conserned scientists and artists, and if all the energy goes into running the frameworks nobody has time to do any proper work. But, we need a "homebase" within and across these organisations, and surely what needs to be done first is to raise awareness and offer tools for people who want to get involved but don't know how they could do it. The threshold for getting involved in social projects should be as low as possible.

But I guess I'd better write my thesis first.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Causing scenes

Feeling a bit ashamed about the tone of the previous post already... It makes me look like such a stiff: a boring and humourless, one-eyed, cardigan-donning, bespectacled, obsessive-compulsive old fart who thinks everyone should read physics to understand how the universe works since without such knowledge it is impossible to function properly as a human being.

Be that as it may, but rather than talking about it now I'd like to divert your attention to this movement. The Improv Everywhere has been causing scenes for 5 years, and their latest, slow-motion shopping in Home Depot is hilarious, and so is the Cell Phone Symphony.

Brain melt

I promised to write more about the social responsibility of scientists. I'm doing it at the moment (can you imagine a better way to spend a Friday evening?) but two current stories in HS made my brain go to irritational overdrive.

I was writing about how academics can and should do more than just their share as individual citizens to help humanity combat climat change, social injustice etc., because they have the credibility and the platform to influence others, and thus they can carry more weight than most people (will post it tomorrow). This is another reason why all the zero/pseudo-science is "harmful", as it not only tarnishes the reputation of the individual wacky hacks making formulae for dunking biscuits, but it eats our common capital of credibility as well. Also, every self-evident research result that gets published during the silly season will have an effect on how people feel about their tax money being spent on research.

Journalists, working at the interface of science and society, have their share of responsibility as well. There is often real research behind the bleeding obvious results, and there are critical questions they could ask to separate hacks from the real things. Too often the journalists are either too bored to do their job properly or they just like the silly soundbite too much to interfere with the entertainment with high-brow questions. Some might even feel they are doing a service to the society by showing how tax money goes into waste when you give it to humanists, social scientists or in general, to academics, and showcasing inanity or simplifying findings beyond triviality is their version of "critical science journalism".

The two stories illustrate the point. First, the longevity of your marriage depends on how much you want to stay together. We knew that already, before Tuula Pukkala's PhD thesis about this was published, or the story about the research was released. But, this tautologous triviality is not the main point of the thesis (haven't read it, I'm guessing based on the article and the press release), as it actually deals with a whole host of factors and points of view to marriage. The idiotic headline is made by the journalist who wrote the story about it, or perhaps it was cooked up by the editor. Unfortunately, it will be attributed to the researcher who indeed identified motivation as one of three factors that contribute to long marriages.

The second story: Professor Andrew Oswald of Warwick University has recently published research on how the political opinions of parents seem to shift to left or right based on the sex of their children: having a girl will shift them towards labour, while having a baby boy will make the parents more likely to vote tories. We are talking about correlations between 2 % changes in reported likelihoods of voting behaviour and gender of babies. Not exactly solid as a rock as findings...

In the story, the journalist admits that since professor Oswald is friendly and humble, and doesn't seem at all like a chauvinist or provocateur, it is easy to believe that his results have a firm scientific basis. Ahh... give me a break. Is that really the analysis? Since when was the relevance of research determined on ad hominem -criteria? Did it ever occur to him to ask questions about how prof. Oswald defends his interpretations of causality when the results are simply correlational? Or any interest in discussing how significant (not just statistically) the 2% effect is, in actual terms? Any comments about the reliability of the self-report method used to gauge the political opinions? Or, whether the results are just specific for the UK or could they be generalised to other European countries or internationally?

I don't want to challenge prof. Oswald's numbers or his dexterity in quantitative methods. And, his explanation for the findings (in short/bluntly: girls need more "protection" and so parents think more about how the society will be like, while boys are more competitive) sounds relatively plausible, especially since the research was conducted in the UK, which is notoriously conservative in gender roles. And he clearly is a serious researcher who's done important work on for instance happiness (so I'm told). But this study reeks of soundbite science and should be shot down for closer inspection by the journalists, as they have done in Britain. And not only by the feminist ones who don't like Oswald's news, but also those who care about the quality of social science and responsible use of statistics in it, and those who want to put things in perspective.

HS, the biggest daily in Finland, the one with the best resources and most credibility, has failed again, twice in one day, to write anything sensible, critical or vaguely interesting about research when given good opportunities. I'm purposefully being cruel and stiff in the case of the Oswald-story, as it is perhaps not supposed to be about his work, but about the person, and as such it is decent (difficult to tell from the on-line version, as you don't see the context in which it is going to be published on paper). But, the readership would have deserved better in both occasions. And so would the researchers themselves. And while these stories will not hurt the credibility of academia and university research in general, or even the credibility of the paper, they don't really manage to serve as the interface between science and society either.

Rant over, I'm going home to watch some silly DVD, to complete the process of turning grey matter into fondue.

(Pic: "Brain Melt" by George Curington;