pin-up

ADVICE FOR POTENTIAL GRADUATE STUDENTS

By | archive, commentary, impressions, pin-up

(CLICK HERE FOR PIN-UP POSTER – pdf file ~85k)
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PINUP05

We currently have room in the lab for more graduate students.

But before you apply to this lab or any other, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, be realistic about graduate school. Graduate school in biology is not a sure path to success. Many students assume that they will eventually get a job just like their advisor’s. However, the average professor at a research university has three students at a time for about 5 years each. So, over a career of 30 years, this professor has about 18 students. Since the total number of positions has been pretty constant, these 18 people are competing for one spot. So go to grad school assuming that you might not end up at a research university, but instead a teaching college, or a government or industry job. All of these are great jobs, but it’s important to think of all this before you go to school.

Second, choose your advisor wisely. Not only does this person potentially have total control over your graduate career for five or more years, but he/she will also be writing recommendation letters for you for another 5-10 years after that. Also, your advisor will shadow you for the rest of your life. People will always think of you as so-and-so’s student and assume that you two are somewhat alike. Finally, in many ways you will turn into your advisor. Advisors teach very little, but instead provide a role model. Consciously and unconsciously, you will imitate your advisor. You may find this hard to believe now, but fifteen years from now, when you find yourself lining up the tools in your lab cabinets just like your advisor did, you’ll see. My student Alison once said that choosing an advisor is like choosing a spouse after one date. Find out all you can on this date.

Finally, have your fun now. Five years is a long time when you are 23 years old. By the end of graduate school, you will be older, slower, and possibly married and/or a parent. So if you always wanted to walk across Nepal, do it now. Also, do not go to a high-powered lab that you hate assuming that this will promise you long-term happiness. Deferred gratification has its limits. Do something that you have passion for, work in a lab you like, in a place you like, before life starts throwing its many curve balls. Your career will mostly take care of itself, but you can’t get your youth back.

If, after reading this, you want to apply to this lab, we would love to hear from you.

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This piece was originally published at the SCQ in 2008

About Sönke Johnsen

"Sönke Johnsen is deep-sea biologist and visual ecologist at Duke University and still can't believe that his background in math, art, and writing got him a paying job, let alone one that lets him go down in submarines. In his spare time, he takes pictures (see here) and works with his daughter to unlock new levels on Mariokart Wii."

THE 2013 CANDY HIERARCHY – A SCIENCE CREATIVE QUARTERLY PIN UP (NO. 6)

By | archive, humour, pin-up

candyhierarchy2013final

Click on the image for larger graphic.

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(CLICK HERE FOR PIN-UP POSTER – pdf file ~1Mb)
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ABSTRACT

The “Candy Hierarchy” represents a thoroughly authoritative attempt to scientifically measure and classify Halloween Candy by assessing “joy induction.” More or less. Since 2006, Cohen and Ng have curated these rankings as an ongoing longitudinal study, one which reassesses itself through the use of the newest technologies (often teeth and jaws) and robust scientific peer review (comments). This article therefore presents the latest rankings with insight into the complex cultural underpinnings of “sweet” things. Specific notes of interest are two fold: (1) the emergence of a child-centric sucro-fructo-tastic gummi/chewy/taffi layer into the upper strata and (2) the recent prominence of corporatized corn fructose agents potentially, but we doubt it, influencing the hierarchy. Speaking of corporate influence, we are proud to be sponsored by Sweetum’s this year. Sweetums!: When fructose jitters can’t wait, try Sweetums, an American delight! In conclusion, these findings continue to demonstrate the enormous challenge in monitoring the constantly changing landscape of candy joy induction. Except, of course, for Whoppers – Whoppers still blow. And, good god, if I get one more box of Nerds. They’re gone. It’s done. Boom. Drop the mic.

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DISCUSSION

This year, we had money. Gobs of money. Like lots and lots. If Everlasting Gobstoppers were money and not gobs used to stop things, we would be that. So much money it was crazy town for a while. It’s like, this year for Halloween we’re not going to be giving out Toblerone; we’re going to be giving out 3D printers that make Toblerone. But don’t let’s get all braggy. Our point is this: we got big cash and we did fancy research.

And what did this research look like? Well, all sorts of scientific things—things like booking time at CERN to collide candy corn and chocolate bars together in an attempt to explain why some fundamental particles (bodies) have (more) mass; things like using next gen sequencing methodologies to elucidate the genetic variation within populations of same-flavored and different-flavored Starbursts; things like setting up a Dancing-with-the-Stars-like competition where we had animated FTIR machines (which we printed with our disposable 3D printers) spit out competing glucose fingerprint codes to see which danced the best. Was most of this wasted time, effort, and money? Sure, maybe…the CERN data showed that colliding candy together at high speeds resulted in smaller bits of candy (intriguing); the Starburst genome project essentially suggested that Starbursts don’t, in fact, have genomes (curious); and it’s not clear that Dancing FTIR thing even made sense. But it’s not for us to decide the findings’ value. That’s what the peer community is for. Who knows how this knowledge might one day be applied? Besides, the stuffed coats at Sweetum’s tell us we can’t actually make the good data public until Sal in marketing vets it. I think this discussion is supposed to be redacted, actually. Rob, can you go check on that before this runs?

Regardless, we can state this: lo and behold, this year’s hierarchy reveals a bi-modal fracturing at the top strata. Previous rankings had found chocolate dominance at the top. The new hierarchy reflects discoveries made in the last year whereby some kids don’t think chocolate is top tier. Seemed like bullshit at first—because, really? Non-chocolate? But data don’t lie. So check out the graphic above.

Know what else? After years of failed get-it-right fast schemes, in this scheme we got it right. And fast. With some methodological retooling, more data sets, further research, and hundreds of additional peer review comments, the hierarchy is now entirely correct. There will be no need for comments. You can turn the internet off now. Yes yes, we said that last year, and the numerous years before. But that was before Twitter was big so nobody really read this. People always say they’re super confident, and you can never believe them, and don’t ever trust who ever acts like they’re one hundred percent certain. It’s just, if someone says something is entirely correct, you have to be a bit skeptical, right? But this time we are one hundred percent confident; this hierarchy is entirely correct. Why? Because of that corporate sponsorship. That’s why we’re proud to thank Sweetum’s Good Times High Fructosery for funding this year’s hierarchy. Sweetum’s, the quicker picker upper. Anyway, the scientific process is largely structured by corporate mechanisms and economic considerations, we’re told. Scientific research is underwritten by commitments to those problems our funders deem worthy of study. Right? And so here we are. Lots of sugar. Eventual diabetes. Meager dentistry. Yum.

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PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TO THE PEER REVIEW BY GOING HERE (UNTIL NOV. 3rd, 2013), OR BY TWEETING WITH THE HASHTAG #CANDYHIERARCHY

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FOOTNOTES

1. Because like, score! (Bcsizemo, 2010)

2. a.k.a. God’s Candy

3. These may be rolled to a friend.

4. Not sure if this should be included. Systematics are still on going – denomination appears to be key.

5. Like that fish you’ve seen on television. You know – the one which looks like it can breathe air and stuff.

6. Appropriate ranking may depend entirely on date of purchase versus date of opening. Experts in this field often refer to this dichotomy as “fresh CCE” versus “stale CCE,” or FCCE versus SCCE (Beschizza, 2011). Note that its interior has also been described as “pustulent.” (Petersen, 2010)

7. Sometimes spousal influence forces these placements as with, ahem, this primarily southern delicacy.

8. Blame the children on this one, Canadian children too. Also, sponsored by Sweetums (“Sweetums!: When fructose jitters can’t wait, try Sweetums, an American delight!”) whose corporate dollars may or may not be messing with your heads.

9. Always a contentious subject with a rich history of controversy. Briefly: Candy Corn, as of 2006, remained unclassified, but as of 2007 had been tentatively placed in the Upper Chewy/Upper Devonian. 2008: no sighting. This year, we have elected to place in a new tier, although what this means exactly has yet to be determined.

10. Includes comparable Commonwealth version of “Smarties.” (Devo, Legionabstract, gadgetgirl et al, 2011)

11. Although has also been classified as packing material (Cunning, 2010)

12. Placed solely to acknowledge, make fun of, and possibly undermine British opinions. Google it, but be careful when you google it (2012).

13. This is from EU pressure, known in diplomatic circles as the “Hornby Concession” (see his many footnotes from the 2012 version).

14. In which we acknowledge the complex underpinnings of this here Candy ranking exercise: apparently, the wrapper of the Ferrero Roche gets a higher ranking than the candy itself (due to high artwork potential). (Son of Anthrodiva 2012)

15. Whoppers blow.

16. The authors are curious as to which neighborhoods you belong to.

17. Also a hot mess of debate. Not to be confused with hot messes involving actual persons named “Mary Jane.” (Girard, franko, lexicat, Easton, Petersen, Halloween_Jack, 2012)

18. The discontinued candy, not the equally rankable discontinued board game.

19. Oh smack, can you even imagine if you got Fritos?

20. You know, we don’t even know what this is, but, hell, your sister marries an Australian, they have a kid, now you’ve got a niece, and you want a nice life for her, you want her to have a stake in the hierarchy, so okay, Aussie Lollies — Picnic bars, cherry ripe, Frys Turkish delight, probably something Chazzwozzer-based too, knock yourself out.

21. In a word, surreal… Plus grandpas with eyepatches always make everything better. Pretty sure, this is reproducible. (Gyrofrog, petertrepan, Koerth-Baker, Olsen 2012)

22. By some accounts, these two are actually one and the same (Gadgetgirl, 2010)

23. Yet some would be just as well to be left off. Bit-o-Honey, for example, might be called a lower tier member, but why bother? It says to your trick-or-treaters, “Here, I don’t care, just take this.” The lesson of Bit-o-Honey is: you lose. Doorstep offers of lectures in civics, too. You’re making a social statement–”I hate you and everything you represent”– when you give these out.

24. Yes, we really meant fruit that is healthy, clean-cut upstanding fruit that takes time from its gym membership and all the demands that come with it to contribute a positive message of citizenship and camaraderie to the community. This isn’t a typo of healthy for healthful. (see U.M.H. 2011)

25. Research has further defined this relationship. Currently, it has been suggested that Blackwing Pencils > Hugs > Creepy Hugs > Pencils. (Lobster, Prufrock451, and Warreno, 2010)

26. Unless it’s something caramel, pronounced “caramel.”

27. Unless you eat them properly. To quote Anonymous, 2010: “The trick to realizing how brilliant and delicious Now ‘n Laters are is a two step process. The first step is to carefully read the name of the candy. “Now ‘n Later.” What does it mean, you ask? Well, it implies that the candy will be different “now” (when you put it in your mouth) and at some point “later” in time. A small leap of logic takes us to the second step: be patient. You need to suck on it for a while until it softens. If you skip this step, the Now ‘n Later will be an inedible, rock-like colorful brick quite worthy of the low end of the hierarchy. But if you are patient in your candy-eating process, oh the rewards you will reap!”

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Originally published at Boingboing.net.

About Benjamin Cohen and David Ng

B.R. Cohen is a professor, a writer, and a guy who used to blog with Dave Ng. He teaches at Lafayette College in Easton, PA. Dave Ng is a guy who used to blog with B.R. Cohen. He runs a science literacy lab at the University of British Columbia, and would like to invite you to participate in research that looks at the sweet spot where science and creativity meet.

THE HMS BEAGLE PROJECT – A SCIENCE CREATIVE QUARTERLY PIN UP (NO. 3)

By | archive, creative, humour, pin-up

(CLICK HERE FOR PIN-UP POSTER – pdf file ~200k)
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My wish was to be buried in the Churchyard at Downe. Now I find Mr Huxley, thumbing his nose at the Queen for refusing me a knighthood, arranged to have me planted in that mausoleum Westminster Abbey. He knows I hated London. And burying an agnostic in such a place is carrying whimsy just a little too far.

So I was delighted when a mob of angry biologists and historians broke into the Abbey one night and removed my remains with a view for a quiet burial in the village I loved. But no. Someone called Dawkins had a better idea. I don’t remember corresponding with him. Maybe a friend of that ghastly man Marx who kept sending me those books. Did he come to anything?

Anyway, I woke up in a thunderstorm, a bolt in either side of my neck, Dawkins on the phone saying, ‘there’s another book in this!’ My re-emergence into society in my bicentenary year has caused something of a stir, not least to myself.

Those of you who have actually read my writings (as in not just provide opinion on them) will know that I am a retiring man, not much given to attending either science or society functions. But I could not resist an invitation to visit my old friend, the Beagle. As I wrote not long before my first death, my time aboard her was the most important event in my life: without her I would have become a clergyman.

So we took the train down to the coast and there she was. A brand new HMS Beagle, sitting alongside trim and pretty as though she had just been launched in 1820. My heart gave a lurch (which worries you, when you have died) when I saw her again. The decks were clustered awaiting my arrival, and the welcome I received was embarrassing.

Still. the moment I stepped aboard, I felt the clammy sweat, the salivation of my old nemesis: seasickness. I suffered it for five years and frequently wished myself dead. Some observant soul saw this: ‘I know how you feel. Every time we go out I’d throw me ring up if I didn’t take these.’ He handed me two tablets. ‘Or you could always eat some jam.’

‘Do preserves cure seasickness?’ I asked, amazed. ‘No, it just tastes nicer when it comes up.’ I shall have to catch up with the new humour, I see. But it was good to be made game of: I am a bearded man who has been resurrected from the dead, but I am no God.

The upper deck was much as I remember leaving in 1836: the wheel with Nelson’s immemorial words: ‘England expects every man will do his duty’. The Captain – he did not have Fitzroy’s haughty bearing – saw my affectionate glance at the helm and in an exasperated way said, ‘If that was today, Nelson would have to say “England expects every man will fill in a risk assessment.” Anyhow, look at this.’ The inanimate piece of glass sprang into colourful life. ‘GPS.’ I raised an eyebrow. ‘Global positioning system. It uses satellites 22,000 miles above us to calculate our position to the nearest ten feet. It has charts for the whole world.’

‘No more sextants?’ I asked. The daily taking of sights at noon and of shooting the altitude of starts was a great ritual every day aboard the old Beagle. ‘Oh, I still have mine, and my requisite tables. Sometimes, the electrics pack up.’

‘So the whole of the world has been charted? And they are stored in this small grey box?’

‘Yes. And watch this!’ He punched a button. ‘Depth!’

‘So no more casting weighted lines?’

‘No, Mr D. And here.’ The display changed again. ‘Radar. It paints a picture of the land and sea around us. We can see boats before they appear on the horizon, can sail safely through fog and storms.’ It looked like paintings my little Frankie used to do after Emma had been a little too free with the alcoholic tincture of laudanum. She used to give that a lot for colds. With so much changed, I suppose science will have found cures for such simple ailments by now.

My old stern cabin was very different to the one I shared with Stokes and King. Cramped still, but with cabins and…what did I feel? The captain had the shame to shuffle his feet. ‘Heating,’ he mumbled. ‘Air conditioning, too, when it gets too hot.’ A click and an electric bulb glowed
into life. I had seen these in a house, but on a boat. ‘And that?’

‘You haven’t heard of iPods, then?’

‘Something to do with plant reproduction?’

The captain shook his head and vanishing down a set of ladders told me to ‘mind my head’. My 200 year old knees cracked a bit. Age had stooped my frame, but still in the bowels of the ship, I had to hunch, and what a different sight to the stinking, rodent infested hole I had last seen in 1836.

‘Engines. 440 horsepower, folding propellers, push us along at eight knots when there’s no wind. And generators provide mains electricity for all you scientific types – the stuff you lot need – and 24 volts for the boat.’

Fitzroy sailed us around the world and I wrote The Origin of Species without electricity, I mused. We crouched as we walked between rows of gleaming boxes and hoses. ‘Diesel and water tanks. Freezers. These are for food, these are for your metagenomics samples.’

‘Metagenomics?’

‘Don’t tell him about that! It’ll kill him again!’ A voice yelled from behind us. ‘We’ve got to get him up to speed with the peas first….’

Moving past the captain, I confronted the hovering woman in the white lab coat. ‘What’s this about peas?’ I asked. And so, standing in the hold of HMS Beagle I was given a brief introduction to the science of genetics. Well, well. It seems monks are good for something after all – transmitting variation from one generation to the next. Not that monks do that, I mean.

Anxious not to delay my host, I emerged again into the main deck, now lined with small comfortable cabins, very different to the hammocks of my day. In between the cabins, a table was bolted to the floor. ‘Lab space. We’re doing what you did, Mr D. we’re going round the world, sampling the seas, looking at how the world’s changed since you saw it, how the rainforests have been cut down, the glaciers have melted, where the species have moved to, how many have gone extinct. A lot of the people here are doing it because of you. A lot of ‘em read the Voyage, the Origin, and that’s why they’re here.’

I felt humble that my work on this little ship had touched so many. And a pang of envy. Their breathable waterproofs. Heated cabins. Running water. Hot running water. Next I will learn that they will not have to wait to arrive at shore to communicate with the rest of the world. Maybe they are even able to identify specimens without consulting a museum or book!

The captain excused himself. ‘We need to be off, we’re taking a copy of your first edition of the Origin across the Atlantic to Harvard.’ He slapped the mainmast. ‘Give her a good try out before we go off round the world. Been a pleasure to have you aboard. Bit of a headwrecker for me, mind. I hope,’ he shuddered, ‘they don’t dig up Fitzroy and do the Frankenstein on him, bring him aboard. God, could you imagine that? Having the old skipper aboard too? But you know you’re welcome aboard. Anytime.’

The crew shook my hand one after another in a most civil manner and the captain saw me safely over the gangplank, and promptly started bellowing – as captains will – about starting engines, getting ready to slip. As my feet hit dry land, I was met by an attractive young woman, a species I have always liked. ‘Hi,’ she drawled, took my arm and walked me towards a car. ‘Yah. I’m Jocasta your agent for media-facing events. Oh, God look at you, we’re going to have to do something about that beard. We’ll have to book you in for a makeover and get your colours done, I’m thinking autumnal: you’re doing the all the TV breakfast shows tomorrow morning. Darling, you’re going to be huge. But Charles Darwin. A bit old, Victorian. Our branding people have been brainstorming and felt Chaz D…’

I tore myself from her grasp, opened my hand , gulped down the two seasickess pill I had been given and with a sprightliness surprising in a 200 year old, cantered up the gangplank. ‘You did say any time,’ I reminded the captain, ‘my science is a little rusty, but I think I can be of some use.’

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The HMS Beagle Project aims to launch a replica of the HMS Beagle, an icon of scientific progress, for the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth in 2009. She will circumnavigate the globe in Darwin’s wake, crewed by aspiring scientists and researchers. They will carry out original research both at sea and on land, updating Darwin’s observations, breaking new scientific ground and relating the adventure of science to enthuse a new generation of young students. If you support this vision please visit www.thebeagleproject.com for details on how you can help.

(Originally published April 18th, 2008)

About Peter McGrath and Diana Sudyka

PETER MCGRATH is an author who studied zoology at Liverpool University where he was introduced to ‘The History of the Idea of Evolution’ by Professor A.J.Cain. This sparked a lifelong interest in Charles Darwin, which when mixed with his subsequently developed love of sailing, led to the following terrible effect: Peter decided that Charles Darwin’s bicentenary in 2009 must be celebrated by building a sailing replica of HMS Beagle. To discuss flinging a sack of money into the HMS Beagle Project, helping a replica HMS Beagle sail the world in Darwin’s wake with young scientists aboard, please check out the project's website. - DIANA SUDYKA is a Chicago illustrator and artist. She has a Bachelors of Fine Art from University of Illinois is Urbana-Champaign, and a Masters of Fine Art from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. She creates work for everything from book covers, album artwork, screen-printed rock posters, to watercolors for her avian blog, The Tiny Aviary, documenting her volunteer work for the Bird Division at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History. She has always had a great interest in ornithology and natural history, and the work she produces is informed by that passion. To see more of her work, please click here.

ADVICE FOR POTENTIAL GRADUATE STUDENTS – A SCIENCE CREATIVE QUARTERLY PIN UP (NO. 5)

By | archive, pin-up

(CLICK HERE FOR PIN-UP POSTER – pdf file ~85k)
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We currently have room in the lab for more graduate students.

But before you apply to this lab or any other, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, be realistic about graduate school. Graduate school in biology is not a sure path to success. Many students assume that they will eventually get a job just like their advisor’s. However, the average professor at a research university has three students at a time for about 5 years each. So, over a career of 30 years, this professor has about 18 students. Since the total number of positions has been pretty constant, these 18 people are competing for one spot. So go to grad school assuming that you might not end up at a research university, but instead a teaching college, or a government or industry job. All of these are great jobs, but it’s important to think of all this before you go to school.

Second, choose your advisor wisely. Not only does this person potentially have total control over your graduate career for five or more years, but he/she will also be writing recommendation letters for you for another 5-10 years after that. Also, your advisor will shadow you for the rest of your life. People will always think of you as so-and-so’s student and assume that you two are somewhat alike. Finally, in many ways you will turn into your advisor. Advisors teach very little, but instead provide a role model. Consciously and unconsciously, you will imitate your advisor. You may find this hard to believe now, but fifteen years from now, when you find yourself lining up the tools in your lab cabinets just like your advisor did, you’ll see. My student Alison once said that choosing an advisor is like choosing a spouse after one date. Find out all you can on this date.

Finally, have your fun now. Five years is a long time when you are 23 years old. By the end of graduate school, you will be older, slower, and possibly married and/or a parent. So if you always wanted to walk across Nepal, do it now. Also, do not go to a high-powered lab that you hate assuming that this will promise you long-term happiness. Deferred gratification has its limits. Do something that you have passion for, work in a lab you like, in a place you like, before life starts throwing its many curve balls. Your career will mostly take care of itself, but you can’t get your youth back.

If, after reading this, you want to apply to this lab, we would love to hear from you.

About Sönke Johnsen

"Sönke Johnsen is deep-sea biologist and visual ecologist at Duke University and still can't believe that his background in math, art, and writing got him a paying job, let alone one that lets him go down in submarines. In his spare time, he takes pictures (see here) and works with his daughter to unlock new levels on Mariokart Wii."

A SCIENTIST’S GUIDE TO VOTING IN THE CANADIAN FEDERAL ELECTION (IN FLOWCHART FORM) – A SCIENCE CREATIVE QUARTERLY PIN UP (NO. 4)

By | archive, humour, pin-up

(CLICK HERE FOR PIN-UP POSTER – pdf file ~177k)
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With the Federal Canadian Election is coming up fast! (October 14th), I thought it would be handy to provide a flowchart pin-up detailing the choices you can make based on:

i. Wavelength of the Party’s colour.

ii. Albedo of the party leaders’ hair colour.

iii. Environmental platform. For a good overview of the policies that each political party favours, go read this.

*Note that the Parti Quebecois is not included in this graphic as I was unable to find out what exactly was their environmental platform.

About David Ng

David (@ng_dave) is Faculty at the Michael Smith Labs. His writing has appeared in places such as McSweeney's, The Walrus, and also as an occasional blogger at boingboing.net. If you're looking for a graphic for your next science talk, he encourages you to check out his blog, popperfont.net.