Myth #8: Scientists are not sexy beasts.

Truth: Scientists are indeed sexy beasts. Not only do our lab coats make us look dapper and charming, those same coats look even better strewn unceremoniously over a standing lamp while we make passionate love to you.


— Adam Reuben, Experimental Error Dispels 8 Myths About Scientists (via snakewife)

Science is not your enemy; let us be friends.


First off, I hope that my post comes across as respectfully as I would like. If at any time it does not, then the error is in my phrasing, and not in my intent.

(cwnerd12, thank you for your thoughtful post. I don’t know if you will personally read my response here, but several people on my dash have been discussing this matter, and your well-written post brings up a few things I should like to address. That is why I chose to use it.)


In regards to the original article, “The 13 Most Useless College Majors (According to Science),” having studies Sociology, my inner sociologist will tell you to consider the source.  According to Science.
Actually, according to The Daily Beast / Newsweek article (which has, I feel, a bit of a cruel and inflammatory title, as is clear from the response it has provoked). If one goes to the original source, it is a slide show that presents a series of numbers regarding unemployment rates and amount of money made, that sort of thing. Do these stats make for a ‘useless’ major? Of course not! Certainly it’s not scientific to refer to something as useless; that would cast a value judgment, which would be very unscientific. And what defines ‘useless,’ at any rate? It is a subjective term, and like many people who read this article, I do not agree with the journalist’s use of the word ‘useless’ in conjunction with these majors.
What I am saying here is: the word ‘useless’ was a journalistic choice, not a scientific one.
 The world of science is a black and white one where a+b=c and there are no possible variants on the truth.  
I would argue that this is a bit of an oversimplification. In science, data is examined from many angles, reinterpreted constantly and prodded and questioned constantly. Science may be black and white, but it’s a shifting black and white, changing constantly as we learn more and more.

 by pushing math and science as the only things that matter, we’re forgetting the creative spark, the ability to go outside of logic and create the next big thing, find the life-saving cure, or solve the mysteries of the universe.  

With all due respect — this is what scientists do every day! Creativity and science are not separate things at all. This is what goes on in the lab. We do not just follow a given set of instructions (that would be a factory setup, and although they do exist, they are different from an investigative lab). We are pushed to be creative, to look at our problems from different angles and try to puzzle out how we can find that next big thing or that cure. How else would we be able to combat pathogens that adapt to antibiotics within a few generations, or viruses that have developed absolutely tricky ways of getting past our immune system? Thinking creatively is how you get grants!

Science is not the regurgitation of facts the way it is portrayed in high school courses or even in some undergrad level courses. As a scientist, you are pushing your creativity to different places. A favorite story of mine relates how Friedrich Kekulé discovered that benzene was ring-shaped rather than a straight line by daydreaming (yes, scientists definitely daydream, too) and imagining a serpent eating its own tail. There is a story about flow cytometry being pioneered after a researcher remembered crawling from car to car through the car windows in his youth and thought about molecules doing the same thing. 

As much as I hate to admit it, no matter how many remedial math courses I may have failed, math and science aren’t the enemy here. It’s the automatic assumption that math and science are superior.

Thank you for including this portion, and I will add that I agree wholeheartedly. Likewise, if I am responding, it is because I am passionate about science. Though it is frowned upon in internet discussions to admit to such things, seeing so many people on my dash say such awful things about science - some from a lack of information, some from negative experiences - hits me very close to home. I am just desperate to clarify a few things.

I write, too, and I draw, and I think if I could not draw I would die. I cannot describe myself as someone who has art as a ‘hobby’ - but I find that I do, when I am in the presence of someone who wouldn’t understand that it is a passion, the sort of person who probably would use the term ‘useless.’  Society’s tendency to sneer at the arts as “useless” is cruel and short-sighted; I agree with you there. However…

 Science makes you live, but the arts make life worth living.

I would like to think that they both can make life worth living. :)

Confession: my dream job would involve a lot less of being a science advvisor to companies and a lot more of being a science advvocate to the public, and it’s precisely because of incidents like these, when that very dangerous Us vs Them mentality starts to rear its ugly head and you realize that a lot of people are unaware of what scientists are actually doing.

Science definitely would not qualify these majors as ‘useless.’ Remember what I said about evolution before? It’s not about evolving to be “better.” It’s about evolving to best fit your niche. It’s all about what you want to do and where you want to live, whether as a species of fish adjusting to a higher salinity or as a young person trying to make it in this crazy world and fill your own definition of what you want your life to be.

Disco-bots of the future

The year was 1983. In Pasadena, CA, a pair of 4.5 foot tall robot waiters found employment in a local restaurant. They weren’t very good at it, though.

The pair […] tend to blur their words drunkenly when their 12-volt power cells run down, and they’ve been known to drop food and spin in circles when police radios operate nearby.

They’re programmed to be nice to customers — “Will there be anything else?” and “See you tomorrow” — in Japanese, English and Spanish.

Patrons whose commands confuse the pair get the response: “That’s not my problem,” accompanied by a short blast of disco music to which the bubbleheads dance back and forth.


Carpal Skin

Neri Oxman’s prototype protective glove for the treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, customized to each patient’s particular pain-profile.

the big man… HASS the gun


I’m sick, cut me some slack. I’m sitting in my cubicle with a fever and an intense desire to go home. Anyway, so today from PLoS ONE: a study demonstrated that individuals holding weapons were perceived as taller and ‘manlier’ by study participants.

Knowing that an individual possesses a potentially lethal object, be it a handgun or a kitchen knife, led our U.S. participants to generally conceptualize the target individual as taller and larger in overall body size and muscularity. […] These findings constitute preliminary evidence in support of the hypothesis that conceptualized size and strength act as key dimensions in a cognitive representation that summarizes the formidability of a potential foe, where possession of a weapon is one factor contributing to said formidability.

No,realrandom numbers, not just “an algorithm the user doesn’t know.” Researchers at the Australian National University have developed a random number generator that uses the noise made by sub-atomic particles disappearing and reappearing in a vacuum to choose truly random numbers.

So concludes bee day!

What DST posted on bee day

Not a bad bee day, was it? I hope you enjoyed it. And hello to the new followers! I’m not always so prolific, but when I am, it’s because of bees.

Bomb Sniffing Bees

The Defense Advanced Research Laboratory (DARPA) has been training bees to sniff out explosives the same way dogs do. They can even be trained the same way dogs are – associating a stimulus with a reward. Bees learn that after exposure to the trace molecules coming off explosives, they’ll be treated with sugar water. Since they expect it, the next time they detect these molecules, they’ll start sticking out their tongue in anticipation.
So how do you know a bee has detected a bomb? Easy, they swarm around and stick out their proboscis, waiting for their sweet treat. Special monitoring equipment keeps track of the bees and can pick up on the motion of their proboscis wiggling.

(I add that the bees are not hurt while being trained or in the line of duty - and the line of duty is short, even by bee-terms. The bees work for two days, max, before they can retire and return to relaxing colony life.)

Some facts about honey

  • 10 lbs of nectar = 1 lb of honey
  • 2 million flowers = 1 lb of honey
  • Honey does not actually spoil
  • A single bee produces 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey her entire life.
  • Honey has an acidic pH, which means it can actually prevent the growth of several types of bacteria.
  • Listen to your abuela: a Penn State study actually demonstrated that 2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime can be as effective as certain over-the-counter cough suppressants. 
  • Honey mead is delicious. It’s also the origin of the phrase ‘honeymoon,’ where newlyweds drank mead every day their first month of marriage.

Honey bees use resin to ward off fungal infections

(From PLoS ONE) : After infection with a fungal parasite, bees use propolis (a sticky substance made of several resins) to self-medicate and to protect their hives against future infection. They also seek out the resin when their larvae are infected, demonstrating once more that bees are concerned with the health of their entire colony, not just with themselves.