Apr 252017
 

I have always tried to stay up to date with the latest trends in genital hygiene, and vaginal douching is one that I have been conflicted about.

Sure, I’m all for a super clean vagina but I worry about two things. Firstly, doctors actually recommend that women don’t douche their vagina. It changes the balance of bacteria and can cause the growth of harmful bacteria leading to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. As a 1973 commercial once said, “our oven is as self-cleaning as a vagina”, so it’s best to let it clean itself.

Secondly, as douching becomes more popular among teens, the number of plastic douches embarrassingly tossed from cars, while they speed down the motorway, increases. We can all agree that the only acceptable thing to be thrown out of cars on the motorway is a bag of vomit.

Douches are typically made from polyethylene. Polyethylene is a plastic that accounts for about 40% of the worldwide demand for plastics, and douches, probably, make up most of that demand.

Fear not, my clean as a whistle friends, scientists from the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria (CSIC), Spain, and the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry, have found a caterpillar that can break down polyethylene and cover up your earth-hating habits.

Dr Bertocchini, the supervising researcher, accidently stumbled upon the discovery when she was removing pest wax moth caterpillars from her hobby beehive. Placing them in a plastic bag she noticed that the caterpillars seemed to be eating the bag and holes started to appear.

Bertocchini said: “it was fucking unbelievable”. She added, “I went from hating them to realising they’ll get me loads of media attention”.

The team then did a timed experiment by placing the wax moth caterpillars into a Marks & Spencer plastic bag and monitoring the by-products and holes produced. Also, it goes to show that if you can get a job at the University of Cambridge you can afford to do all of your shopping at Marks & Spencer, not just at Christmas like most of the UK’s families.

After 40 minutes, holes started to appear in the bag and, after 12 hours, the hungry caterpillars had eaten through 92 mg of the plastic. This worked out to be a rate of 2.2 holes per worm per hour (unit not in the International System of Units, yet). This is over 1000 times faster than the rate achieved by bacterial breakdown of plastic.

The future direction for the research is to find the chemical that is responsible for breaking down the plastic and isolating the enzyme responsible for its creation.

As pointed out by the leftist dictator, Waleed Aly, there’s a huge amount of plastic circulating in the ocean. Bertocchini said: “fitting the caterpillars with life jackets is not a viable solution and please don’t include it in your waste of time blog”.


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References

  1. Polyethylene bio-degradation by caterpillars of the wax moth Galleria mellonella
  2. Caterpillar found to eat shopping bags, suggesting biodegradable solution to plastic pollution
Apr 182017
 
crystals

Despite what most social media science news publications will lead you to believe, science doesn’t, and shouldn’t, always have an end application. In that way, it’s similar to the trend of stretching out ear lobes or, for that matter, any body modification that leaves your dear old granny nauseous.

Take a recent discovery from Harvard University (home of the sexually harassing football team): the creation of “time crystals”. Just that name alone makes me imagine a glowing, angular rod of awesomeness which, when slipped into the rectum, has the ability to manipulate time and transport you back to when you didn’t care about interest rates. The reality, however, is that the applications of time crystals are currently unknown. So, if it doesn’t cure cancer or make your smartphone better, why has it been published in the super fancy journal, Nature?

Reading the peer-reviewed paper (here) to find out, is about as useful as a magician with no palms.

Unless you have a PhD in physics, you’ll get lost pretty quickly. For example, this sentence is only 5 sentences in:

“We observe long-lived temporal correlations, experimentally identify the phase boundary and find that the temporal order is protected by strong interactions. This order is remarkably stable to perturbations, even in the presence of slow thermalization.”

What the fuck is going on? It’s like it was written by a person who hasn’t had any intimate contact with actual humans, due to a sexual attraction to anime characters. I guess that makes sense…

Luckily for you, I had nothing better to do today and made the easy version:

Time crystals are a new form of matter that, until now, have only existed in theory.

In normal crystals, atoms are arranged in repeating and predictable patterns. In the common crystal example, table salt, there’s a neat structure of sodium and chlorine atoms repeated over and over again. In time crystals, the structure of the atoms operates in relation to time rather than in relation to space. (stay with me…I understand that your brain has just decided it’s not worth reading on)

The time crystals, created by the Harvard scientists, were small diamonds which had been treated so that loads of impurities were present in the crystal structure. Within each of these impurities, there are electrons. The electrons in the impurities have a property which is known as spin – either up spin or down spin.

The electron’s spin direction reacts to microwave pulses by flipping 180 degrees. Typically, we’d expect an electron’s spin to change with each pulse, but in the case of the time crystals, the spin changes after two or three pulses, not every time you microwave it. In other words, this structure responds to time, not just external forces.

After a load of microwave pulses, the spins could start to get out of sync and become randomly orientated. In the time crystal, however, the interactions between the impurities keeps all of the electrons spinning in the same direction.

So, I guess that’s cool but what about applications? Does it cure cancer or make smartphones better?

No. The anime bothering scientists don’t really know what the applications are yet, but to make themselves sound more sciency, they included the words “quantum” and “computing” so other researchers would take them seriously.

The lead researcher Mikhail D. Lukin said: “I haven’t got time to explain my research to you for your stupid blog”.


References

  1. Observation of discrete time-crystalline order in a disordered dipolar many-body system
  2. Creating time crystals

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Apr 112017
 
fig leaf willy

It seems like everything we own is now rechargeable: phones, lights, watches, and internet connected dildos. To facilitate our sexy, cordless existence, all of these devices need a battery. The problem is that the batteries used for our strangulation-proof-life become degraded by frequent recharging. The sort of frequent recharging required during an all-night, swipe right binge on tinder so you can confidently look your mum in the eye and say that you are trying to find someone.

Scientists from the fancy university in Cambridge (home of the “rear of the year” competition), report in Nature Communications, that they have developed a new type of battery which, can withstand the effects of social isolation and is based on the structures found in nature’s vascular systems.

The vascular structures created by the scientists are similar to those you’d find on the back of leaves, in circulatory systems and, even though the scientists don’t explicitly mention it in their paper, on the top of willies so big they have their own soul.

Willy veins

In a first of its kind demonstration, the superficial-dorsal-vein-loving-scientists use what is known as Murray’s Law to inspire material design. Murry’s Law is basically a formula to explain how natural systems minimise resistance in vessels. It all starts with a big vessel which has “daughter” branches that are smaller in diameter.

In the case of a willy, the superficial dorsal vein is the main pathway which then branches off into smaller and smaller veins. This hierarchal structure ensures the hard working willy gets all of the nutrients it needs in a super efficient way.

The blue-vein-imitating-scientists created their Murry material by allowing zinc-oxide nanoparticles to self-arrange through a simple layer by layer evaporation process. By changing the solvent and temperature used for the evaporation of different layers, the “rear of the year” scientists were able to change the size of the pores created by the nanoparticles.

Prof Bao-Lian Su, who holds a number of positions: as a life member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, Wuhan University of Technology in China and at the University of Namur in Belgium because he hates spending time with his family said,

“sometimes all the inspiration you need is right under your nose…or between your knees and nipples to be exact”

When used in a battery, the zinc oxide Murray material had a reversible capacity 25 times higher than that of a state-of-art graphite Li-ion battery electrode. The bio-inspired ZnO Murray network, with its vascular network of pores, delivered ultra-high capacities and rate capabilities, along with long-life cycling stability.

The branching nature of the pores also reduces the stresses in these electrodes during the charge/discharge processes, improving their structural stability and resulting in a longer lifetime for energy storage devices.

The team envisions that the same willy inspired structures could be used effectively in material designs for energy and environmental applications and promise that their next paper will mention where they really got the inspiration from.


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References

  1. Bio-inspired Murray materials for mass transfer and activity
  2. Leaf vein structure could hold key to extending battery life

 

Mar 282017
 
Snoop Dog and Munchies

This week, the Canadian government announced that it is drafting some really boring paperwork to allow something that is anything but boring: the legalisation of recreational marijuana. The legislation is to be passed before 1 July 2018, which means Canadians have plenty of time to increase their tolerance before the arrival of the types of edibles that’ll make them consider composing some jazz.

The good news is people who love to get high won’t have to pretend they’re injured or ill to get hold of the icky sticky, like they do in places with medical marijuana laws.

Once you have smoked all of the devil’s lettuce and finally found where you left the lighter, you’ll probably get quite hungry. The problem is, it’s all too easy to stuff your disgustingly dry mouth with chocolate, Doritos and cheese based goodies. Even though they taste as amazing as a wizards taint, they’re not real good for you. Surely, there’s a way to push your colon to the limits while also being healthy…

Well, my red-eyed friends, yes, yes there is.

Researchers from Monash University (4.2 stars on Facebook) and CSIRO (unrated on Facebook), in Melbourne, have found the ultimate munchy health food. They report in Nature immunology that they have found a diet that will protect you against type 1 diabetes (that’s not the type of diabetes caused by being a fatty-fat-fat).

Type 1 diabetes is caused when your immune system has a “bit of a domestic” with the cells that create insulin; the chemical that controls your blood sugar levels.

The stoner loving researchers found that some starches from fruits and vegetables resist digestion, while in the stomach, and pass through to the large bowel and poop shoot. Here, they are broken down by bacteria into chemicals called acetate and butyrate which, together, acted as a superhero team and stopped the immune system from attacking the insulin-producing cells.

The researchers only looked at the role of these chemicals in mice, but I’m pretty sure that you could eat those mice and obtain their protection against diabetes. Dr Marino, the lead researcher for the paper said “are you fucking crazy. Do not eat mice” and that “it would be irresponsible to suggest such a thing on your blog, no matter how unpopular you claim it is”.

Unfortunately, it’s not just a case of eating more fruit, veg or laboratory mice. Here’s Dr Carly Rosewarne (via twitter) to explain how it works:

Carley Twitter

Next on the list for the research team is to investigate the diet’s effect on obesity and other inflammatory diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, food allergies and Inflammatory Bowel Disease…

yes they will

…fucking over achievers.

References

  1. The paper:  Gut microbial metabolites limit the frequency of autoimmune T cells and protect against type 1 diabetes

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Mar 212017
 
time for a career change

If you’ve come across this post because your last set of experiments went to shit and your supervisor is currently being a massive paper-demanding douche, now is absolutely not the time for you to leave research. I know that it would feel awesome to march into your supervisor’s office, flip the bird, expose yourself and leave a shit in the corner of the room, but this need’s a little more thought than your last break up.

On the other hand, if you can’t get to sleep at night for thinking about ripping off your lab coat and fingering it, unceremoniously, into the vice chancellor’s bum, and you’re desperate to try something else, perhaps it is time to for an exit strategy.

This is assuming that you’ve got the time to figure something out. More than ever, post-docs are relying on short-term contracts to feed and clothe themselves. If this is you, do what you can to live – don’t make any rash decisions.

Before you start planning your exit, you have to remember that short-term disappointment, feelings of anxiety and self-negativity are normal in the research arena. They shouldn’t be, but they are. Addressing them, and seeking help if they persist, will ensure that you start your new career path in the right frame of mind and not as a way of running away from problems. Mental health issues have a way of following you wherever you go.

The start part:

You have got to where you are because there’s something you like about science. Perhaps there are things that you prefer over everything else. Maybe it’s the fact you’re teaching, writing, doing new experiments, presenting your research, learning new skills, operating fancy equipment. Whatever it is, find it and write it down. Don’t rush this part – it’ll be the foundations for your new career.

 

There are certain professions that will absorb science graduates in all their forms. Some even love Ph.D. graduates. Patent Attorneys, IP examiners, and R&D companies are examples of places that employ PhD graduates. If you want to use all of your skills in a new forum then this is a great option for you. If you are not sure if you’d enjoy these jobs speak to someone who’s doing one.

You could be in the “I fucking hate science in all its forms and wish I could do *insert hobby here* as a job” box. That is OK too. All we need to do at this point is identify what you enjoy doing.

The hard part:

Once you have identified what you like doing (besides wanking and injecting marijuana) you need to start doing more of those things. Simply build skills in the things you like doing.

For skills like writing, consider starting a blog (not like this one, you fucking copy cat), you could write alongside your day job for a publication in order to produce a portfolio of work. Many publications offer internships and opportunities, all you have to do is ask.

Get actual qualifications, if you can. Real paper qualifications that your mum hangs on the wall. There are plenty of masters courses, diplomas and vocational courses that you can take alongside your job, in the evenings for example. Like I said, it won’t be easy, but it is completely doable. And, if you like what you are doing, you’ll make time for it.

If you want to turn your hobby into a job, start small. One day/evening a week and see how you go. The important question when turning a hobby into a job is: Do you actually like it as a job or do you prefer it as a hobby? It’s fine that it’s the latter, now you know.

NETWORK YOUR FUCKING ARSE OFF.

Start making contacts in jobs you may want to do. Sneak your way into their office by asking for a discussion about their profession. Everyone I’ve asked is more than happy to help. Once they’ve seen that you aren’t a psycho, and you don’t have sticky hands, you’ve made a new professional friend that may help you in the future.

The scary part:

After a while, apply for those dream jobs with the new skills you’ve gained. If the answer is no, ask why. Put that academic thick skin to work and think of it as professional peer-review. You may not like what you hear but it’ll make sure you are focused on the skills that your dream job needs.

 

It’s rare that as one job finishes your next begins. You may find yourself having to take a leap into the unknown. If you’ve done the hard part, it’ll be way less scary. Leverage your networks, let them know about your new availability, get a mentor and be open to new opportunities. These things, along with some good old fashioned hard work, will eventually pay off and you’ll be on your way to a brand new career.

What’s your story? Do you have any advice for leaving research?


Further reading:

Young researchers thrive in life after academia

Is academia a happier life than a life in industry?

Why So Many Academics Quit and Tell

The ‘system’ failed me. It should have failed me sooner.

 

Mar 072017
 
old man laughing and smiling

Think back to when you were 14 years old. Did you know someone who was such a twat that you decided to never speak to them again? Well, if it’s been a long time, it may be worth reigniting the friendship.

A new study, from the University of Edinburgh (home of the “posh Scottish accent“, but that’s like saying the “soberest member of Black Sabbath“) found that someone’s personality can change dramatically – particularly later in life.

Up until now, it has been thought that once someone is a miserable bastard, they’re always a miserable bastard, grinding to a halt any lively conversation with a long list of things they don’t like. The haggis munching team puts that commonly held belief to bed in a recent paper published in Psychology and Aging.

The kilt-wearing scientists used data from a mental health survey conducted on school students in 1947 and contacted the participants again, in 2017, to ask them to fill out another survey. This is what the home of the “posh Scottish accent” looked like in 1947:

At about the age 14, the participants had six of their personality traits rated by their teachers. Teachers fucking love giving grades and I imagine the ability to grade someone’s personality, instead of English essays, was like all the teacher’s wet dreams come at once.

The six characteristics were combined into one metric called dependability, but included these things:

  • Self-confidence – Answer this: Are you the best motherfucker, ever?
  • Perseverance – Choose between: Follow your dreams or eat a big bag of Doritos while watching Netflix.
  • Stability of moods – Answer this: has anyone ever called you a “psycho?”
  • Conscientiousness – Answer this: would you able to organise a bukake world record attempt?
  • Originality – Make a hat from something around you.
  • The desire to learn – Did you make a shit hat? Would you be interested in learning how to make it better?

At 77 years old, the group was asked again to rate themselves on the six characteristics, and nominate a close friend or family member to do the same – I know exactly who I WOULDN’T choose, Leo Garcia. Of the 1208 questionnaires filled out in 1947, only 174 people agreed to participate in 2012 as some had died and some had very little desire to learn any more about personality stability (personality burn, ouch).

The braveheart reenacting scientists concluded that a person’s personality characteristics in later life were not closely related to the same traits in early life.

The limitations of the study were that it only contained a small sample of people, the limited personality characteristics, chosen in 1945, were not a good way of measuring a personality, and the study only measured two points in time – not saggy and saggy. In the future, they’ll need to include an age where the skin is starting to be affected by gravity, but in low light conditions, you can get away with it.

The next step is to repeat the experiment with current 14-year-olds and requestion them in 2080 when the world looks like this:

So there we have it. Your personality is able to change over time so if you have been called a dickhead in the past you may not be one now. That being said, you could be an even bigger dickhead, it doesn’t have to change for the better.


espressoscience

 

This week, I have teamed up with Espresso Science to give you a different perspective on the same science story.

Check out Espresso Science on their website, HERE, on Twitter, @scidocmartin, and Soundcloud.

 

 


References:

  1. Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years
Feb 282017
 
Cute Cat on a Bed

Humans love to keep animals locked up for our enjoyment, we call them “pets” because “strokes” makes your uptight auntie feel uncomfortable. Keeping pets for entertainment means that they have to be enslaved in our homes for the entirety of their cute lives. While locked in your house, they are subjected to your questionable taste in music, the smell that you can’t get rid of from your genitals and, according to scientists from Stockholm University, they’re also exposed to the dangerous chemical leaching out of your cheap-arse furniture.

You know, the sort of furniture that you said you’d never buy because it was made in a Chinese sweatshop, but quickly let your ethics slip when the Ikea opened up in town. You disgust me.

Because you can’t be trusted to blow out the candles before falling asleep, the furniture and electronics in your home have been treated with flame retardant chemicals. If you must perform oral sex by candlelight, blow them out when your partner has arrived, otherwise, this can happen:

The retardant chemicals can leach out of your furniture and have been found to be health hazards and fuck up your hormones n shit. The chemicals can leach from the products for many years after production, in the same way, hatred can leach from your parents even though they have been divorced for years. They even have scary names with numbers (like the rapper, Andre 3000):

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), decabromobiphenyl (BB-209), decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE), 2,4,6-tribromophenol (2,4,6-TBP), OH-PBDEs) and organochlorines (polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), 1,1-bis(4,4′-dichlorodiphenyl)-2,2,2-trichloroethane (4,4′-DDT), 1,1-bis(4,4′-dichlorodiphenyl)-2,2-dichloroethene (4,4′-DDE), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), pentachlorophenol (PCP).

By taking blood samples from a number of cats and collecting dust from around their homes, Jana Weiss and team found that the harmful retardant chemicals were found in both. She said “Everything in our home is out to kill us and all the things we love”.

Not happy with the level of hysteria generated by the study, the researchers said that the chemicals may also affect our children and cause them to grow breasts and go bald. Weiss added, “It’ll be like sharing your home with Danny DeVito”. This makes the 30 members of the Danny DeVito fan club very happy.

The study concluded that dust was a major route for exposure to the toxic chemicals found in furniture and electronics.

References

  1. J. Norrgran Engdahl, A. Bignert, B. Jones, I. Athanassiadis, Å. Bergman, J. M. Weiss. Cats’ Internal Exposure to Selected Brominated Flame Retardants and Organochlorines Correlated to House Dust and Cat Food. Environmental Science & Technology, 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b05025
  2. High levels of chemicals found in indoor cats
Feb 212017
 
smiling business man

Dear misogynist,

Maybe you have stumbled upon this post accidentally while looking for the men’s rights facebook page, or while trying to get your head around male privilege (That’s why I put google food in the first paragraph on these things). In the worst case, you are here because you have been sent a link to this article, anonymously. That’s almost certainly because someone thinks you have a serious personality flaw.

Whatever the reason, buckle up and strap those saggy testicles to your leg because you’re about to get the lesson of a lifetime. And don’t worry, I’ll be talking to you on your own level: I’ll be mansplaining everything you need to know so you won’t have to take advice from those annoying bossy women.




Recently, I was lucky enough to be a guest host of the @iamscicomm twitter handle. This came with tremendous power…tremendous power and I thought that I would use this power to ask the question that you are too scared to ask:

Now, we don’t want you to feel overwhelmed by the answers. So I have created a handy guide which will give you all the information you need. If in doubt print out this article and take it around with you as a quick reference guide.


You are on an organising committee because you are very important.

Look at you, you big successful hunk of burning man meat, you’ve made it onto a committee. How exciting! You get to make loads of decisions and talk loud at meetings – WAIT! Here comes the first bit of advice from twitter:

I know it’s tempting to fly all of your golf buddies over to give a talk, but this is where you need to use your power for good. Take a good hard, long look at the number of women and men in the room/ skype call – is it even close to the gender split in ABBA? Your first challenge will be to make it the committee like ABBA. Keep asking yourself the question and make changes until you can look at yourself in the urinal reflection and say “yes, the committee is like ABBA”.

Perhaps someone on the committee is being a massive pain in the arse about your new requirements for an equal representation of genders. The person may even say “you’ve changed” and it hurts your feelings. Stay strong, and don’t budge. You may not get invited to their next naked Man Kind retreat, but you’ll be able to sleep at night. Winning.


You are in a meeting

Meetings are a great place to dominate people and demand the admiration that your kids won’t give you. Luckily, you have a nice loud, boomy voice and you can talk over any meek individual with ease. But how about trying this for a change:

You’ll hear something that sounds like a voice but it won’t be coming from your mouth. That is the sound of someone else talking.

Have you ever wondered what other people are doing while you are talking? They are doing a thing called listening. Now it’s your turn. Try it, it’s fun.

Listening involves not making any mouth noise and using the things, that keep the glasses on your head, to absorb sound. The sound enters your head and if you listen to it close enough – it may form sentences that contain information that may be useful.

At some point, you’ll feel the need to interject with your own opinions and views. Push these urges down, way down, use your well-honed skills of oppression for this purpose. This is who you are now.


You are at a conference or networking event

How fun. A big meeting with loads of people that you can have unspoken power wars with. If you look a little closer, however, you’ll see that there are lots of different types of people there:

Even though it’s fun to find your doppelgangers and make jokes about football teams and cars, we need you to go and speak to other types of people. But don’t be scary or weird. Ask questions and, just like the previous tip, practice your listening skills.

Here’s the challenge: at the next conference you go to approach someone who you’d never normally talk to. Break out of the loud-laugh-man circle and go and ask them about their research. I bet that you’ll find out something new.


Oh no, someone wants mentoring

Because of your new found mission, you may find yourself with a few more female students that need mentoring.

You probably can’t remember what it is like to be at the bottom of the pile trying to make your voice heard, but it’s tough and it’s even tougher for women in STEM. Here’s your chance to build a philanthropic moment that you can brag about for years to come: you can help these promising young female scientists by using the power you have worked so hard to build to give them a voice.

And the biggest thing for your new mentoring relationship:

In other words, don’t be a massive dick head about feelings and shit. Remember – you have developed a really thick skin from years of combative peer-review others haven’t…yet!


You have now gained an interest supporting women in STEM

Check out whether your university or research institute has any women-in-STEM meetups.

I’ve asked the question for you and there’s nothing to be afraid of:


The last bit of advice from twitter:


So here is some further reading as recommended by the twitter, IAmScicomm, community:

  1. What can men do to stem the exodus of women from science?
  2. Ask us anything: how to be an ally
  3. Ally Skills Workshop
Feb 142017
 
Mouse that hates cocaine

Even your favourite teacher loves doing drugs. Drugs are one of the cornerstones of life along with food, sex and using internet explorer to download chrome or firefox.

If someone’s love of drugs becomes an obsession it can completely alter the reward system in the brain and lead to long-lasting behavioral changes that make them a junkie. In other words: the brain learns that drugs are fun and wants to do them more and more. In the worst cases of addiction, addicts even stop correcting someone’s online grammar in favour of doing more drugs.

Scientists at the University of British Columbia report in Nature Neuroscience that they have genetically engineered a mouse that would leave Charlie Sheen’s parties at a reasonable hour because it doesn’t become addicted to cocaine.

The finding adds to the evidence that drug addiction is more a matter of genetics and brain chemistry than just someone saying “fuck it” and taking drugs to impress their friends and piss off their parents.

Despite having access to a big bowl of cocaine and working in the academic environment it was also found that none of the researchers became addicted to cocaine. Probably the more surprising conclusion.

In a moment of accidental honesty, the researchers stated that they were trying to create the biggest rodent drug fiend EVER by engineering the mouse to have higher levels of a protein that strengthens the signals between cells in the brain.

By strengthening the signals in the brain the researchers were hoping to increase the rodents reward response to cocaine but actually managed to decrease it. In other words, their experiment went wrong – but wrong enough to be able to publish it in a fancy journal – lucky them.

The team of scientists injected cocaine into mice over a number of days and immediately placed them in a distinctly decorated compartment in a three-room cage, over time they associated the drug with that compartment. After several days of receiving cocaine this way, the mice were put into the cage and allowed to spend time in any compartments they preferred. Normal mice gravitated towards the psychedelic room while the engineered mice didn’t go in there as often.

Watch the mice here:

Looking into the brain revealed that an important message chemical had been blocked by the protein in the engineered mice. The mice just hadn’t managed to create a strong association with cocaine, despite having a fucking great time on drugs bought by someone else – the best sort of drugs.

This study revealed the importance of brain chemistry on addiction, and it could lead to greater confidence in predicting who is more vulnerable to drug abuse, helping them before they take that first smooth, life destroying hit.

References

  1. Fergil Mills, Andrea K Globa, Shuai Liu, Catherine M Cowan, Mahsan Mobasser, Anthony G Phillips, Stephanie L Borgland, Shernaz X Bamji. Cadherins mediate cocaine-induced synaptic plasticity and behavioral conditioning. Nature Neuroscience, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nn.4503
Feb 072017
 
Ugly face completely bandaged

YOU LOOK FABULOUS DARLING! And a little bit like an android…

Bandaged faces and leaky wounds are one side effect of facial cosmetic surgery. Now researchers from Australia (Oi, Oi, Oi) have found one side effect that doesn’t make your friends throw up in their mouths – increased job satisfaction.

Fear not you ugly fuckers. This week, researchers from the University of Melbourne have found that, following facial surgery, ugly-in-the-face-region people had more self esteem and experienced higher levels of job satisfaction, both in the short and long term.

The world we live in is a horrible place. We judge people on their looks and we shout across the street to them: “Hey, you! You look like a melted bag of used waxing strips!”

As people grow old, wrinkly and see-through, they may start to feel down about how they look. Whilst others have always looked like they fell out of the ugly tree and hit all the branches on the way down.

Confidence is an important part of attacking the day with your head held high and is the boost you need to high five a barista like in an advert made by a shit advertising company.

Researchers analysed responses from 121 adults who had recently undergone facial surgery. Unfortunately, because some people didn’t answer the questions properly the study ended up with a sample size of 106.

Proving that people can be both stupid and ugly simultaneously.

Not only did the results show that people were more satisfied in their jobs after surgery, there was also a negative correlation with respect to job burnout (that’s a good thing).

Researchers Alicia Kalus and Christina Cregan, from the Faculty of Business and Economics, said “some of the participants looked surprised” and they were unsure whether that was due to the surgery.

In the future, researchers hope that objective processes for selection and promotion will help break the attractiveness bias found in the study.

“If workplaces reward talent and effort, women and girls may come to rely less on the traditional emphasis on beauty as a basis for self-esteem.” Ms Kalus says.

 

References

  1. Kalus, A. R. and Cregan, C. (2017), Cosmetic facial surgery: the influence of self-esteem on job satisfaction and burnout. Asia Pac J Hum Resour. doi:10.1111/1744-7941.12137

 

 

Jan 312017
 
tomatoes that look like a willy and a vagina

Dissatisfied people from every part of the globe are rejoicing as two teams of researchers have identified how to put the flavour back into two important aspects of life – tomatoes and sex.

Although this week has been a fucking nightmare for the free world, two teams of researchers have tried to bring a little bit of happiness back into people’s lives. Thank you, science, thank you.

As my dear old granny used to say:

“…life is not worth living unless each day contains a rip-roaring orgasm and mouthwatering food”

She was such a wise woman, and explains why grandad’s hips were the first thing to go. RIP Gran.

In our first incidence of happiness, a person by the name of Denise Tieman was eating a tomato and thought to herself  “this is a bit shit, I wonder if I can make it better?” Luckily, Denise was a scientist with all of the right skills and decided to do something about it. Good on ya, Denise!

Dr Tieman and her team of clever foodies, from the University of Florida, decided that achieving the perfect tomato would require identification of the important flavour factors that have been lost.

In a study published in the really fancy journal Science, the tomato team found that modern tomatoes lack sufficient sugars and smelly chemicals. These are very important in achieving a better flavour. These sugars and smelly chemicals had been lost due to years of breeding without paying attention to how the tomatoes tasted.

Because breeding takes time, and the tomato team is studying five or more genes, the changes from their latest study may take three to four years to produce flavour in new tomatoes.

Yawn…

While you are waiting for science to actually live up to its promises, our second study may help you fill time more productively:

In our second incidence of improved happiness – scientists have finally worked out what women want in the bedroom department – and we are not just talking 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. Although, I’m sure that would be nice too.

In a selection of 159 Swiss women, 61% of them were having sex and thinking to themselves “this is a bit shit, I wonder if I can make it better?”.

A study wanted to find out exactly how the dissatisfied majority wanted to make things better and, more specifically, looked at the attitudes towards sexuality-boosting medication.

The study found that the dissatisfied women wanted to use the pill to increase orgasm frequency and intensity and sexual desire. They wanted a pill that would take about an hour to get them going and not many wanted the pill to have an effect in less than 15 minutes. Once again, evidence that there’s a global conspiracy to manipulate partners into giving massages – “Just give me a massage while we wait for the sexy-pill to kick in. I’ve put a towel on the bed already”

As an interesting comparison between the two papers, while it takes twenty people to work out how to make a tomato not taste like shit, it only takes two people to find out what women want. Apparently, you just have to ask them – fancy that.

Also, this is what happens if you type tomato sex into Youtube. Magnets or stop motion? I can’t decide.

 

References

  1. A chemical genetic roadmap to improved tomato flavor. Science, 2017 DOI: 10.1126/science.aal1556
  2. What Women Want—An Explorative Study on Women’s Attitudes Toward Sexuality Boosting Medication in a Sample of Swiss Women, The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2017 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2016.12.238.
Jan 172017
 
Game of thrones throne

When you work in a university for long enough you start to notice a worrying trend: High (not the fun drug way) level professors are in a state of continuous flux, changing institution at the drop of a hat for a better offer elsewhere. The better offer is likely to include working at a more prestigious university, more money for research and lab monkeys and better labs. Or, perhaps, the aggressively ambitious professor has pissed off so many people while clamoring their way to the top that it is better for everyone if they fuck off – I know of a number of instances where this is certainly the case, because I love gossip.

These max-level professors are really, really expensive. Deakin University has the level E rate set at $171,299 per annum or, to put it another way, approximately 571 tweed jackets per anus. But to the university, that doesn’t matter. These professors satisfy all of the selection criteria universities drool over. They bring in loads of money, have a butt-load of collaborations and they publish papers by the adult nappy load. AND THEY DO IT NOW, right now, as in, the university can instantly get these things and make its statistics appear way better overnight – with very little effort. If institutions do this enough, they can fill every office with a success hungry professor. Just imagine the fun workplace environment – like going for a relaxing swim, in shark infested waters, with a self-harm support group.

But here’s the thing, for every professor who moves institution, the universities replace them with another shiny headed professor, like a really shit Game of Thrones. Giving them fancy names like “strategic professors” which satisfies the sticky soul of the egocentric professor. After years of researching the same area, it is very unlikely that any professor will bring new ideas to the table. I once sat in a room as scribe for the formation of a new institute. After hours of talking it was clear to me that the only thing each academic brought to the table was a different, watered-down version of their own research applied in a slightly different way, not innovative solutions for a changing world, but safe options that have worked in the past.

It is very short sighted of the universities to perpetually employ recycled professors instead of two fresh-faced and eager young academics, for the same amount of money, who will bring new ideas, new enthusiasm and new direction to a research institute. Sure, maybe one of the level B early career academics will be a lazy little shit who just wants an easy ride after landing a cushy position – but that’s no different to some tenured professors now.

With a little time, support and encouragement I am certain that early career academics will lead the way in providing Australia with the innovation boom they are looking for. It won’t happen overnight, but I can assure you that it is an investment worth making. Let’s put put the metrics aside for one moment and invest in people, not statistics.

It’s about time the universities got called out on their bullshit academic appointments, what do you think?

Dec 132016
 
dominatrix and a man on all fours

Are you a powerful vice-chancellor just looking for a little down time whilst satisfying your urge for industry engagement? Do you feel the need to be treated like shit whilst wearing your university-branded gimp mask? Perhaps, you are into a little bit of needle play? Well, now you can satisfy all of your darkest desires in an industry-focused, sciency way.

Dominatrix from the global S&M industry are spanking each other with joy with the announcement of research from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology which highlights the fabrication of a fuck load of needles embedded into an easy to apply dermal patch.

Gone are the days of forcefully applying needles individually to scrota or areolae. 50 needles are now able to be applied to any part of the body in one foul swoop of mistresses’ open palm – who’s been a naughty slave?

Even though the researchers state that the penetration depth of the needles is not deep enough to reach nerves, the words “comfortable” and “unobtrusive” do not come to mind when looking at it and we can see that the patch clearly has other plans for the vice-chancellor’s perineum:

Niclas Roxhed, research leader at the Department of Micro and Nano Systems said:

“I’m fed up of all of my friends talking about tiny pricks…”

In addition to providing a new way to deliver pain to bad slaves, the patch may also have application in the delivery of drugs, extraction of physiological signals for fitness monitoring devices, extracting body fluids for real-time monitoring of glucose, pH level and other diagnostic markers, as well as skin treatments in cosmetics and bioelectric treatments and anything else that came to mind.

Future work will look at the appropriate way to prepare people for application of the patch because “just 50 little scratches” has a less than calming effect on the patient.

References

  1. Flexible and Stretchable Microneedle Patches with Integrated Rigid Stainless Steel Microneedles for Transdermal Biointerfacing
  2. Skin patch with microneedles proves effective alternative to injections

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Dec 062016
 
post apocolypse

As the catalyst for the next world war waits patiently in the draft message section of Donald Trump’s twitter account, the world can rest assured that academics are able to ignore imminent global destruction as well as they are able to ignore imminent unemployment.

Considering the majority of tweeting is done from the privacy of a toilet, I take perverted solace in the fact that Donald Trump’s gold plated and diamond bejeweled toilet is ground zero of diplomatic tensions.

Hopefully, before the world is brought into disrepair in 140 characters, we would at least have the science to improve the chances we have of surviving. This would, in an ideal world, include the generation of personal energy (so we don’t have to fight with sharpened stones for whale fat and ear wax candles) and turning wee into drinking water. By the way, when world war 3 eventually breaks out I will not think twice about offering a sexual service in exchange for protection and access to water.

Researchers from The University of New South Wales, Sydney (the city containing the opera house and Hugh Jackman’s virginity) have made a new type of “trendy” solar cell more efficient.

The type of solar cell that these researchers are perfecting are called perovskites (pronounced “fan-see so-lar-sell”). Even though they sound like a leading Russian mafia family, these solar cells are trending in the same way man-buns were a thing. They’re the latest type of solar cell to get researchers wet in the pant region as they have the potential for use in flexible applications such as solar powered vibrating wank mitts.

Speaking at an excuse to get drunk and flirt with your post-docs, also known as the Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference in Canberra, Anita Ho-Baillie, a Senior Research Fellow announced that her team at UNSW has achieved the highest efficiency rating with the largest perovskite solar cells to date. Luckily, the researchers didn’t have to write a paper to get the news of this achievement out there – papers are boring to write. Even though Dr Ho-Baille was happy about the result, her boss looked like he’d just been asked about his erectile dysfunction:

sad looking academic

I’d tell you the numbers but no one gives a shit about the actual efficiency in a quantifiable way. Let’s face it, you’ll be telling someone about this excellent blog post and say “it was, like, um, higher than other ones…I forget the value” – so just say that.

References

  1. Trendy solar cells hit new world efficiency record, UNSW Newsroom
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161201114543.htm

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Nov 292016
 
Don't wank in front of puppies

As it turns out, our adorable and fluffy room-clearing-fart-friends share some of our mental ability when it comes to remembering and reenacting events. Besides providing a seemingly endless supply of turds and happiness, our poochy wet-nosed-companions are able to remember things even though they don’t know that they’ll be tested on it later – in this respect, they are well ahead a room full of undergraduate students.

Most people I hang out with are able to recall events from the past even when they hold little or no importance in their life, this is called “episodic memory”. The ability of people to remember pointless events becomes apparent when someone with a loud voice starts telling a story at a party. Everyone listens in bemusement as the I-wish-they’d-shut-up-story is shared and we all wait in hope for the fun friend to save the party by talking about dicks and drugs again.

Now, researchers from the Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary (it’s OK not to have heard of them before) have somehow been able to pass off playing with dogs as “research”. They reported in the journal Current Biology (IF=9.571, yep, seriously) that dogs have a kind of “episodic memory” too. The lead researcher said through gritted teeth,

You’re a fucking fluffy, squish face, aren’t you?

As an aside, their website looks like someone has captured the thoughts of a 12-year-old aspiring veterinarian and translated them to HTML.

Between belly rubs and trying not to kill the canine participants with love, the study found that dogs can recall a person’s complex actions even though they have no motivation to remember.

The researchers trained 17 dogs to imitate human actions with a “Do as I Do” training method. Like teaching your toddler swear words. Next, they did another round of training in which dogs were trained to lie down after watching the human action, no matter what it was.

After the dogs had learned to lie down reliably, the researchers surprised them by saying “Do It” and the dogs did. The dogs recalled what they’d seen the person do even though they had no particular reason to think they’d need to remember. You can see this technique in the video below:

Although wanking is not always a complex task, it’s advisable that you get your dog to look the other way before you start. If you don’t, take solace in the fact that the researchers discovered that the dogs will eventually forget about your shared sexual preference for doggy style and face licking.

 

References

  1. Claudia Fugazza, Ákos Pogány, Ádám Miklósi. Recall of Others’ Actions after Incidental Encoding Reveals Episodic-like Memory in Dogs. Current Biology, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.09.057
  2. Cell Press. “Your dog remembers what you did.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 November 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161123141547.htm>.

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Nov 222016
 
Naked Burglar

The Australian police have been called all sorts of things – sweaty rule-keeping bastards, koala-chasing law wankers, useless BBQ-eating fun spoilers, to list only three of the common ones. But this week, they have really shown their worth by solving an elaborate crime in Wodonga (definitely not a made up place).

The koala-chasing law wankers investigated a robbery at the Wodonga community hall, in southeast Australia (near the not so hot bit). But, instead of fingerprints, police found the offenders had left a big arse mark on a glass door.

One of the sweaty rule-keeping bastards said:

“It’s a big arse, mate. We used $100 dollars worth of that dusty shit, mate. We can, fair dinkum, pinpoint the age and sex of the offender by looking for evidence of hemorrhoids and skid marks”

Arse print on a door

To help the residents of Wodonga overcome their fear of pantless break-ins, they could be provided with a recent therapy created by researchers at a university everyone says they want to go to, but only a few can actually be arsed to work “that hard” – Oxford Cambridge University.

These tea sipping researchers have discovered a way to remove specific fears from the brain, using a combination of artificial intelligence and brain scanning technology.

Currently, one of the most common approaches to help with fears is aversion therapy. This is where a sweaty-palmed individual confronts their fear by being exposed to it while someone says “see it’s not scary”. I’m sure this is just as effective as telling a miserable sibling to “cheer up”.

The new technique is called ‘Decoded Neurofeedback’. It uses brain scanning to monitor activity in the brain and identify complex patterns of activity which resemble a specific fear memory. Even when the volunteers are simply resting, there are moments when the pattern of fluctuating brain activity has partial features of the specific fear memory, even though the volunteers aren’t consciously aware of it. Once the patient’s brain starts to show the same activity as a fear memory the researchers simply reward the patient with something nice, such as money or a kiss from a virgin.

Although this will help the residents of Wodonga with the fear of a naked break-in. It will not help with the fact they live in Wodonga whose Wikipedia page is so dull it will make you want to get nude, high on ice, and rob a community hall just so there’d be something mildly interesting on it.

 

References:

  1. Ai Koizumi, Kaoru Amano, Aurelio Cortese, Kazuhisa Shibata, Wako Yoshida, Ben Seymour, Mitsuo Kawato, Hakwan Lau. Fear reduction without fear through reinforcement of neural activity that bypasses conscious exposure. Nature Human Behaviour, 2016; 1: 0006 DOI: 10.1038/s41562-016-0006
  2. http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/reconditioning-the-brain-to-overcome-fear

In other news, this week I’m curating the @iamscicomm twitter handle

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Nov 082016
 
Trump Stupid Smile

As the US presidential battle comes to an end, we will soon be able to look back in awe at the sorts of commentaries provided by Trump supporters in the name of “Making America Great Again”. They were able to say all sorts of horrible things and get away with it. Unfortunately, in the land free speech, the opinions of these misguided individuals curdle the avocado and tofu scramble in my stomach.

One example of the types of opinions which are apparently OK to flaunt in public, is shown in this vile viral video following a traffic incident in Memphis (United S’s of America):

Now dear reader, please remember that this video was recorded after an accident. We can’t be sure that this poor individual didn’t suffer a concussion and is wandering the streets dazed and confused. Stumbling around while spouting hate speak that he’d accidentally heard on aryanradio.com (yep, that exists) at his cousin’s house. A cousin that he doesn’t like to visit but his mum forces him to visit when the cousin gets out of jail.

Typically, medical doctors would have to rely on a combination of patient symptom assessment and clinician judgement to determine whether something was seriously wrong with the patient. Don’t worry, socially awkward scientists to the rescue! Scientists from Children’s Health Research Institute, a program of Lawson Health Research Institute, and Western University have developed a test to distinguish racists from those in need of medical intervention.

These fancy, lab-coat-wearing, vampires have developed a new, inexpensive, blood test that identifies (with greater than 90 per cent certainty) whether or not an adolescent athlete has suffered a concussion for up to 72 hours. This blood test uses a technique called metabolomics to determine whether someone is concussed.

Metabolomics looks for distinct patterns of chemical markers found in the body to determine if a concussion has occurred. Kind of like the smelling for BO, stale alcohol, and latex in a hotel room to determine if shame has occurred. In the event of a concussion, the researchers can look for sets of as little as 20-40 specific metabolites to diagnose a concussion.

One thing is for sure, based on the number of questionable things trump has said throughout his campaign, it would be interesting to test him for concussion using this new metabolomic test. Let’s face it, there is a non-zero chance that Melania Trump is hitting him over the head with a sizable, sticky dildo every night to help him sleep – every little helps, the campaign trail is quite the marathon.

References

Daley, M., Dekaban, G., Bartha, R. et al. Metabolomics (2016) 12: 185. doi:10.1007/s11306-016-1131-5

https://www.lawsonresearch.ca/western-and-lawson-scientists-develop-game-changing-blood-test-concussions


 

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Sep 132016
 
Mr Clever, Mr Men

I love being told I’m clever. It gives me the same sense of accomplishment that I get when I do a poo in the wild and not get it on my legs. Although I am no better than anyone else, when I am told that I am clever it makes me feel better than everyone else and that’s what we all live for.

In science there are a number of pathways to being told you are clever and enjoy the assumed success which accompanies it. The most difficult pathway is trying to get other scientists to call you clever. This is really fucking difficult and that’s because most other scientists have a really good bullshit detector and are also trying to do the same thing.

For this approach to work, you’ll need to have the right combination of luck and opportunity. Much like being able to kiss The Queen on her Prince Edward stained lips. To be called clever by other scientists, you’ll need to publish as many papers as humanly possible as quickly as possible. To maximise the soul crushing effect of comparison, we typically compare a single number so there’s an actual quantifiable amount of how much people are better than you.

The metrics used for comparing academics include the H-index, m-index, h2 index, g-index, c-index, s-index, e-index, I10 and the O-index. H-index is probably the most commonly used and although it seems confusing, just make sure you tell people about the one that makes you look the best.

At some point, after sustaining the minimal effort to scrape by (for long enough that you’ve reached the age where masturbation is a boredom activity) perhaps you’ve come to realise that science is really difficult and you are too scared to just leave to try something else? Well, my friends, it’s time to self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage is the perfect way to appear like “it just wasn’t meant to be” whilst not having the balls to quit and just do something else. Here are 3 quick techniques to help you along your way:

1.The internet is the perfect place to start. When asked about your H-index, tell people that you don’t really care about metrics then go back to your desk and zombie your way though countless hours of YouTubeFacebook and Twitter. It’ll make the time pass really fast and you can always pretend that you were looking at sciencey stuff.

2.Be a dick to everyone. If someone sends an email to you immediately send a pissy reply and be sure to copy in your boss and their boss.

3.Constantly compare yourself to others and their metrics. Become overwhelmed by the amount of work you’ll have to do to match their stats and dwell on it – a lot. So much in fact, it should take hours out of your day and only be interrupted by toilet breaks and sending pissy emails.

These techniques should start to work within about 3 months. If these techniques don’t work, just punch someone in the balls and/or boobs  – that’ll quickly get you on your way to a forced career decision.

Aug 162016
 
Grumpy cat face

Science has a PR problem. You only have to look at the recent interaction between heartthrob scientist Professor Brian Cox and climate change denier MP Malcolm Roberts to see that, obviously, something has been lost in translation. Ol’ Malco’ doesn’t trust scientists and is very happy not to listen to them. There will always be people who believe in things regardless of how much evidence you show them to the contrary. We are all susceptible to it. I used to have a goatee and was convinced I didn’t look like a sex offender accidentally allowed out on day release. The question is – why don’t people listen to scientists?

I know why. The majority of scientists are boring science twats. In the past, that actually was OK. There was a certain charm about boring science twats with their big shiny foreheads avoiding eye contact as if their life depended on it. As times have moved on, we can’t pretend that the skills associated with being a successful scientist are the same as those required to talk to people on a human level about science.

So don’t worry, read on. I have some advice for you.

If you find yourself talking to an actual, real life person don’t be fooled into thinking that they care about your research in the same way you do.  When Bob from next door invites you over for a drink he’ll ask you about your research. This is not the time to actually tell Bob how much funding you expect to receive, or how many papers you have got this year – these facts are to Bob as Bob’s new tarot cards are to you – pointless. What Bob wants is a one sentence summary of your entire life’s work that’s also a euphemism for sex (preferably one that isn’t funny or clever). For example, Prof Brian Cox could respond like this:

I just released a television series where I used a telescope to explore a black hole” – Brian Cox

Next, If you are talking about science to anyone and you see something similar to this expression:

Oprah looking unimpressed

STOP! You are officially being a boring science twat. The thing is, as a scientist you get used to seeing this face. You see it in lectures, meetings, conferences and on the faces of post-docs when they are told to publish more. But in the real world this is a very bad sign. At this point, ask a question about the other person and pretend to listen as you think about all the papers you have got this year and how they make you feel warm in the pant area.

Finally, when people first meet you and discover that you work in a University some may feel intimidated. Little do they know it’s essentially a hideaway for the unfortunate who were bullied in high school. I like to demystify the ivory towers by talking about my favorite toilets in each building. Everyone has their favorite toilet, you know, the ones that are warm, not busy with good WiFi signal.

Actual humans don’t care about citations, papers and impact factors. They care about stories. Sad ones, happy ones and ones that don’t include boring long words and self-promoting bullshit. Tell them a story about what you get up to. There’s lots of articles and advice available about the storytelling of science. A clever man said:

“Science stories differ from stories in the humanities in at least two critical aspects, namely, the purpose of the story and the role of the reader or listener. The central purpose of the science story is, after all, to improve the teaching and learning of science, not to just entertain or to communicate a message as is the case for a story in the humanities.” (Klassen, 2009)

After a scientist – non-scientist interaction, your aim is to make the person think “That scientist wasn’t a boring twat at all. Maybe there’s something to this anthropogenic climate change”.


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Jul 122016
 
audience sat in a conference

Yes, we get it. You’re clever. Or at very least, you have played the academic game well enough to have manoeuvred yourself to the top of the academic ladder. A while back I wrote about how not to give a shit presentation, but now it’s time to address you and your shitty, always over time, overly complicated and patchwork-like presentation.

Without a doubt, Professors have given some of the worst scientific presentations I have ever seen. It’s the perfect storm of self-importance and complicated graphs which make professor level presentations insufferable. I’d much rather listen to a PhD student who has taken the time and effort to rehearse and, most importantly, cares about giving a well thought out presentation than sit through another look-at-all-the-cool-things-I-had-my-students-do presentation.

Alright, first things first, we know what happened. You got invited to give a talk because you are a well-known scientist and, because you haven’t stepped in the lab for the best part of a decade, you asked your PhD students and/or post-docs to send you “a couple of slides about your research”. So far, you have not done anything wrong. We know being a professor is a tough gig. You have to secure grant funding, publish papers and more recently, hobnob with industry, in order to convince the Vice-Chancellor not to sack you when the inevitable latest round of redundancies happen.




What you continue to get wrong is assuming your notoriety excludes you from providing a well-structured and focused presentation that…wait for it…runs on time – you can’t rely on the chair person with an anxiety disorder to stop you when your time is up.

Perhaps you think a sizable portion of the people who are attending your talk will know who you are and also be familiar with your acronyms and field specific language. The reality is that a large portion of the audience have been told to turn up because “it makes the department look like a busy and thriving research environment”. These people will be the ones sneaking a look at their phone while you’re distracted trying to operate the laser pointer (middle button).

Before your talk ask yourself these simple yes or no questions:

  1. Do I know who my audience are? If it’s a general audience, chill out. We don’t want a run down on your entire career. Choose your favourite bit(s) and stick to it.
  2. Have I looked over all the slides and made sure I can connect them with a coherent story? You should not be surprised by any of the slides your post-doc gave you and the story should flow nicely between them.
  3. Have I removed slides that I plan on skipping over? It is not OK to say “ignore these slides, and if you have epilepsy, cover your eyes”.
  4. Have I been to the toilet? Your bladder isn’t what it used to be.
  5. Are my slides free of any undefined, not commonly used, acronyms or specialised language that a non-specific science audience would not know? – save the specific terminology stuff for a conference that’s in your field.
  6. Did I practice my talk in front of an audience before today? Just like talking dirty, if you haven’t said it out loud it’s probably going to come out wrong.
  7. Can people read the axis of my graphs? Copy and pasting from the Nature paper you’re desperate to talk about is not going to help.
  8. Are all these slides necessary?

If you have answered “no” to any of these questions you need to stop and ask what the f**k you are doing.

Failing everything, pay careful attention to your audience. They’re the best indicators of whether you need to stop talking. Once the lecture theatre chairs start squeaking, as the audience shuffle around to get blood back into their legs and bums, consider stopping and letting the person who invited you ask a couple questions. They will always start with “Thank you for a great presentation”, don’t be fooled, they are lying.





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