Thursday, 30 October 2008

Unemployed at the crossroads of life (and other tortured metaphors)

Not got an article in mind, so this is just a link back to here

Not really been keeping abreast of news about Science at the moment, but a quick scan reveals that we really are melting the ice-caps, frogs in Yellowstone park aren't doing too well, India's launched a moon mission, they've found an old Hebrew book and a picture of leopard won a prize. But apparently, none of this is anywhere near as important as two 'comedians' joking about having sex with a woman. I'm not a huge Brand fan, I often thought his endless claims of sexual conquests quite boring, and people complain he doesn't respect women or something. But when he makes such claims and they turn out not to be true, there's a huge outcry, so what's he to do. I found the whole thing offensive, but only because it was a crap joke. These guys are the most highly paid comic personalities in the country, and the best they could do was an inversion on the hack 'I shagged your mum' heckle? Jesus wept.

The BBC news website, my main source of self-contained stories, recently changed their 'Science and Nature' section to 'Science and Environment', perhaps because of the ever increasing number of environment-based stories, or maybe it was just an attempt to seem more eco-aware. I don't know, but if I was cynical, seeing as all things in 'nature' occur in 'the environment', I would suggest that this renaming is a way of seeming more environmentally aware doing any bloody thing differently. Not that that's a bad thing.

I'm currently experiencing a persistent low-level anxiety which I've not encountered before, and I think it's caused by the paradoxical situation of being very busy while simultaneously unemployed. Depending on how you look at it, if I were to hand my thesis in tomorrow, it's either either a month overdue, 5 months ahead of schedule or 11 months early. Again, a lot of contradictions and variables which logically shouldn't exist simultaneously. But they do. So hey ho.

It's going slower than I planned, but it is going at all, which is better than I expected. Again, incompatible scenarios existing simultaneously. My whole life seems to be in some sort of quantum superposition in which all states exist simultaneously with each other until someone observes it, a la Schroedinger's cat. So what I'm saying is, if you ask me 'how's it going?', I might be revealed to have died several minutes ago. Which is why I seem tense when people ask about my progress. Nothing personal.

Look for work at this level is another new experience. I could feasibly accept a normal job, but having a PhD means I should be aiming for higher-up positions, such as post-doctorate positions or even lectureships. I haven't had to apply for these before, so am at a loss for how it's meant to go. I have applied for 4 different jobs already, none have replied thus far. Is that normal? I don't know. It's taken this long in the past, but for this kind of job? Would the complex nature prolong the interview process, or should the assumed intelligence level of those involved increase efficiency, which would mean I get a reply on the same day? God knows. But I haven't been offered anything yet, so maybe it's just me.

I've been feeling at a loss. I don't feel as involved with the Neuroscience squad because I have more outisde interests and probably don't dedicate myself to it as much as my peers. But then I don't feel as involved with my comedy colleagues as I'm the one who's doing a doctorate rather than getting gigs and networking. Although I recently did a gig at a Neuroscience conference. It went alarmingly well, probably the time I've been most 'in tune' with an audience, which should surprise no-one, although it does suggest I only do my best comedy in front of a crowd of Neuroscientists or similar, which does drastically lower my potential success in the wider world of comedy. Pah

I cleaned the house today, that mother of all procrastination tasks, after writing blogs that is. But it did need doing. Although I still finished with many hours put aside for a serious thesis writing session, which would have occurred if the last bit of data I need for my results section of the current chapter didn't require a brief means comparison in SPSS. For those of you unfamiliar with SPSS, it's the statistics package of choice for my department. And by 'choice', I mean it's the one we get given and that's that. SPSS is much like the NHS in a lot of ways. We're glad to have it, and it is useful, but sometimes it's so bloody chaotic or downright crap you'd rather just sneak a bottle of isofluorane and a few tools out of work and remove your own appendix. And as tortured metaphors go, that ones pretty much screaming for death and will confess to the Holocaust at this point. And there we go again, a tortured metaphor about tortured metaphors. Is that a record?

Anyway, I need to compare the means of two groups of results. I say the mean of one group is 57.68. SPSS keeps saying it's 68.71. I'm right, it's wrong, but it refuses to say otherwise. There's no reason for this ridiculous claim, apart form being pointlessly bloody minded. Is it possible to cause physical harm to software? 'I'm going to seriously corrupt your core programming' doesn't really have that much of a menacing ring to it.

Although I should refrain from saying stuff about a programme on my own PC. If it is being deliberately malicious, and I'm writing this on software right now, who knows what it could 68788 **&(£%$* - - - - - - _____________ [][]{}{[][}{[}{}{][][][][][Ld££££££££------...... . . . . . . .

Friday, 24 October 2008

Nudity is an offence against human dignity!

X-Ray vision upsets some people

Some years ago, I attended a conference concerned with what to do with a PhD if you didn't want to stick with academia. This was precisely the sort of thing I really should have been writing down, seeing as I now have no job or offers to speak of, and am confused about where to start looking. In fact, I think I did write a lot of stuff down, but couldn't tell you where I left my notes, probably in the bar where the social took place afterwards, along with the memories of the night and a generous portion of the respect of my peers.

But I do remember a talk from a representative of QinetiQ, about the various technologies he was helping to develop in the name of security, defence, research or, in a nutshell, anything that might at some point turn a profit. One of the things he discussed was a scanner with wave amplitudes specifically arranged to scan beneath clothes, in an attempt to improve airport security, in both efficiency and thoroughness. He did mention that there'll probably be some objection to being able to see through people's clothes. Well, he was right.

It's a tricky one, but I'm leaning in favour of these devices. Largely because the technology is cool, and it brings into existence a crazy comic book superpower that most people assumed would always be fantasy. Like flight, or robots. But the main argument seems to be focused either on a violation of privacy or an affront to dignity. I don't think these two are essentially the same. For one thing, we've given up a lot of 'privacy' in recent years, what with CCTV, Speed cameras, online logging of all our activities, TV licensing crackdowns, ID cards etc. But a lot of privacy has been surrendered voluntarily, largely through websites like facebook, myspace or youtube. Thanks to facebook, I now have access to photographs of 3 lesbian weddings. I have no problem with that, but I never asked for that, it's not something I believed I'd ever see, let alone 3 times (at least). I can't talk, my own wedding photos are on there.

But wedding photo's are meant to viewed, that's the point. But you also get to see more risque pics of people. The anti-filth rules of most social networking sites mean the more exhibitionist of us has to be restrained, but if there were no such rules?.... Youtube is the same, if not worse. As an experiment, I just typed in 'my boobs' into youtube, assuming that no women (the same gender that regularly gets enraged when anyone with a Y chromosome stairs at their chest swellings despite how much they've drawn attention to them, don't deny it!) would just post a video showing off their breasts to every seedy bloke with web access. I was wrong, there're lots.

But it is different I'll admit, as the web offers a large degree of anonymity. If thousands of lonely blokes were stood right in front of them, they probably wouldn't feel as comfortable displaying their 'assets'. And fair enough. There may also be an element of separation, in that it's not 'really real' if it's on a computer screen. It's sort of 'false', a representation rather than the real thing. I can see that. But then, 'I can see that' is the problem.

But that brings us back to this X ray device. It doesn't actually see you directly, it generates a false image of what you have under your clothes. But to a lot of people, that counts. It wouldn't bother me so much, because looking at my naked body would definitely count as 'work' rather than 'pleasure'. I wouldn't get annoyed at someone who cleaned out a toilet I'd blocked, because his interacting with my biomatter is a violation of my privacy. I'd guess he's enjoying it less than anything and is in fact doing me a favour. But some people don't think this way. It's interesting that it's politicians getting their teeth into this, European ones at that. But not Dutch ones, I assume, that wouldn't conform to stereotypes.

Maybe it is a bit invasive, but then everything about the airport is. I'd happily let some poor git stare at a false image of my body for a few seconds if it meant getting through check-in quicker. What's to stop him or anyone else just superimposing a pic of my head on a random nude body? Nothing, and I'd be OK with that. it would be an improvement if anything. But the words 'dignity' and 'airport' rarely got together, where you undergo several humiliations in order to spend hours in a metal tube sucking in the emitted gasses of dozens of strangers. They can strip search you if they want, this seems like the lesser of two evils. And who'll be the people most unwilling to undergo this sort of scan? Crazy fundamentalists. You see what I'm getting at? We might all get a pleasant flight for once. And the technology is great, let's see how far we can take it. Maybe even medical applications will arise. Can you imagine a colonoscopy without an endoscope? If you can, don't. It's a hideous image however it works.

(Several mentions of boobs, nudity, lesbians and X-ray vision in this blog, may get some more unusual readers this time around)

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Don't forget to keep fit, or vice versa

Fat levels contribute to Alzheimer's?

Interesting. The levels of fatty acids in the Brain contribute to Alzheimer's, or at least do in transgenic mice designed to show Alzheimer's like symptoms. That's an important distinction, because these mice don't actually have Alzheimer's, they have a certain pathology that shows the same symptoms. The article does point this out, but this article is slightly hit-and-miss with it's accuracy. Sometimes it specifically points out the facts, sometimes it glosses over them. For example:

" mice genetically engineered to have an Alzheimer's-like condition" - Correct. The mice don't have Alzheimer's, as discussed above. If we could give mice actual Alzheimer's, then that would mean we understood it precisely, which suggests we could do something about it, beyond just giving it to mice. The strain is called APPSWE Tg257, to be precise (Assuming they use the same ones as in my lab)

There are currently 700,000 people living with dementia in the UK, but that number is forecast to double within a generation" - Correct but misleading. This smacks of scaremongering, but potentially scaremongering to increase awareness of Alzheimer's, which is OK I guess. But well done on saying dementia rather than Alzheimer's, because last I heard, it was only possible to confirm Alzheimer's after death, which is too late if anything. (Also, because of the unknown origin of the disease, you can't leave your body to medical examination after death in case someone 'catches' it, which is ridiculously unlikely but can't be guaranteed. Of course, anyone suffering the disease won't remember that, no matter how many times you tell them). But this is mildly misleading because dementia affects around 50% of people over 80. And thanks to improved health care and medical advances, that's the most rapidly expanding age group, so the disease will increase with it.

""In general, fatty acid levels can be regulated by diet or drugs...But a lot more work needs to be done before this novel therapeutic strategy can be tested on humans" - Good, I like the cautious tone. Because given the way the media works, this could be taken by several types of scaremongers and twisted to deliver completely different messages. The anti-choice health Nazi's like McKeith and her ilk could use this as just another example of how eating a lot of fat is bad for you and you shouldn't eat anything other than muesli and tree bark, you ignorant overweight prole. This would lead to mixed messages, as if you eat too much fat you'll die of heart disease and get Alzheimer's. In truth, doing both is highly unlikely, what with dying young being possibly the best prevention of Alzheimer's, but since when did logic and actual science stop these shrieking harridans?
Then there's the anti-government brigade, who could argue that 'life saving treatment being withheld on the NHS', by not giving Alzheimer's patients diet drugs or some other cock-and-bull rationalisation. If there were such a thing as a pill that could prevent uptake of body fat, then it would be worth billions, much like Viagra is. There are some diet pills that prevent up to 30% of fat being digested into your system, but this means it passes straight through. And bare in mind fat is hydrophobic, which means after visiting the toilet you get a lot of 'floaters', which may result in being invited to less parties.

This is a massive generalisation, of course, seeing as one type of fatty acid is linked to the disease and there are many in our bodies, and they are useful. But one thing that's remarkable about diet is the extent to which it depends on memory. Although there are many internal systems in use, like stomach extension, blood sugar levels etc., our habits can often override these with no fuss. If we eat at 3pm every day, we'll be hungry at 3pm, this is habit forming and is a basic and powerful form of memory. As long as we know we've eaten we'll not be hungry. But the time when you eat is an episode, and episodic memory is the first thing to go when you have Alzheimer's (trust me, this is my field). So it's around 3pm, you don't remember eating, you'll eat. You might eat half a dozen meals before someone stops you, it's a problem with people who suffer from anterograde amnesia (can't make new memories, the guy in Memento had it).

People who suffer from Anterograde amnesia have a problem with weight gain, as they forget that they've aready eaten. One of the most common causes of this is Alzheimer's, which is apparently worsened by fat consumption. Vicious cycle. But don't forget that not eating enough, like with sufferers of eating disorders tend to do, can cause memory loss too. Lack of thyamine shrivels the mammilary bodies (small brain nuclei, not breasts, although they lose mass too,m come to think of it) and these are part of the diencephalon, which controls memory. Korsakoff's syndrome, where you can't remember anything, but tend to make it up without realising it. These people have dull lives but exciting memories. So you could say you suffer memory problems if you eat too much or too little. What's the point of all this ranting? Buggered if I can remember.

Alzheimer's mentioned = 16 times.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Fight, fight, fight, fight fight!

When two crabs go to war...

Welcome, fight fans, to this exclusive in-depth analysis about what is shaping up to be one of the biggest battles the UK has ever seen. What's at stake? Only complete dominance of mainland UKs waterways and rivers, and all the goodies that go with it.

As with Cricket, Tennis, Football, Rugby, and pretty much anything else that involves competition, when it comes to the British waterways, our home grown efforts are completely outmatched by foreigners. But that doesn't make things any less exciting, for when the showdown finally occurs, you know it's going to be a no-holds-barred bloodbath, or whatever crustaceans use as blood. I think it's still blood they have actually, but probably not the exact same as mammal blood. You probably couldn't do a transfusion between a crab and, lets say, a goat. That wouldn't work. But then, given the complex nature of blood types, rhesus factors and all that, there's still a fair amount of danger involved in doing a transfusion between a goat and, say, another goat. Danger to the goats, because they may be getting an incompatible blood-type, and danger to yourself, because if you keep trying to inject and/or bleed a goat, it'll probably get quite angry and try to batter you to death.

Where was I? Crabs, yes...

In what is looking to be a serious clash of the titans, the upcoming battle has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood classic, with the so far undisputed king being challenged by an aggressive up and comer who may well dethrone him. Think Rocky 4, but without the ludicrous cold-war-ending political message. This battle, which actually is a case of East meets West, is going to kick start a whole new conflict, not end one. So lets look at the competitors...

In the Red Corner...

What we have here is the North American Crayfish, often known as the non-native crayfish, for obvious reasons. It arrived in our aquatic community in the 1970s, and has since then powered it's way to the top largely by killing and eating anything that gets in it's way. Incredibly aggressive and voracious, the Non-native crayfish can cause extinction of a group of native species within 4 years of arriving in the same ecosystem. Our own crayfish are forced to hide in isolated water sources to ensure survival. The Non-native is a mean bastard, with wide, aggressive claw stance, vicious pincers, and if that wasn't enough, it even spreads disease to other species while being immune itself. This mother is so bad he violates the Geneva convention! The North American Crayfish, much like the stereotype of its native countries military, takes no prisoners and causes maximum damage wherever it goes. It even burrows into seemingly secure riverbanks, causing structural collapse of the ground above. Not even the land itself is safe from these guys. And they are completely without mercy, even eating their own offspring if needs be. And I thought it was cruel to force your child to play tennis at age 4.

The North American Crayfish has dominated our waterways for years, so much so that authorities have implemented a 'kill on sight' policy for anyone who finds one. What, you ask, could possibly threaten such an entrenched aggressive species? Well since you asked...

In the Blue corner....
Hailing from the far east, we have the challenger, the Chinese mitten crab. The up and comer, this incredibly aggressive, superbly armed crustacean looks set to take on the Crayfish and oust him from his role as the biggest pain-in-the-ass the UKs aquacommunity has ever seen. So called because of the unusual hair on their claws (this crabs been pimped!), the mitten crab is incredibly aggressive, voracious and generally unstoppable. They eat anything and everything, with their incredibly large pincers designed for crushing supposedly well armoured mollusk shells. They also have the same burrowing habits as the crayfish. Britain has no freshwater crabs, so the mitten crab has had a relatively unchallenged rise to the top spot in the areas it's already infiltrated. But now the crab and crayfish populations are on the verge of meeting, and when two massively destructive communities share the same space, only one can survive...
Pre-Match analysis

In the run up to the big fight, there's always speculation as to who will have the edge, and what are the factors that will decide the outcome. It's never possible to be 100% correct, but just to keep the bookies happy, here's some points to bare in mind.
- The Crayfish have been around longer than the crabs, having at least an extra decade in which to cement their position, so if the crabs want to oust them, it's going to be a long, drawn out battle. We're not talking a one round knockout here, this will have to go the distance. It's the classic debate, experience or youth? But it's also worth baring in mind that the crabs can live in both salt- and freshwater, so there's always the option to retreat and regroup in coastal waters, which the Crayfish can't do. Both sides look to be prepared for a long slog, so it could be anyones game.
- Overall, the crabs are bigger, reaching as much as 10cm in width, compared to the crayfish's 7cm. As well as those formidable pincers, the crabs also have shoulder spines in their arsenal, which the crayfish lack. It's also widely recognised that the crabs are a lot stronger. The crabs are bigger and stronger than their opponents. But then, so was Ivan Drago...
- The crabs have a rounded body plans like all crabs, and presumably the same sideways walking thing too. The crayfish have a more streamlined shape and forward movement. In terms of overall manoeuvrability and agility, the Crayfish comes out ahead, which could be a deciding factor.
- Both species tend to wipe out any creatures that attempt to share their environment, so we won't be expecting any outside interference here. There'll be no allies running in with a chair mid-bout. There is the aforementioned 'kill on sight' which applies to the crayfish and not the crabs. But it's dubious as to how that will affect a sub-aqua battle, out of sight of humans. Unless you have Setanta, of course.

So there you have it, two monsters of the crustacean world, fighting it out for dominance. Who will emerge victorious? Either way, we'll be doing our best to exterminate the swines. Altogether now,
"It's the, Eye of the Tiger, the cream of the fight, risin up to the challenge of our rivals..."

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Evolution is over, everyone go home.

Evolution of man may be over

I don't normally link to other blogs, but this is a subject I've actually discussed with others in the past, so seems like a convenient time to re-hash some old ground, like the typical narrow-minded friend who suddenly says 'and another thing...' two weeks after the original argument was settled by someone else when you weren't there to witness it, resulting in confusion for all. Hurrah!

Anyway, it's been proposed before in sci-fi books and what not, but given the effect of our intelligence on our overall development, is human evolution at an end? A fundamentalist would say no, seeing as it never happened in the first place, so that's the end of that now shut up and eat your Bible or something like that. But it's a valid concern, because pretty much all the things that drive evolution such as survival of the fittest, environmental pressures and genetic mutation can, to varying extents, be counteracted by our marvelous technology. Why would humans adapt to colder environments when we have central heating? Why would keen hunting skills be needed when Asda's has a Deli counter? And so on.

I personally think this analysis needs to be refined. It might well be the end of Natural evolution, but I don't think evolution can logically stop. Our society is more complex than ever, but still there are selection pressures. Look at Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer. 8 Gold medals, world fame, and if he wasn't involved already he most likely has women throwing themselves at him now. Apparently, he has the perfect build for swimming, naturally so, so any children he has will have similar traits, and anyone who wants to beat him ever will have to have an equal or better capacity for swimming. So we see a pressure here, albeit a small one, to produce the perfect swimmer. Don't mock it, as if it didn't exist, would Michael get the chance to pass on his genes? Uncertain, as he is clearly a hideous man. But because the Olympics exist, he and his type will now become sought after, rather than dismissed by potential mates on account of their resemblance to every Frankenstein's monster spoof combined with Plug, from the Bash street kids.

(Note: I have no issue with Michael Phelps, he's clearly a supreme being of some sort, and as a lifetime shunner of physical activity such people scare me, so I lash out in defence at the impressive yet ugly and probably mentally deficient demi-Gods)

Part of the original article cites the belief that humans are living longer, so evolution slows as a result. But isn't that an example of evolution? How long was the average lifespan 100 years ago? 6 months? And yes, many genetic diseases and illnesses which would normally kill off victims before they could grow to pass on their DNA are now manageable, so that doesn't happen, so the diseases stay around. But that doesn't take into account the general shallowness of 99.99% of breeding partners. I have no issue with people with Down syndrome, but I'll hold my hand up and say I'm not attracted to them and I'd genuinely worry about someone who was. That's an extreme example, obviously, but people do still seek out the most healthy and physically attractive partners, people with genetic defects need not die out they'll probably always be marginalised.

Some people see it differently, I've heard numerous people who believe in 'traditional values' (can generally be interpreted as 'Bigoted Wankers') complaining about all these hideous, pregnant teenagers and 'chavs'. Society is 'going to the dogs' blah blah blah. I don't think 'Chavs' (inverted commas will persist because I don't like the word, but can't think of an equally concise acceptable alternative) are any more or less smart than anyone else. They're a product of their upbringing and environment as much as anyone else. And people complain that they're always on their mobiles, well I find that impressive. Most modern mobiles confuse the hell out of me, and I'm 26 and can do Brain surgery. My little brother has mastered Sim City 3000 on the PC and he's only 8. Compare this to only a few generations ago, when your average child was amazed for weeks on end by the concept of the Hula-Hoop, which is, let's be blunt, a circle. Circles have been around for a loooong time, but they still fascinate us, don't they!

No, they don't. Circles are being phased out, what with downloading and MP3 players, CDs and that are just a storage medium* now. Even machines evolve.

I can't see how we've stopped evolving, but now I think we're more in control of how we evolve. Obviously with genetic engineering this is going to be literally true. People these days are afraid of it, like GM food, it's 'not natural'. Neither is sustained single crop agriculture, crop rotation, industrial fertilisers or taking produce and making it extra shiny before putting it in a shop in a display alongside identical sized and coloured produce of the same genus before throwing it in the bin because nobody buys Veg when there's Snickers to be had.
A lot of people balk at the idea of human genetic manipulation, for themselves or for their children. But not everyone will. I state this with 100% certainty, seeing as there are millions of people who willingly slice their guts or faces open and inject them with all manner of crazy chemicals just to look slightly better. And when one bunch starts GMing themselves, we'll all have to join in to keep up. There's your selection pressure again. And back to the start. And who knows what challenges lie ahead? I imagine there'll be a distinct advantage for humans who can breathe CO2, but not for literally tens of years.

There appears to be a fear of the human race stagnating, and some other race usurping us in the distant future, a la Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. Unlikely, as if we wouldn't notice the slow development of another species technical infrastructure that could rival our own. And given our current progress, we'll have wiped out all other higher life forms before they even get started. You don't normally hear of the upsides of our ecological vandalism do you? But damn it if there aren't a few.

So yeah. Evolution, it would be arrogant to think we've beat it, we're just working with it. In my opinion. The good thing about evolution is, whether you believe in it or not, it just keep happening.

(*CDs have always been just a storage medium, that's what they're for, but the point I was making was nonsensical and I couldn't really back it up, so I just thought I'd say it. I'm very sorry)

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Careering off course

There should be a link to a science news story here, but there isn't, it's just a clip from Rhys Darby's new DVD

Evening. Not done one of these for a while, but been busy. I'm now attempting to complete my thesis whilst simultaneously looking for a job I can do as soon as I complete my thesis but I can't really get a job yet as I haven't finished my thesis but the thesis is taking too long because I'm also looking for work.

Repeat as necessary. You see the quandary I'm in?

This is my first experience with job searching in the field of high level Science research. A lot of people have asked me which I'm going to pursue when I finish my PhD; Science or Comedy. I don't really see why I have to choose one and ignore the other, I haven't so far. But if I did, I really enjoy both, but which one pays better? I'll be honest, I've never seen a situation where desperate scientists have to drive hundreds of miles to conduct 20 minutes of research in front of a disinterested crowd of strangers in exchange for a fiver.
A lot of people I work with seem to have gravitated towards new jobs by some form of academic osmosis, and well done to them. I didn't think this would ever happen for me, for several reasons. Namely, although I enjoy and am interested in my research, I don't live and breathe it. And also I am still startlingly ignorant about how this industry works, unlike those who have a family history of higher education so know the correct procedures and conduct. My parents have always been supportive, but I'm the first person in my family to do A levels, let alone anything else. I guess I could have just asked people how things work, but then I was always worried about being exposed as the blatant fraud I am, so I kept my head down and people just assumed I knew what I was doing. But I'll show them!
Current wisdom is to do a post-doc, or post-doctoral position. Form what I can gather, this is where you do basically the same thing you did during your PhD, but you don't need to put it all in a big report after 3 years, and everyone just lets you get on with things rather than check up on you every few weeks to make sure you haven't snapped and run off to become a bricklayer, or been killed by a rat 'gone rogue' without anyone finding your partially shredded remains.
Traditional sources of career advancement aren't as useful as I remember. The Job centre used to be an option, but it focuses largely on converting the 'unemployed' to 'employed', anything beyond that is a bonus.
I did go to the careers centre for a 30 minute meeting about my options. The nice lady asked what I wanted, and I said ideally, I'd like a job that incorporates all my skills. She agreed that this was something I should definitely aim for. Then I told her all my skills., basically the Neuroscience and comedy. It's fun seeing a supposed expert genuinely at a loss for what to say. We agreed that I have created my own niche, but as I pointed out, a niche is only a niche if people know of it. What I've created is more of a blind spot, a phantom zone of career possibilities. If I'm being outrageously self-promotional, I could say I'm like the nuclear power of employees; potentially extremely useful, but if no-ones discovered it it's not worth a damn.
So I'm currently applying for post-docs in the Bristol area, with the hope of moving there some day. I've had to re-do my CV several times over, and it probably still could be improved. But if anyone knows of a neuroscience post-doc going in the South West or Wales, let me know.

And just to keep up to speed, here's a Science news round-up.

Mice Traced to Vikings: Studying the genomes of mice can be useful in studying human migration patterns. Because mice and humans so frequently travel together (unless you're in first class I assume), their genetic variation has been shaped by our movements in the past. Very interesting, although I'm suspicious of any research that involves mice, the most evil of all creatures. I honestly wouldn't put it past mice to change their DNA just to screw up our research. Horrible little bastards, all of them. Even this article had me excited, I thought it would suggest that mice ARE actually Vikings, after some evolutionary twist like the one that turned dinosaurs into birds. But no, an interesting if less exciting bit of news about species cohabitation reflecting migration patterns. Curse you, you scampery little furry balls of evil!

People don't like living next to a Nuclear plant: It turns out, that people might object to having a nuclear power plant built in their back yard. How much did they spend finding this out? I've been to a nuclear plant, it was quite cool (metaphorically, I'm sure the reactor was at temperatures normally found beneath the surface of your basic star) and a fascinating experience. i would go again. Would I live next to one? No. Nothing against nuclear power, but I don't like the thought of living next to any gigantic complex power plant, it's just ominous. And I'm well informed. But at least this story makes more sense than people objecting to sea based wind farms because 'it'll spoil the scenery'. Jesus wept, get a sense of perspective! Would these people object to life-saving brain surgery because it spoiled their hair?

Microsoft say Google is better: Microsoft says they are a 'David' to Google's 'Goliath'. As I'm currently writing this on a Microsoft PC with windows, like my laptop has, and as does every other computer I've ever used or even seen except for macs which don't count because I don't know that many pretentious people, I have to say I have limited sympathy for Microsoft. And I may have even supported them if they'd used the term 'Googliath'. I wonder if we'll see that term in some official capacity over the next few days?

CONSPIRACY! Keeping it going, here's another conspiracy theory.

McDonald's build secret global transit system!
Haven't you ever wondered why McDonald's burgers never look like the pictures over the counter? It's because all the burgers McDonald's sell (approx 45 million a day) are made at the very first McDonald's restaurant, in San Bernardino, California. The exact recipe of McDonald's burgers which makes them so addictive despite being crap is a very closely guarded secret, so the McDonald brothers decided never to let one be made off-site. Since then, every McDonald's franchise has been connected to the ever expanding kitchens underneath San Bernardino via a system of high-speed pneumatic tubes. There are no actual fryers or ovens outside of the main restaurant, just tube terminals cleverly disguised. These tubes now stretch all over the world. However, the 'fast food' commitment means burgers have to travel at supersonic speeds to get to the correct restaurant in time. This is why American McDonald's seem so much better, and British ones are squashed and crap; it's because the British ones have just crossed the Atlantic in less than 3 minutes, and the pressures incurred squash them until they look as pathetic as they do, whereas American burgers have a much shorter journey time.
The secret sauce is made from the processed remains of employees who risk giving away the great secret.

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