Recent seminars and a scientific retreat (put on by the department I work for) have led me to some conclusions:
- Scientists need to work on their stand-up routines. I've met many an eloquent and witty scientist in my time. So why is it that the less witty and eloquent are always the ones who try to bring humour into their scientific speeches? I was lucky enough to hear some excellent talks during a one day retreat on Friday, but what sticks in my head are the few speakers who foolishly attempted to be funny. Don't get me wrong, I love a good laugh, but bad humour doesn't help anyone.
- On the other hand, scientists have their fun sides. Scientists like to name things in a funny way: genes called "Groucho", proteins called "Skizzle", and there's even a "Sonic the Hedgehog". Scientists also have deviant minds: I work on proteins that obey "molecular sexuality" where one protein inserts its end into a pocket in another protein... Try and explain that at a conference without getting thrown out for lewd hand gestures!!
- Scientists like chocolate! Yes, I know most people like chocolate, but scientists seem particularly drawn to it. A case in point occurred at the retreat. At one end of the room was a bowl of large Snickers bars. One entering the room at 8am (after having walked past the numerous breakfast offerings) a faculty member saw the bowl and exclaimed "oh great, breakfast", before hurriedly downing a bar. Later in the day, my boss was sitting by the bowl. During a speaker change-over, a senior faculty member on the other side of the lecture hall called to my boss in a whispery voice: "Get us a Snickers bar!"
- Finally, I ask why are we here. I'm not really getting philosophical; it's just that during a talk yesterday someone asked why we age when we have all the genetic tools to prevent it. The lecture responded: "We are designed to procreate and raise our young. After that we are expected to die"... Lovely!