Archive for 'Improbable investigators'

Gene Hunt and the hunt for genes

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

hunt3Gene Hunt has, so far, resisted the pressures of nominative determinism. Gene Hunt does not hunt for genes.

No. Gene Hunt hunts  for explanations for evolutionary patterns as expressed in the fossil record. “Empirically,” Gene Hunt says, “I most often work with ostracodes – small, bivalved crustaceans – with much of this work to date on deep-sea forms.”

Gene Hunt, Ph.D., is the curator of Ostracoda in the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

Among Gene Hunt’s many publications, you’ll find the metaphorically as well as non-metaphorically cutting-edge study:

Green, Walton A., Hunt, Gene, Wing, Scott L. and DiMichele, William A. 2011. Does extinction wield an axe or pruning shears? How interactions between phylogeny and ecology affect patterns of extinction,Paleobiology, 37(1):72-91


Medicine is sprinkled with metaphorical crumbs

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

2015-01-food-metaphorsMy colleague Lisa Kipersztok (a final-year medical student at Tufts University) and I (Gwinyai Masukume, at the University of the Witwatersrand)  have collected and arranged a new feast of medical food metaphors.

We follow in the footsteps of hungry giants. In the late 1970s Terry and Hanchard in their seminal paper, titled Gastrology: the use of culinary terms in medicine” [PDF]appearing in the British Medical Journal, offered the real first course of food-related medical terms in medical literature.

Almost 50 years later this all consuming field of medicine continues to bear fruitful papers. Lisa and I developed a taste for these medical food-derived terms as used in Pediatrics.

Bridging art and science, we share culinary medical terms, include hand-painted illustrations and offer food for thought on how these terms help and also challenge healthcare workers today. Here is our paper, Food for thought: Palatable eponyms from Pediatrics,” [PDF], in the December 2014 issue of the Malta Medical Journal.

For the food (and medical) connoisseurs, here is a detailed list we prepared, providing a feast for the senses.

And for those who might be wondering how some people see food in unusual places please see the illustrative image (egg-on-string-sign found in a particular heart abnormality) – seeing food is an inexact science!


Egg-on-string sign, images from:

BONUS: Previously on this blog another slice from this delectable field.

He studies scientific crackpottery

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Some scientists study curiosities in their fellow scientists, as well as curiosities in the rest of nature. Laura Gardner studied Chris Miller, a professor of biochemistry at Brandeis University who studies all sorts of things. Miller delights in studying several, apparently related, sorts of scientist. Writing in Brandeis magazine, Gardner’s profile of Miller appears under the headline “An Epistemology of Scientific Crackpottery“. Here’s a small chunk of it:

ChrisMillerMiller spends most of his time studying the structure and function of ion channels, membrane proteins involved in electrical signaling. However, a secondary interest was born when, as a doctoral student, he worked in the lab of an accomplished scientist he ultimately realized was a classic crackpot. Since then, Miller has developed what he calls an “epistemology of scientific crackpottery.”

An epistemology, he explains, “is a system of knowing how we know what we think we know.” He says his is designed to “distinguish the brilliant, creative, contrarian heroes of science, who move their fields forward, from the crackpots, who are also brilliant, creative contrarians.”

Miller’s epistemology proposes four scientific-outlier phenotypes: con men (and they do seem to be all men), like Hwang; mountebanks, more akin to snake-oil salesmen than working scientists; and two types of scientific heretics — heroes and crackpots.

Heretic-heroes interest Miller the most…

(Thanks to investigator Ivan Oransky for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: The most renowned scholar of crack pottery was the apocryphal Professor Josiah Carberry of Brown University. Professor Carberry specialized in psychoceramics (the study of cracked pots).


Multiplicity of Authors: Quisquaters and Guillous

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

This entry in our Multiplicity of Authors collection features several Quisiquaters and several Guillous:

JJ-QHow to Explain Zero-Knowledge Protocols to Your Children,” Jean-Jacques Quisquater [pictured here], Myriam Quisquater, Muriel Quisquater, Michaël Quisquater, Louis C. Guillou, Marie Annick Guillou, Gaïd Guillou, Anna Guillou, Gwenolé Guillou, Soazig Guillou, Thomas A. Berson, Proceedings of the 9th Annual International Cryptology Conference, Santa Barbara, California, USA, August 20-24, 1989, pp. 628-631.

(Thanks to Jean-Jacques Quisquater for bringing this to our attention.)

Behemoth – not hippo nor elephant?

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Blake_BehemothThose involved in studying biblical texts sometimes disagree about the exact nature of Behemoth, as described in the Bible, in Job 40:15-24. Could it have been, as some have suggested, a description of an elephant, or a(n) hippopotamus? Dr. Dave Miller Ph.D., M.A.R., M.Div., M.A., B.A., writing in the journal Reason & Revelation, Dec. 2011, Vol. 31, No. 12, thinks not, and offers an alternative interpretation :

“In His description of behemoth, God states emphatically that the creature ‘moves his tail like a cedar’ (Job 40:17). Yet many commentators have insisted that behemoth is to be identified as either the elephant, or more likely, the hippopotamus (cf. the NIV footnote at Job 40:15: “Possibly the hippopotamus or the elephant”). Since both of these animals have farcically tiny tails, the comparison of behemoth’s tail with a cedar must be explained in some way.”

The Dr.’s explanation is that Behemoth might have, instead, been a dinosaur – a(n) herbivorous one to comply with Job 40:15. He suggests, Apatosaurus or Argentinosaurus or even Diplodocus. For those who might be unclear about the timing – in the sense that Job would need to have been living at the same time as Behemoth (the dinosaur), Dr. Miller goes on to add :

“The imposing intimidation of modern pseudo-science, that dominates the intellectual landscape of the world, has succeeded in pressuring many to compromise the biblical text in hopes of retaining what they conceive to be academic legitimacy and sophistication. Nevertheless, abundant bona fide evidence exists to demonstrate that dinosaurs were created by God on the same day of Creation as humans (Genesis 1:24-31), that dinosaurs and humans once cohabitated (cf. Lyons and Butt, 2008), and that the incredible creature of Job 40 was, in fact, some kind of dinosaur.”

Further reading:

(as cited in the article) ‘The Dinosaur Delusion’ (Lyons and Butt, 2008)

(not cited in the article) ‘The God Delusion’ (Dawkins, 2008)