Friday links: nobody cares about your model organism, never work from home, and more

Mostly silliness this week: The ecology of Skull Island, electrofishing for whales, Boaty McBoatface goes forth, and more! Also, a few serious links on the March For Science, the role of facts in political debates, and more. Come for the links, stay to watch Meg and I squabble over them.

From Jeremy:

Tim Harford on why facts never carry the day in political debates, and why an emphasis on them can even be politically counterproductive. Good and I think basically correct 30,000-foot overview. Stick around to the end for the tentative suggestion, drawn from Dan Kahan’s work, that curiosity–a sense of wonder and fascination that motivates you to seek out new knowledge–can overcome motivated reasoning.

Here’s how you should react when your work fails to replicate. Part of me still wonders if he shouldn’t be more questioning of the theoretical basis (or lack thereof) of his entire research program, but I only know about psychology what I read on blogs so maybe I’m off base on that. (ht Andrew Gelman)

In honor of the impending release of the new King Kong movie, here’s an old-but-still-accurate primer on the ridiculous ecology of Skull Island. Not that I’m complaining about the ridiculousness. The new King Kong movie probably had science consultants (many films of this sort do), but I’m sure any science consultants it had were sensible enough not to choose the island rule as a hill to die on.

I’m embarrassingly late to this, but March Mammal Madness is underway. Background here if you’re a newbie. I’m picking a Tibetan sand fox vs. bat-eared fox final, obviously. As of this writing, the gray fox already lost, to which:


Nobody cares about your model organism. 😉 (ht @duffy_ma, who I sure hope wasn’t planning to link to this herself.) (From Meg: that’s fine, because surely it doesn’t apply to *my* model organism, which clearly everybody cares about.) (Jeremy adds: your model organism is one of these, right?)

Boaty McBoatface goes forth.

Thomas Henry Huxley on chess. (ht @dsquareddigest)

Can you electrofish for whales? Best line:

It’s possible that giving blue whales massive electrical shocks isn’t as good an idea as it sounded at first.

And finally, I am extremely jealous of Meg’s new Twitter avatar from @Blackmudpuppy and may have to get one myself:


Meg, looking at the ghost of a Daphnia that died of a parasite infection. Presumably.

From Meg:

This video of South Korea expert Robert Kelly’s kids showing him who’s boss during his fancypants BBC interview is amazing. (Jeremy adds: this is how I’m going to enter the room for every lecture I give from now on. Source. Meg adds: She is so great! I should steal your idea and enter my first Intro Bio lecture like that in the fall.) I Skyped into a PhD defense in Europe this past December. We had a big snow storm the night before; school was cancelled for my kindergartner and daycare for the younger two had a delayed start. I will now be grateful that it wasn’t a television interview that I had scheduled for that morning! (Jeremy adds: follow-up interview with Robert Kelly and his family here.) (Meg adds: no fair, I was just coming to add that! I love the humor they are showing through what has to be a pretty overwhelming week.)

Following on the above (though I would substitute “lab manager” for “postdoc”):

The Ecological Society of America has endorsed the March for Science. The main march is in Washington, DC, but there will be satellite marches around the world.

Boaty McBoatface is headed to Antarctica! (Jeremy adds: Hey, that was my link! Give it back! [grabs link, runs away])

Ambika Kamath had a great post on how we know what we know, focusing on how things come to be widely accepted, how we form hypotheses, and how we can sometimes take things for granted because we *know* they’re right (even if they actually aren’t). This post made me think about some new data we have from my lab in a different light.

8 thoughts on “Friday links: nobody cares about your model organism, never work from home, and more

  1. Are you sure that Tibetan sand fox picture isn’t photoshopped? It’s head/face looks like someone combined a few different things into one. (To be clear: I don’t actually think it’s photoshopped. But my first thought, every time I see it, is that it looks photoshopped.)

  2. Wow, thanks Meg and Jeremy! “Made me think about some new data we have from my lab in a different light” is the absolute best outcome I could have hope for from this post/paper.

    And I cannot believe I didn’t describe it as a zombie idea and link here, but I dug up this email I sent you back in 2013, when you were soliciting feedback on the tone of your blogposts. In it, I said “I have followed [your blog] avidly *because* of the way you and your fellow posters stick your necks out for ideas you think are true and worth disputing/discussing. (In studying for quals I also found that my proposed research topic is one of those that has been around for decades but hardly tested empirically, and your “zombie idea” posts convinced me that my questions are at least worth attempting to pursue.)” So yes, there’s a direct link!

    • Thanks for the reminder about that long-ago email, I had forgotten that. And I’m chuffed to hear that any blog post of mine would make that much difference to anyone. Thanks for making my day! 🙂

      • Oh, all three of you have written posts on here that have influenced me so much, both scientifically and being-a-person-in-science-wise. You’re all amazing!

  3. That Tim Harford is an excellent and very readable summary of the research on why scientists shouldn’t just glibly assume we’ll educate our way towards understanding of climate change, evolution, etc. Social scientists know very well that our brains are not built with logical accuracy as a central goal.

  4. The Animal Behavior Society has also endorsed the March for Science. I’m not sure they have a public announcement, but they did send an e-mail to members.

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