Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Geekery

Posted by Peter Tennant

'Do scientists get days off at Christmas?'

So asked school pupil Avril Kings during a recent run of the online engagement event I'm a Scientist Get me out of here. Like most things that have nothing to do with my PhD, it got me thinking.

Most scientists, thank goodness, wouldn't dream of working on Christmas day. That's just silly. Christmas is for over-eating, trashy TV, and drunken arguments about the 'true meaning of Christmas'. Besides, as much as we scientists may consider our work to be absolutely life-changingly vital; the outside world can usually afford to wait a few weeks - or decades. Even for those with no choice (i.e. those poor Biologists who have to feed their cells), coming into work on Christmas day isn't made very easy. Most UK Universities shut down between Christmas and New Year, so don't expect a nice greeting. Or heating, for that matter. 

Do geeks get days off at Christmas
But is 'not working' the same as having a 'day off'? Or are we all, to some extent, trapped in our ways of thinking? Do public health practitioners, for example, start Christmas with a bowl of fruit, before having salad for lunch, going for a brisk 30 minute stroll, and finishing with no more than two small glasses of wine in the evening? My own scientific training is tyrannically apparent (or so I'm told) when I cook the Christmas dinner, which I like to organise with laboratory-like precision. And I'm not just talking about my need to weigh-out every ingredient to the last gram. Nope. For me, every good Christmas dinner has a Gantt diagram. In theory, this is supposed to reduce the risk of project slippage (where the meal overruns and 'ruins Christmas'). In practice I'm always outwitted by the roast potatoes.

OK, so I may be confusing being a scientist with being a geek. With so few scientists in the public eye, it's probably not very helpful for me to just trot out the same tired stereotypes (which, by the way, have been excellently satired in this valentine's guide on, 'how to woo a scientist'). Since the abysmal Science: It's a girl thing video, the ScienceGrrl movement has made great strides showing that, contrary to popular belief, science is not exclusively populated by geeky men. More recently, scientists were also central to Twitter-sensation #OverlyHonestMethods, which not only helped to reveal the people under the lab coats, but was also one of the funniest things on the internet.

Which is all very nice, but - scientist or otherwise - I am a geek. And this Christmas, I have some fantastic geekery for you. In the form of another Twitter movement called #XmasSongsAsPapers. The idea was simple (if indeed, there was an idea) - try to make a Christmas song (either the title or content) sound like the title of an academic article. The result: a fantastic collection of mini brain-teasers that makes for an excellent Christmas quiz. Merry Christmas everyone! 

TWEET-TEASERS (answers below):

1) Awareness of Major Christian Festivals Among Populations of Sub-Saharan Africa, by B. Geldof and M. Ure (by @pingulette) – incidentally, this is the tweet that kicked it all off.

2) Ostracisation of an Infant with Congenital Scarlet-Nose: A case-study in a population of flying reindeer (by @Peter_Tennant)

3) Briggs,R. 'Hypothermia and nocturnal levitation hallucination in young boys. A phenomenological study' (by @HeatherTricky)

4) MacGowan & MacColl (1987) Alcohol in domestic disputes: an ethnography of Irish economic migrants in New York City bars (by @sadieboniface)

5) Michael & Ridgeley: Previous cardiac transplant rejection associated with increased donation specifications one year on (by @BroniaArnott)

6) Trapp et al. Rhythmic Repetition and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Case Study of One Boy and his Drum (by @pwhybrow)

7) Favourably regarded, unelected feudal overlord observes cold & clear climatic conditions facilitate biofuel collection (by @DrJPritchard)

8) Gardner D. (1944) “Orthodontics as the facilitator to the individual perceptions of contentment” (by @FuturesSarah)

9) Rea, C. (2007) Use of sedentary modes for seasonal commuting: an ecological momentary assessment of subjective well being (by @BroniaArnott)

10) Impact on childhood perception of family structure following inadvertent witness of suspected maternal infidelity (by @gingerly_onward)

11) Carey, M. (1994) Comparative perceived satisfaction of singular romantic attachment during the festive period (by @dr_know)

12) Cole (1946). Dry heat instigates pericarp rupture and increasing endosperm palatability in the true nut Castanea sativa (by @Aristolochia)

13) Lords-a-leaping: Dismantling hereditary nobility and privilege to demonstrate duodecimal number systems (by @CSUFoE_Research)

14) Sedentary travel using a novel 'one-horse-open-sleigh' is associated with an increase in self-reported well-being (by @Peter_Tennant)

And finally, the picture round:

15) Fig. 1 (Gruber & Mohr, 1818) (by @mc_hankins)

1) Do They Know it's Christmas?
2) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
3) I'm Walking in the Air
4) Fairytale of New York
5) Last Christmas (I Gave You My Heart)
6) The Little Drummer Boy
7) Good King Wenceslas
8) All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth
9) Driving Home for Christmas
10) I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus
11) All I Want for Christmas is You
12) The Christmas Song (Chestnut's Roasting on an Open Fire)
13) The Twelve Days of Christmas
14) Jingle Bells
15) Silent Night

No comments:

Post a Comment