Jamie on Chapter 3

3 06 2015

I read Jamie’s Chapter 3 this week, all 89 pages of it. Twenty pages in I emailed him some praise, and got this dire warning in return:

I’m afraid it will stop being beautiful the further you get into the results section. It’s just… the subject matter. Like a travelogue that starts in Old Moscow and St. Petersburg and ends up in some really grim decaying Soviet housing projects.

Luckily really not that bad, though I did have a large vodka at the ready just in case. The start was a great literature review. The chapter then charted three major experiments (each comprising several sub-studies), one per summer of three successive years. In the first, Jamie sought potential predictors of mink play, manipulating them for 100s of juveniles to see if they influenced the animals’ behaviour (some did: yay!). Then the slide into despair. He replicated the work a year later to check that these effects were real and robust (they weren’t; see Fett’s Law); and he then collected more data the following year to see if local microclimates, human disturbance or other location-related biases within each farm could explain the variation in his results (also a bust).

It was gruelling work to do (especially that third summer, which was just a desperate rescue mission), and grim to write up. However, it was actually a pretty good read. Looking forward to the sequel, which I already know has a happier ending.


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