Postcard from Brighton

29 09 2016

Walter arrived in Brighton last week. He’s running a short experiment with Dora Duka and Zoltan Dienes that we won money for from UFAW and CSAW, investing how people are able to use their internal states (especially affective ones) as discriminative stimuli.

Just now he said “Very hectic day! Running a pilot experiment to test the levels of alcohol across time with our training dose, and getting acquainted with the lab.” I am picturing him breathalysing people like a cop; quite surreal. Meanwhile, here is one of his lovely pictures of Brighton.


Intriguing request

29 09 2016

Due to my work on barbering, I assume?



Poetic find from Emma

29 09 2016

I’d heard of the rhyming abstracts that David Fraser used to write, but never actually read one ’til new student Emma sent one around just now. This is from “Armed sibling rivalry among suckling piglets” in Behav Ecol.Sociobiol.  


Tear-jerkers help you cope with pain

24 09 2016

51arfzenqtl-_ac_ul320_sr226320_… and enhance social bonding:

see new Robin Dunbar paper here in Royal Society Open Science (and coverage in Science here).

Hmm, makes me want to watch Shadowlands again!

What’s best: no cows, zombie cows or happy cows?

23 09 2016

Nice find from Misha, and an excellent follow-on from our ‘killing’ book.

Not sure I agree with it though. It seems to be urging that it is morally good to create sentient life (if I’ve had enough tea this AM to take it in). But if that’s the case, then we should all have loads of children: something I seriously do not buy.


Should free-ranging cats be killed?

23 09 2016

screenshot-2016-09-22-20-45-54A Smithsonian ornithologist has a new book out called ‘Cat Wars‘, which argues that free-ranging cats are causing a conservation apocalypse. I first heard about it on the BBC, and almost all its news coverage is similarly from the UK (e.g. this). The Brits do love their cats… but also their garden birds too. A quandary? Maybe not: the RSPB disagrees with the book, arguing that the undisputedly many (and nasty) bird deaths do not translate into population declines, in what are essentially r-selected species.



Stupidity and failure

23 09 2016

— these were the fun topics of our journal club on Monday.

“The importance of stupidity in scientific research” is a lovely little essay that resonates with many grad students. I just wish he hadn’t called it ‘stupidity’, as being overwhelmed by what you don’t know is forgivable ignorance and not remotely stupid. But I like the message of the piece.

Our other read was a bit more “Disney-esque”: failure just makes you better (etc). Sadly this is not always true: sometimes failures are just miserable screw-ups with no positive outcomes at all. And I really hated the ‘pots’ example: if I rewarded students for writing as much as possible, the results would be ghastly. But the emphasise on dogged persistence, and the subtle mixed of perseverance and flexibility it takes to get something right? Love it (thinking of the 17 pilots it took Danielle to stain our mouse brains, as just one example of many many many from my group).

‘Cat faces’ quiz nears completion

23 09 2016

Slightly delayed by the arrival of Alice, the ‘cat faces video compilation’ is now nearly ready for launch.

And Sylv is one of the featured cats. Positive or negative??


Some like it hot

22 09 2016

Well that’s what we hope. Actually we hope that all of them do, them being the dozen or so hens Misha has now successfully trained in the discriminative stimulus task.

Currently they’re being asked how they judge ambiguous cues (optimistically or pessimistically?) when in either a hot (low-mid 30s; left) or cool (low teens Celcius; right) environment. Misha’s using ambient temperatures to validate this new judgement bias task, since various studies including his own suggest these former jungle-fowl retain a liking for tropical heat. (As for whether these girls are the same, finding that out will be Misha’s next and final test, run literally as he packs his bags ready to return home…).

Two great things about Andrea

20 09 2016

1). She is a meticulous, thoughtful, smart, hardworking scientist.img_3740

2) Her final bound thesis, which arrived today (a nice surprise) matches her hair.

Yep, she’s a keeper. So glad she’s coming back to do a PhD with me in Jan.!