On hair

M’learned Australian colleague, Steve ‘The Pogmeister’ Pogonowski, writes about a press release we, eh, released today. It features a fantastic F1000 reviewer, one Robert Sapolsky, who in addition to being able to turn out phrases such as irresistible human neuroethology study and testosterone makes you act nicer without breaking a sweat, sports what can only be described as a magnificent ZZ Top-style facial accoutrement.

Steve says that the first journalist enquiries we’re getting are not about the science, but about the beard:

So I have this theory, see. Brian reckons that the private sector works harder than academics (whispers: that might be true in his case). Benoit says that to be top of the pile in academia one has to work really quite hard. Now, I could blog about anecdote not being the plural of data, and whether Brian’s right or Benoit’s right or I could even ask everyone at Nature Network what is their experience–but on the whole I think that would be a useless exercise and would inflame tempers unnecessarily. After all, this is Nature Network, ‘the friendliest place on the interwebs’; not somewhere else that begins with ‘S’ and ends in ‘cienceblogs’.

Instead, I wonder if there is an association between hirsuteness and working hard/success, in academia and the private sector. Now’s your chance: disprove this hypothesis.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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35 Responses to On hair

  1. Richard Wintle says:

    Hm. My facial hair is feeble, and I’m lazy. I’ve worked in both the academic and private sectors.
    Proof positive. I think.

  2. Richard P. Grant says:

    Now now, Richard: that’s n=1. And even though it’s a pet hypothesis, as Jenny says, a clean result even if negative would be nice.

  3. Jennifer Rohn says:

    I’m currently growing my hair long, and was thinking of getting a trim, but now I’m afraid to.

  4. Richard P. Grant says:

    But I like you clean shaven.

  5. Kristi Vogel says:

    I wonder if there is an association between hirsuteness and working hard/success, in academia and the private sector
    Are you referring to androgenic hirsuteness?
    Because that’s usually a bad thing for us XX genotypes. Polycystic ovarian disease, Cushing syndrome, adrenal cancer, etc. I’m happy being lowly, hard-working, and unsuccessful, and having a mane (but not a beard! Ack!) to rival Sapolsky’s. Who, relevant to Benoit’s points about the stressfulness of maintaining research funding, has written some pretty interesting stuff about the effects of stress in primates.
    Also, define “success”, and for that matter, “working hard”, please.

  6. Richard P. Grant says:

    Yegods, the reviewers around here are tough.

  7. Benoit Bruneau says:

    Samson and Delilah. Case closed.

  8. Eva Amsen says:

    When I was preparing for my high school exit exams (which are a nationwide, three-week event in Holland), my group of friends had got the idea in our collective heads that all our knowledge was in the tips of our hair, so we couldn’t have a haircut until after the exams.
    I graduated top of the school on this “method”, and the girl who came in (very close) second had the longest hair of our class. N=2
    (Not shown: the data points of my friends who failed their exams even without haircuts.)

  9. Kristi Vogel says:

    Sapolsky’s hypothesis about diversity of musical tastes declining with age is totally incorrect, however.

  10. Richard P. Grant says:

    Ah! A loss of function mutant, with the appropriate rescue control subsequently. Brilliant.

  11. Kristi Vogel says:

    Speaking of Samson, I’m surprised no one used the line about “out of the strong, something sweet” in describing the nasty and nice testosterone study.

  12. Henry Gee says:

    I remember an early review of The Fellowship of The Ring in which it was said that the cast subscribed to the Osama-Bin-Laden school of hairdressing. Everyone had long hair, all the mean had beards, and the hobbits didn’t have beards, but had hairy feet. I wouldn’t like to be the one cleaning out the plugholes in Middle-earth.

  13. Alejandro Correa says:

    So I suspect that if all descend from Homo neanderthalensis we would still walk with the garrote (pipe) in the hand.

  14. Tommy Little says:

    i have tried to grow a beard, but gosh darn it it itches on the 8th day………..

  15. Richard P. Grant says:

    So Henry makes me think (rare,that) that Osama bin Laden and his cronies must, according to this hypothesis, be working very hard indeed. Would you say they’re public or private sector?

  16. Eva Amsen says:

    You know what this blog post is missing? Pictures of when you did Movember.

  17. Steve Pogonowski says:

    ZZ Top? I believe I referred to him as a challenger to Hagrid but never mind. Glad to see there are separate camps on this issue but would really like to see a comprehensive paper written on it.
    I am in the ‘blond, Polish background so can’t grow serious facial hair’ group.
    Also, thanks Richard for stealing (nay, expanding on) my original post. It always helps to have my sometimes incoherent ramblings translated into audience-worthy material. But use that nickname again at your peril.

  18. Bob O'Hara says:

    I’m hirsuit, except right on top. Does that mean I’m slowing down?
    BTW, the LFHCfS is worth googling, if you really want more data.

  19. Hilary Roberts says:

    I’m surprised the powers that be haven’t declared facial hair a potential health and safety risk. He might contaminate his samples or burn it on a bunsen!

  20. Richard P. Grant says:

    Hilary, sshhhh. It’s only a matter of time.
    Bob, your acronym is stretching my poor, tired private sector brane. Eh?
    Pogo: sorry.
    Eva: NO.

  21. Eva Amsen says:

    Why not? At a certain stage it looked good! Then it went downhill, I’m afraid.
    And Bob means the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists.

  22. Richard P. Grant says:

    Thanks. I think the ‘certain stage’ was just before I shaved the beard to leave the ‘tache.
    And thanks. BA’R’U.

  23. Eva Amsen says:

    Probably around that time, or a bit earlier. Of course this can all be solved scientifically by submitting all your photos of Movember to HotOrNot.com
    Do it! Do it for science!

  24. María José Navarrete-Talloni says:

    Looking forward the pics, Richard! 😉
    I gotta question though, are Rastafari also included in his hypothesis? If so, then they are really hard workers

  25. Richard P. Grant says:

    María, the pictures are there for those who know where to look.

  26. María José Navarrete-Talloni says:

    Hahaha!… thanks for the tip!

  27. Ken Doyle says:

    I’m surprised no-one has mentioned Sir William Henry Perkin, and his reputed prowess at crystallization. I was never that productive in my days as an organic chemist, although my advisor did suggest growing a beard.

  28. Richard P. Grant says:

    Heh. When I was crystallizing proteins for a hobby profession, there were two schools of thought. One held that the entire setup and work area should be scrupulously clean; all solutions 0.2 um filtered etc. The other was that a few bits of bellybutton fluff or tuggeranong actually helped.

  29. Richard P. Grant says:

    ‘hobby profession’? Looks like textism is in tatters too.

  30. Eva Amsen says:

    In my organic chem labs (chemistry undergrad) we had to either use old test tubes for crystallization, or scratch the new ones on the inside before use. Crystals didn’t grow on the slippery glass surface alone…

  31. Alejandro Correa says:

    I am a Genius
    I’ve worked hard ALWAYS

  32. Alejandro Correa says:

    I am a Genius
    I’ve worked hard ALWAYS

  33. Cath Ennis says:

    I tend to get my hair cut shorter when I’m more stressed. e.g. last year of grad school right after I got dumped by the guy I thought I was going to marry = very close-cropped hair. Right now? Hairy hubert.

  34. Richard Wintle says:

    Since Steve mentioned ZZ Top, I think it is time to point out that one member of the band does not wear an extravagant beard – the drummer.
    His name, I kid you not even slightly, is Frank Beard.

  35. Peter Douglas says:

    My head has been clean shaven apart from my eyebrows for most of my life, and I have been remarkably unsuccessful in my career. Almost all the companies I have worked for have ceased operations shortly after I left. Make of that what you will. I am now self-employed, it’s safer that way.
    On an unrelated note, but referring to Tuggeranong, I think it’s sad that a lifestyle perpetuated for 100,000 generations should be so completely overwhelmed in four. I make no moral judgement, I just think it’s sad.

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