Science: it’s not just a profession, but a way of life.
And sometimes it’s hard to switch off the all-pervasive geeky filter through which we view the entire world.
Of course, the UK press’s habit of weirdly juxtaposing nouns as adjectives in headlines certainly doesn’t help. Although it was always too good to be true, I was strangely disappointed when I grasped the real essence of the story to hand.
Is it Friday yet?
(Starts new Word file: Natural Killer Terrorist Cells Screenplay Version1.doc)
Natural killers cells would be like the obvious baddie red herring at the beginning of the film, but it turns out it was the eosinophils all along.
I saw this and immediately thought of Greg Bear’s short story Blood Music. He did it later at novel length, but the short story is better.
I have a pet hypothesis that we geeky types find such headlines funny is because we are all borderline aspergic, and tend to take things literally. One of my favourite science headlines comes from BBC online and runs EXPLODING STAR HUNTERS MAKE HISTORY though another headline, SCIENTISTS MAKE GORILLAS PREGNANT is a gem.
I have another pet hypothesis which will, of course, drive your comments thread into overdrive, and that’s the question to which you regularly return – why aren’t there nearly as many female scientists as male scientists? I reckon it’s the aspergic thing. Perhaps it helps in one’s career as a scientist to be paddling in the shallow end of the autism spectrum. Austism-spectrum personalities tend to be recognized more in boys than in girls (I know this as my daughter Crox Minor is aspergic) which means that girls are substantially under-diagnosed. However, it is probably true that autism spectrum personalities are much more common in males than females.
It’s an interesting theory, and one that might play a role, but there are a lot of datapoints suggesting that other factors play a role too. The autism theory wouldn’t account for the fact that, in my field, the gender balance is perfectly balanced for at least ten years (PhD training through to multiple postdocs). As I watch all my female colleagues drop out one by one at that all-dangerous postdoc-to-PI boundary, and chat to them about their reasoning, and read studies and surveys polling other women, it’s clear that the bearing the brunt of domestic obligations does indeed play a major role in the decision to drop out. There are lots of other studies suggesting that subconscious bias against women in science doesn’t do their careers any favors either.
Meanwhile, I think I see science in headlines because I think about it all day – just as a poker player might see cards, or a stockbroker, a plunging graph. If you only caught sight of the first three words of that headline and were a cell biologist, it’s not really that surprising.
Ooooh! Ooooh! I can see the two of us talking LabLit on the sofa!
Henry, I’d read the novel version of Blood Music, but didn’t realise there was a short story version too. I loved the novel, so I’ll have to look for the short story!
Damn, I had totally forgot to tell you about that link! Glad you found it, Henry.
Was the novel ‘Blood Music’ where the evil scientist works out how to engineer bacteria to produce cocaine?
My bad – you did tell me about it, only I had forgot. Blood Music is about a scientist who engineers his own blood cells to become intelligent – ‘noocytes’.
Damn – I once read a lablit novel about the latter cocaine plot, lost it and have forever been trying to find out what it was.
p.s. we look pretty damn good on telly, eh?
I don’t know if it is because I lack caffeine or I paddle in a slightly deeper autism pool, but it took me six readings at least to understand that the cells referred to were prison cells. Or I’m just thick.
Seriously, it’s not just you. It’s taken me years to get a grip on tabloid headline grammatical rules here in the UK.
"Headline Grammatical Rules"
there. Right there.
"I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism. And I have a communications degree."
–Sarah Palin, Fox News interview with Sean Hannity, Nov. 22, 2010
Do not know if I read wrong, but it seems that an scientific discovered a bacteria that include caffeine in their DNA and have the ability to stay awake all night and producing overnight caffeine.
Snort. Lord save us from Sarah Palin. Mind you, her syntax there is vaguely Italian.
HAH! Alejandro, that is totes awesome.
I was a little scared. 🙂