Guilty laughter. But still laughter.

As I sat here today, wrestling with an intransigent Master’s thesis (the thesis is NOT mine, though the intransigence is), as well as the sheer existential gloom of being back at The Bunker (aka the Medical School Building) after the Xmas break…

…something made me laugh out loud.

And then again. And again.

The thing in question, already plugged a bunch of times in the blogosphere, is the brilliant twitter hashtag #overlyhonestmethods

I defy any scientist not to be reduced to tears of laughter by this one, a variant of the long ongoing conference beer-call / after a few pints routine where we translate the formal language of the Methods Section of our own and other peoples’ papers into… well, into why we REALLY did it like that… [See e.g. this version from the wonderful PhDComics]

A favourite so far:

– which I definitely recognise from loading cells with fluorescent dyes.


And another one which made me smile with recognition is:

– which I also recognise from my youth sitting in small dark airless rooms with microscopes and lots of heat-emitting amplifiers, recorders and computers*.


One of the people who has plugged #overlyhonestmethods, Derek Lowe of the excellent In the Pipeline science/pharma/chemistry blog, comments:

“I’m adding a few myself, not that I would ever do anything like these, though, you understand.”


And, er, yes. What he said.

Unless, of course, there is a higher truth, or purpose, involved. For instance:

Take that, reviewer no. 3. As we say in the biz.


*Of course, given the legendary ineffectiveness of University heating, in Winter the microscope room was usually the only place to get as toasty warm as 20oC.


Postscript: ย Via Drugmonkey, I learn that the originator of #overlyhonestmethods is apparently Drugmonkey’s fellow Scientopia blogger dr leigh, a neuroscientist who also writes a blog called Neurodynamics.

Good work, Dr Leigh.


About Austin

Middle-aged grouchy white male. Hair greying but hasn't all fallen out yet. Spreading waistline ill-concealed by baggy jumper.Semi-extinguished physiology researcher turned teacher. Known for never shutting up. Father of two children (aged 6 and 2) who try to out-talk him. Some would call that Karmic Revenge.
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8 Responses to Guilty laughter. But still laughter.

  1. Oh dear. I may have a few #overlyhonestmethods to contribute myself.

    My favourite example of this is the stories we were told by a visiting Aussie student from Melbourne. Along the lines of “set up PCRs, go to the beach. Pour sequencing gel, go to the beach. Load gel, go to the beach. Put gel on dryer, go to the beach. Expose gel to the film, go to the pub, then go to the beach.” (etc.)

    • Austin says:

      Interesting. My friend who was a postdoc at UCLA in the mid-80s used to say that it was common for people to start work well before 8 am and then finish by 3.30 so they could head off to the beach. Of course, that was in the days before mass-market kit-based mol biol… I suppose it also depends how bad the traffic is en route to the beach as to whether you can ‘interleave’ beach trips with your incubations…

      Unless you have your own beach on site, of course… When I was young and we were spending summers in Woods Hole while my dad worked at the MBL, the institute had its own beach, and my mother and my brother and I used to spend most of each day there. But…. I don’t recall my dad ever joining us. Too busy in the labs with his x-ray cameras and his bits of shellfish adductor muscle. These scientists.

      • On a related note, there’s a croquet pitch at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. When I visited in 1998, though, the croquet mallets had reportedly gone missing.

  2. I remember being in the lab one day and discovering that for one lab member: “the cells were unfrozen by rapidly raising the temperature to 37 degrees” actually meant “I take the frozen vial of cells from the liquid nitrogen store and toss it in to air so that it traverses a perfect arc dropping neatly in to the water bath more than six feet away”.

    • Austin says:

      Nice one. Bioscience and the physical principles underlying artillery-style projectile flight all in one activity. You should have asked then if they could do a 360 degree twirl while the vial was in the air… now THAT would have been a test…

  3. Heather says:

    Our friend Eva Amsen has laid claim to being the originator of the top retweeted related comment (at the moment she mentioned it), via her role at the Node: it’s very meta.

    You may have seen this yesterday?

    I won’t contribute any, though I could; I sure recognize a lot of them, though.

    • Austin says:

      Thanks for the links, Heather.

      It did half-occur to me to make this post my first contribution to Occam’s Corner, but it seemed overly personal.

      Actually, the discussion thread below the Guardian blog you linked offers an example of some of the reasons why I have in the past tended to shy away from getting, er, ‘involved’ over at their ‘Comment’ sites. See also here and here

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