On unfortunate juxtapositions


There’s an Italian cafe/deli round the corner. It’s a quiet place, which seems to suit the proprietors well in a Black Books-sort of way (although without the personality defects): they open when they feel like it and there are rarely more than three people in at any one time. They do a fine line in double espressos and ciabattas, and sell cheese.

As we perused the cheese counter last weekend we came across something neither of us had heard of before–taleggio cheese. Sounded interesting, and through the wonders of the internets, iPhones and (despite local mad environmentalists objecting to phone masts) a wavering GPRS signal we found out that it is a ‘semi-soft, washed-rind cheese from the Valteggio region in northern Italy.’ Sounded good, and Bernard the East End/Italian proprietor said it would go well in a salad, so that’s what we’re having with dinner tonight.

The unfortunate side of this story is the actual website I found describing the taleggio. The URL is www.artisanalcheese.com, and if that doesn’t make you laugh, maybe the following rambling anecdote might give you a clue.

{FX: wavy lines}

Back when online publication of journals (how did we get from cheese to journals? Well, never mind) was still relatively new and exciting, my boss at the time was editoring a certain journal. And because online publication was still relatively new and exciting, he and the rest of them were quite interested in hit counts for the papers (article-level metrics; way before PLoS got in on the act). And they noticed, as the story was related to me, one paper getting masses of hits. As in orders of magnitude more than the rest. ‘Strange,’ they thought, ‘what’s so exciting about Molecular dissection, tissue localization and Ca2+ binding of the ryanodine receptor of Caenorhabditis elegans ?’

Then someone read the abstract, and all became clear. This quiet, unassuming paper, which was getting absolutely hammered by search engines, happens to bear, in the abstract (which is freely searchable, even if the rest of the paper isn’t) the line (and bear in mind that ‘and’ is usually treated as an operator, not a search term)

CeRyR was found in the body wall, pharyngeal, vulval, anal and sex muscles of adult worms and also found to be present in embryonic muscle, but not in non-muscle cells.

There’s a moral here, but I can’t think what it is.

Hamada, T., Sakube, Y., Ahnn, J., Kim, D., & Kagawa, H. (2002). Molecular Dissection, Tissue Localization and Ca2+ Binding of the Ryanodine Receptor of Caenorhabditis elegans Journal of Molecular Biology, 324 (1), 123-135 DOI: 10.1016/S0022-2836(02)01032-X

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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17 Responses to On unfortunate juxtapositions

  1. Stephen Curry says:

    Presumably this blog post will now get a similarly galactic number of hits. 😉
    You didn’t say whether the cheese was any good…

  2. Richard P. Grant says:

    Well Stephen if that was the plan I’d have titled it “On Anal Sex” or something obvious.
    At the time of writing I hadn’t actually had any of the cheese. Now I have (see http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=4534520&id=691150854 for what it went with) and it was very nommable.

  3. vishal kalel says:

    when I read this post last night (at 3AM in lab alone in entire untiversity, after complete exhaution of laborius experiment), I laughed my brains out loudly.
    Very keen sense of humour(and science)Richard!
    I share same view @Stephen, soon this will be Most commented post considering the wider interest of all people!
    Jennifer.. you might lose the top spot!
    (iEnvy your writing style, light hearted yet apt. Considering my own pathetic one liners
    which I keep bombarding on poor my labmates..)

  4. Richard P. Grant says:

    Thanks Vishal, I’m glad somebody found it funny 🙂 It usually raises a titter when I tell that story (about the paper, not the cheese) at talks–and yes, it’s illustrating a serious point.
    iLike the thought of iEnvy. Is there an app for that?

  5. Eva Amsen says:

    People working on the practice of separating baby chickens by gender probably get lots of Google hits as well.

  6. Jennifer Rohn says:

    When I was an editor at a particular journal we once got a submission that ran afoul of the submission system’s spam filter – it turned out that one of the figures associated with the main technique – which was circumcision – was the culprit.

  7. Richard P. Grant says:

    Eva, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Is this a Dutch joke?
    Wow, Jenny–did the spam filter pick up the image itself or the figure legend?

  8. Ken Doyle says:

    Not really a juxtaposition, but this company is worth mentioning.

  9. Richard P. Grant says:
  10. Austin Elliott says:

    That journal’s abbreviated title expresses accurately what most non-biochemists think about biochemists.
    I have also heard people express considerable surprise, on an analogy basis, that there isn’t an Analytical Pharmacology.

  11. Richard Wintle says:

    I’m certain I’ve heard this story (about the C. elegans paper) before…
    I was going to mention Analtech too, but Ken beat me to it. Ah well.

  12. vishal kalel says:

    What an overwhelming reponse!
    I used to think I am the only one who can think and write stuff like this Indecent Vocabulary of Science
    Now I realise how unique I am.. (Just like anyone else)
    (iQuote from My Quotepedia– ‘A PhD is a cruel way of science to make more PhD’s’ )

  13. Cath Ennis says:

    This reminds me of those top ten unintentionally funny URLs lists.

  14. Richard P. Grant says:

    Hah! Splendid, Cath!

  15. Par Leijonhufvud says:

    According to a newspaper article a few years ago an ornithologist web-site got a lot of hits when they talked about all the Parus major that could be seen in the region.

  16. Richard P. Grant says:

    I can believe that. There’s Phalacrocorax aristoteliss around here.

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