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I knew it!

Obtained north of Tokyo, where central heating is not standard.

I always suspected that office temperatures were not calculated with me in mind, and I couldn’t help but notice that male office mates mentioned overheating whenever the temperature rose high enough that I set aside my lap blanket/cardigan/shawl. Apparently the formula used to calculate ideal office temperatures was really not created with me in mind, or for women in general. While the researchers mentioned differences in wardrobe (including one hilarious quote about cleavage that appears to have been removed from the article), the main effect is that women tend to have lower metabolic rates—up to 35% lower than is assumed in the equation. Changing the formula could translate into substantial energy savings, plus less time wasted discussing my super-cute lap blanket.

Obtained north of Tokyo, where central heating is not standard.

Obtained north of Tokyo, where central heating is not standard.

I’ve also noticed that my office is substantially colder now that I don’t share it with anyone. I have yet to find the thermostat setting that compensates for the loss of my metabolically-active office mates (most recently, Tom and Philip). And a space-heater just isn’t going to offer the same high-quality scientific ideas. Until we move into our newly-renovated lab space, I think I’m going to need a bigger blanket.

New science backs up Pacific Rim plot device

In one of my favorite sci-fi movies, Pacific Rim*, giant monsters emerge from an inter dimensional rift in the Pacific ocean to wreak havoc on human populations. So humans build equally giant robots to—-as the Honest trailer puts it-—punch those monsters in the face. Two (or more) pilots must synchronize their minds to operate the giant robot, which I assumed was merely a useful plot device to narrate pilots’ backstories. But recent studies suggest that actually primate brains are better able to control robots when their minds are linked and synchronized. So far they’ve only tested out the power of tandem-brainpower on robotic arms (and presumably not giant ones), but I’m impressed.

*I feel bad for people who haven’t seen this movie—-most films ignore parasites, and I really appreciated that the Pacific Rim monsters also had giant ectoparasites. It just goes to show, developing effective, sustainable pest control is a nontrivial problem (think of bed bugs). It says a lot that these monsters have developed the ability to build and traverse inter dimensional rifts, but haven’t yet figured out how to rid themselves of parasites. Profound, eh?

Academic feats of daring

When I was part of the Read group, we were required to make periodic blog posts mainly towards the goal of improving our writing abilities. I greatly enjoyed reading the blog, and occasionally, writing blog posts, so I campaigned Nicole to start a Mideo lab blog. Opinions are mixed on the costs versus benefits of science blogging. The benefits are that blog posts can be fun to read and to write, and that it can inspire us to research a topic outside our main focus that we would otherwise ignore. The cost is mainly terror: unlike writing papers, which get vetted by coauthors and reviewers before being unleashed upon the world, blog posts are not peer-reviewed, and some folks worry a lot about publicly voicing poorly-developed ideas whose logic may ultimately prove to be highly-questionable. However, there are risks to other academic pursuits as well—-my friend Eleanore has described giving talks as a form of “academic bungee jumping”, and that certainly encompasses the anxiety I feel before a talk as well as the exhilaration of a talk that has gone well. So science blogging can be viewed as a similar feat of daring: it could turn out to be a lot of fun, or at least character-building. And in contrast to more typical feats of daring, it’s unlikely to result in physical injury.

TedEd video on virulence evolution

Yannay Khaikan, a former Evolutionary Medicine (EEB325) student, and Nicole published a TedEd lesson on virulence evolution!