Thursday, 17 January 2008

Evidence that Drosophila can, in fact, be cute

I spent six years, nine months and twelve days doing my PhD on egg development in Drosophila melanogaster, and, though I did come across a few mutants like curly that I suppose in retrospect were passably cute in the loosest meaning of the word, I never did fall in love with my organism the way "they" say you do. Then, yesterday, out of the blue, I saw this at The Other 95%:

Click the undisputably cute Drosophila
to see the Joe Sayers comic strip in its entirety.

This is one cute fruit fly. The tiny eyes! The little wings! The itty bitty straight stick figure legs (the correct number no less!) supporting the featureless body like a grape on a comb!

And it's not just cute, it's useful, too: the next time you see maggots on a banana just take a deep breath (through your mouth) and think of this little guy. It will help you to not recoil in disgust. Trust me on this one.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Coming soon: data not shown

If you're reading this you probably just clicked over from the Beagle Project Blog. Welcome to Data Not Shown, a new blog that I created because, much as I love blogging for the Beagle, I wanted a new outlet for posts that 1) have nothing to do with the Beagle and/or 2) contain personal opinion that I wouldn't want to foist onto the other Beagle Projecteers.

As is traditional in first posts, I am now going to explain the title of my blog. "Data not shown" is a commonly used parenthetical statement in scientific research papers. It means "we did the experiment but we're not showing you the data, so you'll simply have to take our word for it", and it is usually employed for one or more of the following reasons:
1. The data are reliable but so eyewateringly boring and predictable that they would just clutter an otherwise riveting manuscript.

2. The data are reliable but very, very unpretty.

3. The data are both interesting and pretty, but we just had so much of it (blush) that we had to make difficult decisions to meet the journal's word and/or page limit (this is less relevant now in the era of online supplementary material ...oh dear, am I showing my age?).

4. We didn't do the experiment, but are willing to stake our reputations on the outcome should someone actually "repeat" it.
Here's an example of "data not shown" in a paper that I wrote, used for a combination of reasons 1 and 3 above:

It is important not to confuse "data not shown" with other, related parentheticals such as "unpublished data" (we are going to milk another paper out of this baby) or "personal communication" (our collaborator/competitor let it slip at the conference mixer).

For this blog, "data not shown" should be interpreted in its broadest sense, to mean everything that goes on in science (and life) that doesn't get published (that is, except here). I hope this wider net will keep the blog from being eyewateringly boring. After all, who except the most die-hard masochist wants to read a bunch of posts that say things like "ventral Ras clones had no effect on pipe-lacZ expression"?

Oh, and I might occasionally show some data. Hopefully the universe won't implode when I do.

More soon, but for now best get back over to the Beagle Project Blog and while you're at it why not donate or buy something from one of our shops.