Sunday, 20 January 2013

Fellowships, Grants and Humour

It's the season of heat waves and record high temperatures, we just has the highest temperature in recorded history in Sydney. For Australian scientists, it is also the season of writing grants and fellowships in order to find money to support research and research staff. I'm currently working on an ARC Laureate Fellowship application due Jan 31, and then after that we have ARC Discovery Grants due Mar 6, and NHMRC Project Grants due Mar 19. Somewhere in that blur of grant writing, teaching starts as well.

This leaves me badly in need of a good laugh, so I thought I'd start a series of posts on scientific humour. And I decided to start with this paper published in the British Medical Journal:
In this paper a group of epidemiologists at the Burnet Institute carried out a careful statistical study of the disappearance of teaspoons from lunchrooms at their research institute.
Their main findings were:
Subjects 70 discreetly numbered teaspoons placed in tearooms around the institute and observed weekly over five months.
Results 56 (80%) of the 70 teaspoons disappeared during the study. The half life of the teaspoons was 81 days. The half life of teaspoons in communal tearooms (42 days) was significantly shorter than for those in rooms associated with particular research groups (77 days). The rate of loss was not influenced by the teaspoons' value. The incidence of teaspoon loss over the period of observation was 360.62 per 100 teaspoon years. At this rate, an estimated 250 teaspoons would need to be purchased annually to maintain a practical institute-wide population of 70 teaspoons.
I have this image in my mind of someone building up a massive horde of teaspoons they wallow in like Scrooge McDuck.

Nothing to do with teaspoons, but the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has been forced to add new colours (purple) to their weather maps for ridiculously high temperatures (image from the ABC)

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