My first chemicals arrived today! It may come as a surprise to many, but it isn’t the case (not entirely, anyway) that I just hang around in Oxford waiting for interesting things to happen – occasionally I do some real research. In preparation for an experiment on the mouse visual system, I’ve ordered a bunch of chemicals, radioactive tracers, film and nuclear emulsion over the past few days; it’s all very exciting, especially because they all cost ridiculous amounts of money. They might as well be hand-crafted by hundred year old monks on some remote Himalayan mountaintop for seven years – it’d probably turn out cheaper (although I suspect they wouldn’t work, unless they had a multimillion dollar biochemicals facility. Then again, stranger things have happened).
The robot scientist developed at the University of Wales is an interesting little thing. I’ve been thinking about the logistics of programming a similar thing for investigating the properties of the visual system. Obviously it couldn’t be closed loop, but there’s an awful lot that can be automated in the experimental process, and can benefit from the increased analytical precision that computers can offer. To be honest, I’m quite surprised that these kinds of experiments (and things like fMRI) aren’t much more automated than they currently are, especially since many of the researchers involved have extensive programming experience. Looks like I’ll be learning more MatLab then…
An exchange on the Culture list about The Return of the King (not involving me):
1: “…Also, Aragorn finally sort of washes his hair…that was the plot thread I was most eager to see tied up.”
2: “I found that incredibly disconcerting when it happened. Almost scarier than the whole flaming eye unstoppable evil thing. If you know what I mean.”
1: “Agreed. Although it was still kinda flat and lank, to ease the transition as it were.”
Tsk. Girls, eh?