Twittering away; nothing inciteful

I shouldn't have signed up to Twitter, for I am nothing if not easily distracted.  Still, I have done so, and thus I shall be distracted by it.

Distracted twittering probably isn't.

It does throw up some interesting stories, though, and sometimes these spark weird chain reactions of creativity that might - just might - lead to meaningful scientific research.  At least, that's the best justification I can think of.  My twittering colleagues probably have their own arguments.

Weird chains

Today I was sitting in the office reading an interesting paper on the response of Jurassic plankton to climate change.  No, really, it was interesting.  It was about how the low diversity nannofossil assemblages present in the Kimm...  Anyway, I got to the acknowledgements and it said this:

"Prof. [Deleted] and Dr [Redacted] are thanked for their inciteful reviews."

Initially I just assumed 'inciteful' was a typo.  Then I began wondering.  I knew the professor in question had a somewhat contrary reputation; maybe the authors were making a sly comment about their treatment at his hands.  Then I went online and decided this was definitely the case: the OED recognized inciteful as a genuine word.  The acknowledgements must have been a variation on the recent hashtag #overlyhonestmethods.

Honesty is hardly ever heard.

Inciting geologists is probably not a good idea, as they often carry hammers.  Iain Duncan Smith's comments on Sunday were therefore certain to kick off an online sandstorm, and did so.

"when they can't find the food they want on the shelves, who is more important - them, the geologist, or the person who stacked the shelves?"

To be fair to him, sedimentary geology does give you a decent grasp of stacking and sorting on the shelf, and the oil and gas business is an enormous, some might say super, market.  To be less fair to him, IDS seems not to have seen two significant geological announcements made by his own government in the last week:

1. A huge new heavy oil prospect - the Mariner field - has been given the go-ahead in the North Sea.
2. The Crown Estate and National Grid have announced a lease agreement for the offshore storage of carbon dioxide.

Still, to expect joined-up thinking by our current government is probably rather optimistic.

For reference, Mr IDS, this is carbon capture and storage.

The Russians are a bit more alert to geological value.  The meteorite/s that terrified the citizens of the Urals are said to be worth a million billion dollars a gram, so people are now out hunting the remains.  Meanwhile, the news that the meteor was the size of a bus and travelled at 11 miles a second - information I also learnt from Twitter, via io9 - has attracted interest from WorstGroup, who are looking into the possibility of using it as a rail replacement transport service.

The 7.37 service from Dundee to Arbroath.

My own geological speciality is ichnology, and when done well it can be very useful.  When done badly, it can lead to the creation of myths, as I discovered through another tweeted io9 story.  I was fascinated to read that giant 'humanoid' tracks are produced by melted, compound canine prints, and might explain the legends of both yetis and werewolves.

The ichnological interpretation was abominable.

And still staying with io9 tweets about biological structures, I loved that social weaver birds build their giant nests on the infrastructures of our telecommunications network.  What could be more apposite?

Like a bird on a wire.

And last but definitely not least, I was delighted to learn from a BBC tweet that the provincial flower of Newfoundland and Labrador is not only carnivorous (we knew that already) but also a type of fluorescent lamp.  New research has shown it emits a blue glow in ultraviolet light.  This helps to attract bugs, which see particularly well in the UV spectrum.

Sarracenia purpurea, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland.

So there you go.  I may be procrastinating, but at least I'm learning something.  And even if it proves absolutely hopeless to my academic career, I have an interview for Pointless tomorrow, so there's a chance I might be able to make some television quiz money from it.

There's no such thing as Pointless knowledge.