Dr Jambone’s Guide to OceanView Bliss (feat. the Jaz)

There comes a time in every sensory ecologists life when the sudden desire to measure spectral reflectance arises. In such fits of whimsy it oft becomes necessary to use a particular program to quench thine spectral thirsts; OceanView (Ocean Optics). After downloading said program, paying the not insignificant licence fee and downloading spectrophotometer drivers, finally opening OceanView only to be confronted with an array of obscure icons and menu options can set even the most steely of ecologists into a fit of the vapours. As such I have put together a brief step-by-step guide to getting started with spectral reflectance measurements using OceanView and a Jaz spectrophotometer that even a mere layperson could follow.

oceanview-01-wizard_categories

Step 1- Setup

  • Plug the Jaz’ USB Cable into the computer and get your probes set up
  • Turn on Jaz
  • Open the OceanView program
  • If Jaz does not appear under ‘Data Sources’ you may need to ‘Rescan Devices’ or try closing and opening the program again. It may also mean that your computer does not have the drivers necessary to run the spectrophotometer (http://oceanoptics.com/product-category/drivers/).

 Step 2- Enable strobe using the Jaz unit.

  • Press red (X) button
  • Arrow down to ‘PX lamp’ press the green (P) button.
  • Select ‘Setup’ (#)
  • Select ‘Timing control’ (#)
  • Arrow down to ‘Free Running’ press the green (P) button
  • Select ‘Enable’ (∆)
  • Press (X) button
  • Press (X) button again
  • Select ‘Enable Strobe’ (∆)

You will see the light coming out of the probe, if its flashing try again and make sure the ‘Free Running’ option is selected.

Step 3- Ocean View

  • In OceanView select ‘New Spectroscopy Application’ or ‘Run a Wizard’ depending on version
  • Select ‘Colour’
  • Select ‘Percent Reflectance Processing’
  • Next is where you set up your measurement parameters. These will differ depending on your study design and setup. For example my last experiment had integration time = 40msecs, boxcar = 10 and Average Scans = 5. Other options here can be left at their default settings. As a guide set your integration time so that the peak of the intensity counts (red line on the right hand side) sits somewhere around 30,000. Once you’re ready click ‘Next’.
  • Calibrate your white standard – place your white standard against your probe and click the lightbulb icon. Click ‘Next’.
  • Calibrate your dark standard – Place your dark standard against he probe. If you wish to disable the strobe for your dark standard you can do so with the tick box down the bottom left. Click the lightbulb icon. Remember to turn your strobe light on again and then click ‘Next’.
  • Choose which delightful graphical representations of your data you would like to see. If you just want spectral curves then don’t worry about any of these options. Click ‘Finish’.

Step 4 – Taking measurements

  • Set up your file directory – Click the icon that looks like a piece of paper with a wrench next to it. This step will send all of your saved spectra to a single folder and automatically assign file names.
  • On the left hand side set your target directory folder and basename of your files. I also like to use the file counter option rather than the time stamp.
  • On the right hand side select ‘Save every scan’
  • Set ‘Stop after this many scans’ to 1.
  • Click ‘Apply’ and click ‘Exit’

You’re now ready to start measuring your animal/vegetable/mineral. Place your specimen against the probe (or vice versa) and click the ‘Save graph to files’ icon. Your files should appear in your file directory and will be numbered consecutively!

 

Sincerely,

Dr Jambone

 

P.S. Here’s how to use the Jaz on its own if you like…

Using the Jaz on it’s own

Step 1- Turn it on!

 Step 2- Enable strobe using the Jaz unit

  • Press red (X) button
  • Arrow down to ‘PX lamp’ press the green (P) button
  • Select ‘Setup’ (#)
  • Select ‘Timing control’ (#)
  • Arrow down to ‘Free Running’ press the green (P) button
  • Select ‘Enable’ (∆)
  • Press (X) button
  • Press (X) button again.
  • Select ‘Enable Strobe’ (∆)
  • Press home button to return to main menu.

Step 3- Settings

  • Select ‘Tools’ (O)
  • Select ‘Manual Control’ (∆)
  • Select ‘Acq. Parameters’ (∆)
  • Select ‘Integration Time’ (∆)
  • Select ‘Manual’ (#)
  • Use arrows to set integration time (e.g. 40msec) and press green (P) button
  • Select ‘Boxcar’ (#)
  • Use arrows to set boxcar (e.g. 10) and press green (P) button arrows

Taking measurements

  • Press home button to return to main menu
  • Select ‘Reflectance’ (#) to do colour measurements
  • This will begin scope mode
  • Take a measurement of your white standard with the (triangle) button
  • Take a measurement of your dark sample with the (#) button
  • Begin measuring your sample with the (O) button. Sometimes it asks if you want to adjust to light, this will change your manual settings so best not use it.
  • Press the yellow disk button to save your spectra.

You will need a card reader to get your spectra off the memory card and onto your computer. The jaz saves things in weird file types with 5 columns that can be opened as a text file. The first column is the light spectrum, the fifth column is your reflectance data.

Strange things for science

It is a strange life, that of a scientist. Each individual must find their own niche to specialise in meaning that no two scientists’ daily work lives are the same. One day you can be standing in front of a lecture hall filled with 200 people, the next you could be setting up camp under a rainforest canopy. Perhaps you will spend a say sitting through soul destroying meetings with bureaucrats or dissecting the gonads out of a lizard. And every so often scientists will find themselves doing the most obscure task that, to anyone else looking on, seems completely absurd. Thus was born the twitter hashtag #strangethingsforscience.

It all started when I found myself buying several thousand golf tees on eBay. It had me wondering under what other conceivable circumstances, other than a life in science, would I have found myself having to do this? And I realised that it wasn’t the first time I had stopped at work for a moment of reflection to ponder ‘what the hell am I doing with myself?’. So I put the call out to other scientists on the twittersphere to see what other strange things they have found themselves doing in the name of science.

Why was I buying 4000 golf tees on eBay? I’ll keep that a mystery for now but I will let you know when the paper is published! When you’re a scientist, almost every experiment you do is unique and has never been attempted before. When given such unique problems to solve scientists must come up with some very creative solutions. There are a myriad of tasks scientists need to complete be it building custom made animal enclosures, searching for rare plant specimens, or finding out new ways of shooting lasers through objects, and there are endless ways of achieving such exciting tasks. This can be a difficult but immensely enjoyable part of conducting research. Often the absurdity of what you are doing only dawns upon you when you find yourself having to explain to innocent bystanders what it is and why you’re doing it.

Perhaps the most common run in scientists have with society is when innocent retail staff are faced with bizarre requests they were never prepared for. Finding that perfect paint/glue/toothbrush/rope/torch/whatever can be tricky and there is no end to the list of strange objects you will find yourself having to buy for an upcoming experiment. To all the chemists, hardware stores, art shops, delicatessens etc. that have helped a scientist fulfil their odd requests we are eternally grateful.

So should you ever come across someone doing something strange, say jumping for joy when they find a lump of poo on the side of a road, or maybe just standing in a field staring at a plant for several hours on end. Have no fear, they may not be crazy, they may just be a scientist, or perhaps both, either way feel free to make them a cup of tea and congratulate them on a successful day. And if you think life is getting a bit dull, and you could use some variety to spice up your life think about becoming a scientist, who knows what strange things you could be getting up to today?

Secrets of the orchid mantis revealed – By James Gilbert

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Secrets of the orchid mantis revealed – it doesn’t mimic an orchid after all

By James Gilbert, University of Sussex

In his 1879 account of wanderings in the Orient, the travel writer James Hingston describes how, in West Java, he was treated to a bizarre experience:

I am taken by my kind host around his garden, and shown, among other things, a flower, a red orchid, that catches and feeds upon live flies. It seized upon a butterfly while I was present, and enclosed it in its pretty but deadly leaves, as a spider would have enveloped it in network.

Orchid mantis: Hymenopus coronatus
frupus, CC BY-NC

What Hingston had seen was not a carnivorous orchid, as he thought. But the reality is no less weird or fascinating. He had seen – and been fooled by – an orchid mantis, Hymenopus coronatus, not a plant but an insect.

We have known about orchid mantises for more than 100 years. Famous naturalists such as Alfred Russell Wallace have speculated about their extraordinary appearance. Eschewing the drab green or brown of most mantises, the orchid mantis is resplendent in white and pink. The upper parts of its legs are greatly flattened and are heart-shaped, looking uncannily like petals. On a leaf it would be highly conspicuous – but when sitting on a flower, it is extremely hard to see. In photos, the mantis appears in or next to a flower, challenging the reader to spot it.

Hiding in plain sight?

On the face of it, this is a classic evolutionary story, and a cut-and-dried case: the mantis has evolved to mimic the flower as a form of crypsis – enabling it to hide among its petals, feeding upon insects that are attracted by the flower. Cryptic mimicry by predators is well known. For example, crab spiders camouflage themselves against a flower, and can change from yellow to white to match their host flower.

Crab spider (Misumena vatia) with wasp prey.
Olaf Leillinger/Wikimedia

The orchid mantis is something of a poster child for such cryptic mimicry. So obviously true is this evolutionary story that it is often discussed today as established fact.

No one seemed to have noticed that there has been no evidence to support this hypothesis. Orchid mantises are actually very rare in the field, so their behaviour is hardly known about, except in captivity. For example, nobody knows exactly which flower the mantis is supposed to mimic.

Now a set of new studies by James O’Hanlon and colleagues shows quite clearly that we’ve been getting it wrong all this time. While it is indeed a flower mimic – the first known animal to do this – the orchid mantis doesn’t hide in an orchid. It doesn’t hide at all. And to an insect, it doesn’t even look particularly like an orchid.

A deadly lure

O’Hanlon and colleagues set about systematically testing the ideas contained within the traditional view of the orchid mantis’ modus operandi. First, they tested whether mantises actually camouflage amongst flowers, or, alternatively, attract insects on their own. For a flower-seeking insect, as predicted, the mantis’ colour pattern is indistinguishable from most common flowers.

However, when paired alongside the most common flower in their habitat, insects approached mantises more often than flowers, showing that mantises are attractive to insects by themselves, rather than simply camouflaging among the flowers.

“We can clearly observe insects, like bees, diverging from their flight paths and flying right towards this deceptive predator,” O’Hanlon told me. “These beasties are marvellous for this kind of question, because we can observe a dynamic interaction between predators and prey.”

This phenomenon, known as aggressive mimicry, occurs in other animals. The Bolas spider releases chemicals that imitate sex pheromones released by female moths seeking a mate. Male moths, with their elaborately plumed antennae, can detect these pheromones from miles away, and are lured in to their death. Carnivorous Photuris firefly females can mimic the flash-responses of a different species of firefly, attracting amorous males who find themselves on the menu.

Next the researchers assessed where mantises chose to sit. Surprisingly mantises did not choose to hide among the flowers. They chose leaves just as often. Sitting near flowers did bring benefits, though, because insects were attracted to the general vicinity – the “magnet effect”.

Any old flower

When they compared the mantis’s shape and colour with flowers from an insect’s perspective, the predator did not resemble an orchid or indeed any particular species of flower, but rather a “generalised” flower. This fits with what we already know: some of the best mimics in nature are imperfect mimics with characteristics of several “model” species.

Placing experimental plastic models out in the field, the researchers found that mantis colour was much more important than shape in attracting insects. They believe that mantises may not actually precisely mimic a particular kind of flower. Instead they may exploit a loophole created by evolutionary efficiency savings within the insect brain.

Jumping to conclusions

As humans with giant, hyper-developed brains capable of abstract thought, we have the luxury of being able to make decisions using all the available information. After a few seconds of scrutiny, what initially looks like a flower because of its colour begins to look suspicious – and once we spy bug eyes and a vaguely insectoid outline, the game is up: it’s a mantis.

But a tiny insect zipping around on the move, with its compact brain, cannot afford such cognitive extravagance. It has a shortcut – a rule of thumb: anything matching colour X is a nectar-containing flower. More colour equals bigger flower, with potentially more nectar. No cross-checks, no two-step authentication. The mantis takes advantage of this shortcut by using “sensory exploitation”. It is a concentrated mass of the right colour – a supernormal stimulus. The insect classifies the mantis as a giant nectar-filled flower and approaches to investigate – to its doom.

“This work is terrific,” Martin Stevens of Exeter University, an expert on animal deception and mimicry, unconnected with the work, told me. “It’s wonderful to see something that Wallace and others discussed so long ago, finally tested experimentally.”

Colour me beautiful: an orchid mantis nymph devours its prey
Igor Siwanowicz

This is not the first species to lure in prey with sensory exploitation. The white crab spider reflects strongly in the UV, making it highly conspicuous to wandering insects. But the spider still “hides” on a flower. Surprisingly a flower with a crab spider is more attractive than one without: the crab spider mimics UV-reflective floral patterns that guide insects to nectar. But the orchid mantis is the first animal ever shown to mimic an entire flower, attracting insects on its own.

There is one remaining issue, though: if the mantis can attract insects by sensory exploitation alone, muses Stevens, then: “Why have body parts that look like petals? My guess is that the pollinators are initially attracted at a distance through sensory exploitation, but then more accurate mimicry kicks in at close range, when the insects can inspect the mantis more closely for what it is.”

Greg Holwell, who coauthored the study, told me: “What this work really emphasises is that working on a completely unstudied species can produce fascinating results. Getting out there and starting with some solid natural history helps to generate hypotheses that you can subsequently test with field experiments, and can lead to the discovery of completely novel phenomena.”

“While important discoveries are made from laboratory research on model species like fruit flies, every species has an exciting story to tell and can help shape our understanding of how the natural world works.”

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Ram Jam’s Quick-Start Guide to Embracing the Jaz!

Anyone who is anyone knows that portable spectrometers are the shizzle! The Ocean Optics Jaz is a must have for any colour scientist and works great as a desktop spectrometer or your friend in the field for measuring light wavelengths. The only problem is once you take this shiny little black box out of its packaging most people have no idea how to use it. Scores of colour scientists have wasted countless hours trying to figure out by trial and error how to use their magical spectro-box. A while ago I put together a quick start guide for the Jaz to get people started doing reflectance measurements. Since then it has been emailed back and forth by countless colour scientists and I thought it made sense to just make it available online if you or anyone you know needs it. Feel free to share this around, measure some surfaces and embrace the Jaz!

Using the Jaz with a computer

Step 1- Setup

  • Plug in USB Cable and Probe
  • Open Spectrasuite/OceanView/Whatever
  • Turn on Jaz
  • If Jaz does not appear under ‘Data Sources’ you may need to ‘Rescan Devices’ or try opening the program again.

 Step 2- Enable strobe using the Jaz unit.

  • Press red (X) button
  • Arrow down to ‘PX lamp’ press the green (P) button.
  • Select ‘Setup’ (#)
  • Select ‘Timing control’ (#)
  • Arrow down to ‘Free Running’ press the green (P) button
  • Select ‘Enable’ (∆)
  • Press (X) button
  • Press (X) button again
  • Select ‘Enable Strobe’ (∆)

Step 3- Settings

In your program set integration time (e.g. 40msecs) and boxcar (e.g. 10). These are the integration time and boxcar values that I have been using but these may differ depending on what you’re doing.

Taking measurements

How you set up for taking measurements (i.e. establishing your light and dark references) will depend on what program you are using. When set up press the disk button to save a file. Make sure to give it a file name and specify where it goes. Make sure to set the file type as Tab-delimited format or something that you can read as a text file.

Using the Jaz on it’s own

Step 1- Turn it on!

 Step 2- Enable strobe using the Jaz unit

  • Press red (X) button
  • Arrow down to ‘PX lamp’ press the green (P) button
  • Select ‘Setup’ (#)
  • Select ‘Timing control’ (#)
  • Arrow down to ‘Free Running’ press the green (P) button
  • Select ‘Enable’ (∆)
  • Press (X) button
  • Press (X) button again.
  • Select ‘Enable Strobe’ (∆)
  • Press home button to return to main menu. 

Step 3- Settings

  • Select ‘Tools’ (O)
  • Select ‘Manual Control’ (∆)
  • Select ‘Acq. Parameters’ (∆)
  • Select ‘Integration Time’ (∆)
  • Select ‘Manual’ (#)
  • Use arrows to set integration time (e.g. 40msec) and press green (P) button
  • Select ‘Boxcar’ (#)
  • Use arrows to set boxcar (e.g. 10) and press green (P) button arrows

Taking measurements

  • Press home button to return to main menu
  • Select ‘Reflectance’ (#) to do colour measurements
  • This will begin scope mode
  • Take a measurement of your white standard with the (triangle) button
  • Take a measurement of your dark sample with the (#) button
  • Begin measuring your sample with the (Oš) button. Sometimes it asks if you want to adjust to light, this will change your manual settings so best not use it.
  • Press the yellow disk button to save your spectra.

You will need a card reader to get your spectra off the memory card and onto your computer. The jaz saves things in weird file types with 5 columns that can be opened as a text file. The first column is the light spectrum, the fifth column is your reflectance data.

Conference posters: Less is more!

For some it’s the highlight of a conference, for others it’s a dull chore – the poster session. Unfortunately giving a poster presentation at a conference sometimes comes with the stigma of not making the cut for the oral presentation sessions. But conferences aren’t just about sharing your work; they are about making career forming connections with your peers and seniors. And for someone like me who is terrified by the mere thought of trying to make small talk with strangers over the tea and coffee table, the poster sessions are a perfect opportunity to just walk up to someone and say ‘hey, talk to me!’.

If you have a poster session coming up think about how you can make the best impression, and what’s the best way to get people talking about you and your work. A few years back I won the first place prize out of the several hundred poster presentations at the International Behavioural Ecology Congress in Lund, Sweden. Since then I’m often asked for tips on making poster presentations so I thought I would share some of the philosophy behind the creation of this poster and some of the feedback I received after presenting it.

Here is the poster and the research it refers to can be found openly available here.

ISBEposter

The golden rule: Less is more

The worst possible poster is one that consists of huge blocks of text. If I can’t understand what your poster is about with a cursory glance I’m probably not going to bother reading it. The most common feedback I had on this poster came from people simply saying ‘I love it, I don’t have to read anything’. If your posters have a series of paragraphs on it, either go through and stream line it as much as you can, or completely rethink how you approach your paper. The fundamental purpose of research is to answer a question. This poster takes that fundamental idea to an extreme by simply having two sentences, a question and an answer.

It may feel a little weird to streamline your story so much, after all it usually represents several years of hard work. But as I will explain a little bit further on, the poster session isn’t just about the poster, its about you. You have the opportunity to stand next to it and talk as much as you like. Make your poster as succinct and direct as possible, if anyone wants further details they can ask you as many questions as they like.

Another cliché that works: A picture says a thousand words.

A huge contributor to the success of this poster is the big picture in the middle of it. I could have written a paragraph of information about mimicry theory, deception, sensory ecology and what sort of animal the orchid mantis is. But the big picture in the middle does all that for me. People can simply look at the picture and immediately understand that we have a predatory insect that looks like a flower. I then ask the question of whether by looking this way it deceives pollinators. A picture of an orchid mantis devouring a bee immediately answers that question without needing to explain it in words. The single (and simple) graph helps enforce the main finding of the paper, which was that orchid mantises can attract even more pollinators than flowers.

Think of what images you can use and let your pictures do the talking. Get rid of those unsightly blocks of text and make everything as self explanatory as possible. Hopefully you will find more people reacting positively to your succinct and well-designed poster. It will take some creative thinking but that’s the fun part right?

A poster is not a paper

There is an out dated perception that posters have to resemble truncated papers with introduction, methods, results and discussion sections. I have even seen posters with the whole bottom half taken up by references, footnotes and funding acknowledgements. I was horrified to hear that there are some conferences that have strict requirements that posters must adhere to manuscript formats and even specify font types and styles. If you are attending one of these conferences you have my deepest condolences. Best hit the sauce and make the best of it.

For most of the conferences I have been to the extent of poster requirements is their dimensions, so the design is a limitless playground for you to work with. Forget about your manuscript and think about your story. What is the story you want to tell and what visual aids do you need to tell it? Go bananas, get creative, and remember your poster is just a tool to help tell your story.

It’s all about you.

Maybe I am just getting old and grumpy but I have stopped reading posters all together during conference sessions. I simply walk up to the person standing next to it and say ‘what’s the go smarty pants?’ Having someone talk me through their research and tell me what they did is so much more engaging and makes the poster sessions so much more fun than even the most well organised symposium, and definitely more fun than a plenary session.

Remember that a poster session is your opportunity to sell yourself as a professional. The poster is simply a tool for you to help engage with your audience. If someone is reading your poster, don’t stand there expectantly staring at them waiting for them to ask a question. It makes you look creepy and it makes them very uncomfortable. Don’t let them read it, interrupt and ask them if they’re would like to hear your story. Be prepared to do a hell of a lot of talking and make sure you have fun.

Once you are busy telling your story the poster is just there to give you something to point at. As said above think about what visual aids you need to tell your story – a particular graph you are likely to refer to, or a photo of your plant/animal/fungus/study site/whatever. Forget everything you’re used to seeing on posters, like references, acknowledgements and methods sections, and make your poster a story telling tool.

Think outside the poster

Your poster presentation doesn’t have to end at the poster. I decided to stick in a QR code that led people to this very website. It even managed to draw in a few people who simply wanted to know what the strange black and white box was and how it works. Others may simply put up a website link or recommended search terms. Now that QR codes are out of fashion I cant wait to see poster designers start using augmented reality apps to help their stories jump off the page.

Don’t forget you can also bring a heap of other story telling tools with you. I went a bit overboard with this particular poster session and brought an iPad loaded up with extra figures, pictures and videos so that I could present my entire PhD thesis if anyone cared to ask. I’ve seen people brandishing stuffed animals, preserved specimens, even bags of lollies to lure in passers by. If nothing else it could be a nice ice-breaker, so have as much fun with your supplementary materials as you are comfortable. Feel free to bring a stack of business cards and hand them out like its Christmas because this is your time to shine!

If you have seen some other great posters or poster techniques I would love to hear about them. If you have any other great tips share them here, or if these techniques have worked for you I would love to hear about it! Enjoy your poster session, because it is what you chose to make it. So make it kick ass!

3D printing my second favourite dinosaur

I have an ongoing fear that I will forever be professionally typecast as ‘the orchid mantis guy’. Hence I am writing this completely unrelated post to demonstrate to others, and perhaps myself, that I am not a one trick pony. In fact I have several tricks, and am much taller than most ponies.

This post has nothing to do with insects, or research or even any extant* animals at all! It is about extinct animals and my somewhat misguided attempts to bring them back to life. After having so much fun with my scientific forays into 3D printing I was inspired to keep going and make 3D printable models for fun! First up is this splendiferous rendition of a Pachycephalosaurus.

Pachycephalosaurus

Pachycephalosaurus existed sometime around the Late Cretaceous Period and are famous for being my second favourite dinosaur of all time. Fossil Pachycephalosaurus have been uncovered from several sites across Northern America, including Wyoming, which, I assume, is where it gets its full name Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis. What makes this dinosaur so interesting and endearing is its thick dome shaped skull. It is believed that Pachycephalosaurus used their mighty cranium, forged from 25cm thick bone, in head-butting battles for supremacy. Fossils are commonly found with cranial lesions – signs of infection resulting from high-force trauma.

pachycephalosaurus

I thought that a perfect way to honour the mighty egg shaped head of Pachycephalosaurus was to fashion an egg-cup in their likeness. I could hardly think of a more fitting honorary gesture than placing the hard-boiled embryo of a dinosaurian ancestor atop their mock skulls, and then eating it.

Adult Pachycephalosaurus have the largest, most pronounced cranial bump#. Juvenile Pachycephalosaurus have a reduced cranium and larger horns protruding from the back of their heads. When designing the egg-cup I liked the look of the long juvenile horns but felt the adult head was more appropriate for the large egg shaped dome. In the end I ended up with design somewhere around the middle. A teenage Pachycephalosaurus if you will. One going through that awkward phase of growing bumps where there were no bumps before as they transition into their final ‘friar tuck’ morphology.

Pachycephalosaurus

The Pachycephalosaurus egg-cup of which I speak is available on Shapeways should you be looking for a gift for that special-palenontologically-inclined-someone.

What is my number one favourite dinosaur I hear you ask? That will have to wait for another blog post…

That reminds me, a few posts ago I said there would be a ‘Tales from the field: Part 2’. I should probably follow up on that promise and this week is probably the best chance I will have to do it. I am back in Malaysia again for a week and am adding to my list of field trip tales, I’ll get to work on preparing part 2 and put it up soon!

Until next time, adios!

* Extant = opposite of extinct. So you know, they’re alive, now.

# Cranial bump = a technical term that I just made up and I hope catches on.

Brutal Biology Podcast

There is a new science podcast doing the rounds specifically aimed at biologists with a sweet tooth for metal music. The appropriately named Brutal Biology features a prominent scientist/researcher/thinker each week and focuses on getting to know the person behind the ideas and the research. So what starts off as a scientific discussion often diverges into personal stories and obscure conversations interspersed with explosions of hard-core metal.

And just in case you needed an extra reason to check it out, I am on it this week! We discuss everything from research and university culture, to video game developers as artists. Check it out below or on SoundCloud and keep up to date with Brutal Biology on Twitter and Facebook. Just make sure you have your fingers on that volume dial because those musical interludes can get the jump on you!