Would it be posible to cause confusion and disruption in hyena society by 'posting' false messages using these bacterial cultures? Would this be an ethical experiment?
Whiffy bacteria found in hyenas' anal secretions function as a natural social network, boffins claim. Researchers from Michigan State University examined the pongy bacteria hyenas leave behind whenever they smear their secretions, or "paste", on a tree, plant or grass stalk. The excretions contain friendly microbes, which …
"Would it be posible to cause confusion and disruption in hyena society by 'posting' false messages using these bacterial cultures? "
Probably. I already communicate with my fellow workers through the scent of my "paste". A light, sulphurous whiff says "Ledswinger has released a dreadnought in a nearby cubicle, I'd give it five minutes if I were you". A throat catching daisy cutter with a bitterness somewhere around that stuff you paint on your nails, that says two things: "Run, save yourself" and "85% cocoa solids, mate". Then there's the compelling yet noxious mixture of heat, fruit and shit, that says "I had a proper madras last night; real good it was, but now I'm suffering from hog's eye of Sauron".
And finally, there's that horrible sicky, bile scented smell that tells everybody that the paste was extremely loose, hot and fast moving, and that they are now at risk of contracting whatever's given me the shits.
You do the design of the experiment, including the foodstuffs, and I'll come armed with my arse.
I would be interested in the reaction of other readers to the term "boffin". To me, as a scientist, it seems demeaning.
"During World War II, boffin was applied with some affection to scientists and engineers working on new military technologies. ... Over time, however, as Britain's high-technology enterprises became less dominant, the mystique of the boffin gradually faded, and by the 1980s boffins were relegated, in UK popular culture, to semi-comic supporting characters such as Q, the fussy armourer-inventor in the James Bond films, and the term itself gradually took on a slightly negative connotation."
I suspect that journalists use such terms to protect their egos when a subject is over their heads and they're fearful of getting it wrong. That may seem like a harmless way to add some humor to a column. But, it diminishes science and its practitioners in the eyes of the public at a time when we need to be taking science-based issues like global warming very seriously.
@jlb, I do not know how long you have read El Reg, but I can see that you have been very consistent in voicing your discontent with the term boffin and its use here. Rather than take the cheap shot I could given that you describe yourself as a scientist and immediately follow up by citing Wikipedia, I would like to gently steer you to this article posted way back in 2010. Please pay special attention to the bootnote.
All better now?
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