Star Trek Trivia

Geeks Who Drink recently held a nation wide Star Trek Pub Quiz. I have made no secret of my love of Star Trek, so this seemed like an awesome opportunity. Unfortunately my regular trivia team was all unavailable, so I opted to go up to Portland alone and try and find a group that would have me, and fortunately I was welcomed onto an awesome team.

The crew

The intrepid crew of Team Screw the Ocampa

After a hard fought 8 rounds, and two tie-breakers, our team, Screw the Ocampa, was victorious! Curious to see how our team compared to the rest of the nation, I pulled the results from 27 other venues across the USA that were running the same quiz, which you can check out here. Of the 324 teams that competed, our team ended up with the 8th highest score in a 7-way tie for 14th place, putting us in the top 2.5% of the nation! The highest score came from a team out of New York, New York, which scored 85 out of a possible 88 points, and had the great name, There are 4 lights!!! While New York City may have been the venue with the highest score, the location with the highest proportion of high scores (>75%) was Tempe, Arizona, but they only had 6 teams competing. The city with the most teams was Austin Texas, but no team from that city scored better than 75%.

Fill in the rest of this caption later

The number of teams and distribution of top scores across the participating cities.

One of the hardest things about trivia, aside from the questions, is coming up with a team name. With 324 teams, there was a great selection of team names that were inspired by The Original Series (Spock On), The Next Generation (House of Picards), Deep Space Nine (My Nagus), Voyager (There’s a right way, a wrong way, and Janeway), and even Enterprise (Day TRIPPers)! There were some common themes amongst the names, with the most popular team name variant being anything to do with Red Shirts (e.g., Red Shirt Revenge, Red Shirt Insurance Policy, Redneck Redshirts etc.) which showed up 15 different times. The next most popular theme for a team name had to do with character names. No doubt the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy helped inspire some of the 11 different team names that featured Spock (e.g., Rock out with your Spock out (x2), Spock’s Beard (x2), Spock Stars etc.). Tied with Spock at 11 team name inspirations was Wesley Crusher (e.g., Shut Up Wesley (x8), The Wesley Crushers (x2), Wesley Crusher Sweater Collection etc.). Rounding out the team name mentions were Tribbles (10), Kirk (8), Picard (7), Pon-Farr (6), Gorn (6), Borg (5), Riker (5), Worf (5), Janeway (5), and Darmok (5). The majority of the team names play off general Star Trek Universe references, but there were quite a few names from other franchises, including Han Shot First (x2), This is the Place for the Stargate Quiz?, and my personal favorite Millenium Battlestar 5. 

The futuristic utopia of Star Trek promotes community, inclusiveness, and infinite diversity in infinite combinations. For me, being able to walk onto an established team and be so welcome, truly exemplifies that the ideals of Star Trek are thriving in its fandom, LLAP.

Receiving the traditional Klingon welcome greeting from Kaolin son of Kiln, who when not killing it at trivia also does Klingon karaoke.

Receiving the traditional Klingon welcome greeting from Kaolin son of Kiln, who when not killing it at trivia also does Klingon karaoke, check out Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive in the original Klingon.

Get in Line

In my opinion, the enjoyment of music festivals and other large events, can come down to your experiences with lines just as much as with the line-up; you line up to get to the festival grounds, you line up to get your entrance bracelet, then line up to go through security, then line up to get your drink tickets and reusable mug, then line up to get drinks, then line up to get food, then line up to use the porta-potties, and repeat as needed. And at each one of those lining up (or queuing) opportunities, this will invariably happen.

(from Reddit)

I am a staunch believer in sticking with the decision I have made, even when I see other lines moving much more quickly, and it turns out that regardless of which line I choose, those other lines probably are faster. This cruel fact comes from the work of queuing theory. Work in queuing theory has shown that having people line up in a number of separate lines with several different servers (like at the grocery store) is significantly slower than having one long winding line with multiple servers (like at the bank).

But as is often the case, science doesn’t always translate into practice, and in this case the obstacle is ourselves. Given the choice between a slow-moving short line, and a fast moving long one, even if the wait times are identical, we tend to choose the short line. No doubt part of this is that we like to feel that we have a certain level of control and choice over our wait time, and that we can beat the system, we can’t. Also the perception of a long line is often enough to scare us off and discourage us from even participating in the line, a behaviour queue theorists refer to as balking, which has slowed the adoption of single line systems by many businesses.

There are three factors of human behaviour/psychology that trump the science of queuing theory and help explain why we choose the short line: 1) we get bored when we wait in line (fun fact: Americans spend ~37 billion hours each year waiting in line!), 2) we hate it when we expect a short wait and then get a long one, and 3) we really hate it when someone shows up after us but gets served first. These factors can result in “queue rage” which can last for weeks after the incident, (I am still fuming about missing 3/4 of the Arkells show while waiting in line at the Sleeman Centre well over a year ago), and even result in violence. The first factor is overcome in grocery store queues by having impulse items, magazines, and other distractions available, because even though we are still waiting we perceive occupied time as being shorter than unoccupied time, basically, time flies when you are reading tabloid headlines. The second factor can be overcome with posted expected wait times. We tend to be more patient when we are given an idea of how long we will be waiting, however this can backfire if the wait times are longer than advertised (more queue rage). The third factor really should support the widespread adoption of a single line, as it is fair and ensures a first come first served approach. But for as much as we hate it when people in other lines who showed up after us get served first, we also really love it when we show up late and get served first.

Left-Handed Leftovers

August 13th is the 22nd Annual Left Handers Day, and as a proud lefty I thought I would share a collection of lefty related links.

First up, an article on the Origins of Handedness, which informs us that only 15% of humans are left handed, oddly enough two-thirds of lefties are born to right handed couples. The proportion of lefties is even lower in China, where less than 1% of students are lefties, and even lower behind home plate.

Obligatory Leftorium photo in any post about left-handedness.

Obligatory Leftorium photo in any post about left-handedness.

So why are there so few lefties? One study suggests that the reason lefties are in the minority is that humans cooperate more than we compete. But the question still stands, Why Does Handedness Even Exist? The most common answer is that handedness is determined by the structure of our brains, specifically brain lateralization, referring to the fact that the two halves of our brain are not exactly alike, each with its own functional specialization. Joe Hanson of It’s OK to Be Smart made a great video explaining why some people are left handed.

Handedness is a bit more straightforward in marsupials, if you are male, you are right-handed, and if you are a girl, you are left-handed. Most of the time in humans, left handedness is a naturally occurring, normal genetic variant, and only slightly sex dependent (with men more likely to be left-handed). However, left handedness is disadvantageous and may reflect a genetic defect or early developmental disturbance, and may be considered a form of cognitive impairment (but probably not). Indeed left handedness appears to occur more frequently in groups of neurologically disordered individuals, such as those with epilepsy, Down’s Syndrome, autism, and dyslexia.

Being left-handed has its drawbacks, and there are no shortage listicles espousing those drawbacks for example, 5 Reasons Being Left-Handed Screws You for Life, 7 Downsides to Being Left-Handed, 14 Reasons School is Basically Torture for Left-Handed People, The 18 Worst Things for left-Handed People, 21 Surprising Facts About Lefties, 23 Soul-Crushing Problems Only Left-Handed People Understand, and a Reddit thread devoted to the worst products for lefties. Some of the keys points, Lefties

  • Are more likely to die sooner
  • More likely to go insane
  • More easily scared
  • Are left (pun intended) out of studies
  • May get paid less
  • Get angrier faster
  • They drink more
  • More likely to die in an accident
  • More likely to stutter
  • Are less confident
  • Have better hearing
  • Are better at competitive sports

Despite all of the numerous drawbacks, I am happy to be a lefty, just like these powerful lefties, and if you are lucky enough to have a partner who is a lefty, you might be pretty happy too.

Of Lab Mice and Men

Stressed out mouse.

Stressed out mouse.

The past few weeks there have been several interesting studies to come out about lab mice and gender. First up, a study published in Nature Methods found that male researchers induce stress in lab rodents (mice and rats), that may dampen the pain response. The researchers found that the presence of a male researcher, or even the t-shirt he wore the day before, would cause the rodents to have elevated blood levels of the stress hormone corticosterone. They noted that this temporary increase in stress hormone levels caused the mice to have a 40% decrease in pain response, as measured by the mouse grimace scale. While the results of this study may seem trivial, they throw a curveball into many of the past rodent studies performed, and has some implications for future rodent studies. The authors suggest that a male researcher sit in the room with the rodents for 30 to 60 minutes before conducting experiments to lessen this confounding effect, as the stress response eases over time, but they note that this is an unlikely outcome. The authors also call for more transparency in the studies, listing not only the gender of rodents, but also the researchers handling the rodents.

Mickey and Minnie react differently to diseases and drugs, and they should be equally represented in pre-clinical trials.

Mickey and Minnie react differently to diseases and drugs, and they should be equally represented in pre-clinical trials.

Speaking of the gender of rodents, the National Institute of Health recently announced policy that aims to correct the gender imbalance in cell and animal studies (Scicurious has a great summary and discussion of the NIH mandate). The NIH notes that while over half of all NIH funded clinical research participants are women, animal and cell studies have not kept pace. It turns out that many researchers avoid using female animals out of fear that reproductive cycles and hormone fluctuations would confound the results of carefully controlled studies. Researchers (and many 80’s comedians) have long known about differences between women and men, including the way they react to various drugs and develop diseases. For example, women are more susceptible to multiple sclerosis than men, and some drugs, such as Ambien, need to be prescribed in lower doses for women. Despite these fundamental differences, preclinical research continues to include a majority (if not entirety) of male animals and tissues, which might explain the higher rate of adverse drug reactions seen in women today.

This gender bias in animal studies actually extends further than just the medical field. Ed Yong recently asked “Where’s All The Animal Vagina Research?” In the article, he discusses a paper that examined 364 studies in the last 25 years that dealt with genital evolution. That paper found that 49% only looked at male genitals, 8% only looked at female genitals, and 44% looked at both. Interestingly the gender of the researcher was not a factor, as male and female scientists each seemed to skew equally towards male genital research. The authors of the paper believe the bias towards male genital research stems from longstanding gender stereotypes that have seeped into evolutionary biology, mainly that males play a dominant role in sex, and females are passive, a stereotype that has been proven many times to be false.

And one last bit of rodent research that is on a bit of a lighter note, it turns out that wild mice like to run on wheels. This finding is important for several reasons, but mainly it gives me an excuse to post this video.


Round Up Ready: Jolene Edition

This post is going to be a bit different from the usual fare, but hopefully enjoyable none the less. I am not sure what it is but the Dolly Parton and the song Jolene have seemingly been popping up a lot lately. Last week I was watching the PBS American Masters special Johnny Carson: King of Late Night, and it featured a clip of that famous interview with Dolly Parton. Earlier this week at trivia one of the questions was about the name of the first cloned sheep, the name of course was Dolly, as a tribute to Dolly Parton (note: if you are looking for the connection, the clone was derived from a mammary cell). Then today on CBC Radio 2 Drive with Rich Terfry, he had a segment called Junk in the Trunk where he looked back at the history of Dolly Parton and her split from Porter Wagoner and how that led to the amazing songs Jolene and I Will Always Love You. That same story has also been brilliantly told by Drunk History, as seen in the clip below (thanks for the tip Paddy!)

The song Jolene is quite beautiful, and NPR recently did a story on the song. The song is fairly simple, it only has 200 words, and a lot of those are repeated. But as Dolly herself notes in that NPR piece it is the very simplicity, along with the song’s haunting melody, that makes the character of “Jolene” and indeed the song itself, so memorable. Perhaps a true measure of how great a song really is, is to look at how other musicians respond to it. Jolene is quite loved by many musicians, and has been covered and interpreted many times over, including but not limited to Alison Krauss, Olivia Newton-John, Miley Cyrus, Mindy Smith, The Cast of Glee,  The Sisters of Mercy, and my personal favorite The White Stripes who, as you can see below, have made the song a staple in their sets.

While all of those covers are pretty great, they just can’t live up to the original, even when that original is slowed down by 25%

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Round-Up Ready: Cicada Edition

In a neat coincidence, my Grandma and I were both 12 years old the first time the 17-year periodical cicadas, Magicicada Brood II,  emerged. For her they have since returned 5 times (she is 97!), for me, only once. Below is a quick round up of cicada related links.

Related articles

______ is Dirtier than a Toilet Seat

Over the weekend we had the first BBQ of the season at our house, it was a simple meal of kebabs and potatoes, and it was delicious. After dinner I was reading through my pulse feed and came across a story titled Your Grill Is Dirtier Than a Toilet Seat! Groan. The article noted that the average barbecue grill contains 1.7 million microbes per square centimeter, or 124% more than a toilet seat, wow! Or is it, wow?

The bank notes have more germs than the toilet seat.

Bank notes have more germs than toilet seats, but what about toilet seats covered in bank notes?!

We tend to assume that the toilet seat is one of the grossest places in the house, but the toilet isn’t the largest target for bacteria in your home. The average toilet seat has about 8 bacteria per square centimeter, in fact in terms of micro-organisms, it is one of the cleanest things in the house. Part of the reason the toilet seat tends to be the cleanest is because we fear the dirtiness of the toilet seat so much that we regularly clean it. That same fear is also why there are so many attention grabbing, fear mongering, articles that are titled “(blank) is dirtier than a toilet seat!

Below is a list of some items that are dirtier than toilet seats.

The takeaway lesson from these articles is that microbes are everywhere, most of them are good, and if you are really worried about germs, then treat every surface as if it is a toilet seat and things will be really clean!

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