The Joys of Research

I’ve got two days left to finish writing a research paper concerning the coronary arteries. Unless you’re in it, I don’t know if many aspiring students know what research is really like. When you’re not collecting data or bent over a dissection for hours on end, you spend the rest of the time reading the literature and trying to find the connections between different ideas about how something works (vague, right?).

And unless you’re the type to find the fun in anything, it can be a real pain in the ass. Publications have their own stale version of english where nothing can be said that someone hasn’t already said (citations) and when two papers offer conflicting results the most that one can say about the other is something like, “we attribute the difference in findings with X to be due to criteria for inclusion and dissecting technique.” Translated: “The other guys can’t dissect for shit so missed this important finding.” It’s all very WASP-y.

But sometimes you find authors that are not afraid to drop the pretence or (and more rewarding) use the sweet tact to deliver posion. Of course, these authors are British.

  • The Elusive Coypu: the importance of collateral flow and the search for an alternative to the dog.
    • “There are several ‘villains’ in this story: (i) researchers who convinced themselves that myocytes could stay alive without blood; (ii) authors who discarded (or journal editors who refused to publish) negative studies; (iii) dogs that had too much and too variable collateral flow; (iv) legislation and animal suppluers that made the use of canine preparations) and an intriguing alternative [the coypu] impossible or prohibitively expensive; and (v) a UK government plot to exterminate the coypu (nutria).”
    • “Interstingly, the guinea pig heart was found to be totally collateralized making it impossible to induce infarction in this species — how great it would be if the human had the coronary artery anatomy genes of the guinea pig!”
  • Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials
    • Conclusions As with many interventions intended to prevent ill health, the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation by using randomised controlled trials. Advocates of evidence based medicine have criticised the adoption of interventions evaluated by using only observational data. We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.

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