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Sunday, April 30, 2006
Measuring Ants' Heads Drives Researchers Nuts
"One of my master's students quit graduate school after the 4,000th head-width measurement. Her own head slightly unstable on her neck, she bumped into the doorjamb on her way out," writes Walter Tschinkel in an oh-by-the-way essay in his book The Fire Ants. Another student pioneered a better way: "Pulverize the ants into powder, pick out heads," as the New York Times' James Gorman puts it, and nudge each noggin into his "wedge micrometer." Gorman's point? "It's time for readers of scientific journals to rise up and demand interludes, anecdotes, even jokes in scientific papers. " More of the essay on the essay.