Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My Scientific Colleagues Wince

The scientific community has reacted with universal scorn and/or indifference to Latigo Flint's recent study that suggests if penguins could fly it would be easier for them to avoid being eaten by leopard seals.

Latigo Flint presented his findings at the special conference of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission's Joint Technical Consortium for Marine Methodology. (Latigo Flint gained stage access through shrewd exploitation of the long-standing scientific conference loophole that permits unscheduled speakers, provided their PowerPoint presentation is properly formatted, they're wearing a blue blazer, and they know what the acronym on the podium stands for.)

My presentation was succinct and elegant. (Hey, just like me!) It consisted of two short video clips, a one-paragraph summary and a brief question and answer session. The first video clip showed a terrified penguin attempting to out swim a hungry leopard seal. The penguin made a series of quick breaches, propelling itself out of the water a few feet... then the leopard seal ate it.

The second clip began with the same footage but froze with penguin in mid-jump and switched to a lifelike animation in which the penguin flew away. A hand drawn frowny face appeared on the face of leopard seal as it watched the penguin disappear into an icy blue horizon line.

The Q&A session started off poorly and got worse in a hurry. I thought these were supposed to be the brightest minds in marine biology--why weren't they getting this? Had my presentation been too complex? I singled out a particularly patronizing scientist in a teal dress shirt sitting about three rows back.

"You! The smug one. Yes or no goddamnit, it's a yes or no question." I angrily stabbed at the buttons on my remote control. "Here we see the desperate penguin's final leap. Move ahead a few frames... Here he is at the apex of his jump. Moving ahead... He lands back in the water and BANG, the leopard seal breaks his downy little back with one savage chomp and then proceeds to eat him."

The smug scientist in the teal dress shirt shared an eye-roll with his neighbor. I grinned wolfishly, 'cause if he's so smart, with it all figured out, how come I see fear behind his eyes?

"NOW by thunder!!!" I hurled my laser pointer at the back wall. (In truth, kinda hoping for a minor explosion or at least a blinding flash of light... nothing though.) "Hey, pay the fuck attention you smuglords! Can you look me in the eye and tell me that penguin wouldn't have had a better chance of escaping if he'd been able to fly away at the top of his jump?!!!"

I fixed Teal Shirt with my most intense squint and waited for an answer. All smugness drained from his face. He swallowed hard and absently scratched at his armpit. "I... I... Actually... I can't."

I gazed at him with true warmth and sincerity. "Thank you Sir. There's no shame in that. We're all colleagues here, we learn from each other. That's what colleagues do."

Then my keen, squinty eyes detected squads of armed security personal amassing at the auditorium doors.

"Hey now," I passed a cautionary finger over the crowd. "Colleagues don't ever have each other forcibly removed from scientific conferences. It simply isn't done. Colleagues don't forcibly remove another colleague unless that colleague becomes violent."

"Well then." Teal Smug Shirt oozed. "I guess we're about to prove that you aren't a colleague of ours, aren't we?"

At that, my eyes began to sparkle with a dangerous light. Several of the more intelligent scientists eased themselves flat against the side walls. I leapt smoothly from the stage and strode up the isle.

"Oh god, what have I done? That's a logic trap isn't it?" Teal Smug Shirt suddenly found himself standing alone, staring up at six foot, four inches of lean doom.

"You're speaking to God?! How very unscientific of you. But hey -- God and Darwin could form a crime solving pop duo with street sensibilities and they still wouldn't be able to prevent this." And with that, I unleashed upon him a mighty backhand and then peacefully allowed my colleagues to have me forcibly removed.

It was a proud day for me. I wanted to share it with you.


At 10:40 PM, Blogger Kid Relish said...

Um... and exactly how many inches do your boot heels add?

At 11:38 PM, Blogger Wulfenjarl said...

I have long thought that the scientific community needed a good solid 6'4" backhand. I thank you sir, for doing this good service.

(Conservation of energy, my saddle sores!)

At 6:30 AM, Blogger Lance Manion said...

If there were more discourse of this nature, we'd have clean, limitless energy and all you can eat taco bars on every corner.

Bravo to you Mr. Flint. Or perhaps I should say, Doctor Flint.

At 6:32 AM, Blogger Joe said...

We're proud of you, Latigo. Not only for your invaluable contributions to the scientific community, but also for slapping that smug guy that ruins all of our presentations.

Uh...I have to run. Security is massing at the door here, too.

At 7:04 AM, Blogger slarrow said...

Admittedly, I'm having trouble figuring out why you didn't slap thigh and shuck iron and shoot the toupee off Teal Smug Shirt's pointy little head. (I suppose you might have hit somebody behind him, I guess.)

Then again, I'm having trouble imagining you in a blue blazer. I also don't know how you pulled off squinty in a blue blazer. Squinty in a blue blazer makes it look like one has been staring at too many statistical regressions to be properly intimidating. (Unless, of course, you were wearing a cowboy hat. Please tell me you were wearing a cowboy hat.)

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Blog ho said...

plus they wouldn't have to walk for up to 7 days to get to their mating grounds.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Trevor Record said...

A chilling tale of a man undone by his own scientific hubris. Well, that and pissing off a squinty-eyed gunslinger.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger MJ said...

You shoulda tested the theory that a laser pointer straight in the eye will burn the retina! Teal Shirt sounds like he could've used a could sizzle to the retina. Just a quick one, though -- no need to permanently damage the vision of a colleague!

At 11:44 AM, Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

He fell for the old "when did you quit beating your wife?" ploy. God, you're clever, Mr. Flint.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger ThePaula said...

For future reference, from someone on the fringes of the scientific community, I think you might have lost them at the hand drawn frowny face.

I blame Teal Shirt's attitude on the fact he is in biological sciences. If he were a physicist or a mathematician you know he would have been much more awesome about the whole thing. Physicists and mathematicians are notoriously awesome. Chemists are sometimes okay, but they're like the little brother physicists and mathematicians that they sometimes let hang out with them. Engineers are also sometimes okay, but in this instance, if Teal Shirt had been an engineer, he probably would have jabbered about how the physical impossibility of a penguin actually flying rendered your hypothetical argument meaningless, so we're writing engineers out on this occasion.

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Bravo, Latigo Flint.

Say, could you pay a visit to those "global warming" pussy-boy scientists at NOAA? They desperately need that backhand!

The Kid's doggin' your shit again. Glad to see him back.

At 12:47 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

Shut up Kid.

You are most welcome Wulf. (And you're absolutely right: Energy should not have to be conserved. Now a permanently exhaustible energy source would need to be conserved, of course, of course, but Energy itself? No. I don't think so. Period. What's that word? Re-new-ab-something?)

Very astute of you Lance. I DID in fact recently receive my PhD in Western Behavioral History via an online correspondence course. Only cost $700 bucks.

Yeah Joe, thanks. Teal Smug Shirt absolutely deserved every single busted capillary.

Rest easy Slarrow; I happened to be wearing my finest battered sombrero that day.

I know Ho, seriously -- goledang crazy penguins and their life and death marches. Fuckin' bor--ING! (Know what I'm saying?)

That it was Trevor, that it was. If he had it to do over again, I bet he would have made different choices... starting with shirt color selection that morning in his hotel room.

That you took the time to bold "colleague" MJ, fills my spleen with joy.

Logic traps rule Old Hoss... I don't have to tell you.

Impossible Paula! Who does not respond favorably when frowny faces appear on photos in PowerPoint presentations?! Absolutely no one, that's who! (Engineers piss me off. They can't be trusted.)

Thank you LBB. But I'm afraid you're incorrect on the global warming issue - many fine documentary films have made it abundantly clear that we are but days away from crises of near-biblical proportions. Daisy patches are appearing at the North Pole, don't you know? And savage wolves stalk The Bubble Boy.

At 7:21 AM, Blogger Ari said...

I just figured out that you could have had a kickass theme song for your presentation by changing the lyrics of Bon Jovi's "Wanted: Dead or Alive" song to "Less Dead: If They Could Fly."

The ending would be particularly poignant:

"Oh yeah they're penguins!
The leopard seals make them die!
But there'd be less dead!
Less deaaaaaaaaaaad!
If they could fly!

If they could fly!
If they could fly!
If they could flyyyyyyy!
If they could flyyyyyy-hiiii-hiaueeaaiii!"

Yeah. Like that.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Ghost Dog said...

I always wanted to bitch-slap a smug scientist for the damn hell of it.

At 2:43 PM, Blogger ThePaula said...

Hey, my dad, brother, and several of my close friends are engineers/studying engineering! They can be alright.

At 12:37 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

(Hey Johnny-boy, I'm gonna need about an hour or so of studio time. Yeah, assemble the musicians. The song? Oh, just a little number I recently wrote called "Less Dead: If They Could Fly"

Yeah I know, it's going straight to the top.)

At 8:34 PM, Blogger Ari said...

All I want is to see you happy, Latty.

Maybe save a few pengys while yer at it.


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