The recreational habits of (life) scientists

[This post has been lurking about since, oops, May, so I thought I better put it out there!]

I’m sure everyone has favourite inductive hypotheses about the world that they mull over as potential research questions–if only they weren’t so utterly trivial. Besides, I usually only notice the confirmatory evidence for mine.

The co-incidence of a single case supporting both my pet hypotheses about the recreational habits of scientists came to my notice today: a life scientist who was both a musician and a rock-climber*.

Climbing blue musicians

Previous conversations with colleagues have usually revealed that most biologists (broadly construed) think there seem to be more-than-average numbers of musicians in science. The science/music overlap is one of my pet hobbies, and many popular accounts touch on this relationship as possibly having something to do with a certain kind of brain processing. Okay, whatever, personally I think the causation factor is an objectively defined measure of “cool” or “awesome”. But there’s no statistical evidence–least not that I can find–that musicians are overrepresented in the subset of humans who call themselves scientists, compared to, say, landscape gardeners or art historians. Controlling for age and socioeconomics and all that demographic stuff.

My other inductive hypothesis is that life scientists, especially those working in cultural evolution, seem to be rock-climbers more often than chance might predict. This might be a case of cultural transmission though, because rock-climbing is something that you generally have to be introduced to in a social context, seeing as how it is useful to have someone on the other end of the rope.

Data enabling proper testing of these hypotheses would require more effort than random conversations at the pub, so for the moment, the assertions go unverified.

* And who wasn’t me. Although I haven’t been climbing for so long I doubt I still qualify.

[Photo from mr_o‘s flickrstream]

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