The old days, eh?

For the deer on the Isle of Rum it was mating season, but for Gerald Lincoln the nights were lonely. He was on the island to study their breeding cycle, and would not see his girlfriend for weeks at a time. As the chance to see her approached, Lincoln noticed something strange. His face stubble seemed to grow faster. To check that this was the case, he decided to weigh his shavings every morning, and indeed they were heavier by the day. From this he deduced something remarkable: that the level of testosterone, which determines the pace of beard growth, must be controlled by the cerebrum, the part of the brain from which complex thoughts emerge. The more he thought about his girlfriend, the higher his testosterone rose and the faster his beard grew.

He wrote a paper about it, which the prestigious scientific journal Nature agreed to publish. Highly unusually, the piece appeared anonymously, to spare his mother from the knowledge that he was having sex before marriage.

The truly old days, there was also that interim moment when it would have been her father spared such news.

14 thoughts on “The old days, eh?”

  1. The female deer are receptive, the nights are long, he’s alone on the island and missing his girlfriend.

    That summary didn’t go the way I thought it would.

  2. Odd conclusion though. I’d have thought that the driving factor was the length of time since he last had sex.

    What does this imply for our porn-saturated environment, where men can’t help but think about sex every six seconds because it’s everywhere?

  3. Andrew M said:
    “What does this imply for our porn-saturated environment, where men can’t help but think about sex every six seconds because it’s everywhere?”

    Does this explain the hipster beard fashion? Thinking about it all the time but not getting any?

  4. Dennis, Legend of the Parish

    For the deer on the Isle of Rum it was mating season, but for Gerald Lincoln the nights were lonely.

    That, my friends, is a sentence for the ages.

  5. So Much For Subtlety

    He wrote a paper about it, which the prestigious scientific journal Nature agreed to publish. Highly unusually, the piece appeared anonymously, to spare his mother from the knowledge that he was having sex before marriage.

    We have a couple of academics around here – can I ask how this anonymous thing works? Everyone has heard of publish or perish but if you submit anonymously how does anyone know you have done it?

    Does your Department just take your word for it? Does the journal say “this is anonymous, nudge nudge wink wink, if you want to know more, send an unmarked postcard”?

    This is Nature. Back then it was something and I would have boasted about it to everyone

  6. So Much For Subtlety said:
    “We have a couple of academics around here – can I ask how this anonymous thing works? Everyone has heard of publish or perish but if you submit anonymously how does anyone know you have done it?”

    ‘publish or perish’ is new in the UK; they only really started caring about 15 years ago (although it might have been earlier in science subjects).

    There’s something in one of David Lodge’s books about the difference between the UK and US; in the UK, once you got your university job you were there for life as long as you didn’t shag the students; in the US you could shag all the students you wanted but if you didn’t publish you were out on your ear.

    Also I would guess this was an extra piece; presumably he also wrote something on what the deer were up to.

    But even so, yes, Nature is pretty prestigious, so he must have been really worried about what his mother would think.

  7. he must have been really worried about what his mother would think

    Maybe the fact that his mother read Nature

  8. ‘To check that this was the case, he decided to weigh his shavings every morning, and indeed they were heavier by the day.’

    Not much to do on Isle of Rum.

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