Where am I supposed to go? Where was I supposed to know?get lost in questions

# a rat: beautiful

Workshop at Brain and Mind Symposium, Långvik Congress Center, Kirkkonummi, Sep 17–18 2015.

# Alex — Internet's Most Popular Rat

## Poster Rat for Rat Genome Sequencing

The rat genome sequencing project at the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Centre is complete. The genome has been analyzed and published.

I'd like to introduce you one of the faces of the project: Alex, the genomics rat idol.

Arguably, Alex is the most popular rat on the internet. For the justification of this strong statement, read on.

Alex, the rat. Rattus norvegicus on an ABI 3700 genome sequencer. (zoom)
Alex, the rat. Rattus norvegicus on an ABI 3700 genome sequencer. (zoom)

## Alex's Biography

Alex was born in May 2000. It's well known that a rat's cuteness reaches maximum at about 3-4 weeks. After this critical time, a pet store rat is less likely to be purchased and may be asked to act as snake food. In Alex's case, she was perilously close to her deadline. Luckily for her, we paid a ransom of \$6.99 to the Noah's Ark pet shop in Vancouver. She was on her last cute leg.

Portrait of Alex, the genome rat (Rattus norvegicus). Here, she is seen in a forced portrait position (zoom)

From May 2000 Alex spent most of her time hoarding food pellets and riding on shoulders.

Portrait of Alex, the genome rat (Rattus norvegicus). Riding on shoulder.

Alex liked to bite. And rats only bite hard — they don't nibble. Her contention for this unattractive behaviour was the uncanny similarity between a finger and a pellet of food.

Other than unpredictable bouts of biting (by far the most exciting aspect of her personality), Alex lacked other distinguishing characteristics.

Alex died of a seizure in late 2002. She was buried outside of the Museum of Anthropology. A ratty pair of underwear served as a burial shroud.

And I hope you got that last pun.

Photos are for public use. Use, modification and distribution of these photos is unrestricted.

## Alex's Popularity

Despite my best efforts at meaningful work, this web page continues to be the most popular of all my online offerings, making for a somewhat embarrassing achievement.

Alex's images consistently show up first in Google's web search for 'rat', 'rat image' and image search for 'rat'.

Alex image is the first for Google's 'rat' search query (retrieved 16 Mar 2013). (rat Google search)
Alex image is the first for Google's 'rat image' search query (retrieved 16 Mar 2013). (rat Google search)

Finally, Alex appears as the first entry in Google images for 'rat'.

Alex image is the first for Google's 'rat image' search query (retrieved 16 Mar 2013). (rat Google search)

## Alex's Public Appearances

Alex is neither without modesty nor public fame. Her first cover-ratgirl appearance was on the April 2004 issue of Genome Research.

Alex the rat appeared on the cover of Genome Research (April 2004). (zoom)

More recently, she's appeared on the cover of Ethnologie Francaise (Jan-Mar 2009 issue).

Alex the rat appeared on the cover of Ethnologie Francaise (1/2009). (zoom)

The topic of the issue was the relationship between animals and humans. It is fitting therefore to recount here the relationship I shared with Alex during her sojourn with us.

# Bayes' Theorem

Wed 22-04-2015

In our first column on Bayesian statistics, we introduce conditional probabilities and Bayes' theorem

P(B|A) = P(A|B) × P(B) / P(A)

This relationship between conditional probabilities P(B|A) and P(A|B) is central in Bayesian statistics. We illustrate how Bayes' theorem can be used to quickly calculate useful probabilities that are more difficult to conceptualize within a frequentist framework.

Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Bayes' Theorem. (read)

Using Bayes' theorem, we can incorporate our beliefs and prior experience about a system and update it when data are collected.

Puga, J.L, Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2015) Points of Significance: Bayes' Theorem Nature Methods 12:277-278.

Oldford, R.W. & Cherry, W.H. Picturing probability: the poverty of Venn diagrams, the richness of eikosograms. (University of Waterloo, 2006)

# Happy 2015 Pi Day—can you see pi through the treemap?

Sat 14-03-2015

Celebrate pi Day (March 14th) with splitting its digit endlessly. This year I use a treemap approach to encode the digits in the style of Piet Mondrian.

Digits of pi, phi and e. (details)

The art has been featured in Ana Swanson's Wonkblog article at the Washington Post—10 Stunning Images Show The Beauty Hidden in pi.

I also have art from 2013 pi Day and 2014 pi Day.

# Split Plot Design

Tue 03-03-2015

The split plot design originated in agriculture, where applying some factors on a small scale is more difficult than others. For example, it's harder to cost-effectively irrigate a small piece of land than a large one. These differences are also present in biological experiments. For example, temperature and housing conditions are easier to vary for groups of animals than for individuals.

Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Split plot design. (read)

The split plot design is an expansion on the concept of blocking—all split plot designs include at least one randomized complete block design. The split plot design is also useful for cases where one wants to increase the sensitivity in one factor (sub-plot) more than another (whole plot).

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2015) Points of Significance: Split Plot Design Nature Methods 12:165-166.