I was chatting with a pregnant co-worker yesterday about how many old wives’ tales there are about ‘predicting’ the sex of a pregnant woman’s fetus. For example, she mentioned that there’s an old wives’ tale in Greece that says that if you have a turtle in the house, and the turtle grows faster from neck-to-tail than from side-to-side, it’s a girl. Otherwise, it’s a boy. (Or maybe it’s the other way around?)
I was thinking about this last night and realized that – though I’m generally quite skeptical and I don’t believe in old wives’ tales – I was fairly superstitious back in graduate school. I’m the proud owner of a ‘lucky’ calculator that came to almost every exam I’ve taken since 9th grade. And there were certain t-shirts I wore to lab on ‘important’ days (maybe when running a reaction for the first time or when I was performing a key biochemical/cellular assay…) I wasn’t alone in this regard: other people in the lab had ‘lucky’ pens or certain rituals they performed before doing an important experiment…
How about you? Any superstitions or rituals that you do (or did) in the lab that don’t make any scientific sense? Do you ever have trouble reconciling your scientific/logical side with the superstitious side?
Joshua Finkelstein (Senior Editor, Nature)