Abida Mian's Blog

An outlier that's living, learning and being myself…

Archive for Education

The Code Book – Simon Singh

Clearing out my desk draw found a book gifted by the author, Simon Singh through work years ago. Very pleasant chap to deal with in a professional capacity. Might go re-read it again.

Simon Singh Fermats Last TheoremSimon Singh Book




As a veteran of internet dating, I’ve come across/heard of many dating sites; from the normal/long-term relationship seeking match.com, encountersdating.co.uk, eharmony.com to the ‘I’m looking for an arrangement’ of sugardaddie.com, there are even ones specialising in adult fun, adultfriendfinder.co.uk & maritalaffair.co.uk – although, the last two wouldn’t appeal to me.  So, when I read a recent article on online dating (that I previously blogged about) where a website called scientificmatch.com was mentioned, I was intrigued…

Unlike conventional dating sites, Scientific Match is a dating site based on DNA profiling. When you first join up, a DNA collection kit is sent to you, inside this kit is a packet of cotton swabs. You’re instructed to rub the swab on the inside of your cheek and send them off to their laboratory. The lab takes about two weeks to complete their analysis, after which point they upload it for you to view your report.

Apparently finding matches that share chemical attraction with each other results in:

  • They love the smell of each other’s body odour
  • They enjoy a more satisfying sex life (with women experiencing a higher rate of orgasms)
  • There’s significantly less cheating if they’re in an exclusive relationship
  • Their children are healthier

The Theory:

The patent-pending matching system is based on immune system genes. Scientific Match’s explanation is that physical chemistry is based on the immune system. When they analyse the DNA sent to their labs, they look at the immune system genes. So, chemistry is defined when two people’s immune system genes are different to each other’s.

The theory is that nature wants us to breed with people who have different immune systems, because it creates babies with a wider variety of immune system genes, more robust immune systems and therefore, healthier babies.

They then use the analogy that people aren’t attracted sexually to their mother, brother, sister or father (unless your name is Josef Fritzl). That’s because they probably have very similar immune systems. Nature doesn’t want you to mate with them, because the health of your baby and the longevity of our species would suffer.

In addition to their ‘DNA matching’ service, Scientific Match also perform background checks of members, banning anyone who has been convicted of certain offenses, age & marital status checks and even a seven-year bankruptcy history – crikey 🙂

The Cost:

The online service costs a staggering $1,995.95 (which equates to approx £1,244.75) for a one year membership. I’m intrigued how many people would sign up for this service. Why has romance and finding the perfect mate become so complex?

BBC/Open University: The Big Personality Test

The Big Personality Test

I enjoy watching programmes with Prof Robert Winston – he comes across as incredibly intelligent and lovely at the sametime – now if only I could find someone like him (but minus the tache) 🙂

Prof Winston asks ‘do our personalities shape our lives, or do our lives shape our personalities’ After watching ‘The Big Personality Test’ on the BBC, I was intrigued to do their online personality test, but the test has had ongoing technical issues until now…


After answering a few pages of questions, these are my results of my five personality traits (scored out of 5):

Openness: (3.6/5)

You scored medium on Openness.

This trait is sometimes known as ‘Openness to experience’. People with scores like yours tend to have a fairly broad range of interests. You may be more sensitive to art than those scoring low on this measure.

You are likely to find it easy to come up with original solutions to problems.

It has been suggested that Openness is related to a person’s likelihood to hold unusual beliefs. People with low-to-medium Openness may therefore be less likely to believe in things like conspiracy theories.

Conscientiousness: (5/5)

You scored high on Conscientiousness.

Conscientiousness describes how dependable, organised and hard-working a person is likely to be. This may be the reason why, of all the personality traits, Conscientiousness is the most consistent indicator of job success. People with scores like yours tend to be extremely dependable and organised. It’s likely that your life is well-planned and you approach things in a thorough manner.

At work, you probably approach tasks methodically and thoroughly, with everything in its right place.

Some studies have shown the more Conscientious an individual is, the more disciplined they are likely to be about exercise and diet.

Extroversion: (2.9/5)

You scored low on Extroversion.

Extroversion is characterised by positive emotions and the tendency to seek out pleasure-stimulating or risk-taking activities. People with scores like your are likely to enjoy their time away from lots of people. Social activities may well leave you feeling drained rather than energised, and your quiet time is probably where you recharge your batteries.

It may be a stereotype, but there is evidence that those scoring low in Extroversion are likely to be more suited to intellectual or studious pursuits.

People with high Extroversion are more likely to lead risky lifestyles and take greater risks in pursuit of rewards. Health studies have shown they are more likely to smoke and less likely to get enough sleep than people who score less highly on this trait.

Agreeableness: (5/5)

You scored high on Agreeableness.

Agreeableness measures how sympathetic and considerate a person is likely to be. People with scores like yours are likely to find it very easy to get along with other people. You probably find that you are sensitive to the feelings of others and that people find it easy to warm to you.

As a ‘people person’ you will probably be very comfortable in situations that require teamwork.

Neuroticism: (1.8/5)

You scored low on Neuroticism.

In the context of the Big Five personality traits, the term ‘Neuroticism’ relates to a person’s response to threatening or stressful situations. People with scores like yours are often seen as being calm and even-tempered. They cope well with stressful situations and may seem tranquil despite adverse circumstances.

Some scientists have suggested that Neuroticism was beneficial in evolutionary terms. Early man may have found it advantageous to live in a population where certain individuals had a high sensitivity to threats to the group’s survival.

There is evidence to suggest that Neuroticism, when combined with high scores in personality traits such as Conscientiousness, can result in a powerful work ethic and a will to succeed.

My Conclusion:

I actually think that my scorings are very accurate – I’m highly conscientious and agreeable: I always work hard (my boss recently admitted that if I didn’t show up for work and left no message, he’d call the police – an indicator of how reliable I am!) and am a bit of a perfectionist (I infact only respect people if they have a similar work-ethic), my dad brought me up that way. The disadvantage is that because you’re an employers dream, it can hold you back as you end up doing other peoples work without any of the rewards. In terms of agreeableness, I am very sensitive and often help people even if that means neglecting my own needs, but through life experience, I’ve become a little guarded as I have been taken advantage of… As for scoring low on extroversion – well that’s certainly no surprise, and whilst I do enjoy the company of my friends (incase they read this!), I’m comfortable spending periods on my own reading or studying…

Embo Reports: The science of online dating

I recently came across this interesting article in Embo (European Molecular Biology Organisation) written by Giovanni Frazzetto entitled: The science of online dating can the application of science to unravel the biological basis of love complement the traditional, romantic ideal of finding a soul mate?

Click here to read a pdf of the article

Imperial College ranked ninth in the world…

As a fellow graduate, I get updated on all the news, and it was nice  to read that Imperial is currently ranked as ninth in the world university rankings…

Imperial has been ranked ninth internationally and third in Europe in the Times Higher Education Supplement’s World University Rankings published today. The rankings have employed a different, more rigorous method this year, developed with Thompson Reuters, which uses 13 separate indicators to assess institutions’ teaching, research and knowledge transfer activities. Rector, Sir Keith O’Nions, said:  

“I’m delighted to see that the excellence and quality of Imperial’s staff and students have been acknowledged on the world stage again. The THE’s latest methodology emphasises hard measures of quality in teaching and research and the impact of these activities.”

He added: “I hope that our alumni and everyone at Imperial will take pride in the well-deserved recognition of our world-class university as one of the three UK universities in the world top ten.”

The 2010-11 World Rankings place Harvard in top position overall, with Cambridge and Oxford in joint sixth place. Among the aims of the Times Higher Education in developing the new methodology for the rankings was to achieve a more objective way to compile subject tables. Previously the subject tables relied on reputational opinion polling of academics, but in the new versions the same 13 indicators as those applied at institutional level are used. These include citation impact, papers per academic and research staff and undergraduates admitted per academic.

The sub-rankings by subject and category also see Imperial placed highly:

Engineering and technology: 9th (4th in Europe)
Physical sciences: 13th (4th in Europe)
Life sciences: 9th (3rd in Europe)
Clinical, pre-clinical and health: 5th (3rd in Europe)
Teaching: 8th (2nd in Europe)
Research: 6th (1st in Europe)
Innovation: 18th (9th in Europe)
International mix of staff and students: 19th (11th in Europe)

The top ten universities in this year’s rankings are:

1. Harvard University
2. California Institute of Technology
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
4. Stanford University
5. Princeton University
6. University of Cambridge (joint)
6. University of Oxford (joint)
8. University of California, Berkeley
9. Imperial College London
10. Yale University

Imperial’s position in the THE World Rankings follows the publication of rankings earlier this month from THE’s former associate Quacquarelli Symonds, which placed Imperial at seventh in the world and fourth in the UK, and the Sunday Times University Guide 2011 which ranked Imperial third among UK universities.

Science Museum Lates – The Science of Bioterrorism, 27th October


Science Museum Lates


Where: Science Museum, South Kensington | Time: 6:45pm – 10pm | Cost: Free

I really enjoy going to the Science Museum Late events. These are adult only nights (must be 18+), held only on the last Wednesday of every month. Although, I do enjoy going to a nice restaurant or drinking non-alcoholic cocktails at a bar, it can get somewhat tiresome, whilst the different themed nights of the museum engages your brain, and I think it’s always important to keep learning…

It’s not all dull and high-brow, last weeks one was all about the science of STI’s! You can also get your groove on in the silent disco, just grab a headset, choose your tune, and then bop away. You can also get yourself a bite to eat (you’re more than likely to be hungry, especially as most of us will be coming straight from work), or you can also grab yourself an alcoholic drink at one of their bars.

What’s the crowd like? – It’s not all anorak wearing geeks you know 🙂 I was surprised at the number of young people that go (20’s & 30’s). The events are always popular, the queues seem to go on forever.

I really would love a smaller digital camera to take on nights like these rather than lugging my SLR!