Introducing the vacation blogger

This is Matthew Cobb, from the University of Manchester.  He will be posting on this website for about ten days while I’m on a trip.  Matthew is a behavioral biologist working on the neurobiology and behavior of Drosophila.  He’s published two books,  The Egg and Sperm Race, about the early history of reproduction, and a new one about the French Resistance during WW2 (!), soon to appear.  I’ve known him for twenty years, first meeting him as when he was doing a postdoctoral fellowship in France.  Matthew is married, with two daughters and two cats.  The picture below shows him with one of them, Ollie.



  1. NMcC
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I’m impressed already. He’s got a biography of Inessa Armand (almost certainly Lenin’s mistress and a very interesting woman) on his bookshelf. I thought I was the only one nerdish enough to read such books.

  2. Posted April 5, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Hey, a great choice of guest blogger! I enjoyed The Egg and Sperm Race.

  3. Andrew Sinnott
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Matthew! My old mentor. Great guy, really knows his stuff. I know a celebrity!

  4. Tina
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Matthew, like any good Marxist eschews bourgeois institutions such as marriage. Bio should read, he lives with his partner…..

  5. whyevolutionistrue
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    A prize for anyone who can identify 15 of the books on the shelves…

  6. NMcC
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Oi! That isn’t fair, I’ve already identified one of the books. It might be the very one that none of the others knows as well. I know; send me a free copy of Why Evolution is True, as I haven’t got round to getting it yet, and I’ll let you off and stop whining!

    Incidentally, you’re not likely to have to give out the prize – identify 15 of the books! Bloody hell, 5 would be difficult enough, you sneaky git.

  7. whyevolutionistrue
    Posted April 8, 2009 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    OK, five then! And as to a free copy of WEIT, you’ll be lucky – I’m still waiting for MY signed copy from Jerry!


  8. NMcC
    Posted April 8, 2009 at 2:17 am | Permalink

    It’s not as easy as it sounds, as there isn’t more than 2 that are in any way readily identifiable. Here’s the best stab I can make:

    1) Inessa Armand by Elwood

    2) Manchester by Manchester City Council (zoinks!)

    3) The History of the Russian Revolution in 3 volumes by Leon Trotsky or

    Leon Trotsky Selected Works in 3 Volumes or

    The Prophet Armed, The Prophet Unarmed and The Prophet Outcast by Issac Deutcher (with, bizarrely, Trotsky’s name more prominent than Deutcher’s)

    4) The Complete Western Stories by Elmore Leonard

    5) Er…actually, strictly speaking I’ve already named more than 5, so, come on…cough up!

  9. whyevolutionistrue
    Posted April 10, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    NMcC @8
    2) right title, wrong author
    3) right author (not Deutscher), wrong titles
    So that’s only two right! The prize (whatever it is) is sitting tight!

  10. NMcC
    Posted April 10, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Ah, but hold on there, squire, you never asked for authors. You only asked to identify the books. So, again strictly speaking, I did identify more than 5.

    As in:

    Bio of Armand
    3 Works by Trotsky
    Book about Manchester
    Complete American Westerns

    Not convinced? Okay, how about this:

    Bio of Armand and Complete Westerns you’ve already conceded, so:

    Manchester by Frederick Engels (just kidding). It’s obviously a tourist guide of some sort. How about the Lonely Planet Guide or Micheline Guide?

    As to the Trotsky books. The only books by him that you could have in 3 volumes would have to be the ones I mentioned, History of Russian Revolution or Selected Works. I can’t imagine that you would get his complete works into 3 volumes or that any of his other books would lend itself to being 3 volumised. His Stalin is too short. So is his My Life. Ditto: Lessons of October and so on. It must be something like his Military Writings or Writings on China or Writings on Literature or something similar – i.e. Selected Writings. Oh! I’ve just remembered. Is it Literature and Revolution? No? Oh, bollocks! Just tell me. I’ll send you a prize.

  11. whyevolutionistrue
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    The Trotsky books are three of the “Writings of…” published by Pathfinder The volumes in the picture cover 1933-1935.
    The red “Manchester” book is “Manchester: A History” by Alan Kidd.
    Other books lurking underneath it are “Teamster Power” by Farrell Dobbs, “Europe’s Physician” by Hugh Trevor-Roper and “Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age” by Harold J. Cook. There are also three identicalish books which are part of Lenin’s Collected Works which used to be sold at £1.50 a throw. All the French Resistance books are behind the photographer (Jerry).

  12. NMcC
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    “The Trotsky books are three of the “Writings of…” published by Pathfinder The volumes in the picture cover 1933-1935.”

    You mean, to put it another way, they are ‘Selected Writings’ of Leon Trotsky – exactly as I suggested.

    So, with the Bio of Armand and the American Westerns, I did indeed identify 5 books. Come on, don’t try and wriggle, send me the prize. I’m a Marxist myself, so I hope it’s money.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Matthew Cobb has kindly called my attention to this piece from the BBC about a soon to be published paper (pdf) in the Journal of Zoology by Graham Mitchell, S.J. van Sittert, and John Skinner on the neck of the giraffe. How giraffes got their long necks is a venerable question in biology, having been discussed by, among others, Lamarck , Wallace, and Darwin. The paper by Mitchell and colleagues deals with an hypothesis proposed in 1996 by Robert E. Simmons and Lue Scheepers: that the long neck of giraffes results from sexual selection by male-male competition (see chap. 6 of WEIT for a general discussion of sexual selection).  At first it may seem obvious that long necks are for reaching leaves and shoots way up in the trees, and, indeed, this is the most popular idea.  But before dismissing sexual selection, consider the behavior called ‘necking’, displayed by two male giraffes in the following clip. […]

  2. […] Cobb, my fellow guest blogger, has called my attention to a recent paper in Current Biology (abstract only) by Christopher Bird […]

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