The Scientific Activist (Archives)


Feb 13, 2006

Having Fun on Valentine's Day, Scientifically

Things have been pretty serious at The Scientific Activist lately, so in the spirit of getting everyone in the Valentine’s Day mood (gag!), I hope this post will lighten things up.

We all know how normal people celebrate Valentine’s Day: either going out on a hot date or, more likely, sulking alone at home and possibly crying themselves to sleep. Many of you, though, may wonder how scientists—those mysterious folks who drape themselves in white lab coats and lurk in the shadows, hidden away from the rest of society—celebrate this dubious holiday.
You've wounded me, dear;
And how can it be?
You've reached in and disabled
My p53.

Something is growing,
You've heard the rumour
Love grows in my heart
And it isn't a tumor.

--Josh Siepel

Well, there's your answer. While others may send each other romantic valentines, scientists send each other valinetines, named after the illustrious molecule valine, one of the twenty amino acids that act as the building blocks for all of the diverse proteins in your body.

A diagram of the amino acid valine, taken from here

Here's another example:
If I could draw a structure of our love,
I'd draw it in Lewis dot.
Fuck the Fischer projections, baby,
Cause your lone pair gets me so hot.

--Jen Dulin

What exactly is a valinetine? Jen Dulin, a graduate student at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the world’s foremost expert on valinetines, explains:
The time has come for us all to express our darkest sexual feelings to our friends and loved ones by composing poetic valinetines. Let's all continue the long-standing tradition of blending science terms and crude, vulgar sex into romantic poems.

Although she is widely credited for founding the valinetine movement, Dulin explains that the valinetine is a longstanding sacred tradition:

It is the combination of two basic human desires, sex and science, in its purest form, like Hofmann acid. I should emphasize that even though we have only been doing valinetines for five years, it is a tradition older than time, and its origin can never be revealed. It is too powerful for the human mind to comprehend. The message of the valinetine is that science, at its core, is intensely sexual, and that as scientists we should embrace that and use it to our advantage. The best way to enjoy the valinetine is by sharing a bottle of 15-year-old port with a loved one, or a co-worker. As long as there is paralyzing sexual tension in the air, the valinetine has done its job.

Science and sex? Who could ask for more?

What follows are authentic valinetines from four scientists-in-training, all of whom graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in biochemistry and/or genetics and are now attending graduate school in various corners of the globe. Also, in order to prove that I don’t hate The Battalion, A&M’s student newspaper, I have linked each name to a time that person appeared in the paper.

We’ll start things off with the founder herself, Jen Dulin:

Lover, whenever you look at me
I feel like my heart is electrophoresed
The voltage of your lust moves my DNA
In a style even tris buffer cannot delay.

--Jen Dulin

Here is a contribution from yours truly:

Although I can’t assign your love,
Like a 3D protein spectrum,
I know magnetic attraction
Means to you I will always come.

--Nick Anthis

Next, we have Jason Ford, who is currently studying at the University of Keele:

I love your jokes and your funny tricks
With your flowing dress the color of chromium six.
You make me smile, you make me laugh.
Let's sneak away to the 37 degree water bath!

--Jason Ford

Finally, we wrap things up with a great one from Josh Siepel, a graduate student at the University of Sussex:

Pardon me dear
If I may be so bold,
But I want to find out
What makes your proteins fold.

It's not that I wish
To disrupt bonds hydrophobic;
I just want to engage
In a bit of aerobics.

Your active site
Is so terribly appealing
And I might say your reagents
Are especially revealing

Of the intentions you have
For a chemical reaction
So let me bust out my zinc loop
And let's get with the action.

--Josh Siepel

Do you have your own original valinetine that you’d like to share with everyone else? Feel free to post it in the comments to play a role in keeping Jen Dulin’s dream alive. Let’s have some fun!

Disclaimer: I take absolutely no responsibility for what you’ve just read. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to take credit, but instead I have to concede that I’m just not creative, original, or funny enough to come up with this kind of stuff. Instead full credit goes to Jen Dulin, who invented the valinetine and is a hell of a scientist as well.


  • Oh dear, I thought I was the only person who used words like "monera" in poetry...

    By Blogger ranger, at Mon Feb 13, 11:15:00 PM  

  • Yes, because this is what I should be doing instead of homework. But what the hell, here's a contribution from the mechanics of solids world:
    Your boundary conditions of love, dear,
    Do me firmly encaste at my base,
    But you violate rules and apply here
    Both surface and point loads to one face.

    So I stretch and I twist at your pleasure
    With Modes I, II and III on my crack
    And if even I should britt'ly fracture
    From your love I shall never turn back.

    By Anonymous shelbinator, at Tue Feb 14, 12:14:00 AM  

  • damn damn damn it I have completely discredited myself by misspelling Hofmann. I recoil from my pitiful life in a combination of shame and horror.

    O! Albert Hofmann, belov'd Swiss saint,
    I've sullied your name; a great fie on my soul!
    For misrepresenting you as something you ain't,
    I'll forever be haunted by the spell check patrol.

    By Anonymous dr. dulin, at Tue Feb 14, 12:34:00 AM  

  • Well, I'm ashamed that I didn't catch that. Check it out, though: The New York Times misspelled the name in the link to the article:

    I fixed the error in your quote, so you won't have to live in shame forever now. ;-)

    By Blogger Nick Anthis, at Tue Feb 14, 12:46:00 AM  

  • A sad entomological love song will soon be posted at Stridulations. I promise. Watch this space.

    By Blogger Julie, at Tue Feb 14, 02:04:00 AM  

  • I'm so glad you've made Valinetines a public domain, Nick... it's a very good way to get our tradition out in the open... I've got some of the other graduate students here writing some, but they're still novices. Cheers, mate!

    By Anonymous Jason Ford, The King of the Lysines, at Tue Feb 14, 12:33:00 PM  

  • Too funny, so I must give it a shot...

    Of all the stones to receive this day
    That make you smile and heart ignite,
    It's not a diamond I'm sorry to say
    But you'll soon see; it's cummingtonite.

    By Anonymous shua, at Tue Feb 14, 10:15:00 PM  

  • I was feeling pretty left out of the whole Valinetine thing since I know nothing of biochemistry or genetics. However, I still felt a calling to contribute so I thought as a computer engineer it might be more appropriate if I created a Valinktine, in honor of the essential role the linker plays in development.

    public void Valinktine {

    I feel I must write this love letter;
    My life cause of you, let's discuss;
    My runtime environment's better;
    Like a C upgrade to C++;

    else if (anthing happened to you);
    My main() method would never compile;
    This love for you is so TRUE;
    I'd break a for loop and switch{} while;

    Like the creation of OOP;
    The greatness of our love's meant to be;


    By Blogger Zach, at Wed Feb 15, 12:21:00 AM  

  • Roses are dicot,
    Tulips, monocots art,
    With cots I am preoccupied
    for you have caught my heart.

    By Blogger The Inoculated Mind, at Thu Feb 16, 01:13:00 AM  

  • Several years ago, when I was studying primatology & anthropology, I gave my then-boyfriend a poem that went:

    Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    I think that I
    Have pair-bonded with you!

    You're tall, smart and strong
    As an alpha-male should be
    And virile, and bold,
    And protective of me!

    I've a waist-to-hip ratio
    Of oh-point-six-nine
    Oh, phenotypic darling
    Please say you'll be mine!

    And later that year, we were married. I don't think you can argue with results like that.

    And while I am sharing my dreadful science poetry, I feel compelled to add a verse I wrote a couple of years ago when lung cells I was attempting to culture in our lab kept getting contaminated with bacteria--we had a hard time figuring out the source of the contamination. Note: Trypsin, made in solution and then sterile-filtered, is used to transfer populations of cells from one culture dish to the next. I was feeling very Shakespearean at the time:

    Alas, is not our Trypsin pure?
    Mayn't I its praises sing?
    As if the sky were not azure
    Nor were our God our King!

    As if the sun were made of ice
    And stars were made of clay!
    As if small bits of cheese ate mice
    And not the other way!

    A filter, breach'd and compromis'd
    Has left me thus deceiv'd!
    And should I not be right surpris'd?
    And should I not be griev'd?

    Damn'd be this, our world of sin,
    Greed and fornincation,
    But thrice damn'd be, in our Trypsin,
    Bacterial contamination!

    By Anonymous Rachel Robson, at Mon Feb 20, 01:14:00 AM  

  • I am so bummed I didn't see this in time for Valine-tine's day! I am not a real scientist - I just play one on TV. Still, I'll give it a shot, from my librarian's heart!

    With apologies to R. Herrick:

    Counsel to Young Mathematicians

    Measure ye tangents while ye may,
    Co-sine still needs defining;
    And this same problem to do today
    Tomorrow's redesigning.

    Then be not coy, but use your time;
    And while ye may, go publish,
    For having lost but once your prime
    Ye'll be forever rubbish.

    By Blogger Betsy McKenzie, at Wed Feb 22, 08:50:00 PM  

  • Here's one i wrote a couple of years ago, for all the lost satellites out there. . .

    space debris

    greetings, protests,
    lovers’ sighs
    negoti8 thro clutterd skies
    round fragmnts, debris
    char/s beckon
    @ 300,000,000 m/s
    these txts tip-toe
    in vacuo
    wantin 2 knw:
    r u there?

    By Anonymous jenny gristock, at Tue Aug 08, 06:52:00 PM  

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