I am marking the assessments on clinical trials for our MSc course. Candidates repeatedly use the word “traditionally” to describe clinical trial designs. Tradition means we do things this way because this is the way we have always done them. The one thing trials should not be is “traditional”. Each experiment that relies on human participation must be designed anew to reflect unique circumstances – this population, that drug, these objectives and so on. Clinical trials are rigorous experiments. They have to be. Our model of human experimentation has been forged in the fire of scientific rationalism and shaped by the hammer of human rights.
One reason for me to watch and draw birds is as icons of slow but inexorable change across deep time. I can never forget that this group living all around us is allied closely with the venerable titans that dominated the Mesozoic Era. Conversely, the patterns of behaviour I try to capture today have been repeated year on year, millennium on millennium and were probably similar when humans used rocks as tools and themselves drew the wildlife in charcoal and ochre.
Above, a herring gull casually displaced a black headed gull. The smaller bird rose and made a show of defiance which was observed without concern by the invader. Below, a juvenile black headed gull entered the space of an adult, which threw itself backwards to drive away the youngster.
Periodically, birds dropped from the air and the relationships of the pairs and rivals were re-established by displays of dipping heads, inverted arched necks and spread wings.