Sometimes, you see your kid doing something and you think, "Is that normal or is my kid just really weird?". And in telling people about that behaviour, you do risk revealing that weirdness to the world. In Archie's case, he's normal and robust enough in other ways for me to disclose this particular peccadillo, and it's pretty harmless anyway.
Archie likes to stroke silky and fine materials between his fingers and when he does he makes a low, growling noise. His favourites seem to be the silky 'care tags' on soft toys and clothes, him mum's silky dressing gown and pretty much anyone's hair that he can get his hands on, including his mum's beautiful golden locks and his dad's less than beautiful chest hair. He'll sit and work them through his fingers, emitting a low "Grrrrr... Grrrrr...". He's totally focused while he does it and seems to find it calming. We were particularly amused to find that he's even started doing it to his own hair in his sleep. He'll be lying fast asleep on his back, with both hands up at the sides of his head, playing with a few wisps of hair and making those familiar noises.
My assumption is that it's related to social grooming behaviour and is probably innate to his primate nature. There's a certain logic to human infants inheriting grooming behaviours, I think, given how prevalent grooming is among other apes. I can't say I've looked at the research too deeply but it's nice to have a hypothesis.
Genetics and natural history cropped up a couple of times in the media recently. Firstly, there have been a number of articles on David Attenborough's brilliant 60-year career broadcasting the world of nature. Like the BBC which has been behind his work he's a genuine national treasure. The BBC's latest production "Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild" starts on Friday and will be available on the BBC iPlayer. It's arguable that no-one has done as much as Attenborough to get people interested in science and the natural world, at least in the UK.
Also worth noting is the BBC's new series "Dara O'Briain's Science Club", which started last week. It's a kind of a TV version of BBC Radio 4's "Infinite Monkey Cage" (which is available as a podcast, incidentally), with a format very similar in format to "Top Gear". The first episode was based on genetics and, as well as reassuring me how closely related we are to our simian cousins, covered a nicely varied set of topics, from how to extract DNA using materials found at home; to how the bicycle allowed us to have more biological diversity; to a segment on epi-genetics and how there's a layer of biology on top of DNA modifying its behaviour. It was a good, entertaining and informative show and I'd recommend it for those who can get access to the BBC iPlayer.
Dara O'Briain, a top stand-up comedian with a maths and physics degree, is becoming a real hero for the geek in the mainstream media. As well as the Science Club he presented the maths-based "School of Hard Sums" on the Dave channel and is responsible for the single best piece of stand-up comedy about video games you'll see. I thought I'd share it here.