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Lucky Mice

Lucky Mice is an ongoing co-inquiry looking for a genetic basis for luck. The “Lucky Mice” project is a collaborative endeavor between artist and scientists at the University of Kentucky (Ashley Seifert, Jeremey Van Cleve), Harvard University (Joe Davis, Eswar Iyer, Larissa Belcic) and freelance artist Dana Dal Bo. A primary objective of the proposed project is an attempt to relay how artistic motivation can drive scientific investigation and in doing so, inform the public at large about the application of scientific practice. Through these efforts, this project develops new forms of instrumentation and research with applications for both art and science. We have created simple tools to investigate hitherto unknown relationships of universal biological principles with transcendental, fleeting qualities that enrich life with substance and meaning. It is artistic expression that touches on the long-standing association of the operations of biology with mathematics and it accomplishes these rather lofty goals with practices and implements that are accessible and easily understood by a large public. 

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Luck, like other intangible qualities (e.g., creativity, love, altruism, grace, patience, charm) may not seem subject to influences of inheritance and genetics, yet there is no reason to believe that such correlations are absolutely impossible. Investigations of such behaviours have been undertaken in the fields of psychology, cognitive science, information science and economics, but until now, no biological or genetic studies of luck have been initiated. Perhaps this is because no precedents for such a relationship have ever been discovered, or that qualities such as serendipity might be considered exclusively imaginary. When the probability for success of a given experiment is infinitesimally small, the stakes can be so correspondingly high that experimentation attracts no serious interest. And yet, such artistic pursuits of inquiry can provide unexpected advantages for scientific research. In the study proposed here we utilize a novel mouse-driven device consisting of a standard mouse running wheel attached to an Archimedes screw that is pre-loaded with dice. Using the running wheel, individual mice will cause the Archimedes screw to turn, which “tosses” dice and then the number of each die will be recorded for a fixed number of tosses. Using a predetermined upper and lower bound representing lucky and unlucky toss totals, lucky male and female mice will be bred and their offspring tested in a similar manner to determine if there is a genetic basis to luck.