It must be Christmas, the BMJ is funny

Every year the British Medical Journal publishes a Christmas edition—a delightful confection of whimsical articles that apply the rigor of the scientific method to such topics as “The survival time of chocolates on hospital wards” or “Dispelling the nice or naughty myth—A retrospective observational study of Santa Claus”.  Much of the delight of these articles is in the details of the tongue-in-cheek tone, the accompanying figures, traditionally crafted methods sections and satisfyingly obvious conclusions. For example, did you know that “sleep deprived people appear less healthy, less attractive, and more tired compared with when they are well rested”, or that the “survival time of a chocolate on a hospital ward is short, at under an hour, and that the initial rate of chocolate consumption from a box is rapid but slows with time”? (It’s those hard ones no-one likes that are left at the end.)

Last week saw the publication of the 2016 BMJ Christmas edition featuring such topics as the effect of Pokémon GO on physical activity among young adults (short term value), and “Open toe Sandals Syndrome”—a study attempting to answer the question “Is fear of summer foot exposure contributing to the workload of mycology labs?” Continue reading “It must be Christmas, the BMJ is funny”

Serious Science Earns (Irreverent) Honors

Last night, scientists were agog with anticipation as the Ig Noble awards, now in its 25th year, were presented to ten new winners. The purpose of the awards was to highlight “Research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK”. Last year, my favorite was the award given for research showing cured pork could be used to stop nosebleeds. I enjoy injecting that fact in conversation just add to the mystique that is bacon and salt pork. Not only is it delicious but good for you too! So what did 2015 bring to the table?

There was information on basic bodily functions (nearly every mammal takes about 21 seconds to urinate regardless of size), answer age-old questions (yes, you can [partially] unboil an egg but no word about which came first chicken or egg), medical diagnostic techniques (take a potential appendicitis case, drive them over a bumpy road and see how much pain results), the Jurassic era (chickens are induced to “walk like a dinosaur” with the addition of toilet plunger on its rear end), language edification (“huh?” is a universal word), economic solutions (pay police officers more not to take bribes), business risk taking (business leaders take more risks after experiencing natural disasters that don’t personally affect them), reproductive curiosity (could one historical man have fathered 888 children in his lifetime?), pain threshold exploration (one group of researchers created an insect sting pain index while one individual challenged himself to experience a bee sting on 25 different parts of his tender body) and the benefits of kissing (yes, someone studied the consequences of “intimate interpersonal activities”).

These awards encompass quite a range of research. The ceremony itself involved paper plane throwing, but only at designated times, an opera focused on the year’s theme of Life, and previous Nobel and Ig Noble winners in the audience. Award winners joined in the fun too as one of the winners came on stage wearing a toilet seat on his head. Can you guess what was the focus of his research? And of course, livestreaming video of the ceremony and live tweeting from @Improbresearch for those who could not make it.

You can read all about the award winners with links to their research at Improbable Research.

As for picking a favorite from 2015 award winners, I am debating between the induced dino-chicken and the appendicitis diagnosis method. Which was your favorite?