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Research Into The Weird, Pointless, And Just Plain Silly
Posted: 05 July 2011 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Jeciron - 04 July 2011 10:46 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lE-maxEOc4Q

Yea baby now you’re talking… er singin.

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Posted: 06 July 2011 12:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Fat-faced men are unethical bastards.  Or so says a new study.  (Link)  According to it

Men who have wider faces relative to their facial height are more likely to engage in unethical behavior, according to a new study in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The finding adds to the growing body of evidence that an individual’s genes and hormonal development can influence that person’s behavior. The research also supports that certain static physical characteristics — in this case, a man’s facial bone structure — may serve as reliable visual cues to behavior.

I can’t imagine how such research could possibly be misread and abused.

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“In the end nature is horrific and teaches us nothing.” -Mutual of Omicron

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Posted: 13 July 2011 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Now that the world economic recession is long over, we’ve solved all other mysteries and world problems, and we’re all rolling in money and monocles what are we to do?  I say we try figuring out what 200 year dead classical composers really died from.  First up, Mozart!

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Mozart died in 1791 at the age of 35, and since his passing, many researchers have speculated as what caused his early death. He was buried three days after his death and no autopsy was ever performed. Previous literature had noted chronic kidney disease, strep throat and pink eye as a few conditions he battled toward the end of his life. Between 1762 and 1783, Mozart suffered numerous infections, all of which seemed to occur between mid-October and mid-May.

It was this information that sparked William Grant, a retired NASA atmospheric physicist, and Dr. Stefan Pilz to believe that maybe there was an underlying reason for Mozart’s frequent infection. Their new hypothesis suggests that Mozart was vitamin D deficient.

Next up, Beethoven.  Was it really all the heavy drinking and the resultant liver damage?  Or could it have been a severe allergic reaction to dog hair?  Huh huh?  Quick!  Put all those no longer needed AIDS researchers and funds on this.  The world must know!

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Posted: 14 July 2011 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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A specific point and a general point:

1. Female foot size: recall that Chinese culture has a strong fetish for tiny feet on females. This led to foot binding and other practices that once reduced some women to near-immobility. I’m sure that the cultural fetish remains but I suspect that foot binding has at last been relegated to the past.

2. Yes, scientists sometimes explore weird and wacky things. That’s absolutely necessary to scientific progress. You cannot plan discovery; serendipity remains an important factor in the progress of science. History is chock full of cases of a scientist “just goofing around” coming up with something important. And the class of experiments that I call “common sense checks” have revealed an enormous amount about human behavior. Usually, they only serve to confirm common sense, but every now and then one of them comes up with a startling contradiction to common sense that opens up new ideas. Lastly, there are many cases where the scientific significance of an experiment is lost upon lay persons. What sounds like a cuckoo experiment is often actually very serious science.

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Posted: 14 July 2011 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Well duh.  I realize that a lot of research only looks foolish on its face, but may have deeper or foundation laying implications.  That doesn’t keep from finding it amusing.

But you have to admit that researching “what Mozart really died of” and the like is freaking stupid and pointless.  And there’s a lot of research like that out there.

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Posted: 14 July 2011 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Ofttimes those “what he died of” studies are more hobbyist in nature—something that somebody does in their spare time, more because they’re interested in Mozart than in physiology. Things like that are usually unfunded. Moreover, because they’re obviously speculative, they aren’t treated as “real science”; their true value is historical rather than scientific.

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Posted: 14 July 2011 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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While Chris is right that there should be room for all kinds of scientific research, I think even scientists themselves have a wry enough wit to be able to distinguish when an investigation is silly. (Or at least raises eyebrows). Indeed, there’s even a prize for the silliest stuff: the Annals of Improbable Research‘s Ig Nobel Prize, given yearly to “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.”

HERE‘s a list of some of the recent winners ... excellent fodder for this thread of yours, DM.

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Posted: 14 July 2011 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Chris Crawford - 14 July 2011 09:36 AM

Ofttimes those “what he died of” studies are more hobbyist in nature—something that somebody does in their spare time, more because they’re interested in Mozart than in physiology. Things like that are usually unfunded. Moreover, because they’re obviously speculative, they aren’t treated as “real science”; their true value is historical rather than scientific.

True, though still pointless and stupid. 

And, Doug, I love the Ig-Nobel prizes.  Some of the stuff that comes up is hilarious.  Other stuff is just insane.  Nice link too.  Thanks.

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Posted: 14 July 2011 10:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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dougsmith - 14 July 2011 09:37 AM

While Chris is right that there should be room for all kinds of scientific research, I think even scientists themselves have a wry enough wit to be able to distinguish when an investigation is silly. (Or at least raises eyebrows). Indeed, there’s even a prize for the silliest stuff: the Annals of Improbable Research‘s Ig Nobel Prize, given yearly to “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.”

HERE‘s a list of some of the recent winners ... excellent fodder for this thread of yours, DM.

Hehe, I like how the bat fellatio stuff made it on there

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“What people do is they confuse cynicism with skepticism. Cynicism is ‘you can’t change anything, everything sucks, there’s no point to anything.’ Skepticism is, ‘well, I’m not so sure.’” -Bill Nye

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Posted: 14 July 2011 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Let me remind everybody that the IgNoble prizes are in no manner derisory. The winners are funny, but not stupid nor a waste of time. For example the “whale snot” prize was for unquestionably useful scientific work. And the prize for “outside socks increase traction” went to a paper whose intent was clearly humorous, as demonstrated by the fact that the authors presented their financial objectivity by observing that they owned no stock in sock-making companies and owned no sheep.

I agree that a lot of science can be funny, but the claim that these projects are silly and a waste of time is off the mark, IMO.

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Posted: 14 July 2011 01:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Chris Crawford - 14 July 2011 01:30 PM

Let me remind everybody that the IgNoble prizes are in no manner derisory. The winners are funny, but not stupid nor a waste of time. For example the “whale snot” prize was for unquestionably useful scientific work. And the prize for “outside socks increase traction” went to a paper whose intent was clearly humorous, as demonstrated by the fact that the authors presented their financial objectivity by observing that they owned no stock in sock-making companies and owned no sheep.

I agree that a lot of science can be funny, but the claim that these projects are silly and a waste of time is off the mark, IMO.

I think that’s a good point even if it does take some of the ‘buzz’ out of the party.  tongue wink

God knows we need to know more about bat fellatio and how to maximize the utility of undergarments.

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Posted: 14 July 2011 02:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Chris Crawford - 14 July 2011 01:30 PM

Let me remind everybody that the IgNoble prizes are in no manner derisory. The winners are funny, but not stupid nor a waste of time. For example the “whale snot” prize was for unquestionably useful scientific work. And the prize for “outside socks increase traction” went to a paper whose intent was clearly humorous, as demonstrated by the fact that the authors presented their financial objectivity by observing that they owned no stock in sock-making companies and owned no sheep.

I agree that a lot of science can be funny, but the claim that these projects are silly and a waste of time is off the mark, IMO.

You’re a buzzkill, Chris.  wink  But if you take a second glance, the name of my thread is “Research Into The Weird, Pointless, And Just Plain Silly”.  Putting something in here does not automatically mean it’s pointless.  It could just as easily be weird and/or silly.

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Posted: 14 July 2011 04:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Chris Crawford - 14 July 2011 01:30 PM

Let me remind everybody that the IgNoble prizes are in no manner derisory. The winners are funny, but not stupid nor a waste of time. For example the “whale snot” prize was for unquestionably useful scientific work. And the prize for “outside socks increase traction” went to a paper whose intent was clearly humorous, as demonstrated by the fact that the authors presented their financial objectivity by observing that they owned no stock in sock-making companies and owned no sheep.

I agree that a lot of science can be funny, but the claim that these projects are silly and a waste of time is off the mark, IMO.

Well, yes and no. Some of them aren’t derisory; they’re looking at humorous but interesting studies. (Although I’d argue there’s a definite spectrum there between studies that are foolish and those that are funny and interesting). But many of them clearly are intended to be derisory.

E.g.: the 2010 Economics Ig Nobel went to “The executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar for creating and promoting new ways to invest money — ways that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof.”

2005 Ig Nobel for Literature: “The Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria, for creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters—General Sani Abacha, Mrs. Mariam Sanni Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq., and others—each of whom requires just a small amount of expense money so as to obtain access to the great wealth to which they are entitled and which they would like to share with the kind person who assists them.”

2005 Ig Nobel for Nutrition “Dr. Yoshiro Nakamats of Tokyo, Japan, for photographing and retrospectively analyzing every meal he has consumed during a period of 34 years (and counting).”

2004 for Economics: “The Vatican, for outsourcing prayers to India.”

2002 for Economics: “The executives, corporate directors, and auditors of Enron, Lernaut & Hauspie [Belgium], Adelphia, Bank of Commerce and Credit International [Pakistan], Cendant, CMS Energy, Duke Energy, Dynegy, Gazprom [Russia], Global Crossing, HIH Insurance [Australia], Informix, Kmart, Maxwell Communications [UK], McKessonHBOC, Merrill Lynch, Merck, Peregrine Systems, Qwest Communications, Reliant Resources, Rent-Way, Rite Aid, Sunbeam, Tyco, Waste Management, WorldCom, Xerox, and Arthur Andersen, for adapting the mathematical concept of imaginary numbers for use in the business world.”

Etc.

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Posted: 14 July 2011 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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You guys are right, I *am* being a bit of a stuffed shirt here. Science certainly can afford having some fun poked at it. My concern is when the laughter turns into sneers.

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Posted: 15 July 2011 06:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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BTW if you haven’t heard of Dr. Yoshiro Nakamats, he alone is worth a glance ... see the wiki page. I recall hearing somewhere that one of his supposed patents was for his own name. (Which he actually spells NakaMats).

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