Craziest research paper titles, awards and authors

By Grant Jacobs 28/11/2009

High on the list has to be one I recently coveredFellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time.

One paper I read recently was authored by Song and Singh.

Many genes are known by an acronym. In the case of the arylsulfatase E gene, it’s ARSE.

I invite readers to suggest their own favourites.

Frog dimagnetic levitation

(A live frog is magnetically levitated, an experiment that earned André Geim from the University of Nijmegen and Sir Michael Berry from University of Bristol the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize in physics. Source: wikipedia)

A long-standing source of scientific humour is the The Journal of Irreproducible Results, set up in 1995 for scientific humour. A splinter journal is the Annals of Improbable Research, founded by a former editor of the The Journal of Irreproducible Results who also went on to found the IgNobel Prizes.

Annuals of Improbable Research
Annuals of Improbable Research (Source: wikipedia).

For example, they list this paper’s title, in which you’d have question the authors’ own competence:

’Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence,’ David Dunning, Kerri Johnson, Joyce Ehrlinger and Justin Kruger, Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 12, no. 3, June 2003, pp. 83-7.

The IgNobel prizes are probably the most widely-known source of “scientific” humour. The wikipedia entry ‘IgNobel Prize‘ (sourced 1o:40pm local time, Friday 27th November2009) notes that they acknowledge examples ranging from:

[…] the discovery that the presence of humans tends to sexually arouse ostriches, to the statement that black holes fulfill all the technical requirements to be the location of Hell, […]

An imaginary work was awarded in 1991:

Interdisciplinary research: Josiah S. Carberry, for his work in psychoceramics, the study of “cracked pots.”

And in 1992:

Art – Presented jointly to Jim Knowlton, modern Renaissance man, for his classic anatomy poster “Penises of the Animal Kingdom,” and to the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, for encouraging Mr. Knowlton to extend his work in the form of a pop-up book.

[Ahhh, right.]

Continuing this theme, for a genuinely serious paper in 1993:

Medicine – Presented to James F. Nolan, Thomas J. Stillwell, and John P. Sands, Jr., medical men of mercy, for their painstaking research report, “Acute Management of the Zipper-Entrapped Penis.”

For sheer idiocy in In 1994:

Medicine – Two prizes. First, to Patient X, formerly of the US Marine Corps, valiant victim of a venomous bite from his pet rattlesnake, for his determined use of electroshock therapy. At his own insistence, automobile spark plug wires were attached to his lip, and the car engine revved to 3,000 rpm for five minutes. Second, to Dr. Richard C. Dart of the Rocky Mountain Poison Center and Dr. Richard A. Gustafson of The University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, for their well-grounded medical report, “Failure of Electric Shock Treatment for Rattlesnake Envenomation.”

[You’d think stupidity would have some limits…]

The list of course goes on. I have to leave some fun for you…

(As people will know not all IgNobels are humourous, some are political or scientific criticism, such as the award to Jacques Chirac, President of France, in 1996 for commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima with atomic bomb tests in the Pacific.)

Finally, for those who are really fed up with broadband performance in NZ, from the Annals of Improbable Research there’s:

Sluggish Data Transport Is Faster Than ADSL

Ben-Bassat & Ben-David-Zaslow, Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University Shimon Schocken, Efi Arazi School of Computer Science, IDC Herzliya, Israel Yossi Vardi, Israel

We describe an experiment in which a Giant African Snail, acting as a data transfer agent, exceeded all known ’last-mile’ communications technologies in terms of bit-per-second performance, adding to the many paradoxes of broadband communications.1 We discuss the unique motivational and guidance systems necessary to facilitate snail-based data transport, and observe with satisfaction that in a society that worships the fittest, fastest, and furtherest, the meek and the slow can sometimes outperform all known competitors, giving rise to the new and exciting field of sluggish data networks.

[The motivational agent is apparently a lettuce.]

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