The Phoenix

Friday, December 29, 2006

2006...Another Year of Goofy Science Experiments

Compared to 2005, I'd have to say that 2006 had more of its share of some very questionable research. These are the science experiments that make you scratch your head and wonder, just what were they thinking?

I'm sure these kinds of experiments are valuable to somebody. Maybe. Personally, I believe these projects are just an excuse for scientists to goof off.

So, here are some of my favorite Ig Nobel Prize Winners of 2006:

NUTRITION: Wasmia Al-Houty of Kuwait University and Faten Al-Mussalam of the Kuwait Environment Public Authority, for showing that dung beetles are finicky eaters.

REFERENCE: "Dung Preference of the Dung Beetle Scarabaeus cristatus Fab (Coleoptera-Scarabaeidae) from Kuwait," Wasmia Al-Houty and Faten Al-Musalam, Journal of Arid Environments.

Dung beetles are finicky eaters? Yeah right. Um...they eat SHIT!

MATHEMATICS: Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization, for calculating the number of photographs you must take to (almost) ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed.

REFERENCE: "Blink-Free Photos, Guaranteed," Velocity, June 2006.

In any group photo, there's always going to be at least one moron that closes his eyes. And usually I'm the moron. By the way, they found that in general, if you take half the number of people, that's how many shots it'll take to get a blink-less photograph.

LITERATURE: Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University for his report "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly."

REFERENCE: "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly," Daniel M. Oppenheimer, Applied Cognitive Psychology.

So the manifestation of this verbal masterbation simply showed how the constipationary use of erectile words will often mis-vibrate even the most scholastical impersonators.

"Hey, I ain't no venereal fuddrucker!"

CHEMISTRY: Antonio Mulet, José Javier Benedito and José Bon of the University of Valencia, Spain, and Carmen Rosselló of the University of Illes Balears, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, for their study "Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature."

REFERENCE: "Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature," Antonio Mulet, José Javier Benedito, José Bon, and Carmen Rosselló, Journal of Food Science.

I had to read that title over and over again. Perhaps this research is valuable whenever you're in a food fight? It's always good to know that frozen cheddar slices make a faster projectile than cubed mozzarella.

ACOUSTICS: D. Lynn Halpern (of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, and Brandeis University, and Northwestern University), Randolph Blake (of Vanderbilt University and Northwestern University) and James Hillenbrand (of Western Michigan University and Northwestern University) for conducting experiments to learn why people dislike the sound of fingernails scraping on a blackboard.

REFERENCE: "Psychoacoustics of a Chilling Sound," D. Lynn Halpern, Randolph Blake and James Hillenbrand, Perception and Psychophysics.

This was a study you couldn't pay me enough money to participate in. What did they find? They believe our hatred of fingernails scraping on a blackboard was nearly identical to several types of primates' warning screams. So it's some sort of leftover vestigal reflexive response.

I'm a little skeptical, as most humans quit flinging poop at each other millions of years ago.

MEDICINE: Francis M. Fesmire of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, for his medical case report,"Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage"; and Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan, and Arie Oliven of Bnai Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel, for their subsequent medical case report also titled "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage."

REFERENCE: "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage," Francis M. Fesmire, Annals of Emergency Medicine.

What's funnier? Francis massaging test subjects' poop chutes, or the fact that it was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine?

Here's to a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year. See you in 2007!

The Phoenix


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How would you like to be in the test group for the rectal massage?

Now, Mr. Friendly, could you please self induce hiccups so I can massage your rectum?

Great. Happy New Year to you!

12/29/2006 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So next time I get the hiccups, to get rid of them I should ask the nearest passerby to stick her finger up my poop-chute?

12/29/2006 8:55 AM  
Blogger O Ceallaigh said...

A word with you, if I may, Mr. Proxmire ... :)

About those dung beetles. There's more than one kind of beetle, and each one eats a different kind of shit. Resource partitioning ... otherwise one super-competitive dung beetle would win out over all the others. Then somebody would introduce a cow whose dung the one beetle won't eat, and ... But it's really great shit, Mrs. Presky!"

Are you calling me logorrheic, Dr. Oppenheimer?

Turns out ultrasound is a good way to know when your cheese is ready to market. So you can sample it without eating it all beforehand. ka-CHING!!

And as for those hiccups - if you're in the emergency room with a tube down your nose (perhaps with a needle at the end of it), and you get the hiccups ... ouch! And when that happens, baby, it's whatever works.

Frankly, the Ig Nobel I liked best was the one that figured out why spaghetti doesn't break in half.


12/29/2006 10:39 AM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

mr. friendly, I'd be so nervous, my rectum would just tighten up.

perplexio, not just stick a finger up there, but actually massage.

OC, as always, thanks so much for your insightful clarifications. You're right, in the ER - whatever works, as long as you don't get slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit by the patient!

My post from last New Year's included the spaghetti experiment.

12/29/2006 11:10 AM  
Blogger BrianAlt said...

Happy New Year!

12/29/2006 1:29 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Yay! Learning from The Phoenix is always such a joy!

12/29/2006 3:38 PM  
Blogger ajooja said...

I agree Jenn. I've got a good story next time someone hiccups. :)

Thanks, Phoenix.

12/29/2006 9:34 PM  
Anonymous Haas said...

Another Brilliant year :) Hoping for more of the same next year...
Happy New Year :)

12/29/2006 11:03 PM  
Anonymous stephanie said...

Why do I get feeling that I'll never win a Nobel Prize?

12/30/2006 9:16 AM  
Blogger starbender said...

hahahahaaaaa, where do they come up with this S#%T??? It baffles the mind - 4 sure!

Some stumblin~fumblin way I will have 2 find time 2 visit You and everyone else..., I can't seriously live without all of your ingenious insight 2 life!

luv starbender
; ]

12/30/2006 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage"

where was it when i needed it!?! :+)

Happy New Year!

12/30/2006 1:45 PM  
Anonymous THE ALIENS said...

see you in the new year!!!


xympnxp<--"Take off that stupid party hat" in our language

12/30/2006 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

Good lord, whodathunk to relate hiccups to anal massage?

12/30/2006 4:25 PM  
Blogger cube said...

Happy New Year, phoenix! Let's hope 2007 treats us nobly & not ig-nobel-y!

12/30/2006 8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

perplexio, not just stick a finger up there, but actually massage.

Well either way, as long as her finger is warm.

12/30/2006 9:32 PM  
Blogger mist1 said...

Why did I get a liberal arts degree? I am clearly much more suited for scientific research.

12/30/2006 10:05 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

LMAO @ Poop chute!
Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy and safe new year :o)

12/31/2006 2:28 AM  
Blogger mad said...

These are all vital experiments in the development of humankind. Aren't they?

12/31/2006 9:08 AM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

brianalt, Happy New Year to you.

jenn, Hey! You're alive. Welcome back.

ajooja, Remember to wash your hands afterwards.

haas, Happy New Year.

stephanie, There are easier ways to gain fortune and fame.

starbender, Best wishes - I'll miss your blog. Take care, always.

karen, Just try water first. See ya in '07!

12/31/2006 12:08 PM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

aliens, Why don't you pick on Bob some more instead?

jennifer, A person with hiccups only needs to be embarassed. As a teacher, I'd make a hiccuping kid stand in front of the classroom and read. I think it has to do with changing a person's breathing pattern.

cube, I could use some more nobility this coming year.

perplexio, Ewwwwwww. And lubed?

mist1, Half of science experiments are dreamt up in primary school, I believe.

michelle, Same to you!

mad, Yes. I really do need to learn more about finicky dung beetles.

12/31/2006 12:13 PM  
Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

My mother is one who almost ALWAYS blinks during a photo. I'd say about 95% of the time. It's quite funny. When she's in the photo, I have to say I'm counting to three and take the shot on count 2, and maybe, just maybe I'll get her with open eyes.

I've heard of many ways to stop the hiccups, but this is a new one. I wonder how they came up with the idea that rectal massage would work? I suppose it was by trial and error. I'd like to know what DIDN'T work.

Have a very HAPPY & blessed & wonderful NEW YEAR!!!!

12/31/2006 2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for those goofy science experiments. Me and my wife are totally guilty of closing our eyes in the photos. Happy New Year.

1/01/2007 11:56 AM  
Blogger LBseahag said...

I totally wish i had the hiccups right now.

1/01/2007 5:24 PM  
Anonymous delmer said...

I'm old enough to remember when Analog Rectal Massage was the preferred method of treating hiccups.

Digital is sooo much more effective.

1/01/2007 7:16 PM  
Blogger The Phoenix said...

JD, I'm guessing nipple massaging didn't work.

Mr. Shife, It's a light sensitivity thing. I'm guilty of it as well.

L.B., Hmmm...I wonder why.

delmer, I heard analog was just too clunky.

I hope everyone had a great New Year's.

1/01/2007 8:50 PM  
Blogger Fated said...

Alright, the rectal massage one is quite disturbing. How much you want to bet buddy was gung-ho to start the experimentation

Happy New Year!!

1/02/2007 7:48 AM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

And a happy new year to you, too--your requested Best and Worst of 2006 list is up on my site.

I like the blinking study. Could come in useful, unlike most of these. Except for that hiccups one.

-- david

1/02/2007 8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't have the time or the inclination for digital rectal massage, try the Hic-Cup. It hit the market this summer and has been gaining a lot of attention (until this story was reported in the news...)

It works on the Vagus nerve (just like rectal massage does) but all you have to do is drink from the device. The Vagus nerve is really long and runs down the trunk of the body. Now, I'd rather stimulate it from the upper end, but if you prefer to go down... have at it...although it is less useful in public.

The Hic-Cup has a brass rod extension from the cup, so I guess you could use it either way! Check it out at!

1/02/2007 9:05 AM  
Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Oh I am SO the moronic eye blinker!!!

I AM!!!

Happy New Year, Phoenix! :)

1/02/2007 9:06 AM  

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Welcome to the blog that aims to examine the lighter side of science. From the paranormal to wacky inventions, to strange mysteries and goofy experiments, I cover it all. Thanks for stoping by science is always stranger than fiction


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