Scientific studies have brought us some of most important findings in modern history. From curing diseases to advancing technology, it all starts with a little government funding and something to research. However, there are some scientific studies that are like your ex-girlfriend; a giant time suck that you waste a ton of money on and end up with nothing to show for it. Except science didn’t cheat on you. Here’s a list of scientific studies that makes “Fucking magnets, how do they work?” seem like a legitimate thesis question.
Photo credit: Edward Dalmulder, Flickr
It’s no mystery that there’s a lot of falsehoods that travel around in mass media. We’ve seen rumors perpetrated as fact on news channels, commercials that spew marketing slogans as truth, and politicians that manipulate their own electorates with lies for their own benefit. Some of the faculty of the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion were sick of it, so they set out to disprove one of the most vulgar lies that travels across airwaves daily: The misrepresentation of coma patients on day time soap operas. It was found that soap operas create unrealistic expectations for the likelihood of recovery from a coma, which is so out of character for programs that are grounded so heavily in realism. For example, an excruciating amount of research when into an episode of Days of Our Lives to make sure there was total accuracy when one of the characters becomes possessed by the devil.
Photo credit: YouTube/ABC
The Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor had a theory they wanted to test based on changes in society over the past several generations, which sounds like the basis for some great societal observations. Unfortunately, it also can be the start of some terrible observations as well, because all the research from their study proved was that fat kids still get made fun of a lot. The theory that the group wanted to test was if obese children were more accepted now based on the fact that nearly half of all children are overweight. They could have saved themselves a lot of time if they just walked down to the local high school. Have you ever seen a gang of all fat kids? No. And even if you had, could you imagine a less threatening gang? A bunch of fat guys walking down the street, all wearing the same colored shirts would just look like a bunch of different flavored Kool Aid Men. Since more people getting fat clearly isn’t keeping the obese from getting bullied, perhaps it’s time to start a new strategy: Stop being fat.
Photo credit: jason.lengstorf, Flickr
This world is full of unexplained phenomena, some of which may never have answers, and some of which demand them. But one question that required no answer whatsoever? It’s the very topic of Nagoya University’s Department of Complex Systems study: Why do traffic jams happen when there is seemingly no reason for it? For years, this has fallen under the same category as questions like “Why is the sky blue?,” “How do birds fly?,” and “Why do people keep asking questions that have been answered centuries ago?” Thankfully, this study gave us a clear-cut solution to the apparent traffic conundrum. What they find may shock you, so please brace yourself. As it turns out, traffic jams often occur because there are a lot of cars driving slowly. Don’t forget to check out their follow up research project, “Why can you run faster when you’re not standing in line?”
Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos, Flickr
Ask yourself this question: Have you ever found yourself standing outside in freezing temperatures, barely clad with any form of clothing, and been unable to figure out why you were cold? Aside from that one Christmas when you woke up naked in the snow bank, you probably have never asked yourself this, and for good reason. You understand how clothing works. It took an entire research team from the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University to figure out the same theory. In their study of Aborigines, they found that natives living in colder areas would often wear more clothes than those living in warmer areas. While the conclusion was painfully obvious, this study would be skewed heavily if it was done in the Midwestern United States as everyone wears shorts because they’re too drunk to feel the cold.
Photo credit: makelessnoise, Flickr
Scenario time: You’re in a bar with your lady and a large, burly, clearly inebriated man walks up and begins hitting on your girl. After asking him politely though sternly to leave, he persists and comes on heavily to your date. You’re left with little other choice of action other than physical violence. You look to your left at the bar, where you see two immediate weapons: One beer bottle that barely touched because you’re girlfriend is a lightweight and is trying to take it easy, and one beer bottle that is nearly empty because you’re a goddamn pro. Which one do you choose to smash upside the face of the flirtatious drunk? According to Centre for Forensic Imaging and Virtopsy research, it doesn’t matter because either will do more damage than a fist. This discovery should be followed with the words “No shit, they are made of like an inch of glass.” Our best guess is this study was conducted solely as an excuse for the lead researcher Stephan Bolliger to throw beer bottles at his interns.
Photo credit: uberculture, Flickr
We all lose things. It’s pretty inevitable. What we can’t all do, though, is take over five months to methodically study the actions of ourselves and others to better understand how we consistently lose things. Luckily, when the fine folks over at Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health realized they were having a regular teaspoon shortage they were able to take things into their own hands. From February to June of 2004 a study was done within the research facility to, according to the objective in their abstract, “to determine the overall rate of loss of workplace teaspoons and whether attrition and displacement are correlated with the relative value of the teaspoons or type of tearoom.” All of that is just a fancy way of saying, “we need to figure out which bastard is stealing the teaspoons.” So what did the study find? First and foremost, teaspoons get taken a lot. Perhaps the most interesting finding was that value had no influence over the rate of loss, so it is safe to assume that none of the employees are taking teaspoons with the intention of turning a profit on the teaspoon black market.
Photo credit: comedy_nose, Flickr
(Previously published on July 27, 2011.)
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