What did you say you are researching?

***EDIT: After posting about silly research this morning, Mr. Dan Meyer, one of the authors of the “Sword Swallowing” study was kind enough to comment on the post (see “comments”). After reading over his response, I have to agree that any research that helps save lives is well worthwhile, and for that I sincerely commend him (although I must admit, any study titled “Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects” is good for a laugh). No offense intended, Mr. Meyer, and keep up the good work! … BTW, isn’t a sure-fire way to prevent sword swallowing related injuries simply to not swallow swords?

While browsing the news headlines today I came across a pretty funny one…

The headline read: “Alcohol linked to aggression”.

Really? What a surprise…

After reading the article (found here: http://health.msn.com/health-topics/addiction/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100202148&GT1=31033) I discovered that someone ( a group of people, actually) took a sample of 12 people, got them hammered, and scanned their brains to find the effects of alcohol. The research was time consuming and relatively expensive. What was the result, you ask?

The result showed exactly what anyone who has ever been drunk could tell you from experience… alcohol makes you think about sex and violence.

Why do I care, you ask?

As a grad student, I am always interested by the research that ends up getting published… It seems that some “academicians” like to research things just for the sake of researching things.

As a matter of fact, there is now an award dedicated to stupid research. Known as the Ig Nobel Prize, the award is given to academicians engaged in the most idiotic research in their area for the year. I recommend you visit http://www.improbable.com and take a look at some of the winners.

Last year, the winners included such time wasting research efforts as “Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects” in the area of Medicine, “Wrinkling of an Elastic Sheet Under Tension” in Physics (this was a study on why sheets wrinkle), and my personal favorite, “Effects of Backward Speech and Speaker Variability in Language Discrimination by Rats” in the area of Linguistics, which showed that rats cannot tell the difference between someone speaking Japanese backwards and Dutch backwards.

So the next time you start to think that a friend in grad school or the PhD down the street might be really intelligent, ask them what they are researching… the results may surprise you.

3 Responses to What did you say you are researching?

  1. Dan Meyer says:

    Actually, our research on sword swallowing injuries was not a waste at all. As a matter of a fact, it was the first ever legitimate research on sword swallowing injuries to be recognized by the international medical community in the 4000 year history of the art, and it has already helped save a number of lives.

    Before our research survey of injuries of all the sword swallowers worldwide, there was very little information recorded in any medical documents. So consequently, whenever a serious injury was sustained, most doctors had no way of researching or networking with other doctors for any history of diagnosis, treatment, or recovery. Now doctors around the world can find our information and network with each other. This has already helped save lives of 2 sword swallowers with serious injuries in Las Vegas, one in Australia, one in San Diego in the past 3 weeks, and one in Washington DC who had to be airlifted to another hospital. Fortunately, all of them have survived their injuries, partially as a result of their doctors networking with each other through the results of this study and subsequent paper. Sure, our research and paper might seem frivolous to you, but to those of us who put our lives on the line every day, it is a lifesaver. And it helps give hope for millions of people who suffer from esophageal cancer, dysphagia, GERD, and other swallowing disorders who benefit from our ongoing research with the medical community worldwide.

    Hope this helps shed light on the subject.

    All the best,

    Dan Meyer
    Executive Director
    Sword Swallowers Association International
    Co-author of “Sword Swallowing and its side effects” published in the British Medical Journal

  2. bubba says:

    i did a survey on shrimp – and i like shrimp of all kind – there’s shrimp scampi, broiled shrimp, baked shrimp, fried shrimp, shrimp cocktail, shrimp-k-bob, lemon shrimp, shrimp scrod shrimp, shrimp gumbo, banana pepper shrimp – i could go on and on but i have some more shrimp to eat – but i like surveys about shrimp

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