Humor

“A woodpecker is known to drum the hard woody surface of a tree at a rate of 18 to 22 times per second with a deceleration of 1200 g, yet with no sign of blackout or brain damage.”

As many of you know, I spent a fair amount of time last month engaged in debates about the wisdom of California’s Proposition 37, which would have mandated the labeling of genetically modified foods. While many of these discussions were civil, one particularly energetic fellow accused me of having been brainwashed by the “cult of the NIH” into believing that anything science does must be good.

At the time I just giggled. But his Tweet stuck in my head. After the election I looked back on my twenty years as a scientist in the “NIH system” and I began to see the signs. So I read about cults – about what differentiates them from normal, run-of-the-mill organization. And I started keeping score (on a 1-9 scale, of course, with 1 being the most cult-ish).

Q.1 Is it possible to use one’s tongue as a subatomic particle detector?
Q.2 If so, would that be a good idea?

A growing body of scientific studies have examined the implications of finger length ratios. But until recently up to 50% of humanoid distal appendages may have been largely overlooked – for what of toe-length ratios?

Progress towards rectifying this digital imbalance has been made with a recent study from the Department of Psychology, Penn State University, Harrisburg, US. Professor Marissa Harrison has published one of the very few studies to investigate :
The scholarly journal Parallax (vol. 16, no.3, 2010) is a special edition on the subject of ‘YES!’.

Gary Peters, who is Professor of Critical and Cultural Theory at York St. John University, UK, is guest-editor for the issue, and is also author of one of the key papers 'Yes, No, Don't know'

The first scientific study to employ real-time magnetic resonance imaging  (RT) MRI to obtain midsagittal vocal tract sequential image data from a total of 5 soprano singers was published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, November 2010 (Express Letters pp. EL335-EL341)

A study in BMJ's Christmas issue, which spares no effort in its annual attempt to see who in science media rewrites press releases without even reading them, has determined why Rudolph, the famous extra reindeer of Santa we will not show here due to little desire to pay royalties, has a red nose.

Rudolph's nose is red because it is richly supplied with red blood cells which help to protect it from freezing and to regulate brain temperature. This superior "nasal microcirculation" is essential for pulling Santa Claus's sleigh under extreme temperatures, says the BMJ study.

Dogs can sniff out Clostridium difficile, the infective agent that is responsible for many of the dreaded "hospital acquired infections", in stool samples and even in the air surrounding patients in hospital with a very high degree of accuracy, finds a study in the Christmas issue published on bmj.com today.

Yes, dogs can smell a superbug infection in poop. Can you smell a rat at BMJ this Christmas?

The findings, they write in one of this year's spoofs, support previous studies of dogs detecting various types of cancer and could have great potential for screening hospital wards to help prevent C. difficile outbreaks, say the researchers.


Opinions of the tooth fairy as kind and giving may need to be revised following "mounting reports of less child-friendly activity", according to a paper published in the BMJ's Christmas edition which is sure to fool mainstream media editors who are used to scare journalism and miracle vegetable of the week stories and may want to mix it up a little. 

Researchers from across London, they write, have become concerned following misdemeanors of the mythical character and a worrying trend in malpractice. One boy in particular became extremely distressed because the tooth fairy "had put a tooth in his left ear" after he left it under his pillow.

 An investigation turned out he was right


It has been said that a fully developed mathematical formula is one of the shortest possible ways to describe a physical phenomenon. Some phenomena, however, are so complex that their mathematical description can be dauntingly large. Take for example the formula to describe the aerial motion of a boomerang