This Is Improbable: Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens, and Other WTF Research

This Is Improbable: Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens, and Other WTF Research

Marc Abrahams

Language: English

Pages: 299

ISBN: 1851689311

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Often, thinking seriously about outlandish problems is the only way to make progress in science. The rest of the time, it’s hilarious. Marc Abrahams, the founder of the famous Ig Nobel prizes, offers an addictive, wryly funny exposé of the oddest, most imaginative, and just plain improbable research from around the world. He looks into why books on ethics are more likely to get stolen and how randomly promoting people (rather than doing it based on merit) improves their work. He also shares the findings of weird experiments, from whether Vegas lap dancers earn higher tips at a certain time of the month to how mice were once outfitted with parachutes to find a better way to murder tree snakes. Abrahams’ tour through this strangest of strange science will first make you laugh, and then make you think about your world in a completely new way. Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel prize, offers an addictive, wryly funny exposé of the most improbable research from around the world, from why one psychologist insisted it was better to promote people randomly to whether Vegas lap dancers get higher tips at certain times of the month. As you travel from the bizarre to the profound, Abrahams will make you laugh, and then think about the world in a completely new way.

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their favourite colours. For simplicity’s sake, he limited the testing to six colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. No black. No white. No shades of grey. ‘These colors’, he wrote, ‘rectangular in shape, one and one-half inches square, cut from Bradley colored papers were pasted in two rows on a gray cardboard. They were three inches apart. The colors were numbered haphazardly and the number of each color placed above it. The cardboard was presented to the patient and he was

who told me about things that wound up in this book. They have been kind in sharing their discoveries with me, that I might share them with you. Here are some of them: Claudio Angelo, Catherine L. Bartlett, Michael L. Begeman, John Bell, Charles Bergquist, Lisa Birk, John D. Bullough, Peter Carboni, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Francesca Collins, Lauradel Collins, Jim Cowdery, Fuzz Crompton, Missy Cummings, Wim Crusio, Kristine Danowski, David Derbyshire, Betsy Devine, Paola Devoto, Tatiana

distilled it down to this: ‘[There are] common stereotypes about the liar, and these should not be ignored. Liars shift their posture, they touch and scratch themselves, liars are nervous, and their speech is flawed. These beliefs are common across the globe. Yet in prevalence, these stereotypes are dwarfed by the most common belief about liars: “they can’t look you in the eye”.’ That is their great discovery. And it accords with previous discoveries by other researchers. The team prepared for

mathematical tool that financial analysts can add to their professional kit bag: the chief executive officer’s facial width-to-height ratio. The ‘chief executive facial WHR’, for short. The research and its financial implications are outlined in a study called ‘A Face Only an Investor Could Love: CEOs’ Facial Structure Predicts Their Firms’ Financial Performance’, to be published in the journal Psychological Science. The authors, Elaine Wong and Michael Haselhuhn at the University of

Chillies on Small Bowel and Colonic Transit and Rectal Sensitivity in Men with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.’ Indian Journal of Gastroenterology 21 (5): 179–82. The Fingernails of Dr Bean Many people, especially academics and taxi drivers, take pride in having arcane knowledge at their fingertips. Dr William B. Bean bested them all. Bean’s arcane knowledge was not only at his fingertips; it was about them. Bean spent much of his adult life monitoring the growth of his fingernails. He trimmed

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