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Jewish World Review Sept. 12, 2003 / 15 Elul, 5763

Robert L. Haught

Robert L. Haught
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Guess what our scientific geniuses are up to now | NOW I'M no expert on scientific research. But it seems to me that a lot of what goes on in laboratories these days is a waste of time and money.

For example, a survey showed that the more food people eat, the fatter they get. The American Institute for Cancer Research didn't exactly report it that way. Dr. Barbara Rolls of Pennsylvania State University said in a speech to the AICR International Research Conference that studies point to a direct correlation between the size of food portions on the plate and obesity. That's true whether you're eating out or at home.

Well, who could argue with that? Except maybe the restaurant industry.

Another recent research project produced the conclusion that children who eat nutritious meals, get some exercise and receive enough attention from their teachers are less likely to have conduct problems or become psychotic in later life. Any responsible parent or teacher could have told the scientists that much. But then, Adrian Raine of the University of Southern California wouldn't have been written up in the medical journals.

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Don't get me wrong. Scientific discoveries have made possible a good life for millions of people around the world. Without the amazing strides in technology, we wouldn't be able to witness same- sex kissing on entertainment TV shows or hear a cell phone emit a cheerful polyphonic ringtone melody during a funeral.

But some science projects are downright silly, such as these cited in the Annals of Improbable Research, a science humor magazine:

A team of British researchers studied "Courtship Behavior of Ostriches Toward Humans Under Farming Conditions in Britain." Presumably no morals were compromised.

An Australian performed a comprehensive survey of human belly button lint. He works at the University of Sydney (not the Navel Research Lab).

Peter Barss of McGill University got published in The Journal of Trauma for his medical report, "Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts." Sir Isaac Newton had enough sense to stand under an apple tree.

At the University of Munich, Arnd Leike successfully demonstrated that beer froth obeys the mathematical Law of Exponential Decay (soon to be seen in a "Monday Night Football" commercial, no doubt).

A great stride in child development was claimed by Lawrence Sherman of Miami University, Ohio, for his "Ecological Study of Glee in Small Groups of Preschool Children." Perhaps he will do a follow-up study of "Hysterical Laughter by Large Groups of Parents Whose Children Have Gone to School."

It took two researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India, to produce "A Preliminary Survey of Rhinotillexomania in an Adolescent Sample." Without their dedicated efforts, we might never have realized that nose picking is a common activity among children.

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JWR contributor Robert L. Haught is a columnist for The Oklahoman. Comment by clicking here.


04/04/03: These medals will not be displayed proudly
02/21/03: Distilling the truth about George
02/07/03: Politeness, politics don't mix
01/29/03: Style stupidity in the jeans
01/17/03: Coming to terms in Congress
01/13/03: 'Open' society? Well, not always
12/27/02: Would you look at 'Fristy' go!
12/20/02: Some gifts to please political pals
12/13/02: It's Snow time at White House
11/15/02: Who's Congress' lamest duck?
10/18/02: Bush can blame woes on bad 'chi'
09/27/02: Enemy list too good to be true
07/19/02: Party animals are inviting targets
07/12/02: Beat the Bush
06/21/02: Dubya and Dick; Elvis and Ozzie!?
04/30/02: Donkeys and elephants: Is it really art or is it politics?
02/22/02: Warm-up time for political spoof
01/29/02: Tax dollars working wonders
01/09/02: While Congress is away, look at the laws it has made
12/28/01: 2001: A year of achievements, but some are disputable
12/21/01: Gifts for many public officials came a bit early this year
11/29/01: Animal rights group would like to tan Osama's hide
11/20/01: Are Americans too spaced out?
10/12/01: There's something fishy going on in the U.S. Congress
10/05/01: Lincoln had some memorable things to say about war
09/21/01: Washington's guidelines on how to tickle a terrorist
08/31/01: Two Garys, going the same road
08/24/01: Dog days are laughing matter, stories set tails wagging

© 2002, Robert L. Haught