Friday, October 1, 2010

Research Matters- just not all of it

It's nice to see scientists have a sense of humour. Recent awards have gone out to the IgNobles, the opposite of the Nobel prize for science, to award scientists who have studied oral bat sex and whale snot. The IgNobles are the Razzis of the science world and have made a tradition of honouring weird science and proving that scientists are humans too. Among their notable awards, they've also praised BP for showing that water and oil do mix and Goldman Sachs for creative economics. Science, politics and humour combined- this is a fake awards show that I would love to attend.

In other interesting weird science news, a group of scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center has been studying whether or not asparagus pee really exists. Many people have complained about a strange, sulphur-like smell after consuming asparagus and apparently, this myth has been so compelling that this group of researchers decided to investigate further. See following excerpt from online Yahoo article:

"In the new study, the researchers recruited 38 participants who gave urine samples twice, before and after eating bread or asparagus (the eating sessions were spaced at least three days apart). Then the participants returned and sniffed other participants' urine and their own in separate sessions, which were limited to prevent nose fatigue. At each session, they were asked three times to distinguish between urine produced after eating asparagus or bread and between urine produced before and after eating asparagus. The scientists also tested their general olfactory ability."

I find it astounding that anyone thought that this was an important enough scientific mystery to seriously investigate pee. Can anyone really be that fascinated with the study of pee smells? I'm also dumbfounded that they found a group of participants willing to smell other people's pee in the name of science.

To be fair, I suppose that science is any kind of research that is curiosity driven and seeks to answer a question. Scientific methods can be used to unlock all sorts of mysteries, and it doesn't all have to be in the name of saving the world. I'm just glad that one of the IgNobel prize winners discovered that swearing helps to alleviate pain when you stub your toe. Now that makes me feel better.

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