News » Curious Times

October 13-19 2004

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STILL NO CURE FOR CANCER

The good folks over at the Annals of Improbable Research (www.improb.com) have posted the results of this year's Ig Nobel Prize winners. The Ig Nobel awards are a tongue-in-cheek celebration of scientific research that we probably do not need. 2004 brought another round of real winners, including the prize in medicine, which went to a study carried out at Auburn University in Alabama, titled "The Effect of Country Music on Suicide." That study proved that suicide rates are higher in cities with more country music radio stations. Their analysis concluded that country music nurtures "a suicidal mood through its concerns with problems common in the suicidal population, such as marital discord, alcohol abuse, and alienation from work." Other Ig Nobel Prizes were handed out in physics (for a paper titled "Coordination Modes in the Multisegmental Dynamics of Hula Hooping"), chemistry (to Coca-Cola, for the innovative technology which turned London's river water into over-priced bottled water), engineering (to the man who patented the combover), and biology (for a study which found that herring can communicate by farting). Finally, in the area of public health, research finally put to rest the myth of the five-second-rule, which claims that food which falls to the floor is safe to eat for five seconds. In tests with floors deliberately contaminated with E. coli, the researchers found that gummy bears and fudge cookies pick up the contamination in less than five seconds. But in tests with real-world floors, the food picked up no contamination because real floors are rarely doused with harmful bacteria. (www.improb.com)

FULL FOUR YEARS' SUPPLY OF IRONY

The great gods of poetic justice made up for years of neglect during last week's vice-presidential debate, during which Dick Cheney tried to cover up his lies by sending 60 million television viewers to the website factcheck.org. Unfortunately for the Bush campaign, Cheney actually directed people to factcheck.com, not .org. Within minutes of the debate the website was getting upwards of 100 hits per second, so the owner of the domain name factcheck.com decided to redirect all that traffic to someone who could better afford it, and aimed all incoming traffic to the Web site of vehemently anti-Bush billionaire George Soros. "Why we must not re-elect President Bush" exclaims the headline on factcheck.com, stating, "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests, and undermining American values." Take that, Dick!

CHOKE THAT CHICKEN, DON'T CHOP IT!

An inexplicable report out of Romania claims that an old man who was trying to kill a chicken accidentally cut off his own penis instead. Constantin Mocanu, 67, kept awake all night by a noisy chicken, let his sleep deprivation get the better of him as he rushed out into the yard in order to shut the animal up. Instead, he hacked off his own penis. "I confused it with the chicken's neck,'' he told emergency room staff, "I cut it ... and the dog rushed and ate it.'' (Rompres News Agency)

THIS WOULD BE A GOOD REPLACEMENT FOR PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES

It's time once again for the third annual World Rock Paper Scissors Championships. This year Toronto hosts the event on October 16, which will pit all comers against professional Rock Paper Scissor competitors for the prestigious title of World Champion and a $10,000 prize. Get all the details at www.rpschamps.com. But if boring old Rock Paper Scissors no longer challenges you, some internet geek has designed a new twist on the game called "Rock Paper Scissors Spock Lizard." The Web site at samkass.com/theories/RPSSL.html has diagrams of the hand gestures needed to play the game, and explains that "scissors cuts paper covers rock crushes lizard poisons spock smashes scissors decapitates lizard eats paper disproves spock vaporizes rock crushes scissors." (www.rpschamps.com) :

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