[Guest Post] Best of the Annals of Improbable Research (Part 2)

The following is a guest post by Brandon Findlay, who regularly blogs at ChemTips.

Best of the Annals of Improbable Research (Part 2)

It’s time for another best-of from the Annals of Improbable Research. As before, I’ve gone through the freely available section of the journal looking for the most significant research I could find [1, 2].

“The Sleep Retardant Properties of My Ex-Girlfriend” catalogues Ryan Baker’s search for a good night’s sleep. After overhearing friends and colleagues express a desire to “sleep with” his girlfriend, Baker developed a regression model of around eleven variables he thought might contribute to his sleeping patterns. By far the most significant was the location of sleep, with Baker sleeping a little over two hours less when at his girlfriend’s apartment (R2=0.223, p<0.001).  They are no longer together.

Sadly, the Annals are not immune to pseudoscience, as shown by their lamentable decision to publish this horoscope for bacteria. Due to the limited lifespan of bacterial cells they have simplified the stars somewhat, tracking only the position of the sun, but the predictions remain the same empty platitudes familiar to all who have browsed supermarket tabloids. ”Rich medium supplemented with casamino acids is in your future. Rev up the Embden-Myerhoff pathway!” Bah.

My spirits were revived somewhat by this next article, an in depth study into the “Doornail” standard of death (pdf). As medical science has advanced patients’ lungs and hearts have maintained function despite complete absence of brain activity, and it has become difficult to separate life from non-life. Through physical observation and electrocardiograms the authors observed no brain activity or physical movements in their test subject, a common doornail. They conclude that clinical definitions of death, which espouse a lack of brain activity, are sufficient.

On the medical front also comes an idea that is well ahead of its time, the Double Strength Placebo. Given the strength of the flu this year we’ll need all the medicinal aid we can get, and I wholeheartedly encourage the FDA to expedite approval of the DSP. True pioneers, the authors also outline an innovative adaptation of the standard “double-blind experiment” that I think merits further study.

The last article in this series was impossible to summarize effectively, though the author has presented his work at a national conference.

Chicken Chicken Chicken: Chicken Chicken (pdf) by Doug Zongker.


[1] Just think of what their impact factor could be if the journal was open access.

[2] If anyone has access to the Sep/Oct issue of 1999 (Special issue: Bearded Men) I would be quite interested. The importance of beards in organic chemistry research at the turn of the 20th century is not to be underestimated.

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  1. Pingback: Guest Posts on Chemistry Blog – The Annals of Improbable Research « Chemtips

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