Apr
10
2006

Science confirms the obvious!

That’s the headline of an article in the April issue of Popular Science. They look at ten actual studies that prove things like swallowing magnets is dangerous, memory fades with age, and – my favorite – meetings make you grumpy.

Why go through the time and effort to prove things that everyone already knows anyway? As the article explains:

First, scientists don’t assume how the world works; they test it. Common knowledge once held that meat spontaneously generated maggots. Then, in 1668, Italian physician Francesco Redi devised a set of investigative steps—what we now call an experiment—to prove wrong what everybody thought they knew.

Aside from testing untested observations, the other good reason to undertake no-duh studies, investigators told us, is that hard numbers often inspire social change. Simply put, scientists must quantify to justify.

As one of the “honorees” explained:

"We understand that first and foremost a basic assumption of science is you don't just believe it because you have anecdotal evidence. You have to do a rigorous, quantifiable test.''

The studies reviewed in the article include:

1. Combining Drugs and Alcohol Is Bad for You
2. Gun-Toting Drivers Are More Prone to Road Rage
3. Too Many Meetings Make You Grumpy
4. Faraway Objects are Tougher to See
5. The Beer-Goggle Effect Is a Bona-Fide Phenomenon
6. Swallowing More Than One Magnet Is Dangerous
7. Smoking Cigarettes Costs You Money
8. Memory and Concentration Fade With Age
9. Women Like Funny Men
10. Time Flies When You're Busy

This reminds me of the Golden Fleece Awards. Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire issued a monthly “award” to a federal program that was a “wasteful, ridiculous or ironic use of the taxpayers’ money.” My favorite was a study which asked people to draw maps of their home towns. Analysis showed that people provided more detail for areas around home, work and school than for other areas. The study interpreted this as evidence that some people are prejudiced against the folks living in those other parts of town. I interpreted it as evidence that most people are more familiar with places they have been to than with places they haven’t.

Science confirms the obvious!

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

wow how do i get on one of those research teams!? would be so cool...

posted on Mon, 04/10/2006 - 5:18pm

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