Science is serious business. It is conducted by old men with glasses and white lab coats in underground chambers. It has to do with chemicals and numbers and chalkboards with strange formulas. There is no way that science could ever be fun. And definitely not research papers. While that may hold some truth, if you read through some scientific literature you may be inclined to change your mind. There are plenty of research papers out there on topics as silly sounding as cow farts. We’re serious. Although it is sometimes unclear as to what the researchers were hoping to accomplish, the titles of their research papers are bizarre enough to elicit some good laughs. Many times, of course, studying something like cow farts is actually quite useful (cows are one of the primary contributors to greenhouse gasses) and can help change our world for the better. There are other research topics though, that might leave you more puzzled. In one paper the researchers tried to figure out the optimal surface across which you would drag sheep. We are as confused as you. Apparently, however, somebody thought it would be worth funding and at the very least it gave us a good laugh. These are 25 extremely bizarre research papers!
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Do Woodpeckers Get Headaches?
“Cure for a headache”, British Journal of Ophthalmology, 2002
The answer is basically that, no, they don’t get headaches because they have sturdy jaws and small brains.
Which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of lead?
Although they are obviously the same, researchers at Illinois State University determined that people consistently rated the lead as weighing more.
Is a full or an empty beer bottle better for breaking a human skull?
“Are full or empty beer bottles sturdier and does their fracture-threshold suffice to break the human skull?”, University of Bern
Apparently full bottles strike with more force, but both can be used to break skulls.
Have people really been abducted by aliens, and why?
David Michael Jacobs. 1992. Secret Life: Firsthand, Documented Accounts of UFO Abductions. New York: Simon & Schuster
The basic conclusion of these medical researchers from Harvard and Temple Universities was that people have indeed been abducted and the primary reason was the “production of children”. We’re not even joking.
How often do deployed US troops get constipated?
Sweeney, WB; Krafte-Jacobs, B; Britton, JW; Hansen, W (1993). “The constipated serviceman: prevalence among deployed U.S. troops.”. Military medicine
A pressing question, this study features some of the most detailed statistical analyses ever performed regarding rates of defecation.
Do patients prefer waxed or unwaxed dental floss?
Beaumont, R. H. (1990). “Patient preference for waxed or unwaxed dental floss”. Journal of periodontology
After pages upon pages of thrilling suspense, the conclusion is…waxed floss. Patients prefer waxed floss.
How does water affect breakfast cereal?
Georget, D. M. R.; Parker, R.; Smith, A. C. (1994). “A study of the effects of water content on the compaction behaviour of breakfast cereal flakes”. Powder Technology
As you may have suspected (and any 3rd grader could confidently tell you) the water makes it soggy. But it’s always good to have research papers backing up your observations.
Does wearing wet underwear make you feel cold during winter?
Bakkevig, M. K.; Nielsen, R. (1994). “Impact of wet underwear on thermoregulatory responses and thermal comfort in the cold”. Ergonomics
The University of Denmark really went all in with this one. The answer is a resounding yes, wearing wet underwear outside during winter will definitely make you feel cold. Good to know.
How does ale, garlic, and soured cream affect the appetite of leeches?
Baerheim, A; Sandvik, H (1994). “Effect of ale, garlic, and soured cream on the appetite of leeches”
How can you get a leech to suck more blood? Apparently dunking it in ale or smearing it with soured cream do the trick.
Can chicken feathers be used to determine the speed of a tornado?
Vonnegut, B. (1975). “Chicken Plucking as Measure of Tornado Wind Speed”. Weatherwise
They can in fact! All you have to do is determine the exact wind speed at which all of a chicken’s feathers get blown off. After that you just apply some fancy mathematics and voila!…you have your answer.
Can farting make you feel better?
Sidoli, M. (1996). “Farting as a defence against unspeakable dread”. Journal of Analytical Psychology
Of course farting makes you feel better physically, but what about mentally? Apparently it can, because according to these researchers, farting can actually prevent depression.
What is the optimal way to dunk a biscuit?
Fisher, L. (1999). “Physics takes the biscuit”. Nature
It’s complicated. Actually, it’s so complicated that it took an entire research paper to figure it out.
What species of Costa Rican tadpole tastes the best?
“On the Comparative Palatability of Some Dry-Season Tadpoles from Costa Rica”, Richard Wassersug, The American Midland Naturalist
For all you “dry-season Costa Rican tadpole” lovers out there, you can finally put your questions to rest.
Can magnets levitate a frog?
Berry, M. V.; Geim, A. K. (1997). “Of flying frogs and levitrons” (PDF). European Journal of Physics
They can, and they did.
How dangerous are collapsing toilets?
Wyatt, JP; McNaughton, GW; Tullett, WM (1993). “The collapse of toilets in Glasgow”. Scottish medical journal
According to these researchers, very dangerous. And as toilets age, the danger of collapsing toilets only increases.
Are falling coconuts dangerous?
Barss, P. (1984). “Injuries due to falling coconuts”. The Journal of trauma
We already know that collapsing toilets are dangerous, so how about coconuts? Canadian researchers answer our question with a resounding yes, falling coconuts have the potential to kill you.
Why do shower curtains billow inwards?
Anthony Ramirez (15 July 2001). “How to Avoid Being Attacked in the Shower”. The New York Times
It’s something we have all tried to avoid…the inevitable attack of the shower curtain. And now we have science to rescue us, or at least explain why the curtain behaves the way it does.
Do teenagers pick their noses a lot?
Andrade, C.; Srihari, B. S. (2001). “A preliminary survey of rhinotillexomania in an adolescent sample”. The Journal of clinical psychiatry
They do. At least according to this research paper adolescents engage in rhinotillexomania (nose picking) quite often.
Who is most likely to have belly button fluff?
“The Great Bellybutton Lint Survey: The Results – ABC Science Online”
Karl Kruszelnicki of The University of Sydney, Australia, did an in depth survey of numerous people concerning the quantity and quality of their bellybutton lint. He found that you are more likely to have fluff if you are male, older, hairy, and have an innie belly button.
Does highlighting prevent you from understanding what you are reading?
Silvers, V.; Kreiner, D. (1997). “The effects of pre-existing inappropriate highlighting on reading comprehension”. Literacy Research and Instruction
When you get a used textbook and it comes with nearly everything highlighted in a gazillion colors, does it actually affect your ability to learn the material? The answer is yes, it does.
How much surface area does an Indian elephant have?
Sreekumar, K. P.; Nirmalan, G. (1990). “Estimation of the total surface area in Indian elephants (Elephas maximus indicus)”. Veterinary research communications
Quite a bit, according to these researchers.
What sort of surfaces are the best for dragging sheep?
Harvey, J. T.; Culvenor, J.; Payne, W.; Cowley, S.; Lawrance, M.; Stuart, D.; Williams, R. (2002). “An analysis of the forces required to drag sheep over various surfaces”. Applied ergonomics
In case you ever wondered what sort of surface is the most conducive to dragging sheep across it, this is your study.
Does country music cause people to commit suicide?
Stack, S.; Gundlach, J. (1992). “The Effect of Country Music on Suicide”. Social Forces
Although correlation does not imply causation, people who listen to country music do in fact suffer from higher rates of suicide.
Is the 5 second rule true?
Greenemeier, Larry. “Fact or Fiction?: The 5-Second Rule for Dropped Food”
While certainly not perfect, this study does lend it some legitimacy.
Can people swim faster in syrup or water?
Gettelfinger, B.; Cussler, E. L. (2004). “Will humans swim faster or slower in syrup?”. AIChE Journal
Apparently comparable velocities can be attained in both media.