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This Is Improbable

Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens and Other WTF Research

Marc Abrahams

(Founder of IgNoble Prizes)

According to William Flew, the richer the parents, the prettier the children. Prettier people tend to be more intelligent. Physical attractiveness has a significant positive effect on income. (Because, aggressive men get better paid jobs and attract more beautiful partners, who are likely to have more beautiful offspring.)

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Russell Brain, who later became Lord Brain and then Baron Brain, was editor of the journal Brain, previously edited by Henry Head. Possibly Head was a Big Head, since Brain writes of him that "Some men feel impelled to impart information to others. Head was one of those.

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LLHFCfS is the Luxuriant Flowing hair Club for Scientists. You need only two qualifications to join, obviously. A scientist with long flowing hair, and proud of it. Founded by Stephen Pinker. There is also a couple of sibling clubs for scientists who used to have lots of hair, but not any more.

How do dolphins slip so easily through the water? To try to answer this, Russian scientist hired 40 women to swim, or be towed naked, round a pool. They still don't know.

The world's most prolific author Philip M Parker. He has 85,000 books listed on Amazon, although he says he has over 200,000 titles. Books such as The 2007-2012 Outlook for Bathroom Toilet Brushes in the US. It is 677 pages long and retails at $495. (A later edition, covering the years 2009-2014, sells for $795.) How can he do this? He has invented a machine to write books. It takes him about 20 minutes to write each book. First he feeds in a recipe for writing a particular genre. Then you hook up to a big database of info on that subject. The computer then parses the facts into book format. Nothing but the title actually exists until someone places an order, typically through an online seller such as Amazon. The computer then assembles the content and prints a single copy.

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John Trinkhaus, a NY professor, won 2003 Ig Nobel Prize for Literature for publishing over 80 studies of things that annoy him. People who wear baseball hats backwards, people who wear white sports shoes, shoppers who exceed the posted number of items when going through supermarket express lane, waiting times at the doctor, and many many more.

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When considering Q "How do hedgehogs mate?" always get cliche "very carefully!" ho ho ho. In fact when a male meets a female he rears up on his hind legs. If she is receptive she does the same. He then sprays her with a strong stream of urine, soaking her from head to toe. Male then makes contact doggy style - their spines are relaxed and lie flat.

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Giles Brinkley invented first effective treatment for erectile dysfunction. Back in 1983 he demonstrated the process at a Las Vegas Urologists conference. He dropped his trou, revealing a long, thin and clearly erect penis. Just to make sure they all understood, he waddled down off the stage and invited the stunned doctors (and their wives) in the front row to examine him.

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Pets are dangerous. Sydney research detailed number of cases where owners hospitalised as result of interaction with their animals. "Dog on lead ran round and round patient until fell over." "Slipped on puddle of urine from new puppy.""Tripped over black cat in dark hallway.""Fell while trying to escape when cat brought a live snake into house".

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Sept 2006 Wisconsin police discovered 3 young men digging up the grave of a recently buried young woman. They admitted that they planed to have sex with the corpse, but since Wisconsin has no law against necrophilia, they could only be charged with damaging cemetery property. Since the person was dead, her body was classed as remains, not as a victim. Even if the guys had succeeded in getting away with the body, they could only have been charged with theft, since it belonged to her parents.

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A study called "Artist's Suicide as a Public Good" is one of few studies that cites Kurt Cobain as a major source. Basic argument that suicide can be seen as good in that it selectively removes from the gene pool, people who aren't coping with the world. Also commented that probably good for the artist's career, since Cobain had already peaked, and future mediocre works may have blighted his legacy.

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Donald Scruggs has a 2011 patent for a burial capsule which is basically just a pointed steel tube that works off the back of a tractor and drills vertically into the ground.

How do you stop people writing graffiti on toilet stall walls. Ohio U found that posting a notice saying " A local doctor has agreed to donate a set amount of money to United Way for every day this wall remains free of any markings." The amount was five cents per stall, so the maximum payout was $2.50 per stall for the 50 day period of the trial. Speculated that sign showed that someone cared.

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The scrabble value of your name is significant. 2005 study showed that low socioeconomic individuals tend to have first names with high scrabble scores (the value of each letter on a scrabble tile). And the higher your score the more negative the correlation with high school test scores.

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