Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Attention seekers more likely to sleep around

A study has shown that teenagers who cut themselves are more likely to engage in stupid, self-destructive behavior. If you noticed how that sentence was tautological then congratulations, you're more intelligent than the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Laboratory, who needed a bunch of questionnaires and a hundred teenagers to it out.

The paper, "Frequency of Adolescent Self-Cutting as a Predictor of HIV Risk", starts with the truly spectacular statement:

"Although evidence suggesting a relationship between self-harm and sexual risk behaviors has been identified, little is known regarding the relationship between frequency of self-cutting and sexual risk."

Translation: "The link between idiots cutting themselves and doing other stupid attention-seeking shit is already known. However, no-one has spent time making a nice graph about exactly how many times they cut themselves, so we're good for papers this year."

Imagine someone spending a year testing if different colors of wheel roll differently, then remove the basically useful mechanical system.

Sexual harassment is always is always an extremely negative thing, but this once we must hope that at least one researcher took advantage of having access to a hundred sexually active teenagers with low self-esteem. Because otherwise this was an absolute waste of everyone's time.

Likely Errors: Listening to a bunch of overprivileged whining emo wastes was a definite mistake. After being carefully listened to by (allegedly) real scientists, with clipboards and everything, the illusion that their problems are real and important will take years of extra unemployment and being ignored to shake.

What they could have done with the money: When you're dealing with teens who cut themselves, there are all kinds of options: sending them to work on a farm, locking them in a soundproof container for a few months, hiring professionals to smack them upside the head every time they whine, the options are endless - though we at the institute are tending towards saving time by hiring a cement mixer, filling it with broken glass and throwing them in. Then using a sieve and touring the local soup kitchens.

Friday, June 27, 2008

New Mothers of Twins Sleep Less

Dr Elizabeth Damato, of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, is dangerous and needs to be restrained by the authorities immediately. She and several collaborators (who should also be considered extremely dangerous) spent several weeks carefully proving that mothers of twins get less sleep than other people. There is no way you can convince me that someone who needs to do that has the higher functions to understand why picking up a knife and just sticking it in someone is a "bad thing".

Searing insights from a the nine person team it apparently takes to change blindingly obvious lightbulbs in Cleveland include:
"Parenting newly born twins poses high childrearing demands"
"Preterm infants are more fragile"

At this point I feel bloody stupid for studying quantum mechanics to get a degree, when all you need is a statement anybody since the dawn of language could have said with some numbers tacked onto the end. Because by god does this study have numbers:

Oh, looks like I'm the retard here - without this vital work we might never have known the mean sleep time was three hundred and twenty one POINT TWO minutes, a twelve second error that could doubtless have spelled disaster for the space program.

Likely Errors: None. Except that the study happened.

What they could have spent the money on: Babysitters. For the glorious goal of achieving Sweet F.A. these scientists gathered round and watched fourteen mothers enter the early stages of new-mother-meltdown, happily adding to the stressload by hooking them up to motion sensors and quizzing them on exactly how much sleep they didn't get because of their new screaming children.

Check those stats - seven stressed parents told a team of "medical professionals" that they were severely depressed, and that team's response was to scribble in a clipboard and do nothing for fear of ruining the data. For over a dozen people, the universe would be a definably better place if this study had never happened.

Original article here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Students Drink On Drinking-Age Birthday: President Prepares Statement

Four years. Some people spend that long training for the Olympics, or to govern an country. Apparently it took University of Missouri researchers that long to figure out that students drink on their 21st birthday. I know it's important to make the disadvantaged feel special, Missouri, but that's why we call them "special" - renaming an entire hospital ward for the especially retarded as a "University" is going too far.

Over two and a half thousand students were asked if they drank for their birthday. If any of the researchers felt it they had enough data after the first ten, fifty, hundred, or freakin' thousand people said "Yes!" (or maybe "Yes, duh") they didn't show it. They also seem unaware that any study based on asking students questions and then believing the answers is an utter waste of time.

While it contributes the square root of fuck all to the field it's aiming for, the paper does highlight one of the serious problems in addressing youth drinking. Specifically, those addressing the issue act like aliens who arrived fully formed at fifty with their common sense surgically removed. Don't these people vaguely recall celebrating turning twenty-one? Even assuming they walked under the mental equivalent of a bulk eraser when they turned forty (the same procedure that destroys the ability to understand sexuality, modern music or technology), couldn't one of them made the arduous trek up Mount Basic Reasoning which goes: "The legal drinking age in Missouri is 21. Can we assume that, having turned 21, the person might be keen to try legally drinking?" I don't know, maybe you have to throw a couple of "therefores" and "conjectures" in there before they consider it science.

It is impossible to look at this paper and take it seriously - and they know it.

"Extremely Extreme", Rutledge? Really? See, this is why people don't take scientists seriously, it's because of shit like this. For every hundred heroes working to cure cancer or generate fusion power there's some idiot trying to act hip. We don't need to be fucking hip, lady, when we figure out how to eliminate AIDS people will not refuse to get treated because we don't use the correct slang.

"Despite public recognition of the hazards of 21st birthday drinking, there is little empirical information concerning its prevalence, severity, and risk factors." Yes, there's a reason for that! Translation "This be shit what people already knew, and therefore did not need to waste time and energy studying." They are actually admitting that their study is worthless and crowing over how they found a justification to get funding for it anyway.

There's little empirical evidence that slamming yourself in the head with a sledgehammer is bad for your health either! I mean, sure, everybody on the fucking planet already knows it and the times it's actually happened have provided absolute proof, but it's just as valid as this paper. Why not conduct a few trials and submit to the Journal of Blunt Trauma Studies? I can guarantee you won't have to keep it up for a whole leap year before you start seeing some real results and, for once, actually advance the field of science (if only by removing yourself from it).

I'm afraid that top-right corner isn't faked either. This six-page ode to the excruciatingly obvious has been peer reviewed and published in a respected psychological journal. Hey, psychology, Scientology says you're just a bunch of faking hacks and while that might be the most pot-kettlingest thing ever in recorded history, shit like this really doesn't help your side. If I have to choose between refereed proceedings on whether students drink or insane alien gods hiding in volcanoes, at least the latter required a bit of work to come up with and has explosions.

They top off this assault on science with the most horrifically misleading graph ever.

Who, ever, anywhere has ever graphed two values by cumulative percentage on the y-axis? When you want to show how many people drank a certain number of drinks, you put that number on the Y-axis - that's how graphs fucking work! That's the whole point, a clear representation of the relation between a two variables! The only conceivable reason to use cumulative values is to mislead the fuck out of the audience and give a super-duper steep climb to a screaming 100% at fifty drinks, and women drink more than men - surely our precious children are drowning in filthy rivers of liqour! Despite the fact that's the EXACT OPPOSITE of what this data shows! Despite the fact that any cumulative graph will climb like that - ANY study has 100% of its own participants, that's what 100% fucking means. The authors are genuinely hoping that their own readers will be too dumb to figure out this con a 419 scammer would dismiss as "too obviously fake and retarded." Goddammit, Rutledge, how can you sign off on this image and even pretend to be an academic - couldn't they find a red nose and big floppy shoes in your size down at the circus tent?

Likely Errors: 0%, another successful use of the "Study something everybody already knows for a fact" error-avoidance strategy.

What they could have spent the money on: It's only hard to think how the money could have been spent worse. Literally anything would have provided more benefit to the world than this study. Want to buy a thousand commemorative Elvis plates, load them onto a catapult and fling them at a bulldozer? Well, dammit, at least that hasn't been done before and we'll get a YouTube clip out of it.

Physorg article on the original research

Monday, March 24, 2008

Rock Stars Die Younger

The No Shit Institute is proud to present our first lifetime achievement award. The work of these Liverpool and Mancherster scientists is not only qualified, it embodies everything we a the NSI stand for: painfully unnecessary and wasteful research of something everybody already knows.

The paper is "Elvis to Eminem: quantifying the price of fame through early mortality of European and North American rock and pop stars". And in case your brain is refusing to translate that on the grounds that the conclusion is ridiculous: yes, a bunch of scientists actually studied "Do rock stars die younger?"

But it must be proper science - look, they have a graph!

This figure reveals a lot about the study: for one thing, it reveals they don't know how to make a graph. "Years of fame" isn't actually applicable to the general population, so they've screwed up that difficult "X-axis" component. There's also the visible graininess in the pop star curves, indicating that the sample size isn't big enough.

But how could a team of elite scientists not collect enough data? If you said "By basing the entire study around a single piece of marketing fodder", correct! They based the entire study on the "Virgin All-Time Top 1,000 albums". Science apparently consists of taking a piece of mob-pandering trash and shouting "To hell with the labs and rigorous study, we can just use this!" But wait, they claim they also "describe and utilise a novel actuarial survival methodology which allows quantification of excess post-fame mortality", proving that they're absolutely the worst people for this unnecessary job. Anybody who can describe actuarial methodologies as novel, or indeed at all, doesn't even understand what a rock star does that's fun, let alone how they could enjoy it so much it kills them.

The "researchers", and I only use that word because none the alternatives are PG-rated, recommend further study. Obviously. Because when you've worked out how to stay employed by watching MTV then googling the artists' names you want to keep that misappropriation of funding train going as long as you can - you sure as hell aren't getting work anywhere serious after that.

"Ah, Professor Bellis, you want to join our team studying the neurological causes of schizophrenia. Unfortunately, your CV indicates you spent four years studying why rock stars die young, and another three investigating why sailors drink so much in port. I'm afraid this doesn't really qualify you for our team, but if we find any obvious conclusions that need to be slowly and painfully graphed, we'll let you know."

A paper on "Why is the sky blue?" would honestly be of more scientific value - at least there's some vital optical physics there. We look forward to Prof Bellis's next paper: he lists his research interests as " Nightlife Health incorporating environmental design, sexual health, substance use, violence, transport and legislative aspects", which does sound an awful lot like getting academic funding for a week long bender complete with bail and a taxi home.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Animals apparently NOT autistic supergeniuses

Scientists have been forced to carefully and patiently explain that animals are in fact just animals, not an army of cuddly human-a-likes that coincidentally all suffer from the exact same neurological condition.

Autistic Temple Grandin forced the study after her best-selling book "Animals in Translation" posed the idea that maybe animals were autistic just like her. This was actually followed up by a study at Colorado State University. I'm sorry I have to say this, CSU, but when someone triumphs over a disability and goes on to write a successful novel about her thoughts that's a heartwarming story. That's a triumph of the human spirit, maybe even a Disney movie about a zany bunch of neurally-impaired animals who triumph over impossible odds, but it's NOT the basis for actual funded behavioral research. When a make-a-wish cancer child tells us all he wants from Santa is a cure, we brush a tear from our eye and whisper "What a brave boy" - we don't launch a North Pole search-and-retrieve mission to catch some fat bearded bastard who's apparently hoarding a tumour-killing retrovirus.

Italian scientist Giorgio Vollortigara has been forced to go on record and explain that animals aren't savants because they can remember things like where they buried their nuts or how to sing - it turns out, that's actually what animals do. You'll note that Grandins examples of squirrels and parrots are all the cute ones as well, at no point implying that vultures are perhaps misunderstood geniuses with expert corpse-dismembering skills, trapped behind cruel disability. A dog's ability to identify thousands of individuals based solely on the scent of their ballsack is also mysteriously absent

I can only guess that this is an animal rights ploy - having failed in the general field of "Don't eat the poor edible animals!" whining, they've taken a page from modern America and are trying to Politically Correct us into submission. If the cute widdle bunnies are also mentally disabled, well, then PETA can make all the utterly detestable "Meat = Holocaust" parallels they want and we'll be legally restrained from punching them until juice comes out.

But in a wonderful backfire, some of the research into this field included torturing baby chicks - so maybe the "Animals as mentally damaged victims" camp will think twice before pulling another stunt. Like designating cute creatures as native american or alterna-sexual or something. The Australian scientists found that when you block off certain parts of the brain, the (fuzzy little) birds act like something is wrong with their brain. A shocking result, also demonstrating that some debates are so stupid that even when you're proving your opponent wrong you still look retarded.

Original study here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Exercise needed to lose weight

In GOS (Goddamned Obesity Study) #443, Professor Wing of Brown University (USA) valiantly struggles against the chains of "common knowledge" to tell us that taking the stairs once in a while won't lose you twenty pounds. Apparently, if you want to lose weight you have to actually change your lifestyle and do exercise and stuff. One can imagine the bloodstained scientists fleeing exploding research labs, shielding the hard drives they carry with their own flesh so that this vital truth escapes those who Don't Want You To Know.

Secret human fat-harvesting cabal aside, is there anyone who didn't already know this? Were the researchers genuinely expecting this study would be the final Shining Light that penetrates the cholesterol armor surrounding the fattass's self-control, burning away their laziness and shame with the searing luminance of revelation? This is like erecting the fourth "Fires are bad!" sign in front of a burning orphanage - yes, it's an urgent problem, but just saying so doesn't actually do anything and the previous stupid goddamn signs didn't do a thing.

Worse, this isn't a TV-break at some Nutri-mate(TM) sponsored Hot Dog eating contest, this is a genuine presentation at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. Now that they've got the "exercise gets you in better shape" landmark established, watch out, they'll have fire within the decade.

This is pure market-targeted research, nodding their heads sagely and muttering "Yes, that's terrible" about the public's problems (in exchange for funding - it's basically society-level therapy). The work is peppered (and salted, then bacon-bitted) with fat-friendly its-not-your-fault-isms: did you know that this is an obesogenic environment? That the globesity epidemic is serious? That it can be hard to overcome genetic or physiological propensities towards obesity (and bags of Doritos)?

Likely errors: None. This is an accurate report - that's the kind of result you can get when you start with something everyone already knows, then spend years finding a way to say that in a big report.

What the money could have been spent on: "Excuse me sir. Yes, sorry to bother you in the street like this, but this will just take one second: does exercise help you lose weight? It does? Thank you sir! Please take this huge sum of money that we were going to waste on a multiple-year report and the National Weight Control Registry!"

or: Use the data from their National Weight Control Registry as a reverse Do Not Call list, forwarding it to pizza delivery chains country-wide.

Original news piece here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Parents affect Children: Shocker

In the sort of ground-breaking study that this journal will be based on, Dr Walker of the Brigham Young university (USA) has shown that people in college are affected by their parents. This overturns the previous belief that the instant they enrolled in third level, students become fully developed independent-minded bastions of solitude, immune to the effects of the virtual strangers who raised them for the previous sixteen years.

Apparently those still in close contact with their parents have less sex and drink more responsibly than others - or at least, that's what they tell older people who come up to them with a pen.

A secondary study shows that many students experiment in college, except - and this is important - for those who don't. Society as a whole is still reeling from these revelations, but wait with bated breath for the next searing expose. Mayhap Dr Walker will reveal that some college girls who claim lesbian identity are doing it for attention (except the ones who aren't)?

Likely errors: The entire data-collection process involved questionnaires filled out by undergraduate students, meaning that we run afoul of errors from
  • Pre-selecting those students with nothing better to do than fill out a form on what they tell their parents
  • The form asks about their relationship with their parents, so they'll lie
  • It also asks about their sexual behaviour, so they'll automatically lie

What they could have done with the money: Bought the five pints it would have taken to sit in the student bar long enough to work all this out. Actually, one would be enough, but while you're there and surrounding by young dumb college booty you may as well. Which raises the possibility that this is all just a scam to ask undergrads about their sexual history. So spend the rest on drinks and a camcorder.

Original news article here