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