Time for another round-up of the weeks science news, in a not-at-all-serious manner.
Palaeontologists Announce New Line of 'Action' Fossils
In a bid to encourage greater interest and enthusiasm from the next generation of potential students, Palaeontologists have recently released the first in what representatives of the field are describing as 'a new line of 'action fossils''. These fossils feature the traditional intricate bone structure and features arrived at after long periods of painstaking research, but in a bid to appeal to the younger generation, also include formidable weapons and other combat accessories.
The first of the new line of fossils is has been named Xenicibis xympithecus by palaeontologists. However, the newly formed Palaeontology marketing department has rebranded it as the Ninja Nunchuck Chicken. Palaeontologists state that this is the first time a member of the vertebrate kingdom has been shown to evolve specific weapons in this manner. Despite this, Vincent Marillion, VP of the newly formed Palaeontology Integrated Sales and Statistical Optimisation of Future Fossils (PISSOFF) Marketing group, promises us that it will not be the last.
"This first new fossil, the Ninja Nunchuck Chicken, is just the beginning. Kids like chickens, they're familiar, they're friendly, they're safe. So it was an obvious choice to begin the paradigm shift with a more demographically friendly animal. But then, we armed it with nunchucks! Sort of. They're bony clubs on hinges in the wings, but that's essentially the same thing as far as I understand it, which is not very far at all"
When asked if this was the sort of thing that could be expected from future fossil discoveries, Mr. Marillion was enthusiastic about the possibilities.
"Yes indeed, but a great deal more so. A chicken with bony wing weapons is just the start, 'testing the waters' so to speak. Depending on how sales are for this model, we have a wide range of action fossils ready for launch over the next few years. I'm not at liberty to divulge all the details, but in the coming months you can expect to see ammonites with acid-spitting capabilities, a lizard which is reminiscent of a miniature komodo dragon and comes equipped with twin Katana blades, a previously unclassified from of marsupial that hurls shuriken when you press a specific vertebrae, and a 600,000 year old hominid skeleton with fully articulated limbs and kung-fu grip that comes with its own flame thrower"
When faced with the accusation that these new fossils all feature some violent, aggressive aspect, Mr Marillion dismissed any concerns out of hand.
"Of course, this first line of fossils is aimed at the young-teenage boys demographic. We thought, 'who's more likely to spend many years of their lives looking for and carefully uncovering dusty bits of old bone? Lonely men, of course. And any man who's interested in palaeontology is obviously going to struggle to get a girlfriend. But we're hoping to change this with our next line of fossils, which include a form of early mammal with long realistic hair for styling, a primitive horse type creature which comes in a variety of bright colours and floral patterns, and miniature Pterosaur from the mid Triassic period that has its own kitchen."
When it was pointed out that these fossil designs play to crude and potentially harmful gender stereotyping, Mr Marillion pointed out that he works in Marketing, where such behaviour is compulsory. He also laughed off any accusations of old-fashioned thinking.
"That's not what we're about here at PISSOFF. We're bringing palaeontology into the 21st century" he said without any detectable irony.
Science Research Grants now to be allocated by Pay-Per-View Death match
In the wake of the freeze on UK science funding and the drastic reduction/changes to the higher education funding system, The Research Societies Council of the UK have announced changes in how science research grants are awarded. The new system will rely less on panels of experts in relevant fields reviewing the merits of detailed proposals submitted by research groups, and instead depend primarily on the outcome of brutal no-holds-barred battles in front of baying spectators.
Details are still being finalised, but sources inside the council suggest that the new system could bring multiple benefits to the science funding process, as well as streamlining the bureaucracy involved. It is believed that the revenue generated by ticket sales and broadcast rights for the funding battles could potentially make up for the shortfall caused by government cuts to science research. As well as this, our sources indicate that conscious ambiguity on the councils part regarding whether the funding battles are 'to the death' could help reduce the overall demand for research funding. The legal practicalities of this approach are still being worked out, but as it is an issue concerning the science community, it is considered highly unlikely that the mainstream media will even be aware of it.
The new system is also being designed with the intention of maximising public interest in the outcome of the bouts in order to increase revenue. Our inside source who asked not be identified as Dr Ian Trellison, revealed several ideas have been considered for the format of the funding bouts, including tag/group battles in order to incorporate research groups with several members, coordinated strategic conflicts where research leaders send expendable post docs and PhD students to do their bidding and probably die in the process, and themed conflicts, e.g. where geneticists face each other with genetically advanced killer creatures, and engineers and physicists design giant killer robots with which to vanquish their opponents.
"It's taking some serious working out, but the Research council are confident this could be a new milestone in the area of science funding" is something Dr Trellison definitely did NOT say. He also did not add that "The issue that originally presented a major obstacle was that, typically, scientists as people aren’t particularly suited to impressive displays of physical prowess, and that this would deter people from wanting to see the fights. After all, who would want to watch a group of people desperately competing for something via a medium that they have no skill or aptitude for? Then one of the professors saw an episode of X-factor and realised that this was exactly what the general public DID want to see, so they're going ahead".
"Hang On! This guy's a c**t!" says British Medical Journal, 13 years too late
Despite his wild and dangerous claims based on ethically and scientifically flawed 'research' having been scrutinised and debunked continuously by experts in the field for over a decade, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) recently released an article stating categorically that Former Doctor Andrew Wakefield is, in fact, quite a considerable twat.
The article sites considerable support for general twattery on the part of Wakefield, including the deliberate and extensive falsification of patients records, and the financial incentives and plans Wakefield had for the commercial exploitation of the scare caused by his declaring a link between the MMR vaccine and autism where none actually existed.
Sources at the BMJ state that so numerous were the examples of Wakefield being a 'grade-A twat' that his classification was upgraded to 'complete c**t'. The BMJ confirmed, however, that this is not the top ranking in their classification system for undesirable persons, which is 'complete and utter C**T', with c**t spelled entirely in capitals and without any asterisks. In order to achieve this classification, Wakefield would have had to cause as much damage as he did single-handedly, and/or post videos of himself strangling several of his child subjects while singing 'My Way' to YouTube.
"Thing is though, as much as we want to scapegoat the guy for being a complete c**t, this whole mess wasn't exclusively his fault" says Janis Mackintosh, researcher for the BMJ. "I mean, yeah, he was a complete and total arse who probably should be sacked from science altogether, but his colleagues and backers didn't do much about it did they?"
Miss Mackintosh, as well as many others, have a great deal to say on the subject. The fact that the elements of the scientific community concerned allowed Wakefield to conduct this 'research' and publish it does serious damage to the credibility of the scientific field.
"Yeah, it's all very well to look back and shake our heads in disgust, but where were the people who were supposed to stop this kind of shit happening? I'll tell you where, scrabbling for research grants and author credits, while this dickhead just breezed through and kicked up a shit storm that we're still dealing with". Much of what miss Mackintosh said was too 'colourful' for publication here, but when asked what she felt about the media's role in the scandal, she was heard to scoff.
"Oh yeah, blame the media, that's the easy get-out clause for us boffins. You throw a fresh carcass in a piranha tank, they're going to go nuts and make a mess, but they're just nasty little brainless creatures that get excited by blood, they don't really know what they're doing or the damage it causes. We, however, should know better. And anyway, the guy who rumbled the whole thing is a journalist. A philosophy graduate! That makes us look even more stupid"
Miss Mackintosh then said 'What about you, huh? Where were you when all this was going down? Huh, you're so smug! What did you do to stop this debacle?" When told that Science Digestive's spokesperson was in school at the time, and a school that rarely vaccinated as any needles were immediately stolen to be used for crack, Miss Mackintosh accused them of 'looking at her funny' then physically threw them out of her office.
An alternative representative of the BMJ later apologised for Miss Mackintosh's combative attitude and explained that this was caused by a new brand of coffee that had recently been introduced at the office refectory.
Awww, look at the little Fluffy Wuffys!
For the first time ever, Scientists have obtained groundbreaking footage which gives an insight into the behaviour of baby beavers and their parents when at home in their lodges. Also for the first time ever, the majority of the world has been asked to care about what beavers do when not building damns in an amusing, rodenty way.
Beavers typically are not subjected to much general public scrutiny, what with inhabiting regions outside of densely populated areas, being too big/watery to make successful pets, not being cultivated for meat or fur but contrastingly not being particularly endangered, so this nugget of media attention has been received with great enthusiasm by biologists. (In the original draft of this story, the term used was 'Beaverologist', but we were subsequently informed that this is not the correct term because there is no such thing)
A study spanning many months, using state-of-the art waterproof microcameras successfully produced enough material to allow a 2 minute grainy black-and-white video of cute but hard-to-make-out baby beavers and their parents behaving pretty much exactly as you'd expect a family of rodenty mammals to behave when supposedly no-one is looking
"It's a major discovery" insists Beaverologist sorry Biologist Franklin Christopher. "We've never known before how beavers behave when not being watched, and now we do". In response to follow up questions, Christopher also said that "Yes, people DO care! Stop saying that!"
Christopher bemoaned the state of beaver-based publicity at present. "It's hard, you know? We try to get people interested in beaver-based news, but every time we send out an update, all the traffic we get on our websites in basically confused amateur perverts looking for 'moist young beavers' or whatever the hell it's called these days. When it comes to actual beavers, nobody ever gives a damn!". Mr Christopher then got frustrated and asked us to leave when he caught us sniggering at that last comment.
Shocking Scandal as it's revealed that Rubber Bands don’t imbue Magic Powers
People all across the Western world were forced to deal with the shocking revelation that, despite the fact many many famous people and sorts stars think otherwise, colourful rubber bands do not give the wearer magical or super-powers.
The makers of the rubber bands in question, marketed worldwide as Power balance bracelets, and which claim to improve strength, flexibility, balance, concentration, sexual prowess, confidence, words-per-minute typing rate, the range of electromagnetic frequencies colours that can be visually perceived, top running speed, and penis and breast size (in both genders, bizarrely), have been forced to admit that the bands, which allegedly work by manipulating “key frequencies of the human energy system,” actually don’t do anything of the sort.
Member of the public and aspiring football star Gary Johnson (168 lbs) was just one of the many people shocked at the confession.
"I mean, if a bit of rubber with one of those cheap hologram things stuck in it actually CAN'T drastically improve all my physical abilities, then I don’t know what to believe! I mean, if David Beckham can be fooled by something like this, then my entire world view is turned upside down!" He had more to say on the matter, but this is not repeated here as it was deemed too tragic.
Other things that were announced as not actually having magical properties were Green rings that, in spite of what appears to be the case in upcoming blockbusters, do not grant wearers super space-travelling and combat abilities, electric stomach-shocking devices that in no way give sedentary users rippling six packs, and personal firearms that in no way enhance the owners masculinity. The latter revelation has met with considerable opposition from the American right wing.
Sociologist Amber Trellis explained the phenomenon between bouts of hitting her head against her desk.
"People want an easy solution. Working hard at something is no fun, so why not buy something for a moderate sum that can do it for you. We all do it, I mean I could painstakingly work out all the calculations needed for my job by hand, but I usually just use the computer. But then computers work, because their machines designed by experts to do things, not random bits of inert material with a bit of that stuff you get in sticker books tacked on for good measure. Why the hell would that sort of thing make you fitter and stronger? If it did, Panini would have the world's most powerful workforce and would have conquered the Earth by now. But unless I've seriously overlooked some considerable data, they haven't. And I'm a sociologist, I would know these things".
When asked why people are so certain that the Power Balance Bracelets work, Mrs Trellis cited the fame factor.
"People have seen all these famous sports stars wearing them while achieving things in their sport, so they make the obvious connection and assume they work. Sports stars also always wear a wide selection of other clothes too (apart from maybe Tiger Woods), but these items aren’t assumed to increase athletic prowess because, what with marketing and consumer culture, people probably already own those, but haven't found themselves becoming more physically capable as a result"
Kate Middleton was also spotted wearing a Power Balance bracelet, but the manufacturers have also had to withdraw their claims that the bracelets enable you to obtain a famous, upper-class balding fiancé.
Email: humourology (at) live.co.uk