© Norman Sperling, December 31, 2014
As always, The Journal of Irreproducible Results brings up real issues in its light-hearted way.
“We submitted most of our research design and several very good red velvet bundt cakes and a bottle of Scotch to the local Institutionalized Review Bored consisting of a bioethicist and his medical marijuana, a fairly convincing female impersonator, Plinkey (a nearsighted but lovely golden cocker spaniel), a black & white photograph of Merv Griffin, Mrs. Bronson, and 2 bowling pins. As usual, we were granted full authorization to proceed.”
- Herschel Knapp, PhD, UCLA, page 25
How good and proper are Institutional Review Boards? Occasionally I hear a little grousing. Surely researchers don’t have as much latitude as they used to, and shouldn’t. Are some boards too lax? Are some too restrictive? Should the rules they enforce be adjusted? Should some research be opened back up?
Fireplaces recede into history as more recent heating methods keep us warm. Fireplaces still lend romance and atmosphere. Unfortunately, the atmosphere they generate when users don’t know any better is carbon monoxide, which has killed humans for centuries. The Doherty family wrote an article pointing out that CO deaths rise in the Holiday season, following cheery fires. Let awareness rise instead of deaths.
An optometrist focuses on the problem that “most multi-focal contact lens patients need to accept that to be able to see well for reading, one has to put up with the occasional automobile accident. Conversely, to maintain adequate distance vision, most multi-focal contact lens wearers should expect to carry a lighthouse with them wherever they go, to provide adequate lighting for near tasks.” Exaggeration brings out humor, but to what degree is this true? Should advertising be reined back?
Siri leads consumers by the ear. Her “artificial intelligence” flows out of smartphones. Will she eventually violate Asimov’s 3 laws of robotics? John Wade thinks she could. Or at least, he thought that when he submitted the article we just printed. We haven’t heard from him since.
Hanjo Hamann of Bonn, Germany, tells how a legal scholar there conjured up a type of animal that nature never made. Laws that are contrary to reality and contrary to evidence need to be expunged. Citizens could not tell whether to follow reality, or, instead, law. That cannot promote respect for the law. JIR invites more hilarity on “legal fictions”.
Ice Bucket Challenges made a big splash in late 2014. Sports teams had dumped on heroes for decades, but all of a sudden it became a charity issue, and spread incautiously. Someone died immediately after being dumped on, and the meme receded as abruptly as it arose. A lot of memes aren’t great ideas, and JIR will happily target many of those. Thanks to future-doctor Ryan Sieli for this one.
A curiosity of archaeology and paleontology caught the attention of 3 researchers from the Wolff family (Wolvves?). Excavators in the field *lick* specimens. Bones and their fossils stick to the tongue, while stone and pottery do not. They investigate and propose a reason.
Our front cover continues a JIR tradition stretching back decades: a microscopic photo resembling something funny, in this case Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. These days, Science develops more imaging that ever. We invite amusing contributions from every form of imaging, not just microscopy. Embellishments welcome.
Futurist Steve Johnson shows how current building materials could be fashioned into vastly different houses than tradition fosters.
My front-cover quip mentions alternating-current batteries, a curious concept that an engineer once blew past me. We invite richer exploration of the possibilities.
Once more, contributors have been great with words and less great with illustrations. Once more, we filled in from our now-favorite source, WikiMedia Commons, part of the Wikipedia cluster. A lot of their trove of illustrations are “some-rights-reserved”, usually simply requiring attribution. This time, we thank Kim Quintano, and for the cute cat pictures: Lauraprl, Stephan Czuratis, Alexandra, Dan4th, and chmee2.
Wikipedia and WikiMedia, though not always right or best-proportioned, are spectacular places to start an inquiry. You have some expertise, or you wouldn’t be reading JIR. Please donate some of that by improving Wikipedia articles in subjects and languages you know well.