Animal rights activists have stated that ‘violent repercussions may follow’ if a controversial experiment using an infinite amount of monkeys is not ‘stopped immediately’. The experiment, in which an infinite number of non-human primates attempt to type the complete works of Shakespeare, has been called ‘barbaric’ and ‘inhumane’.
Activist Steven Hallter is furious: ‘It’s a heartbreaking to think about the cramped conditions the monkeys must be in. Moreover, having an infinite number of alpha males in the same location is going to wreak havoc on the social dynamics. And the environmental consequences are devastating: Just think of the carbon footprint of importing an infinite number of bananas every day.”
Senior scientist Yevgeni Rashov believes they have done everything to ensure the welfare of the monkeys. ‘We have consulted widely about the best way to perform this experiment. For instance, we ensured that every monkey had a partner by pairing them up one by one. We even considered testing one monkey for an infinite amount of time, but our pilot test took too long to run. Plus, our utilitarian ethicist said it didn’t matter either way’.
The controversy flared up after a monkey, Aleph one, allegedly escaped from the experiment. Rashov vehemently denies the accusations: “Our records show that there are just as many monkeys today as there were before the alleged escape.” Rashov argues that the animal rights activists are resorting to scare tactics: “It’s easy taking a picture of an infinite number of sad-looking monkeys typing away and inflaming public opinion. But people sometimes forget that lifesaving advances in set theory depend on our experiments”.
Hallter says they will not rest until the study is ceased: “At least when they’re testing medicines on animals there is some clear benefit, whereas here, we already have the complete works of Shakespeare. We therefore call for the immediate cessation of the experiment and the release of all monkeys, and will ensure the monkeys find a new home in Hilberts animal hotel.”
By our reporters Dr. Psyphago and Miss Baltam
A team of scientists has received a 12.6 million dollar grant to format their references correctly. PI Thomas Banders is ‘very excited’ about the news: ‘In this time of budget cuts, this grant really is a fantastic opportunity. It allows us to spend most of our time on what is every scientists’ true passion: abiding by arbitrary formatting restrictions and figure formatting guidelines that mostly made sense when the printing press had just been invented.’
Banders’ team made a breakthrough in 2008 when they were the first team to publish a paper where more time had been spent on formatting the references than on writing the paper. “When we broke that barrier, after four resubmissions to different journals with completely different formatting guidelines, we realized we were onto something big. With this grant we can explore what happens when we collaborate using incompatible versions of Endnote, use a group-wide customized bibtex file on a fragile server, study the relative merits of square versus curly braces, examine the importance of mentioning issue numbers and explore how to best shorten journal titles so as to be both unrecognizable and unintelligible.’
Banders says they will not limit themselves to existing formatting guidelines. “We believe that we can really push the boundaries of reference formatting, and are working on a whole new set of guidelines. We want people to use alternating italic and boldface for odd and even references, cite all methods papers in helvetica neue bold, every prime letter should be highlighted in beige and underline and the reference list should be alphabetized by the fourth letter of the surname of the senior author. Also, the reference list should be submitted separately as a WordPerfect document. We’re convinced this new system will improve the content of the papers tremendously.’
Researchers around the world are happy about the renewed interest in reference formatting. ‘Science history is written around hero figures like Newton, Curie and Einstein, but we shouldn’t forget who they depended on: A large supporting team of scientists who spent 40% of their time formatting their papers according to arbitrary guidelines’.
A new paper published in Science has concluded that no further research is needed. The announcement, made in the discussion section of the paper, comes as shock to millions of scientists across the world. Lead author Sara Jackson explains: “We were writing the discussion section of our paper and could think of no useful avenues for further research. We pretty much covered all bases. We then thought for a moment and concluded that this was probably the case for the rest of science as well. So,we simply suggested that no further research is needed, at all, anywhere, ever.”
An emergency task force convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science has confirmed the conclusions drawn in the paper. ‘A close examination of several hundred recent papers revealed that the suggestions for future research in papers are generally handwavy speculations about increased sample sizes, invisibility cloaks, epigenetics, personalized medicine or ways to stop the inevitable demise of our planet. If that’s the best they can do, then it’s time for scientists across the world to close their laptops, power down their workstations, go home and hug their families. We could find no ongoing science that justifies either the continued expenditure of taxpayer money or the scientists precious time.’
Working scientists are allowed to finalize projects already started and submit their papers prior to December 31st, 2013, as long as their conclusions ‘accurately reflect the collective decision to heretofore terminate scientific inquiry as we know it, and not to speculate otherwise’. After this date, thousands of laboratories across the world will close down. According to reports, white mice around the world have responded with restrained optimism about the possible end of science.
Inspectors examining a recent malfunction at the Large Hadron Collider found that senior scientists had been ‘inserting various household objects into the collider’, causing helium leakage and misalignment of several of the magnets. The Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, cost over 4.1 billion dollars to build, runs a length of 27 kilometers below Geneva and has been used to search for evidence of the Higgs particle and the associated Higgs field. These noble goals bear little relationship to the activities engaged in by Yukihide Matsuzi, a Japanese theoretical physicist, and his colleague, Klara Eschelbach, a mathematician interested in models of supersymmetry.
‘Apparently they were just chucking stuff in there to see what would happen’ said a distraught David Branston, project leader overseeing CMS and Atlas projects. ‘Just when we might be seeing evidence two different Higgs particles, these clowns almost destroy the collider!’ The scientists in question admitted they had already collided several watches, a fountain pen, a bunch of keys and a can of coke. ‘It is very irresponsible of us, but our project has been delayed by 18 months. We’ve been here doing checks and simulations for more than four years now. I guess we just couldn’t help ourselves when we realized the machine was operational but not colliding proton beams. If we found a new particle by colliding coke-cans we were going to call it a colon…’. Eschelbach said in a feeble attempt to lighten the situation. “Maybe we should have stuck with our original plan of making high-energy popcorn instead…”
Branston says he’s ‘just glad we could stop them before it got any worse’.”Just look at the stuff they had lined up!’ the project leader said. Among the objects soon to be reduced to subatomic particles were a desk chair, a Microsoft Zune and two rather nervous looking mice. The damage to the LHC will extend the two-year break by several months.
The neural correlates of claustrofobia are still unknown. A recent study tried unsuccessfully to map the neural responses to claustrophobic stimuli of participants in an fMRI scanner. Fifty severely claustrophobic participants were asked to lie motionless in a small, confined, dark, cramped space with a giant magnet surrounding their body and head, but the methods section of the conference abstract notes that “No participants were included in the final analysis”.
Team leader Randall Thompson is disappointed by the lack of results. “It’s a pity that all our participants ran away screaming before the first scan, because we didn’t even get to the experimental manipulation: Showing them videos of collapsing caves, the insides of coffins and stalled elevators. But I have good hopes for our new, improved protocol: We will be strapping the participants down very tightly so that they are nice and comfortable.”
Thompson says he is undeterred by his lack of success and is not considering using other neuroimaging techniques. “fMRI gives the clearest, nicest findings, so we are confident we are on the right track. We have future plans for many other important research questions, including studying the neural correlates of headbanging, ligyrophobia and fear of magnets.”
A team of Chinese neuroscientists have discovered a small cluster of so-called ‘mirror neuron-mirror neurons’. According to group leader Liu Chuang, the group of neurons in the occipital cortex fire only “when a person sees someone else’s mirror neurons activate”.
The MNMN-cells were discovered when the team was scanning the brain of a patient suffering from epilepsy. “It was a stroke of luck. One of the experimental stimuli happened to be a picture of mirror neurons firing in a monkey. Almost immediately our intracranial electrodes picked up rapid firing from deep within the occipital cortex. We realized immediately this was something big”. Chuang and her collaborators quickly developed a unique novel experimental protocol. Her team had participants viewing single cell recordings of a monkey watching another monkey use a tool. The findings showed that MNMN’s fired only when participants saw firing mirror neurons in the intermediate monkey, but not the tool-using monkey, according to the press-release.
Chuang is currently applying for funding to find out whether there might be a neuron in the brain that only fires when people watch the firing mirror neuron-mirror neurons of people who watch firing mirror neurons of monkeys looking at other monkeys using tools. “Finding this neuron, if it exists, might have implications for empathy, life the universe and everything” says an excited Chuang.
The Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus Primigenius) has complained about current scientific efforts to revive the species, claiming it went extinct ‘for good reasons’. Russian and Korean efforts to breed mammoths based on partial DNA samples salvaged from dead specimens found in the Siberian permafrost, have recently made headlines. But the new statements by the large furry animal in question have led researchers to put these efforts on hold.
“First of all, it’s much too warm now” a representative of the species has stated. “We used to spend our days on wide open barren taiga at temperatures below 20 Fahrenheit. Such circumstances are now rare in the Western hemisphere”. In addition, the political conditions are ‘not suitable’ the animal says. “Russian politics are a mess. Living under dictatorial circumstances does not suit mammoths at all. Instead, we much prefer the anarchosyndicalistic structure that was prevalent among hunter-gatherers.”
In contrast, another extinct animal, the thylacine, would be happy to be brought back to life. It has complained about the amount of attention going to mammoths and was overheard complaining about the fact that “people keep looking at this black and white video of us, instead of actually doing any useful genetic work.”
Animal rights activists have urged for the implementation of informed consent procedures for reviving extinct species. It is hoped that the improved oversight will also help the plight of species currently trying to go extinct, including as the Javan rhinoceros and the Himalayan sea cucumber. Instead of stubbornly keeping alive the last specimens of their kind proponents say, scientist should focus on “respectfully guiding the process of extinction.”