The International journal of Naturalistic Science is mandating a new, two-word title format. Editor in Chief Ian Taylor explains: ‘We’ve come a long way in condensing through abstracts, then significance statements, graphical summaries and bullet-pointed highlights. However, we are convinced a good scientist can summarize their work in two words, which is why that is our new mandatory format’.
Scientists in the field have mixed feelings about the initiative. ‘I feel we lose some of the nuances of our work’, said Angela Tarliss, lead author of the paper ‘Dead Mice’, ‘although we are getting a lot of clicks for our work congenital muscular dystrophy in the Malabar spiny dormouse’. Statistician Dr. Paige Waters, senior author of the paper ‘It Depends’, said her team debated a range of alternatives, including ‘New Method’, ‘Be Careful’ and ‘Sometimes More’. Neuroscientist Thomas Jouwstra expects the trend will continue: ‘We just posted a preprint our paper entitled ‘Brains’, which summarizes 14 years of work on physiological responses to fear stimuli in patients with early onset frontotemporal dementia.’
Taylor argues it’s only the start of the condensation revolution. ‘It’s really focused the authors to think clearly about their core research topic, but we’re always hoping to do better. Next year we’ll be launching our ‘nano-report’ format: Authors will be encouraged to submit a 190 millisecond video summary, describe their methods in one well-formed sentence, and summarise their statistical analyses with a single number. Whatever else authors might feel the need to say can easily be put in the online supplementary materials.’
New research suggests that researchers may have a sixth sense that allows them to correctly predict the upcoming publication of poorly conducted ESP research. Scientists at the University of Greenland asked 24 frustrated researchers to sit quietly in a room and ‘try their best’ to guess when a new, poorly controlled and poorly reasoned study purporting to upend the laws of the universe might be released.
In the 2 x 2 x 3 x 5 experimental design, several marginal effects were observed (p=0.047). Strikingly, the effects were largest in left-handed males less than six feet tall tested on Tuesdays, and single women who had recently considered buying a Segway (unless the data was collected during a solar eclipse). According to lead author Janus Taakuk the findings make perfect sense: ‘Tuesday derives its name from the Proto-Germanic ‘Tiwaz’, which means ‘God-In-The-Sky’. We think this striking ability to portend new hand-wavy studies about ESP on Tuesdays might have caused some of our ancestors to be perceived as gods. Similarly, Segways are very futuristic, so it is to be expected that these people would be good at predicting the future. Also, evolution something-something-something’, says Taakuk.
One of the participants describes the eerie sensation of predicting a poor study, sometimes even before it underwent peer review. “It’s hard to put into words, but the sensation was a bit like someone staring at you from behind. The first thing I noticed were certain words popping up in my mind, such as ‘quantum’, ‘approaching significance’, ‘Galileo’, and ‘five-way interaction’. This was followed immediately by an overwhelming feeling of emptiness. Days later yet another poor study was published. It’s uncanny’.
Future funding for the line of research is expected to be cut short after an unfortunate yet deadly incident involving a reindeer, an umbrella and a pair of nailclippers predicted to occur in 2015.
At an international peace summit, matrix dimensions have finally reached agreement. The peace treaty ends a bitter feud that has ruined the lives of tens of thousands of programmers for years. As part of the peace agreements, indices from both parties will be allowed to exceed matrix dimensions for the first time in recorded history.
The agreement comes as a surprise to many. Recently, tempers flared when it was discovered that only square matrices were allowed to be raised to a power, leading to unrest among many N-by-M matrices. Previous attempts to broker peace, including widespread transposition, proved only occasionally successful.
Commentators have responded enthusiastically to the news: ‘%This is a great day for everyone, regardless of their nrows or ncols. No longer will the tyrannical constraints of matrix agreement, that have left thousands of matrices sparse for life, be allowed to rule our sloppy programming’.
A Dutch experiment aiming to provide free polymerase to junk-DNA has been postponed after heated debates concerning the ethics of the trial. Prof. dr. Dijkgaarden, head of research integrity committee, has voiced concerns that the trial ‘should not start before we have adequately considered the ethics of the project’. ‘There are a lot of things we have to consider’, says Dijkgaarden, ‘If junk-DNA is really addicted to meaningless replication, shouldn’t we focus on prevention, rather than indulge its addiction?’
Recent years have seen a marked increase in the number of incidents involving rogue junk DNA. Local authorities such as the p53-protein and inhibitors were frequently called into action after reported incidents of junk-DNA corrupting younger genes and mutating proteins in an ‘unfettered desire to replicate themselves’. Scientists observed junk-DNA stealing polymerase from a nucleus in order to replicate itself over and over again. ‘It was quite shocking’ one scientist said. ‘The worst thing is that it only lead to graffiti-like clumps of non-coding GCGCGC-strands. It’s horribly wasteful.’
Several scientists tried to put an end to junk DNA’s never-ending quest for polymerase, but so far their tools have proven ineffective. Martin Ophout, a molecular biologist at the Amsterdam Medical centre, has argued that “simply putting junk DNA in cellular arrest is inhumane”. He has also publicly questioned alternative therapies, such as the conservative ‘gene knock-out’ approach, or the more liberal ‘Tolerance policy’ (allowing junk-DNA to use polymerase once a month), as proposed by Kwang et al. (2010). Ophout concluded that if junk-DNA cannot be prevented from obtaining polymerase, it is better to provide it in a way the cell can at least oversee its use.
Despite the uproar caused by his proposal, Ophout et al. have started the preparations for pilot trials that will aim to provide free polymerase to junk DNA. But with the first batches of polymerase to be handed out early next year, the controversy rages on. Gert Aafkes, who has published widely on cellular creationism, claims that there is no such thing as junk DNA: “All that exists has a meaning. Who are we to doubt God’s design? Most strands of junk-DNA are actually very useful; they have an important signalling function in DNA-replication. Fifty years ago, we thought the TATA-box was a useless piece of junk DNA. Thank God we know better now. ”
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.