Category: Breaking news

Scientists conclude: ‘No further research is needed’

cc MontyredA 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.

Neural Correlates of Claustrofobia still a mystery

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.”

Researcher goes on accidental whirlwind tour of scientific literature

Daniel Senter, Associate Professor of Psychological Anthropology at Stony Brook University, recently went on an unintended whirlwind tour of the academic literature. The sequence of papers covered 24 articles in 17 disciplines and took over 9 hours to complete.

‘I’m not entirely sure what happened actually…..’, Senter reports. “I was looking for a paper on ceremonial clothing traditions in Sulawesi. First, I found an excellent review paper that contained a reference to a paper on historic volcanic activity in Indonesia, and its influence on in cultural practices. So I read that paper, which in turn cited a paper on the dynamics of energy release during volcanic eruptions. Fascinating material. That led me to a Wikipedia entry on mass-energy equivalence, and its relation to quantum mechanics, leading to another, fascinating paper discussing the sociological dynamics of early 20th century physics and the role of the Wiener Kreis. Did you know that Ernst Mach, a prominent member of the Wiener Kreis, wrote on the sense of balance, and developed a novel visual illusion? I just couldn’t stop reading.”

After detours into ornithology, statistics, computational biology and Chinese poetry, Senter discovered that Mach’s work had inspired B.F. Skinner. Senter: “And Skinner in turn wrote the utopian novel Walden Two. It turned out that Skinner’s speculations on community governance and the influence of the environment on sociocultural behaviors were exactly what I needed for my paper on ceremonial clothing. Finally.”

Herd of p-values spotted approaching significance

A group of field biologists in Tanzania have observed a herd of p-values approaching significance. It is the first recorded sighting of this mysterious behavior, that has previously only been speculated to occur in the wild. Lead investigator Bruce Rosen is still excited about the sighting. “It was amazing! The  α-male, a majestic 0.06, was seen slowly but surely approaching significance, followed closely by a small group of marginal p-values. First, the p-values formed a uniform formation, possibly as a distraction. But shortly after that, the herd slowly but steadily approached significance.”

Blood samples of the elusive creatures  shed light on possible genetic mechanisms underlying the behavior. Rosen explains a surprising finding: “Some of the herd had a deleterious mutation causing them to have two tails. Interestingly, these specimens were twice as slow in approaching significance as the specimens with one tail.”

Rosen is hoping to extend his expeditions in the near future. “This is just the beginning. After seeing p-values approaching significance, what we really want to observe is p-values retreating from significance. But that kind of behavior as never been reported, even by the natives.”

New version SPSS will include ‘celebratory fireworks’ for significant results

An official press release has confirmed that the newest release of SPSS will be equipped with ‘performance-rewarding features’. The new installment of the popular data-analysis package will light up with song, dance and fireworks whenever a statistical test is significant. ‘We want to provide a package that is in line with the day-to-day experiences of researchers. We understand the pressure the publish, and the relief that is felt by many when those Stars of Significance appear in the results table. ’

The level of significance will determine the abundance of the celebrations. If the p-value is below 0.05, researchers will automatically hear what is described as ‘a cheerful tone’, according to a company spokesman. “But if your p-value is below 0.01, the software package will play a series of congratulatory videos, complimenting your experimental design and choice of analysis. And if it is very highly  significant, or below 0.001, your extra order of magnitude is rewarded by a lavish display of fireworks, clinking of champagne glasses and a showtune that plays ‘Tenure is here to stay’.

Dr. Hellst from the University of Ontario thinks it is a logical step: “Research is hard work. It can take months, sometimes even years, to collect the data. It’s such an anticlimax when are in your office, you run the analysis, the results are significant and the computer is completely and utterly silent. As if it doesn’t even care that my three-way ANOVA came out exactly the way I predicted. I’m so glad that the new edition of SPSS captures my feelings of elation in a suitable, yet professional, manner.”

Statisticians compute ‘X-factor’

After ten years, an international project on ‘generalized factor analysis’ has finally yielded its first results. Based on measurements on 2500 variables in 4 million subjects, the largest factor analysis ever was completed. The calculations, which took two weeks to run, have yielded some surprising results. According to the project leader, Hans Birgman, reality consists of ‘approximately three factors, of which one is really big and important’.

The first factor, dubbed ‘The X-factor’ by researchers, accounted for 62% of the variability in all the variables they measured. ‘It’s a monster, that’s for sure! Just look at that eigenvalue!’ said one of the researchers. Among the variables loading highly on the X-factor are ‘favorite weathertype’, ‘political preference’, ‘mood’, ‘metabolic efficiency’, ‘opinions concerning gravity’ and ‘toilet-roll orientation preference’. Follow up studies have shown that the X-factor is heritable, is associated with increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and correlates approximately .23 with all known psychological constructs.

Gene for poor science journalism discovered

Scientists at the University of Boulder, Colorado have discovered the gene that causes poor science journalism. The gene causes an increase in activity in the journalism area of the cortex, and releases massive quantities of what has been called the ‘sloppy-headline-hormone’ into the bloodstream.

People with a specific variant of the NVAL2 gene exhibit a pathological urge to publish outlandish headlines, distort quotations and to link every scientific finding to cancer. “Take this particularly severe case, patient X12, a science journalist who has worked for a variety of newspapers and websites. Last year she wrote 90 articles that described household objects that either cause or prevent cancer, several of which allegedly did both. A colleague  was even more severely afflicted: He wrote several pieces on the evolutionary benefits of Nordic walking, how the earth’s magnetic core harms children and how playing Angry Birds increases animal cruelty. Really, it’s a tragic disease.”

The researchers did not comment on whether expression of the gene might cause a black hole, if the gene will help to develop cold fusion or whether the ancient Mayans discovered the gene before modern science.

Dr Psyphago previously reported on this shocking finding here