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Pointless scientific discoveries


taxi4ballet
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I liked the one from a few months ago when it was announced that the more light you let into your bedroom at night, the more weight you will put on. This might be down to light making it easier to locate the biscuits, than if your boudoir is in total darkness.

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In the news a couple of days ago: scientists have just discovered that horses can communicate with one another by using the position of their ears to indicate their feelings.

 

I wonder what pearls of wisdom the world of science will come up with next?

 

Hopefully a treatment for Ebola virus.

 

I was a bit discouraged by that study about gaining weight from sleeping during the light, because I tend to stay up most of the night and sleep in the morning. Which might explain a few things...

 

 

 

Edited by Melody
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I get a special enjoyment out of any article which reports that research shows that men and women are different.

 

Duh.

 

Then I wonder how much money was spent on the study - but my husband says it was worth the money it cost for a good laugh.

 

Which - of course - substantiates the conclusions reached by the study.

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In the news a couple of days ago: scientists have just discovered that horses can communicate with one another by using the position of their ears to indicate their feelings.

 

 

 

 

Well, correct me if I'm wrong but I thought horses could communicate their feelings to us humans from the position of their ears - pricked up, flattened etc.  This, together with a certain look in the eye can tell an awful lot about how a horse is feeling - and the same goes for dogs and cats!

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Well, correct me if I'm wrong but I thought horses could communicate their feelings to us humans from the position of their ears - pricked up, flattened etc.  This, together with a certain look in the eye can tell an awful lot about how a horse is feeling - and the same goes for dogs and cats!

Yes - I have a book published in the 1970's with diagrams of all the horse ear positions and their meanings. It has obviously just dawned on the people in white coats that perhaps horses evolved this ability in order to talk to each other (and not to us humans). By the way, they use their tails as well...

 

Whatever will they discover next - that people use their eyebrows to communicate? ;)  :P  :(  :angry:  :huh:  :o  :wacko:

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For anyone who hasn't had enough of a good laugh yet, here's the actual paper.

 

http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(14)00739-8

 

and a National Geographic article quoting an animal behaviourologist saying that the work is actually quite useful.

 

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2014/08/04/horses-animals-pets-communication-science-ears/

 

These academics obviously don't have a clue...

Edited by Melody
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Anyone who has ever spent any time at all around horses could have told them, without the need for all this research! Just in case they are thinking of doing some more - perhaps they could look up "Non-verbal Communication" and "Body Language".

 

While they're at it, maybe they could find out if dogs can tell if another dog is friendly by observing whether its tail is wagging or not....

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I think the worthiness of a study is precisely inverse to the amount of tax dollars/pounds expended on it as well as the syllabic length of the words describing it..

 

I also think studying body language is no longer of any use - we need a study on emoticons.

 

Such as....

 

"It is the researcher's intent to uncover the layered trope hidden beneath the easily observed trope of the communicant user's psycho-ego when a non-verbal symbol is substituted for the other various modalities available but rejected in preference of the circular icon entity which displaces other once preferred methods of choice when endeavoring to connect or disconnect from or in lieu of, or to prevent actual visual or animated clues in communication either intra or inter species specific."

 

(publication date as yet unknown)

 

Well, give me enough money and I'll come up with something...

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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Anyone who has ever spent any time at all around horses could have told them, without the need for all this research! 

 

Except that someone who apparently spends a lot of time around horses is on record saying that this research is useful.

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Some "useless" discoveries can be more useful than we realise..... At school in biology we watched a documentary on genetic engineering in animals. There is a type of jellyfish that glows in the dark- the scientists isolated the glow-in-the-dark gene, cut it from jellyfish DNA and implanted it into rabbit embryos!! Thus- glowing rabbits!!!!!! :o:D I did think it was absurd and pointless, however something to do with isolating a gene and removing it, or inserting the "glowing gene" can be a new cure for cancer apparently?! Sorry I don't know exactly how it works :P

 

And Anjuli, I love your emoticon hypothesis ;)

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Ah, yes, but useful in what way, and how will it save the planet?!!!

 

I've seen reports saying that this research is likely to help improve horse welfare, which, while it won't actually save the planet, might have the effect of making a few horses happier.

 

The problem with a lot of this sort of research, and especially the way it's reported, is that one facet of a research programme can look pretty silly by itself, but, as swanprincess says, it can be helpful when added to other facets and you start seeing more of the picture. Sometimes it's a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't, because things that appear to be obvious may not actually be obvious if subjected to rigorous study; however, the study may show that they really are as obvious as they appear. So in the one case the newspapers report "scientists baffled!" and in the other case they report "scientists waste money researching the obvious!" And in both cases it has the (possibly intended) effect of making scientists look like idiots.

 

Then again, my husband the astronomer gets pretty scathing about the constant reports of finding water on Mars. He says it's making NASA seem as though it doesn't know how to do anything except look for water.

Edited by Melody
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I still think it's pointless, since almost every 'horsey' person would have known this already! The only bit I found interesting was that horses can look at a picture, and recognise it as actually being a picture of another horse, and respond to it. Few other animals can do this.

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Most cats seem to regard any attempts at training them with boredom and total disdain. ;)

 

And rightly so.  You don't find cats pulling sleds in subzero temperatures.  Or carrying people on their backs.  Or heavy loads.  Or racing around a circular track.  Or running endlessly around trying to keep a flock of sheep from going over a cliff.  Or walking around on a leash.  

 

Cats are philosophers - they sit and think.

 

They are excellent observers of human nature.  A good study would be to find out why, with all they have observed of us, they bother to be part of our  lives.  They don't need us....but they do choose to be with us.

 

Now, that's a worthwhile study.

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Well, they don't need us, but we do provide food and shelter and they've trained us not to ask for anything in response, and in fact to admire them for their lack of cooperation, so they've got it made. Not sure you could get much of a study out of that.

 

Then again, I have to admit I never did see the point of cats but have always got along well with dogs, so I don't have a proper appreciation for the essential qualities of cats apart from their ability to deal with rodents.

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Scientists at the University of Tennessee have discovered that all human life will be wiped out when Earth is hit by a meteor in the year 2880 or thereabouts. They added that any attempt to get in first and wipe out the meteor will only make things worse. 

Worse for whom?

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Well, in my profession, it does seem to be that "those who can, do, and those who can't [or perhaps aren't inclined to], teach". I am amazed at the number of academic conferences I get sent details for, the number of academic books people bring out, and quite honestly just how many people are employed at various academic institutions doing research into all sorts of esoteric things, while those of us at the coalface keep asking "And just HOW does this apply in any way to the job I do?"

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I think that in any profession the idea that  "those who can, do, and those who can't [or perhaps aren't inclined to], teach". - seems to me to demean teaching.  Teaching is both an art and a profession.   A good teacher does know the subject being taught.  

 

Yes, there are poor and/or lazy teachers - but that also exists outside of the classroom.

 

Suppose no one wanted to teach?

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Scientists at the University of Tennessee have discovered that all human life will be wiped out when Earth is hit by a meteor in the year 2880 or thereabouts. They added that any attempt to get in first and wipe out the meteor will only make things worse. 

Worse for whom? 

 

Nobody, in short. The point here is that the type of asteroid is a factor in deciding how to go about moving it away from a collision (assuming that's likely to happen, which in this case it isn't), and this particular asteroid is a "rubble pile" so it needs different treatment from a piece of solid rock. Which isn't exactly a useless piece of information but it's a lot less exciting than "Asteroid set to wipe out humanity! Scientists powerless to stop it! Be very afraid and buy lots of newspapers!"

 

This is the usual overhyped non-story. Just another attempt by the popular press to turn a routine observation into something sensational. Or, as Phil Plait (the Bad Astronomy guy) said in this blog, "The culprit this time is the UK’s Telegraph. In its search to become ever more Daily Mail-ian, it ran an article about an asteroid called 1950 DA with this headline: Huge asteroid set to wipe out life on Earth - in 2880. The only problem with this: It’s very, very unlikely the asteroid will whack us in 2880, so at best that headline is hugely misleading. And this ain’t “at best.” The real situation will take a moment to explain, but as usual, really cool science is involved...."

 

I see The Independent, of all things, is jumping on the sensationalist bandwagon too. At least, the headline writers are. If you read the article, the actual reality is quite a lot different. Unlike the Telegraph article (which is written by a freelancer with no background in science), the Independent article does have some factual reporting if you can get past the headline.

 

 

 

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Nobody, in short. The point here is that the type of asteroid is a factor in deciding how to go about moving it away from a collision (assuming that's likely to happen, which in this case it isn't), and this particular asteroid is a "rubble pile" so it needs different treatment from a piece of solid rock. Which isn't exactly a useless piece of information but it's a lot less exciting than "Asteroid set to wipe out humanity! Scientists powerless to stop it! Be very afraid and buy lots of newspapers!"

 

This is the usual overhyped non-story. Just another attempt by the popular press to turn a routine observation into something sensational. Or, as Phil Plait (the Bad Astronomy guy) said in this blog, "The culprit this time is the UK’s Telegraph. In its search to become ever more Daily Mail-ian, it ran an article about an asteroid called 1950 DA with this headline: Huge asteroid set to wipe out life on Earth - in 2880. The only problem with this: It’s very, very unlikely the asteroid will whack us in 2880, so at best that headline is hugely misleading. And this ain’t “at best.” The real situation will take a moment to explain, but as usual, really cool science is involved...."

 

I see The Independent, of all things, is jumping on the sensationalist bandwagon too. At least, the headline writers are. If you read the article, the actual reality is quite a lot different. Unlike the Telegraph article (which is written by a freelancer with no background in science), the Independent article does have some factual reporting if you can get past the headline.

 

 

 

 

Oh, how disappointing. I rather liked the hysterical headline - oh my god, we're all gonna die aaaaagh!!! :o  I wondered if I should go and panic buy bread and milk. But as I have till 2880, no rush. 

This is of course, the type of non story that regularly appears in the summer, when it is assumed there is no real news. I was just rather amused by the suggestion there could be something worse than total annihilation. Plenty of films have been made about surviving disaster, alien invasion etc. As long as the shops stay open it seems okay.

Perhaps the end of human life on this beleaguered planet would be the best thing that could happen to it. As an eminent scientist once more or less said, mankind is the greatest scourge on the face of the earth.

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Well, I read that one scientist thinks we're eventually going to be replaced by rats, which will evolve in various ways to occupy different niches. Not sure that would be a great improvement, although I assume they'll have cockroaches to keep them company. :huh:

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Well, I read that one scientist thinks we're eventually going to be replaced by rats, which will evolve in various ways to occupy different niches. Not sure that would be a great improvement, although I assume they'll have cockroaches to keep them company. :huh:

Rats evolving in various ways to occupy different niches. With cockroaches for company! Looking at the world today, I think that time has already arrived.

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  • 2 years later...

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