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Scrutiny
  
Frog odours, anyone?
A number of worthless and frivolous researches are giving the World of science and reason a boorish tinge; we say ban them!
11/11/2010

Research and development across fields and disciplines has achieved great heights in its outcomes. But at the same time, some exercises and endeavours have also breached the depths of naivety. Consider this: Professor J. Mack and D. Jacobs of Harvard Medical School and Temple University published a paper that made a startling conclusion with respect to the people who believed they were kidnapped by aliens from outer space. They concluded from their pathbreaking research that “the focus of abduction is the production of children”.

This is not an exception. The University of Michigan (ranked 15th in the world) conducted a research in 2008 that attempted to find out whether doing exercises helps reducing weight rather than sitting and watching television all day long. No marks for guessing what they found. Or if you’re dying to find out this, consider the University of Alberta (ranked 127th), which came out with a research on the relationship among height, penile length and foot size. One is left guessing which industries such a research would benefit. Or take the ‘Technical’ University of Denmark (ranked 122nd), which published a paper on the impact of wet underwear on thermoregulatory responses and thermal comfort in the cold.

University of Adelaide (ranked 73), Australia, published a paper that researched odorous secretions in 131 species of frogs, and found out the odours that frogs produce under stress. Which biological benefit to mankind would this serve, is left to suspense. Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation calculated the number of photographs one must take to more or less ensure that nobody in a group photo has his/her eyes closed.

University of Spain calculated ultrasonic velocity in cheddar cheese as affected by temperature; Stockholm university (ranked 168) established a relationship between chicken and humans by proving that chickens prefer beautiful humans; Newcastle University (ranked 152) shows that women prefer taller men for good one night stands and shorter men for committed relationships.
The inane tale continues. The National Institute of Health in the US conducted a study, and spent $500,000 of stimulus money to reveal why men prefer to have sex without condoms! While the objective of the research might still be logical considering the focus on promoting safe sex, the moneys spent to find out the obvious (or is it?) is what is surprising. The University of Florida (ranked 193) spent $325,394 given as stimulus fund, to find how environment affects sex related decisions of women. Thanks to them, apparently we have renewed emancipation of women in our midst.

If it were just about the comic relief, we could have actually chosen not to highlight their achievements. But this is really about how the world’s best universities waste resources and misuse their state-of-art resources in researches that bring in no substantial development to mankind or the planet. There seems to be no clear-cut logic in undertaking research to find out which side a flock of pigeons would turn when faced with a wind draft, or whether good looking people make more money than ugly ones (yes, they do, as revealed by a research by the University of California in 2007).

But then, is it any wonder that such researches do in fact benefit private enterprises? For example, the ugly versus beautiful research could well be a great boost to the cosmetics industry even if a fraction of the population chooses to believe it. The same is apparent in the study conducted in the US last year, which showed that women with bigger breasts were found to be smarter. Lobbies appear to be at work even when contradictory researches keep coming to the fore, like ones that debate on the merits and demerits of tea vs coffee and vice versa.

Sometimes, researches that are meant for serious and genuine issues come up with non-serious and bizarre conclusions. In a scenario where countries, universities and research institution are finding it tough to fund their researches for human development projects and development of drugs that could save lives and uplift lifestyles, it’s criminal that a few universities don’t mind blowing away invaluable capital to take out notably worthless researches. Evidently, one can’t say enough when one implores that such researches should be banned.

By:- Sray Agarwal
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