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Scientific Study? Or Spoof? You Tell Us.

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How good are you at spotting authentic scientific research? Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research has compiled three scientific studies, at least one of which is a spoof.

Read on to see if you can tell the real studies from the fake.

#1: Cetaceans, Sex and Sea Serpents

Theories for a sea serpent sighting was likely to have been whales “either without flukes, or possibly, a male in a state of arousal.”

This account of a monster spotted off the coast of Greenland in 1734 was published in something called the Archives of Natural History. It was described by a missionary named Hans Ageta in 1741 as follows: 

“…Suggests that the missionary’s son probably saw an unfamiliar cetacean… the species seen was likely to have been a humpback whale or a North Atlantic right whale or one of the last remaining Atlantic gray whales either without flukes or possibly a male in a state of arousal.”

Here’s the full paper.

#2: Curiosity and the Cat Experiment

Does a cat land on its feet when dropped from a height of less than one foot?

In a 1998 study published in the Journal Bio Physical Naturale, a scientist at the Institute of Biophysical Research in Italy performed a series of experiments to determine the limits of a cat’s ability to right itself when you turn it upside-down and drop it. The scientist dropped a cat at a height of six feet, five feet, four feet, three feet, two feet and one foot, 100 times each.

At heights of six, five, four, three, and two feet the cat managed to land on its feet. At the height of one foot, despite 100 experimented drops, the cat never landed on its feet.

Here’s the full paper.

#3: Love in the Afternoon

Researchers see whether women and men respond the same way if a stranger walks up and asks them to have sex.

In 1978 and 1982, physchologists did a study exploring gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers. Here's an excerpt from the study, which was published in 1989: 

“Male and female confederates of average attractiveness approached potential partners with one of three requests, ‘Would you go out tonight? or ‘Will you come over to my apartment?’ or ‘Would you go to bed with me?’ The great majority of men were willing to have a sexual liaison with the women who approach them. Women were not. Not one woman agreed to a sexual liaison. Many possible reasons for this marked gender difference were discussed.”

Here’s the full paper.

So what do you think? Which of these experiments really happened? Which ones are a spoof? For answers, read below. 



Answer Key

  • #1: True! It really happened
  • #2: False! This spoof was published by Marc Abrams in the Annals of Improbable Research. 
  • #3: True!

This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI's Science Friday.


©2016 Science Friday

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