Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Popular Science, by Captain Obvious

July 20, 2010
Are you thrown off by the title of this post? You know--knowing as you do (if you know anything at all about me) that I'm what you'd call an English and Humanities sort of gal. Science and math, not so much. And popular? Not even close.

And yet, I found myself perusing the latest issue of Popular Science. It's a little bit like being lost in a strange city: fascinating and a little frightening at the same time. I bought a subscription to the magazine for the boy, who is definitely an inhabitant of the science and technology world. I just like to check in every now and again to try to keep up with him.

This month's issue, however, featured an article that seems a little outside the realm of their usual fodder of the latest-and-the-greatest-technological-advances-that-you-will-never-be-able-to-afford. I might even suspect it to be a tongue-in-cheek offering, were it not in keeping with the customary tone of the magazine. But no, this informational piece takes itself seriously, despite the title "Science Confirms the Obvious."

It gives us a list of some real-life research studies either recently completed or undertaken by prestigious institutions and companies:

The Study: "Mountaintop Mining Consequences"
The Findings: Blowing Up Mountains is Bad for the Environment

Keeping mountains, good. Blowing 'em up, bad. Got it.

The Study: "There Are Age-Related Changes in Neural Connectivity During the Encoding of Positive, but Not Negative, Information"
The Findings: Old People Prefer Happy Memories

Shocking. Ground-breaking! Wouldn't it make sense that most people, old or otherwise, would prefer happy memories?

The Study: "Extreme College Drinking and Alcohol-Related Injury Risk"
The Findings: Hard-Drinking Adrenaline Freaks Are Prone to Injury

A drunk doofus with a death-wish raises his potential to get hurt. What did they do to research this one, hang out a frat house for a weekend?

The Study: "Do Green Products Make Us Better People?"
The Findings: Environmentalists Can Be Smug

Huh. I hadn't noticed....

The Study: "Intervention to Strengthen Emotional Self-Regulation in Children with Emerging Mental Heath Problems: Proximal Impact on School Behavior"
The Findings: Self-Control Makes Students More Manageable

Seriously? If my students only exercised self-control, my job would be easier? Why didn't I think of that? Of course, they didn't exactly come up with the little 'how' piece of the puzzle before the patted themselves on the back for this one. THAT would be useful information.

The Study: "Remembering Instructors: Play, Pain, and Pedagogy"
The Findings: A Mean Gym Teacher Can Turn You Off Sports

In other words, mean people suck. I wish someone had paid me to come up with that one.

The Study: "Weekends, Work, and Well-Being: Psychological Need Satisfactions and Day of the Week Effects on Mood, Vitality, and Physical Symptoms"
The Findings: People Are Happier on the Weekend

Or, when you're doing what you want to do instead of doing what someone else tells you you have to do, you tend to be more content. Brilliant.

The Study: "Supertaskers: Profiles in Extraordinary Multi-tasking Ability"
The Findings: Most People Drive Poorly While Talking on the Phone

This is especially true for me. I'm a hand-talker--you know, the kind who gets asked all the time if I'm Italian. So driving kind of gets in the way of my communication style.

The Study: "Who Said You Could Wear My Sweater? Adolescent Siblings' Conflicts and Associations with Relationship Quality"
The Findings: Siblings Who Fight Don't Get Along

Siblings who fight don't get along. People who argue disagree with each other. Girls who say 'fine' to end an argument aren't really 'fine' at all. The sun shines. Birds sing. These are legitimate scientific issues to study?

The Study: "Generational Differences in Work Values: Leisure and Extrinsic Values Increasing, Social and Intrinsic Values Decreasing"
The Findings: Young People Want Big Money, Big Vacations

Who says when they're growing up that they want to be poor and never go anywhere? They'd probably be turned in to a school psychologist if they did, to figure out why their self-esteem was so damaged that they didn't think they deserved more out of life.

What I'd like to know is who decided these issues needed further research in order to be verified, and more importantly, who decided to fund these projects. If you find out, let me know, because I've got a few ideas for new projects, like:

Are Big Bird's Feathers Actually Yellow?

Do the Wheels on the Bus, in fact, Go Round and Round?

Is One the Loneliest Number? If So, Can Two Be As Sad As One?

Does Gender Influence Who Holds the Remote Control?

And the biggie: Did the Article Offer Us Any New Insights Into Our World? If Not, Why Did It Get Published?

from Popular Science, August 2010


  1. Yep. That's what I'm thinking. I've been immersed in research (education and social sciences) for the past year and had been thinking of a PhD program... But I keep going back to the fact that I hate research. And I get pissed off reading ridiculous studies.

  2. haha. I love this post so much-my favorite studies include made up statistics. ;)