5 Petty Arguments You Won't Believe Have Scientific Answers

#2. Is Golf a Sport?

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Fans of activities that involve running and jumping with variously shaped balls are sometimes loath to classify golf as a sport. It's hard to compare a game like professional football or basketball to a game that involves driving around in a little cart in between swings. But once again, where most people are satisfied to argue the matter on bar stools, scientists break out the measuring equipment.

First, as nebulous a concept as "sports" is to begin with, most people seem to agree that a sport is something that you get better at the fitter you are, which would include football but not, say, Magic: The Gathering.

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Where the most activity comes from digging the cards out of the closet.

So what about golf? Neil Wolkodoff, director of the Center for Health and Sport Science at Denver's Rose Medical Center, decided to hook a bunch of wires up to some golfers while they played to monitor their physiological changes. The results were surprising even to him: Playing nine holes can burn over 700 calories. The number was highest when players carried their golf bags or pushed a cart, but even if your lazy ass rides around the course on one of those sissy little motorized carts, you're still burning an average of about 400 calories.

But more important is the issue of how training affects the game. Wolkodoff determined that when players had reached their anaerobic threshold -- that is, tuckered themselves out -- their games began to suffer. In other words, being in shape (i.e., having a high anaerobic threshold) improved their golf game. Therefore, physical training can significantly impact your success on the green. According to Wolkodoff, these two conclusions put golf square in "sport" territory.

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No amount of training will excuse the clothes you'll be wearing later on the course.

So there we go. Now somebody run the same test for NASCAR.

#1. What Does It Mean to Be "Cool"?

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Being "cool" doesn't seem like something you can put on a scale. If you have it, people just know. Han Solo is cool, right? But is he cooler than Batman? It's really hard to quantify it if you don't know exactly what "it" is.

It was exactly this mystery that led psychologists Ian Hansen and Ilan Dar-Nimrod to write an academic paper with the awesome title "Coolness: An Empirical Investigation." Their theory is that the measure of "coolness" is embedded within our language, which means that how cool you are is measured mostly by other descriptive features that come together to rate you on the cool scale. So they conducted a survey among a bunch of university students to submit single-word descriptions of what the word "cool" means and tabled the results.

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This image broke the study.

According to the researchers, the project came about from an argument between the two of them about whether bug-eyed character actor Steve Buscemi was cool. Hansen insisted that he was, while Dar-Nimrod (whose name automatically calls his authority on the subject into question) was adamant that he's not. The objective answer? Yes ... and also no.

See, the surprising result is that when they compared the participants' notes, they discovered that we are using two different (and in some senses contradictory) opinions about what makes a person cool. The most common descriptions were things like "friendly," "confident," and "awesome" ("Brad's a cool guy, he loaned me his juicer!"), but then a bunch of others went for "ironic," "rebellious," and "hedonistic" ("Todd's a cool guy, he just smirked when that biker threatened him! Then he stabbed him in the neck!").

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Be thankful he wasn't feeling suave. That's when he breaks out the morning star.

Their conclusion is that one kind of cool, which they called "cache cool," is all about being friendly, socially responsible, good-looking, and confident, while a different kind, "contrarian cool," was more about wearing leather, taking risks, and sticking it to "The Man," like the classic James Dean type.

This explains why we might disagree about whether Steve Buscemi, for example, is actually cool. He may not have the billion-dollar smile of Tom Cruise or Johnny Depp, but a lifetime of playing defiant bad guys might qualify him anyway. It confirms what many of us have long suspected -- if you don't have the looks or the charisma, you can always wear dark sunglasses and start being mean to people.

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That's how many seconds you have before she unleashes a flurry of bitch slaps.


Amanda would like to thank Karl Smallwood for the toilet seat study, in more ways than one. Read more from Amanda at Mannafesto or follow her on Twitter.

Related Reading: Some arguments just need to be retired- there's no science behind the bigoted belief that women can't be funny. And if you've ever bought the bullshit argument that the Internet has made it impossible for creative types to turn a profit, read this. Then, before you say anything, read our article about dismissive arguments you only make when you're wrong.

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