The 6 Most Intriguing Stupid Questions Answered by Science
Scientists, in their constant search for answers, don't often worry about how silly they look doing it. After all, if they were too self-conscious, science would still have no idea how farts work. And that's the great thing about science -- even the most ridiculous inquiries wind up answering questions you didn't even know you wanted to know. You're welcome.
What if You Put Three Crazy Jesuses in the Same Room?
We've all heard stories about mental patients who think they're some famous figure like Jesus or Napoleon (rarely do they think they're just some bartender named Steve). If you're like us, then you've only had one question on your mind -- what would happen if two people who thought they were the same famous figure came face to face?
Well, psychologist Milton Rokeach wondered the same thing in the 1950s, before ethics and common sense became a thing in the scientific community, so he found three separate mental patients who each believed he was Jesus and shacked them up together in the same room. For two years.
A fourth guy was released when they realized he was just a South American tourist telling them his name.
Obviously, none of the patients was willing to concede that they could all be Jesus, but they weren't willing to let go of their own delusion either, so they each came up with a theory about why the other two said they were. One believed that the others were robots, the second believed that they might be other gods, and the third came up with a theory that was disarmingly rational -- of course the others thought they were Jesus, they were mental patients.
"Well, shit, when he puts it that way ..."
So on a day-to-day basis, how do three mentally ill Jesi exist in the same space and time? In the exact same way the rest of us do it -- for the most part, they dodged the issue. Whenever the topic of their divinity came up in conversation, the others hastily changed the subject. Coming face to face with a metaphysical paradox is something nobody has time for first thing in the morning. Although, on a couple of occasions, the conflict over who was the real Jesus of Nazareth could only be settled with fists.
Apparently the whole cheek-turning thing was bullshit.
Eventually, one of the patients seemed to change his mind, and rather than Jesus, he started demanding that people address him as "Dr. Dung." He never renounced the idea that he was the Son of God, but at least he found an equally crazy compromise.
After two years, Rokeach gave up on the experiment, deciding that it wasn't going anywhere, which reveals a lack of creativity on his part. At the very least, he could have introduced them to someone who thought he was the devil.
Does Fudge Taste Less Good if It's Shaped Like Poop?
We have mentioned before that the science of what makes us find food appealing gets downright weird (try eating half of a good meal, then eating the rest under a light that turns everything blue). An idea like this is just a veritable playground for the mischievous scientist.
Thus, a set of experiments tested a group of volunteers by offering them glasses of apple juice, some of which contained a nice juicy cockroach. The roaches were sterilized beforehand, and the participants were aware of this, but those who were able to bring themselves to drink the roached juice reported that they didn't like the taste. Remember, the presence of the cockroach didn't actually do anything to the juice -- the foul taste was invented by their brains as a way to tell them to stop putting that shit in their mouths.
"Whatever, you've eaten Arby's."
But the experiment went beyond roaches in an attempt to see just how far they could push the narrow line between science and juvenile prank. They presented the subjects with some delicious chocolate fudge and invited them to eat it. The only catch was that some of the fudge looked exactly like dog shit.
As you might have guessed, the subjects much preferred to try the regular fudge over the stuff they imagined sliding out of a dog's asshole. But even those who did try the poop fudge rated the taste of it lower than the other (completely identical) fudge. Other parts of the experiment involved stirring regular sugar labelled "cyanide" into glasses of water, asking the volunteers to put novelty rubber vomit in their mouths, and various other ideas they came up with while high.
"Hey, get those hot dogs. I want to try something with this yogurt."
But as above, the ridiculous stunt yielded valuable food for thought, calling into question the whole mechanism by which we decide what we eat, and in what amounts. For instance, this is why that butt-shaped pizza chain went out of business so fast.
Does Staring at Sheep Freak Them Out?
Animals are idiots. If they weren't, they wouldn't keep blundering into our stomachs. Sure, some are smarter than others, like dogs and dolphins, and we tend to prefer to teach them to do humiliating tricks rather than garnish our plates, but we feel safe in the assumption that they're too oblivious to know what we're thinking. And when it comes to big dumb animals like sheep, well, they probably don't even know we're here. So of course the question was raised: "What if I were to just stand here and stare at a sheep for a while? Would it hate that?"
So, sure enough, some sheep were dragged into a science chamber and researchers stared daggers at them. Just staring those sheep down, like gunslingers at high noon.
"Come at me, braaaaaaaaa."
What was discovered was that the sheep were able to know when humans were staring, and to differentiate between stares from humans and non-humans. Researchers observed that for the first two minutes, the sheep would occasionally glance at the staring human, and then would begin to piss slightly more than usual.
Basically the opposite of you at a urinal.
So the sheep know what you are, what part of your body is your eyes, and that you're staring at them like a jackass. Scientists say the sheep weren't frightened by the humans staring them down, just aware of it (and presumably annoyed). Of course, if animals are really so lucidly aware of when they're being watched by people, it raises an interesting conundrum -- how can we really study animal behavior if the act of watching them changes that behavior? Are they just waiting until we leave so they can start talking to each other?
"That idiot keeps calling me 'Waffles.' My fucking name's Todd, man."
Which Is the Tastiest Dinosaur?
Since time immemorial, the human quest to understand the world around us has been driven by a single all-important question: Can we eat it? Even for Darwin, his groundbreaking work in biology was second to his desire to devour as much of the web of life as possible. So it stands to reason that the scientists who study dinosaurs seek to unlock the only mystery that matters: Which one would have gone best with a glass of pinot noir?
Thus, after careful study, researchers determined that the most delicious dinosaur was this one:
"Who wants ... uh, gray meat?"
That's an ornithomimosaur, a relative of the modern-day ostrich, and the best cut of meat on the Flintstones' dinner table.
How can they possibly know what a long-extinct animal might have tasted like? By carefully studying the kinds of animals we like to eat today. For example, humans have an affinity for poultry and lumbering herbivores, but tend to shy away from carnivores and family pets. An animal's taste comes from the type of muscles it has, which depends on the type of activity it gets up to in the wild, so scientists are able to discern that the most palatable dinosaurs would be the ones that behaved most like chickens or cows.
Which means they were possibly suicidal and probably rapists.
That brought them to the ornithomimosaur, which means when somebody builds the real Jurassic Park, it's going to feature a whole lot of those things and one huge slaughterhouse.
And at least one jackass who'll insist on having it well-done.
Do Testicles Do Better in Skirts?
Pretty much anywhere you go in the world, it's universally agreed upon that skirts are girl clothes and pants are boy clothes. In the West, it wasn't until the 20th century that women were even allowed to get around with covered legs, and even then they usually had to wear a skirt on top to keep up appearances. The notable exception is that crazy backward world of Scotland, where the manliest men get around in kilts and you don't laugh at them when they come at you with a battle axe. But do they know something the rest of us don't?
Other than how to live on 10 percent sunlight without developing rickets.
Scientists at a university in the Netherlands decided to figure out whether dressing up like a Japanese schoolgirl might award heretofore unknown manliness benefits to the bearded sex. After dressing some dudes in skirts and conducting even more humiliating tests, they discovered that the skirted men had healthier sperm and all-round better reproductive potential.
That makes two bagpipes they can work better than you.
The reason is that apparently skirts provide the ideal temperature and conditions for your little swimmers, who find trousers too warm and restrictive. The implication is that when it comes to assigning clothing to the genders, 99 percent of the world has got it ass-backward. We'd have been better off listening to the Scots from the beginning, at least if we could understand what they were saying.
And while we're on the subject ...
Why Do Ancient Greek Statues Portray Testicles Inaccurately?
The next time you're in a museum looking at some ancient statues, take out your balls. Or if you don't have them, ask a stranger to show you his. Now compare them to the statue. Notice anything?
"Yeah, but screw you; it's just cold in here."
Harvard psychologist Chris McManus did. While vacationing in Greece, he noticed something fundamentally wrong with the anatomical makeup of many of the male sculptures: In most real men, the right testicle hangs higher in the scrotum than the left. And, for reasons not entirely clear, the right testicle is actually the bigger and heavier of the two. Don't believe us? You can weigh them yourself while we wait.
OK, that's taking way too long. You're starting to creep us out.
But in Greek statues, it's always the opposite -- the left nut is bigger. We know this because in the most detailed study of its kind, McManus embarked on a one-man crusade examining, cupping, measuring, and ... umm ... "fondling" the testicles of close to 200 sculptures to unravel the mystery that has undoubtedly baffled mankind for centuries. The Greeks correctly put the right testicle higher, but made the left one noticeably bigger.
Why? Was that a true reflection of reality at the time? Has a few thousand years of sexual selection somehow favored guys with giant right balls? Or was there, as the paper speculates, some kind of arcane symbolism at play? We hope so, and that McManus has since embarked on an entirely scrotum-based Da Vinci Code-esque adventure.
Tom Hanks is already growing out terrible pubes for the adaptation.
Follow Josh on Twitter and Facebook
Related Reading: At least these scientific experiments made sense. That is not always the case. Please explain why we needed to know how coked-up rats react to jazz. And even that study sounds saner than researching whether turkeys will fuck a severed turkey head on a stick. And just to prove that scientists are equally cruel to human subjects, read about the children who were propagandized into brutalizing a clown.