Science is heartless. E.T., Wolverine, and that writhing Human Centipede have taught us that science treats its living subjects with about as much emotion as an autistic robot. But every experiment, even the most shockingly callous, is performed with the understanding that sacrifices are always worth the cost as long as they are done on behalf of the advancement of knowledge. With that in mind, who could stay mad at science? It's making us better.
You know, in theory.
I am willing to accept almost any inconvenience as long as I can assume that it's all intentional and serving some greater purpose for humanity. With that in mind, I can blame just about every annoyance in my life on a secret science experiment of which I am an unknowing participant, if I try hard enough. So for all those moments when the tiny aggravations pile up into very big aggravations, and it's impossible to believe so much inconvenience could be anything other than intentional, I like to take a minute to let myself believe that maybe it is. I try to imagine the scientific abstract that would preface this horrible experience, and I have a spectacular imagination.
Experiment: Exploring the Connection Between Abundance and Preference as It Applies to "Randomly" Packed Fruit Chews
An index of favorite to least favorite artificial fruit chew flavors was created based on the facial expressions of subjects unwrapping and consuming Starbursts. The study hypothesized that by providing a large quantity of a single flavor Starburst (lemon), even when it is clearly an inferior flavor, will cause a shift in preference among the subjects.
Data was captured from researchers disguised as convenience store clerks, office workers, school classmates, houseplants, and that guy on the train who insisted on taking off his shoes. Additionally, the study ensured that number of the superior "red" Starbursts in a single pack would never, ever exceed or meet the expectations of the test subjects, even when that expectation was tragically low.
Initial analysis was discouraging. Subjects were markedly disappointed each time two or three yellows appeared sequentially in a pack, and outright furious on the one occasion when four appeared sequentially. A small variation of the test also increased the likelihood of orange Starbursts appearing in the pack, but results still showed equal frustration and regret over the purchase from 98 percent of subjects.
Of the 2 percent who, over time, demonstrated an affinity for lemon and orange Starbursts, more substantial testing is necessary. One hundred percent of this subset demonstrated signs of being ugly, awful, and generally dumb assholes.
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Experiment: Determining the Prioritization of Marriage Among Single Females when Confronted by Aggressive Middle Eastern Cabbies
Objective: The study aims to clarify whether the societal benefit of matrimony has been replaced by the pursuit of financial independence among young professional women who ride in taxis. Thanks to the exhaustive studies conducted by the Institute of Well-Meaning But Ultimately Insulting Relatives, a bias clearly exists against the prospect of marriage among affluent urban dwellers. This research will further establish that the role of "wife" has become an outmoded and undesirable cultural position, specifically, for single women in the backs of cabs.
Methods: The findings were gathered by strategically placing researchers in taxis around metropolises, posing as Middle Eastern cab drivers. Each researcher was given a series of prompts he could ask a woman including, "You are so pretty, why aren't you married?" "Tell me, how come you don't want a strong man to love you, beautiful lady?" and "Those hips, you waste them on work instead of children, help me to understand this." The researchers would then discretely catalogue the responses for analysis.
Results: Many of the participants refused to interact beyond the initial prompt, demonstrating irritability with folded arms or window staring. 22 percent of that sample set became flushed in the face and/or "cried some" before the end of the ride. Of the verbal responses, 12 percent were accompanied by pounding on the plastic partition and teeth baring. Other responses included harried explanations of how the timing just isn't right or mumbled admissions that the subject hadn't found any suitable men. Less than 3 percent rolled free from the moving vehicle.
Conclusion: From this research we determined that the majority of single women in the backs of cabs, paradoxically, like the idea of marriage but hate being reminded of its existence. Further testing is necessary to isolate why.
An Examination of Viewing Comprehension (When Tested by a Significant Other Who Missed Two-Thirds of the Film)
Purpose: To test the quick cognitive ability and language skills of adults when asked to articulate key plot points, locations, and actor names and to identify good and bad guys in a film, 10 minutes before its end. By forcing the subject to choose between retelling the story accurately and missing crucial points of the final climax, we hope to uncover the human brain's ability to create shortcuts in the English language in order to speak succinctly under extraordinary pressure.
Approach: Allowing subjects to watch 80 minutes of a compelling movie, uninterrupted, we then introduce a catalyst disguised as the husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend of the subject, who enters the room and demands to be caught up. For the subjects who showed unusual care with the explanation and sacrificed their own enjoyment, we altered subsequent tests by allowing the significant other to stay in the room throughout the entire film before insisting on a detailed explanation during the climax, all under the pretense that he/she "wasn't paying attention."
Findings: Most subjects were surprisingly uncooperative and hostile. Thirty-three percent refused to take the time to explain the movie, yet still opted to miss the ending in order to explain, in detail, how unpleasant their significant others were being. Fourteen percent made efforts to explain the plot using only one-word answers and vague hand gestures, and the remaining 53 percent blatantly lied about details of the film to avoid answering additional questions.
Conclusion: While linguistic shortcuts appear to be an impossibility even under the threat of necessity, the human brain's ability to deceive and misinform loved ones quickly and without remorse for selfish gain is remarkable.
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Experiment: Understanding the Link Between Embarrassment and Appetite Among Men with Visible Urine Stains on Their Brand New Pants
The hypothesis that a human male's dietary preferences will change based on the level of shame he feels was tested in this experiment by installing sinks in 400 restaurant bathrooms designed to splash water on any article of clothing covering an adult man's genitals (heights 5-foot-6 to 6-foot-2). The water stains in each version of the experiment were pronounced and irrefutable, even with an untucking of the shirt, which many of the subjects still attempted. Outside the restroom, strategically planted researchers of both sexes were encouraged to express their discomfort aloud with one of two predetermined exclamations: "Foul! Double dribble" or "I dislike that he peed himself. How do I know he won't pee in my mouth next?" Then detailed records were kept regarding his food order once he returned to the table.
The study indicated that men who have suffered a humiliation are more likely to eat lightly if at all. Thirty percent ate only an appetizer before leaving quickly while 55 percent lost their appetite completely and vacated the restaurant. Also notable were the 4 percent who attempted to overcome their embarrassment by continually calling their dates' attention back to the water stain at every opportunity to prove it wasn't a big deal. Even though it was, it was a big deal for everyone.
These findings may be useful in determining weight loss methods for obese males (heights 5-foot-6 to 6-foot-2) and other people in need of appetite suppression. Also noteworthy, an additional test was implemented in schools with children, and the subjects showed no indication of embarrassment. It's possible the male sense of shame doesn't fully develop until puberty.
Lisa F. Young/photos.com
Experiment: The Observable Effects of the Human Voice as It Senses an Injustice from an Automated Voice
Objective: To determine the many pitches of nasally self-righteousness a human voice can achieve when wronged by an inanimate machine. Identifying and classifying the many tones of annoyance is the first step to communicating with orcas and other species that rely on frequencies imperceptible to human ears.
Methods: The data was collected by constructing a call center that consistently misdirects inquiries, deliberately misunderstands voice commands, arbitrarily puts callers on hold, provides misleading menu options, drops calls capriciously, and never actually provides any solutions to even the smallest of problems. Then the service was distributed to every major corporation in the world. All subjects were unaware that they were participants in a study but agreed to the terms when they stayed on the line after being warned that their call will be recorded. All outbursts, rants, tearful screams, furious threats, and helpless entreaties, even while on hold, were documented and saved in the database for analysis. After which, they were played for captive orcas and their reactions documented.
Results: Upon collection of all known frequencies of human voice (including 16 additional frequencies previously thought impossible) over a 25-year period, the orcas showed tremendous interest and worked diligently with humanity to develop a universal language between species. With the new form of communication, whales revealed cures to cancer, AIDS, methamphetamine addictions, and herpes. There is even initial discussion of being honored guests in their underwater cities. All of it possible, thanks to the people who dealt with customer service hotlines.
Conclusion: No, we're messing with you. The orcas hated it. One even figured out how to hang itself. Until the time that more amenable results arise, the study will continue indefinitely.