Our 10 Favorite Scientific Study Titles of 2014
There are thousands upon thousands of scientific papers and studies published each year (so many, in fact, that I can't with confidence say I compared every single one—if I've missed your favorite absurd title, share it in the comments!). And while the strength of the research should speak for itself, sometimes scientists give their work a title to make it stand out. To honor those brainy punsters and to draw your attention to their admirable scientific advances, we have selected some of our favorite titles from the past year.
1. Spiders on a Hot Volcanic Roof: Colonisation Pathways and Phylogeography of the Canary Islands Endemic Trap-Door Spider Titanidiops canariensis (Araneae, Idiopidae)
Why we like it: Something about the juxtaposition between the Tennessee Williams reference and the almost unpronounceable technical terms.
What about the actual science?: The study looks at howTitanidiops canariensis spiders ended up on the volcanic Canary Islands considering the rarity of finding mygalomorph spiders on oceanic islands.
2. The early bird gets the carcass: Temporal segregation and its effects on foraging success in avian scavengers
Why we like it: Because the mental image of a bird chomping down on a poor helpless worm wasn't graphic enough.
What about the actual science?: "Given that carrion availability is higher in the morning than in the afternoon and that differences in wing-loading and nesting behavior may limit morning activity in some species, there is potential for temporal segregation in resource use to play an important role in the coexistence of avian scavengers." Meaning, if you're looking for fresh carcass, get a move on.
3. Locomotion in Extinct Giant Kangaroos: Were Sthenurines Hop-Less Monsters?
Why we like it: Because if those hop-less monsters aren't the subject of a low budget sci-fi film yet, they should be.
What about the actual science?: "The largest (Procoptodon goliah) had an estimated body mass of 240 kg, almost three times the size of the largest living kangaroos, and there is speculation whether a kangaroo of this size would be biomechanically capable of hopping locomotion."
4. The Darwin Awards: sex differences in idiotic behaviour
Why we like it: Because rarely are scientific studies so satisfying.
What about the actual science?: The scientists literally relied on the "Darwin Awards" for this study, considering the sex of past winners of the notorious prize which is awarded to people who "eliminate themselves from the gene pool in such an idiotic manner that their action ensures one less idiot will survive." What they found is that most recipients are men.
5. A Sociologist Walks into a Bar (and Other Academic Challenges): Towards a Methodology of Humour
Why we like it: We award points for effort.
What about the actual science?: "The purpose of this article is to make a sensible case for the place of humour as a methodology for the social sciences."
6. An exploration of the basis for patient complaints about the oldness of magazines in practice waiting rooms
Why we like it: This is one of those cases where the subject of the study seems so prosaic, so outside the realm of rigorous scientific research, and frankly, so silly, that any title that attempts to elevate and obfuscate that silliness is itself silly.
What about the actual science?: Not only did these scientists consider the age of the magazine (through scientifically looking at the date on the publication), they also considered how quickly magazines disappeared from waiting rooms, specifically "the loss of gossipy compared with non gossipy magazines."
7. Nintendo related injuries and other problems
Why we like it: Because of the jump necessary to get from "Nintendo related injuries" to all the "other problems."
What about the actual science?: You can be afflicted with Wiiitis, Wii knee, or even Surgerii.
8. Do Animals Need Citizenship?
Why we like it: Because it is an eternally valid question. And because we love cats here at mental_floss.
What about the actual science?: The scientists "divide the animal kingdom into three categories and distribute rights accordingly," which doesn't sound fair at all.
9. The Ethics Of Nudging
Why we like it: Because it's about time someone lay down the law for what sort of gentle pushing to get someone's attention is and is not acceptable.
What about the actual science?: Their use of nudge refers to something called "choice architecture," which refers to how presentation of choice affects the outcome.
10. Run EDGAR Run: SEC Dissemination in a High-Frequency World
Why we like it: What is a Forrest Gump reference doing here in 2014?
What about the actual science?: EDGAR is an acronym for Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval as it relates to the Security and Exchange Commission. The scientists here did some number crunching that "raise[s] questions about whether the SEC dissemination process is really a level playing field for all investors."