Rick and Morty and The Scientific Method

Is Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty the future of science? The Adult Swim cartoon, which follows the adventures of alcoholic mad scientist Rick and his anxiety-ridden grandson Morty, is far from academic. But a recent video from the PBS Idea Channel takes a semi-serious look at the relationship between the show and the modern scientific method. 

PBS host Mike Rugnetta asks, "Is Rick the ideal scientist?" Rick is undeniably brilliant; he can travel to alternate dimensions, pause time, and recreate the gadgets from pretty much any modern sci-fi movie (the show, itself, was originally inspired by 1985's Back to the Future). However, his process is anarchic and frequently self-serving: Rick's not really trying to advance science as a discipline, as much as he's trying to help himself. 

But maybe that anarchic approach to science is exactly what the discipline needs. So argues Rugnetta, citing philosopher Paul Feyerabend's book Against Method. Feyerabend, who specializes in the philosophy of science, argues that the modern scientific method has become overly rigid. Too often, scientists are encouraged to specialize in one narrowly-defined subject, and discouraged from considering the ways in which their discipline may overlap with others. Moreover, he argues, while the scientific method—which involves "making observations, asking questions, formulating hypotheses, making predictions, testing against those predictions, gathering data, and developing theories"—undeniably provides a useful framework for the pursuit of knowledge, it should be a guideline for research, not necessarily the rule.

Basically, Feyerabend argues that science should be more anarchic. Scientists should be free to draw inspiration from multiple disciplines, from their own lives and interests, to pursue whatever line of inquiry they want. Which, if you think about it, is exactly what Rick does. His inventions are created in response to his own needs and interests, whether he wants to pause time to clean up after a particularly messy house party, or steal cable television programming from alternate dimensions. Rugnetta notes that Feyerabend's views on scientific methodology are controversial, and by no means held by all—or most—scientists. So whether you think Rick is a scientific role model or just a funny fictional crackpot may depend on your opinions on the scientific method. Nevertheless, Feyerabend might agree with Rick when he says, "Sometimes science is more art than science.”

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Roadside Bear Statue in Wales is So Lifelike That Safety Officials Want It Removed
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Wooden bear statue.

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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