Scientific research is usually aimed at solving something important, though that’s not always the case. There’s a growing body of research being conducted just because the researchers had nothing better to do that day. Many of these elaborate, yet useless, studies are funded by taxpayer money, too, or at least money that could have gone towards other more practical endeavors.
10. How Uncomfortable Is Wet Underwear In Cold Weather?
A study titled Impact of Wet Underwear on Thermoregulatory Responses and Thermal Comfort in the Cold was published in the journal Ergonomics in 1994, which remains the most exhaustive scientific work in the field of wet underwear research to date. It wasn’t inherently useless, as the study genuinely made an effort to analyze the science behind how wet underwear affects everyday well-being and comfort levels for everyday people.
Most of its findings, however, failed to go beyond the obvious. Eight subjects were made to wear wet underwear of different varieties and sit in a room for stretches of 60 minutes, and then asked a variety of questions about how they were feeling. The researchers concluded that wet underwear does have a ‘significant cooling effect’ on ‘thermoregulatory responses and thermal comfort’, which is just a fancy way of saying something everyone already knew all along – wet underwear feels uncomfortable in the cold.
9. What Is Navel Fluff Made Of?
We all notice a bit of fluff in our belly buttons from time to time, which is usually a harmless collection of stray fibers from our clothes, dirt and body hair. This has never really been a mystery, though still, no one knows exactly what’s in there due to lack of proper research on the topic, as this isn’t the sort of thing most scientists usually bother with.
For Georg Steinhauser – a researcher at the Vienna University of Technology – though, navel flint represented the very frontier of human knowledge. For four years, Steinhauser collected 503 pieces of fluff from his belly button and examined its true nature. He also asked a bunch of his friends for feedback on their own fluff, likely making for some very awkward bar conversations.
Most of the study’s findings were exactly what you’d expect. It is, after all, mostly loose fibers from your clothes that make up the fluff, and it’s possible to collect less of it if you keep your abdominal hair shaved.
8. How To Smash Someone’s Head With A Beer Bottle?
If you’ve ever been in or near a bar brawl, you’d know that beer bottles are pretty much the only real weapon available to the participants. It’s always good practice to know how to protect yourself against them, as well as use them for defense in case things turn ugly for you, though we wouldn’t go as far as to do a full-fledged study on the topic, as that seems unnecessary.
A group of scientists at the University of Bern, though, strongly disagreed, and decided to apply some science to the whole thing. They set out to find out if it’s better to smash someone’s skull in with an empty full bottle rather than a full one, complete with equations and formulae that just don’t look necessary, whatever they mean.
After rigorous research, they determined that an empty bottle releases about 30 J of energy when smashed against a skull-like surface, compared to the 40 J of energy released in the case of a full bottle – a surprising yet still wholly unnecessary finding.
7. How Different Are Apples And Oranges, Really?
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘like comparing apples and oranges’, usually used to compare things that can’t be compared. We’re not sure how far back its usage goes, though considering how different apples and oranges are in terms of taste, color, texture and other parameters, it seems like a fair, uncontroversial comparison to most people.
All that, however, wasn’t enough for one James E. Barone – a surgeon at the University of New England. He carried out research and wrote an entire paper on the subject, concluding – after hours of carefully measuring details like sweetness, weight, shape etc. of different types of oranges and apples – that apples and oranges are actually quite similar to each other.
6. What Makes Us ‘Cool’?
What exactly makes someone ‘cool’? You might say that it’s subjective and depends on the observer. What’s ‘cool’ for you might be totally different for someone else, based on factors like where you grew up, your current social surroundings, whether you can play the guitar really fast, and so on. Most people would leave it at that, though that wasn’t enough for Ian Hansen and Ilan Dar-Nimrod – two researchers from New York that decided to explore the question further.
The study involved students from different colleges coming up with words they associate with coolness, and then ranking their friends on those traits. The findings were published in the paper titled Coolness: An Empirical Investigation in the aptly-named Journal of Individual Differences, though none of them are very surprising. Our idea of coolness, as it concluded, is highly associated with traits like attractiveness, sociability, friendliness, and intelligence.
5. Do Chickens Like Attractive People?
Chickens are one of the most common livestock animals found around the world, though there’s still a lot we don’t understand about the little birds. For one, do they have the same parameter of attractiveness for human faces as ourselves? Some might say that it’s a completely irrelevant question, and any effort wasted in answering it should be spent on other more practical scientific pursuits. Other, more inquisitive minds, however, would want to explore the matter further for the sheer sake of knowledge.
That’s exactly what three researchers from Stockholm University believed in, who went ahead and carried out a whole study on it. They trained hens to look at female faces (and vice versa for cocks) and recorded their responses. Fascinatingly, at least for them, the birds overwhelmingly chose the more attractive faces over the others.
Now, we can’t say that it was entirely useless, as the study does find some similarities between how people perceive attractiveness among each other and chickens. It suggests that our parameter of attractiveness comes from inbuilt responses in our nervous system rather than external factors like facial symmetry. It would be an interesting point to make, though only if it didn’t come from a study conducted on a few chickens and, like, 14 people.
4. Projectile Trajectory Of Penguin Poop
Penguins are undoubtedly interesting creatures, though a couple of scientists from Japan have taken that too far. Their paper titled Projectile Trajectory of Penguin’s Faeces and Rectal Pressure Revisited is easily the most detailed academic work on the physics on penguin poop, even if most of us didn’t even know if this was an unsolved scientific mystery in the first place.
We won’t go into the details, as we don’t get most of them. The paper uses complicated equations and advanced-level physics to analyze the projectile trajectory of all kinds of penguin poop, and by the professional look of the whole thing, it might even be accurate. The safest distance to maintain from a pooping penguin, according to the study at least, is 1.34 meters (or about 4.4 ft). It’s useful information, though again, there was no need for such a study in the first place, as penguins pooping on people is hardly a widespread problem.
3. How To Minimize Coffee Spillage?
It’s common to spill your coffee while walking, though most of us don’t consider it a problem fit for rigorous scientific research. It’s really just coffee. As you’d expect from the general theme of this list, though, that simply wasn’t enough for the scientists.
Jiwon Han – a researcher from South Korea – extensively studied the different properties of coffee and other similar beverages to understand how they spill while walking. It is perhaps the most phenomenal work on the advanced principles of fluid mechanics and walking, even if still quite unnecessary.
The paper concluded that the best way to avoid coffee spillage is by walking backwards, as it ‘significantly changes the frequency characteristics of our hand motion’. That, or holding your cup in a weird, claw-like manner, though walking backwards is still the preferred option if it could be helped.
2. Can Spider-Man Really Exist?
Is it possible for Spider-Man to actually exist in real life? Spider-Man fans as well as experimental military scientists have been interested in answering that for a while, though it’s not the type of question that should be answered by science. Spiderman is, after all, a fictional character, and movies and comic books are meant to be fantasized, inaccurate versions of reality. That’s what makes them fun.
Some researchers , though, weren’t convinced by that, and set out to decisively answer the question the best way researchers know how – by writing an elaborate paper with complex equations. In the end, they found that even if we were bitten by a radioactive spider – and even if it does give us spider-like powers – they’d be useless. In order to climb walls like spiders and other similar insects, we’d need about 40% of our whole body – or 80% of the entire front part – to turn into sticky pads.
1. Skrillex vs. Mosquitoes
We all have our own take on whether Skrillex’s work qualifies as what most people call ‘sick’ music, though if one study out of Malaysia is to be believed, it can at least help us ward off some mosquitoes. Published in 2019, it’s actually based on a rather practical premise – that sounds or other types of frequencies could be used to check the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. The scope of the study, however, and for some reason, was limited to just one of his songs.
They played Skrillex’s ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ at mating mosquitoes and recorded how it affects them. As it turns out, the song does have a significant effect on their mating patterns, and could even be systematically used to keep mosquito populations in a particular area under control. What they failed at explaining, however, is why this happens, or what parts of the song did the mosquitoes have a problem with? They make no further attempts to try the experiment with other songs or artists, either, which makes us question if they were even serious about the whole thing.