greenland ice
January 23, 2015

This week in obvious science (Or research we can’t believe people spent money on)

Aside from writing, editing, publishing, and correcting the many errors we miss throughout the week, one of the main tasks in keeping redOrbit running (and any news media for that matter) is finding stories. Where do you go to find cool stories?

One of the places we often turn to is a site called EurekAlert (EA), where they publish press releases from universities and research institutes across the globe. Two or three times a day we'll scan EA looking for anything that's groundbreaking, fun, insightful, different, or just plain weird. Because that's kind of how we are at redOrbit.

But sometimes while browsing there, or any of the other sites we commonly turn to, we come across research that seems just, well, obvious.

Last week, for example, we came across a study titled, "Yak dung burning pollutes indoor air of Tibetan households" and thought, Well...yeah. Because even if these people use the dung for worthwhile pursuits (cooking), it shouldn't take a team of scientists to understand that burning shit in your house--yak or otherwise--is probably not best for air quality.

Who spends money on this shit? we thought. Oh, well.

Then there was this one out of Canada: "Total milk intake dropped by nearly half when chocolate milk removed from school program."

While we generally defend our North American counterparts (Look at this cool aquatic scorpion fossil they found last week), we were disappointed by this study. Sure, it was performed with the best intentions, but how hard is to determine the "impact of removing chocolate milk from schools"? Ask 20 kids--ask 20 adults even--if they'd prefer chocolate milk or regular milk at lunch, and you'd have your answer in probably less time than it takes to write a release.

"Regular milk? Who wants that?"

We understand, though, why a study like this might be performed. Science relies on hard facts, results found through rigorous testing and/or blind, double-blind, Han-Solo-after-being-frozen-in-carbonite-blind studies. This is even the case for things that seem obvious. Telling your friends, "Men are physically stronger than women," is one thing. But saying this to the scientific community is another, requiring you to either do research or cite research that other people have done on the subject.

No matter how stupid or obvious it seems.

Nevertheless, we're going to start publishing a weekly column dedicated to studies that, throughout the course of the week, make us say, "Who would spend money on this shit?!" Because, sometimes, we're actually concerned. Call it petty, or inane, fine. We're just trying to bring a little Keyshawn Johnson, "C'MON, MAN!" to the scientific community.

Essentially: We understand why obvious science happens. Doesn't mean we want to see it, though.

This Week in Obvious Science: January 23rd, 2015

1. Lung transplant patients who receive organs from heavy drinkers may be at risk for worse outcomes via Loyola University Health System

Ok, no, it's not livers. And it's not as bad as saying, "Lungs from smokers." But still.

2. Men and women process emotions differently via the University of Basel

Second paragraph, first line:

"It is known that women often consider emotional events to be more emotionally stimulating than men do."

That is all.

3. Should arsenic in food be a concern? via the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)

This one is more so a poor choice in title--as yes, arsenic in food should be a concern (unless you're trying to off someone). But, as the study points out, "Arsenic is a naturally occurring trace element that exists in both organic and inorganic forms and has a presence in the earth's crust, soil, air, and water as well as many plant-derived food products, including juices and rice."

Most of the time, levels of arsenic aren't high enough in foods for toxicological concern.

Still, though: Do we really need a study on this?

As long as we know how much arsenic is too much arsenic, and that our food contains as little of it as possible, what else is there to know?

4. Greenland Ice: The warmer it gets the faster it melts via Penn State

Just...sigh.

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