Picks and Pans Review: The Journal of Irreproducible Results
edited by Dr. George H. Scherr
An irreproducible result is the scientific equivalent of the one that got away. The Journal took the term for its title when it was begun in Israel in 1955 as a way for distinguished scientists, albeit usually under assumed names, to vent their frustrations by satirizing the obscure style and arcane substance of most academic papers. It's now a quarterly, published in Park Forest, III. and edited by Scherr, a microbiologist. This anthology makes it clear that the Journal's articles are not real scientific papers; a layman can make head and tail out of them, for one thing. One paper sends up the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a standard psychological test, by offering as a substitute a list of yes-or-no statements: "My teeth sometimes leave my body." "I stay in the bathtub until I look like a raisin." "I think I would like the work of a hummingbird." Another article suggests that a gay community has arisen among male black widow spiders due to the females' passion for eating their mates. One writer theorizes that the accumulated weight of old National Geographies will soon become so great that North America will sink into the sea. Another piece attempts to justify mathematically the apparent contradiction between two clichés: "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" and "Out of sight, out of mind." There's even a computer program to replace the Catholic confessional ("Only three sins this time, Mr. Pope. You're improving. You had 14 last confession"). If only as a reassurance that some of those stuffy professors do indeed have a sense of humor, this is a most enjoyable book. (Workman, paper, $8.95)
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