Category Archives: news

Occam’s quiz: can you spot the bullshit amidst the comedy?

At the first Symposium of Occam’s Beard, seven magnificently ridiculous theories were presented. But to show that reality can sometimes be better than comedy, we ended the symposium with a quiz featuring real science publications — as well as some made up nonsense — and asked the audience whether they thought the paper was a real publication, or the product of our overactive imagination.

These are the papers we showed (click on the title to see the answer):

Synthesis of anthropomorphic molecules: the NanoPutians
Chanteau S.H. and Tour J.M.
Journal of Organic Chemistry (2003)

In this paper, the authors show a new family of molecules: the nanoputians, tiny human-shaped molecules that come in many varieties, such as the NanoKid, the NanoGreenBeret and the NanoScholar.


Auto-fluorescence increases in bacteria isolated from bovine excrement during full moon
Cremer V., Vaarzen L.A., and Torres A.I.
Journal of Bacteriology (2001)

Over a period of six months, piles of feces from large ruminants were collected and its bacteria were isolated and examined. The researchers noticed that the autofluorescence of the bacteria increased significantly in days when the moon was full.


The Power of Kawaii: viewing cute images promotes a careful behavior and narrows attentional focus
Nittono H., Fukushima M., Yano A., and Moriya H.
PLoS one (2012)

After looking at images of cute animals, participants in this study performed significantly better at a motor dexterity task and visual search task. The control group, shown images of pleasant-looking food, showed no improvement.

Pigeons can discriminate “good” and “bad” paintings by children
Watanabe S.
Animal Cognition (2010)

This research showed “good” and “bad” paintings — made by kids — to pigeons, and demonstrated that the birds can learn to distinguish random colouring from the playground Picassos. By the end of this study, the pigeons were veritable art critics.

Premenstrual enhancement of snake detection in visual search in healthy women
Masataka N. and Shibasaki M.
Scientific Reports (2012)

This paper showed how pre-menstrual women in particular were exceptionally quick in detecting snakes in pictures; much faster than finding a flower in the control images.

How many did you spot? Tell us in the comments!

Image: cow dung, by kradeki (creative commons).

Bullshit Bingo

By popular request: here is the pdf for our Bullshit Bingo cards! Use it in seminars, in journal clubs, in conferences, while reading the science digest of your favourite blog or paper, or while checking your own work.


Thanks to everyone who joined us at the Champalimaud Centre yesterday, or who watched the livestream! It was a great success!

How bald are you?

Occam’s participant Mário Silva needs your help! For the continuation of his research project on the adaptive value of male baldness he is looking for data. Go here to fill out the form (takes less than a minute) and help Mário determine how fast hair is lost in our modern day male population.

Left, right, or counterclockwise: how do you take your coffee?

In the run-up to Occam’s Beard, important questions are being asked. Questions you may ask yourself every day, even without realizing it. But science is here to help, and to get to the bottom of your thoughts — or, in this case, your coffee.

One team presenting at Occam’s Beard has exactly this lofty goal. If you have a minute, why not help them out, and fill out this survey?

Edit (16/02/2014): the survey has been closed! To see the results of this meticulous investigation, join us on February 1st, 16h, in the auditorium of the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, for the first ever Symposium of Occam’s Beard!

Image credit: Jennifer K. Warren — licensed with Creative Commons BY NC ND 2.0

yes, we have a blog

While gearing up for the main event, we plan to entertain you on this blog with the wildest theories out there. Do feel free to give us a hand, and send us any published science you find that you suspect is up our alley, from Occam’s five o’clock shadow to the Aquatic Ape theory.

Of course, we will also use this blog to keep you up to date on the progress of the event organization itself. So check this page, subscribe to the RSS feed, or follow us on facebook!