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).

One thought on “Occam’s quiz: can you spot the bullshit amidst the comedy?

  1. Ha! Great assembly of improbable research. I guess I’ve seen too much of it, got all right except the NanoPutians which I thought was clearly false 😉

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