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This Is Improbable: Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens, and Other Wtf Research

2.93 of 5 stars 2.93  ·  rating details  ·  76 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Often, thinking seriously about outlandish problems is the only way to make progress in science. The rest of the time, it’s hilarious. Marc Abrahams, the founder of the famous Ig Nobel prizes, offers an addictive, wryly funny exposé of the oddest, most imaginative, and just plain improbable research from around the world. He looks into why books on ethics are more likely t ...more
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Published March 7th 2013 by ONEWorld (first published January 1st 2012)
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Brian Clegg
The Ig Nobel Prize has become something of an institution in the science world. Year after year, respected scientists turn up to have their leg pulled about the topic of an academic paper they have had published (or occasionally a patent application). The man behind the Ig Nobels, Marc Abrahams, writes a column on ‘improbable research’ and this book is a collection of these articles, though often enhanced for the book form.

The tag line of the Ig Nobels is that it is for research that makes you l
Marc Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes which reward achievements which make people laugh and then make them think, brings us a collection of strange, funny and just plain amazing scientific research.

This is the kind of book that makes you want to read out snippets to whoever is near. I did this so often that my husband quickly became exasperated and took the book away from me. However, within 10 minutes of him starting to read it, he was doing exactly the same thing.

The research presented
The problem with reading a book of "WTF research," as the subtitle calls it, is that you're reading an entire book of WTF research. Not nearly as funny as a good comedy, and not nearly as scientific as a typical science book, this book falls in a canyon between the two. I think the conceit works much better in its original form--a weekly column in the Guardian newspaper.

And this truly is "WTF research." Each entry is 1-1.5 pages on weird articles the author found in scientific journals--"Leftove
Alaina Sloo
This collection of some of Annals of Improbable Research editor Marc Abrahams' favorite unusual research is lots of fun. Whether he's describing studies about an Australian beetle's mating behavior with beer bottles, the effect of saliva flow on the perception of custard flavor, or sheep personalities, Abrahams has a gift for explaining the research in a way that's humorous and also can't help making you think. For most people it will feel like an uneven collection: some will be hilarious and so ...more
According to the blurb, this book is a ‘wry’ look at various science projects over the years. It was a little too ‘wry’ for my tastes though, the style of writing really didn’t appeal to me.

The author is the founder of the Ig Nobel prizes, which scientists win by publishing papers with funny or eye-catchingly odd premises. The idea is that at first glance the research seems to be pretty silly (like levitating a frog in an electromagnet or testing the material strength of cheese), but does nevert
Since the entries are fairly short (about 1-2 pages each), there's enough to be interesting as a snapshot, but not so much that the entries prattle.

While reading, I was amused and even chuckled at times. But ask me what I read some 10 minutes later, and I probably couldn't tell you much.

(I do remember well that throw-away reference to "homosexual, necrophiliac ducks" in the prologue, though. And yet there's no English translation of Moeliker's De eendenman available. What justice is there in thi
Nutty Mars
I liked the idea of WTF research, but it all seems a collection of random stuff put together just because. The author is trying to be funny with his comments, but that's about it. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. Didn't ring my bell.
(ebook edition) nonfiction. I was hoping for something more like 'freakonomics' but these were inconsequential little blurbs, summaries of off-the-wall studies. I only skimmed the first chapter or so, but it wasn't catching my interest at all.
Kam-Yung Soh
A brilliant book that will definitely make you laugh; and make you think.

Marc Abrahams has documented some of the most unusual papers, thoughts and experiments conducted in the name of science on people, animals and objects. Quite a number may seem trivial and make you wonder just why people would actually want to publish work on it. But others studies will make you think, and reconsider what the study shows about the world around you. Some, well, they appear to be there just to give Abrahams a
Lisa Kucharski
These studies are truly off the wall, around the corner and in the box of - wtf. Others are just completely useless in scope. The book could use even more humor from the author on some of the studies, but this book contains what feels like an endless supply of people wanting to understand the obscure and I'm not sure if they are doing it for the money or because they are really interested in finding out something. Some of the studies feel like they "had to come up with a study" and had really no ...more
Not only is the research itself often amusing (or bemusing), Abrahams' writing about the research is hysterically funny. I understand that not all research has an immediate "purpose", but I am hard-pressed to explain why someone would build a career out of studying the history of underwear in the Soviet Union (as one study detailed). Teaching monkeys to play rock, paper, scissors? Sure, that's good fun. Statistical modeling of how sheep form groups in a pasture? Hmmm...
This is a collection of Abrahams' columns on weird science and improbably research, supplemented with some new work. It's chock-full of interesting and entertaining information but I prefer weird science books with a narrative flow - I think his columns are better left just as columns. This started to just feel long and you couldn't possibly remember all the stuff you'd read.
Didn't get too terribly far. The stories were interesting, but they were just all brief snippets no more than a page long. Not really the type of book you'd read straight through.
Pedro Plassen
Something missed regarding the author's sense of humor. Too many postulates, too shortly described. A bit tiresome at the end of the day.
Richard Martin
This was interesting for about the first hundred pages. At that time reading became tedious.
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Marc Abrahams writes the 'Improbable Research' column for the Guardian and is the author of 'This Is Improbable'. He is the founding editor of the science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research and founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, which are presented at Harvard University each year. Abrahams and the Ig have been covered by the BBC, New Scientist, Daily Mail, Times, and numerous other outlets ...more
More about Marc Abrahams...
The Ig Nobel Prizes The Ig Nobel Prizes 2: An All-New Collection of the World's Unlikeliest Research The Best of Annals of Improbable Research Sex as a Heap of Malfunctioning Rubble: More of the Best of the Journal of Irreproducible Results The Man Who Tried to Clone Himself

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