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

Marc Abrahams. OneWorld, $15.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-85168-931-6
Abrahams, founder of the IgNobel Prizes and co-founder of the magazine Annals of Improbable Research, culled through decades of (often ridiculous) scientific studies. This book represents his findings in essays, most first published in Great Britain's Guardian newspaper, package here—with quippy subheads and witty commentary. Defining "improbable" as "what you don't expect" and maintaining that he "tried hard to exaggerate nothing," Abrahams recounts research about when and why young adults hop and skip; the yawning tendencies of tortoises and vomiting habits of monkeys; the history of necrophilia laws; the connection between obesity and crime; and a study called "Race Differences in Selection of Cheese Color." Some entries, such as one about used college textbooks, could have been ripped from The Onion, such as the attention he gives to fish studies completed by individuals named "Fish." Abrahams teases readers in "May We Recommend" sections that list only the name and source of such tantalizing research as "An Experiment in Dream Telepathy" with The Grateful Dead and "Fatalities Attributed to Entering Manure Waste Pits." Given the overwhelming, if vastly entertaining, amount of material presented here, this book should be digested in small doses. Illus. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 11/12/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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