Why science needs silly-sounding research

Earlier this week, scientists announced that they'd found evidence suggesting malaria-carrying mosquitoes are more attracted to the smell of human flesh than healthy mosquitoes. This research — which, I'm sure you'll agree, has some important implications — grew out of research that could be deemed very silly. In fact, this new finding was built on IgNobel-winning research published back in 1996, which found that malaria mosquitoes are attracted to the smell of stinky cheese.


  1. Hmmm, so by correlation I can infer that my wife must smell more like stinky cheese than I do…  Valuable research indeed.

    1. Spoiler: Amygdala size scans, with opaque identifier matrices, possibly only good for Sex and Death- related psychology issues. Your Uni. is already on the phone asking how much you want to donate to the Punk (or Postpunk) metrics wrt. your study focus.

  2. It is the height of arrogance and simpleminded lack of imagination to suggest that any line of scientific inquiry is without value. Much of the high tech magic we enjoy today was brought about by insights gained from distantly related fields, anything from quantum mechanics to insect mating habits, that have taken decades to find application. 

    1.  Exactly.  If the study is well designed and gets reproducible results, and reveals a little factoid that we did not know, then it is good science and helps increase the resolution of our picture of the universe.

      1. I hardly think that every factoid merits equal investment, though. Do you? And, if not, how do you determine how much to invest in the various studies? It is not likely, as SHaGGz suggests, that people think they are completely without value, it is that they think the value is so low as to not merit investment relative to other inquiries (or activities.)

  3. I’d like to research what the world would look like if you could ride on a wave of light.

    My name is Albert Einstein and that’s how the theory of relativity started.

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