South Korean censorship, the choice between voting or dying and those darn teaspoons that keep disappearing.

Show Down
You might naïvely believe that if a news show broke the biggest story its country had seen in years, it would receive praise, support and plenty of future air time. Well, then you’ve never been to South Korea.

Six months ago, television news program “PD Notebook” received an anonymous tip from a member of cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk’s research team that some of the data had been intentionally faked. The show has since aired two investigative segments on problems in Hwang’s laboratory. As a result, the show has been canceled. Reporters for the program received death threats, protesters picketed the network and all twelve advertisers pulled out.

The moral: Don’t mess with South Korean pride.
(source: The New York Times)

Vote or Die
Diddy may have thought he was helping Kerry with his “Vote or Die!” campaign, but new research suggests he may have pushed Bush over the top in the 2004 presidential election. A study of 130 people showed that voters were overwhelmingly more likely to vote for Bush when they were given a subtle reminder of death before they had to decide. On the other hand, people were decidedly more likely to vote for Kerry when they were calm.

In the group that wrote a short essay on their own mortality before they voted, 70% chose Bush. In the group that wrote an essay on watching television, less than 20% chose Bush. Looking forward to 2008, Republicans should keep up the terror alerts and Democrats should go the couch potato route.
(source: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.)

Teaspoons Defy Conservation of Matter
Australian scientists have finally confirmed that teaspoons vanish from dining facilities at an impressively fast rate. The researchers covertly numbered and tracked 70 teaspoons over the course of five months. At the end of the time period, 80% of the teaspoons were gone. The researchers estimated that a dining facility would need to purchase 250 spoons a year to maintain a working population of 70 teaspoons. While it might seem that the teaspoons disappear into nothingness, defying the “laws” of physics, the scientists hypothesize that the spoons may simply be migrating to a planet of spoons or fleeing from oppressive humans. The researchers also foolishly suggested that people might be simply taking the utensils. No word on socks in the dryer.
(source: The Scotsman)

Obey Disembodied Voices
Celebrity voice-overs in commercials are most persuasive when you can’t recognize who’s speaking, reports a new study. That’s assuming you like the celebrity. If you don’t, the subliminal celebrity voice will cast the product in a negative light. If you can recognize the celebrity voice, however, your attitudes shift in the opposite direction: When you like the celebrity, you dislike the product. The researchers chalked this up to people trying to appear rational in the face of celebrity endorsements. Maybe that’s why Sally Struthers does so many infomercials.
(source: University of Washington)


  • Harry Potter Saves Children: When Harry arrives, children stay out of the ER, says a new study. The authors found that on the weekends of June 21, 2003 and July 16, 2005, when the last two Harry Potter books came out, emergency room attendance was lower than any other weekend in a three year surveillance period. Either they’re too busy reading to break their bones, or they’ve mastered “episkey,” the healing spell. (source: British Medical Journal)
  • Soap Operas Not True: Shocking as it may be, the lives of soap opera characters do not resemble the lives of real people. According to a recent study, soap opera comas yield a much higher survival rate than real comas: 8% of soap opera characters in comas die, whereas over 50% of real people in comas die. (source: British Medical Journal)
  • Is Dinner Ready?: Lydia, a Christmas Island frigate bird, flew 2,500 miles in 26 days to find food for her baby, researchers report. This flight was the longest journey on record for a bird of Lydia’s species. Even though she’s a seabird, Lydia flew across Indonesian volcanoes on her quest to feed her young. (source: Associated Press)
  • Why Harold and Kumar Went to White Castle: Researchers have pinpointed the mechanism that causes the infamous ‘marijuana munchies.’ If we can block this cannabinoid receptor that responds to THC, researchers say, we might be able to prevent obesity by suppressing hunger. (source: Cell Press)
  • Didgeri-DO!: Regular playing of the didgeridoo can improve sleep, researchers report. By playing the instrument, people force their upper airways to open, thus reducing snoring and daytime sleepiness. (source: British Medical Journal)
  • You Know What They Say: Big Brains…: Big IQ. And new research shows this to be true, especially in women. According to the authors, a woman’s brain size accounts for 36% of her verbal IQ score. For men, this is only true for right-handers, not those tricky lefties.  (source: McMaster University)
  • Lepreconsanguines: One tenth of Irish men have the genetic imprint of ancient Irish warlord Niall of the Nine Hostages, rumored to have brought St. Patrick to Ireland. Apparently nature selects for founders of medieval dynasties. (source: ScienceNOW)
  • Father (Roger) Christmas: Speaking of paternity, the oldest recorded man with the last name ‘Christmas’ has been determined to be a farmer named Roger who lived in Sussex around the year 1200, says a British study. The study is still going, though, so the true ‘Father Christmas,’ may still be out there. (source: Discovery News)

Originally published December 27, 2005


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