After 21 years, the Annals of Improbable Research — that bastion of uber-nerdy science humour — is switching from a dead tree format to an all-digital PDF format. And it's holding a special subscription sale to celebrate. From now until 31 October, you can get a yearly subscription (six issues) for just $US15/year, instead of the usual $US25/year.
Edited by Marc Abraham, the magazine highlights unusual scientific research from around the world. Yes, a lot of them are funny — "Influence of Coriolis Force on the Growth of Body Hair," anyone? — but often as not, there's some genuine useful science lurking underneath. As the magazine's tagline (also the tagline for the associated blog and the annual Ig Nobel Prizes) says: "Improbable research is research that makes people laugh and then think."
If you're pondering a subscription, here's a few of my favourite past articles from the AIR "airchives" to help you make up your mind:
The Taxonomy of Barney. "To test the hypothesis that Barney is a reptile descended from the true dinosaurs, we went into the field in order to capture and study a living specimen. This we accomplished with remarkable ease, as Barney was advertised to be appearing at a local shopping mall."
Does a Cat Always Land on Its Feet? "Until now, no one has systematically investigated the limits of this phenomenon."
Electron Band Structure in Germanium, My Arse. "The exponential dependence of resistivity on temperature in germanium is found to be a great big lie. My careful theoretical modelling and painstaking experimentation reveal 1) that my equipment is crap, as are all the available texts on the subject and 2) that this whole exercise was a complete waste of my time."
Kansas is Flatter Than a Pancake. "Measuring the flatness of Kansas presented us with a greater challenge than measuring the flatness of the pancake. The state is so flat that the off-the-shelf software produced a flatness value for it of 1."
The Chemical and Physical Properties of Vampires in a Gaseous State. "Video ethnographic studies of vampires, for example the pioneering work of Méliès and d'Alcy (1896) (Figure 1) imply that gas phase vampires have similar total dimensions, albeit with fuzzy edges, to solid-state vampires (Hart et al. 1992). However, quantitative analysis is difficult since vampires are reported to not show up in mirrors (Spence 1960), which adds considerable complication to any imaging system used for volumetric analysis."
Horse Calculus. "The moral of this is that applications of mathematical knowledge can be unexpected; you may find yourself taking a surface integral over a horse."
The Morphology of Steve. "This analysis is based on data given to us by 284 scientists whose name is either Steve or some cognate of Steve (Stephanie, Stephan, Esteban, etc.)."
And of course...
Chicken Chicken Chicken. You kind of have to hear it:
Images via Annals of Improbable Research