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The results of my researches are obvious... a bit like these

PUBLISHED: 10:08 14 September 2015 | UPDATED: 10:08 14 September 2015

Notting Hill: Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts may have found bliss in the rom-com, but don't expect real-life to be as peachy...

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Notting Hill: Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts may have found bliss in the rom-com, but don't expect real-life to be as peachy... .

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It's groundbreaking research: teenagers who spend hours on screens during their free time - whether it be watching TV, playing computer games or surfing the internet - appear to achieve lower grades at GCSE than those that don't.

Oh look - a walking dino-burger...Oh look - a walking dino-burger...

Scientists at Cambridge University published this astonishing news last week, adding that parents who are concerned about their children’s GCSE performance should consider not letting them spend their entire lives on their X-Box screaming obscenities to their friends and then doing their homework on the toilet the next morning (or is this just my children?) and instead encourage them to revise.

And there was more shock news: pupils who do an extra hour of homework and reading perform better in GCSEs than children that don’t. Who knew?

All this made me wonder about other pieces of research which are either utterly pointless, obvious or depressing or, sometimes, all three.

My own research projects at university fitted into several, if not all, categories: my first dissertation could very well have been titled ‘If you get pregnant when you’re a teenager it will probably be quite hard-going for you’ and the second might have been called ‘If you sell drugs it’s quite likely that you might lean on your customers to do favours for you, especially if they do something useful, like fix cars’.

To celebrate the news that someone has done some research that even a slack-jawed teen that spends 23 hours a day in front of a screen would have known the answer to before the ink in the title page of the project was dry, I have found eight other projects which are similarly insane/pointless/stating the obvious – one is a lie: can you spot it?

Eight research projects which raise more questions than they answer:

1. The best place to have a coma is on a soap opera rather than in real life: This shock finding from David Casarett and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania revealed that nine out of 10 soap characters from American soap operas fully recovered from comas. “These results are unrealistically optimistic,” said the research, “typically less than 10 per cent of patients recover fully from comas.” The research also discovered that the best place to die is on a soap opera rather than real life, too.

2. Trying swimsuits on in changing rooms puts women in a bad mood: I would rather climb into a microwave oven with a pocket full of spoons than try on swimsuits in a public changing room. However well-acquainted you think you are with the really horrific parts of your own body, nothing can prepare you for the grisly truths which changing room mirrors present. Brutal strip lighting, a cloakroom assistant like a size zero praying mantis, overheated cubicles with doll’s house curtains, floor to ceiling mirrors that emphasise your self-loathing – changing rooms are the closest thing to hell on earth. Luckily, a university in Australia has conducted research to prove that trying on an unflattering bikini under harsh lighting can leave women feeling unhappy. The advice at the end of the study was as revealing as a Victorian bathing costume: “Avoid mirrors and comparisons with others and focus on other activities.” Thanks!

3. Which dinosaur would have tasted the best? This handy piece of research, conducted by Montana State University, sought to discover which dinosaurs we should pursue with spears if we found ourselves transported back to prehistoric times and a bit peckish. “When people ask me if a T-Rex would be good, well I don’t think so,” said professor David Varricchio, “they’ve found jaw abnormalities that suggest they were eating fetid meat and had diseases that came about from prey items. They would be pretty parasite-laden.” Yum! Best to plump for the largest animal to ever walk the earth: “Sauropod neck could be a delicacy,” said Varricchio.

4. Scientists have found a sure-fire way for men to live longer: The good news is that a larger proportion of men could live to be more than 100 years old if they employ the suggested technique, the bad news from Korea University, is that the suggested technique involves castration. Succumb to the knife and you could enjoy an extra 14 to 19 years of life, although ‘enjoy’ might be too strong a word.

5. Researchers have revealed that moderate amounts of alcohol consumed in a social setting can enhance positive emotions and social bonding: Full marks to the team at the University of Pittsburgh for stating the obvious: that drinking in moderation can make you feel more cheerful and help you talk to people. Presumably the next study will be that excessive amounts of alcohol consumed in a social setting can lead to foaming at the mouth, a willingness to fight any mammal (or coat-stand) in sight and an ability to become angry/sad/sublimely happy all in the space of 10 minutes. I have, in a way, been involved in this research project for decades.

6. The Effects of Pre-Existing Inappropriate Highlighting on Reading Comprehension: This study looked into an incredibly important issue, namely buying a second-hand book and discovering that someone has highlighted segments of text in it. The really important finding was, however, that even if the highlighting was APPROPRIATE, it was still annoying. Thank you, education, for helping us answer the really big questions.

7. Watching romantic films can “set unrealistic expectations and lead to crushing disappointment in real life”: A group of Australian scientists revealed that if we think romantic comedies such as Notting Hill and The Wedding Planner are a true depiction of real life, we are likely to feel deeply let-down when our real-life relationship turns out to be a carousel of arguments about who last put the bin out. 
“Our love of rom-coms is turning us into a nation of ‘happy-ever-after addicts,” said study director Dr Gabrielle Morrissey, “yet the warm and fuzzy feeling they provide can adversely influence our view of real relationships.” In a nutshell, a hugely successful film star isn’t going to fall in love with you if you work in retail and it is not considered good form to fall in love with the groom if you’re a wedding planner – and while we’re at it, the instant toasting light sabre knife from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy doesn’t exist and nor does the Neuraliser from Men in Black. More’s the pity.

8. Sintef Unimed in Norway and the Technical University of Denmark published a survey that proved wearing wet underwear in cold weather was not a good idea, mirroring similar research by my Nan in the 1940s. “The Impact of Wet Underwear on Thermoregulatory Responses and Thermal Comfort in the Cold” suggested that instead of wearing wet underwear if it was very cold outside, one should wear dry underwear. Don’t thank me, thank THEM.

...so are you wondering where the lie was hidden? It was that there was a lie hidden. All of the above are real surveys. My favourite is the one about soap operas being the best place to be in a coma – I will definitely bear this in mind for the future.

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