Up to a Point

04.06.145:45 AM ET

P.J. on the Owl-Monkey Project and the Science of Chick Flicks

Studies confirm what scientists suspected all along: there’s a huge difference between !!, !!!, and !!!!!!.

Social Science Eats the News…

Print journalism is succumbing to “Studies show…”  This is understandable. Real news reporting requires reporters, news, and other expensive stuff. But  “Studies show…” items can be clipped and pasted by…  By people like me.

The clippings don’t even have to be news in the sense of new. Daily papers and slick monthlies aren’t reluctant to trumpet “findings” older than New Math.

Below are examples gathered over the past six weeks from The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic. (Of which the last two are becoming the earth-encircling River Oceanus of this sort of thing.) I found the following scoops and flash bulletins without reading a David Brooks column, consulting the publications’ “online” appendages, or, so help me God, touching a copy of USA Today.

But First a Brief Rant on the Social Sciences.


Is a college major for psychologically disturbed students too lazy to read good books. What is it that Homer, Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Jane Austin, George Elliot, Dostoyevsky, and Elmore Leonard didn’t know about “the mental, attitudinal, motivational, or behavioral characteristics of an individual”?


Is the study of society undertaken with a willful ignorance of moral philosophy, theology, civics, and Econ 101.

And Anthropology…

Is bad travel writing.

University of Pennsylvania Evolutionary Anthropologist Eduardo Fernandez-Duque…

Heads the Owl Monkey Project, which has been studying owl monkeys in Argentina for 18 years.

Fernandez-Duque discovered that owl monkeys are the only reliably monogamous mammal species. He also discovered that…

Gender Studies Alert!!!…

Owl monkey offspring get an inordinate amount of care from their fathers.

I head the O’Rourke Children Project, which has been studying O’Rourke children in America for 16 years. My lips are sealed about discovering that taking the kids to the monkey house at the zoo reminds me of being married and having kids.

If you don’t like your job, it can affect your health. I have to wonder about methodology. Was the BMJ counting the number of times people with shit jobs called in sick?

A 2002 Longitudinal Study of Canadian Oil-and-Gas-Company Employees…

(Bet I’ve Got Your Attention Now…)

Found that people who were sent from traditional offices to open-plan offices “were significantly less satisfied.”

Maybe if management snuck in at night and decorated their cubicles with Dilbert cartoons…

According to the British Medical Journal…

If you don’t like your job, it can affect your health.

I have to wonder about methodology. Was the BMJ counting the number of times people with shit jobs called in sick?

Further Indication That Social Scientists Don’t Get Out of the House Enough…

Sports economist David Berri of Southern Utah University studied 30 years of NBA basketball statistics to see which teams were most successful and concluded: “Tanking simply does not work.”

Research to be published in Management Science uses analysis of 70,000 pitches thrown in Major League Baseball’s 2008 and 2009 seasons to determine that approximately 14 percent of non-swinging pitches were called erroneously by the umpire.

Or, as umpires are called by fans of the Washington Nationals, “That asshole is blind.”

Social Scientists Don’t Even Go on the Internet Enough…

In a 2006 issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, punctuation scholar Carol Waseleski announced her discovery that, on the Internet, two exclamation points are needed to convey enthusiasm, three exclamation points are needed to convey excitement and four or more exclamation points are needed to convey giddiness!!!!!


“Does Getting Drunk Make You Funnier?”

Works for Me!!!!!

Researchers Joel Warner and Peter McGraw conducted an experiment in which free drinks were served. And I could care less what they learned, assuming they can remember any of it. But I’m miffed that I wasn’t asked to volunteer for the study.


“Get Some Sleep, and Wake Up the GDP”

In the blatherskite that followed, the only evidence was, ”One study in Australia calculated the cost of sleeplessness at 0.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.”

But I’m convinced. Bedtime for the Obama administration.

Scratch That…

Comparing historical voter turnout between Indiana counties that did and did not have Daylight Savings Time, political scientist R. Urbatsch of Iowa State University found that, in areas where the clock had been turned back during the weekend before elections and the electorate was presumably better rested, voter turnout was greater—particularly among less reliable voters.

Or, as less reliable voters are called by fans of Indiana good governance, Democrats.

Speaking of Reliable, the Government Accountability Office…

Commissioned psychologists Charles F. Bond Jr. and Bella M. DePaulo to review more than 200 studies on body language. It turns out there is no evidence that body language reveals whether people are lying to you.

Which anyone with a “Let me hear your body talk” first marriage could have told the GAO for free.

Review was ordered because the TSA has spent $1 billion training “behavior detection officers” to look for non-verbal clues and facial expressions that could identify terrorists.

Number of terrorists identified by these methods?  None.

But I’ve identified the reason why going through airport security reminds me of my first wife.

Cover story…

“The Over-Protected Kid—New research shows he’ll grow up to be more fearful and less creative.”

In other words, Eminem’s mom knew what she was doing all along.

An Accompanying Article…

Cites a “groundbreaking study” indicating you shouldn’t help your kids with their homework. As my seventh-grade daughter knows. She just asked me, “What’s 7 times 54 in base 8?”

A University of Michigan Study…

Indicates that people who devote a lot of time to being on Facebook feel less satisfied with their lives.

Because they’re spending their fucking lives on Facebook.

The Society of Vascular Surgery and New York University…

Analyzed the health records of 3.5 million Americans and found that married people are less likely to suffer from heart disease.

Finally, some solid facts in the age-old debate: Does marriage make you live longer or does it just seem longer?

A 42-Year Study by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina…

Was published in the Journal of the Blindingly Obvious.  (I’m making that up. It was published in Science.)  Study shows rich kids grow up healthier than poor kids.

Also Published in the Journal of the Blindingly Obvious…

A Pew Research Center survey says millennials have more friends on Facebook than people over 50, are eight times as likely to have shared a selfie on the Internet, and a third of them think it’s OK to have their kisser stuck in a cellphone during family dinner.

Another Pew Research Center Survey of Millennials…

Describes a generation that’s socially liberal on issues such as marijuana, is more likely to be unmarried, doesn’t identify itself as being either Democrat or Republican, and is less likely—by a large margin—to say that one’s fellow human beings can be trusted.

Methodology again. Sounds to me like Pew conducted its survey by flagging down cars full of stoned teenagers and asking nosy questions.

An Article Published in Human Reproduction…

Linked stress to a woman’s ability to become pregnant. The lead author of the article, Courtney D. Lynch, director of reproductive epidemiology at Ohio State University, said that if a woman was having difficulty becoming pregnant, it would be harmless, and might be helpful, to consider stress reduction techniques.

Such as having sex.

I GUESS Climatology Is a Real Science…

Although its hypotheses are always presented in the smug, tendentious tone that E=MC2 doesn’t seem to require.

Anyway, the British government’s chief scientific adviser Sir David King said, “We must either invest more in sustainable approaches to flood and coastal management or live with increased flooding.”

Or buy a boat.

And My Particular Favorite…

Study by the University of Rochester indicates that couples who watch “chick flicks” together are less likely to get divorced.

Study by me indicates that if you wait until the Mrs. gets all weepy and her glasses fog up, you can sneak into the Cineplex theater next door and watch car chases, gunfights, and large explosions.

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