“It’s curiosity that makes good science, not faith.” When it comes to all manner of discovery, this simple quote sums it up nicely.
I came across it randomly several years ago during a research project of my own. It was attributed to “Unknown.” I’d love to be able to claim credit for it, but I can’t.
Unhappily, this science versus faith analogy is counter-balanced by another emerging sad scientific fact.
While we live in a country that has become hugely dependent on science and technology, a growing plethora of people demonstrate, almost daily, that they know almost nothing about either: SCIENCE or TECHNOLOGY.
However, this piece isn’t about people who can’t tell the difference between anecdotal GUT-FEEL suspicions and reliably observed empirical evidence; nor is it about the fact that intuitive logic is often crushed by ONE, lone silver bullet of counter-intuitive reality.
A reader sent me a link to a recently published piece of what I’ll refer to as “scientific hilarity.” Georgia Tech researchers—respected mathematicians, no less—have published a Law of Urination, based on their study of the Physics of Urination.
Their study involved the urination process for mammals, including humans. They observed various zoo mammals—although they didn’t say anything about observing the zoo-keepers (humans).
They’ve “discovered” that mammals—ranging in size and weight from less than a pound to several tons (African elephants) take 21-seconds to pee, and that BLADDER size doesn’t matter.
They observed volumes of urination ranging from 100-milliters (about 3.4 ounces) to 100-liters (about 26-gallons).
They further stipulated that the results were equally applicable to humans—again size and volume notwithstanding—although they never mentioned how many humans they actually observed, or where, specifically, they observed them.
Now, it’s important for me to digress a bit concerning humans. From personal experience, I can tell you that it often takes a lot of nerve to gather basic information.
I’ve actually visited various shopping malls, gone into all manner of private and public businesses, and stood on various street corners just to observe people and question them about whatever it was that I was trying to prove.
And depending on the subject matter, it can be a real hoot that is fun to do; or it can become deadly serious and dangerous to do. But I have thick skin, and if I find the hypothesis to be worthwhile, I have no problems doing the research.
However, besides the occasional human urinating in public… you know, along the side of a road, or behind a tree, etc.—after all, when you have to go, you have to go—or some perverts doing it in public because they get off exposing themselves, how else does one get to observe normal people peeing?
Speaking for myself only, I draw a definite line at observing people urinating in public bathrooms.
If you’re a male doing it in a typical men’s bathroom, you’re either going to end up with a “boy” friend; or you’re going to get the crap kicked out of you. And if you’re a male doing it in a women’s bathroom, you’re going to end up in jail and on a sex offender’s registry.
Anyway, let’s get back to the research study involved. I’m going to give the professors the benefit of the doubt concerning humans.
My problem with this study deals with the actual reason for doing it in the first place. I suggest that the REAL reason differs from the stated reason: It “might help diagnose animals’ urinary problems.”
In the world of academia, absolute perniciousness dominates university politics. Granted it comes from only a handful of professors and high-ranking administrators, but these folks get all the press.
Also, “publish or perish” is not just a harmless slogan; if tenure is the goal, publishing is an imperative, right along with the ability to draw huge sums of grant money.
While I subscribe to other legitimate scientific publications, I’m not familiar with New Scientist; I don’t subscribe. But reading over their web site, I see no reason to doubt its scientific legitimacy.
On the other hand, other than a slow day or in the interests of providing some humorous levity, I have to wonder why they published the results of this particular study.
Without going into a protracted dissertation on inferential statistics, I must ask: Of what value is a study with a confidence level of 95% and confidence interval (margin for error) of a + or – 62-PERCENT?
Such findings tell us that science can predict that mammals—including humans and regardless of relative bladder size—will take between EIGHT and THIRTY-FOUR seconds to empty their respective bladders, AND that such predictions will be correct 95 out of 100 times.
So WHAT? And as a side note, how will this help in diagnosing animals’ urinary tract infections? Look at the only STATED reason for the study: “might help diagnose animals’ urinary problems.”
The operant word is “MIGHT.” Without a much narrower margin for error and more specificity regarding the rationale for the study, it seems to boil down to another score for TENURE and absolutely NOTHING for practicality.
But again, I’m just saying!