Weekly Science Snoop

WARNING: This fake tabloid contains rumor, humor, and other words that don't rhyme with truth



BATTLE CREEK, MI. The prestigious Hormel Prize in Nutritional and Snack Sciences was awarded this week to Stanley J. Carbo and Francesca Fry, both of the Alimentary Institute in Paris, Texas. The two researchers will share $1 million in grocery-store discount coupons for their discovery of the first solid evidence of the elusive Tang-Ovaltine Condensate, known for short as TOC.

Nearly 30 years ago, artificial-food theorist Solomon Nosh-Hardy hypothesized that, under really cold conditions, granulated sugar crystals cultured in a citrus-cocoa solution would form a quantum cloud with the potential to become either the non-natural and often spaceborne orange drink or the imitation chocolate additive. Critics have vociferously argued that a water-based fruit beverage can’t form a quantum union with a milk-based substance.

To test Nosh-Hardy’s conjecture, Carbo and Fry inserted really, really small atoms from citrus and cocoa extracts into a tub of dry ice. When the scientists added about one shake’s worth of garlic salt, they produced the world’s first batch of Tang-Ovaltine Condensate. “It just needed a pinch of salt,” Carbo remarked. “The garlic proved inert.”

Carbo and Fry just kept on observing. They found that the hazy concoction reverts into Tang in the presence of burnt toast and images of astronauts, while it breaks down into Ovaltine when exposed to most children’s breakfast cereals. Count Chocula works best, according to the researchers.

Asked if he planned to celebrate his award, a jubilant Carbo replied, “Now that Nosh-Hardy’s theory has been solidly anchored by our experiments, I’d like to work with Chef Boyardee to see if super-string theory also applies to angel hair pasta.”


THE CENTRAL SULCUS, YOUR BRAIN. Brain detectives have tailed consciousness for decades, from swanky prefrontal salons to high-rise occipital condominiums. Whenever researchers thought that they had it cornered, they lost consciousness.

The fundamental mind-brain phenomenon has given scientists the slip. Until now, consciousness was widely believed to be hiding out in either the gated, exclusive confines of NeoCortical Heights or in a hippocampal townhouse owned by its frequently absent friends Memory and Reasoning.

Think again. Last week, intrepid neuroscientific sleuth Sarah Bellum tracked down a haggard-looking consciousness at one the brain’s seamiest flophouses, only to let her elusive quarry slip away.

“It has a mug that only a mother could love,” Bellum said as she recalled her brief encounter with the avatar of awareness. “It’s neither male nor female nor Michael Jackson.”

Ignoring the warnings of colleagues, Bellum nosed through the seedy and lascivious nooks and crannies of the Limbic Quarter. After an emotionally draining series of dead-ends, she probed into even sleazier neural depths. Bravely entering the darkened service entrance behind the Savoy Pons, a shabby apartment building long-since abandoned to thieves and misfits, Bellum spied a figure shuffling into a doorway. Focusing her MRI’s high beam on the cringing suspect, she realized that this pathetic-looking individual was the archduke of attentiveness. Gaunt, haunted-looking, and reeking of Jolt Cola, the maestro of mentation still emanated an unmistakable aura of light and clarity.

At one point, Bellum momentarily froze as a sense of spiritual unity with the time-space-Microsoft continuum washed over her. She knew she was near consciousness, though she had lingering doubts that she could be dreaming. With surprising agility, however, consciousness darted away and slithered down an open and seemingly infinite ganglial conduit. “I’m medulla oblong-gone,” taunted the high priest of perception. “Don’t try to follow me or I’ll hightail it down the Vertebral Turnpike. And you know where that leads.”


WASHINGTON, D.C. Human cloning is morally repugnant, widely condemned, and shunned by the World Wrestling Federation–but that hasn’t stopped corporate scientists and marketers from pursuing it. Lost in the fuss, however, is the need for a thorough informed consent statement to prevent lawsuits stemming from the procedure’s unfortunate side effects. According to Hugo Gurl–a geneticist and trial lawyer at the South Acapulco Center for Biological Enhancement and Tanning Parlor–an up-to-date statement should read as follows:

We the undersigned do hereby declare that human cloning may produce undesirable side effects. These include but are not limited to: the growth of two or more heads, the replacement of the original human’s head with that of a fly, a head that will neither stop talking nor lower its voice, a head that turns in circles and makes a “woo-woo” sound whenever surprised or startled, genitals on the wrists and ankles (these cost extra in California), a shag haircut, tattoos that cover the body in a replica of a lime-green leisure suit, cardboard fingernails, fluorescent blood, dinner-plate-size ears made of flexible Dacron that allow for flight on windy days, an insatiable craving to be publicly humiliated by that stern British lady who hosts The Weakest Link game show on television, a third eye in the right armpit, a form of halitosis that no known breath freshener can eradicate, and diarrhea.

“This could all change as new research on cloning becomes available,” Gurl said at a Capitol Hill press conference. “For now, cloners can be confident that my proposed informed consent statement covers all the legal bases.”

Snoop-On-The-Street Interview

Q: Should stem cells be used to grow organs for human transplants?

Desiree LeBoef, exotic dancer:
Transplants, shmansplants. Stem cells could yield the holy grail of plastic surgery–a cheap, home breast-augmentation kit.



Cordell Slater, construction worker:

Well, for starters, just think about all the people you know who need a brain transplant.




Damien Hellman, attorney:
I’d rather stick with the tried-and-true method of organ donors and their representatives–getting whatever the market will bear from desperate recipients.




Jenny Wu, third-grade teacher:

I’m all for it. I know I could use an eye on the back of my head.




Bill Gates, philanthropist:
Only better public education can resolve this thorny issue. To inform yourself, log on to my new Web site, www.stemcellstuff.com. As a free bonus, any inappropriate software will be automatically converted to Windows





BRAINTREE, MASS. Pint-sized French general and dictator Napoleon Bonaparte, the scourge of Europe 200 years ago, exhibited key symptoms of the psychiatric ailment known as borderline personality disorder, or BPD for short. Napoleon had four of the nine BPD symptoms described in psychiatry’s diagnostic bible, according to Kristofer Cathexis of the New England Society for Reconstructive Diagnostics.

Cathexis’ findings, gleaned from Napoleon’s diaries, several historical novels, and at least one vintage Bugs Bunny cartoon, appear in a research paper, “Napoleon’s Mental Waterloo,” published in the most recent Dysfunctional Quarterly.

“Napoleon had relationship issues,” Cathexis says. “He reminds me of Glenn Close in the movie Fatal Attraction, except Nap had access to a lot more weapons.”

Cathexis cites the following behaviors–heretofore considered unremarkable by psychiatrists–as evidence of Napoleon’s borderline personality disorder: his frequent screaming fits when his wife Josephine refused to spoon-feed him at state dinners; his reckless impulsiveness, evidenced by reports that the diminutive commander snuck up behind his lieutenants with a riding crop and a croissant and delivered what he called “les tromps de la guerre;” his fear of being abandoned and unloved, which predictably enough caused lifelong bedwetting and an urge to control everybody, everywhere, all the time; and his periodic delusions of grandeur, during which he repeatedly claimed to be a 6’8″ Nubian goat herder sent to France on a secret mission for the Sun God.

These Napoleonic revelations follow another researcher’s recent announcement that the Biblical hero Samson had antisocial personality disorder. However, Samson’s psychological problems were puny compared with Napoleon’s, Cathexis says.

“Samson parlayed an impressive physique into a life of petty crime and then blew it by letting his girlfriend cut off his hair,” notes Cathexis. “Napoleon was a short, pudgy guy with a bad comb-over who leveraged impressive neuroses into near-domination of the world and an extended island vacation. For heaven’s sake, Napoleon has a brandy and a pastry named after him, and all Samson has is a line of luggage.”

SNOOP Survey


(Based on responses of 100 scientists and 14 bartenders interviewed randomly and haphazardly at various annual-meeting happy hours.)

1. Making Bunsen burner s’mores

2. The heart-pounding thrill of

achieving statistical significance

3. White lab coats stay in fashion after Labor Day

4. Love the smell of reagents in the morning

5. Inserting surprise images in colleagues’ slide carousels for lectures

6. Lively debate among astronomers about how to pronounce “Uranus”

7. Lab goggles double as


8. No need to understand English to enjoy journal articles

9. Tenure, tenure, tenure

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.

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