The humour in science

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If you asked any member of the public what they think of science then you’re most likely going to get a combination of the words ‘boring’, complicated’,  and ‘geeky’. I’m sure you can add several more similar anecdotes to the list! However occasionally science steps away from its dark laboratory settings full of people in white coats and safety goggles, and throws up something that can only be described as utterly hilarious.

Once such incident occurred a few weeks back, when NASA’s mars rover missions were back in the headlines.  This was not a report on the discovery of water on mars though, nor explaining how the rover -named curiosity – was drilling into the planet’s surface to reveal its past. No, the big news from Mars was that the curiosity had ‘accidentally’ drawn an image into the ground – that of some male genitalia!

Naturally, being a mature 23 year old I laughed and subsequently giggled for a good hour. Obviously, such a picture spread over the net like wildfire, and the amount of people checking the NASA website to make sure it wasn’t a hoax resulted in the entire website crashing. Here it is below.


There is still a small doubt as to whether it is real or fake, but to take a quote from the film ’24 hour party people’, if you have a choice to print the truth or the legend, print the legend!

So this ‘incident’ prompted me to look for other funny coincidences and stories that have occurred in science.

We’ve all probably heard the story about when NASA discovered that ball point pens did not work in space, so they spent 300 million dollars creating a super high tech pen instead. The Russians decided to use a pencil of course! This has widely been regarded as a myth, but as before, print the legend!

When the large hadron collider at CERN was finally opened and operational in 2008, many were excited about the potential of discovery that was on offer. However a mere year later it broke down, not due to mechanical fault, but to a bird dropping some bread into the system breaking one of the cryogenic cooling plants. So there we have the most expensive and most technologically advanced machines in history, at a mere cost of £4.4 billion, brought down by a piece of baguette.



Now we have all heard stories of human babies being brought up by animals in the wild and having the same behaviour as the animal cubs. Well in 1931, a gentleman called Winthrop Kellog (great name!) decided to test whether it could be done if roles were reversed, and bought a baby chimp to grow up with his own new born child, named David. Initially there was some success, with the chimp being able to walk upright and eat with a spoon, even at a quicker rate to Kellog’s own son. However he was forced to abandon his experiment after nine months when not only was the chimp not developing the same traits as David, but that David was becoming more like the chimp!

Some stories have tragic endings though. In 1998 the entire Ben Tshadi national football team were killed when lightning struck the pitch. However every one of the opposition, Basanga, survived!  In 2010 the British owner of the Segway motorized scooter company died when he accidently drove off a cliff on a Segway in Boston.


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