When you look at your paystub and see how much of your earnings ended up being sent to Washington, DC in taxes, you may occasionally wonder how the government uses your money. National defense, interstate transportation, and paychecks for your congressmen are a given. If you are interested in digging deeper into the use of tax dollars, then consider some of the studies that were funded by the federal government.
1. Can Dinosaurs Outrun a Human? — $1.9 million
The answer to this question is so pressing that three separate studies were funded to the total tune of $1.9 million. Among the many things done to shine the light of truth on this dark and murky gap in our knowledge was to put crocodiles on treadmills to extrapolate how their prehistoric ancestors would have fared in a race against a human.
The answer? As nearly as we can tell, the conclusion was that some dinosaurs would be able to outrun a human, while some would not. Armed with that useful and lifesaving knowledge, be sure you pick a slow dinosaur to chase you.
2. How Well Does a Fish Run on a Treadmill? — $1.2 million
As it turns out, the biggest obstacle to a fish performing well on a treadmill is a lack of oxygen. That was the finding of a study measuring the endurance of mudskipper fish (Periophthalmus modestus) on a treadmill. The experiment was conducted with funding from a $560,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and another $650,000 grant to study bluegills.
The mudskipper study made use of the fish’s ability to live out of water for an extended period of time. Scientists placed the fish on a “terrestrial treadmill enclosed in an atmospheric chamber.” The fish were given one minute “to acclimate to the treadmill environment,” the treadmill was set to a speed of 5.5 centimeters per second (about 2 inches per second).
The bluegill experiment involved “placing bluegill fish in tanks of water with treadmill-like swim tunnels to observe how they swim under various conditions. The scientists will ultimately collect about 100 fish from different environments for various analyses.”
The conclusion thus far is that if you exercise a fish, it needs more oxygen, and if you take a fish out of the water, it is significantly harder for it to get that needed oxygen.
Aren’t you glad that has been resolved?
3. Why Does Walking With a Cup of Coffee Cause it to Spill? — $172,000
Many times have we scratched our heads, wondering just how it is that the coffee in our cups somehow spilled on the floor while being carried. Fortunately, researchers have put their best brains together and come to a startling conclusion:
“In the walking with coffee problem, the motions of the human body, while seemingly regular, are quite complex and are coupled to a coffee cup and liquid therein, which makes it difficult to unravel the precise reasons behind the coffee spilling.”
In other words, “We haven’t the foggiest notion as to why coffee spills when it gets jostled!”
$172,000 just doesn’t get the answers these days that it used to.
4. What Type of Music Do Monkeys and Chimps Like? — $1 million
In anticipation of the untapped market of music-buying monkeys, researchers used a $1 million grant to study the types of music monkeys and chimps enjoy. A group of cottontop tamarins got to be the audience for selections of different kinds of music. The variety of music ranged from Bach to Miles Davis to Led Zeppelin.
The conclusion? It turns out that monkeys don’t particularly care for much of human music at all, but for one notable exception: Metallica. Of all the human bands played to the tamarins, Metallica seemed to produce a calming effect on the critters.
5. Does Cocaine Make Honey Bees Dance? — $243,000
The results of this groundbreaking study were published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Scientists “used the dance language of the honeybee (Apis mellifera) to study the effect of cocaine on reward assessment. After an exhaustive study, they determined that cocaine does, indeed, affect honey bees’ ability to dance.
We are awaiting the follow-up study to determine whether the global decline of the bee population can be traced to all of them wasting their time at crack houses, leaving the queens to do all the work back home.
6. Where Does it Hurt the Most to be Stung by a Bee? — $1 million
While we are on the topic of bees, your tax dollars also funded another study that merits mention here purely out of cringeworthiness. The National Science Foundation gave $1 million to Cornell University so researcher Michael Smith could have bees sting him 200 times on 25 body parts. He then rated the level of pain for each sting.
After 200 stings, each of which involved pressing the bee against the desired body part and leaving the stinger in place for one minute, Smith reached the primary conclusion that bee stings hurt. If you are curious about the details, brace yourself and read on:
The study found that being stung on the penis (pain rating of 7.3) hurt more than being stung on the scrotum (7.0) or nipple (6.7) — but less than being stung on the upper lip (8.7) or the nostril (9.0).
“Stings to the nostril were especially violent, immediately inducing sneezing, tears and a copious flow of mucus,” according to Smith. “By the time I got round to the third round, I thought: I really don’t want to do my nose again.”
Is there anyone reading this who would take $1 million to replicate the experiment? If so, you might consider moving to the place where boys are welcomed into adulthood through the excruciating Bullet Ant Initiation.
7. Are Republicans or Democrats more disgusted by eating worms? — $855,000
This study studied the correlation between political leaning and tolerance to disgusting things. Researchers concluded that individuals who exhibit an involuntary disgust to images of people eating worms are more likely to self-identify as conservative and be more likely to oppose gay marriage than those who do not react to such images.
We are awaiting the study that will examine the levels of disgust exhibited by those who learn how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent.
8. WWHWF — World Wide Hamster Wrestling Federation — $3.4 million
If you are like most people, you spend many sleepless nights bemoaning the ever-growing blight of violence among the rodent population. The National Institute on Drug Abuse shares your concerns and granted $3.4 million over the past two decades to study rodent aggression.
Researchers endeavored to get to the bottom of rodent rage by pitting steroid-enhanced hamsters against one another in cage matches. One of the researchers said — and we kid you not –“The results are chilling. Within ten minutes, the steroid-injected hamsters become violent, vicious. They are not cute and cuddly anymore. They attack one another.”
At last, we can confidently assert that drug abuse is not recommended among rodents. We await funding to help with educational labels on every package of cheese, proclaiming, “Just Say No to Rodent ‘Roids.”
9. What Are the Most Popular Emoticons Used By College Students in Text Messages? — $569,000
Twenty-one college students were studied for six months to examine their use of emoticons in text messages. The shocking results concluded that the smiley emoticon 🙂 was used far more often than any other:
The smileys might have something to do with the fact that all of these students got free use of cell phones for their participation in the study.
While we are on the subject, you might find this study interesting. It studied the effect of using emoticons in communication and concluded that when people see emoticons, they think about the emotion that is being conveyed in the symbol.
10. Is Being Liberal a Choice or Is it Genetic? — $2.6 million
Conservatives and liberals each wonder whether those of the opposing ideology actually choose to believe the things they do or whether they suffer from some kind of brain damage. Fortunately, researchers have delved into that very question, aided by $2.6 million of taxpayer money.
Researchers published their findings in Behavioral Genetics. They studied 12,000 pairs of twins, examining any discernible difference between the siblings’ political beliefs. Their findings concluded “that political ideology constitutes a fundamental aspect of one’s genetically informed psychological disposition, but… genetic influences on complex traits will be composed of thousands of markers of very small effects and it will require extremely large samples to have enough power in order to identify specific polymorphisms related to complex social traits.”
In other words, we really don’t know.
11. Do Democrats and Republicans Look Different? — $50,000
At $50,000, this study cost relative peanuts, but it addresses a fundamental question that goes to the heart of our society: can you spot a Republican or a Democrat by sight?
In a study published in PLoS One, subjects were able to accurately identify candidates from the 2004 and 2006 U.S. Senate elections as either Democrats or Republicans based on black-and-white photos of their faces. And subjects were even able to correctly identify college students as belonging to Democratic or Republican clubs based on their yearbook photos.
Participants rated photographs on a seven-point scale, assessing personality traits such as assertiveness, maturity, likeability, and trustworthiness. Subjects consistently associated Democrats with warmth (likable and trustworthy) and Republicans with power (dominant and mature). These findings were independent of the gender of the person in the photo.
The authors concluded that people possess “a general and imperfect” ability to infer political affiliation based on facial appearance, which is related to stereotypes about Democrat and Republican personalities.
12. Do Members of Fraternities and Sororities Party More than Other Students? — $5 million
Greek life on college campuses has gained a reputation for attracting the partying crowd, but how much of that is reality? This was the burning question — burning through $5 million, anyway — that motivated a grant by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. After an exhaustive study, the researchers reached the shocking conclusion: Yep… Greek life and alcohol consumption go hand-in-hand.
The researchers were astonished to discover that “drinking is integrated into Greek social functions (e.g., fraternity parties) as well as hazing and pledging rituals. Members of Greek letter organizations consume higher quantities of alcohol, report more frequent drinking, and experience more alcohol-related consequences relative to non-Greek peers.”
The study also concluded that Greek members engage in more risky behaviors (e.g., alcohol use, cigarette smoking, sexual partners, and sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs) than non-Greek members.
Also discovered was the never-before-imagined fact that college students drink more on game days. Eight times as many students consumed alcohol on days of championship sporting events than on normal days.
Included in the study was the observation that Greek members sleep in later than other students. The researchers noted that their data did not allow them to draw a conclusion as to whether this meant that Greek members are more concerned about “sleep hygiene” or if they were sleeping off the effect of alcohol and/or drug use.
If there was anything truly eye-opening by the study, it was the conclusion that fraternity brothers and sorority sisters are even “more likely to report consuming alcohol” after participating in alcohol abuse intervention.
13. Which Has More Hairs: Squirrels or Honey Bees? — $753,000
Perhaps in anticipation of the inevitable explosion of animal haircare products, researchers looked into the head-scratching issue of whether squirrels or honeybees have more hair. The study cost over three-quarters of a million dollars and came to the conclusion that it’s pretty much a tie. Bees and squirrels each carry approximately 3 million hairs.
That comes out to about 25¢ of tax dollars per hair, by the way.
14. Do Drunk Birds Slur When They Sing? — $5 million
Five million dollars. That’s how much it cost to find the answer to the question of whether intoxicated birds slur when they sing. The study involved giving a bunch of zebra finches alcohol and then studying the sounds from the sauced birds.
The answer: Yes, they do.
Seriously…. $5 million???? Where did the money go? They could get the birds drunk with Château Cheval Blanc (1947), which sells for $304,375 per bottle, and they still should come in at a total cost of about $304,400.
Oh well… At least we know not to give birds booze if we want them to sing clearly.
For more examples of questionable government spending, check out the books Senator Jeff Flake Presents Twenty Questions Government Studies That Will Leave You Scratching Your Head and Senator Jeff Flake Presents Wastebook Porkemon Go January 2017, both by former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake.
Read about the study that asked whether Man Flu is really more severe.