Despite popular belief, an earthworm does not turn into two earthworms if you cut it in half. Just the front part lives; the cut-off back part of the worm dies.
The reason we know this is because some scientist spent weeks cutting up earthworms to find out. But imagine if cut-up worms actually did regenerate into two worms like everybody thinks. In that case, the scientist’s odyssey of worm-cutting would have seemed downright insane.
Below is our annual tribute to that more ignominious side of science: Researchers who set off in search of bold new frontiers, but who instead uncovered findings best summed up as “no duh.”
People who smoke a lot of pot in high school become losers
Imagine the mammoth changes to society that would result if it turned out that constantly hitting the bong was actually good for teens. Unfortunately, a University of Connecticut study determined the opposite: Teens who spend a lot of time stoned during high school turn into adults who are less educated, less employed and less likely to hold a marriage together. “This study found that chronic marijuana use in adolescence was negatively associated with achieving important developmental milestones in young adulthood,” said study author Elizabeth Harari in a statement.
Women who exercise are less likely to die
Between 2011 and 2015, 18,000 American women were mailed step-counters and asked to wear them for a week. Then, researchers sat back and waited for some of them to die. When the death toll had reached 207, scientists combed through the step data and concluded that exercise had an inverse relationship to death. The finding “is not novel,” admitted a subsequent study, although scientists were surprised at how much exercise played a factor in keeping people alive. A particularly active woman in the study group could reduce her chances of death by up to 70 per cent.
People like to eat junk food
This was an Australian study looking into the theory that people would eat better if healthy food was more affordable. After all, it’s usually cheaper to fill up on double cheeseburgers than on kale salads. However, after crunching the numbers researchers found that the inverse is true. “Results suggest that healthy diets can be more affordable than current (unhealthy) diets in Australia, but other factors may be as important as price in determining food choices,” they wrote. These “other factors” included what the researchers referred to as “taste.”
Teenagers are dumb
Harvard University’s Catherine Insel put teenagers inside an MRI and had them answer a series of low and high stakes trivia questions. If the teen got a high-stakes question right, they won $1. If they got a low-stake question right, they won 20 cents. What Insel found was that teenagers applied basically the same amount of brainpower to all questions, regardless of the money at stake. When adults were subjected to the tests, by contrast, they tried harder at the $1 questions. The study’s conclusion was that teenagers are physically incapable of knowing when something is important, and when it isn’t. Or as Insel put it, they fail to exhibit “optimal goal-directed behavior.”
Women are attracted to rich men with big muscles
Published in the journal Feminist Media Studies, this paper studied TubeCrush.net, a website where users upload clandestine photos of attractive men they’ve spotted on the London Underground. To the consternation of Coventry University researchers, most of the photos are of men who are muscular and showed obvious signs of wealth. “It’s a problem as … our desires are still mostly about money and strength,” said lead researcher Adrienne Evans in a statement. London’s women should be more attracted to “awkward” men with good fatherhood characteristics, concluded the paper. Researchers also expressed concern that far too many TubeCrush users appeared to be attracted to white men.
This Israeli-led study employed a variety of tests to figure out whether it’s a good idea to use emojis in professional correspondence. In one test, volunteers from 29 countries were sent an email and asked to gauge the “warmth” and competence of the sender. Researchers discovered that if that email contained an emoji, volunteers usually reported that the message wasn’t particularly warm — and that the sender was probably inept. “Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence,” concluded the study.
People die less if they get emergency surgery faster
An emergency surgery is performed when a patient is facing a serious and potentially life-threatening medical problem that can only be fixed with an operation. A good example of an emergency surgery would be patching up a gunshot wound. A paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal looked at two years of data from a single hospital and determined that when emergency surgeries are delayed, people die. This was already well known to the medical community, of course, but this paper was able to put a number on it: “We estimate that more than 410 deaths may be attributable to surgical delay each year,” it read.
Paying others to do your chores makes you happier
The creators of this report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were attempting to address what they called “a new form of poverty.” As the citizens of developed countries get richer and richer, they’re finding they have less and less free time; what researchers referred to as “time scarcity.” After surveying thousands of people in Canada, the United States, Denmark and the Netherlands, their study struck upon a novel solution: Pay others to do the cooking and cleaning. “This research reveals a previously unexamined route from wealth to well-being: spending money to buy free time,” it wrote.
Napping makes it harder to get to sleep at night
There were already plenty of studies showing that when toddlers took afternoon naps, they had trouble sleeping later that night. But nobody had yet strapped electronic sensors to toddlers to know for sure. That’s what a team of Japanese researchers did to a sample group of 50 Tokyo toddlers. After a week, the data indeed showed that “long nap sleep induces short nighttime sleep duration and late sleep onset time.”
Active parents have active children
This one comes from Statistics Canada. To find out if there’s any link between fit parents and fit children, researchers dove into an existing database of Canadian health data, including information from hundreds of Canadian who have agreed to wear electronic devices that track their physical activity. After lots of math they concluded that yes, if parents are more apt to go on hikes or drive to soccer practice, their kids get more exercise. “Parental role modeling and support for physical activity were independently associated with children’s level of physical activity,” the report concluded.
Everyone gets old and dies
“Aging is mathematically inevitable — like, seriously inevitable,” Joanna Masel, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, said in a statement for this study. As humans grow older, some of their cells get sluggish and tired, which causes the typical signs of aging such as wrinkles and cataracts. Meanwhile, other cells get more energetic, which causes cancer. Either kind of cell will eventually kill you, and trying to remove one only emboldens the other kind. “Things break. It doesn’t matter how much you try and stop them from breaking, you can’t,” said Masel. Researchers were aware of how obvious this sounded, but they motivated in part by a growing belief that aging can be conquered. Silicon Valley, in particular, is pouring billions into anti-aging research on the belief that nobody really needs to die if they have enough money. But it turns out that the reaper awaits even Mark Zuckerberg.