Design a terrible scientific study this weekend!

Illustration for article titled Design a terrible scientific study this weekend!

We’ll tell you how, with a little help from Edward Wike. In 1973, Wike published a little paper called, “Water beds and sexual satisfaction.” Learn about sex, beds, sea-sickness pills, and how to create a terribly-designed study.


It’s no accident that Wike’s proposed study was terrible. The study, an example of Wike's new-minted law of science, was meant to be terrible. Wike designed it as a humorous way to illustrate the problems that others had in their own studies. He gives the game away in the opening paragraph of his paper, when he dismisses the idea that scientists search for truth and writes, “The true scientist is motivated by the quest for fame, immortality, and money. (FIM)” In a search for FIM, he introduces Wike’s Law of Low, Odd Primes (WLLOP). WLLOP asserts that if you keep the number of groups you are studying in low, odd prime numbers, you are almost always going to get an unbalanced result.

To illustrate the principle, Wike outlined an joke study on sexual satisfaction in water beds. He picked the best low odd prime there is, three, and split the experiment into three groups. One group contained couples that would take a placebo and have sex on a regular bed. The next group of couples would take a placebo and have sex on a water bed. The third would have sex on a water bed after taking a real sea-sickness pill. Astute readers will have noticed that, almost no matter what the result, the study tells us nothing. Another group has to be added, one that takes a sea-sickness pill and has sex on a regular bed, to put the results in a comprehensible context.


Clearly, Wike had read a few studies in which the low primes had not been turned even, and was feeling a little frustrated with them. His frustration was clearly shared, since he was published. He does cover his ass a little, though. In the conclusion of his paper, he encourages readers to apply WLLOP wisely, saying, “Always apply WLLOP to the research of others; never apply it to your own research and certainly never to mine.”

Forget science. If I could patent the idea of always applying scrutiny to others but never to oneself, I’d make more money than any scientists could even dream of.

Top Image: José Manuel Suárez

Via Ammons Scientific(pdf)


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Dr Emilio Lizardo

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