Schnell: Hello, Rover! Do you remember the study you told me last time, about the 10% increase in people’s walking speed?
Rover: Sure, what’s up?
Schnell: I found it very interesting and went on searching for related news reports. Actually, it’s from a book called Quirkology.
Rover: Quirkology? That sounds quirky…
Schnell: Exactly. Quirkology is the discipline that uses scientific methods to study quirky human behavior, or quirky methods to probe weighty issues of human nature.
Rover: Any examples for the quirky studies?
Schnell: What about “searching for the funniest joke in the world”?
Rover: How are you supposed to “scientifically” search for the funninest jokes?
Schnell: Well, the scientists conducting the experiment were pretty methodic. They set up websites, designed questionnaires, and analyzed people’s responses to different jokes.
Rover: And what may that funniest joke be?
Schnell: Something like “There were two cows in a field. One said: ‘Moo.’ The other one said: ‘I was going to say that.’”
Rover: (Burst out laughing.) Oh my god, that was a good one. Are all the quirky studies this funny?
Schnell: Mostly, like this one of “gauging public opinion without conducting a formal
poll.” In this experiment, researchers would “accidentally” drop some stamped and addressed envelopes all around the town. All envelopes bear identical addresses apart from the recipients. . . .
Rover: I don’t get it. Do you mean that curious passerbys would open those letters and fill out some questionnaires inside? That’s not even quirky, that’s just a stupid way to hand out questionnaires.
Schnell: You totally missed the point. Can you at least hear me out? The trick is that the recipients would have obvious ideological standings. For example, if the researchers are interested in the public opinions concerning gay marriage, the envelopes may be directed to fictitious organizations with names like “Gay Marriage Advocators” or “NoGayMarriage Work Force. . . .”
Rover: . . . . and the researchers would secretly observe people’s face when they see those different recepients! Ha, that must be hilarious.
Schnell: You have evidently watched too many hidden-camera practical jokes on TV. Please stop interrupting me with your unscientific surmises. The scientists predict that those who pick up the envelopes would help mailing it if they sympathize with the recipients’ cause. So the researchers can ascertain the public attitude simply by counting the numbers of mails for different recipients that have been mailed back to the researchers.
Rover:Right. (Drily) Ha. Ha. That’s not funny at all.
Schnell: That’s because I haven’t told you that the latest researcher using this envelope-dropping method was threatened with arrest for “littering.”
Rover: Ha, much better now. But these studies are just useless and meaningless. Maybe there are some other quirky findings that are more applicable to our daily lives?
Schnell: Then you’ll definitely like this one: “What’s the best way to impress a member of the opposite sex?”
Rover: Wow, I love this one. Tell me more about it.
Schnell: I know you need it. You’ve been without a girl friend for 30 years, which means all your life, right?
Rover: Objection! I had a girl friend when I was in preschool.
Schnell: That’s not even a “girl,” OK?
Rover: OK… This digression has gone too far. Now, just tell me the results of the study. I am going on a blind date tonight and I’d like to try if it works.
Schnell: The secret of a successful conversation is to encourage your partner to talk about herself in a quirky, fun way. You may ask her questions like “If you were a pizza topping, what would you be?” or “If you were the girl friend of a super hero, who would you want your boy friend to be, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, or the Silver Surfer?”
Rover: I got it. And any suggestions for what I shouldn’t say?
Schnell: The least successful line to open a conversation was “I have a PhD in computing.”
Rover: But I do have a PhD in computing. Can’t I introduce myself as who I am?
Schnell: …… Yes, you can. Good luck with your next thirty lonely years!