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Scientists Reveal How They Cover-Up Mistakes With Academic Prose

It’s probably a pretty safe bet that your average global citizen doesn’t spend much time reading academic research papers. It’s certainly understandable why, too. If you’re harccore into climate change, but not a climatologist, a lot of the jargon and terminology used could send your head spinning, no matter much you’ve tried to read-up on it. But maybe we should all start taking the time to read more academic studies, because a viral tumblr thread has given the world some pretty funny insights into how often researchers pretty-up their prose to cover-up their mistakes.

A user that goes by “blueelectricangels” posted a thread about four years ago detailing how they make mistakes they’ve made doing research disappear in the academic wording of the paper they’re writing. “If you read in a frog paper, ‘specimen was released in the field immediately after capture,’ the thread’s author wrote, “chances are very good that what it actually means is, ‘I dropped the damn frog and despite the fact that we fell all over each other no one could recapture it.”

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And with insights like that one, it’s easy to see why the thread is so popular. blueelectricangels has updated the thread over the years, and they say they love coming back and reading comments from other researchers who share their experiences, like dropping a frog down their boobs.

It’s easy to see why blueelectricangels’ thread went so viral, and why they like to revisit it to read comments from other biologists. The mental imagery that some of the comments bring to mind really humanizes research labs. Some might think of them as merely cold, sterile work environments, and while that is probably certainly true most of the time, the comments on this tumblr thread make you realize being human affords many different occupations the chance for some comedic relief.

Like, for instance, if you happen smoosh a specimen one of your colleagues was working on.

Some users have turned the comment thread into fun sort of game where they describe something either that happened to them or funny scenarios they invent, and then get suggestions for how to turn them into academically-worded descriptions of the same events.

One my personal favorite comments is the discussion of the proper conjugation for the word “yeet.” In case you’re not familiar, “yeet” is a word that is used as slang for an expression or exclamation of joy or happiness.

I really love the creativity of the conjugation. That would mean a baby cat that yeets is a yitten kitten. Brilliant.

The comment that will probably most interest readers of this blog, though, is the one from someone who apparently worked or works for NASA, or at the very least is familiar with enough with the jargon they use. While it’s certainly scary to think about the peril to an astronaut’s life from an “unplanned rapid disassembly,” it’s still a really funny way to put it, as is the idea of calling a shuttle smacking into the earth “lithobraking.”

Pretty sure a show called “Fishing Orbit” that follows astronauts on fishing expeditions, where you get to hear them talk about their space flights would be a great show. Then again, a show called “Fishing Orbit” where astronauts fish Earth’s oceans from the ISS would be amazing too. Sure, it’s not possible or whatever, but this is the Internet and I can pine for whatever I want on it!

I cannot tell you how many people I’ve worked under in my life who had their manager hat on, by the way.

Tell me you didn’t laugh at the last one super-duper hard, and I’ll suggest a cardiologist to check your heart because you clearly do not have a pulse. Sure, the idea of a fatal accident is no laughing matter, but “received an unrequested transfer” could also mean someone got fired, except when your job involves strapping yourself to a couple of boosters and being shot up into the cosmos, it has a little deeper meaning.

h/t Bored Panda


Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.

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