Why you should share your Viagra with a hamster
By Nury Vittachi
Do you worry about mood-swings in your local shellfish? Those clams nestling quietly in the surf of your nearest beach—are they truly happy? Are they personally fulfilled?
If questions like that keep you up at night, as they do me, I have good news. Academia has come to our rescue.
A scientist called Peter Fong fed Prozac, the anti-depressant, to shellfish to see what would happen. The fingernail clams and zebra mussels took in the drug without any problem, but did not react as humans do. Shellfish do not go on drinking binges and tearfully call former lovers when they are depressed, nor do they jump up and dance on stage at karaoke clubs when they are happy.
They just sit there.
But during the “Effects of Prozac on Shellfish” experiment, Professor Fong of Pennsylvania noticed that the drugged bivalves reproduced more, which suggested they’d acquired a certain jaunty bonhomie in their attitude to life.
The experiment was judged a success.
Now killjoys may dismiss this as a typically useless bit of academic money-wasting, with no obvious benefit to mankind.
I disagree. Thanks to Dr Fong, we now know that we no longer need to share our Viagra with shellfish.
This is important, because Viagra, of course, has an extremely important other use.
That’s right: it alleviates jet-lag among hamsters – which we know because of another ground-breaking piece of academic research, “The Effect of Viagra on Hamsters”. One Viagra tablet, dissolved in water, can halve the jet-lag recovery rate of a long-hauled hamster!
Skeptics may ask: but how many hamsters do I know in jet-setting jobs? The answer, I’ll admit, is: not many. But surely their scarcity makes it even more important that the few frequent fliers in the small household rodent sector have their needs met.
Contrary to popular belief, most academic research projects (such as the two above, which are genuine experiments, listed for Ig Noble prizes) have clear practical benefits.
A case in point: scientists at Wayne State University in America discovered a “Correlation Between the Amount of Country Music Played on the Radio and the Rate of Suicide Among White People”. Sad songs were found to be linked to more deaths “than poverty or gun availability”.
The lengthy debate about gun ownership in the US can be halted and the death count lowered by the simple step of shooting a few singers instead.
For anyone lucky enough never to have heard Western country music, here’s an example. “All my bags are packed I’m ready to go, I’m standing here outside your door… already I’m so lonesome I could die.” And that’s a cheery one! It was written by John Denver, now known for marketing purposes as the late John Denver.
One of my favourite recent research papers is “Rats Cannot Understand Dutch or Japanese Sentences Played to Them Backwards”, by a team of neuroscientists in Barcelona. Sixty four rats were trained to press levers when spoken to in Dutch or Japanese. But when the languages were played backwards, they failed to obey.
Practical use: Now people in Holland and Japan who have rats as pets will know that giving them commands backwards is a waste of time.
So support your local academics. You must admit, they are original thinkers.
And if that doesn’t inspire you, consider this. You could make a lot of shellfish very happy.
(Clams Illustration by Marlith CC licence)