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The Best of the British Medical Journal's Goofy Christmas Papers

This year, for example, we learned about just how much James Bond actually drank. Last year we learned just why Rudolph's nose was red

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Forget April Fool's—the British Medical Journal likes to get silly around Christmas time. Every year, the journal publishes a series of papers that aren't exactly spoofs—the science in them is real—but they're on topics that an esteemed journal like the BMJ wouldn't normally touch. "The essence of the Christmas BMJ is strangeness," the editors wrote in 2000. "It's our left brain issue. We want everything to be not as it seems."

This year, for example, we learned about just how much James Bond actually drank. Last year we learned just why Rudolph's nose was red. So, in the spirit of the holidays, here are some of our favorite BMJ holiday papers.


  • Origins of magic: review of genetic and epigenetic effects: "Magic shows strong evidence of heritability, with familial aggregation and concordance in twins. Evidence suggests magical ability to be a quantitative trait. Specific magical skills, notably being able to speak to snakes, predict the future, and change hair colour, all seem heritable."

  • Dissent of the testis: "We previously reported that two chocolates—Teasers and Truffles (Celebrations, Masterfoods UK, Melton Mowbray)—were strikingly similar to the 8 ml bead of the orchidometer used to assess testicular volume. We therefore suggested that they could be used to stage puberty in males and, because of their wide availability and low cost, commended their use. We were recently dismayed to discover that the manufacturer has changed the shape of both these chocolates."

  • Evidence based physicians' dressing: a cross-over trial: "Formal attire was correlated with higher patient confidence and trust. Nose rings were particularly deleterious to patients' reported trust and confidence. A minimum threshold of two items of formal attire (dress pants, dress shirt, tie, or white coat) were necessary to inspire a reasonable amount of confidence; this is the NND (number needed to dress)."

  • Sex, aggression, and humour: responses to unicycling: "More than 90% of people showed a physical response—from an exaggerated stare or acknowledgment to a wave, nod, smile, or a show of mock surprise and fear, which reflected any remarks made."

  • Pie sharing in complex clinical collaborations: a piece of cake?: "One day the Little Red Hen thought: 'Why don’t I see if I can use my scarce free hours at the end of the day and make an excellent pie. Not only will this pie add to the gastronomic knowledge, it could be that the sick animals will benefit from this pie in the long run.'"

  • Effect on gastric function and symptoms of drinking wine, black tea, or schnapps with a Swiss cheese fondue: randomised controlled crossover trial: "Claims about the benefits or otherwise of drinking alcoholic beverages with food, especially high fat and high energy meals such as cheese fondue, are conflicting."

  • A shopping list of doctors: "The season of dietary indulgence seems a good time to celebrate doctors whose names have become linked with items of food and drink."


Who said doctors didn't have a sense of humor?

More from Smithsonian.com:

James Bond’s Martini Consumption Would Have Compromised His Physical, Mental and Sexual Abilities

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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