Scientists Are Sneaking Bob Dylan Lyrics Into Their Writing

Everyone likes goofy intra-office rivalries, even scientists

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Bob Dylan in 1964 Bettmann/CORBIS

When one spends a lot of time doing something—anything, really—it's not uncommon to come up with little games to play to keep yourself entertained. This is true whether you are pitching wadded-up paper into the waste basket or, like a few Swedish scientists, running a contest to see who can sneak more musical references into otherwise serious work.

According to the Guardian, a team of researchers from Sweden's Karolinska Institutet are running a little contest to see who can sneak more Bob Dylan references into their scientific writing.

The contest started organically, says the institute in a release: a case of musical and scientific convergence. In 1997, one team of researchers published the paper “Nitric oxide and inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind.” In 1998, unaware of the earlier group, another Karolinska scientist published “Tangled Up in Blue: Molecular Cardiology in the Postmolecular Era.” In 2003 came the paper “Blood on the Tracks: A Simple Twist of Fate?

Soon the scientists were aware of each other's fondness for the folk singer, and from there the contest blossomed. The five researchers raced to see who can get more Bob Dylan references into their papers before retirement. Whoever does, says the Guardian, wins a free lunch.

For fear of reprisal, the researchers have steered clear of trying to add allusions to the songwriter's work into their serious scientific research papers. But for everything else—reviews, editorials, books—it's game on, says Rachel Feltman for the Washington Post.

If you're a scientist and you want to partake, good news: “The contest is open for everyone,” said one of the scientists to the Karolinska Institute. Though it's important to keep in mind, said another, that “it’s important that the quote is linked to the scientific content, that it reinforces the message and raises the quality of the article as such, not the reverse.”