Saturday, June 06, 2009

Ducks Like Rain Showers (Surprise, Surprise)

I found this news brief buried on page D6 of the South Bend Tribune this morning (6/6/09):
Science Waddles Forward

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Maybe you've said it yourself, looking out a window as rain pours down: "Great day for ducks." Now, scientists in Great Britain have spent 300,000 British pounds (about $471,000) proving that[,] yes, ducks actually enjoy a nice shower.

Britain's Department of Environment, Food[,] and Rural Affairs [DEFRA] funded the three-year study, conducted by two researchers at the prestigious University of Oxford. The intent was to find out the best way to provide farm-raised ducks the water they crave.

The test ducks were placed in an environment where they could choose among a pond, a trough[,] and a shower. Most ducks took to the shower like, well, a duck to water. They spent a lot of time just standing under it and drinking the water as it fell.

Marian Stamp Dawkins, professor of animal behavior at Oxford, told the Guardian newspaper that the study was, too, practical. Duck ponds on farms quickly become dirty and unhygienic, she said. Showers give them the water they need and are more likely to keep them free of bacteria and other nasties.

We're not sure we'd pay half a million dollars to replicate this study, but if your kid is casting about for a science fair project for next year, just buy him [or her] a couple of ducks, a washtub[,] and a shower head. Title: "Making ducks Zestfully clean."
Predictably, news of the study has some Brits seeing red, with a spokeswoman for the Taxpayers' Alliance calling the research a "bonkers waste of money." Adventurous readers can find a sampling of reactions in the British press here.


Anonymous Tom Miko said...

Despite its slanderous title "the Liberal Media", the papers tend to sensationalize reports, or add a weird spin that makes their writers look clever, but mislead the public. Somebody should do a retroactive survey of all of the "Your tax dollars at work" articles about dumb research studies, and find out what their real goals and/or results were. I feel confident that after scratching the surface, we would discover that a lot of these studies turned up all kinds of useful, practical applications. A friend who is a bus driver complained this week about a study of how ketchup flows. I tried to explain to him that Ketchup could serve as a convenient, inexpensive model for other viscous fluids, and that the info gleaned could be applied to everything from how motor oil ages, to haemodynamics. I failed to persuade him.

June 26, 2009 3:16 PM  

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