Not at all dull
Are we boring you? As we leaf listlessly through the paper “Boring People: Stereotype characteristics, interpersonal attributions, and social reactions” from Wijnand van Tilburg at the University of Essex, UK, and his colleagues, we feel the answer is probably “no”. Although we will make a fair stab at it.
To get the oldest and best one out of the way first, the paper isn’t about civil engineers. Boredom, we read, is often conceptualised as “the adverse experience of wanting but being unable to pursue satisfactory activity” – or, alternatively, being stuck at a party with someone who is doing their own conveyancing.
In a series of experiments – involving asking people in the UK what professions, hobbies and personality traits they associate with boring people, using those answers to invent very boring, middlingly boring and sparklingly unboring people, and asking other people how boring they would find those people – the researchers find that, in the main, we find boring people boring, don’t like them and go out of our way to avoid them.
This is capital-s Science. We are especially intrigued by some of the occupations (busboy, graveyard watcher) and hobbies (sleeping, ant study, even “going to gales”) that entered the mix, which confirm our suspicion that you shouldn’t ask the Great British Public anything, or possibly everything.
Sad to say, the most boring professions are data analysis, accounting and tax/insurance, suggesting numeracy is considered an evil, if a necessary one. But what do we see here? Near the top of the chart of most unboring occupations are science and journalism.
On that basis, we are off the scale. The authors stress that the study only examined the stereotypes that people hold about boring and non-boring people, and the actual characteristics of boring people may differ. Codswallop. If someone will just unlock the stationery cupboard door, we have a lot more to say about that.
Round in circles
Boring and delighting the planet in equal measure, meanwhile, is the question of whether there are more doors or wheels in the world, after a tweet from formerly dull and blameless Ryan Nixon from Auckland, New Zealand, went viral.
We wouldn’t presume to enter the debates on whether a wheel can be a door (yes, it is why we keep getting stuck in the revolving ones) or a door a wheel (only if you lay it on its side, but please extract us first). But we are delighted to see the Burj Khalifa, one of our favourite measures of bigness, pop up as a character witness for the door side, because it has some 17,000 doors (including the world’s two highest revolving ones – who knew?), but no wheels.
But then, just think of the number of wheelie suitcases it must contain. Taking a broader view, we will plump for the doors, on the basis that evolution hasn’t yet seen fit to invent wheels, but things like doors seem to exist in abundance, both in nature and perhaps also in the wider cosmos, if you count black holes as one-way exits. On the whole, however, this is possibly a conversation that has gone on too long already.
Up, up and away
As we attempt to move swiftly on, Barry Cash waylays us with the Float-A-Poo dog waste disposal system, which “uses helium to float dog poo away forever”. “Once your bag is filled, seal it with a tie and release,” the website trills. “Avoid power lines, windmills, falcons and airports.”
“I hope it’s a joke,” says Barry. “But in the mad world in which we live, I fear it isn’t.” We can – we think – confirm it is merely a prank box for enclosing an alternative gift. But on the basis the system might plausibly work, we fear it is only a matter of time before someone does invent it.
Far be it from Feedback to question, glancing nervously over our shoulder, the news values that made Mail Online the most-read newspaper website in the world. We don’t read it and we don’t know anyone who does. Nor do you, and you all sent us the same article last week purely because you ran across it accidentally while looking for something else.
Still, since the article is entitled “Asteroid half the size of a giraffe strikes Earth off the coast of Iceland – just two HOURS after it was discovered by astronomers”, this pleases us immensely.
Freyja Burrill of Kendal, UK, wonders what fractions of African megafauna are doing raining down in such northerly climes, and whether moose or orca might be more appropriate. We can’t answer on the planetary dynamics front, but we see that the largest mammalian fauna native to Iceland is the puny Arctic fox, which seems a pretty meh unit for anything.
Meanwhile, Craig Morris of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa – “home to many 2 x [Giraffa] camelopardalis units”, as he puts it – is puzzled as to what a standard giraffe-slicing technique is. “Laterally, vertically, or axially, including a head and neck, one or two pairs of legs and/or the tail end…?”.
We have locked horns with the related question of giraffe tessellation before, without success (13 February 2021). Let’s instead celebrate the advances in near-Earth observation technology that gave us two HOURS warning. Time was when, if you saw anything half the size of a giraffe falling on your head, it was already too late.
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