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Bluff The Listener


Right now, it's time for our Bluff the Listener game. And we'll be playing with our next panel. It is Amy Dickinson, Faith Salie, and Mo Rocca.


SAGAL: Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game in the air. Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT DON'T TELL ME.

TAYLOR WEICHMAN: Hey, Peter. This is Taylor. And I'm calling from Madison, Wis.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in Madison, Taylor?


WEICHMAN: Things in Madison are great.

SAGAL: What do you do there in Madison?

WEICHMAN: I'm finishing up some doctoral research, and I'm a part-time pilot, actually.

SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: Are you flying commercially or are you, like, smuggling drugs over the border? What are you doing?

WEICHMAN: Well, I can't tell you that officially. But what I can say is, unlike some Illinois-based airline carriers, we make it a point to be on time.



SAGAL: Airplane burn. Airplane burn.


SAGAL: Well, welcome to the show, Taylor. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Taylor's topic?

BILL KURTIS: Way to go, Einstein.

SAGAL: Every now and then, there is a terrible scandal in the world of science. Our panelists are going to tell you about one of those scandals that popped up this week. Pick the one who's telling the truth, and you'll win the voice of the WAIT WAITer (ph) of your choice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?

WEICHMAN: Absolutely.

SAGAL: All right, Taylor. Let's hear first from Faith Salie.

SALIE: Dr. Charlotte Clymer (ph) and her husband, Dr. Peter Curran (ph), have for decades been known as the sexiest couple in parasitology. They've always worn lab coats that say his and hers. And because their primary focus is on rectal parasites, they love to brag that the more crap they go through together, the stronger their marriage. But when Charlotte shockingly ran off with a hot young research assistant named Chad, Peter wanted revenge. And his revenge has rocked the world of microbiology with a macro court case. You see, when the cuckolded Peter recently discovered two new parasites, he decided to name them in honor of his wife's lover.

The first is a tapeworm called Sistota (ph) Harsuti (Ph) Kadaba (ph) Chad, which of course is Latin for hairy ass Chad.


SALIE: The second is a whipworm that causes rectal prolapse but only lives for 30 seconds. Peter named this species Tricurus (ph) Prematurus (Ph) Atvene (ph) Chad, which means early arrival Chad.


SALIE: Which is why Chad sued Peter for defamation in Baltimore County Circuit Court. In order for the organism's name to be legally considered libel, the habitual prematurity of the actual Chad's arrival had to be explicitly argued in front of a judge.


SALIE: Four of Chad's former girlfriends testified to the fact that his - shall we say - personal biological studies often ran out of funding before they could reach a satisfying conclusion...


SALIE: ...After which the judge dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous but a great reminder of the benefits of studying Latin.


SAGAL: A lawsuit in which two new species of parasite were named for vengeance by a spurned lover. Your next story of a science screw up comes from Amy Dickinson.

AMY DICKINSON: Scientists in England have their British knickers in a twist over recent articles published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine that they say show a distinct and slimy pro-butter bias. These articles and opinion pieces encourage - nay, urge - people to stop eating their nutritious bowls of fresh kale and cabbage. Or, the journal suggests, if you must eat your salad, at the very least you should top it off with a stick of creamy, full-fat butter. No, according to their studies, fatty fat is good for you. The Medical Journal is edited by a pro-butter cardiologist named Dr. Aseem Malhotra. And his stance on fat is so controversial that 168 British scientists have now published an open letter attacking these studies, accusing them of being nothing more than butter-baked bologna. Dr. Malhotra declined to respond to the criticism directly, but he did quote George Bernard Shaw. I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig, he said. You get dirty. And besides, the pig likes it. The doctor might've added, you could also butcher that pig, render its fat into lard and spread it onto your morning cupcake.


SAGAL: So butter bias is the accusation at a British nutrition journal. And your last theory of trouble in the lab comes from Mo Rocca.

MO ROCCA: If you're going to play with fire, use your own fire. That's the message from the National Institutes of Health to researcher Ted Firth (ph). By day, Firth works as a chemist with top-of-the-line Bunsen burners in an NIH laboratory. But by night, Firth is an aspiring flamboyant concert pianist. The problem is Firth can't yet afford a candelabra, de rigueur for flamboyant concert pianists. And so he's been using NIH Bunsen burners, grouping three of them together for his candelabra.


ROCCA: Hence, his stage name Laberace (ph).


ROCCA: Bunsen burners have long been used for a variety of purposes. Young Robert Oppenheimer's family famously connected nine of them for a makeshift menorah during one Hanukkah in the Great Depression.


ROCCA: But the NIH Bunsen burners are government property, not to be used for anything other than whatever it is you use Bunsen burners for. Firth has been suspended without pay. Laberace has started a GoFundMe page for a real candelabra.

SAGAL: All right.


SAGAL: So something scandalous happened in science circles this week. Was it from Faith Salie, a man sued for naming two ugly parasites after his ex-wife and her lover? From Amy Dickinson, accusations of pro-butter bias at a prestigious British science journal? Or, from Mo Rocca, Bunsen burners being missed used by the concert pianist Laberace?


SAGAL: Which of these is the real story of a scientific scandal?

WEICHMAN: Oh, I think the answer is number two.

SAGAL: You think the answer is from Amy, the story of the British Journal with the controversy over butter?

ROCCA: Taylor, it's our 20th anniversary.

SALIE: Come on, man.


SAGAL: It's also Amy's, Mo. I mean - all right. Well, we actually spoke, believe it or not, to one of the scientists involved with this real controversy.

NICOLA GUESS: We are not pro-butter or anti-butter.


GUESS: What we take umbrage with is the suggestion that you can have as much as you want.

SAGAL: That was Dr. Nicola Guess from King's College London, one of the scientists who accused the journal of having a pro-butter bias. Congratulations, Taylor. You got it right. Well done.


WEICHMAN: Oh, thank you.

SAGAL: You earned a point for Amy Dickinson just for telling the truth. You've won our prize - the voice of your choice from anyone on our show for your voicemail. Thank you so much for playing with us today.

WEICHMAN: Thank you. Happy Anniversary.

SAGAL: Thank you.

DICKINSON: Thanks, Taylor.

SAGAL: Take care, Taylor.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Science. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.