Dream a little dream of me, in which “me” = science

I had a dream the other night. Not that kind of dream. It was about SCIENCE!

The situation in the dream was that a snake oil salesman, played by an aged Tim Matheson, was trying to sell my high school athletic department a drink powder that would give us enhanced strength if we drank only a drop. He would demonstrate this claim with some bogus “strength” tests, such as having us pull his clasped hands apart with apparent ease after consuming the miracle beverage.

The skeptical student government (good on them) decided to organize a protest of the school administration’s plan to buy up the powder for our football team. Their plan was to have the entire school, which appeared to have at least ten times as many students as my actual high school (and girls!), use the drink. We would then in spectacularly dramatic fashion demonstrate that nothing spectacularly dramatic had happened.

Embracing my role as a sullen teenager, I bravely declared that both the powder and the “test” were rubbish. We needed “science!” And then the rest of the dream involved the organization of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial (finding an appropriate placebo for the lemon-lime flavored miracle beverage was quite the ordeal) using the distance a rugby ball could be kicked as a quantitative measure of strength, because there are clearly no other measures that could be used that are simpler or more reproducible than that.

Yes. I do have dreams about organizing ridiculous, randomized trials. Yes. I may need help, but I deal with it, and so should you.

Author: Josh Witten


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