The Cheerful Oncologist

Al Gore, Call Your Office!

As part of our ongoing commitment to the environment we here at The Cheerful Oncologist have decided to implement the research of Dr. Gregor Blaberidae Samsa, the first scientist to discover the association between mental activity and the release of carbon dioxide gas during normal respiration. Dr. Samsa’s seminal study, published in the Deutsche Fachzeitschrift den Lachsalven in 1923, measured the carbon dioxide emissions from thirty students who volunteered to spend eight hours in a room especially designed by the noted scientist. For the control arm the students either slept on cots, played four-handed skat or ate bowls of cold erbsensuppe mit würstchen from a large vat. One week later, the same group reassembled in the study room, but this time they spent the eight hours completing a lengthy examination written by Samsa.

To the amazement of the scientific community, the study revealed that carbon dioxide emissions were one third lower during the time period the students spent taking the test. Unfortunately this experiment was never repeated, as the building housing Dr. Samsa’s special room was damaged beyond repair the following week during a political disturbance that began in the adjoining bierpalast.

Scorned by his peers, Dr. Samsa abandoned this project and took a post at the College of Effluvium at Bad Homburg, where he faded into obscurity until he ran afoul of the incoming administration of 1933. Two years later Dr. Samsa sailed with his dog Barbarossa to the South Pacific and was never heard from again. His work has generally been forgotten until recently, when a team of engineers surveying a site on New Caledonia found a trunk containing his journals.

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, we now can access this pioneer’s work and put it to good use. As a public service to all of humankind (and any other species that can claim to share at least 60% of their DNA with us), we ask our gentle readers to complete a few sample questions from Dr. Samsa’s memorable test. Think hard as you work and you can brag to your neighbors that you did your part today to reduce your carbon footprint. The questions are below the fold. I apologize for any errors in translation I may have committed.

Otto has six pears. He gives half to Elsa, who has twice as many pears as Sofie. Sofie then takes one third of Elsa’s pears and gives them back to Otto. How many pears does Otto now have?

a. 6,000
b. -1
c. none, because he isn’t speaking to Sofie since she stuck a carrot up his Allewerteste (unable to find translation).
d. there are no pears on Earth since the Great Flood. Stop teasing me.

Werner Heisenberg’s recent theory of what he calls “matrix mechanics” is an example of what systematic principle?

a. the Gell-Mann-Nishijima formula
b. Schlemiel/Schlemazl/Hasenpfeffer Incorporated
c. “there’s no business like show business”
d. flying to Uranus to wipe out Klingons

The 1922 film So Sind die Männer marked the acting debut of what future spouse of Rudolf Sieber?

a. Elke Sommer
b. Eva Braun
c. Sergeant Schultz
d. Rudolph die Rot-Nase Rentier

In Hermann Hesse’s latest novel, what does Siddhartha do to attain true enlightenment?

a. meditate on the leaves of the Banyan tree while whistling “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah”
b. visit his orthodontist
c. refuse to eat them here or there, refuse to eat them anywhere
d. squeeze the Charmin
e. borrow vainly from some opus aid from sorrow’s hocus-pocus, sorrow for the lost Lenore
f. grow a mullet

Comments

  1. #1 Toby
    December 5, 2007

    Gregor Samsa was the character in Kafka’s metamorphosis who turns into a giant beetle (a dung beetle, I think?).
    I guessed the Beer Hall Putsch and got the other allusions to Nazism (Barbarossa etc.) … a nice piece of whimsy.

  2. #2 Mary
    December 5, 2007

    Regarding the Siddhartha quiz question, do you not find it tasteless, so soon after Mister Whipple’s demise, to resurrect his immortal “(Please Don’t) Squeeze the Charmin”? Cheap, bathroom humor, imho. Though I believe it to be the correct answer for I have tried it — in the privacy of my home, of course. Highly recommended.

  3. #3 Gabe
    December 6, 2007

    Toby, the association is a bit less subtle than that. Blaberidae is an old noun for the hexapod order of the cockroaches, currently named Blattodea or Blattaria. Anyway, in my Kafka translation, the transformation was to, explicitly, a cockroach and not to a beetle and along with this lines the analogy would be Dr. Gregor Coleoptera Samsa, a not so appealing name, right?

    Forgive me my pedantry, but for the sake of my zoological studies currently been done, I couldn’t possible let such a precious gem pass by.

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