Nobel nod for discovery of strange attractor aka The Budden Effect

Illustration of scientists looking at a chalkboard

Those who know me well know that I am quite a fan of science, in the same way that Kevin Rudd is quite a fan of attention.

Partly this is because science improves our lives in many ways, but mostly because it serves as an antidote to many of the ills plaguing society such as viruses, politicians and Twitter.

The problem with science, however, is it often wastes its valuable resources on studies that really don’t need to be done. For example, a recent study showed that when choosing a mate, most people prioritise physical attraction over personality. With all due respect to the scientists involved, that is news the way noting there was a Tuesday last week is news.

You will note, for example, that when interviewed, supermodels tend to say (after noting that in their leisure time they read to poor children and that their most ardent desire is world peace) that what they most look for in a man is a ‘good personality.’ Then they waltz off with their partners, who are generally tall, thin good-looking fashion photographers with the personality of battery acid.

Or we could consider any number of football stars who exhibit the same overall personality1 of a palette of Besser bricks, yet seem to spend most of their time with beautiful women, some of whom are even their wives. Six-pack abs and Schwarzenegger chests seem to trump personality every day of the week.

The point is, we didn’t need a study to tell us this, just as we didn’t need – this really happened – a study a few years back that revealed that Irish males felt happier after a few pints of Guinness than they did before. Alcohol makes people feel better? Wow! Has anyone told the hotel industry?

So, the efforts of our scientists could be better directed.

I, for one, am waiting for the day that I read the headline, “Study shows diet of wine, bacon and chocolate increases average lifespan by 30 years; side-effects include washboard abs!” Scientists, if they really cared about us, would be working on that 24/7.

In fact, I have plenty of studies I, personally, would like to conduct.

For example, I could determine the answer to the question: “Is Star Wars the greatest movie ever?” I figure it would only take a grant of around $100, 000.00 (which is peanuts compared to what the particle accelerators that scientists are always playing with generally cost) and I would have the results quickly.

My plan would be to watch Star Wars a couple of times and then type the word ‘YES’ very neatly on a piece of A4 paper. To ensure scientific validity, I would footnote my references (‘1Totally’) and even be prepared to do a follow-up study on the question of whether or not Han shot first. 2

Another burning question to which I would like to divine the answer is “How do hip-hop artists3 react to being struck over the head with different hammer sizes?”

I would diligently record my findings (‘after being hit twice with a sledgehammer, Kanye West actually said something that made sense’) and of course use a control group of non-hip-hop artists, such as politicians (‘Donald Trump has taken 6,713 consecutive blows to the head without any observable change to behaviour, intelligence or drivel output’). I should probably start writing my Nobel acceptance speech now.

Not that I’m surprised to find myself on the verge of a Nobel Prize, as my interest in science began at a very young age when my grandparents gave me a simple microscope4. Even then I was able to determine that when mud was placed under a microscope, a scientific process took place whereby the microscope was transformed, in a matter of seconds, from the scientific instrument into a paperweight.

My brother and I also discovered what we call the ‘Budden Effect‘, a physical force that creates a powerful attraction between any ball used to play a sport, and windows.

Our experiments show the force grows greater with both the hardness of the ball involved and the value of the window – so if you walked past Westminster abbey holding a bowling ball, it would fly from your hand and create a depressing situation in which you attempt to convince the constabulary that you did not fling the bowling ball with your fingerprints on it through the Queen’s window.5

Countless experiments confirmed this force, such as the time we (my brother and I, not me and you) were kicking a footy to each other in the back yard, and one of his kicks hit a branch that began rolling towards the house.

Odd fact that will become important later in the story: there is only one window at ground level at my parent’s place, smaller than half a square metre in size.

Rugby league balls are designed to bounce oddly (I suspect in order to annoy fullbacks, who deserve it) and never bounce in a straight line, unless there is a window nearby and the ‘Budden Effect’ becomes a factor.

Thus, the ball my brother kicked bounced in the straightest line ever traversed by a prolate spheroid, and – here is where the window fact becomes important – completely missed 30-odd metres of brick wall and slammed directly into the middle of the half a metre long window, destroying it.

At this point another of our discoveries kicked in, ‘Budden’s Bad Timing Conjecture,’ which states if a kid smashes something, the time which elapses between the smashing and their parents arriving home is inversely proportional to the value of the thing smashed. Or in laymen’s terms, Mum and Dad pulled into the driveway before all the shards of glass had fallen to the ground…

…so my brother and I decided to go for a run.

The Budden Effect has been confirmed many times over the years, whilst playing soccer, cricket, hockey and all manner of other sports, and involving all manner of windows.

Clearly, it represents much more useful science than the ‘attractive people are attractive’ study I referenced at the start of the column, so the Nobel is pretty much in the bag.

If there any window-owners out there who were unwitting participants in our early experiments reading this, and thinking they might be able to garnishee the cash that comes with the award, they are referred to the statute of limitations.

Also, if my Mum is reading this, I point out that it was my brother who kicked the ball, not me.


1 And sometimes IQ
2 Yes
3 I realise it is a stretch to call purveyors of hip-hop ’artists’, but whatever the collective noun for a bunch of rappers is, I am sure it involves words that cannot be used in a family publication such as Proctor.
4 Also, Bob Dylan has one, so how hard can it be? (A Nobel prize, I mean; not a microscope)
5 So I wouldn’t do it if I were you.

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