Aerodynamic Babies, Buoyant Stomach Fat, and More Spurious Science at MIT

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BAHFest 2014 winner Michael Anderson

BAHFest 2014 winner Michael Anderson / Still from his presentation via YouTube

Why do we yawn? To eat bugs, according to one theory. In a tongue-in-cheek presentation put forth by Emma Kowal, our hunter-gatherer ancestors relied on this reflex to capture insects for quick protein consumption. Her logically thought-out, yet completely deranged lecture made its debut at last year’s Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses (BAHFest). And with the event returning for its third year, it’s exactly the sort of eyebrow-raising research you can expect to see at MIT this weekend.

This Saturday, avid fans of dubious science will flock to the Kresge Auditorium at MIT to present their best bogus theories backed up by real scientific evidence. Co-hosted by MIT’s Lecture Series Committee and Zach Weinersmith, creator of long-running webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC), BAHFest takes place this year on September 19.

Framed around the theme of evolutionary biology, this year’s BAHFest will feature contestants Alexander Rothfuss, runner-up Stacy Farina, Robert Gooding-Townsend, webcomic artist Sanjay Kulkacek, Jacob Falkovich, and Daniel Harris. Abby Howard, the artist behind the webcomic Junior Scientist Power Hour is slated to give the keynote.

BAHFest’s inception began with Weinersmith, who frequently incorporates scientific theory into SMBC. As LSC officer Ashley Davis points out, Weinersmith drew a cartoon in 2013 that proposed a competition where people would give ad-hoc biological adaptation hypotheses, where winners are awarded “a gold statue of Darwin looking doubtful.”

Excerpt of panel from SMBC comic

Excerpt of panel from SMBC comic (see full version here)

“His readers absolutely loved the idea, and it grew popular enough that Zach wanted to see if the event could actually be done,” says Davis. “LSC had worked with Zach two years ago in organizing an appearance at MIT, where SMBC has a large fan base, so we were a natural choice for hosting and helping to organize the event.”

For an idea of what you can expect, past BAHFests have included wildly improbable theories on sleep, insects, and stomach fat in middle-aged men.

Boston lawyer Michael Anderson won last year’s BAHFest with his hypothesis that stomach fat served as a flotation device during times of flooding. Anderson, along with journalist Robin Abrahams, webcomic artist Rosemary Mosco, and MIT professor of cosmology Max Tegmark are set to judge this year’s BAHFest. “It’s a good place to come together as nerds and to have a good laugh,” says Annie Dunn, the publicity director for LSC.

$15 ($8 student tickets), September 19th, 7 p.m., Kresge Auditorium at MIT, 48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge. For tickets, go to bahfest.com.

Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/arts-entertainment/2015/09/18/mit-bahfest-2015-bad-ad-hoc-hypotheses/