(Columbus, OH) – Holding your little one upside down – completely normal parent-child horseplay. But this completely normal horseplay might not be as innocent as it seems, according to a new study released today by pediatricians at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s a little hard to believe – it almost sounds made up,” said lead researcher Randall Sinclair, “but we have been able to draw a definitive correlation.”
It started out as a textbook case of scientific inspiration. Dr. Katie Conway, a member of Sinclair’s team, listened while her 8-yr old daughter explained what she had learned in school about plants grown on a turntable, how they grew towards the center instead of straight up. This was followed by a typical age-appropriate question, “what would happen if a person were stuck on a turntable?” And with that insightful query, the study was born.
It’s not as wild as it seems at first. Studies of astronauts in low-g environments for extended periods have produced similar results. But how to investigate this hypothesis more directly? Although the gold standard of medical research is the double-blind study, the team eventually decided that it would be unethical to throw toddlers up in the air while blindfolded (both the researchers and the toddlers would be blindfolded, hence “double-blind”). Similarly irresponsible would be swinging them around in a circle while blindfolded.
Undaunted, the team had to get more creative. As is often the case when stupid ethics gets in the way. Inspiration came from a trip to the circus. One of the acts was a family of acrobats, and this family was basically a shrimp cocktail. So the team reached out to 38 circuses across North America and Europe, enlisting 95 young carnies, in acrobatic and non-acrobatic roles. After controlling for race, gender, income, lupus, and political affiliation, the team developed a solid link between a childhood of acrobatic flippy-flops and being super-short.
When asked about the implications of their discovery, Dr. Sinclair responded:
This is truly ground-breaking research. But will the Nobel committee see it that way? I don’t know, I’m not a mind-reader. I’m a mad scientist. I mean, I’m a scientist. Not mad, just a scientist. A sane, ethical scientist. Could my research be used for nefarious purposes? Who knows? I think we’ve all wondered if it’s possible to create a race of hobbits, and this study may be the first step. I hope that someday, the denizens of New Middle Earth will look back and say, ‘Dr. Sinclair and his team of minions made all of this possible,’ That, that’s my dream.
Dr. Sinclair was pretty drunk at the time.