Here’s a type of contest we’ve done lots of times: Choose any two items on the list above and explain how they are alike or different. But the twist this week, suggested by Loser Christopher Lamora, is that the items on the list were all listed as “trending” or “hot” topics last Sunday on washingtonpost.com, Twitter, Google News, etc. Given the briefer-than-a-thong half-lives of some trending topics, the Empress did choose the ones that at least would be recognizable four weeks from now, when we run the results.
Winner gets the Inkin’ Memorial, the Style Invitational trophy. Second place wins this fine foot-tall papier-mache sculpture of a screaming human skeleton riding a surfboard. Donated by big-deal Washington Post editors and honorary Losers Lynn Medford and Jeff Leen.
Other runners-up win their choice of a coveted Style Invitational Loser T-shirt, a yearned-for Loser Mug or the new, ardently desired Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get a lusted-after Loser magnet. First Offenders get a smelly, tree-shaped air “freshener” (Fir Stink for their first ink). E-mail entries to
or fax to 202-334-4312. Deadline is Monday, May 28; results published June 17 (online June 15). No more than 25 entries per entrant per week. Include “Week 972” in your e-mail subject line or it might be ignored as spam. Include your real name, postal address and phone number with your entry. See contest rules and guidelines at wapo.st/StyleInv. The subhead for this week’s honorable mentions is by Dave Prevar; the alternative headline in the “next week” line is by Kevin Dopart. Join the Style Invitational Devotees on Facebook at
Report from Week 968
in which we asked you for stupidly funny research grant proposals: We figured that this contest would draw lots of funny observational humor. But mostly we got unfunny, painfully old observational humor: toilet seat position, number of items in the express lane, raining after you wash the car. And, as always, alas, a joke about global warming being caused by politicians’ hot air. We did, however, find a few imaginative proposals to fund with our shamefully generous prizes.
The winner of the Inkin’ Memorial
Proposal: A study to determine whether Murphy’s Law is true.
Hypothesis: Although Murphy’s Law teaches that “if anything can go wrong, it will,” the successful completion of this study, fraught as it is with potential pitfalls, will expose that “law” as a fallacy. (Robert Schechter, Dix Hills, N.Y.)
Winner of the Rednek Wine Glass, made from a Mason jar: Proposal: To examine the link between the obesity epidemic and global warming. Hypothesis: Since the Earth must work harder to spin with all those overweight people on it, the planet is overheating from all the exertion. (Martin Bancroft, Rochester, N.Y.)
3. Ice cream is stored optimally at minus-25 degrees Celsius, while human body temperature is a far higher 37 degrees Celsius. Since the body must burn calories to raise the temperature of the ice cream to body temperature, it stands to reason that consuming ice cream leads to weight loss. Perhaps such a diet will help combat our nation’s obesity epidemic. (Luke Currano, Columbia, Md.)
4. In light of the difficulty in shutting down the Fukushima reactors, we seek a Nuclear Regulatory Commission grant to examine whether the on-off switches on the nation’s nuclear power plants should be changed to the sound-activated variety, such as The ClapperTM. (David Genser, Poway, Calif.)
Thesis the rest: honorable mentions
Proposal: A study to determine the gregariousness of cockroaches. Hypothesis: Since the species Blattella germanica is well known to emerge from hiding shortly after a home is visited by dinner guests . . .
Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)
Proposal: A study to determine the exothermic properties of U.S. currency. Hypothesis: It has been observed that the application of dollar bills to the thighs of professional ecdysiasts causes the subjects to shed excess clothing. Further study suggests that higher-denomination bills accelerate this effect. (Craig Dykstra, Centreville, Va.)
Objective: Measure the safety benefits of text messaging in high-risk environments. Background: Annual highway fatalities have dropped by 10,000 during the past five years, while extensive texting by drivers has increased exponentially. The research team proposes examining whether similar benefits could be found in hospital operating rooms and nuclear power plants. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)
Background: While many psychologists have studied the effect of money on happiness in the general population, there has been a lack of research of its effect directly on the population of scientists. Proposal: . . .
(Mark Pearson, Washington, a First Offender)
Proposal: A study to determine whether biologists are inadvertently causing species to become endangered. Hypothesis: Since many species on the endangered list have been given names such as “Furbish lousewort,” “shiny pigtoe” and “sensitive joint-vetch,” various plants and animals might be dying out from sheer embarrassment. (Megan Durham, Reston, Va.)
In our team’s preliminary studies, we have noticed that as ice cream sales increase at seaside resorts, so do shark attacks. We propose to examine why sharks are so attracted to ice cream ingested by humans, and determine how to reformulate the product to deter this effect. (Samuel Enriquez, Annapolis, Md.; Gregory Koch, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.)
Proposal: An examination of the correlation between societal success and olfactory level of human waste products, specifically the accuracy of the belief of individuals with graduate degrees, professional success, hot girlfriends, etc., that their bodily waste “don’t stink.” (Bruce Alter, Fairfax Station, Va.)
Hypothesis: Cellphones drain power from cars on the highway. Evidence: On Interstate 66, where most cars travel between 60 and 70 mph, a small but significant number of automobiles travel no faster than 40 mph. Preliminary research has determined that at least 90 percent of their drivers are using cellphones at the time. We also propose to study how phones’ magnetic waves cause the vehicles to wobble in and out of a lane. (Carroll Reed, Centreville, Va., a First Offender)
Still running — deadline Monday night — is our book-pairing contest: See wapo.st/inv971.
Visit the online discussion group The Style Conversational, where the Empress discusses today’s new contest and results along with news about the Loser Community — and you can vote for your favorite among the inking entries, since you no doubt figured the Empress chose the wrong winner. If you’d like an e-mail notification each week when the Invitational and Conversational are posted online, write to the Empress at email@example.com (note that in the subject line) and she’ll add you to the mailing list. And on Facebook, join the far more lively group Style Invitational Devotees and chime in.
Next week: Colt Following, or Replaying the Ponies