Every year, the British Medical Journal puts out an especially, shall we say, whimsical edition in honor of the holiday season. All of the studies therein are subject to the same standards as usual, but they tend to be a bit goofier than the prestigious journal's usual fare. Previous BMJ holiday papers have included an investigation of how much James Bond actually drank (the conclusion: too much to be the sharp-shooting Don Juan we know him to be), a look at the genetic characteristics of magic in the "Harry Potter" series, and a study recording different responses to the sight of a man on a unicycle.

This year does not disappoint: On Thursday, BMJ published "The Darwin Awards: sex differences in idiotic behaviour," a systematic (but tongue-in-cheek) evaluation of the balance in male and female recipients of the "Darwin Award." For the uninitiated, this misanthropic award is given posthumously to those who have supposedly improved the gene pool by removing themselves from it.  From the study:

For instance, Darwin Awards are unlikely to be awarded to individuals who shoot themselves in the head while demonstrating that a gun is unloaded. This occurs too often and is classed as an accident. In contrast, candidates shooting themselves in the head to demonstrate that a gun is loaded may be eligible for a Darwin Award—such as the man who shot himself in the head with a “spy pen” weapon to show his friend that it was real.

A bit tasteless, but certainly an indicator of idiocy at its very worst.

Led by a group of (male) researchers, the study investigated "male idiot theory" (MIT) using the Darwin Awards as a subject pool. Sure enough, there were more male winners -- significantly more.

Of 318 confirmed Darwin Awards, 282 were awarded to males. That's 88.7 percent of the award populations. What a bias!

Of course, as the authors readily admit, it's quite possible (and even likely) that men are just more likely to be nominated for the award. But they point out that risk taking behavior is seen to be more common in men, as is excessive alcohol consumption.

"We believe MIT deserves further investigation," the authors wrote in the paper's conclusion, "and, with the festive season upon us, we intend to follow up with observational field studies and an experimental study -- males and females, with and without alcohol -- in a semi-naturalistic Christmas party setting."