Silliest Scientific Technique

An maritime archeologist (foretopsail on Reddit) nominated the Penguin Invertor as both the silliest and most awesome technique used in science, and I agree.  This fantastic piece of research was published in Marine Ornithology (1991; 19:91-101) under the title

Some Field Techniques for Ecological Research on Emperor Penguins

Before we get to put penguins in the Penguin Invertor, you have to first catch and weigh them.  Catching is achieved by:

Individual adults were caught by tackling them rugby-style, taking care not to land on the bird, as they tobogganed on the sea-ice.  Most penguins were caught after pursuits of less than 25m […]

And a skilled field operator can weigh an emperor penguin on his own, using this contraption (the penguin is upside-down in the bag):

And finally, the long-awaited Penguin Invertor.  It’s used to probe what the penguin ate, and the device includes a pump to put water in its stomach, followed by a WHOOSH! invertor to make it puke everything back out.

I feel a little sorry for the poor bird.  Just a little… I feel more sorry for the poor biologist in ginormous red parka freezing his butt off, waddling in the wind and snow, to catch and stuff the struggling tuxedo-wearing avians.  On that note, I find the pen-and-ink illustrations very well-drawn and charming.  In recent papers they’ve almost been exclusively replaced by CG images, often of varying technical and illustrative merits.

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