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The most obscure and bizarre uni research topics

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A bird’s reaction to Picasso and the science behind a ‘booty call’ – they’re bona fida university research topics. But how does understanding these seemingly outlandish subjects help the human race?

According to one expert, if we don’t keep pushing the barriers of research “the next great inventions wouldn’t happen”.

“People outside will never be able to fully understand an application until the research is developed enough that is beginning to have obvious impact,” Dean of Arts at the University of Western Australia Professor Krishna Sen told The New Daily.

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She says what looks strange or funny to lay people is likely to have an important purpose, but understanding the subject can look unconventional to people who do not know the subject. To ensure resources are not wasted on frivolous research, Professor Sen says a topic much go through “three levels of scrutiny” before a topic is approved.

Here are some of the weirdest and wackiest topics we found.

Can a pigeon tell apart a Monet and a Picasso?

They crap all over our windows and hang around for our fish and chip leftovers, but now they’re being used to appreciate art.

The study, which expanded on previous research, found pigeons could distinguish between the music of Bach and Stravinsky. And now the world can rest easy knowing the ‘rats of the air’ are smarter than they look, if only by a little.

How a lap dancer’s ovulation changes earnings

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How does Lady Gaga influence her massive social media following? Photo: Getty

This research found “strong ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings” meant female strippers earned “less money during their menstrual periods”.

The researchers defined that “lap dances are the most intimate form of sex work that is legal” but also felt the need to fully explain in the study what a sex worker does because “academics may be unfamiliar with the gentlemen’s club subculture”.

Optimising cat food for the human palate

Do not read this while eating. Somehow a panel of humans were compelled to sit and taste cat food which contained “both meat chunk and gravy/gel constituents”. Yum.

But what was the point? Among other aims, cats can’t taste sweetness very well, so researchers wanted humans to detect which examples had a lot of sweetness in case lowering the levels could save money on the production line.

Going gaga for Lady Gaga

One of the last topics you’d expect to be researched at Cambridge in the UK is the pop phenomenon known as Lady Gaga.

While there hasn’t been any research published about the artistic merits of Lady Gaga’s work, one study focused on the singer’s 46.3 million Twitter followers and explored the role she “played in forming and informing the identities of fans” online.

The science behind the ‘Booty Call’

It takes some time for each of us to find our soul mate, so this study wanted to understand what happened in between.

This leads to “various compromise relationships”. That’s technical language for drunk texting someone at 3am for sex, also known as the ‘booty call’.

Haven’t you always wanted to know the “ideal mating strategies” of the population? Yes, and this study tells you.

Harry Potter helps young people with tough choices

This study is a truly beautiful thing. Anything that proves Harry Potter is more relevant to everyday life than we already thought it was is a valuable use of time.

The research says Harry’s virtuous and heroic nature as a main character highlights the “importance of stories in teaching our youth about values”.

Youth can “learn more about themselves and the values they need to overcome difficulties that they … face in life” when reading Harry Potter. He does make great and noble choices.

Remember when Harry chose to go into the Chamber of Secrets and save Ginny? Or when he chose to go into the Ministry of Magic to save Sirius? Harry always took the harder option. He wanted to control the outcome of the matter. Come on, WWHD? (What Would Harry Do?)

Harry’s hard choice evidently paid off.

Fruit bat fellatio

The opening line of the studies abstract says it all really: “Oral sex is widely used in human foreplay, but rarely documented in other animals.”

I wonder why? Who in their right mind likes to imagine what your pet cat and dog get up to when the family sleeps?

Anyway, the University of Exeter researched bat fellatio and found that “mating pairs spent significantly more time in copulation if the female licked her mate’s penis”.

Enough said, really.

Marrying yourself … or at least a lookalike

“Individuals develop an attraction to faces similar to their own,” according to a 1989 study by researchers at North Dakota State University.

Let us spell that out a little more clearly – they’re saying there is proof to back up the “commonsense view” that people marry partners who look similar to themselves.

The study says that people who often look at themselves or people who look like them will be more likely to develop such an “attraction”.

Why students go down the long research road

Leigh McLennon’s one-of-a-kind PhD topic “stems from too many years as a teenager reading vampire novels”.

The University of Melbourne student tells The New Daily she’s thirsty to explore how vampire fiction reveals “the otherness of women in patriarchal culture, contemporary feminism, globalisation, sustainability and new technologies”.

“It’s a fun topic,” she says. “It allows me to combine an interest in ‘trashy’ novels with my love of literature and history.”

Les Street is a researcher who has is researching the 112 grounds to host NSL/A-League football games since 1977 – even the ones that have been bulldozed or built over. His work is focussed on uncovering more on the history of football in Australia.

Mr Street, and others, feel football’s story here has been neglected since the A-League began in 2005, due to much publicised problems.

Have you got any weird research topics you’re studying or you’ve heard of? Let the writer know here

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