Livin' on the MDedge

Earthworm lollipops and Monty Python peer review


It’s ... Monty Python’s Flying Study!

Michael Blann/DigitalVision

It’s one of life’s most haunting questions, asked by one of our best philosophers: What is the velocity of an unladen swallow?

Sadly, Nathaniel Dominy and Erin Butler of Dartmouth University did not tackle this conundrum, but they did address another issue raised by Monty Python: Just how silly are the walks displayed by the Ministry of Silly Walks?

As you might expect, the minister himself is a masterclass of inefficiency, moving with 6.7 times more variability than someone walking in a nonhumorous fashion. Mr. Pudey, the man applying for the government grant to develop his own silly walk, is noticeably more efficient, merely displaying a rate of variability 3.3 times that of a normal walk. However, the researchers agreed with the minister that Mr. Pudey was well deserving of a government grant.

While we feel answering that question alone was worth a study, the researchers did have a larger point to make: comparing the bureaucratic inefficiency of the Ministry of Silly Walks to today’s peer-review process within the health field, particularly when researchers seek funding.

Grants take months to be approved and often involve researchers flying back and forth. A streamlined process could save huge amounts of both time and money, they noted.

The LOTME team would like to salute these two researchers for their excellent choice of metaphor, and hope they use Monty Python to make further points about health care. The swallow problem is just begging to be made into a metaphor.


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