The return of the Best of PubMed: GREATEST HITS

In a few days, I will be publishing the 300th article on this blog!

Running up to that, I’ll be publishing some highlights from over the years, including pieces from the early days that recent followers have probably never seen.

A lot of the early pieces on this site belonged to a series called “The best of PubMed,” lists of, well, shall we say “unusual?” articles from the scientific literature which can be found through the NCBI’s portal  biomedical literature. In the end I had collected several hundred entries, often on themes such as “shoes and socks,” the World Series (baseball), Halloween, etc. Or the “Chicken special”.

In some cases it’s just the titles that are funny, but often it’s worth going into the abstracts and the articles themselves. In some cases it seems clear right away that there’s a really good story behind the paper. For example,

Impact of Yankee Stadium Bat Day on blunt trauma in northern New York City.”

“On being considered an ignorant hillbilly when escorting a patient to a London hospital.” or

“When poisonous darts get involved in arguments.”

Finding such entries is a challenge, a sort of treasure hunt – and for a while it became a sort of minor personal obsession. There are some tricks to it, but just a word of warning: don’t get sucked in! (At least too far.)

To see more of these pieces on the blog, click on “Best of PubMed” on the main menu at the top of the blog.

In some cases the links to the original articles are carried over, another thing I was inconsistent about in the early days; that will be corrected in the future.

Here are some appetizers, some of the very best:


Bulls are faster than they look.

Smith M.

EMS Mag. 2010 Mar;39(3):22.


It bothers sheep, too.

Fraser J.

Pract Midwife. 2009 Jul-Aug;12(7):50



A midwife’s guide to birth fairies.

Wickham S.

Pract Midwife. 2008 Dec;11(11):42.


Music and the small human being.

Lind J.

Acta Paediatr Scand. 1980 Mar;69(2):131-6


Jealousy and mutilation: nose-biting as retribution for adultery

Lancet. 1998 Dec 19-26;352(9145):2010-1.

Okimura JTNorton SA


Acute management of the zipper-entrapped penis.

J Emerg Med. 1990 May-Jun;8(3):305-7.

Nolan JFStillwell TJSands JP Jr

A zipper-entrapped penis is a painful predicament that can be made worse by overzealous intervention. Described is a simple, basic approach to release, that is the least traumatic to both patient and provider.


Polka music and semantic dementia.

Boeve BFGeda YE.

Am J Emerg Med. 2005 Jul;23(4):480-2.


Bach, but not heavy metal is good for heart patients

MMW Fortschr Med. 2013 Apr 18;155(7):24. [Article in German]

Stiefelhagen P.


Velocity necessary for a BB to penetrate the eye: an experimental study using pig eyes.

Powley KDDahlstrom DBAtkins VJFackler ML.

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2004 Dec;25(4):273-5.


The conspiracy theory detector. How to tell the difference between true and false conspiracy theories.

Shermer M.

Sci Am. 2010 Dec;303(6):102.


Is talking to an automated teller machine natural and fun?

Chan FY, Khalid HM.

Ergonomics. 2003 Oct 20-Nov 15;46(13-14):1386-407.


The tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and the hard core drinking driver.

Chamberlain E, Solomon R.

Inj Prev. 2001 Dec;7(4):272-5.


Flatulence on airplanes: just let it go.

Pommergaard HC, Burcharth J, Fischer A, Thomas WE, Rosenberg J.

N Z Med J. 2013 Feb 15;126(1369):68-74.


A comparison of buttress drumming by male chimpanzees from two populations.

Clark Arcadi A, Robert D, Mugurusi F.

Primates. 2004 Apr;45(2):135-9.


Spontaneous human combustion: a sometimes incomprehensible phenomenon.

Gromb S, Lavigne X, Kerautret G, Grosleron-Gros N, Dabadie P.

J Clin Forensic Med. 2000 Mar;7(1):29-31.


Jumping on bed, mother hears screaming, patient on floor holding left foot.

Swischuk LE.

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2010 Mar;26(3):220-1.


Effects of intensive cell phone (Philips Genic 900) use on the rat kidney tissue.

Koca O, Gökçe AM, Öztürk MI, Ercan F, Yurdakul N, Karaman MI.

Urol J. 2013 Spring;10(2):886-91.


Considering the damage in rat kidney tissue caused by EMR-emitting cell phones, high-risk individuals should take protective measures.


The mummy‘s curse: historical cohort study.

Nelson MR.

BMJ. 2002 Dec 21;325(7378):1482-4.


Drinking grandma: the problem of embalming.

Chiappelli J, Chiappelli T.

J Environ Health. 2008 Dec;71(5):24-8.


When baby’s mother is also grandma–and sister.

[No authors listed] (I wonder why?)

Hastings Cent Rep. 1985 Oct;15(5):29-31.


Ejection of a rear facing, golf cart passenger.

Schau K, Masory O.

Accid Anal Prev. 2013 Oct;59:574-9. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2013.07.025. Epub 2013 Aug 6.


[When poisonous darts get connected with arguments].

Scholz T.

Krankenpfl Soins Infirm. 2007;100(7):18-20. German. No abstract available.


Lifting spirits with bedpan shuffleboard.

Putre L.

Hosp Health Netw. 2013 Jan;87(1):63. No abstract available.


An unresponsive biochemistry professor in the bathtub.

Mutlu GM, Leikin JB, Oh K, Factor P.

Chest. 2002 Sep;122(3):1073-6. No abstract available.


The ethnobiology of the Haitian zombi.

Davis EW.

J Ethnopharmacol. 1983 Nov;9(1):85-104.


The universal efficacy of the generic glazed donut.

Granchi P.

Pharos Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Med Soc. 2006 Spring;69(2):20-3. Review.


Road rage behaviour and experiences of rickshaw drivers in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Shaikh MA, Shaikh IA, Siddiqui Z.

East Mediterr Health J. 2011 Aug;17(8):719-21.


Impact of Yankee Stadium Bat Day on blunt trauma in northern New York City.

Bernstein SL, Rennie WP, Alagappan K.

Ann Emerg Med. 1994 Mar;23(3):555-9.


Severe burns from inflammable cowboy pants.


J Am Med Assoc. 1946 Apr 6;130:935. No abstract available.


Induction of an illusory shadow person.

Arzy S, Seeck M, Ortigue S, Spinelli L, Blanke O.

Nature. 2006 Sep 21;443(7109):287.


On being treated as an ignorant hillbilly when escorting a patient to a London hospital.

Chellel A.

Nurs Stand. 1991 Dec 18-1992 Jan 7;6(13-14):42.


Long-term trends in human eye blink rate.

Monster AW, Chan HC, O’Connor D.

Biotelem Patient Monit. 1978;5(4):206-22.


The uses of hopelessness.

Bennett MI, Bennett MB.

Am J Psychiatry. 1984 Apr;141(4):559-62.

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I am a science writer at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, author of fiction and popular science books, an artist, and a professional musician who performs on the viola da gamba and Medieval and Renaissance stringed instruments. I edit manuscripts of all types and teach the full range of scientific communication skills. I am doing theoretical work in this subject - see for example

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