Ivory Towers: Ectoplasm shortage

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The Independent Culture
WHY do joggers jog? There has been no shortage of research into the mental state of joggers, but only recently has anyone investigated the more basic question: why do non-joggers not jog? The answers confirm that people who don't jog have just as good reasons for not doing so as joggers have for jogging.

William F Vitulli and A Nicholas de Pace III, of the University of South Alabama, report their findings in 'Manifest reasons for Jogging and Not Jogging' (Perceptual and Motor Skills, vol 75, 115-20). Joggers, it would seem, jog because of 'health reasons' or because 'it increases my awareness of who I am'. Non-joggers, apparently already aware of who they are, choose boredom, discomfort, past injury and loneliness as their main reasons for not jogging. The researchers suggests that behaviour modification techniques might change non-joggers into joggers, but further research is needed.

One rare area where further research is not needed was identified in a recent issue of Nature, where a world shortage of ectoplasm is among the phenomena explained by new theories of the paranormal.

Comparing paranormal phenomena of recent times with those of 60 years ago, Dr S F Blinkhorn concludes that psychic influences are weaker than they used to be. 'Strong paranormal phenomena of all kinds have declined to vanishing point, just as good scientific methods for studying them have reached perfection,' he complains.

His first tentative explanation is that 'a lot more people have died since the 1930s and the consequent congestion in communication channels between this life and the 'other side' prevents reliable contact.' If this 'Cellular Telephone Hypothesis' proves incorrect, he proposes an alternative hypothesis of political correctness: 'Red Indian spirit guides have withdrawn their labour until we start calling them Native Americans.'

His next theory relates to the recent absence of spoon-benders on television: 'Could it be that video recorders destroy the conditions of calm and concentration upon which they depend?' he asks.

Finally, Dr Blinkhorn points out that ectoplasm, when photographed, bears a striking resemblance to cheesecloth. The marked drop in ectoplasmic manifestations reflects a similar decline in the availability of cheesecloth and butter muslin. Have improvements in bulk-processing methods for dairy products led to the demise of one psychic industry? Dr Blinkhorn believes they have and concludes this is one academic area where further research is better avoided.