JIR - The Science Humor Magazine

JIR History
Critical Praise

Fun, friendly JIR is a great escape from the harsh and the hassle. Benefits stretch far beyond the easy chair. Many items are perfect to post, or to show around, or to include in a presentation. Many spark new and interesting thoughts. Great gift for scientists, doctors, engineers, and professors. Subscribe

Words And Unwords

WILDWORDS board game!

All the fun that Scrabble® should have been. More words, more strategy, more bluffs, more twists! Great gift! Top-quality tiles and trays. Including US shipping: $36.95. eMail or snail-mail your order.

The stars above are beautiful, and so is The Stars Above starfinder!

Gleaming, sturdy blue acrylic, 14 inches wide. Dome-shaped, like the real sky. Dial up any time on any date. Find the constellations, the Milky Way, planets, and major stars. Great gift! Little distortion between 30° and 50° North latitude. $99.95 includes base, booklet, and UPS ground shipping within US. eMail or snail-mail your order.

Stretchable Graph Sheets!

JIR exclusive! JIR was first to suggest them, way back in 1964, and now makes them real. Our graph sheets stretch a point so much you could be a politician. [not recommended] Each kit contains these 8.5 x 11 inch sheets:

  • Stretchable Spandex grid
  • Invariant transparent grid to use atop:
  • Stretchable blank Spandex to draw your own curves on
  • Suggestions

Use your own clipboard and binder clips to anchor sides you don’t want to stretch. $9.95 including US postage. eMail or snail-mail your order.

Brian Malow

Brian Malow performs widely on the comedy club circuit. He is a life-long fan of science and science fiction. His intelligent, imaginative comedy plays delightfully with language, and is spiced with a healthy dose of science. His clean, energetic style makes him a favorite at colleges and corporations (such as Apple, Dell, 3M, and Texas Instruments). www.sciencecomedian.com

Astronauts aboard space shuttle STS-44, while in orbit, listened to his Neil Armstrong routine. And they laughed.

Your group can laugh, too. A whole lot. eMail Brian Malow to arrange a performance for your own special event: brian@butseriously.com

Geek Comic- Nerdo Capo Di Capi Tutti, accessible Geekiosity, family fun.

Norm Goldblatt performs at nightclubs, comedy clubs, corporate events, private parties and fundraisers. His humor touches on technology, science, politics, and the human condition. Every show is different and peppered with jokes from the day’s news. His quips were quoted regularly by the late great Herb Caen in the San Francisco Chronicle and his jokes are heard on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Born with Asociotechnophilia, he redirected the ravaging effects of this disease toward developing skills as a physicist, teacher, engineer and entertainer. He has 2 head positions — towards the stars and towards his shoes — but get him onstage and power him with a spotlight, and his laser gaze will entrance you. www.normgoldblatt.com.

Scientific Curiosities and Anomalies

Compiled by William R. Corliss, The Sourcebook Project

Ancient Infrastructure: Remarkable Roads, Mines, Mounds, Stone Circles. 412 pages, paperback. $21.95.

Mysterious Universe: Astronomical Anomalies. 716 pages, hardback. $19.95.

Biological Anomalies: Birds. 486 pages, hardback. $27.50.

Neglected Geological Anomalies. 333 pages, hardback. $18.95.

Remarkable Luminous Phenomena in Nature: A Catalog of Geophysical Anomalies. 419 pages, hardback. $24.95.

Science Frontiers: Some Anomalies and Curiosities of Nature. 1977-1994. 356 pages, paperback. $18.95.

Science Frontiers II: More Anomalies and Curiosities of Nature. 1994-2004. 340 pages, paperback. $21.95.

Prices include US shipping. Canada: add $3/book; overseas, add $10/book. eMail or snail-mail your order.


    ©The Journal of Irreproducible Results, vol. 20, #3, March 1974, pages 22-23.

National Geographic, the Doomsday Machine

George H. Kaub

Pollution of many types and kinds is currently paramount in the public mind. Causes and solutions are being loudly proclaimed by all of the media, politicians, public agencies, universities, garden clubs, industry, and churches, ad infinitum. Pollution runs the spectrum from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the soil we till, as well as visual and audio pollution, and in recent years, pollution of outer space from junk exploration hardware.

These threats to our environment, our health and our mental wellbeing are real and with us, but not nearly as immediately catastrophic or totally destructive as the disaster which imminently faces this nation and menace of monstrous proportions can be likened only to the entire country resting on a gargantuan San Andreas fault. Earthquakes, hurricanes, mud slides, fire, famine, and atomic war all rolled into one hold no greater destructive power than this incipient horror which will engulf the country in the immediate and predictable future.

This continent is in the gravest danger of following legendary Atlantis to the bottom of the sea. No natural disaster, no overpowering compounding of pollutions or cataclysmic nuclear war will cause the end. Instead, a seemingly innocent monster created by man, nurtured by man, however as yet unheeded by man, will doom this continent to the watery grave of oblivion.

But there is yet time to save ourselves if this warning is heeded.

PUBLICATION AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE MUST BE IMMEDIATELY STOPPED AT ALL COSTS! This beautiful, educational, erudite, and thoroughly appreciated publication is the heretofore unrecognized instrument of doom which must be erased if we as a country or continent will survive. It is NOT TOO LATE if this warning is heeded!

According to current subscription figures, more than 6,869,797 issues of the National Geographic magazine are sent to subscribers monthly throughout the world. However, it would be safe to say that the bulk of these magazines reach subscribers in the United States and Canada, and it is, and never has been, thrown away! It is saved like a monthly edition of the Bible. The magazine has been published for over 141 years continuously, and countless millions if not billions of copies have been innocently yet relentlessly accumulating in basements, attics, garages, public and private institutions of learning, the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, Good Will, and Salvation Army stores, and heaven knows where else. Never discarded, always saved. No recycling, just the horrible and relentless accumulation of this static vehicle of our doom!

National Geographic averages approximately 2 pounds per issue. Since no copies have been discarded or destroyed since the beginning of publication, it can be readily seen that the accumulated aggregate weight is a figure that not only boggles the mind, but is imminently approaching the disaster point. That point will be the time at which the geologic substructure of the country can no longer support the incredible load, and subsidence will occur. Gradually at first, but then relentlessly accelerating as rock formations are compressed, become plastic and begin to flow, great faults will appear.

The logical sequence of events is predictable. First will come foundation failures and gradual sinking of residences and public buildings in which the magazine has been stored. As these areas depress the earth, more and more structures will topple and sink until whole towns and cities will submerge, then larger and larger land masses. This chain reaction will accelerate until the entire country has fallen below the level of the sea and total inundation will occur.

The areas of higher subscription density, affluence and wealth, will be the first to go, followed by institutions, middle class, urban, and ghetto areas in that order, with the relatively unpopulated plains and mountains finally sinking into the sea.

We have been warned of this impending calamity by a seeming increase in so-called natural disasters throughout the country, as well as isolated occurrences striking areas heretofore immune to natural destruction:

  • Increase in earthquake activity in California has been triggered by population growth and the subsequent increase in National Geographic subscriptions and accumulations of heavy masses of the magazine. This gradual increase in weight has caused increased activity along the San Andreas fault.
  • Earthquakes in the Denver area were not caused by pumping of wastes into wells at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, but by accumulation of National Geographic magazines by more and more people as the population increased over the years.
  • Sinking of several coal-mining towns throughout the country can only be attributed to the increase in workers benefits and pay increases, allowing them to subscribe to and hoard National Geographic.
  • Mud slides in California, which have brought destruction to hundreds of homes built on the hillsides, were triggered by the final straw in the form of the last delivery into these areas of National Geographic to subscribers and hoarders.

The list is endless. The warnings are clear.

The time grows short and we must act at once if this calamity is to be averted. The National Geographic must cease publication at once, if necessary by Congressional action or Presidential edict.

© The Journal of Irreproducible Results, vol. 20, #4, July 1974, pages 12-14.

National Geographic: Doomsday Machine or Benefactor? A Vindication

L. M. Jones

Department of Geology
University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia 30602

Response to National Geographic, the Doomsday Machine

An attack on National Geographic magazine is an attack on a venerated American tradition, one as American as apple pie, Watergate, Pogo, and pizza.

The cry for the immediate termination of publication and distribution of National Geographic magazine cannot go without challenge. Kaub (1974) has not only created an aura of hysteria for the future of the Earth, but has also imparted an unnecessary sense of guilt on anyone who as much as reads an issue of National Geographic, let alone anyone who would sequester an issue in an attic or garage.

Kaub (1974) contends there will be disasters of continental proportions due to the indestructiveness of National Geographic magazine. He suggests that localized accumulations of National Geographic are responsible for earthquake activity in areas such as the San Andreas fault and Denver. He also would attribute directly to the magazine other natural disasters such as mud slides and subsidence. Kaub (1974) further knells the doomsday bell, by predicting that continued storage of the magazine will result in massive subsidence of buildings, cities, and finally, inundation of the entire country by sea.


It is such erroneous expoundings as Kaub's that have created undue panic among the populace on other occasions. For example, movement along the San Andreas fault has been interpreted to mean that California will soon fall into the sea!

And now National Geographic! Is nothing sacred?

Let's examine this problem calmly and logically. First, 10 issues of National Geographic magazine were selected from the collections of the author and a colleague. These issues were weighed and measured; these data are given in Table 1, in addition to calculated values of area and density for the magazine.

Table 1: Dimensions, weight and density of 10 selected issues of National Geographic magazine

June 1959 7.73 402.15 17.33 25.34 439.1 1.185
August 1961 7.02 370.28 17.49 25.39 444.1 1.188
May 1962 7.70 408.72 17.51 25.35 443.9 1.196
October 1962 7.27 388.50 17.48 25.44 444.7 1.202
May 1963 7.58 396.15 17.43 25.32 441.3 1.184
April 1966 7.985 422.60 17.55 25.35 444.9 1.190
July 1971 6.52 342.72 17.36 25.31 439.4 1.196
Nov 1971 I 6.95 371.49 17.54 25.48 446.5 1.196
Nov 1971 II 7.05 373.71 17.51 25.50 446.5 1.187
January 1973 6.05 324.75 17.49 25.38 443.9 1.209
average 7.19 - - - 443.5 1.193

To simplify the following calculations, it was assumed that erosion of the landmass is negligible, as well as other geologic factors. The only geologic process that would be operative is isostasy, which is the approach of crustal masses to a flotational equilibrium. Other assumptions that were made include the following:

  1. The density of the upper mantle is 3.3 g/cm3, which represents a lower limit
  2. The monthly circulation of National Geographic is that as given by Kaub (1974), 6,869,797, and remains constant.
  3. Distribution of the magazine is restricted to the conterminous 48 United States (with no offense intended to Hawaii, Alaska, or any country; Hawaii and Alaska were excluded on the basis of relatively small area and small population, respectively).
  4. The magazine is evenly distributed over the 48 United States.
  5. The area of the 48 states is 7,954 x 103 km2 (Showers, 1973).
  6. The area of the oceans is 362,033 x 103 km2 (Showers, 1973).
  7. No issues of National Geographic magazine will be destroyed.
  8. The average thickness of the 10 issues in Table 1 is representative (0.719 cm).

Taking the predictions of Kaub (1974) at face value, the height of a column of National Geographic magazines necessary to depress the continental land mass by 100 feet (30.48 m) was calculated. This would be a vertical stack 82.33 m high, equivalent to 11.45 x 103 magazines. This depression of the land mass would produce a rise in sea level due to displaced mantle material. Assuming the effect is confined only to the ocean basins, a net depression of 100 feet (30.48 m) would be due to an actual depression of the land of 29.82 m and a resultant rise in sea level of 66 cm.

There would be a notable change in the coastline with a net depression of 100 feet. While there will be little change in the outline of the West coast due to the steep slope, that of the East coast will change markedly. It is readily seen that many urban problems will be solved by inundation, saving vast amounts of urban renewal funds. The Atlantis legend will be recalled with the flooding of cities such as Boston, New York, Washington, Baltimore, Savannah, Miami, Houston, and New Orleans. Of course, unexpected benefits would be realized by other communities. For example, Yazoo, Mississippi, would become a major seaport - certainly a possibility that has not been dreamed of by town officials, even in their wildest imagination.

No matter how beneficial the results of this crustal depressing might be, there is the question of time. Assuming even distribution of National Geographic over the present surface, it would take 17.94 x 1013 copies of the magazine to cover the 48 United States with one thickness. If the National Geographic Society continues to publish the magazine at 12 issues each year, it will take 2.176 x 106 years to deposit one thickness over the United States. The time it would take to accumulate a thickness of National Geographic sufficient to depress the crust 100 feet would be 24.92 x 109 years. Since this length of time is several times greater than the present age of the Earth, it should be obvious that we or future generations have little to fear from the National Geographic Society.

If Mr. Kaub is still distressed about the weighty threat by the National Geographic Society, perhaps he should consider taking up lighter reading.


  1. Kaub, G. H., 1974. National Geographic, the Doomsday Machine. JIR, vol. 20, # 3, pp 22-23.
  2. Showers, V., 1973. The World in Figures. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

© The Journal of Irreproducible Results, vol. 20, #4, July 1974, page 31.

Errors in Extrapolation

Joseph Koosman

New Jersey

Dear Editor:

It was with mixed feelings that I pondered George H. Kaub's "National Geographic, the Doomsday Machine" in JIR, since similar thoughts had passed through my mind on occasion. Especially hitting close to home was the discovery, in a previous home, that my living room putting practice was quite sour, due to tilt of the house because of unsymmetrical attic storage (hoarding, if you insist, Mr. Kaub) of my copies of Life Magazine over a mere 35 years; the earth below, as well as my spirits, definitely suffered depression. However, it would have been unseemly of my scientific mind to extrapolate so local an incident to a global catastrophe after once having been caught in an error of judgement on a much grander scale, namely the State of Texas.

A compatriot in my Army outfit it was, who put me in my place. He was a short-statured Texan who, I had earlier thought, was also short in cranial content. But, like so many Texans who engage in hyperbole in all matters dealing with that state, this one bragged about the fact that Texas rests on a sea of oil, whose enormous monetary value supports all the affluence attending not only the medical profession, but even the lowliest gandy-dancer in that state. I retorted with exaggerated smugness that his privileges were to be short-lived because, as that wealth of oil is withdrawn from beneath his great state of Texas, his great state is going to sink out of sight and mind. But imagine my chagrin for having overlooked the well-documented answer when, some days later, he accosted me with a victorious air and declared, "Your prediction is impossible. I looked it up and found that the oil is pushed out of the ground by brine which is pumped into the ground. Therefore, no void is created and Texas won't sink". Thus, I must raise the point that George Kaub is alarming us unduly, despite the apparent legitimacy of his thesis. There must be a compensating factor which is not obvious at the moment.

Yours truly,

Joseph G. Koosman
North Caldwell, New Jersey

© The Journal of Irreproducible Results II

National Geographic: Doomsday Machine Revisited

Victor Milstein, Ge. 01

Academy of Appurtenant Analyses

Kaub's excellent article was the first organized warning of imminent disaster. Unfortunately Jones's recent response to this is quite erroneous and dilutes the efficacy of the alert. The same issue of JIR contains a letter by Koosman which reports a directly validating experience of Kaub's hypothesis, but then goes on to deny the generalizability of it.

Allow me to dispose of Koosman's ready acceptance of his Texan's explanation first. Texas will sink (sic) and is in fact sinking (sic) at present. The reason for this has nothing to do with the accumulation of the magazine Kaub described as beautiful, educational and erudite, since these qualities usually are not considered in relation to oil in Texas. While it is true that the oil that is being pumped out of the ground is replaced by the brine pushing it out, this will not save Texas. Everyone knows that oil floats on water, even salt water. (Remember the oil-soaked gulls and other birds after oil-spills?) This means that the light oil that Texas is floating on is being replaced by brine. This heavier brine will compress the material under it and sink deeper into the Earth. Quod erat demonstrandum, Texas will continue to sink (sic).

Return to Jones's whitewash of the impending catastrophe. He makes 8 assumptions in arriving at his conclusion that it will require 24.92 x 10 9 years to depress the crust of the United States 100 feet. Of these 8 assumptions, 2 are completely incorrect and 3 are irrelevant (numbers 1, 3, and 6). The 2 crucial, incorrect assumptions are numbers 2 and 4. Number 2 assumes that the monthly circulation of National Geographic will remain constant. Since the population of the United States and especially the population of children in the USA is increasing, it is clear that the monthly circulation of National Geographic will also increase since the magazine is subscribed to mainly for school children. (The initial subscription is taken out with the intent of allowing the child to cut up the magazine. However, the beauty of each issue is such that parents never permit such sacrilege.) Thus, since the population of the United States is increasing, the monthly circulation of the magazine will also increase. This is a lower-bound estimate since both standard of living and degree of pretentiousness have been increasing at a more rapid rate than the population of the United States. This pretentiousness is an important motivating factor in subscribing to National Geographic.

The other critical assumption, namely number 4, that the magazine is evenly distributed over the 48 states, is false. In truth, the 23 states comprising the Eastern one-fourth of the country in land area (in fact 23.8%) contain more than half (56.4%) of the population. Thus, it is clear that more than 50% of the density of the increasing numbers of the magazine is accumulating in less than one-fourth of the land mass.

These figures necessitate a re-computation of the ultimate effect of accumulation of National Geographic magazines. The most likely result, taking account of the increasing population density of the West Coast as well, is that subsidence will occur at both the East and West coastal ends of the United States. The probability is that both coasts will sink, and the West Central portion of the United States (except Texas, as noted above) will rise an average of 217 meters. And, Jones to the contrary, this will take place in much less than 24.92 x 109 years. It will occur in 457.247 x 37 years! Clearly Kaub's warning must be heeded if we are to avoid disaster.

Anthology Recapitulates Hilarity:

This Book Warps Space and Time

JIR’s new anthology is a fast-paced frolic of humorous and quirky tidbits in science, math, academe, bureaucracy, and witty wordplay. Open this book and you're chuckling within seconds. More than 250 entries ponder and pun the practical and peculiar. Edited by JIR’s Norman Sperling, published by Andrews McMeel. 289 pages, 6 x 6 inches (but only the dimensions are square), soft cover. In US stores October 2008. A great gift! custom-inscribed any way the customer wants, $15.99 including US postage. eMail or snail-mail your order.

Few Thrills Compare to Weather at its Worst

Extreme Weather

by Christopher C. Burt

We often hear that the day was the hottest, coldest, wettest, or snowiest on record. Is the climate really becoming more extreme as a result of global warming? The facts are in this book, along with bizarre weather events: heat bursts, electrified dust storms, snow rollers, pink snowstorms, luminous tornadoes, falls of fish and toads, ball lightning, and super bolts. Great gift! Revised edition, 320 pages, 110 photos, 47 maps, 66 tables and graphics, extreme weather data for >300 US cities. Soft cover. 2007. $29.95, custom-inscribed by author Chris Burt any way the customer wants, including US postage. eMail or snail-mail your order.

What Your Astronomy Textbook Won’t Tell You

by Norman Spering

Textbooks don’t tell all they should, and sometimes inhibit learning. Norm Sperling teaches what textbooks won’t tell:

  • Too sure of things? Learn which Unknowns still stump us.
  • Outdated viewpoints? Reset your mindset.
  • Need to weed out bunk? Bigtime debunking explains why science can tell how nature works.
  • Overly serious? Chuckle at bloopers.
  • Fresh, intriguing ideas and viewpoints, many of which apply to other sciences as well.

From the review in JRASC: "a rollicking read. It is fun! The language is down-to-earth and jargon-free. The writing style is straightforward and friendly. The book does not take itself too seriously. You will find it hard to put down because it just keeps going, like the Energizer bunny, with interesting topic after interesting topic."

183 pages, paperback, 2002. $26.95 custom-inscribed by the author any way the customer wants, including US postage. eMail or snail-mail your order.


Creation/ Evolution Satiricon

by Robert Dietz and John Holden

Witty, hard-hitting satire, delightfully illustrated with many droll cartoons. A classic book, long out-of-print. Paperback. $39.95 while the co-author’s last box of new copies lasts, including Holden’s custom-inscription any way the customer wants, and US postage. 8.5 x 11 inches, 140 pages, 1987. eMail or snail-mail your order.


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