Have you heard about the scientists who sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into their writings? Lately, the internet has caught onto the story of a small group of Swedish scientists who take their Dylan fandom to very clinical levels. For instance, an article about flatulence came with the tagline, “The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind.” Get it? Get it?
So were these professors putting their very livelihoods on the line for some Dylan geekery, or were they really just well-meaning men of science looking for some polite fun? We reached out to one, and found the case was quite the latter, well-adjusted to his 15 minutes of internet fame.
Eddie Weitzberg is professor of anesthesiology and intensive care medicine at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute. The moment he picks up the phone, he’s befuddled at the amount of attention his little pastime has suddenly garnered since a couple of Swedish publications helped it go viral.
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“Sometimes scientists are asked to write a commentary or an editorial, reflecting on some other researchers’ work,” he explained. It was this sort of less formal writing — found in book introductions, editorials and the back pages of journals — that Weitzberg and colleague John Jundberg have used for laughs over the past 17 years.
“A good scientist needs to follow his or her intuition and not be afraid to challenge dogmas,” he said, waxing poetic on the similarities of his divergent interests. “In my mind, Dylan has always had the courage to follow his artistic beliefs regardless of what was expected from him. Many good scientists work really hard throughout their lives, and retirement is not an option. Dylan seems to do the same, still touring worldwide.”
In the past, the group has produced an article titled “Blood on the Tracks: A Simple Twist of Fate” and Kenneth Chien, a professor of cardiovascular research came up with “Tangled Up in Blue: Molecular Cardiology in the Postmolecular Era.” Reports say the scientist who pulls off the most gets a free lunch, though we’ve got the feeling this is another part of the joke.
Weitzberg lightheartedly laments that his actual research has never gotten this much popular attention, so we’ll give a shout-out: He’s currently studying the effects of nitric oxide in the body, especially how that which comes from certain vegetables assists cardiovascular function.