The Book of Forbidden Knowledge
…or how to use science communication to your advantage!
By Kate Gaplevskaja
My first introduction to the field of “incredible science” started with a post from Southern Fried Scientist “Blood and Brains – can vampires survive a zombie apocalypse?” and I was shocked. 
This “scientific paper” talks about the outcomes of a zombie outbreak. Despite the obviously unbelievable topic I had to stop myself from googling whether any real research was ever done on zombie populations.
So what techniques did the author use to make a scenario out of a horror movie sound so credible? After analysing some classic “incredible science” articles from the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) I came up with a few techniques.
1. Make sure your credentials are solid
State what institution you represent. Your institution name should preferably be well known or if it doesn’t exist shouldn’t sound too fake.
Apples and Oranges — A Comparison
2. Present a clear structured argument in a format used in science journals
- Materials and Methods
3. Reference well
Even if these papers you refer to do not exist a casual reader will not check them, but having them there will add greatly to the perceived credibility.
For example, an in-text citation:
Fortunately, Munz et al. (2009) have done the math for us, and the outcome does not look good.
And in the reference section:
Munz P, Hudea I, Imad J, and Smith? RJ (2009). WHEN ZOMBIES ATTACK!: MATHEMATICAL MODELLING OF AN OUTBREAK OF ZOMBIE INFECTION Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress, 133-150 
4. Use science writing style and jargon
Scientists use a different style of writing to normal everyday written communication. Examples of this are longer sentences, the use of passive voice, use of jargon, etc. All of the AIR articles tended to put that to good use.,,,
5. Use figures: images, numbers
When I first started this assignment I was a bit unsure why this topic was chosen. After all, we as science communicators should be doing the opposite – report credible science! We don’t need these techniques! However having done this I realised how important this assignment actually was. After all we are responsible for choosing credible sources for our writing. The above techniques and articles just emphasise how easy it is to be deceived. These articles use blatantly unrealistic topics like zombies and vampires, but what if they didn’t and it wasn’t so easy to determine, whether the article is real or not. What if the article was produced with an intent to misinform? We have to be aware of this possibility and research not just the topic, but also the sources.
The list is of course non-exhaustive and I would welcome any contribution and any of your opinions on the matter.
 Southern Fried Scientist. (30/10/2009). Blood and Brains – can vampires survive a zombie apocalypse?. In Southern Fried Science. Retrieved 02/05/2011, from http://www.southernfriedscience.com/?p=2528.
 Sandford, S. (1995). Apples and Oranges — A Comparison . The Annals of Improbable Research, 1:3. Retrieved 05/05/2011, from http://improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume1/v1i3/air-1-3-apples.html.
 Theriot, E., Bogan, A., Spamer, E. (1995). The Taxonomy of Barney: Evidence of Convergence in Hominid Evolution. The Annals of Improbable Research, 1:1. Retrieved 05/05/2011, from http://improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume1/v1i1/barney.htm.
 Schultz, D. (1998). Does It Rain More Often on Weekends? The Annals of Improbable Research, 4:2. Retrieved 05/05/2011, from http://improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume4/v4i2/rainmore.htm.
 Fonstad, M., Pugatch, W., Vogt, B. (2003) Kansas Is Flatter Than a Pancake. The Annals of Improbable Research, 9:3. Retrieved 05/05/2011, from http://improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume9/v9i3/kansas.html.