Scientists who study and write about intestinal gases—just like the rest of us, I guess—find it hard to resist the occasional fart joke. And when they’re John Jundberg and Eddie Weitzberg, two professors at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, they can’t resist couching their occasional fart joke in a Bob Dylan lyric, part of a now seventeen-year tradition among five Swedish scientists who’ve been slipping Dylan lyrics into their publications, wagering on who can fit the most in before retirement.
It all began with Jundberg and Weitzberg’s “Nitric oxide and inflammation: the answer is blowing in the wind,” published in the journal Nature Medicine in 1997. (See Dylan play the paper’s inspiration above in 1963.) Next came articles like “Blood on the tracks: a simple twist of fate” by Konstantinos Meletis and Jonas Frisen and “Tangled up in blue: Molecular cardiology in the postmolecular era” by Kenneth Chien.
The five aren’t the only scientists who try to spice up dry research publications with wordplay. “If you read other scientific articles,” ways Weitzberg, “you’ll find people trying to be clever in different ways.” But they don’t do so at the expense of the science, or their careers: “We’re not talking about scientific papers—we could have got in trouble for that-but rather articles we have written about research by others, book introductions, editorials and things like that.”
The writer with the most Dylan references gets lunch in a restaurant in Solna, a town north of Stockholm. But thanks to interest from outlets like the Washington Post, he may also get a few extra minutes of fame. Weitzberg’s response? “I would much rather become famous for my scientific work than for my Bob Dylan quotes, but yes, I am enjoying this!”