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Searching for the weird

Researcher Nicola Merrett

“How’s work going?” A friend asks me, eager to hear tales of my career in television production. Truthfully I reply, "It’s weird."

Did you know:

  • A mysterious underwater sound, thought to be Russian submarines spying in Swedish waters, turned out to be schools of harmless herring passing wind!
  • A sense of smell tells us more than whether milk is past its best; we subconsciously sniff our hands after shaking the hand of somebody we’ve never met before.
  • Scientists have been experimenting with sexual preference in the animal kingdom (it does sometimes seem a little random, i.e. the huge nose of a male proboscis monkey). It turns out that male rats can be quite easily trained to find female rats wearing jackets more ‘attractive’. Yep, seductive rat jackets.

My brain is full to bursting with bizarre facts about the natural world and new scientific discoveries. I was one of several researchers developing story ideas for a new BBC2 series, World’s Weirdest Events. The interrogation advice from our series producer Aaron Paul, “Does it make you say, “Oh my God” or “What the…?”

“are you the man that’s been finding gold in poo?”

In my office no-one raises an eyebrow when overhearing phone conversations such as, “hello, I’d like to speak to you about rat jackets” (and yes they are jackets for rats), or, “so what kind of presents do the crows bring you?”, or, “are you the man that’s been finding gold in poo?”.

And when I sigh looking at the calendar and say that the salmon cannon people are not available in April, it’s considered nothing but a scheduling issue.

While my understanding of what is, or is not, polite to discuss during meal times has become blurred, and I dread to think what personality conclusions would be drawn if my search history was ever interrogated, I am grateful that in my professionally weird world I, at least, learn something new every day!