When a scientist says something, his colleagues must ask themselves only whether it is true. When a politician says something, his colleagues must first of all ask, “Why does he say it?”
Leo Szilard, The Voice of Dolphins, 1961
My colleagues often ask if what I am saying is true. Then I say something which makes me sound like a politician, “I don’t think that’s the issue can I have some more money please?”
Allen A. Alan, Grant application for funding to study the lyrics of dolphin songs, 2010.
Illness: Fee-ness Enlargement
Discovered by: There is some difficulty in pinpointing one placebologist who first discovered this specific form of inflammation as rather than a single first patient there was in fact an epidemic that arose all at once. One morning at a specific point in time as indicated by a clock, thousands of university students woke up to find that they had grossly enlarged fee-ness. Naturally this resulted in widespread panic and those that could summon the immense amount of energy required to haul their mammoth fee-ness through the doors of their student hovel went and reported their symptoms to their local placebologist or if they got lost, bank manager. Technically the first placebologist to publish the phenomenon was Dr Will Davitts; placebologist specialising in alternative rheumatology, 100m sprint champion and suspiciously bald neighbour of Universities Minister David Willetts.
Epidemiology: Fee-ness enlargement occurs primarily in university students and other fungi. Currently this disorder is only known in the UK but this may be because placebologists haven’t bothered looking anywhere else. Demographically fee-ness enlargement is spread evenly throughout all groups of university students. There is some evidence that high economic status represents a protective factor against the disorder. It doesn’t prevent it happening but the piles of money give the patient something to rest their gargantuan fee-ness on. Conversely, some students’ fee-ness can become so grossly engorged that they block entry to university to those with less money. It is thought that the lack of money cushioning for the fee-ness can cause severe chaffing in such individuals as they are forced to scrape their mighty fee-ness across the cold, hard floor. Nobody wants fee-ness chaffing.
Aetiology: Technically fee-ness enlargement is an alternative autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases as they occur in non-alternative medicine happen when the immune system of the non-alternative body erroneously attacks its own tissues. The alternative immune system is a much more formidable beast and is capable of attacking everyone’s alternative body at once. While suffering from fee-ness enlargement, the alternative immune system attacks the alternative tissues (which are man-sized and have a soothing balm coating) of its own alternative body. The alternative immune system then goes on to recognise everyone else’s body as belonging to it and attacks them as well. This explains the epidemic nature of this disease unless you’re stupid. As you might expect, the tissues the alternative immune system attacks in fee-ness enlargement are those of the fee-ness. Why this is the case is not fully understood but may be related to the student nature of those affected. The fee-ness is a relatively recently evolved organ and only occurs in the sub-species of human recognised as university students. Inappropriate stimulation of the alternative immune system, for example by something that might do that, may cause the alternative immune system to recognise the relatively new presence of the fee-ness as a foreign organism and attack it. The racist!
Symptoms: The fee-ness becomes inflamed, red, difficult to look at and upsetting to the individual’s balance. There is some pain when the fee-ness approaches maximal enlargement and the patients are driven by strange impulses to eat solely beans. The fee-ness can become so ridiculously massive that it can affect the sufferers’ hearing. Only particular frequencies of sound are lost due to the way the enlarged fee-ness filters noise. The filtering results primarily in politicians speaking on the need get poor students to fund higher education sounding like they are talking bollocks.
Treatment: Management of fee-ness enlargement can be divided into prevention and cure. Prevention relies on placebologists recognising fee-ness enlargement before it can occur. This is extremely difficult due to the rapidity with which enlargement of the fee-ness can occur. Warning signs include the student saying, “My fee-ness is big whereas previously it was small”. If this occurs and the student consults a placebologist rapidly enough then the alternative immune system can be protected from inappropriate stimulation. Oo-er. This is achieved by putting caps on universities. Research has shown that the sight of a university roof is highly irritating to the alternative immune system and putting a cap on them, possibly backwards so it looks cooler, can prevent this initial irritation.
Should fee-ness enlargement occur, it will occur in the entire student population and as such will be extremely difficult to treat. To reduce the inflammation the activity of the alternative immune system has to be suppressed until it recognises that it is attacking itself and feels foolish. One example of how this could be achieved is by showing the alternative immune system a picture of a Liberal Democrat. This is formally known as satire-oid treatment.