Local Current Blog

Swedish scientists compete to sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into academic papers

via Karolinska Institute on Facebook

What do Bob Dylan and flatulence have in common? In their research paper “Nitric Oxide and inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind,” two Swedish scientists made the comical connection. For the last 17 years, Jon Lundberg and Eddie Weitzberg, professors at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, have been sneaking Dylan lyrics into their scholarly articles in an ongoing battle of wits.

“We both really liked Bob Dylan and we thought the quotes really fitted nicely with what we were trying to achieve with the title,” Professor Weitzberg explained to The Local.

The competition was sparked when a librarian noticed an article titled “Blood on the tracks: A simple twist of fate” written by two other professors at the same Stockholm university. When their Dylan predilection became known, the two professors, put the challenge to their colleagues: the one with the most Dylan references before retirement would earn a free lunch.

“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,” explained Weitzberg.

Yet another punny professor eagerly joined the arms race—cardiovascular researcher Kenneth Chien penned “Tangled up in blue: Molecular cardiology in the postmolecular era.”

This simple contest among colleagues has since become known worldwide. “I would much rather become famous for my scientific work than for my Bob Dylan quotes,” Weitzberg told The Local. “But yes, I am enjoying this!”

For cynics who find the wordplay eye-roll-inducing: don’t criticize what you can’t understand.

Selena Carlson is currently tackling a double major in journalism and music business at Augsburg College. In addition to writing, she is an avid enthusiast of all things banjo; biking; and breakfast for dinner.