Jokermen: Swedish scientists sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into articles in 17yr bet
The bet began in 1997, after the Nature’s publication of a paper by academics Jon Lundberg and Eddie Weitzberg called ‘Nitric Oxide and Inflammation: The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind.’
“We both really like Bob Dylan so when we set about writing an article concerning the measurement of nitric oxide gas in both the respiratory tracts and the intestine ... the title came up and it fitted there perfectly,” Weitzberg told the Local.
That’s where it could have ended, but a few years later, a librarian noted that two of the scientists’ colleagues had titled their paper ‘Blood on the Tracks: A Simple Twist of Fate?’ That document was dedicated to the ability of non-neural cells to generate neurons.
Thus, the bet was struck.
“The one who has written most articles with Dylan quotes before going into retirement wins a lunch at the [local] restaurant Jöns Jacob,” Lundberg explained the deal.
The fifth competitor was Kenneth Chien, a professor of cardiovascular research, who heard about the bet at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, where the four scientists worked.
In 1998, Chien published his first ‘Dylan-titled’ paper: ‘Tangled Up in Blue: Molecular Cardiology in the Postmolecular Era.’
Then, the competition dramatically heated up. In 2009, ‘The Biological Role of Nitrate and Nitrite: The Times They Are a-Changin’’ by Lundberg and Weitzberg saw the light; then ‘Eph Receptors Tangled Up in Two’ in 2010, and ‘Dietary Nitrate – A Slow Train Coming’ in 2011.
The bet could only apply to papers “about research by others, book introductions, editorials and things like that,” not to strict scientific articles.
“We could have got in trouble for that,” Weitzberg said.
All five scientists are obviously great fans of Dylan, but “would much rather become famous for scientific work than for Bob Dylan quotes,” Weitzberg told the Local.
“But yes, I’m enjoying this!” the scientist added.
Weitzberg also said that their case is not unique.
"We really are not the only ones who try to be smart and catchy in our headlines. If you read other scientific articles you'll find people trying to be clever in different ways," he said.