I'm a big fan of the Ig Nobel Prize(s), awarded every year by the editors of the magazine Annals of Improbable Research. At least a few of this year's winners conducted research that might be of some distant relevance to the law, which gives me an excuse to mention them.
- The Physics Prize went to three researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand, for research demonstrating that slips and falls occur less often in winter if people wear their socks on the outside of their shoes. See "Preventing Winter Falls: A Randomised Controlled Trial of a Novel Intervention," Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest, 122 N.Z. Med. J. (No. 1298) at 31-38 (July 3, 2009). Could be relevant to comparative negligence if this knowledge becomes widespread.
- The Peace Prize went not to President Obama but to three researchers at Keele University in the UK, for confirming that swearing in response to a painful event does indeed make you feel better. See "Swearing as a Response to Pain," Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston, 20 Neuroreport (No. 12) at 1056-60 (2009). This seems generally useful to the practice of law, and in many other situations.
- The research possibly most relevant to law-firm governance won the Management Prize (they had already given the Economics Prize to Bear Stearns, et al.). Three Italian mathematicians have demonstrated that organizations would become more efficient if they either promoted people entirely at random or sometimes deliberately promoted people believed to be incompetent. See “The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study,” Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo, 389 Physica A (No. 3) at 467-72 (Feb. 2010).
All the winning studies are worth a look, especially if you have any interest in whale phlegm, fruit bats, or the medical uses of roller coasters.