Einsteins Disguised: Scientists Slip Bob Dylan Lyrics Into Academic Studies

expand=1]You've been with the professors, and they all like your looks...

A group of five Swedish scientists of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have revealed that they have been inserting Bob Dylan lyrics and song titles into research articles for the past 17 years as part of a bet. The scientist who winds up quoting Dylan the most often before retirement is set to win lunch in a restaurant.

According to Eddie Weitzberg, one of the scientists, it all started in 1997, when he and his colleague Jon Lundberg published an article in Nature Medicine 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, with the purpose of detecting inflammation, the title came up and it fitted there perfectly,” he says on the Institute's website.

Several years later, the two men noticed in an article on blood cells written by Jonas Frisén, a professor at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, and Konstantinos Meletis, of the Department of Neuroscience, something strange about the title: "Blood on the tracks: a simple twist of fate". A Bob Dylan album name, followed with a song from the album.

They didn't think twice, the game was on all right.

Strangely enough, another scientist, from a university in Huddinge, near Stockholm, had also been quoting Bob Dylan in his publications, but was also unaware others had been doing the same, according to the Karolinska Institute. Even more strange, the first time he did so was also in 1997, in an article he called "Tangled up in blue: Molecular cardiology in the postmolecular era," which was published in Circulation, a scientific magazine.

Including complete Dylan song titles into article headlines may not be the most subtle bet in the world, but it kept going without, seemingly and amazingly, no one noticing until this week. Other titles included "The Biological Role of Nitrate and Nitrite: The Times They Are a-Changin," "Eph Receptors Tangled Up in Two", and "Dietary Nitrate – A Slow Train Coming."

It's not the first time Dylan has wound up in the halls of academia. In 1970, at the age of 29, the college dropout from Minnesota received an honorary degree from Princeton University. Listening to a song, Day of the Locusts, he wrote afterwards, he apparently didn't much like the scholarly recognition. And now, Bob, How does it feel...?

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.

Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!