How to make Stephen Colbert eat cat food

Doing science can have unforeseen consequences. This happened to me:

  1. I write an article for Science about the similarities between pâté and dog food.
  2. I publish the results of an experiment showing that people can’t distinguish samples of pâté from dog food. (PDF file)
  3. Stephen Colbert eats cat food on television:
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen’s Fancy Feast
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News

Colbert is a comic genius, but in this case he missed the point.  That the subjects were not able to tell which one was the dog food isn’t really so surprising.  That was the prerequisite for showing that this was a truly unbiased taste-test. The real result is that people *hated* the taste of the dog food sample, and yet did no better than random at identifying it as the dog food. Now there’s a mystery.

Here’s some media commentators who got it right: CBS News, LA Times. This month a peer-reviewed version of my dog food study was published in Chance, the journal of the American Statistical Association.

-Gonzo Scientist