This announcement, reproduced verbatim, appeared recently on grants.gov:
Department of Health and Human Services
National Institutes of Health
Integrative Systems Biology Approaches to Auditory Hair Cell Regeneration (R21)
Auditory hair cell regeneration? Oh, the possibilities…
Scream treatment: The ideal job for a retired drill instructor. The DI rants, nose against the bald spot. “HEY, you sissy follicles. I’m talking to YOU! Get your lazy asses in GEAR! I want to see some HAIR and I want to see it NOW! YOU GOT THAT?” And so forth.
Music therapy: The bald person is put in a small, dark room, dozens of tiny speakers arrayed around his head. Vivaldi and Rachmaninoff alternate with Thin Lizzy and Motorhead. Perhaps the soundtrack from “Hair.”
Natural remedies: Through ear buds (how appropriate), the patient is given frequent doses of selected sounds from nature, suggesting fecundity and growth. Cricket chirps, water flowing over rocks, spring peepers, a gentle rainfall, the mating calls of various bird species, a chimpanzee in heat.
Science fiction placebo: The balding patient is placed in a room lined floor to ceiling with sophisticated-looking, futuristic gadgets tended by serious-looking men and women in lab coats of shiny black and silver. He is told that these machines positively will make his hair grow back if he concentrates on the sounds. The machines have names like Follicular Stimulation Aggregator, Double Intensity Scalp Hydrotron, Shaft Dysfunctionometer. They whir, they beep, they oscillate. He is convinced beyond doubt that the sounds he hears are the sounds of his own hair growing.
But the grant is for “integrative systems,” so the potential grantee would have to figure out a way to combine these.
The machines are tended not by faux scientists, but by chimps in heat, supervised by a drill instructor in a lab coat. And through the room a stream runs and birds flutter, with the combined sounds of all these things (plus Vivaldi), delivered straight to the patient like an auditory stew.
I am so going to apply for this grant!