Gov’t Falling Coconut Advice Underscored

Dr. Barss accepting an Ig Nobel Prize in 2001

Knowingly or not, Indian government officials acted in accord with published medical advice when they ordered recently that coconuts be removed from the trees at Mumbai’s Gandhi museum for fear that a nut would descend on to the head of President Obama. Should those officials wish to more fully educate the public, they could distribute copies of the study Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts by Dr Peter Barss, which appeared in the November 1984 issue of The Journal of Trauma.

As a young Canadian doctor newly relocated to Papua New Guinea, Barss wondered what were the most common kinds of traumatic injuries that produced patients for the Provincial Hospital in Alotau, Milne Bay Province. He discovered that “2.5% of such admissions were due to being struck by falling coconuts”….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.