In the early days of exploration into the mysteries of DNA and RNA, the experimental "tool" of choice was the lowly flatworm or liver fluke, Platyhelminthes, planaria, Dughesia tigrina. These hardy specimens were easily obtained, simple enough that their behavior resembled organic NOT gates, and capable of regenerating from cuts, longitudinal or axial. Even partial cuts would stimulate regeneration, giving rise to worms with two, three, even ten heads.
The excitement in using flatworms was that they could be "taught" to run a maze, then shown (by Dr. James V. McConnell in a disputed experiment) to transmit their knowledge to untrained planaria who consumed their chopped-up bodies. Something in the trained worms acted as a knowledge store. This stuff, named "Memory RNA" by its discoverer, prompted hopes of a "Ph.D. pill" in the future.
The maze-running of such animals to create a trained food-source for investigation was so widespread, it gave rise to the quasi-satiric Worm-Runner's Digest, published at first as humorous entries in the staid Journal of Biological Psychology. When the satirical pieces began to diminish the reputation of his peer-reviewed items, Digest editor James V. McConnell first printed the humor pieces upside down at the end of each volume, then separated the two entirely.
Freed from the proximity to the now-waning furor over the college-bound planarium, Digest articles eventually covered a multitude of topics, from archaeology to zoophyly. This particlar collection, Science, Sex, and Sacred Cows, is "more than 50 percent planaria by volume." I hope we can all learn something from its consumption.
From the initial "Questions and answers with Grant Swinger" (in which the operations of the "Center for Absorption of Federal Funds" are described) to the final "Neil Illusions" (showing the panicked urge for new optical illusions to which the researcher's name might be appended), these are iconoclastic articles. Their primary aim is to amuse, but the secondary purpose is to let hot air out of the pompous image of the scientist.