There’s an article in C&EN that led me to about this article in Medical Hypotheses about belly button lint. A real scientist, Prof. Steinhauser of Vienna University of Technology made a careful study of the stuff. I almost wrote serious scientist, but I think Prof. Steinhauser would agree that he is a funny scientist.
The upshot is that his hypothesis seems to be true: if you have belly hair, you are probably more prone to belly button lint.
The reactions to this 2+ year trial have been mixed. I certainly think he deserves an IgNobel award. That is mixed praise at best. But I will say this: there is a place for frivolous science. Frivolous is not the same as wasteful. A study that is funny, interesting and still rigorous and well designed constitutes a feat.
I would make the analogy of a serious columnist writing a humor piece. It’s still journalism and it’s still an opportunity for good writing. In a similar way, science with a spirit of levity still deserves to be called science.