Swedish Scientists Hide Bob Dylan Lyrics in Scholarly Articles

The winner of a competition to see who hides the most lyrics before retirement gets lunch

Bob Dylan in 1965. Credit: Val Wilmer/Redferns

For nearly two decades, a group of Swedish scientists have been amusing one another by seeing who can conceal the most Bob Dylan lyrics in their scholarly articles before retirement. The competition dates back to a scientific paper about farts titled, "Nitric Oxide and Inflammation: The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind," The Local reports (via Gawker). The authors of the paper, John Jundberg and Eddie Weitzberg – both professors at Stocklholm's Karolinska Institute – later went on to sneak "the times, they are a-changing" into an article.

"We both really liked Bob Dylan and we thought the quotes really fitted nicely with what we were trying to achieve with the title," Weitzberg told the paper of the flatulence article. He also clarified that they're not trying to pull one over on the scientific community. "We're not talking about scientific papers - we could have got in trouble for that - but rather articles we have written about research by others, book introductions, editorials and things like that," he said.

The competition took off after a librarian alerted the two to another pair of medical professors – at the very same university – who had doubled down on Dylan references for an article titled "Blood on the Tracks: A Simple Twist of Fate." From there, Weitzberg and Jundberg concocted the contest, opening it up to anyone else interested and recruiting one more scientist, who wrote "Tangled Up in Blue: Molecular Cardiology in the Postmolecular Era." The winner gets lunch at a restaurant in Solna, north of Stockholm.

"I would much rather become famous for my scientific work than for my Bob Dylan quotes," Weitzberg told The Local. "But yes, I am enjoying this."

In semi-related news, a book this year compiled all the ways Dylan had allegedly appropriated the works of others in his music and 2004 memoir, Chronicles: Volume One. The book, The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob – written by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist David Kinney – highlights many examples of supposed plagiarism that a New Mexico DJ, Scott Warmuth, had collected. According to The Daily Beast, the book spotlights lines Dylan lifted from everything from Mark Twain to a 1961 issue of Time.

"Dylan has hidden many puzzles, jokes, secret messages, secondary meanings and bizarre subtexts in his book," Warmuth, who studied cryptography and code-breaking after making his first discoveries, wrote in an essay. "Dylan borrows from American classics and travel guides, fiction and nonfiction about the Civil War, science fiction, crime novels, both Thomas Wolfe and Tom Wolfe, Hemingway, books on photography, songwriting, Irish music, soul music and a book about the art of the sideshow banner. He dipped into both a book favored by a 19th century occult society and a book about the Lewinsky scandal by Showgirls screenwriter Joe Eszterhas."

Warmuth claims to have uncovered more than 1,000 "citations" that Dylan has made over the years. "The question is…what does it all amount to?" Kinney told The Daily Beast. "Is there more to it than that? Who knows?"

For his part, Dylan had strong words for those who accuse him of plagiarism. "Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff," he told Rolling Stone in 2012. It's an old thing – it's part of the tradition. It goes way back." After comparing the people who complain about his citations to those who complained about him going electric, he said a line that will be hard to shoehorn into a scientific paper: "All those evil motherfuckers can rot in hell."