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The mini-Annals of Improbable Research ("mini-AIR")

Issue number 2006-07

July 2006

ISSN 1076-500X

Key words: improbable research, science humor, Ig Nobel, AIR, the

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A free newsletter of tidbits too tiny to fit in

the bi-monthly paper magazine

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

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2006-07-01 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

2006-07-02 What's New in the Magazine

2006-07-03 The Man Behind the Foods from Hell

2006-07-04 Ig Nobel Tickets (and Delegations)

2006-07-05 Cannibal Crickets Poet

2006-07-06 Trekian Diatom Limerick Competition

2006-07-07 "Atom & Eve," Frank and Diane

2006-07-08 Hair Added, Again

2006-07-09 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Intelligence: Swarming Consultants

2006-07-10 BLOGLIGHTS: Cranium, Earwigs, Babe and Cheese

2006-07-11 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Hair, Noise and Suction

2006-07-12 Improbable Research Events

 

2006-07-13 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

2006-07-14 Our Address (*)

2006-07-15 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

2006-07-16 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

 

        Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

 

        mini-AIR is

        a free monthly *e-supplement* to the print magazine

        Annals of Improbable Research

 

 

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2006-07-02 What's New in the Magazine

 

The July/Aug issue (vol. 12, no. 4) of the Annals of Improbable

Research is the special THE issue. It will be arriving on

subscribers' doorsteps a few weeks from now.

 

The table of contents is online at:

<http://tinyurl.com/nafch>

 

Highlights include:

 

<> "The The Research Review," compiled by Alice Shirrell Kaswell.

<> "An/The/An Index of Confusion," by Philip O'Leary.

<> "NA and Missing Library Books," by Joyce Flynn.

<> "Where The," by Marc Abrahams.

 

and much more.

 

To subscribe (6 paper issues per year) go to

<http://improbable.com/subscribe/>

or see Section 2006-07-13, below.

 

        ***   Thanks to everyone who suggested we make it

               easier to subscribe online.

               Finally, we have: <http://improbable.com/subscribe/>

 

 

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2006-07-03 The Man Behind the Foods from Hell

 

This month's Underappreciated Scientist is Alexander Tse-Yan Lee, B. H.

Sci.; Dip. Prof. Counsel.; MAIPC; MACA. Dr. Lee has been in the news

lately, albeit tangentially. The attention went to his study:

 

"Hair Soy Sauce: A Revolting Alternative to the Conventional,"

Internet Journal of Toxicology, vol. 2, no. 1, date slightly

uncertain, <http://tinyurl.com/czcpv>. The reader learns something

even from a glance at the section headings:

 

  <> The Soy Sauce - An Introduction

  <> The Cheap Soy Sauce That Aroused the Public

  <> The Stunning Alternative to Soy - the Human Hair

  <> Toxic Consequences of The Hair and The Chemicals

  <> The Boycott Phenomena

  <> Conclusion

 

But little attention has been paid to Dr. Lee himself or to his other

works. Dr. Lee's stated affiliation is unusual: Queers Network Research,

Hong Kong, China. So are his other published works, of which we will

mention just four:

 

"The Foods From Hell: Food Colouring," Internet Journal of Toxicology,

vol. 2, no. 2, date also slightly uncertain. The report is online at

<http://tinyurl.com/kk6cj>. Here, too, the section headers are

evocative:

 

  <> Food Colouring Agents: Synthetic Versus Natural

  <> Coloured Chinese Steamed Corn-Buns

  <> Coloured Dry Shrimps (Dried Shrimps?)

  <> Coloured Fruits

  <> Coloured Vegetables

  <> Coloured Dark Rice

  <> Coloured Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicinal Products

  <> Conclusion

 

"Faked Eggs: The World's Most Unbelievable Invention," Internet Journal

of Toxicology, vol. 2, no. 1, date slightly uncertain,

<http://tinyurl.com/qrpm8>. The headings are:

  <> A Brief Introduction to Problem Foods in Mainland China

  <> The Eggs that Cause Problems

  <> The "Red Yolk" Eggs

  <> The Soil-Filled Eggs

  <> The Human-Made Eggs

  <> Is it a good advice to sniff the eggs only?

  <> Conclusion

 

Dr. Lee also wrote "Therapeutic Touch: The Conventional Verses the

Alternative," Australian Journal of Holistic Nursing, vol. 11, no 1.,

April 2004, pp. 3-36, <http://tinyurl.com/gkurg>. This paper explains

that pain is "the most irritating sensation known to mankind." But the

study's central topic -- "therapeutic touch -- was the subject of the

1998 Ig Nobel Prize awarded to Dolores Krieger, inventor of therapeutic

touch. (For details of that, see

<http://www.improbable.com/ig/ig-pastwinners.html#ig1998>.

 

Dr. Lee wrote a book -- "My Weight Loss Diary eBook -- which can be

purchased for download at <http://tinyurl.com/om9xm>. The summary alone

may be worth the $6 price:

 

"With certificate from a pancake challenge after finishing a stack of

pancake in less than 2 minutes; holding a record of eating 8 family size

pizzas in a buffet dinner; having two burgers with milk shake for lunch

everyday and finishing an extra large size frozen chicken with chips and

gravy for snacks while still demanding for more."

 

(Thanks to investigator Rose Fox for bringing Dr. Lee to our attention.)

 

 

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2006-07-04 Ig Nobel Tickets (and Delegations)

 

Tickets for the Sixteenth 1st Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony go on

sale August 1. The event always sells out, so (we remind you) if

you want to be there, it's a good idea to get tickets soon.

 

The ceremony will occur on Thursday night, October 5, at Harvard's

Sanders Theatre. Ten new Ig Nobel winners will journey there from

around the world. Each has done something that first makes people

LAUGH, and then makes them THINK. A gaggle of Nobel Laureates will

be on stage to physically hand the prizes to the new winners.

 

TICKETS can be obtained from the Harvard Box Office:

        ONLINE: <http://tinyurl.com/jem2k>

        TELEPHONE: (+1) 617-496-2222

 

DELEGATIONS:

If you are coming with a group of five or more people, you can

register as an official audience delegation, and receive

recognition during the ceremony.

TO REGISTER AS A DELEGATION: FIRST get your tickets from the

Harvard box office, and THEN register your delegation with Louise

Sacco, the Grand Panjandrum of the Delegations, at

781-444-6757, <lsacco AT rcn.com>.

 

 

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2006-07-05 Cannibal Crickets Poet

 

Here is the winner of last month's limerick competition, which

asked for a limerick to honor the following study:

 

        "Cannibal Crickets On A Forced March for Protein and Salt,"

        Stephen J. Simpson, Gregory A. Sword, Patrick D. Lorch and

        Iain D. Couzin, Proceedings of the National Academy of

        Sciences, vol. 103, no. 11, March 14, 2006, pp. 4152-6.

 

You can read the report itself, if you dare, at

<http://tinyurl.com/gwmng>

 

The winner is investigator Toby Norris, who wrote:

 

Said Simpson, "This fare's just the ticket.

For nice salty food one can't lick it."

   When wielding his Sword

   Lorch exclaimed, "Oh, dear Lord,

Couzin slaughter is not really cricket."

 

Martin Eiger, our Limerick Laureate, offers his take on the subject:

 

Some might say it's sadistic and vicious.

To others, it seems expeditious.

   The crickets show how.

   Kill and eat someone now.

It's delicious, and also nutritious.

 

 

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2006-07-06 Trekian Diatom Limerick Competition

 

Diatoms are/is the subject of this month's limerick competition.

To enter, compose an original limerick that illuminates the nature

of this report (which was brought to our attention by investigator

Kristine Danowski):

 

        "Star Trek Replicators and Diatom Nanotechnology,"

        R.W. Drum and R. Gordon, Trends in Biotechnology,

        vol. 21, no. 8, August 2003, pp. 325-8. 

        The authors explain that:

       

        Diatoms are single celled algae, the 105-106 species of

        which create a wide variety of three-dimensional amorphous

        silica shells.... A recent paper has demonstrated that

        silica can be replaced atom for atom without change of

        shape -- a step towards the Star Trek replicator.

 

You can read the entire report at <http://tinyurl.com/pestd>.

 

RULES: Please make sure your rhymes actually do, and that your

poem adheres to classic limerick form.

 

PRIZE: The winning poet will receive a (if we manage to send it to

the correct address) a free, and possibly diatomacious, issue of

the Annals of Improbable Research. Send entries (one entry per

entrant) to:

 

        Trekian Diatom Competition

        c/o <marca AT chem2.harvard.edu>

 

 

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2006-07-07 "Atom & Eve," Frank and Diane

 

A new version of the mini-opera "Atom & Eve" will be the highlight

of a webcast from Austria on Friday, August 25. It's the featured

Friday evening event at the 2006 Alpbach Technology Forum, in the

little mountain town where Wehrner Heisenberg is buried.

 

The performance stars Nobel Physics Laureate (and MIT professor)

Frank Wilczek -- making his operatic singing debut -- as a humble

oxygen atom, and soprano Diane Shooman (artist and professor at

the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien) as the

beautiful chemist who falls in love with him. They have some

obvious difficulties to overcome.

 

The mini-opera premiered at the 2003 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony. The

new version has a revised ending.

 

The event also features Improbable Research editor Marc Abrahams

and 2003 Ig Nobel Economics Prize winner Karl Schwarzler.

 

Details are at

<http://www.alpbach.org/English/forum2006/technologie.htm>

 

The webcast will begin at 7:00 pm local (Austria) time.

Watch it at

<http://www.alpbach.org>

 

 

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2006-07-08 Hair Added, Again

 

The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS) has

acquired some new members. Admire their hair at

<http://improbable.com/category/lfhcfs-hair-club>

 

 

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2006-07-09 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Business: Swarming Consultants

 

Each month we select for your special attention a research report

that seems particularly worth a close read. This month's pick:

 

                       * * *

"Swarm Intelligence. A Whole New Way to Think About Business," E.

Bonabeau and C. Meyer, Harvard Business Review, vol. 79, no. 5,

May 2001, pp. 106-14 and 165. The authors, who are at Cap Gemini

Ernst and Young Center for Business Innovation, Cambridge, MA,

explain their work thusly:

 

"What do ants and bees have to do with business? A great deal, it

turns out. Individually, social insects are only minimally

intelligent, and their work together is largely self-organized and

unsupervised. Yet collectively they're capable of finding highly

efficient solutions to difficult problems and can adapt

automatically to changing environments. Over the past 20 years,

the authors and other researchers have developed rigorous

mathematical models to describe this phenomenon, which has been

dubbed 'swarm intelligence,' and they are now applying them to

business.... In the future, the authors speculate, a company might

structure its entire business using the principles of swarm

intelligence."

                       * * *

Read it all at <http://tinyurl.com/kwydw>.

 

 

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2006-07-10 BLOGLIGHTS: Cranium, Earwigs, Babe and Cheese

 

Here are some recent topics in our blog:

 

<> Professors measured my cranium

<> "Missing Steps" mystery identified and solved

<> When Lipscomb met Fisher

<> Fiction makes history (in Holland)

<> Clip enthusiast wanted (volunteer)

<> Earwigs not preferred

 

and some from the newspaper column in The Guardian:

 

<> Special delivery: babe

<> Cheese, Cheese, Charalambides

<> Scratch Hard

<> Alcohol and Handwriting (an experiment)

 

        ... and many others

 

Read the blog (and the columns) at <http://www.improbable.com>

 

 

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2006-07-11 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Hair, Noise and Suction

 

HAIR: THE NEXT GENERATION

"Reproductive Outcome Among Female Hairdressers," L. Rylander, A.

Axmon, K. Torén and M. Albin, Occupational and Environmental

Medicine, vol. 59, 2002, pp. 517-522. (Thanks to Ron Josephson for

bringing this to our attention.) The authors are at University

Hospital, Lund, Sweden, and  Sahlgrenska University Hospital,

Gothenburg, Sweden.

 

A JOYFUL NOISE, TECHNICALLY SPEAKING

"An Epidemic of Laughing in the Bukoba District of Tanganyika,"

A.M. Rankin, and P.J. Philip,  Central African Journal of

Medicine, vol. 9, 1963, pp. 167-70. (Thanks to Raj Prasad for

bringing this to our attention.) The authors report that the

epidemic lasted six months.

 

SUCTION AND SWELLING

"Automated Measurement of Total Suction Characteristics in High-

Suction Range: Application to Assessment of Swelling Potential,"

by William J. Likos and Ning Lu, Transportation Research Record,

no. 1755, paper no. 01-0303. (Thanks to Nigel Mends for bringing

this to our attention.)

 

 

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2006-07-12 Improbable Research Events

 

For details and updates see

<http://improbable.com/improbable-research-shows/complete-schedule>

 

ALPBACH TECH FORUM, ALPBACH, AUSTRIA     -- AUG 24-26, 2006

Performance of the mini-Opera "Atom & Eve"

 

MASSACHUSETTS MEDICAL SOC (BERKSHIRES)  -- TUE, SEP 17, 2006

 

EMBEDDED SYSTEMS CONF., BOSTON, MA        -- TUE, SEP 26, 2006

 

2006 IG NOBEL PRIZE CEREMONY                  -- THU, OCT 5, 2006

Sanders Theatre, Harvard University

Tickets go on sale in August

 

IG INFORMAL LECTURES                              -- SAT, OCT 7, 2006

MIT, in the afternoon

 

UNIV. OF ILLINOIS, BECKMAN INSTITUTE     -- WED, OCT. 25

 

ASSOC OF COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY BIOLOGICAL EDUCATORS (ACUBE),

MILLIKIN UNIVERSITY, DECATUR, ILLINOIS  -- THU, OCT 26, 2006

 

 

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2006-07-13 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

 

The Annals of Improbable Research is a paper magazine. (It's not

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-----------------------------------------------------

2006-07-14 Our Address (*)

 

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA

617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927

 

EDITORIAL: marca AT chem2.harvard.edu

SUBSCRIPTIONS: air AT improbable.com

WEB SITE: <http://www.improbable.com>

 

 

-----------------------------------------------------

2006-07-15 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

 

Please distribute copies of mini-AIR (or excerpts!) wherever

appropriate. The only limitations are: A) Please indicate that the

material comes from mini-AIR. B) You may NOT distribute mini-AIR

for commercial purposes.

 

        ------------- mini-AIRheads -------------

EDITOR: Marc Abrahams

MINI-PROOFREADER AND PICKER OF NITS (before we introduce the last

few at the last moment): Wendy Mattson

WWW EDITOR/GLOBAL VILLAGE IDIOT: Amy Gorin

COMMUTATIVE EDITOR: Stanley Eigen

ASSOCIATIVE EDITOR: Mark Dionne

PSYCHOLOGY EDITOR: Robin Abrahams

CO-CONSPIRATORS: Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Gary Dryfoos, Ernest

Ersatz, S. Drew

MAITRE DE COMPUTATION: Jerry Lotto

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Nobel Laureates Dudley Herschbach, Sheldon

Glashow, William Lipscomb, Richard Roberts

 

(c) copyright 2006, Annals of Improbable Research

 

 

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2006-07-16 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

 

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