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

Issue number 2007-10

October 2007

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

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

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2007-10-01 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

2007-10-02 Imminent Events

2007-10-03 What's New in the Magazine

2007-10-04 Announcing the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

2007-10-05 Nominations for '08

2007-10-06 Perched Chicken Poet Triumph

2007-10-07 More About Those Hens

2007-10-08 Proof Less Strange Competition

2007-10-09 Cheerful Search for a Crab Louse

2007-10-10 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Smart Thugs Thieve

2007-10-11 BLOGLIGHTS: Data, a Rhino, and a Happy Man

2007-10-12 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Chewing, Running, Rubber Duck

2007-10-13 Improbable Research Events

2007-10-14 -- How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

2007-10-15 -- Our Address (*)

2007-10-16 -- Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

2007-10-17 -- 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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2007-10-02 Imminent Events

 

GENOA SCIENCE FESTIVAL - Fri, Oct. 26. See

Featuring four Ig Nobel Prize winners and LFHCfS man-of-the-year

(and rock star) Dr. Piero Paravadino.

<http://www.festivalscienza.it/it/programma/evento.php?id=463>

 

IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON - Mon, Nov. 26. See

<http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/gseps/news and events/>

 

 

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2007-10-03 What's New in the Magazine

 

The September/October issue (vol. 13, no. 5) of the Annals of

Improbable Research is the special Meaning of the Finger issue.

Highlights include:

 

<> "The Meaning of the Finger" by Stephen Drew and Alice Shirrell

Kaswell. Comparative-finger-length researchers have discovered

evidence that measuring a person's finger lengths tells all sorts

of things about the person's personality, behavior, abilities and

limitations. This is a survey of the most outstanding of those

discoveries.

 

<> "Improbable Research Review," compiled by Dirk Manley.

Improbable theories, experiments, and conclusions. TOPICS 

INCLUDE: Asymmetry of Kissing; No Close Second; Paprika on Armpit

Effect in Cowbirds; Kinetics of Cemetery Organization in Ants;

Epic Meeting.

 

<> "Boys Will Be Boys," compiled by Katherine Lee. Research by

and for adolescent males of all ages and sexes. TOPICS INCLUDE:

Race for a Little Definition, Naming the Vestibule; Sweet

Orchidometer; Something New, Not Under the Sun.

 

The table of contents is online at <http://tinyurl.com/2msfwr>

 

To subscribe (6 paper issues per year) go to

<http://improbable.com/subscribe>

or see info at bottom of this newsletter.

 

 

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2007-10-04 Announcing the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

 

The 2007 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday night, October

4, at the 17th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's

Sanders Theatre. Here are the winners.

 

NOTE: For details see

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

NOTE: A video recording of the ceremony is, or very soon will be,

viewable at <http://improbable.com/ig/2007/webcast/>.

 

MEDICINE: Brian Witcombe of Gloucester, UK, and Dan Meyer of

Antioch, Tennessee, USA, for their penetrating medical report

"Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects."

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer

 

PHYSICS: L. Mahadevan of Harvard University, USA, and Enrique

Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, for

studying how sheets become wrinkled.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, and

Enrique Cerda Villablanca's sister Mariela.

 

BIOLOGY: Prof. Dr. Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk of Eindhoven

University of Technology, The Netherlands, for doing a census of

all the mites, insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, crustaceans,

bacteria, algae, ferns and fungi with whom we share our beds each

night.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Dr. Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk

 

CHEMISTRY: Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of

Japan, for developing a way to extract vanillin -- vanilla

fragrance and flavoring -- from cow dung.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Mayu Yamamoto

PRESS NOTE: Toscanini's Ice Cream, the finest ice cream shop in

Cambridge, Massachusetts, created a new ice cream flavor in honor

of Mayu Yamamoto, and introduced it at the Ig Nobel ceremony. The

flavor is called "Yum-a-Moto Vanilla Twist."

 

LINGUISTICS: Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Núria

Sebastián-Gallés, of Universitat de Barcelona, for showing that

rats sometimes cannot tell the difference between a person

speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch

backwards.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: The winners could not travel to the

ceremony, so they instead delivered their acceptance speech via

recorded video.

 

LITERATURE: Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Blue Mountains, Australia,

for her study of the word "the" -- and of the many ways it causes

problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical

order.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Glenda Browne

 

PEACE: The Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, USA, for

instigating research & development on a chemical weapon -- the

so-called "gay bomb" -- that will make enemy soldiers become

sexually irresistible to each other.

 

NUTRITION: Brian Wansink of Cornell University, for exploring the

seemingly boundless appetites of human beings, by feeding them

with a self-refilling, bottomless bowl of soup.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Brian Wansink.

 

ECONOMICS: Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taichung, Taiwan, for patenting a

device, in the year 2001, that catches bank robbers by dropping a

net over them.

NOTE: The Ig Nobel Board of Governors attempted repeatedly to

find Mr. Hsieh, but he seemed to have vanished mysteriously.

But... Mr. Hsieh reportedly has seen a news account of the Ig

Nobel ceremony, and contacted the news agency. We hope to be in

touch with him soon.]

 

AVIATION: Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A.

Golombek of Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Argentina, for their

discovery that Viagra aids jetlag recovery in hamsters.

 

 

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2007-10-05 Nominations for '08

 

The Ig Nobel Board of Governors welcomes nominations for the 2008

Ig Nobel Prizes.

 

The 2008 ceremony will be held on Thursday evening, October 2,

2008, at Sanders Theatre, Harvard University.

 

 

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2007-10-06 Perched Chicken Poet Triumph

 

The judges have declared a winner for last month's Perched

Chicken Competition Competition, which asked for a limerick to

honor the study "Ability of Laying Hens to Jump Between Perches:

Individual Variation and the Effects of Perch Separation and

Motivation on Behaviour." The winner is:

 

INVESTIGATOR Deborah Hecht:

 

For maximum hop motivation

In chickens, check perch separation.

   Some hens won't pooh-pooh

   Roosts that others eschew.

Yes, 'roost-ers' show hop variation.

 

Several of the more pleasing runner-up limericks are posted in

our blog.

 

And here is the assessment from Limerick Laureate MARTIN EIGER:

 

What the authors are basically saying

Is hens of the type that are laying,

   When placed on a perch

   Might stay put, or might lurch.

Some are jumping, while others are staying.

 

 

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2007-10-07 More About Those Hens

 

Some of the people who wrote hen limericks apparently did not

read the study. They deprived themselves of reading the following

items about those hens:

 

<> Head movements were more frequent in birds which jumped, at

the shorter distance, in motivated (hungry) birds and in the

morning rather than the afternoon.

 

<> Birds called more at the greater distance and this was

interpreted as indicative of frustration.

 

<> Subjective scores for activity were lower when perches were

separated by the greater distance and when birds were satiated

(less motivated) rather than hungry.

 

<> Agitated head movements and stepping activity thus occurred

mainly when birds were motivated and on the point of jumping

whereas calling was associated with an apparent inability or

unwillingness to jump

 

 

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2007-10-08 Proof Less Strange Competition

 

A Proof Less Strange is the subject of this month's limerick

competition. To enter, compose an original limerick that

illuminates the nature of this report:

 

     "A Less Strange Version of Milnor's Proof of

     Brouwer's Fixed-Point Theorem," C.A. Rogers,

     American Mathematical Monthly, vol. 87, no. 7,

     August/September 1980, pp. 525-7.

     <http://tinyurl.com/yutdgo>

 

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

poem is in classic, trips-off-the-tongue limerick form.

 

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

to the correct address) a free, possibly strange issue of the

Annals of Improbable Research. Send entries (one entry per

entrant) to:

 

     PROOF LESS STRANGE LIMERICK COMPETITION

     c/o <marca AT chem2.harvard.edu>

 

 

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2007-10-09 Cheerful Search for a Crab Louse

 

"The Rotterdam Natural History Museum has appealed for somebody —

anybody — to give it a single crab louse for its collection, amid

fears they may be dying out. The donor's anonymity, said curator

Kees Moeliker, is guaranteed."

 

So says an October 19, 2007 Associated Press report. Kees

Moeliker is the 2003 Ig Nobel Biology Prize winner (for his

discovery of homosexual necrophilia in mallard ducks), and also

now is the Annals of Improbable Research's European Bureau Chief.

Our European Bureau is located in the Rotterdam Natural History

Museum.

 

For details and links, see <http://tinyurl.com/3xxy49>.

 

 

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2007-10-10 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Smart Thugs Thieve

 

Each month we select for your special attention a research report

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

 

"Developmental Trajectories of Male Physical Violence and Theft:

Relations to Neurocognitive Performance," E.D. Barker, J.R.

Seguin, H.R. White, M.E. Bates, E. Lacourse, R. Carbonneau, and

R.E. Tremblay, Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 64, no. 5,

May 2007, pp. 592-9. (Thanks to Chris Tromblay for bringing this

to our attention.) The authors, at the Universite de Montreal,

report that:

 

"Executive function and verbal IQ performance were negatively

related to high frequency of physical violence but positively

related to high frequency of theft."

 

 

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2007-10-11 BLOGLIGHTS: Data, a Rhino, and a Happy Man

 

Here are some recent topics in our blog:

 

<> An Eden for data enthusiasts

<> Mecca from orbit: The physics manual

<> Interdisciplinary collaboration at the Ig Nobel party

<> Yet another rectal explosion

<> Letter from a happy man

 

and some from the newspaper column in The Guardian:

 

<> The rhinoceros and you

<> Where There's Smoke, There's Health

<> An Ig Nobel hero: Mites in his ear

<> Rock, scissors, monkey

 

     ... and others

 

     Read the blog

     every day at <http://www.improbable.com>

 

 

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2007-10-12 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Chewing, Running, Rubber Duck

 

CEREBRAL CHEWING IN CHILDREN

"Relationship Between Mastication and Intelligence in Children,"

[article in Japanese], M. Funakoshi, S. Kawamura, H. Nakajima, H.

Fujiwara, and T. Nishikawa, Gifu Shika Gakkai Zasshi, vol. 14, no

1, June 1987, pp. 17-29.

 

WITH HASTE, UP, IN REVERSE

"Running Backward Uphill: Its Biomechanics and Clinical

Application," P. Apor, J. Dubecz, and T. Horbobagyi, Proceedings

of the Fifth Meeting of the European Society of Biomechanics,

Berlin, Germany, 1986.

 

IS DEMOCRATIC TOLERATION A RUBBER DUCK?

"Is Democratic Toleration a Rubber Duck?" Glen Newey, Res

Publica, vol. 7, no. 3, October 2001, pp. 315-36.  The author is

at Strathclyde University.

 

 

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2007-10-13 Improbable Research Events

 

For details and additional events, see

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

 

FESTIVAL DELLA SCIENZA, GENOA, ITALY     -- OCT 26, 2007

 

NPR "SCIENCE FRIDAY" IG NOBEL BROADCAST  -- NOV 23, 2007

 

IMPERIAL COLLEGE, LONDON       -- NOV 26, 2007

 

AAAS ANNUAL MEETING, BOSTON         -- FEB 15, 2008

 

IG NOBEL UK TOUR                    -- MAR, 2008

 

DFG ANNUAL ASSEMBLY, BERLIN, GERMANY     -- JUL 1, 2008

 

IG NOBEL PRIZE CEREMONY             -- OCT 2, 2008

 

IG INFORMAL LECTURES           -- OCT 4, 2008

 

 

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2007-10-14 -- How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

 

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

just the little bits of overflow material you've been reading in

this newsletter). Subscribe at <http://improbable.com/subscribe/>

or send in this form:

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2007-10-15 -- 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>

 

 

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2007-10-16 -- 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

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 2007, Annals of Improbable Research

 

 

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2007-10-17 -- How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

 

What you are reading right now is mini-AIR. Mini-AIR is a (free!)

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