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

Issue number 2007-12

December 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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2007-12-01 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

2007-12-02 Big Happy News About the Magazine

2007-12-03 The Rupz—iyat? B—ppum Challenge

2007-12-04 Host an Ig UK Tour Event?

2007-12-05 Baker's Honey Conundrum

2007-12-06 Adventures in Genetics: Behind

2007-12-07 Sandcastle Stability Poet Triumph

2007-12-08 Less-Strange Nit-Picker Nit-Picker

2007-12-09 Bjork-Shiley Convexo-Concave Valves Competition

2007-12-10 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Sopranos Last Longer

2007-12-11 BLOGLIGHTS: Tim-ness, Bob-ness, Turkeys

2007-12-12 AAAS Improbable Performers

2007-12-13 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Tick, Tick, Tick, Pee Pee Pee

2007-12-14 Improbable Research Events

2007-12-15 -- How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

2007-12-16 -- Our Address (*)

2007-12-17 -- Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

2007-12-18 -- 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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2007-12-02 Big Happy News About the Magazine

 

Welcome to the grand Improbable Research experiment. We are

putting the entire magazine online for free.

 

               * * *

 

Here are the details:

 

Beginning with the current issue -- vol. 13, no. 6,

November/December 2007, the special Ig Nobel issue -- the Annals

of Improbable Research will be available online in three forms:

 

1. In HTML (with low-res images and minimal formatting). Free.

 

2. A low-res PDF file (with low-res images but nice formatting).

Free.

 

3. A high-res PDF file (with splendid images and nice

formatting). You can download it for a small fee.

 

Fear not. The magazine will also continue to be available in the

best of all possible forms: traditional on-the-toilet-readable

paper-and-ink. This will be snail-mailed to subscribers, for the

same subscription fee as currently charged.

 

We have also put the most recent three years' issues online in

both PDF formats.

 

See it all at <http://www.improbable.com/magazine/>

 

Please help us spread the word!

 

 

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2007-12-03 The Rupz—iyat? B—ppum Challenge

 

In 1916, a researcher named G. English, at Cornell University,

conducted an experiment to find out what people would assumed

about a person with a strange name. She concocted a list of 50

nonsense names. Our challenge to you is: How many of those names

are not just inventions -- how many of those names belong to

real, live (or even real, dead) persons?

 

Here are the 50 names: Cherin; Poisher; Kilom; Koikert; Vazal;

Dawfisp; Zoque; Spren; Dawtho; Rupzoiyat; Blag; Lisrix;

Thaspkuwhin; Kird'faumish; Genras; Thacho; Brob; Zoitu; Koldak;

Murbix; Chermtgawkonv; Boppum; Vushap; Grib; Watshoiquol; Moiki;

Hoxzauwhuk; Gawthu; Ze'the; Gowsu; Deznep; Witaw; Thobonf;

Mavquawpunt; Stisk; Towbant; Taquu; Skamth; Quajnumeth; Bunoy;

Drup; Guklal; Pofmoj; Spux; Jikzel; Snemth; Thubtawkarnth;

Linrewex; Gronch and Tupjoz.

 

This is a purely curiosity-driven challenge -- we do not know

what the answer is. If you find more than five names that

correspond to real persons -- and can demonstrate that they do --

please send your list of NoNonsense Name Persons to:

 

        NO-NONSENSE NAME PERSONS CHALLENGE

        c/o <[email protected]>

 

If you have URLs that point to evidence of the persons'

existence, please include them.

 

For background info about G. English's study, see

<http://tinyurl.com/2w7q55>. The study itself is:

"On the Psychological Response to Unknown Proper Names,"

G. English, American Journal of Psychology, vol. 27, no. 3, July

1916, pp. 430-34. <http://tinyurl.com/3yns8e>

 

 

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2007-12-04 Host an Ig UK Tour Event?

 

The sixth annual Ig Nobel Tour of the UK (for National Science &

Engineering Week) will happen in early March 2008. If your

institution would like to host an event, please get in touch with

us ASAP.

See <http://improbable.com/improbable-research-shows/ig-uk-tour/>

 

 

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2007-12-05 Baker's Honey Conundrum

 

Intrigued or alarmed by a citation in last month's mini-AIR,

Investigator Oliver Baker poses a question.

 

The citation is: "Effects of Caffeine on Olfactory and Visual

Learning in the Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera)," A. Si, S.W. Zhang,

et al., Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, vol. 82, no. 4,

2005, pp. 664-72.

 

Baker writes: "Hmmph. How do they say they controlled for the

buzz?"

 

 

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2007-12-06 Adventures in Genetics: Behind

 

We generally avoid publicizing in-your-face gene names, because

it has become so easy and fashionable to give goofball names to

new-found genes. But investigator Daniel Weber alerts us to one

that seems rather special. It was announced in the study:

 

"Derrire: a TGF-beta Family Member Required for Posterior

Development in Xenopus," B.I. Sun, S.M. Bush, L.A. Collins-Racie,

E.R. LaVallie, E.A. DiBlasio-Smith, N.M. Wolfman, J.M. McCoy and

H.L. Sive,Development, vol. 126, no. 7, April 1999, pp. 1467-82.

<http://dev.biologists.org/cgi/reprint/126/7/1467>

 

 

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2007-12-07 Sandcastle Stability Poet Triumph

 

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

Stability Competition, which asked for a limerick to honor the

study "Maximum Angle of Stability of a Wet Granular Pile," Sarah

Nowak, Azadeh Samadani, and Arshad Kudrolli, Nature Physics, vol.

1, August 15, 2005, pp. 50-2.

 

The winner is INVESTIGATOR BRANT BOUCHER, who created this

thought:

 

When building a castle of sand

Keep a bucket of water on hand;

   Choose your particle size:

   With the angles be wise,

And maybe your castle will stand.

 

And here is the assessment from Limerick Laureate MARTIN EIGER:

 

I went to the beach on Nantucket

With a shovel, a pail, and a bucket.

   I would have done better

   If the sand had been wetter.

When my castle fell down, I said, "Perhaps the technical

literature explains this."

 

               NOTE: Yes, we know that the Limerick Laureate's

               limerick violates technical standards.

               This is the exception that proves nothing.

 

 

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2007-12-08 Less-Strange Nit-Picker Nit-Picker

 

A feud is born. Investigator Tim Poston writes about an item in

last month's mini-AIR. He says:

 

        ***

 

You wrote that Investigator Tony Harker wrote: "I realised that

there's an anomaly in the paper being reviewed. Rogers refers to

the 'hairy dog theorem', whereas the title of Milnor's paper

contains the phrase 'hairy ball theorem.' Given that the dog has

at least the connectivity of a torus, unidirectional combing is

presumably possible -- though it could tickle unpleasantly."

 

There is a Hairy Pretzel Theorem too -- a hairy any-closed-

surface-with-non-zero-Euler-characteristic theorem. The only

surfaces that can be unidirectionally combed are the torus and

Klein bottle. Since the mouth to anus passage gives torus

connectivity, it would seem that Investigator Harker has a dog

with no nose. (So, how does he smell?  Terrible?)

 

 

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2007-12-09 Bjork-Shiley Convexo-Concave Valves Competition

 

Bjork-Shiley Convexo-Concave Valves is the subject of this

month's limerick competition. To enter, compose an original

limerick that illuminates the nature of this report:

 

                       * * *

Discrimination in Vitro Between the Acoustic Emissions from

Bjork-Shiley Convexo-Concave Valves With and Without a Broken

Minor Strut," Medical and Biological Engineering and Computing,

D. K. Walker and L. N. Scotten, vol. 29, no. 5, September 1991,

pp. 457-64. <http://tinyurl.com/2cyoqk>

                       * * *

 

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 convexo-concave issue of

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

entrant) to:

 

        Bjork-Shiley Convexo-Concave LIMERICK COMPETITION

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

 

 

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2007-12-10 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Sopranos Last Longer

 

Each month we select for your special attention a research report

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

 

"Androgens Shorten the Longevity of Women: Sopranos Last Longer,"

E. Nieschlag, U. Kramer, S. Nieschlag, Experimental and Clinical

Endocrinology and Diabetes, vol. 111, no. 4, August  2003, pp.

230-1. <http://tinyurl.com/3yth8j>

 

(Thanks to Ig Nobel Prize winner  Richard Wassersug for bringing

this to our attention.) The authors, who are at Institute of

Reproductive Medicine of the Westphalian Wilhelms-University,

Munster, Germany, report that:

 

"Earlier we found that longevity of castrati was identical to

that of intact singers.... We have now continued our research

into the life expectancy of singers... resulting in the finding

that sopranos, being more oestrogenised, live significantly

longer than altos who are more androgenised, while basses, more

androgenised, show a tendency towards a longer life than tenors,

who are less androgenised."

 

 

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2007-12-11 BLOGLIGHTS: Tim-ness, Bob-ness, Turkeys

 

Here are some recent topics in our blog:

 

<> Ten-mile-high-building discoverer announces new discoveries

<> Fly-by-night (and fly-by-day) couch potato aging

<> Father of Flying Pig (and model monster)

<> The head of your turkey

<> A further small mystery about Matt Talbot

<> The value of a Harvard education

 

and some from the newspaper column in The Guardian:

 

<> The Tim-ness of Tim, the Bob-ness of Bob

<> Romance in your veins

 

        ... and others

 

        Read the blog

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

 

 

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2007-12-12 AAAS Improbable Performers

 

If... you are an AIR author or an Ig Nobel Prize winner, and if

you are coming to the AAAS (American Association for the

Advancement of Science) Annual Meeting in Boston, and if you

would like to do a little star turn at the annual Improbable

Research session there, please get in touch with us ASAP. The

session will be on Friday night, February 15, 2008.

 

Yes, this year the lineup will include the founder of the Museum

of Burnt Food.

 

 

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2007-12-13 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Tick, Tick, Tick, Pee Pee Pee

 

TICK, TICK, TICK: FLUCTUATE

"The Question of Fluctuating Asymmetry in the Blacklegged Tick

Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae)," H. Joel Hutcheson and James

H. Oliver, Experimental and Applied Acarology, vol. 22, no. 1,

January 1998.<http://tinyurl.com/33s8le>

 

PROVOCATIVE TRIPLE-PEE PHENOMENON

"Puzzling Penile Papules," D.S. Cassarino, T.M. Keahey, J.B.

Stem, International Journal of Dermatology, vol. 42, no. 12,

December 2003, pp. 954-6. <http://tinyurl.com/3crjtj>

 

 

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2007-12-14 Improbable Research Events

 

For details and additional events, see

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

 

AAAS ANNUAL MEETING, BOSTON            -- FEB 15, 2008

 

IG NOBEL UK TOUR                             -- MAR, 2008

 

CHELTENHAM SCIENCE FESTIVAL, UK     -- JUN 7, 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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2007-12-15 -- How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

 

The Annals of Improbable Research is a 6-issues-per-year

magazine. (It's bigger and better than the little bits of

overflow material you've been reading in this newsletter). The

online version is at <http://www.improbable.com/magazine/>.

 

To subscribe to the paper-and-ink version, go to

<http://improbable.com/subscribe/> or send in this form:

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Send payment (US bank check, or international money order, or

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        617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927 <air AT improbable.com>

 

 

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2007-12-16 -- 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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2007-12-17 -- 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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2007-12-18 -- How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

 

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

tiny monthly *supplement* to the bi-monthly print magazine.

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To subscribe or unsubscribe, please visit

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