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

September 2009, Issue number 2009-09. ISSN 1076-500X.

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Free monthly update/alert from the Annals of Improbable Research

        This issue is at

        <http://www.improbable.com/airchives/miniair/2009/mini2009-09.htm>

        Archive at <http://improbable.com/airchives/miniair/>

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

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2009-09-01 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

2009-09-02 Imminent Events

2009-09-03 In the Magazine: Helmets & Lost Planets

2009-09-04 Ig Nobel Ceremony & Webcast — Where, When

2009-09-05 Ig Nobel Ceremony — Winners and Distinguished Guests

2009-09-06 Ig Nobel Ceremony — Command and Control

2009-09-07 Ig Nobel Ceremony — Music

2009-09-08 Ig Informal Lectures

2009-09-09 Directory of Cute and Disgusting Animal Cousins

2009-09-10 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Why Do Flamingos Stand on One Leg?

2009-09-11 President's Left Eyebrow Poet

2009-09-12 Severed Gecko's Tail Competition

2009-09-13 MORE IMPROBABLE: Gay Twist of Hair, Reports Report

2009-09-14 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Nailbreaks, Windward Passage

2009-09-15 Improbable Research Events

2009-09-16 -- How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

2009-09-17 -- Our Address (*)

2009-09-18 -- Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

2009-09-19 -- How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

 

        Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

 

        mini-AIR is

        but a wee monthly *supplement*

        to the bi-monthly magazine Annals of Improbable Research

 

 

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2009-09-02 Imminent Events

 

        Oct 1, Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard, and webcast

 

        Oct 3, Ig Informal Lectures at MIT

 

        Oct 10, Parisscience Festival, Paris, France

 

        Oct 24, Genoa Science Festival, Genoa, Italy

 

Lots of Ig info in sections 2009-09-04, etc., below.

For other events, see section 2009-09-15.

 

 

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2009-09-03 In the Magazine: Helmets & Lost Planets

 

The next issue (vol. 15, no. 5) of the Annals of Improbable

Research will is the special Helmets & Lost Planets issue.

It's at the printers now, to emerge soon....

 

Many back issues, including the Instructions & Executions issue,

are online at <http://www.improbable.com/magazine/>. Subscribe to

the paper version, or to the nifty PDF version, or read the free

mostly-nifty PDF version.

 

 

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2009-09-04 Ig Nobel Ceremony & Webcast — Where, When

 

Most of the ten new winners are coming, from four continents, to

the 19th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. Each winner has

done something that makes people laugh, then think.

 

DETAILS: <http://improbable.com/ig/2009/>

 

WHEN/WHERE:

Thursday, Oct 1, 2009, 7:15 pm.

Sanders Theatre, Harvard University

 

TICKETS:

A few tickets are still available, from the Harvard Box Office:

<http://boxoffice.harvard.edu>, PHONE: (+1) 617-496-2222

 

WEBCAST:

The ceremony will be webcast live at www.improbable.com

beginning at 7:15 pm.

 

WEBCAST-WATCHING GATHERINGS

In Philadelphia area the webcast will be projected on a big

screen at The Chemical Heritage Foundation:

<http://chemheritage.org/events/event-detail.asp?id=497>

If your institution is having a webcast-watching gathering

elsewhere — and it is open to the public — let us know and we

will list it on the Ig web site.

 

 

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2009-09-05 Ig Nobel Ceremony — Winners and Distinguished Guests

 

Most of the ten new winners are coming to the ceremony, from four

continents. Each has done something that makes people laugh, then

think.

 

Some distinguished guests are coming, too:

 

Keynote Speaker (on the topic: RISK)

Benoit Mandelbrot

 

Nobel Laureates who will hand out the prizes:

Rich Roberts (physiology or medicine, 1993)

Sheldon Glashow (physics, 1979)

Wolfgang Ketterle (physics, 2001)

Dudley Herschbach (chemistry, 1986)

Paul Krugman (economics, 2008)

Roy Glauber (physics, 2005)

Frank Wilczek (physics, 2004)

Martin Chalfie (chemistry, 2008)

Orhan Pamuk (literature 2006)

William Lipscomb (chemistry, 1976)

 

24/7 Lecturers:

Stephen Wolfram (Topic: GENIUS)

Paul Krugman (Topic: ECONOMICS)

Wade Adams (Topic: NANOTECHNOLOGY)

Deborah J. Anderson (Topic: CONTRACEPTION)

 

Past Ig Nobel Prize Winners:

Deborah J. Anderson (effectiveness of Coca-Cola

        as a spermicide)

Don Featherstone (creation of the plastic pink flamingo)

Francis Fesmire (digital rectal massage

        cures intractable hiccups)

Rebecca Waber (high-priced fake medicine

        is more effective than low-priced fake medicine)

Dan Meyer (swordswallowing and its side effects)

L. Mahadevan (how sheets get wrinkled)

        NOTE: Professor Mahadevan has just been

        awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant

 

1996 Ig Nobel physics prize winner Robert Matthews has published

an essay about Ig and nobleness:

<http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090927/OPINION/709269952/1036/NATIONAL>

 

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2009-09-06 Ig Nobel Ceremony — Command and Control

 

As always at the Ig, the Minordomos will make most things run

smoothly on stage. This year's minordomo corps: Genevieve

Reynolds, Julia Lunetta, James Mahoney, Anna Eliseeva, Zack

Fisher, Peaco Todd, Randall (XKCD) Munroe, and Danielle

Streifthau.

 

For a full list of all the Ignitaries who put the Ig togeher, see

<http://improbable.com/ig/2009/ignitaries/>

 

 

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2009-09-07 Ig Nobel Ceremony — Music

 

And the ceremony will include three musical treats.

 

A new mini-opera — "The Big Bank Opera" — combines the Big Bang

origins of the universe with the Big Bank destruction of the

financial system. See video of a rehearsal:

<http://improbable.com/2009/09/26/improbable-research-collection-122/>

The opera's four acts will intersperse with the awarding of the

Ig Nobel prizes.

 

The ceremony will be preceded (at 7:15 pm) by a special Risk

Cabaret Concert, performed by The Penny-Wise Guys.

 

And before that (starting at 6:45 pm), out in the majestic

Sanders Theatre lobby, the Boston Squeezebox Ensemble will

perform accordian versions of the opera tunes.

 

 

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2009-09-08 Ig Informal Lectures

 

The Ig Informal Lectures will happened Saturday, October 3, at

1:00 pm, at MIT in room 10-250. It's free, but seating is

limited.

<http://improbable.com/ig/2009/#informal-lectures>

 

 

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2009-09-09 Directory of Cute and Disgusting Animal Cousins

 

Suggestions poured in for the Directory of Cute and Disgusting

Animal Cousins. There are pairs of closely-related animals where

one is widely seen as being cute, the other as disgusting.

It started with these two pairs:

 

1. Doves and pigeons

2. Squirrels and rats

 

Here are some additions, from two investigators.

 

FROM INVESTIGATOR TONY HARKER

3. Red squirrels (cute) and grey squirrels (disgusting)

This is a largely British peculiarity, according to investigator

Harker.

 

FROM INVESTIGATOR SHELLY GLASHOW

4. Ferrets and skunks

5. Frogs and toads

6. Buzzards and eagles

7. Ravens and crows (esp. carrion crows)

8. Coyotes and dogs

9. Butterflies and moths

10. Mushrooms and toadstools (so they're plants)

11 Slugs and snails (gastronomically)

12 Honeybees and hornets

13 Falcons and vultures

14 Foxes and jackals

 

On the mushroom/toadstool question, investigator Glashow

explains:

"For Shakespeare, Spenser, William Penn, Laurence Sterne

(extensively), Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, for Edgar Allan Poe and

D. H. Lawrence and Emily Dickinson, 'mushroom' and 'toadstool'

are unpleasant, even disgusting epithets. Our poets when they do

mention them link them to decay and death.

<http://www.psychedelic-library.org/eleuch1.htm>"

 

NOTE: Many respondents displayed surprising notions about the

things other people do or not find (a) disgusting of (b) cute.

 

 

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2009-09-10 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Why Do Flamingos Stand on One Leg?

 

"Why Do Flamingos Stand on One Leg?," Matthew J. Anderson and

Sarah A. Williams, Zoo Biology, vol. 28, 2009, pp. 1-10. (Thanks

to Mayra T. for bringing this to our attention.)

<http://tinyurl.com/ycecd2a> The authors, at Saint Joseph's

University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, report:

 

"While frequently asked by the general public, this basic

question has remained unanswered by the scientific community.

Here we suggest that the latency of flamingos to initiate forward

locomotion following resting on one leg is significantly longer

than following resting on two, discounting the possibility that

unipedal resting reduces muscle fatigue or enhances predatory

escape. Additionally, we demonstrate that flamingos do not

display lateral preferences at the individual or group levels

when resting on one leg, with each bird dividing its resting time

across both legs."

 

 

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2009-09-11 President's Left Eyebrow Poet

 

The judges have chosen co-winners in the President's Left Eyebrow

Limerick Competition, which asked for a limerick to honor the

study "An Inquiry into the Nature of the Pigmented Lesion Above

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Left Eyebrow," A.B. Ackerman and S.

Lomazow, Archives of Dermatology, vol. 144, no. 4, April 2008,

pp. 529-32. <http://tinyurl.com/lb9t4y>

 

The winners are INVESTIGATOR BUZZ BROOKS, who wrote:

 

That blemish on Franklin D.R.

Was officially known as a scar.

But 'twas melanoma

With peculiar aroma

Made worse by the smell of cigar.

 

And investigator NAN SWIFT, who wrote:

 

"That eyebrow thing — it's not bizarre,"

Said the doc, "Don't you fret, FDR.

How bad could it be?"

Well, unfortunately,

That scar — it was not just a scar.

 

Here's the offering from LIMERICK LAUREATE MARTIN EIGER:

 

Through depression and war, he had led.

Then a brain hemorrhage hit. He was dead.

Sixty years have gone by.

Now two guys wonder why

There's a lesion on FDR's head.

 

 

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2009-09-12 Severed Gecko's Tail Competition

 

Severed gecko's tails is the subject of this month's limerick

competition. To enter, compose an original limerick that

illuminates the nature of this report:

 

"Flip, Flop and Fly: Modulated Motor Control and Highly Variable

Movement Patterns of Autotomized Gecko Tails," Timothy E. Higham

and Anthony P. Russell, Biology Letters, 2009.

<http://tinyurl.com/y99qbua>

 

The authors, at Clemson University and the University of

Calagary, report:

 

"Many animals lose and regenerate appendages, and tail autotomy

in lizards is an extremely well-studied example of this.... We

used electromyography and high-speed video to quantify the motor

control and movement patterns of autotomized tails of leopard

geckos (Eublepharis macularius). In addition to rhythmic

swinging, we show that they exhibit extremely complex movement

patterns for up to 30 min following autotomy, including acrobatic

flips up to 3 cm in height."

 

RULES: Please make sure that: (1) your rhymes actually do; and

(2) your poem is in classic, trills-off-the-tongue limerick form.

 

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

the correct address) a free, possibly severed, high-res PDF issue

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

entrant) to:

 

        SEVERED GECKO'S TAIL LIMERICK COMPETITION

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

 

 

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2009-09-13 MORE IMPROBABLE: Gay Twist of Hair, Reports Report

 

BLOG <http://improbable.com/>

<> Ig winner gets "genius" grant

<> Flatulence-trapping in Colorado news

<> Official judges of pointlessness?

<> Risky consultants, celebrated

<> The Curious Case of the Boyfriend and the Replacement Cat

And many more...

 

NEWSPAPER <http://improbable.com/category/newspaper-column>

<> A gay twist of hair, maybe

<> The Decline of Public Insult in London

<> Medical imaging: What is porn? [Ig winner's sex video]

<> A Report About a Report About Reports

<> Death Can Be Cured

 

 

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2009-09-14 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Nailbreaks, Windward Passage

 

BREAKING NEWS

"The Fracture Properties and Mechanical Design of Human

Fingernails," L. Farren, et al., Journal of Experimental Biology,

vol. 207, February 15, 2004, pp. 735-41.

<http://tinyurl.com/yef2ha5> (Thanks to Toby Sommer for bringing

this to our attention.)

 

PASSAGE OF FLATUS AT COITUS

"Flaturia: Passage of Flatus at Coitus. Incidence and

Pathogenesis," Ahmed Shafik, Ismail A. Shafik, Olfat El Sibai and

Ali A. Shafik, Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, vol. 275,

no. 1, January, 2007, pp. 33-37. <http://tinyurl.com/yewy5ya>

(Thanks to J. Shafik for bringing this to our attention.)

 

 

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2009-09-15 Improbable Research Events

 

For details and additional events, see

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

 

Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony                        — Oct 1, 2009

 

Ig Informal Lectures,                            — Oct 3, 2009

 

Parisscience Festival, Paris, France     — Oct 10, 2009

 

Genoa Science Festival, Genoa, Italy     — Oct 24, 2009

 

AAAS, San Diego                                      — Feb 2010

 

UK Tour                                           — Mar 2010

 

UKSG, Edinburgh                                      — Apr 2010

 

 

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2009-09-16 -- 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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2009-09-17 -- 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: subscriptions AT improbable.com

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

 

 

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2009-09-18 -- 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 2009, Annals of Improbable Research

 

 

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2009-09-19 -- 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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