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

September 2011, issue number 2011-09. ISSN 1076-500X.

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Monthly mini update/alert from the Annals of Improbable Research

      This issue is at

      <http://www.improbable.com/airchives/miniair/2011/mini2011-09.htm>

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

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2011-09-01 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

2011-09-02 Imminent Events

2011-09-03 The Magazine: Animal Oddities Issue Coming

2011-09-04 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony

2011-09-05 Live Webcast, and Tweeting

2011-09-06 Ig Informal Lectures

2011-09-07 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Sewers Clog Themselves by Making Soap

2011-09-08 Pheromone-Handedness-in-Elephants Limerick Competition

2011-09-09 Caffeine Eyes-Open Poet

2011-09-10 MORE IMPROBABLE: Birds, Bugs, Ducks & The FBI's Hair Guide

2011-09-11 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Mustard and Hamburg on Water and Grass

2011-09-12 Improbable Research Events

2011-09-13 -- How to Subscribe to the Magazine (*)

2011-09-14 -- Our Address (*)

2011-09-15 -- Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

2011-09-16 -- How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

 

      Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

 

 

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2011-09-02 Imminent Events

 

 

Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony and live webcast — THURS, SEP 29

 

Ig Informal Lectures — SAT, OCT 1

 

      EVENT DETAILS: Below, and at <http://bit.ly/8m4zLa>

 

 

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2011-09-03 The Magazine: Animal Oddities Issue Coming

 

The special Animal Oddities issue will soon be going to the printers, and from there speeding and crawling its way to subscribers.

 

Read back issues online (including the special Professor Lipscomb issue) and/or subscribe to the fully tangible paper version, at: <http://www.improbable.com/magazine/>.

 

 

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2011-09-04 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony

 

The 21st First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony happens THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, at Harvard University, beginning at 7:30 pm Boston time. DETAILS: <http://improbable.com/ig/2011/>

 

TICKETS: Tickets are sold out. However... a very few tickets might (that's might) become available late that afternoon at the ticket window inside Sanders Theatre.

 

WINNERS: Almost all of the new Ig Nobel Prize winners are coming, from several continents.

 

THEME: This year's theme is CHEMISTRY. Tom Lehrer's classic song "The Elements" will figure prominently, beginning with a duet performance by Nobel Laureate Rich Roberts and Harvard Medical School professor Thomas Michel.

 

OPERA: The mini-opera "Chemist in a Coffee Shop" will premiere as part of the ceremony. (Please alert your favorite coffee shop!)

 

THE NOBEL LAUREATES who will physically present the Ig Nobel Prizes to the new winners, and shake their hands:

<> Dudley Herschbach (chemistry, 1986)

<> Rich Roberts (physiology or medicine, 1993)

<> Jack Szostak (physiology or medicine, 2009)

<> Roy Glauber (physics, 2005)

<> Eric Maskin (economics, 2007)

<> Peter Diamond (economics, 2010)

<> Louis Ignarro, (physiology or medicine, 1998)

 

Professor Ignarro will be given away in the Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest. Professor Herschbach will be wearing his self-perfuming business suit. (That suit was a gift from its inventor, Ig Nobel Prize winner Hyuk Ho Kwon, at the 1999 ceremony.)

 

THE 24/7 LECTURERS and their topics: Susan Lindquist (Stress Reactions); Dudley Herschbach (Chemistry); Donna Nelson (Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes); Kate Clancy (TOPIC: Vaginal pH).

 

IgBill: <http://improbable.com/ig/2011/images/IgBILL-2011_150dpi.pdf>

Poster: <http://improbable.com/ig/2011/images/2011-Ig-Nobel-poster.pdf>

 

DETAILS: <http://improbable.com/ig/2011/>

 

 

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2011-09-05 Live Webcast, and Tweeting

 

The ceremony will be webcast live on YouTube, beginning at 7:30 pm Boston time on THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29.

 

WHERE TO WATCH IT: <http://improbable.com/ig/2011/webcast>

 

OTHER SITES: You can also watch it on other sites — the Australian Broadcasting Corp; BoingBoing; Chemical & Engineering News; Clarin (Argentina); Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland); The Guardian; MSNBC; and New Scientist, and QI (UK); The Chronicle of Higher Education; Fox News; and others. [NOTE: New Scientist is having a win-a-mini-helicopter contest in connection with this, in honor of one of last year's Ig winners <http://bit.ly/ncNSXI>.)

 

LIVE-TWEETING: @SciCurious and other improbable reporters will be live-tweeting the event.

HASHTAG:  #IgNobel

 

 

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2011-09-06 Ig Informal Lectures

 

The Ig Informal Lectures will happen on SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, at MIT (Building 26, Room 100), beginning at 1:00 pm.

 

The lectures are free, but space is limited. If you arrive early, chances are good you will get a seat.

 

DETAILS: <http://improbable.com/ig/2011/#informallectures>

 

 

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2011-09-07 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Sewers Clog Themselves by Making Soap

 

This month's research spotlight shows that sewers make soap:

 

"Evidence for Fat, Oil, and Grease (FOG) Deposit Formation Mechanisms in Sewer Lines," Xia He, Mahbuba Iasmin, Lisa Dean, Simon Lappi, Joel Ducoste, and Francis de los Reyes, III, Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 45, no. 10, 2011, pp. 4385–91. <http://bit.ly/iUMnTg> (Thanks to Peter Ellis for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, report:

 

"The presence of hardened and insoluble fats, oil, and grease (FOG) deposits in sewer lines is a major cause of line blockages leading to sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs).... In this study, FOG deposits were formed under laboratory conditions from the reaction between free fatty acids and calcium chloride.... the laboratory-produced FOG deposit displayed similar characteristics to FOG deposits collected from sanitary sewer lines. Results of FTIR analysis showed that the FOG deposits are metallic salts of fatty acid as revealed by comparisons with FOG deposits collected from sewer lines and pure calcium soaps."

 

 

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2011-09-08 Pheromone-Handedness-in-Elephants Limerick Competition

 

Pheromone-handedness in elephants inspire this month's limerick competition. To enter, compose an original limerick that illuminates the nature of this report:

 

"Chirality in Elephant Pheromones," David R. Greenwood, Dan Comeskey, Martin B. Hunt and L. Elizabeth L. Rasmussen, Nature, vol. 438, no. December 22/29, 2005, pp. 1097-8. <http://bit.ly/pyliQa> (Thanks to Ian Davis for bringing this to our attention.) The authors explain that:

 

"Musth in male elephants is an annual period of heightened sexual activity and aggression... It is mediated by the release of chemical signals such as the pheromone frontalin, which exists in two chiral forms (molecular mirror images, or enantiomers). Here we show that enantiomers of frontalin are released by Asian elephants in a specific ratio that depends on the animal’s age and stage of musth, and that different responses are elicited in male and female conspecifics when the ratio alters."

 

PRIZE: The winning poet will receive (if we manage to send it to the correct address) a free, elephant-free, hi-res PDF issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. Send your limerick to:

 

      PHEROMONE-HANDEDNESS-IN-ELEPHANTS LIMERICK COMPETITION

      c/o <[email protected]>

 

 

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2011-09-09 Caffeine Eyes-Open Poet

 

The judges have chosen a winner in the Caffeine Eyes-Open Limerick Competition, which asked for a limerick to honor the study "Caffeine and Opening the Eyes Have Additive Effects on Resting Arousal Measures," R.J. Barry et al, Clinical Neurophysiology, Epub April 2011. <http://bit.ly/oqNez6>

 

Here's the winning limerick, by INVESTIGATOR SHEILA BLUME:

 

In Australia, a lab crew has seen

That both opening eyes and caffeine

   Raise the skin's SCL

   And knock alphas to hell.

Add them both to your daily routine!

 

Here's the offering from LIMERICK LAUREATE MARTIN EIGER:

 

This report on arousal implies

What is best for inducing a rise.

   There are two things to do,

   And do both of them, too.

Drink caffeine. Also, open your eyes.

 

 

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2011-09-10 MORE IMPROBABLE: Birds, Bugs, Ducks & The FBI's Hair Guide

 

Recent improbable bits you may or may not have missed:

 

      twitter: @ImprobResearch, @IgNobel

      facebook: "Improbable Research"

 

BLOG <http://improbable.com/>

<> Horror bird film dropping from the sky?

<> A discovery from wrecked chairs

<> Bugged by buggy bug IDs

<> Ducks feet – the physics

And many more...

 

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

<> His “Mare Wives”: Higher class bestiality?

<> Combining kangaroo care with live harp music

<> The FBI’s Guide to Hair

And more...

 

 

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2011-09-11 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Mustard and Hamburg on Water and Grass

 

MUSTARD AND HAMBURG ON WATER

"Final Report: The Dynamics of a Semi-Arid Region in Response to Climate and Water-Use Policy," John Mustard, Steve Hamburg, et al., NASA Report NAG5-6003, 2000. <http://1.usa.gov/mT1Wa6> (Thanks to Tom Gill for bringing this to our attention.) Professor Mustard and Professor Hamburg are at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.

 

MUSTARD AND HAMBURG ON GRASS

"Invasive Grass Reduces Carbon Stocks in the Shrublands of the Western US," J.F. Mustard, S.P. Hamburg, et al., Global Change Biology, vol. 12, 2006, pp. 1-8. <http://bit.ly/piI7m1>

 

 

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2011-09-12 Improbable Research Events

 

For details and additional events, see

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

 

 

Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony                   — Sep 29, 2011

 

Ig Informal Lectures                      — Oct 1, 2011

 

AAAS, Vancouver, Canada                   - Feb 2012

 

Ig Nobel UK Tour                          — Mar/Apr 2012

 

The Netherlands                           — Jun 2012

 

 

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2011-09-13 -- How to Subscribe to the Magazine (*)

 

The Annals of Improbable Research is a 6-issues-per-year magazine. (It's much bigger, and maybe better, than the little bits of overflow material you've been reading in this newsletter.)

 

To subscribe to the paper-and-ink version, go to <http://improbable.com/subscribe/> or send in this form:

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2011-09-14 -- Our Address (*)

 

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA

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

 

EDITORIAL: [email protected]

SUBSCRIPTIONS: [email protected]

Web Site: <http://www.improbable.com>

Blog: <http://www.improbable.com>

Twitter: ImprobResearch

 

 

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2011-09-15 -- 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

CO-CONSPIRATORS: Kees Moeliker, Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Gary Dryfoos, Ernest Ersatz, Stephen Drew

MAITRE DE COMPUTATION: Jerry Lotto

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Nobel Laureates Dudley Herschbach, Sheldon Glashow, Richard Roberts

 

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

(c) copyright 2011, Annals of Improbable Research

 

 

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2011-09-16 -- How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

 

Mini-AIR is a (free!) tiny monthly *supplement* to the bi-monthly print magazine AIR.

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