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

October 2011, issue number 2011-10. 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/mini2011-10.htm>

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

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2011-10-01 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

2011-10-02 Imminent Event

2011-10-03 The Magazine: Animal Oddities Issue en Route

2011-10-04 Announcing the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize winners

2011-10-05 Special "Let's Go, Camping!" Section

2011-10-06 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: The Halting Problem & Calculation Errors

2011-10-07 Waiting for Godel / Halting Competition

2011-10-08 Pheromone-Handedness-in-Elephants Poet

2011-10-9 MORE IMPROBABLE: Ferrets, Bees, Cats, and VapoRub

2011-10-10 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Wrong Assumptions in Real Time

2011-10-11 Improbable Research Events

2011-10-12 -- How to Subscribe to the Magazine (*)

2011-10-13 -- Our Address (*)

2011-10-14 -- Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

2011-10-15 -- How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

 

      Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

 

 

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2011-10-02 Imminent Event

 

      NPR's "Science Friday" Ig Nobel broadcast — Fri, Nov 25, 2011

 

 

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2011-10-03 The Magazine: Animal Oddities Issue en Route

 

The special Animal Oddities issue is now at the printers. Soon it will speed 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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2011-10-04 Announcing the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize winners

 

Here are the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize winners. The prizes were awarded at the 21st First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, on September 29, at Harvard University. See ceremony details — and video of the ceremony — at <http://improbable.com/ig/2011/>

 

PHYSIOLOGY PRIZE: Anna Wilkinson (of the UK), Natalie Sebanz (of THE NETHERLANDS, HUNGARY, and AUSTRIA), Isabella Mandl (of AUSTRIA) and Ludwig Huber (of AUSTRIA) for their study "No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise."

 

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami of JAPAN, for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.

 

MEDICINE PRIZE: Mirjam Tuk (of THE NETHERLANDS and the UK), Debra Trampe (of THE NETHERLANDS) and Luk Warlop (of BELGIUM). and jointly to Matthew Lewis, Peter Snyder and Robert Feldman (of the USA), Robert Pietrzak, David Darby, and Paul Maruff (of AUSTRALIA) for demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things — but worse decisions about other kinds of thingsâ when they have a strong urge to urinate.

 

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE: Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, NORWAY, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh.

 

LITERATURE PRIZE: John Perry of Stanford University, USA, for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that's even more important.

 

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Darryl Gwynne (of CANADA and AUSTRALIA and the UK and the USA) and David Rentz (of AUSTRALIA and the USA) for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle.

 

PHYSICS PRIZE: Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne and Bruno Ragaru (of FRANCE), and Herman Kingma (of THE NETHERLANDS), for determining why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don't.

 

MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim of KOREA (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde of UGANDA (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on October 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations. [NOTE: See next section, below, for further details.]

 

PEACE PRIZE: Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, LITHUANIA, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank. [NOTE: be sure to see the video.]

 

PUBLIC SAFETY PRIZE: John Senders of the University of Toronto, CANADA, for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him. [NOTE: be very sure to see the video.]

 

Details, with citations and links: <http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/#ig2011>

 

Some press clippings: <http://improbable.com/airchives/press>

 

The Nov/Dec issue of the magazine will be the special Ig Nobel issue, with details and lots of photos.

 

 

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2011-10-05 Special "Let's Go, Camping!" Section

 

Harold Camping calculates that the world will end on Friday, October 21, 2011. Mr. Camping and several like-minded persons shared the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize in mathematics (see above for details), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.

 

How does Harold Camping do math?

He shares his secrets in his mathematics text book:

The Perfect Harmony of the Numbers of the Hebrew Kings.

You can read the whole book online at <http://bit.ly/pjuz5C>

 

Here are some tips from Mr. Camping's book.

 

<> "There are no errors or real contradictions in the Bible." [p. 3]

 

<> God, an adept accountant, kept two sets of books. Knowing this, "we are enable [sic] to harmonize many of the Biblical citations that otherwise would remain impossible to understand". [pp. 5-10. A helpful chart, showing two parallel entries, appears on page 8. Many other such charts appear later in the book.]

 

<> "This study [of the two parallel sets of books] is very important in that it shows in a fresh way the total dependability of the Bible. It shows that without any questions the numbers and dates given in the Bible are entirely accurate. This fact gives further reassurance that every word in the Bible is absolutely trustworthy. [p. 10]

 

"While at times the solution was very complex, we, nevertheless, have been able to harmonize Scripture with Scripture so that each and every verse became understandable." [p. 80]

 

 

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2011-10-06 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: The Halting Problem & Calculation Errors

 

In honor of Harold Camping, this month's research spotlight focuses on (1) the halting problem and (2) calculation errors:

 

"The Halting Problem and Some Logical and Computational Ramifications," Peter Madden, April 2006. <http://bit.ly/qAIAlj>

 

"Calculation of Dynamic Measuring Errors for the Main Parameters of Forced Expiration," A.V. Sivachev, Biomedical Engineering, vol. 23, no. 2, 1967, pp. 61-65. <http://bit.ly/ptfEuo>

 

"On the Calculation of the Effects of Roundoff Errors," E. Ukkonen, ACM Transactions on Mathematical Software, vol. 7, no. 3, Sept. 1981. <http://bit.ly/oGnmXy>

 

"Errata: 'Efficient Calculation of the Effects of Roundoff Errors,' J. Larson - ACM Transactions on Mathematical Software, vol. 5, no. 3, Sept. 1979. <http://bit.ly/nVEF9J>

 

 

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2011-10-07 Waiting for Godel / Halting Competition

 

Godel, incompleteness and unsolvable halting inspire this month's limerick competition. To enter, compose an original limerick that illuminates the nature of this report: "What Does the Incompleteness Theorem Add to the Unsolvability of the Halting Problem?" Torkel FranzŽn, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 3988, 2006, p. 198. <http://bit.ly/oeoTDw>

The authors explain that:

 

Turing's paper including a proof of the unsolvability of the halting problem appeared five years after Gšdel's 1931 paper, and ever since there have been many and close ties between uncomputability and incompleteness. The purpose of my talk is to discuss the specific role and contribution of the 'Gšdelian' approach to incompleteness.

 

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

 

      INCOMPLETENESS & UNSOLVABLE HALTING LIMERICK COMPETITION

      c/o <[email protected]>

 

 

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2011-10-08 Pheromone-Handedness-in-Elephants Poet

 

The judges have chosen a winner in the Pheromone-Handedness-in-Elephants Limerick Competition, which asked for a limerick to honor the study "Chirality in Elephant Pheromones," David Greenwood, Dan Comeskey, Martin Hunt and L. Elizabeth L. Rasmussen, Nature, vol. 438, December 22/29, 2005, pp. 1097-8. <http://bit.ly/pyliQa>

 

Here's the winning limerick, by INVESTIGATOR NANCY SCHIMMEL:

 

Male elephants hate to be branded

By pheromones that are left-handed

   When they exude righties

   The gals in their nighties

Line up for whatever's demanded.

 

Here's the offering from LIMERICK LAUREATE MARTIN EIGER:

 

Bull elephants show their vitality.

They use pheromonal chirality.

   Other elephants trust,

   As they must, during musth,

In enantiomeric duality.

 

 

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2011-10-9 MORE IMPROBABLE: Ferrets, Bees, Cats, and VapoRub

 

Recent improbable bits you may or may not have missed:

 

      twitter: @ImprobResearch, @IgNobel

      facebook: "Improbable Research"

 

BLOG <http://improbable.com/>

<> Ig Nobel winner writes "best abstract ever"

<> The bee dance of Michael Smith, scientist

<> Automata authors, the next generation

<> VapoRub and ferrets and PR

And many more...

 

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

<> The physics of stalking and falling cats

<> An economist who relishes the concept of corruption

<> Why brain extraction is not as bad as it sounds

And more...

 

 

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2011-10-10 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Wrong Assumptions in Real Time

 

Also in honor of Harold Camping:

 

"Wrong Assumptions and Neglected Areas in Real-Time Systems," E.D. Jensen, 2008 11th IEEE International Symposium on Object Oriented Real-Time Distributed Computing (ISORC), p. 356. <http://bit.ly/o6D758>

 

 

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2011-10-11 Improbable Research Events

 

For details and additional events, see

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

 

NPR's "Science Friday" Ig Nobel broadcast — Nov 25, 2011

 

AAAS, Vancouver, Canada                   - Feb 18, 2012

 

Ig Nobel UK Tour                          — Mar/Apr 2012

 

The Netherlands                           — Jun 2012

 

 

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2011-10-12 -- 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.)

 

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2011-10-13 -- Our Address (*)

 

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA

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

 

EDITORIAL: [email protected]

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2011-10-14 -- 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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2011-10-15 -- 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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