Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

The Scottish Wasabi Fire Alarm

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

The National Museum of Scotland includes in its vast collection this item, number T.2012.28:


Fire alarm for waking deaf people by nasal irritation with synthesized wasabi, awarded 2011 Ig Nobel prize in chemistry, designed by Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami, Japan, 2012

Inventor Makoto Imai himself donated this item to the museum, in Edinburgh, during the 2012 Ig Nobel EuroTour.

Sighing: Neurobiologists hasten to catch up with psychologists

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Psychologists, having been decorated (see below) for pursuing insights about why people sigh, now see neurobiologists tailing after them.

A press release earlier this year from UCLA announces: “UCLA and Stanford researchers pinpoint origin of sighing reflex in the brain“. The press release also contains a body of text, which contains this explanation: “Sighing appears to be regulated by the fewest number of neurons we have seen linked to a fundamental human behavior,” explained Jack Feldman, a professor of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute. “One of the holy grails in neuroscience is figuring out how the brain controls behavior. Our finding gives us insights into mechanisms that may underlie much more complex behaviors.” Details are in a study published in the journal Nature, called “The peptidergic control circuit for sighing”, by Peng Li, Wiktor A. Janczewski, Kevin Yackle, Kaiwen Kam, Silvia Pagliardini, Mark A. Krasnow and Jack L. Feldman.

karlteThe 2011 Ig Nobel Prize for psychology was awarded to Karl Halvor Teigen [pictured here] of the University of Oslo, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh. (Teigen published details in the paper “Is a Sigh ‘Just a Sigh’? — Sighs as Emotional Signals and Responses to a Difficult Task,” Karl Halvor Teigen, Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, vol. 49, no. 1, 2008, pp. 49–57.)

You’re invited to the Improbable Research show at the AAAS meeting Saturday

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Join us, if you’re in Boston this Saturday night, at the annual Improbable Research session at the AAAS Annual meeting! Here are details:

AAAS Annual Meeting, Sheraton Boston Hotel (in the Prudential Center), in Constitution Ballroom A, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. — February 18, 2017, Saturday, 8:00 pm.  This year’s Improbable Research session will feature:

This evening special session is open free to the public. BUT NOTE: Every year this session fills rapidly, so we suggest you arrive a little early, if you want to get into the room.

This is the research study that introduced the Dunning-Kruger effect:

Achievements in pepper spicelessness: First the jalapeno, now the habanero

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Eighteen years after the creator of the spiceless jalapeno pepper was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize, a different plant-breeding scientist has achieved spicelessness in a different variety of chile pepper, say reports.

Dr. Paul Bosland, director of The Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University, was awarded the 1999 Ig Nobel biology prize for breeding a spiceless jalapeno chile pepper.

Today, in 2017, NPR’s “The Salt” blog reports about the new, second-spiceless-pepper, achievement:

This Heatless Habanero Packs All Of The Flavor With None Of The Burn

[A] pepper — an aromatic, orange habanero without any heat…

“We selected the habanero for heat because that’s what was coveted. But what if you wanted to experience the melon-like experience of a pepper?” Barber asks. “You can’t do it with a habanero — you can with a Habanada.”

Cornell plant breeder Michael Mazourek created the Habanada as part of his doctoral research. He got the idea after discovering a rogue heatless pepper whose genetics behaved very differently from a naturally sweet pepper like the Bell.

The man behind the Habanada is a Cornell University plant breeder named Michael Mazourek, who created it as part of his doctoral research….


Bernard Vonnegut, Ice-17, Ice-9, chicken-plucking, and tornadoes

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Bernard Vonnegut, that most surprising atmospheric scientist, gets appreciated in an Italian-language essay called “Ice Numbers“, by Franco Bagnoli of the University of Florence, published in Ciencia y Cultura. Here’s a machine translation of bits of Bagnoli’s essay:

At the end of 2016, at the Institute of Complex Systems of the CNR in Florence, Italy, a new solid phase of water was discovered: ice XVII….

The news, and the discussion workshops that followed, reminded me of one of my favorite novels by writer Kurt Vonnegut [which involves a new phase of water, called “ice-nine”]… Who could have given Vonnegut the idea of ​​this new phase of water? Probably his brother. Bernard Vonnegut, who was a scientist of the atmosphere. He discovered that silver iodide can be used as a nucleating agent to induce rainfall. In the clouds, the water is in the form of small supercooled drops….

Bernard Vonnegut became famous in 1997, the year of his death, for having won the Ig Nobel Prize in meteorology for a 1975 article entitled “Chicken Plucking as Measure of Tornado Wind Speed“.