Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

“Can’t get enough of the poo”

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

The University of the Watwatersrand writes, on its web site:

Can’t get enough of the poo
24 April 2015

“Tonight you will hear about small animals that play around in poo.”

With this, Professor Marcus Byrne started off his inaugural lecture delivered in the Senate Room at Wits University on Tuesday, 14 April 2015, following his promotion last year to Personal Professor in Zoology in the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences.

Thirty years ago he encountered this enigmatic insect that would “entertain” him, and in turn let him to entertain many others, in the name of science: the dung beetle.

It’s all about the poo

Since he joined Wits in 1987 Byrne had used dung beetles effectively as a vehicle to show evolution at its best. “It is a particularly good vehicle because of its relationship with poo,” Byrne chuckled. “It simply loves its poo and cannot get enough of it.”

“There are over 800 species in South Africa, 2 000 in Africa and 6 000 in the world. And only about 10% roll dung!” Byrne said….

Science makes up for our flaws

As a child growing up in the UK with its “limited fauna”, Byrne’s love for science was sparked by watching the great science communicator, David Attenborough, on television. In his own right, Byrne is an exceptional science communicator. His TEDx talk has attracted over 900 000 hits and with his team was awarded the 2013 Ig Nobel Prize for Astronomy and Biology….

A look back at contagious yawning in tortoises

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

This 2011 BBC TV News report profiled Ig Nobel Prize winner Anna Wilkinson:


A Nobel prize may be the most sought after gong in the scientific world, but a lecturer from the University of Lincoln has picked up the next best thing.

Dr Anna Wilkinson has won an Ig Nobel prize, to honour achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think.

The award was given for her experiments into whether yawning among tortoises is contagious.

Anne-Marie Tasker reports.

Ig Nobel Prize winner Oppenheimer named the #1 business school professor

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Fortune magazine tells how an Ig Nobel Prize winner was named the top young business school professor:

The 10 top B-school professors under 40

Business school professors come in all stripes and colors. But the very best of the lot share a few common qualities: They are all supremely well educated, highly talented researchers, exceptional teachers, and, perhaps most important of all, they inspire students and their students inspire them.

With these qualities in mind, Poets&Quants has compiled its 2015 list of the very best business school professors under 40. Winning an Ig Nobel Prize is not enough to get a spot on this list. Neither is taking students to the Amazon. Or getting a class to show up wearing beer helmets. Or having your research featured on the John Oliver show. Or applying neuroscience to the negotiating process. But all of those things help….

Number one on the list is Danny Oppenheimer:


Danny Oppenheimer was awarded the 2006 Ig Nobel Prize for literature, for his report “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly” (published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, vol. 20, no. 2, March 2006, pp. 139-56).

BONUS: A new essay by Danny Oppenheimer, in Time magazine: “The problem’s not the NCAA. It’s players’ expectations of their peers

Ig Nobel update: How well do oil and water mix, five years later?

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

David Biello writes, in Scientific American, about “The Enduring Mystery of the Missing Oil Spilt in the Gulf of Mexico” — a detective story whose beginnings were told in an Ig Nobel Prize-winning study:

Workers uncovered a tar mat weighing some 18,000 kilograms just offshore of a natural barrier island in Louisiana in the summer of 2013. Although the tar mat turned out to bear more sand than oil, it represented another small fraction of the hydrocarbons that went missing after BP’s blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The sum of all the dispersed oil located thus far, from tar mats to oily marine snow, hardly accounts for at least four million barrels of oil spewed into the cold, dark bottom of the Gulf of Mexico from the deep-sea well named Macondo five years ago. Like any good mystery, this one may never be solved….

eric_adamsThe 2010 Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to  Eric Adams [pictured here] of MIT, Scott Socolofsky of Texas A&M University, Stephen Masutani of the University of Hawaii, and BP [British Petroleum], for disproving the old belief that oil and water don’t mix. [REFERENCE: “Review of Deep Oil Spill Modeling Activity Supported by the Deep Spill JIP and Offshore Operator’s Committee. Final Report,” Eric Adams and Scott Socolofsky, 2005.]

Randomness As a Tool to Produce More Women Leaders

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

Further fodder for using randomness to make choices that are traditionally made by other, judgment-based methods:

goodallWomen have to enter the leadership race to win: Using random selection to increase the supply of women into senior positions,” Amanda H. Goodall [pictured here] and Margit Osterloh, 2015. The authors, at Cass Business School, City University, London and the University of Zürich, explicitly build on the work of 2010 Ig Nobel management prize winners Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo:

“The supply of women into senior management has changed little despite well intentioned efforts. We argue that the biggest effect is from supply-side factors that inhibit females’ decision to enter competitions: Women are under-confident about winning, men are over-confident; women are more risk averse than men in some settings; and, most importantly, women shy away from competition. In order to change the conditions under which this is the case, this paper proposes a radical idea. It is to use a particular form of random selection of candidates to increase the supply of women into management positions. We argue that selective randomness would encourage women to enter tournaments; offer women ‘rejection insurance’; ensure equality over time; raise the standard of candidates; reduce homophily to improve diversity of people and ideas; and lessen ‘the chosen one’ factor. We also demonstrate, using Jensen’s inequality from applied mathematics, that random selection can improve organizational efficiency….

“Random processing, which includes screening to filter out inappropriate candidates, can in principle be used in many settings to correct and improve different kinds of procedures.18 Zeitoun, Osterloh and Frey (2014) propose developing a corporate governance model using random selection procedures to appoint stakeholder representatives to corporate boards. Pluchino, Rapisarda and Garofalo (2011) suggest using partial random selection as a promotion strategy that protects again the Peter Principle.”