Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

Further prying insights on lying

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Ig Nobel Prize winner Dan Ariely and colleagues have a new study about lying: “The Brain Adapts to Dishonesty,” by Neil Garrett, Stephanie Lazzaro, Dan Ariely, and Tali Sharot, published in Nature Neuroscience.

A news report in Scientific American sums it up: “The team’s findings, published today in Nature Neuroscience, confirm in a laboratory setting that dishonesty grows with repetition. The researchers also used brain imaging to reveal a neural mechanism that may help explain why.”

Co-author Garrett describes what the team did and found, in this video:


Dan Ariely and three other colleagues were awarded the 2008 Ig Nobel Prize for medicine, for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine. (Their study about that: “Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy,” Rebecca L. Waber; Baba Shiv; Ziv Carmon; Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.)

BONUS: Two of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners did research on related topics:



20 questions answered by the man who looked at the world upside-down

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

Atsuki Higashiyama, winner of the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize for perception, answers 20 questions, in the Japan Times. It begins:


Ig Nobel perception prize winner Atsuki Higashiyama: ‘Psychology teaches us to be scientific and skeptical’



Name: Atsuki Higashiyama
Age: 65
Nationality: Japanese
Occupation: Professor of psychology, Ritsumeikan University
Likes: Walking, spending a whole day not thinking
Dislikes: Business, teaching

1. Please explain your research on perception. My research focuses on 3-D perception — the relationship between visual perception and body orientation.

2. Did you ever expect to win an Ig Nobel prize? No, never. It was a complete surprise.

3. What prize did you receive? I received 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars, a 61-second clock, a certificate and a very warm welcome.

4. Describe the pose that is synonymous with your research. I sometimes, not often, take the pose of bending over and looking between my legs. I have encouraged participants of the experiments to take this pose for a very short elapsed time on every trial. If we kept this pose for a long time, the blood would pile in the brain, which should be avoided….

BONUS: Watch Professor Higashiyama receive the prize, in this video of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony (the prize is announced at the 1:20:05 point in this video):

Master bullshit analyst graduates, heads off to Yale

Friday, October 21st, 2016

The University of Waterloo celebrated the graduation of Gordon Pennycook, who last month, together with his colleagues, was awarded the Ig Nobel Peace Prize. The university writes:


Psych scholar whose research gained global attention graduates
Gordon Pennycook published research on everything from BS to how smartphone use is linked to lazy thinking. Now he’s on a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University

…Pennycook, who graduates this week with a doctorate in psychology from Waterloo, is currently at Yale University on a prestigious Banting postdoctoral fellowship. He will receive the Alumni Gold Medal for outstanding academic achievement at Waterloo’s 113th convocation ceremonies taking place on Friday October 21 and Saturday October 22.

The numerous studies he led and co-authored while a graduate student explore topics such as religious belief, moral judgments and values, creativity, smartphone use, health beliefs, science communication, and bullshit receptivity. The last of these studies, titled “On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit,” won a 2016 Ig Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to Pennycook and his co-authors just last month at Harvard University.

“We are not nearly as good at detecting bullshit as we think,” wrote Pennycook in a non-academic online publication.

The BS paper attracted plenty of media coverage and interviews, most recently on the current US election….

Shadows Cast by Spider Legs, Used in Physics Calculations

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Anticipating Halloween, the American Chemical Society has published a study about using the shadows cast by (kinda sorta) spider legs, for scientific purposes. The paper is:

Elegant Shadow Making Tiny Force Visible for Water-Walking Arthropods and Updated Archimedes’ Principle,” Yelong Zheng, Hongyu Lu, Wei Yin, Dashuai Tao, Lichun Shi, and Yu Tian, Langmuir, 2016, 32 (41), pp. 10522–10528.  The authors, at Tsinghua University, China, report:


“Forces acted on legs of water-walking arthropods with weights in dynes are of great interest for entomologist, physicists, and engineers. While their floating mechanism has been recognized, the in vivo leg forces stationary have not yet been simultaneously achieved. In this study, their elegant bright-edged leg shadows are used to make the tiny forces visible and measurable based on the updated Archimedes’ principle. The force was approximately proportional to the shadow area with a resolution from nanonewton to piconewton/pixel. The sum of leg forces agreed well with the body weight measured with an accurate electronic balance, which verified updated Archimedes’ principle at the arthropod level”

(Thanks to Tony Tweedale for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: An earlier study that used shadow calculation: the MIT study “The hydrodynamics of water-walking arthropods“, by Ig Nobel Prize winner David Hu, and John Bush. Here’s a bit of detail from that study:


Upside-down crotch-peeping tourists in Japan

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

“The observatory crotch peep platform is being installed, a lot of tourists to experience the crotch peeping.” — one highlight from NHK Zero’s TV report about the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize winners.


The image you see here, from the TV program, shows how people have been influenced by the winner of the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize for perception. That prize was awarded to Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.

They documented their research, in the study “Perceived size and Perceived Distance of Targets Viewed From Between the Legs: Evidence for Proprioceptive Theory” [by Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, published in the journal Vision Research, vol. 46, no. 23, November 2006, pp. 3961–76].