Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

Podcast #31: Tilted Eiffel Tower, Green-haired Swedish Blondes

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller; Converting old Russian ammunition into new diamonds; A machine that you can point at someone to induce them to get confused, and shut up; How to see brain activity in a dead salmon; and The puzzle of why some blonde people in Sweden suddenly found their hair turning green— all these all turn up in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

Click on the “Venetian blinds” icon — at the lower right corner here — to select whichever week’s episode you want to hear:

SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free.

This week, Marc Abrahams tells about:

The mysterious John Schedler or the shadowy Bruce Petschek perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, both on the new CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).

New Ig Nobel winner uses discovery to produce needed drugs

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Four days after being awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry — for partially un-boiling an egg — Professor Colin Raston is being lauded for using his discovery to produce a widely needed drug that can henceforth, thanks to him, be produced cheaply and easily, practically anywhere. So says a September 28 press release from the university:

Ig Nobel egghead cracks global anaesthetic code

One of the world’s most in-demand anaesthetics can now be produced on the spot, thanks to the thermos-flask sized device that recently won Flinders University inventor Professor Colin Raston an Ig Nobel prize.

Professor Raston and his team of researchers have successfully synthesised Lidocaine using their desktop Vortex Fluidic Device (VFD), in a development with huge implications for the traditional mass production methods of the global pharmaceuticals industry.

It’s so easy to produce Lidocaine with the VFD, which made global headlines earlier this year when it unboiled an egg, that the device’s inventor, Professor Colin Raston, says it could be made in even the most remote locations, with only basic instructions, in less than an hour.

Professor Raston says the ability to produce Lidocaine, one of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ‘most important medicines for a basic healthcare system’, in high need areas such as war zone and developing countries signals a paradigm shift in pharmaceutical manufacture.

[Here’s a news report by ABC News, interviewing professor Raston about the triumph:]

The 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to Callum Ormonde and Colin Raston [AUSTRALIA], and Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese, Tivoli Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, Gregory Weiss [USA], for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg.

The team published details of their work, in the study “Shear-Stress-Mediated Refolding of Proteins from Aggregates and Inclusion Bodies,” Tom Z. Yuan, Callum F. G. Ormonde, Stephan T. Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin M. Pugliese, Tivoli J. Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, Colin L. Raston, Gregory A. Weiss, ChemBioChem, epub January 2015.


This photo (by Mike Benveniste, whose late cousin, Jacques Benveniste was a two-time Ig Nobel Prize winner) shows Professor Raston (left) and co-author Gregory Weiss (center) as Nobel laureate Jack Szostak hands them their Ig Nobel Prize. Nobel laureate Dudley Herschbach (far right) looks on.

You can watch video of the team accepting their Ig Nobel Prize.

Here’s a look at the vortex device:

And here’s a capsule version of the story of how to partially un-boil an egg:

Science: Controlling Our Bladders Makes Us Better Liars

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

According to a recent scientific study, we’re better at lying when we are also controlling our bladders.

Investigators Elise Fenn, Iris Blandón-Gitlin, Jennifer Coons, Catherine Pineda, and Reinalyn Echon from Claremont Graduate University were studying the Inhibitory Spillover Effect (ISE), which “occurs when performance in one self-control task facilitates performance in another (simultaneously conducted) self-control task.” Deception requires inhibitory control, and of course so does holding one’s bladder.

The following expert from the paper’s abstract provides a good summary of the authors’ findings:

Deceiving requires increased access to inhibitory control. We hypothesized that inducing liars to control urination urgency (physical inhibition) would facilitate control during deceptive interviews (cognitive inhibition). Participants drank small (low-control) or large (high-control) amounts of water. Next, they lied or told the truth to an interviewer. Third-party observers assessed the presence of behavioral cues and made true/lie judgments. In the high-control, but not the low-control condition, liars displayed significantly fewer behavioral cues to deception, more behavioral cues signaling truth, and provided longer and more complex accounts than truth-tellers.


This new article cites — and takes part of its name from — the Ig Nobel-winning paper by M. A. Tuk et al.: Inhibitory spillover: Increased urination urgency facilitates impulse control in unrelated domains.

(Thanks to investigator Karen Kustedjo for alerting us to this article.)

What’s it like to be an atom (and be in love?)

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Frank Wilczek tells BBC3 Radio’s “Private Passions” what it was like to be an atom, which is what Wilzcek was in his public opera-singing debut, in which he played the role of an atom who fell in love with a human being (and she with him!) in the Ig Nobel opera “Atom and Eve‘.


BONUS (unrelated, really): “The vocal tract organ is a new musical instrument

Ig Nobel TV special on BS-SKY-PerfecTV — September 27

Friday, September 25th, 2015

Dr. Nakamatsu contest of special program – Ig Nobel Prize knowledge” will be a special broadcast on Japan’s BS-SKY-PerfecTV channel, on Sunday September 27, at 5:00 pm.

The program will, we are told, be composed of highlights from the June 2015 Ig Nobel show at the University of Tokyo with Marc Abrahams, Dr. Nakamats, and several other Ig Nobel Prize winners, and some brave students from the University of Tokyo.

That June show (and indirectly, this broadcast) was made possible through the generosity of some colorful donors. We want to again thank them. They are:

Platinum SponsorsEisaku Amano,Hirokuni Ito, Gonji Iyama,Kouji Oosawa, Toshihiro Kakimoto, Arata Samon, Toshihiro Suzuki, Kazuo Sekine, Asuka Tsuzuki, Hisashi Niizuma, Hirotada Hashimoto, Yasuto Hara, So Fujioka, Akira Yamane

Gold Sponsors: Yasumitsu Aoyama, Masashi Ishizuka, Makoto Imai, Keiko Uchida, Koichi Ota, Hironori Ozaku, Hisashi Kamiuchi, Hiroshi Kawai, Sayuri Kishi, Toshikazu Kimura, Masatoshi Kumagai, Takeshi Sasaki, Tatsuya Satou, Azumaya Kimonohiroba, Keiko Serizawa, Yoko Taniguchi, Satoru Chiba, Satoru Nakajo, Koichi Tsuji, Katsumi Tsuruta, Yasuo Tomita, Miyoko Nakagawa, Katsuroh Nishikubo, Megumi Hattori, Akira Fukuda, Tomio Horiuchi, Midori Matsumoto, Ken Murata, Yusuke Yasukawa, Hisashi Yada, Akira Yano, Shuhei Yamada, Ryusuke Yamanouchi, Jun Watanabe

And, of course, very special thanks to Sir Dr. Nakamats and his staff and family and friends — especially Hasegawa the Great!