Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

Sam the student’s view of the 2005 Ig Nobel ceremony

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Back in 2005, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student named Sam went to that year’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony and then to the Ig Informal Lectures. Sam wrote up his impressions:

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the Ig Nobel awards ceremony in H****** Square. The “Igs,” sponsored by a bunch of Mensa nerds actual Nobel Laureates from both H****** and MIT, celebrate nontraditional research in a variety of disciplines. This year, awards were bestowed upon ten leading researchers from four different continents for answering some of the following questions:

1. Do people swim faster in water or in syrup?
2. What internal pressures are observed upon penguin defecation?
3. Are neutered pets somehow less happy than regular pets?
4. What about Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is most appealing to a common cricket?
5. How can we best improve our nation’s economy?
6. Why bother to photograph and retrospectively analyze every meal you’ve eaten over a period of 34 years?…

6. Why bother to photograph and retrospectively analyze every meal you’ve eaten over a period of 34 years?

Well, I’m not sure this one has a clear answer, really. Dr. Yoshiro Nakamats, winner of the Ig Nobel in Nutrition, delivered perhaps the most inspiring and concise acceptance speech at the Ig Nobel ceremony:

“Life is long … should be longer … speech … should be shorter … Good night.”

Or perhaps this profound, almost poetic summation of the human condition merely seemed to be a brief moment of clarity amidst an opera dedicated to counting to infinite, programs being folded into paper planes and thrown at the stage (sometimes during the speeches of actual Nobel Laureates) and 24/7 speeches on animal morphology, primate locomotion, the purpose of life. The lattermost of these consist of speeches of 24 seconds that convey “everything there is to know” about a topic and then 7 words that summarize it in a manner that is “understandable to everyone.” Anyway, all this commotion left me with quite a favorable impression of Dr. Nakamats.

Then some other people on my floor went to the free Ig Informal lectures and discovered some more about Dr. Nakamats, as well as getting the distinguished scientist to autograph their program for him….


Read Sam’s entire assessment, on the MIT Admissions Blog.

Dr. Nakamats will be returning this year, to give the keynote address at the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony on September 18, and then to do a brief talk at the Ig Informal Lectures on September 20.

(We do not know what Sam is doing these days, or where he is doing it.)

Here’s video of the entire 2005 Ig Nobel ceremony. Dr. Nakamats is awarded his prize at about the 1:08:40 mark:

Daniel Chastinet’s cornucopiac Ig Nobel drawings

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Brazilian artist Daniel Chastinet shows off, on the web, some of the drawings he did for a a Revista Super Interessante article, in 2013, about the “backstage” aspects of the Ig Nobel Prizes. Here’s one of those drawings, which packs in a remarkable number of aspects of the Ig Nobel ceremony and some of the winners:



Battle over a library’s use of an Ig Nobel Prize-winning teenager-repellant

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

People are displeased that a Welsh town’s library installed an Ig Nobel Prize-winning device designed to repel teenagers.

mosquitoBACKGROUND: The 2006 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Howard Stapleton of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, for inventing an electromechanical teenager repellant — a device that makes annoying high-pitched noise designed to be audible to teenagers but not to adults; and for later using that same technology to make telephone ringtones that are audible to teenagers but probably not to their teachers. The invention is sold under the brand name “The Mosquito.”

BACKGROUND: Stapleton’s company, Compound Security, also developed a version of that same technology for a sort-of opposite purpose — for teenagers to use against older people. This alternate product is a telephone ring tone so high-pitched that elders (schoolteachers, for example) probably cannot hear teenagers receiving telephone calls (in classrooms, in that same example). Compound Security thus became like the great armaments manufacturers of old, selling arms to both sides.

Now, the Milford & West Wales Mercury, reports:

A LOCAL campaigner is hoping a meeting this Friday (August 15) will result in a controversial anti-teen alarm being removed from outside Milford Haven Library.

Gareth Bromhall, from Milford Haven, is meeting with building owners the Port of Milford Haven at the site, to discuss the future of the ‘Mosquito’ alarm currently in place there.

The alarm was installed by the Port in 2012, following ‘thousands of pounds worth of damage to its property’ and complaints by tenants and members of the public about anti-social behaviour….

milford-haven-libraryDetails of the oust-the-mosquito-from-the-library campaign are online. Here’s the possibly-affiliated Facebook page.

The Milford Haven Library [pictured here] is having what it calls a “Summer Reading Challenge 2014“.

Here’s a TV report about The Mosquito, broadcast on the American “Nightline” program in 2009:

Here’s a British report, of roughly that same vintage:

Teaser for the 24th first annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Al Crockett and Daniel Rosenberg (Al is in back of the camera, you see Daniel in front of it here) made this brief food-related teaser for the 24th first annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony. The theme of this year’s ceremony (though not necessarily of the things that will win prizes) is FOOD.

The ceremony will happen on Thursday evening, September 18, at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre.

It will, as usual, be webcast live. (Tickets to physically attend the ceremony in Sanders Theatre have been sold out for a while now.)

Perhaps you would like to organize a webcast-watching party?

BONUS: Daniel and Al’s teasers for previous Ig Nobel ceremonies

An effect of croquet on predator/parasite author order

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Scientists sometimes find clever ways to decide contentious questions. Witness the method mentioned in this paper:

Aggregation of predators and insect parasites and its effect on stability,” M.P. Hassell and Robert M. May, Journal of Animal Ecology, 1974, pp. 567-594. (Thanks to investigator Betsy Devine for bringing this to our attention.)  In the 1974 predators/parasites paper, May and his coauthor wrote:

“The order of authorship was determined from a twenty-five-game croquet series held at Imperial College Field Station during summer 1973.”

[A CURIOUS HISTORICAL NOTE: Two decades after this paper appeared, Robert May held the post of Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government. In 1995 he asked the Ig Nobel Board of Governors to stop giving Ig Nobel Prizes to British scientists — even if those scientists wanted to be awarded the prizes. The incident was celebrated in the science journalism world at the time, and years later was celebrated in a popular Japanese manga.]