Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

Surprising end-results from prize-winning urination-duration researchers

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

A new study called “Hydrodynamics of Defecation,” published in the research journal Soft Matter, emerges from the same laboratory at Georgia Tech that produced the Ig Nobel Prize-winning study “Duration of Urination Does Not Change With Body Size.” The earlier, urination study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-authors Patricia Yang and David Hu shared the Ig Nobel Prize for biology, in the year 2015, as did their urination co-authors Jonathan Pham and Jerome Choo. In the new, defecation study, Yang and Hu are joined in co-authorship by Morgan LaMarca, Candice Kaminski, and Daniel I Chu.

Here’s detail from the new study:

The above three-part illustration shows:

(A) The relationship between body mass M and the mass flow rates of food intake and excreted feces. Symbols represent experimental measurements, and dashed lines represent best fits to the data. (B) Schematic of the flow rate of energy in mammals. (C) Pie chart of the distribution of energy intake.

The authors introduce the underlying mathematics of their work with another simple illustration. They explain:

We present a mathematical model for defecation. Our system consists of a pipe whose length consists of the rectum and the colon, illustrated [here]. We model cylindrical feces of diameter D and total length L, consisting of several pieces joined like sausages. The walls of the cylinder are coated with a mucus layer of thickness h, which is considerably less than D. We parameterize the motion of feces and mucus using cylindrical coordinates…  in which z represents the horizontal direction along the cylinder and r the radial direction from the center of the feces to the walls.

The paper reduces the entire flow of its argument into this dense nugget:

Animals discharge feces within a range of sizes and shapes. Such variation has long been used to track animals as well as to diagnose illnesses in both humans and animals. However, the physics by which feces are discharged remain poorly understood. In this combined experimental and theoretical study, we investigate the defecation of mammals from cats to elephants using the dimensions of large intestines and feces, videography at Zoo Atlanta, cone-on-plate rheological measurements of feces and mucus, and a mathematical model of defecation. The diameter of feces is comparable to that of the rectum, but the length is double that of the rectum, indicating that not only the rectum but also the colon is a storage facility for feces. Despite the length of rectum ranging from 4 to 40 cm, mammals from cats to elephants defecate within a nearly constant duration of 12 ± 7 seconds.

The Ig Nobel Prize citation for the earlier, urination study, explains that that earlier study tested “the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).” The results of the new study, combined with the results of the new study, provide an enriched understanding of how mammalian output functions relate to time.

UPDATE: New Scientist magazine made a short video (and did a writeup) about this, complete with background excretion music:

UPDATE: Co-authors Patricia Yang and David Hu write about their research, in The Conversation: “Physics of poo: Why it takes you and an elephant the same amount of time

Highlights from the spring Ig Nobel EuroTour

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Here are highlight reels from the recent Ig Nobel shows at the University of Graz and at the University of Stockholm:

Those shows were part of this year’s Ig Nobel Spring Eurotour. This was the full tour schedule:

EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland
FRI TANKE FÖRLAG, Stockholm, Sweden
ORF (television debate), Vienna, Austria

The shows featured MARC ABRAHAMS (founder of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony) and different combinations of these Ig Nobel Prize winners:

  • MINNA LYONS (psychopaths and night owls)
  • KADER ALLOUNI (using speed bumps to diagnose appendicitis)
  • ELIZABETH OBERZAUCHER (mathematical analysis of the man who fathered 888 children)
  • RAGHAVENDRA RAU (some business leaders acquire a taste for disasters that do not affect them personally)
  • THOMAS THWAITES (living as a goat)
  • LUDWIG HUBER (absence of contagious yawning in tortoises)
  • ALESSANDRO PLUCHINO, ANDREA RAPISARDA, CESARE GAROFALO (organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random)
  • HYNEK BURDA (defecating dogs align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines)
  • KEES MOELIKER (homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck)
  • PIERS BARNES (how many group photos are needed to ensure at least one in which nobody blinks)
  • FREDRIK SJÖBERG (three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead)
  • LAURENT BÈGUE (people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive)

HAIR NOTE: The show at the University of Oslo, on Friday, March 24, included the public introduction of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS) Woman of the Year: Anneleen Kool.

INCOMPETENCE NOTE: The tour also featured tributes to the Ig Nobel Prize-winning (in the year 2000) study of the Dunning-Kruger effect. That study is called “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.”

New book (and show!) by the Ig Nobel randomness reseachers

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

The Italian researchers who analyzed how the Peter Principle plays out, and who as a side-effect of that were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize, have a new book about their experiences. The book is called Abbiamo vinto l’Ig Nobel con il principio di Peter [“We won the Ig Nobel with the Peter Principle”], by Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda , and Cesare Garofalo, published by Malcor D’.

We will all celebrate the new book in a special show at the University of Catania, on Thursday, April 6. The show features: Marc Abrahams and Ig Nobel Prize winners Marina de Tommaso (measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam), Elizabeth Oberzaucher (mathematical analysis of the man who fathered 888 children), and of course Cesare Garofalo, Alessandro Pluchino, and Andrea Rapisarda (organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random).

The show is a featured part of the Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour.

Eyewitness account of the Ig Nobel show in Graz

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

Norbert Swoboda reports about the Ig Nobel show at the University of Graz. His report, in Kleine Zeitung, begins:


From sex, ducks and alcohol

Premiere in Austria: At the University of Graz, three Ig Nobel Prize winners took part in the sold out hall on Wednesday evening.

This was part of the Ig Nobel spring Eurotour. The tour continues next week with shows in Italy and The Netherlands.

BONUS: The University of Graz prepared a highlights video from the evening.

Dead flies, psychopathic night owls, and blinking humans — in Stockholm on Monday

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Dead flies, psychopathic night owls, and blinking humans — these things and more will be part of the Ig Nobel shows in Sweden.

WHEN: Monday, 27 March, 2017,
WHERE: Stockholm, Sweden:

There will be three (3) events— all on the same day:

Each event will feature:

  • Marc Abrahams — Father of the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony and editor of Annals of Improbable Research
  • Ig Nobel Prize winner Fredrik Sjöberg (three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead)
  • Ig Nobel Prize winner Minna Lyons (evidence that “night owls” are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning)
  • Ig Nobel Prize winner Piers Barnes (how many group photos are needed to ensure at least one in which nobody blinks).

Here’s a preview, in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter: “Maybe I have become somewhat more rigid in cork

This event is part of the Ig Nobel Spring Eurotour, which has already visited England, Switzerland, and Norway, and will arrive eventually in Austria, Italy, The Netherlands, and Scotland.