Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

DanGillingwaterThe Ig Nobel Tour of Europe will kick off Friday, March 14th at Imperial College London. That night’s show will include the world premiere of “The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera” by composer Daniel Gillingwater.

My now classic 2003 Ig Nobel Prize winning paper (with about the same title as the opera) has made some people laugh-and-think and changed my life quite a bit, but I could not have imagined that it would inspire the performing arts. So I asked the composer about the creation and scope of his work. He answered me:

sarah-redmond-cv“I have set it for solo high voice, in this premiere performed by Sarah Redmond (playing your role, as witness and first [and only author]). The gender difference need not be an issue as you are an elegant and willowy specimen, much like Sarah. The scoring also includes clarinet quintet, the Edge Ensemble with Shaun Thompson on clarinet. We have a vocal chorus of four – soprano, alto, tenor and bass punctuating the section beginning ‘Rather startled, I watched …’ which is the final vivace section of a pseudo Mozartian aria.”

“The two male singers will also be portraying the mallard ducks in question, through the medium of contemporary dance. A tasteful re-enactment of the duck display, mixing flowing, poetic body movements and extreme sexual violence.”

my-duck-call_250My excitement grew. The actual words of my Ig Nobel winning paper would be sung and the duck’s display re-enacted! I had to find a way to participate. So I convinced Daniel that I am a virtuoso at playing the ‘Duck Call’. He agreed immediately:

“Now this rarely used orchestral instrument will be in the heart of the whole work and serves to comment sardonically on the comparisons of this act of homosexual necrophilia and the state of western civilisation today.”

Although I do not read a note of music, I am extremely confident in my role.

Come, see and hear: Ig Nobel Tour of the UK, 14 March 2014, 18:00-20:00h: Imperial College, London (South Kensington Campus, The Great Hall, Sherfield Building): reserve tickets here.

The 2014 Ig Nobel tour of Europe

Monday, March 10th, 2014

A bevy of Ig Nobel Prize winners — scientists who have done things that make people LAUGH, then THINK — will strut their stuff in the 2014 Ig Nobel tour of Europe. It happens March 14—April 2. Here’s a quick list of events:

  • Fri, March 14 ….      LONDON, Imperial College.
  • Mon, March 17  ….    COVENTRY, University of Warwick
  • Tue, March 18  ….      LONDON. Conway Hall.
  • Thu, March 20 ….      LEEDS, University of Leeds
  • Mon, March 24 ….      AARHUS. University of Aarhus
  • Tue, March 25 ….      AARHUS. University of Aarhus
  • Wed, March 26 ….      COPENHAGEN, Copenhagen University
  • Thu, March 27  ….      STOCKHOLM, Karolinska Institute
  • Thu, March 27  ….      STOCKHOLM, ABF House
  • Wed, April 2 ….       PORTSMOUTH, University of Portsmouth

For full details, see our events schedule. For fuller details of the UK part of the tour, see the 2014 UK tour page. Among the participants (in various shows):

  • Marc Abrahams (editor of the magazine Annals of Improbable Research, father of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony) [Marc will be master of ceremonies at all the tour events.]
  • Brian Crandall (Ig Nobel Prize winner —the experimental swallowing and excreting of a parboiled shrew)
  • Masanori Niimi (Ig Nobel Prize winner —the effect of listening to opera, on heart transplant patients who are mice)
  • Kees Moeliker (Ig Nobel Prize winner —homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck, and who will now tell the strange recent history of pubic lice)
  • Robin Ball (Ig Nobel Prize winner — the physics of ponytails)
  • Ilja van Beest (Ig Nobel Prize winner — roller coaster rides as a treatment for asthma)
  • Richard Stephens (Ig Nobel Prize winner — swearing as a response to pain)
  • The QI Elves (the researchers who dig up info for the British TV program ‘QI’)
  • Mason Porter (mathematician — bipolar patients as harmonic oscillators)
  • David Schultz (weather researcher — does it rain more often on weekends?)
  • Alex Ford (biologist —the happiness of clams who take Prozac)

gillingwater-artworkNEW DUCK OPERA: The show at Imperial College London will include the world premiere of “The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera” by Daniel Gillingwater, with a cameo appearance by Kees Moeliker, the Ig Nobel Prize-winning discoverer of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck.


DRAMATIC IMPROBABLE READINGS: Several of the shows will also feature celebrated persons each doing two-minute-long dramatic readings from genuine — and bizarre — published scientific studies. The readings will be part of the shows at Imperial College London, Conway Hall (London), and The University of Leeds.

The tour also celebrates publication of the new book This Is Improbable Too, by Marc Abrahams. The Daily Mail has already celebrated the book, saying: “It’s almost dementedly inconsequential.”

A tour of the Museum of Bad Art

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

The CBS Sunday Morning television program paid a visit to our friends and colleagues at the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA):

BONUS: Back in 2003, CBS Sunday Morning, which was in those wordy days called CBS News Sunday Morning, visited to the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony [though there seems not to be video of that online]. And three years later, CBS Evening News visited:

Ig Nobel Prize winner’s online irrational behavior course

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

dan-ariely-press-photoDan Ariely, whose team was awarded the 2008 Ig Nobel Prize in medicine,* is offering an online course — free for everyone — about irrational behavior. Dan is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight.

Some background about the course:

You make decisions all the time…. Some of these decisions might be great, while others … not so much. For example, take the mind-boggling case of someone winning a chess championship one minute and texting while driving the next. Playing chess (competently, at least) requires thinking many steps ahead, considering multiple scenarios and outcomes — whereas texting while driving is a complete and utter failure of the same kind of forward-thinking. The gap between how amazing we are in some respects and completely inept in others just highlights the invaluable nature of studying how humans think and interact with the world.

So, when do we make good decisions, and when and why do we fail? Fortunately, behavioral economics does have some answers. In “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior,” you will learn about some of the many ways in which we behave in less than rational ways, and how we might overcome some of our shortcomings.

* That Ig Nobel Prize was given to Dan Ariely, Rebecca L. Waber, Baba Shiv, and Ziv Carmon for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine.  [REFERENCE: "Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy," Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.]

Ig Nobel Peace Prize winner is percentally popular in Belarus

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, who just a few months ago was awarded the Ig Nobel Peace prize, is very popular, reports the Belarusian Telegraph Agency on March 6, 2014:

Lukashenko’s approval rating at 79%

MINSK, 6 March (BelTA) – The recent poll conducted by the Information and Analysis Center (IAC) of the Belarus President Administration has revealed that the approval rating of the Belarusian President stands at 79%, BelTA has learnt.

lukashenko-visitsThe approval rating of the government and the parliament is about 40%, that of opposition parties is 3%.

The results of the poll suggest that the majority of Belarusians (74%) are quite happy with their life. Some 71.5% of those polled said they are confident about the future, 18% said they are not.

31% of respondents said their financial circumstances improved over the past three months; 21.5% people said their financial well-being deteriorated. Most of the participants of the poll said their financial conditions remained unchanged.

The issues that cause the biggest concern include an increase in prices for goods and services and the increasing alcohol abuse and drug abuse.

The absolute majority of people (81%) called the social and political situation in the country ‘stable’. Only 2% of the respondents said they might consider taking part in protests.

Despite President Lukashenko‘s popularity, few are applauding him, at least in public. President Lukashenko was awarded the 2013 Ig Nobel Peace Prize for making it illegal to applaud in public; the prize was jointly awarded to the president and to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding. [Yet, one can demonstrate one's appreciation.]

(HT Stephanie Carvin)


BONUS: President Lukashenko builds on his Ig Nobel legacy


BONUS: Decree No. 537 of 29 November 2012: On Declaring 2013 the Year of Frugality in Belarus