Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

“… because his experiments could be so outlandish”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Technology Review reports about art, innovation, and a certain prize-winning scientist:

The path to a great achievement—whether it is a technological innovation or a masterwork of art—is almost never direct. On the contrary, creative breakthroughs often come after wrenching failures. That idea animates The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery, a book by Sarah Lewis…

Andre Geim, a physicist who is based at the University of Manchester, was not seen as someone who would ever win the Nobel Prize, because his experiments could be so outlandish. He won the IgNobel Award in 2000 for levitating a live frog with magnets—and then [won the Nobel] for isolating graphene 10 years later. He was dealing with failure: the psychological frustration that can come when people don’t quite take you seriously was difficult for him to endure, required a kind of courage. And he did [the graphene work] through a process of Friday-night experiments: times where, in the laboratory, they felt free enough to fail, and therefore made these groundbreaking discoveries. He’s a good example of what it means to allow the generative process of failure to help you, through these Friday-night experiments.

He was also doing something quite unusual, which is being a deliberate amateur: every five years or so he would go into another field [of physics] and work on other people’s realms of expertise, go to all the conferences, and ask questions they didn’t dare. It required that he get up to speed quickly in a new field but also, as he describes it, not read himself out of his own new ideas.

The usefulness of voodoo dolls in studying blood sugar and aggession

Monday, April 14th, 2014

The Associated Press tells of the new study by Ig Nobel Prize (for the study “‘Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder’: People who think they are drunk also think they are attractive“) winner Brad Bushman [pictured here] and colleagues:

bushmanThe researchers studied 107 married couples for three weeks. Each night, they measured their levels of the blood sugar glucose and asked each participant to stick pins in a voodoo doll representing his or her spouse. That indicated levels of aggression.

The researchers found that the lower the blood sugar levels, the more pins were pushed into the doll. In fact, people with the lowest scores pushed in twice as many pins as those with the highest blood sugar levels, the researchers said….

The study procedure also raised [an unusual] problem. Bushman had to handle a call from his credit card company, which wanted to make sure it was really he who had spent $5,000 to buy more than 200 voodoo dolls.

The study is:

Low glucose relates to greater aggression in married couples,” by Brad J. Bushman, C. Nathan DeWall, Richard S. Pond, Jr., and Michael Hanus, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, epub April 2014. (Thanks to Davide Castelvecci for bringing this to our attention.) The authors explain:

“Intimate partner violence affects millions of people globally. One possible contributing factor is poor self-control. Self-control requires energy, part of which is provided by glucose. For 21 days, glucose levels were measured in 107 married couples. To measure aggressive impulses, each evening participants stuck between 0 and 51 pins into a voodoo doll that represented their spouse, depending how angry they were with their spouse. To measure aggression, participants competed against their spouse on a 25- trial task in which the winner blasted the loser with loud noise through headphones. As expected, the lower the level of glucose in the blood, the greater number of pins participants stuck into the voodoo doll, and the higher intensity and longer duration of noise participants set for their spouse.”

BONUS (April 15, 2014): ABC News (Australia) has a report about it. The other ABC News (US) interviewed Brad Bushman, too.

An interim report about the report about reports about reports

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

The winner of the 2012 Ig Nobel Prize for literature has issued an update — a relatively short interim report — about progress on the report about its prize-winning report about reports about reports. That prize was awarded to The US Government General Accountability Office [US GAO], for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports. [REFERENCE: "Actions Needed to Evaluate the Impact of Efforts to Estimate Costs of Reports and Studies," US Government General Accountability Office report GAO-12-480R, May 10, 2012.]

The interim report ends with these two sentences:

“DOD nonconcurred with our recommendations to require that source documentation used to develop the cost estimated is retained and easily accessible for review purpose and to establish and implement a verification process to provide reasonable assurance of consistency and completeness of cost inputs used to develop the cost estimate. According to a CAPE official no action has been or will be taken in response to these recommendations.”

“Crazy little thing called science”

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Generating predictions while watching the movie Moonraker

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Two decades ago, Rolf Zwaan — who likely at the time did not predict that he would one day be awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for an experiment involving the Eiffel Tower — published a study, with colleagues, about people generating predictions while watching the James Bond movie Moonraker. The study was and is:

Generating predictive inferences while viewing a movie,” Joseph P. Magliano, Katinka Dijkstra and Rolf A. Zwaan, Discourse Processes, vol. 22, pp. 199-224. (Thanks to Neil Martin for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, then at Northern Illinois University and Florida State University, explain:

“This study investigated conditions that enable viewers to predict future events while viewing a movie…. In Experiment 1, viewers were instructed to generate predictions while watching the James Bond movie, Moonraker (Broccoli & Gilbert, 1979).The presence of support through visual and discourse modes increased the likelihood that participants would generate a specific prediction. Furthermore, the likelihood of generating a given prediction increased with multiple sources of visual and discourse modes of support.”

Here is the trailer for Moonraker: