Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

New book by the often-stung King of Stings

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Ig Nobel Prize winner Justin Schmidt‘s new book, The Sting of the Wild, has just been released into the wild. It’s a firsthand account of being stung by many insects, told with deep love and understanding of most of those insects, and with wild appreciation of the power and variety of those stings.


Douglas Main interviewed Justin Schmidt, for Newsweek magazine.

The 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for physiology and entomology (the prize was awarded in a joint category) was awarded jointly to two individuals: to Justin Schmidt, for painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and to Michael L. Smith, for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm). and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft).

Their research is documented in these two studies:

BONUS: Watch video of Justin Schmidt and Michael Smith being awarded their prize at the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.

April 30 as final day for retiring the Zimbabwe $100-trillion-dollar bills

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe announced its official intention that April 30, 2016, will be the final day for paying anything—anything at all—to people who turned in the now-decommissioned $100,000,000,000,000 bills, $10,000,000,000,000 bills, $1,000,000,000,000 bills, and old bills of lower denominations. That announcement:

Demonetisation of the Zimbabwean Dollar — The demonetisation of the Zimbabwe dollar which was announced by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development in the 2014 National Budget, as well as, in the Mid-term Fiscal Review, and in the Monetary Policy Statement of January 2015, commenced on 15 June 2015 and ended on 30 September 2015….The Bank is currently working with the Deposit Protection Corporation (DPC) to ensure that account holders whose balances were held with closed banks are paid. DPC is expected to fully pay out these beneficiaries by the end of April 2016. ”


A previous announcement, on June 9, 2015, explained that “Demonetisation is not compensation for the loss of value of the Z$ due to hyper-inflation. It is an exchange process.”

Here are the announced exchange rates for money that people had deposited in banks:

a) Accounts with balances of Zero to Z$175 quadrillion will be paid a flat US$5.

b) Accounts with balances above Z$175 quadrillion will be paid the equivalent value after applying the UN exchange rate of US$1/Z$35 quadrillion or US$1/Z$35,000 (revalued).

Slightly different rates were on offer for “walk-in cash customers”:

Banks will exchange ZW$ cash for US$ equivalent for walk-in cash customers at an exchange rate of Z$250 trillion to US$1 for 2008 note series and Z$250 to US$1 for 2009 note series.

NewsDay published a journalistic account of all this.

The old currency has a celebrated place in history. The 2009 Ig Nobel Prize for mathematics was awarded to the then head of the bank, Dr. Gideon Gono, for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers — from very small to very big — by having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000).

Dr. Gono wrote a book explaining why that currency was a good idea that other countries should adopt. The book is Zimbabwe’s Casino Economy — Extraordinary Measures for Extraordinary Challenges, Gideon Gono, ZPH Publishers, Harare, 2008, ISBN 978-079-743-679-4.


Observer’s report on the Ig Nobel show in Lausanne

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

The Why How How blog published this report about the recent Ig Nobel show at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. We re-publish it here with permission — machine-translated from the original French:

Ig Nobel Award Tour Show 

EPFL-ticketAs some still do not know the famous  Ig Nobel Prize. Their founder Marc Abrahams travels the world to present this institution. I had the chance to attend the “Ig Nobel Award Tour Show” organized at EPFL few weeks ago, and it was a great moment of hair-raising science.

The “Show” takes place in two stages. First, Marc Abrahams explains the purpose of prize:

Reward research that makes you laugh, then think

Then he describes the selection mechanism, award ceremony and the famous award prizes to Harvard, to which I give a lot to attend. Meanwhile, the latter is video here. Excellent communicator and tongue-in-cheek, Marc Abrahams illustrates his point with many examples and hilarious documents, all in perfectly understandable English. This part of the evening is much like its visible TED conference in video here.

Secondly, the Ig Nobel past winners present their award-winning works. We had 3 presentations:

  1. Emily Baird of Lund University explained how it determined that “The dung beetle uses the Milky Way for orientation “[1], which earned him the 2013 Prize for biology and astronomy.
    In fact, his team demonstrated that this beetle does not mark is the surrounding landscape to move away online the right of a good steaming dung with a small ball of dung appetizing, but it keeps a constant angle relative to the most intense light source: Sun day, moon night, or failing that, the Milky Way, good light in the nights of the southern African savannas.
  2. Then Elisabeth Oberzaucher of the University of Vienna, winner of the 2015 math Prize calculated “How Moulay Ismail bin Sharif Sultan of Morocco, could generate 888 children? “[2] Now, a harem of 500 women it helps, but despite that, given the relatively random nature of female fertility, Sultan also has the unsavory give himself …
  3. Finally Stephan Bolliger of the University of Zurich responded to the question “Is it better to be smashed his head with a full bottle of beer or empty? “[3] which earned him the 2009 Peace Prize. According to the tests, the two cases are likely to cause a skull fracture, but it takes more force to break up an empty bottle full …

With the latter prize my beautiful country won the IgNobel Peace Prize for two consecutive years since 2008 our Federal Ethics Commission had already been awarded to an official document on the dignity of plants. The little interlude where Marc Abrahams congratulated one by one all the Swiss citizens of the co-recipients of the award assistance was illustrated by this splendid slide quoting the award-winning report [4]:


Excellent evening so I urge you to attend a “IgNobel Award Tour Show” near you (or organize one …). We start with much laughing, but also thinking.


(For the record, I contribute to maintain a list of publications’s award IgNobel on Mendeley )

  1. Mr. Dacke, E. Baird, Mr. Byrne, CH Scholtz, and EJ Warrant, “Dung beetles use the Milky Way for orientation” Curr. Biol., Vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 298-300, Feb. 2013.  doi: 10.1016 / j.cub.2012.12.034
  2. Oberzaucher E. and K. Grammer, “The Case of Moulay Ismael – Fact or Fancy ?,” PLoS One, vol. 9, no.2, p. e85292, Feb. 2014.  doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0085292
  3. Bolliger SA, S. Ross, L. Oesterhelweg, MJ Thali, and BP Kneubuehl, “Are full or empty beer bottles sturdier and Does Their fracture-threshold suffice to break the human skull ?,” J. Forensic Leg. Med., Vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 138-42, Apr. 2009. DOI: 10.1016 / j.jflm.2008.07.013
  4. Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) ”  The Dignity of Living Beings with regard to plants” 2008 Bern, Switzerland


Ig Nobel winner Goldman Sachs admits innovations

Monday, April 11th, 2016

principlesGoldman Sachs, a corporation that shared the 2010 Ig Nobel economics prize, has shed some of its modesty about the innovations that earned that prize. Fortune magazine reports today:

Goldman Sachs Finally Admits it Defrauded Investors During the Financial Crisis

Goldman Sachs effectively admitted that it had knowingly misled investors to buy shoddy products.

Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs GS 1.28% has agreed to a list of “facts” in addition to paying $5.1 billion to settle a lawsuit related to its handling of mortgage-backed securities leading up to the 2007 financial crisis, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday….

The 2010 Ig Nobel economics Prize was awarded to the executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar for creating and promoting new ways to invest money — ways that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof.

BONUS: “The Big Bank Opera”, a mini-opera that premiered at the 2009 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, honored some of those innovations. Here is video of Act 3 of that opera:

EXTRA BONUS (for Goldman Sachs): The New York Times reports that Goldman Sachs may have to pay only about half of the amount the public expects them to pay: “In Settlement’s Fine Print, Goldman May Save $1 Billion“.

President Lukashenko and the power of his Ig Nobel Prize

Monday, April 4th, 2016

The Belarus Digest reports (on April 4, 2016):

“There are permanent rumours within the Belarusian establishment that the main reason for Lukashenka’s peace initiatives was the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to US president Barack Obama in October 2009. Lukashenka is rumoured to have given orders to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ‘win’ the Nobel Peace Prize for him.

nk-5_1“However, the apparent lack of Belarusian capacity to influence the process, deteriorating relations with the West after the presidential elections in December 2010, the economic crisis of 2011 and Lukashenka’s receipt of the parody Ig Peace Nobel Prize in 2013 definitely cooled the president’s ambitions.”

That 2013 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public, AND to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.

Here is an official Presidential photo of President Lukashenko, fastened to a mustache, and surrounded by admirers: