Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

Animation of a man who methodically cracked his knuckles for 60 years

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017
A Chinese animation of 2009 Ig Nobel Medicine Prize winner Dr. Donald Unger, who methodically cracked the knuckles on one hand for 60 years:
unger

A Canadian Appreciation of the Canadian Ig Nobel Prize winners

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Andrew Kidd, writing in The Varsity, give a happy nod to the many Canadian Ig Nobel Prize winners. His report begins:

Ig Nobels recognize hilarity in science
Seventeen Canadians have earned this ironic accolade

With more than seven million scientists exploring the world around us, it seems inevitable that some would stray from important scientific theories to the silly, the superfluous, and on rare occasions, the stupid.

For the last 26 years, Annals of Improbable Research, a scientific parody magazine, has awarded researchers with Ig Nobel Prizes, a pun referencing the acclaimed Nobel Prizes, to recognize the most ridiculous scientific work. The awards ceremony takes place at Harvard University — where scientists have won an impressive 49 Nobel Prizes — and recognizes “achievements that first make people laugh, then make [people] think.” The awards are often handed out by Nobel laureates.

Seventeen Canadians have won these somewhat humiliating prizes.

The 2015 Ig Nobel Prize in Physiology and Entomology was awarded to Canada’s Justin Schmidt, who “painstakingly” indexed the relative pain caused by different insect bites and precisely quantified the amount of misery of a bite.

U of T’s own Kang Lee won a Neuroscience Prize in 2014 for studying the brain activity of people who see Jesus in the burn patterns of toast….

What the Frog’s Saliva Does for the Frog’s Tongue

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Ig Nobel Prize winner David (“urination duration in mammals”) Hu and colleagues turned their intense gaze toward frog tongues and saliva. They published this study:

Frogs use a viscoelastic tongue and non-Newtonian saliva to catch prey,” Alexis C. Noel, Hao-Yuan Guo, Mark Mandica, David L. Hu, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 2017, 14, 20160764.

Frogs can capture insects, mice and even birds using only their tongue, with a speed and versatility unmatched in the world of synthetic materials. How can the frog tongue be so sticky? In this combined experimental and theoretical study, we perform a series of high-speed films, material tests on the tongue, and rheological tests of the frog saliva. We show that the tongue’s unique stickiness results from a combination of a soft, viscoelastic tongue coupled with non-Newtonian saliva. The tongue acts like a car’s shock absorber during insect capture, absorbing energy and so preventing separation from the insect. The shear-thinning saliva spreads over the insect during impact, grips it firmly during tongue retraction, and slides off during swallowing. This combination of properties gives the tongue 50 times greater work of adhesion than known synthetic polymer materials such as the sticky-hand toy. These principles may inspire the design of reversible adhesives for high-speed application.

The University of Georgia presents additional details, including this demo and explanation by study lead author Alexis Noel:

BONUS: From an earlier era, focusing higher in the frog’s skull, Jerry Lettvin‘s classic “What the Frog’s Eye Tells the Frog’s Brain

“Animal Electrocuted at Atom Smasher Gets New ‘Life’ in Morbid Exhibit”

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Mindy Weisberger reports, for LiveScience:

Deceased animals in a range of compromising poses share cautionary stories of times when wildlife interactions with humans turned deadly — for the wildlife — in the unusual exhibit “Dead Animal Tales” at the Natural History Museum Rotterdam (NHMR) in the Netherlands.

Recently, NHMR welcomed a new addition to the exhibit: a stone marten (Martes foina) that met its end Nov. 20, 2016, after it bumbled its way into a substation at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland….

…Not many exhibits can say they began with homosexual duck necrophilia — but this one can. The specimen that launched “Dead Animal Tales” was a mallard that suffered a fatal collision with a window at the museum in 1995. Almost immediately afterward, another mallard approached and began having sex with the dead bird.

Exhibit curator and NHMR director Kees Moeliker wrote a study about the highly unusual behavior, which earned him the Ig Nobel Prize — an award for thoughtful research that also inspires laughter — in 2003.

“Thanks to the Ig Nobel Prize that my First-Case-of-Homosexual-Necrophilia-Paper won, the story of that poor bird became widely known and people wanted to see and admire the duck,” Moeliker told Live Science in an email….

UPDATE: Rebecca Hersher interviewed Kees for NPR’s “The Two-Way”: “World’s Most Destructive Stone Marten Goes On Display In The Netherlands

The prize-winning lecture about recognizing bullshit

Friday, January 20th, 2017

The 2016 Ig Nobel Peace Prize winners explain about people’s craving for bullshit, in their Ig Informal Lecture, as you see in this video:

The prize was awarded to Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit”.

The details of that study: “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit,” Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek J. Koehler, and Jonathan A. Fugelsang, Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 10, No. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563.

Two days after the ceremony, at the Ig Informal Lectures, the new winners give brief public talks, at MIT, to explain what they did and why they did it. That’s what you see in this video.