Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

A partial history of parliamentary fistfighting

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

The NewsLens news site gives a pictorial partial history of fistfights in parliaments in various countries, with a knowing nod to the 1995 Ig Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to the Taiwan National Parliament, for demonstrating that politicians gain more by punching, kicking and gouging each other than by waging war against other nations.

A rectal foreign body in a 65 million year-old Danish sea urchin

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Since David B. Busch and James R. Starling, won the 1995 Ig Nobel Literature prize for their deeply penetrating 1986 research report, “Rectal foreign bodies: Case Reports and a Comprehensive Review of the World’s Literature” the body of literature on the subject and the number of cases has increased considerably. By 2012, no less than 589 reports on these inconveniences have been published. All cases, however, refer to humans. But now a paper has come to our attention that details the first documented case of a rectal foreign body in a 65 million year-old sea urchin from Denmark.

Close up anus sea urchinJesper Milan, Bo W. Rasmussen and Lothar H. Vallon of Geomuseum Faxe and Natural History Museum of Denmark report ‘An unusual taphocoenosis of a sea urchin and a rectally inserted turriform gastropod from the lowermost Paleocene of Stevns Klint, Denmark’ in New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin 67 (2015): 231-234:

A specimen of the common irregular echinoid Echinocorys sulcata (Goldfuss, 1826), recovered from the lowermost Paleocene Stevns Klint Formation, at Stevns Klint, Denmark, is of note in revealing a perfect external mold of the turriform gastropod Cerithiella fenestrata (Ravn, 1902) in the anal opening. The gastropod penetrated over a length of 21 mm perpendicularly into the echinoid test, and impressions in the surrounding matrix show the gastropod to have protruded over a length of 8 mm out of the test, being tightly lodged in the periproctal opening. It is assumed that this unusual combination resulted from the activities of bioturbators which, by chance, pushed the empty gastropod shell into the anal opening of the test of the dead echinoid, although other, more colorful, explanations cannot be excluded.

When asked about the significance of this discovery, Jesper Milàn answered by e-mail:

… it might be of some comfort for the unfortunate people who had to take the long walk to the doctor, to know it has happened to sea urchins long before any humans were present on the planet.

The images below illustrate the remarkable fossil association, where A is the sea urchin, B close-up of the anal opening showing the imprint of the gastropod shell, C silicone cast of the imprint, and E transparent CT-image of the sea urchin showing the orientation of the shell.

Milàn et al - Echinoid with snail - Fig 3 color

BONUS: Jesper Milàn (co)authored two recent papers that detail the discovery of vertebrate coprolites (fossil droppings) near the Danish shell-in-sea-urchin and elsewhere in Europe.

Of Sketchy Perception in a Monty Python Sketch

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Not noticing something that’s right before your eyes? Happens all the time. The phenomenon fueled the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize-winning invisible-gorilla research of Americans Chris Chabris and Dan Simons. Now, two researchers in the UK point to a stark example in a Monty Python sketch:

And now for something completely different: Inattentional blindness during a Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch,” Richard Wiseman and Caroline Watt, i-Perception (2015) volume 6, pages 38–40. The authors, at the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Edinburgh, explain:

Perceptual science has frequently benefited from studying illusions created outside of academia. Here, we describe a striking, but little-known, example of inattentional blindness from the British comedy series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Viewers fail to attend to several highly incongruous characters in the sketch, despite these characters being clearly visible onscreen. The sketch has the potential to be a valuable research and teaching resource, as well as providing a vivid illustration of how people often fail to see something completely different….

Despite widespread interest in inattentional blindness, most researchers are unaware that a striking example of the phenomenon appears in the British comedy series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Episode 12 of the second series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired in December 1970 contained a short sketch entitled “Ypres 1914—Abandoned.” This sketch takes place during the First World War, and begins with a close-up image of a harmonica being played by a British soldier (Eric Idle). The camera then slowly zooms out to reveal four soldiers (including John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin) sitting in an army encampment. Standing behind them are several actors dressed in a series of highly incongruous costumes, including that of a nun wearing a large white hat (Graham Chapman), a sheikh, and a Greek Orthodox priest….

Here’s the Monty Python sketch itself, with an added layer of meaning (a narrator, speaking in Polish):

The former football player, the gay bomb, and Satan

Friday, April 10th, 2015

An American former pro football player, now turned radio talk show host, has been consulted about the Ig Nobel Prize-winning research on the so-called “gay bomb”.

In 2007, the Ig Nobel peace prize was awarded to the Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, USA, for instigating research & development on a chemical weapon — the so-called “gay bomb” — that will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other. [For details of that research, see the report: “Harassing, Annoying, and ‘Bad Guy’ Identifying Chemicals,” Wright Laboratory, WL/FIVR, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, June 1, 1994.]

The Raw Story web site reports:

On the Family Research Council’s Washington Watch, host Craig James took a call from a listener who asked him if it was possible that the Pentagon had secretly used a “gay bomb” on America, leading to a rise in the number of openly gay people in the country, reports Right Wing Watch.

According to the caller, identified as “Tom,” if you Google “Pentagon gay bomb” you will discover an article stating that the Pentagon was using “certain chemicals and aphrodisiacs to spray — and to put on the soldiers so they are attracted to other men as a weapon in wartime.”

“My question is, and I wonder, did some of those techniques get used on the American people? Just a thought,” Tom asked.

The former NFL running back, turned conservative talk show host, stammered a bit before replying, “I don’t know anything about that. That’s the first I’ve ever heard of it, it sounds kind of out in left field, like you said. It’s out there for sure.”

James then turned the conversation around, blaming the country’s ills on turning away from the Bible.

Craig James — whose full name is Jesse Craig James — shares a name with a great figure in American history. He was recently in the news for identifying Satan as being in league with his (James’s) former National Football League team, the New England Patriots. CBS reports details of that, under the headline “Former Running Back Claims ‘Satan’ Played Role In Patriots Support Of Gay Marriage“.


Swedish interview with Dr. Nakamats about his self-defense wig

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Karin Gillenklev of Sverige Radio interviewed Dr. Nakamats about his patent for a self-defense wig. The interview happened in the faculty club of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm last week, when Dr. Nakamats was in town as part of the 2015 Ig Nobel EuroTour. Here is the interview:


Here is an image from the patent: