Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

The egg cracked; they super-glued it; a bird hatched

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

The story of the cracked egg and the glue, as reported by the Indian Express on November 2, 2015:

Cracked Egg Glued, and a Baby Rhea is Born!

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: An egg cracks, gets fixed with a super glue and voila, it hatches. Sounds like the script of a super glue commercial? Well, it happened for real, at Thiruvananthapuram zoo….

The incident reminds one of the work which won Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year. Colin Raston, a Chemistry professor at Colins University, was ‘honoured’ with the prize for partially unboiling an egg. While it sounds like a quirky research topic and Ig Nobel prizes are supposed to laud achievements which “make people laugh and then think”, it is reckoned that the study will be useful in pharmacy. Similarly, a cracked egg saved with an adhesive could set a precedent.

Interview with the tearless-onion inventors

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Tech Notes interviewed the Ig Nobel Prize-winning tearless-onion inventors. The interview is in Japanese. Here’s the beginning of it, auto-translated into English:

Ig Nobel Prize interview Laugh and Think [2nd]. If you turn off the onion really reason for tears – discovered from where there is no doubt: House Foods Group Inc. Mr. Imai


Ig Nobel Prize, which is given to the “performance for his thought-provoking laugh people” (Awards makes people Laugh and then Think). This time, was published in the British scientific journal Nature in 2002 “onion tear factor producing enzyme (Lachrymatory Factor Synthase: LFS) discovered” in achievements, in 2013 the award has been House Foods Group Inc. Central Research the Prize in Chemistry. I’ve interviewed talk to Imai Shinsuke Mr. Tokoro fundamental technology development department research Senior Doctorate (Agriculture).

– If you turn off the onion because tears Dell, you seem like a fact Needless to say?

Imai Shinsuke Mr. (or less, Mr. Imai): winning reason “biochemical process that onion cry the people, that it is more complex than scientists had thought, that it revealed” was. As you mention, anyone If you turn off the onion tears coming out it is that knows, the compounds of the factors that shed tears (tear factor) is also in the 1970s had been identified.

But, in fact, the presence of the essential enzyme in the production of this tear factor had been missed . We will notice the presence of this enzyme, tear factor synthase (Lachrymatory Factor Synthase: LFS below, LFS) was named.

LFS is one of the proteins contained a lot to extract of onion. Itself that the Purification of the LFS to confirm the properties, was not difficult. The reason for this study has been noted, to whom one mechanism of generation of tear factor that was not suspicious, why to question, whether I noticed the presence of the LFS? It is a place called. However, even I myself, and mean was going to find the LFS from the beginning, did not….

Atlantic profile of Ig Nobel winner Oppenheimer and murky academic writing

Monday, October 26th, 2015

daniel_oppenheimer_160The Needless Complexity of Academic Writing” sings a headline in The Atlantic magazine. The article beneath the headline, by Victoria Clayton-Alexander, is profiles Ig Nobel Prize winner Danny Oppenheimer [pictured here] and others who fight muddle and murk. The article says, in part:

(Oppenheimer for his part believes he got the award because of the paper’s title: “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.” The title made readers laugh, he told me—and then think.) Ultimately, Oppenheimer says the attention the Ig Nobel brought to his research means it’s now being used to improve the work of students in academic writing centers around the country.

Oppenheimer was awarded the 2006 Ig Nobel Prize for literature.

steven_pinker_0The Atlantic article also cites related work by psychologist Steven Pinker, who is also well known  for being the charter member of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS).

New Yorker profile of Ig Nobel-winning chew-a-Pringle researcher’s research

Monday, October 26th, 2015

spenceThe taste-smell-sound-look-and-feel research of Ig Nobel Prize winner Charles Spence gets a good, sensory-rich going over, in a New Yorker profile called “Accounting for Taste,” by Nicola Twilley. It says, in part:

Outside the academy, the paper failed to generate any interest until 2008, when its authors were awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for Nutrition. The Ig Nobels are intended to “honor achievements that make people laugh, and then think,” but media coverage of Spence’s win focussed mostly on the former, with headlines that ranged from “BOFFIN GIVES EATERS SOUND ADVICE” to “WHY RESEARCH THAT?!” At first glance, the “sonic chip” experiment, as Spence fondly refers to it, does seem trivial. In reality, it was an elegant psychological trick, offering insight into the way the brain combines two separate sensory inputs—the crunching sound and the tactile oral sensation of a potato chip—into one multisensory perception. Spence lists the honor at the top of his curriculum vitae….

Other researchers have joined him in exploring this new territory, but “Charles is a pioneer,” Francis McGlone, a neuroscientist at Liverpool John Moores University, told me. “His contribution to the field of cognitive psychology is seminal.” Breslin said, “He’s pushing the frontier in all kinds of ways that I wouldn’t have predicted.” In 1997, at the age of twenty-eight, Spence was invited to set up his own research lab at Oxford, and his Ig Nobel is just one in a long list of accolades, including a 2003 award from the European Society for Cognitive Psychology, in recognition of his “outstanding contribution to cognitive psychology in Europe.” …

“These things might seem trivial or esoteric,” Spence said. “But they do exist, and most of us share them, so they must be pretty fundamental.” Scientists—Spence included—do not yet fully understand exactly why these sensory interactions occur, or even where in the brain most take place. In a review paper published earlier this year, Spence listed the most common explanations that have been offered….

One reason that the senses have almost always been studied in isolation is that it is remarkably difficult to disentangle them sufficiently to observe the effect that one might be having on another. Spence has managed to study them together by, as McGlone put it, “slipping in through the perceptual windows” created by sensory illusions….

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize for nutrition was awarded to Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is. (REFERENCE: “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness ofPotato Chips,” Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, Journal of Sensory Studies, vol. 19, October 2004,  pp. 347-63.) this photo shows Massimiliano Zampini munching a chip — they used Pringles, which are more consistent in shape and constitution than other chips — inside the booth where the munch-a-chip research was done:


BONUS: Video of Charles Spence telling about “Multisensory Experience and Coffee”:

BONUS (unrelated, mostly but not entirely): How a dead duck changed my life.

Drunk philosophers, studied in a bar in France

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Ig Nobel Prize winner Laurent Bègue and colleague Aaron Duke have a new study about the effect of drunkenness on philosophy. The study is:

The drunk utilitarian: Blood alcohol concentration predicts utilitarian responses in moral dilemmas,” Aaron A. Duke and Laurent Bègue, Cognition, 134 (2015): 121-127.

begueThe 2013 Ig Nobel Prize for psychology was awarded to Laurent Bègue [pictured here at teh Ig Nobel ceremony], Brad Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, and Medhi Ourabah, for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive. (REFERENCE: ” ‘Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder’: People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive,” Laurent Bègue, Brad J. Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, Medhi Ourabah, British Journal of PsychologyVolume 104, Issue 2, pages 225–234, May 2013.)

Emma Green profiles the new, drunken philosophers study, in The Atlantic. The profile begins:

The Cold Logic of Drunk People
At a bar in France, researchers made people answer questions about philosophy. The more intoxicated the subject, the more utilitarian he or she was likely to be….

(Thanks to Estrella Burgos for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: A look back at Laurent Bègue’s essay “Le jour où j’ai reçu un IG Nobel” [The day I received an Ig Nobel Prize]