Archive for 'Improbable investigators'

Magnus Puke, Nordic Sports and Novelty Odds Compiler

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

A man with the memorable name Magnus Puke has a peripheral—yet financially significant role—in the world’s reaction to the Nobel Prizes. Mr. Puke is employed by Ladbrokes, the British bookmaker firm. Bloomberg News reported on him almost a year ago:

the Ladbrokes list has become a guide to a notoriously wide field, at the same time hinting at how the prize is perceived. Its curator is a Swede named Magnus Puke, whose job title at Ladbrokes is Nordic Sports and Novelty Odds Compiler, and who writes love poetry in his spare time.

(HT Simon Frantz)

BONUS: “Are novelty odds good publicity? You bet

Brady Bunch’s Florence Henderson Gets Quizzed About the Ig Nobel Prizes

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Florence_hendersonFlorence Henderson, the actress who played Mrs. Brady on the TV show The Brady Bunch, answered questions today about the Ig Nobel Prizes. This happened on the NPR program Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me.

You can, if you like, listen to it on the Wait, Wait web site.

Here’s historic video footage of Florence Henderson in The Brady Bunch:

 

Here’s a transcript [supplied by the Wait, Wait staff] of Florence Henderson answering questions about the Ig:

For decades — during the original run and then countless reruns — Florence Henderson, who presided over the Brady Bunch, was America’s perfect Mom.

We’ve invited Henderson to play a game called “They said you were mad at the Academy! Mad, I tell you!” In September, the Annals of Improbable Research handed out their annual Ig Nobel Awards for achievements in real, if ridiculous, research. We’ll ask three questions about the far horizons of science.

[HOST PETER] SAGAL: Now a few weeks ago, the Annals Of Improbable Research – that’s a journal – handed out their annual Ig Nobel Awards for achievements in real – if ridiculous – science. We’re going to ask you three questions about the far horizons of science.

[FLORENCE] HENDERSON: Oh, my gosh.

SAGAL: Answer two of these questions correctly, you’ll win a prize for one of our listeners – Carl Kasell’s voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is the immortal Florence Henderson playing for?

[ANNOUNCER BILL] KURTIS: Sharon Gavin of Atlanta, Georgia.

SAGAL: All right. Are you ready to do this?

HENDERSON: Oh, my gosh, I’ll feel terrible if I don’t win. Can I send her something?

SAGAL: You may.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or perhaps her husband might be more appreciative.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Whatever works – but let’s play the game.

HENDERSON: OK.

SAGAL: OK, here we go. Here’s your first question. The Ig Nobel Prize in physics this year went to a team in Japan that investigated what? Did they investigate A, what would happen to an average building if Godzilla were really to step on it? B, the actual amount of friction between a person’s shoe, a banana peel and the floor; or C, how big Angelina Jolie’s lips could become before they explode?

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: You know what, I’m going to go with A.

SAGAL: You’re going to go with A, what would happen to an average building if Godzilla were to stop on it?

HENDERSON: Yeah.

SAGAL: OK, no. Actually was B, the banana peel.

DICKINSON: Oh.

HENDERSON: Are you serious?

SAGAL: I’m very serious and so were they. According to their exacting measurements, we can now say for sure that a banana peel on a linoleum floor is slippery.

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: Now, please.

BABYLON: And funny.

SAGAL: And funny. You have two more chances, so you can do this.

HENDERSON: OK.

SAGAL: And we always know Mrs. Brady always had a happy ending, so here we go. A special prize was given in Arctic Science and that was given to an international team of scientists who explored what question? A, if ice cubes taken from the polar ice cap can improve a cocktail; B, if putting up big fans on the poles to blow on the Arctic ice can help reverse global warming; or C, how reindeer behave when they are approached by humans dressed as polar bears.

HENDERSON: Oh, jeez. What was A again?

SAGAL: A was if ice cubes taken from the ancient polar ice cap will actually make your cocktail taste better.

HENDERSON: I think I have to go with that.

[PROGRAM PANELIST AMY] DICKINSON: That’s like a Dean Martin kind of question.

HENDERSON: It is, absolutely.

SAGAL: It is a Dean Martin kind of question.

DICKINSON: Can I weigh in? It doesn’t…

HENDERSON: Yeah, help me out here.

DICKINSON: I don’t know. Think that sounds wasteful. What was the second one?

HENDERSON: Blowing a fan is going to help global warming.

SAGAL: Yeah, that sounds ridiculous.

DICKINSON: That’s kind of crazy. And the other one was the…

SAGAL: The last one was how reindeer behave when they’re approached by humans wearing polar bear suits.

DICKINSON: I’m liking that one. I’m liking that one.

(APPLAUSE)

HENDERSON: Oh. I think I have to stay with A.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really? I want to point out you may not know this, but Amy is an advice columnist.

HENDERSON: Oh, Amy. My gosh, yeah, I like three. I like number three.

SAGAL: There we go. Yes, you’re right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: It turns out – and this is again according to this very scientific study – that reindeer are kind of freaked out when people dressed as polar bears approach them. All right, Florence, get this one right, you win.

The Public Health Prize went to a team that tried to determine if doing what was detrimental to your mental health? Is it A, trying to get your cable hooked up; B, playing the computer game Candy Crush; or C, owning a cat?

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: Wow.

BLOUNT: I own a cat.

HENDERSON: It’s bad for your mental health.

SAGAL: Yes.

BLOUNT: And Roy just said he owns a cat, which to me is sort of proof right there.

(LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON: That’s true.

HENDERSON: Well, all right, let’s go with number three.

SAGAL: You’re going to go with number three, owning a cat?

HENDERSON: Yes.

SAGAL: Yes, that’s right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: So they published a number of studies that involve various things like parasites that cats sometimes have, but the short answer is yes, cats make you crazy.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Bill, how did Florence Henderson do in our quiz?

KURTIS: Well, Florence and Amy got two out of three.

DICKINSON: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Florence Henderson was, is and always will be America’s favorite TV mom. Florence Henderson, what fun to have you. Thank you so much…

BONUS: The Professor from Gilligan’s Island took part in the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony (in 1993)

Further findings in the matter of Stronzo Bestiale

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Vito Tartamella, in Parolacce, his blog about science and profanity, provides further information in the matter of Stronzo Bestiale (the question of the existence of whom we wrote about a few days ago, prompted by a report in Retraction Watch). Tarmatella’s Stronzo Bestiale report begins:

Would you read a paper written by Stronzo Bestiale (Total Asshole)? A dose of mistrust would be justified: the name says it all. Yet, in 1987, professor Bestiale, supposedly a physicist in Palermo,Sicily, authored major papers in prestigious scientific peer reviewed journals such as the  Journal of Statistical Physics, the Journal of Chemical Physics and the proceedings of a meeting of American Physical Society in Monterey.

stronzo

Given that surnames always intrigued me (they are the subject of my first book), I tried to find thisperson in Italian telephone directories. In Italy there are 7 Bestiale, mostly in Piedmont. None of them, however, has the name Stronzo (Turd or a Asshole: who would call their own son that?);between the Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige there are 4 Stronziero, but this is also a surname.

In fact, Stronzo Bestiale does not exist as confirmed, when those scientific papers were published 27 years ago, by the then Chancellor of the University of Palermo, Ignazio Melisenda Giambertoni(another unusual surname!).

So I decided to investigate more thoroughly….

(Thanks to investigator Scott Langill for bringing this to our attention.)

On the existence of Stronzo Bestiale

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is one of the many studies credited to co-author Stronzo Bestiale:

Diffusion in a periodic Lorentz gas,” Bill Moran, William G. Hoover [pictured here], and Stronzo Bestiale, Journal of Statistical Physics , vol. 48, no. 3-4 (1987): 709-726.

The Retraction Watch blog explains about Stronzo Bestiale:

Should papers be retracted if one of the authors is a total asshole?

When science writer Vito Tartamella noticed a physics paper co-authored by Stronzo Bestiale (which means “total asshole” in Italian) he did what anyone who’s written a book on surnames would do: He looked it up in the phonebook.

What he found was a lot more complicated than a funny name.

It turns out Stronzo Bestiale doesn’t exist.

In 1987, Lawrence Livermore National Lab physicist William G. Hoover had a paper on molecular dynamics rejected by two journals the Journal of Statistical Physics. So he added Stronzo Bestiale to the list of co-authors, changed the name, and resubmitted the paper. The Journal of Statistical Physics accepted it.

27 years later, Bestiale is still listed as co-author on several papers….

BONUS (possibly related): “On the Existence of Mikhailov

2014 Ig Nobel Prize Winners added to sortable database

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

The sortable database of Ig Nobel Prize Winners now includes data from all 24 years of prizes, including the recently announced 2014 prizes.

The information lives on the Silk data publishing platform, and helped us determine that we have awarded Ig Nobel Prizes in exactly 50 categories. It also helped University Ranking Watch compare the top 10 Ig Nobel producing countries with the Top 10 QS Ranking countries. And it helped at least one person create a list of every Ig Nobel Prize that has contained the word “beer” or “sex” in its citation.

Perhaps this database will reveal even more exciting correlations, or perhaps even causations.

Number of Ig® Nobel Prize Winners in each Category  (click the Explore button)