Archive for 'Improbable investigators'

Ig Nobel day-after-Thanksgiving broadcast on Science Friday

Friday, November 27th, 2015

Spread the word, please! Today, Friday, November 27, the Science Friday radio program will broadcast its specially edited highlights from the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. It’s SciFri’s 24th annual broadcast (SciFri began this day-after-Thanksgiving tradition in 1992, the Ig Nobel ceremony’s second year).

Listen to it on a public radio station, if you’re near one, or on the Internet. (Science Friday is broadcast as two separate, hour-long programs. The Ig Nobel broadcast comprises the entire SECOND HOUR of Science Friday. HOWEVER — Boston is going to be an exception; in Boston, WBUR (90.0 FM) broadcasts only one hour of the two-hour-long Science Friday program, and by special arrangement, today WBUR plans to broadcast the Ig Nobel ceremony special at 2:00 pm.)

This photo shows a moment at the ceremony: Justin Schmidt and Michael Smith, co-winners of the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for physiology and entomology, finish their acceptance speech at the urging of eight-year-old Miss Sweetie Poo (who is assisted by many of the former Miss Sweetie Poos, who were on hand for a reunion at this, the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. Alexey Eliseev took the photo:


BONUS: Download your own copies of IgBill, the printed program for the 2014 ceremony, and the 2014 ceremony poster.

BONUS: From SciFri archives, here’s last year (2014)’s Ig Nobel broadcast.

BONUS: Subscribe to the magazine — the Annals of Improbable Research, and you will receive the special Ig Nobel issue, as well as five other improbable issues!

The further adventures of…. Dr. Chance

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

Dr. Chance and his research team discovered the details...” That thrilling, almost poetic passage is from a press release issued by Case Western Reserve University.

Boxer vs wrestler

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

An old theoretical question — can a professional wrestler defeat a professional boxer? — got an early test of sorts in 1976, when Antonio Inoki fought Muhammad Ali:

That same evening, wrestler Andre the Giant (who in his youth often rode with the playwright Samuel Beckett, but may never have wrestled with or boxed Beckett) fought boxer Chuck (“the Bayonne bleeder”) Wepner:

BONUS: The Guardian‘s look back at the bout.

BONUS: The other Andre the Giant — the chess player

Trébuchet and de Grouchy

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Trébuchet and de Grouchy collaborated on this study, many years ago:

Fetomaternal transfusion of blood lymphocytes and identification of the sex of the fetus” [article in French], J. de Grouchy and C. Trébuchet, Annales de Genetique, vol. 14, no. 2, June 1971, pp. 133-7.

BONUS (unrelated): A different sort of trebuchet:

Science: Controlling Our Bladders Makes Us Better Liars

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

According to a recent scientific study, we’re better at lying when we are also controlling our bladders.

Investigators Elise Fenn, Iris Blandón-Gitlin, Jennifer Coons, Catherine Pineda, and Reinalyn Echon from Claremont Graduate University were studying the Inhibitory Spillover Effect (ISE), which “occurs when performance in one self-control task facilitates performance in another (simultaneously conducted) self-control task.” Deception requires inhibitory control, and of course so does holding one’s bladder.

The following expert from the paper’s abstract provides a good summary of the authors’ findings:

Deceiving requires increased access to inhibitory control. We hypothesized that inducing liars to control urination urgency (physical inhibition) would facilitate control during deceptive interviews (cognitive inhibition). Participants drank small (low-control) or large (high-control) amounts of water. Next, they lied or told the truth to an interviewer. Third-party observers assessed the presence of behavioral cues and made true/lie judgments. In the high-control, but not the low-control condition, liars displayed significantly fewer behavioral cues to deception, more behavioral cues signaling truth, and provided longer and more complex accounts than truth-tellers.


This new article cites — and takes part of its name from — the Ig Nobel-winning paper by M. A. Tuk et al.: Inhibitory spillover: Increased urination urgency facilitates impulse control in unrelated domains.

(Thanks to investigator Karen Kustedjo for alerting us to this article.)