Archive for 'Boys Will Be Boys'

Counting curses (on Twitter, in English)

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Words can be tallied. Words were. This study gives details:

Cursing in English on Twitter,” Wenbo Wang, Lu Chen, Krishnaprasad Thirunarayan [pictured here], and Amit P. Sheth, paper presented at CSCW’14 , February 15-19 2014, Baltimore, MD, USA. The authors, at Wright State University, explain:


“In this paper, we examine the characteristics of cursing activity on a popular social media platform – Twitter, involving the analysis of about 51 million tweets and about 14 million users.”

The findings are tidily— if confusingly — summarized in this graph. Look at the label on the vertical axis: “count”. Compare it with what the caption says: “frequencies”. Most scientists swear that count and frequency are not the same thing:


(Thanks to investigator A.W. Pfister for bringing this to our attention.)


Saturday: Improbable Research show @ Chicago AAAS

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

AAAS2014-meetinglogoJoin us for the annual big Ig Nobel Show at the AAAS Annual meeting, this Saturday night!

Saturday, February 15, 2014, 8:00-10:00 pm.

AAAS Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois, USA — Fairmont Chicago Hotel, Moulin Rouge Ballroom.

Marc Abrahams will give the latest Ig Nobel / Improbable news, and then you will meet:

This session (unlike much of the AAAS meeting) is open to the public, free!

UPDATE: Audience member Diana Yates took this video of Kate Clancy’s talk/demo:

Marginal image: nude bishop carrying his head

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Here is another of the peculiar drawings that enliven the margins of a manuscript, made in or around the year 1350, of Jacques de Longuyon‘s poem “Les Voeux du Paon” (English translation: “Vows of the Peacock”).The Morgan Library owns a copy (Morgan Library MS G 24) and has put some of these images online. Here are a few, each with a description provided by the library:

Fol. 029v, Nude bishop : margin, left, margin, lower.

Sad News: Dr. Fesmire, of digital-rectal-massage-to-cure-hiccups fame, is gone

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

We note with sadness the news that Ig Nobel Prize winner Dr. Francis Fesmire died. Dr. Fesmire found joy and fame by putting his finger on — nay, in — the pulse of his times. He was awarded the 2006 Ig Nobel Prize in medicine for his medical case report “Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage” [Annals of Emergency Medicine, vol. 17, no. 8, August 1988 p. 872]. Inspired by Dr. Fesmire’s medical paper,  Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan, and Arie Oliven of Bnai Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel, applied his technique, found success, and reported it in a medical paper also titled “Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage.” They shared the Ig Nobel Prize with Dr. Fesmire, and he with them.

Here’s video of Dr. Fesmire’s acceptance speech at the Ig Nobel ceremony, and the subsequent demonstration of his work (the demonstration featured Professor William Lipscomb, a Nobel laureate in chemistry). It begins at about the 1:02:00 point in the video:

We ask you to join us, and raise a finger in salute to Dr. Fesmire. Thanks to him, life is not an endless series of hiccups.

Dr.Fesmire-at-the-Ig-Nobel-ceremonyThe Daily Chattanoogan reported his passing, in their January 31 edition:

Dr. Francis Fesmire, a longtime member of Erlanger’s medical staff and physician leader in the Emergency Medicine Department and throughout the nation, died suddenly on Friday. A statement from Erlanger officials said, “We extend our condolences to Dr. Fesmire’s family, particularly his wife Connie and sons, Forrest and Hunter, and mourn the loss of this extremely gifted and respected emergency medicine physician”…. On a national level, Dr. Fesmire served as chairman of the Clinical Policy Committee of theAmerican College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) from 2010 to the present.  In 2009 he was awarded the “Hero of Emergency Medicine” award by the American College of Emergency Physicians.  He was also awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2006. “

His friend John Shearer published a remembrance of Dr. Fesmire, a few days later in that same newspaper.

Dr. Fesmire returned to the Ig Nobel ceremony in several years, gleefully taking a bow, distributing rubber gloves and KY jelly, and offering to apply his technique, gratis, to any audience member in need. He often expressed his intent to take part, some year, in the annual Ig Nobel Tour of the UK (for the UK’s National Science and Engineering Week) — alas, that is a delight that was not fated to be.


Dr. Fesmire returns to the Ig Nobel ceremony (2007)

Dr. Fesmire is named a “Hero of Emergency Medicine” (2008)

Dr. Fesmire explains why chest pain patients are like a box of chocolates (2009)

Dr. Fesmire explains how he broke his ankle, with dolls (2012)

An appreciation (one of many — this one appeared yesterday) of the influence of Dr. Fesmire’s finger

Here’s a photo of Dr. Fesmire in 2008, when he returned to the Ig Nobel ceremony and also participated in the Ig Informal Lectures at MIT:


K-Y jelly for opthalmology: Here’s sex lube in your eye

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

kyA single substance can have multiple uses if you put your eye to it, as Dr. Hemant K. Mehta demonstrates:

A new use of K-Y jelly as a gonioscopy fluid,” Hemant K. Mehta, British Journal of Ophthalmology, vol. 68, no. 10 1984, pp. 765-767. (Thanks to investigator Dany Adams for bringing this to our attention.) The author, at Gwynedd District Hospital, Bangor, Wales, reports:

“Methylcellulose drops varying in strength between 0.3% and 2.0% and isotonic saline are the fluids currently used for gonioscopy and posterior segment examination of the eye with diagnostic contact lenses. The author reports the use of K-Y jelly for such examinations in over 80 patients after having it used on his own eyes without any immediate or delayed ill effects. No observable difference was found between saline drops, methylcellulose drops of 0.3% and 2.0%, and K-Y jelly as regards the visibility of the anterior and posterior segments of the eyes. The more viscous fluids of 2% methylcellulose and K-Y jelly were more convenient to use, as they rarely allowed interposition of air bubbles between the cornea and the contact lens. K-Y jelly was well tolerated by all subjects.”