Ig Nobel ceremony tickets…

September 15th, 2014

2014_IgPoster-160hIg Nobel tickets!

A few Ig Nobel Prize ceremony tickets are available. (These are tickets we had been holding in reserve for emergency needs — and have now released for sale).

They are available exclusively from the Harvard Box Office, online and at Holyoke Center.


The doc who gave out while giving sperm

September 15th, 2014

“Details, please!” is the hope and plea of medical professionals everywhere, about a train of medical events reported to have happened in Wuhan, China. The hope is that the attending physicians involved in the case will publish a formal case report in a good-quality medical journal. The case, thus far, has been told only in the general press. The possibility exists that some details have been exaggerated, others neglected. Here is part of a September 11, 2014 article in Want China Times:

A court has rejected the appeal brought by the family of a doctoral student who died suddenly in 2011 while donating sperm, reports the Wuhan-based Changjiang Daily.

The man, surnamed Zheng, was an attending physician of his university’s (unspecified) affiliate hospital in the central China city. He took a master’s degree in surgery from 2008 and went on to study at the same school for his doctoral degree in 2010. Zheng agreed to help with the trial operations of the university’s sperm bank before its official opening….

He donated sperm four times over a period of eleven days. When he donated for the fifth time on Feb. 12, he did not emerge from the donation room. When staff entered the room after almost two hours, they found Zheng lying unconscious on the ground. Paramedics were unable to resuscitate him and pronounced him dead at the scene….

BONUS (unrelated, but also derived from a report in Changjiang Daily): LACK OF AIR CON REVIVES GUANGDONG TRADITION – SLEEPING WITH A WATERMELON

Spam dictionary (work in progress)

September 15th, 2014


In 2003, a dictionary of Spam was created by Guy Di Mattina whilst studying at the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, University of Queensland. “The first step” explains the author, “was to create a list of features that appeared in Spam or normal mail but not in both.” The results were published in a thesis entitled : ‘Spam and Open Relay Blocking System’.

Here are some examples from the dictionary :

#18. accomplishments
#496. decreased
#1023. ifdlawdodcbpbiazifdlzwtzisehisancjxwigfsawdupsjjz
#1397. museum
#3049. grandpa
#4462. wont

An article reproduced on the Radio Australia website explains more :

“[...] we all got together and we all discussed what was going on and it came out that we were using the Support Vector Machine in an unthought of way, mainly because Guy was not trained in Support Vector Machines so we didn’t know how everybody is trained to use them. We came up with something completely different just purely and simply because he didn’t know what he was doing when he started out and that’s what’s made it so effective.”

Physics and the new Ig Nobel opera (and pills, and lotsa microbes)

September 14th, 2014

The Harvard Physics Department is, again this year, kindly letting us use their SciBox as rehearsal space for the new Ig Nobel mini-opera. This photo, by David Kessler, shows part of the cast, at the first full rehearsal.


The opera, called “What’s Eating You“, will premiere as part of the 24th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, this Thursday night, September 18, at Sanders Theatre. You can watch the entire ceremony (including the opera) on the live webcast. It begins at 6:00 pm, US eastern time.

“What’s Eating You” is about people who stop eating food, and instead nourish themselves exclusively with pills. Here are some details:

  • Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, story and words by Marc Abrahams
  • Directed by Maria Ferrante, with assistance by Robin Abrahams
  • Arranged by Henry Akona
  • Conducted by Paul Glenn
  • Costumed by Catherine Quick Spingler
  • Starring Maria Ferrante, Scott Taylor
  • Co-starring The Microbe Choir (Kelsey Calhoun, Delphine Gabbay, Paul Goodwin, Clia Goodwin, Erika Hutchinson, Andrew B. Jones, Julia Lunetta, Sylvia Rosenberg, Daniel Rosenberg, Abby Schiff, Ted Sharp, Patrick Yacono, and some special guest microbes)
  • Backed by the Concentrated Forces of Nature, a distilled orchestra composed entirely of biomedical researchers Patrick Yacono and Thomas Michel

BONUS: If you’re of a mind to, poke through the Ig Nobel archives and see some of the librettos, and bits of video, from previous Ig Nobel mini-operas. We’ve done a new opera every year, beginning in 1996, when “The Cockroach Opera” debuted as part of the 6th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.

BONUS: Here’s video of the first performance of the song “The Big Bank Theory”, in “The Big Bank Opera”, a featured part of the 19th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, in 2009.

“Finally, My Thesis On Academic Procrastination”

September 14th, 2014

No need to wait any longer to download and read this paper:

Finally, My Thesis On Academic Procrastination,” Justin McCloskey, master’s thesis, University of Texas at Arlington, November 2011.

“References to procrastination have been dated back to as long as 3,000 years ago. However, research on procrastination is ironically enormously behind the curve in active research on its antecedents and effects. Academic procrastination is a unique outlet of procrastinatory tendencies and is the object of much less scientific research. Academic procrastination occurs when students needlessly delay completing projects, activities or assignments and has been linked to lower academic grades, poorer well-being, and more stress. Studies have found procrastination to be a vital predictor of success in college and the development of a scale upon which to measure it could be quite profitable to colleges and universities. Numerous scales such as the Lay (1986) General Procrastination Scale, the Solomon and Rothblum (1984) Procrastination Assessment Scale for Students, and the Choi and Moran (2009) scale have been used to measure procrastination. However, the Tuckman (1991) Procrastination Scale is the most widely used scale to identify academic procrastinators. The current study examined these scales as compared to a new scale, the Academic Procrastination Scale (APS).”

(Thanks to investigator Elizabeth Lopato for bringing this to our attention.)