The pleasures of watching ironically-enjoyed movies (new study)

September 29th, 2016

“So-called ‘trash films’ do not stand in opposition to taste and education. Quite the contrary, they are often watched by people with an above-average education and interest in culture.” – informs a recent online article from Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, München, Germany. The ‘delight-in-cheapness’ they are referring to is analysed in a paper for the journal Poetics Volume 57, August 2016, pp. 40–54 : it’s entitled ‘Enjoying trash films: Underlying features, viewing stances, and experiential response dimensions’.

Authors Dr. Keyvan Sarkhosh and Prof. Dr. Winfried Menninghaus of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt, Germany, conducted an online survey presented to regular consumers of trash films. Films that were associated with the notion of trash and mentioned by at least 5% of the participants are shown in this table :Trash-Fims

The clear ‘winners’ being Sharknado (2013) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).

“Our study contributes to a better understanding of how particular audiences express a distinctive cultural taste by enjoying and appreciating specific cultural objects which deviate from the mainstream standard.”

Note: The late Don Featherstone, 1996 Ig Nobel prizewinner, was the creator of the plastic pink flamingo which played a prominent role in (the title of) John Waters’ movie Pink Flamingos (1972)  – number eight in the trash list.

Also see: The pleasures of listening to ironically-enjoyed music (new study)


Podcast 83: Journeys of Toothbrushes

September 28th, 2016

Toothbrushes journey — somehow, and other — to the depths in humanity, in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free.

This week, Marc Abrahams discusses medical reports about toothbrushes that mysteriously found their way into people’s stomachs and other deeply secret places. Harvard chemist Daniel Rosenberg gives dramatic readings and opinions:


The mysterious John Schedler or the shadowy Bruce Petschek perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, on the CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).

That moment when a Canadian TV News anchor discovered the Ig Nobel Prizes

September 27th, 2016

carusoThis video shows the moment when Maralee Caruso, anchor of the six-o’clock news on CTV News in Winnipeg, discovered the Ig Nobel Prizes. Caruso managed reported on only one of the ten new Ig Nobel Prize winners: Thomas Thwaites, who shared this year’s biology prize, for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.

Caruso did not mention the two Ig Nobel Prizes that were awarded this year to Canadians.

A complete list of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners (who were introduced a few days ago at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, at Harvard University) is on the Ig Nobel winners section of this web site.

Thanks to Richard Baguley for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS (related): “Waterloo study on BS wins Ig Nobel Peace Prize” reads a headline in the Globe & Mail.

Susanne Åkesson’s Ig Nobel horsefly triumph

September 27th, 2016

Lund University produced this video celebrating the awarding of the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize for physics to Susanne Åkesson and her colleagues:

The prize was awarded to Gábor Horváth, Miklós Blahó, György Kriska, Ramón Hegedüs, Balázs Gerics, Róbert Farkas, Susanne Åkesson, Péter Malik, and Hansruedi Wildermuth, for discovering why white-haired horses are the most horsefly-proof horses, and for discovering why dragonflies are fatally attracted to black tombstones.

They described the experiments in two published studies:

An Unexpected Advantage of Whiteness in Horses: The Most Horsefly-Proof Horse Has a Depolarizing White Coat,” Gábor Horváth, Miklós Blahó, György Kriska, Ramón Hegedüs, Balázs Gerics, Róbert Farkas and Susanne Åkesson, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol. 277 no. 1688, pp. June 2010, pp. 1643-1650.

Ecological Traps for Dragonflies in a Cemetery: The Attraction of Sympetrum species (Odonata: Libellulidae) by Horizontally Polarizing Black Grave-Stones,” Gábor Horváth, Péter Malik, György Kriska, Hansruedi Wildermuth, Freshwater Biology, vol. 52, vol. 9, September 2007, pp. 1700–9.

Professor Åkesson journeyed to the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard, where she gave a splendid acceptance speech. Two days later, she joined the other new Ig Nobel Prize winners in giving free public talks at MIT.

The long tail of machine design

September 27th, 2016

Today’s engineering exercise: reverse engineer the machine shown in this video: