Saturday — The Ig Informal Lectures, at MIT

September 15th, 2017

The Ig Informal Lectures
Saturday, Sept 16, 2017, 1:00 pm
MIT, building 10, room 250 — 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Planet Earth.

You are invited. It’s free, no tickets needed. Come early to assure a seat.

A half-afternoon of improbably funny, informative, informal, brief public lectures and demonstrations:

UPDATE: Here’s video of the 2017 Ig Informal Lectures:

BONUS: This video shows TV news anchors’ first reaction, right after the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, to seeing Thomas Thwaites in action:

BONUS: Here’s a look at one of the previous year’s lectures — this will give you some of the flavor of this annual event. The 2016 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Gordon PennycookJames Allan CheyneNathaniel BarrDerek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit.” (That study was published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 10, no. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563.)

The Ig informal Lectures are a free event, organized in cooperation with the MIT Press Bookstore.

Watch the 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony live!

September 14th, 2017

UPDATE: Ten new Ig Nobel Prize winners were introduced at the 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Sanders Theater, Harvard University. This year’s theme was “UNCERTAINTY”.

You can read some of the early press accounts.

The ceremony was webcast. Here’s recorded video:

Exploring the Confusion Matrix for Auto Bidet Seat Icons (study)

September 13th, 2017

When it comes to designing icons for the operation of household equipment, care must be taken to avoid misunderstandings.

“If the right button is pushed, the desired function will be performed. If the wrong button is pushed, an unexpected function will be performed. It might cause the user’s body or mental state of unwell even dangerous.“

This applies, for example, to the Auto Bidet Seat.

“Regarding functions, in addition to the basic jet water washes and warm seat, some medium class products still have other derivative features such as Deodorizer, Warm Air Dry and Remote Control. Some high class products even have broadcast music attempting to give users a more relax atmosphere in the toilet environment.”

To determine how readily (or otherwise) icons are understood, researchers Cherng-Yee Leung, Chih-Sheng Chang, and Da-Teh Wu, devised a set of experiments based on confusion matrices [as shown above]. They found that recognition-rates varied dramatically in percentage terms  – from an impressive 100% in some cases, like this one :

whilst some scored in mid-range :

and others only achieved a disappointing 0%

“In the age of global village, icons have to be good media of communication because the culture, language and words of some areas are different from others. With the increases of contents and complexity of new products, it is not easy to design ideal icons for users to recognize the delicate functions. Though Auto Bidet Seat has already presented for decades on the market, many function icons, even the icons with text hint, still puzzle users.”


Vegemite and Marmite (and cigarette butts): research studies

September 11th, 2017

A collection of research studies about Marmite and Vegemite enlivens and en-goos the (digital) pages of the special Cigarette Butts, Vegemite, and Marmite issue (vol. 23, no. 4) of the Annals of Improbable Research.

The issue’s table of contents is online. And you can obtain, for a pittance, the full issue, in PDF form.

Effect of Explosion-Puffed Coffee on Fruit Flies [research study]

September 11th, 2017

Fruit flies can be measurably affected by explosion-puffed coffee, suggests this new study:

Effect of Explosion-Puffed Coffee on Locomotor Activity and Behavioral Patterns in Drosophila melanogaster,” Bong Soo Ko, So Hyun Ahn, Dong Ouk Noh, Ki-Bae Hong, Sung Hee Han, and Hyung Joo Suh, Food Research International, epub 2017.

The authors, at several institutions in South Korea and the USA, report:

“Results of the underlying mechanism of the behavioral change patterns of explosive puffed [coffee]  with or without caffeine in Drosophila models, transcript level for the Dop1-R1 receptor in caffeine group was significantly higher than normal, PB, and DePB groups. Flies exposed to the caffeine had significantly decreased transcript levels for the GABA receptors. PB 7.5 and DePB showed higher level of GABA content than RB.”

Here’s further detail from the study: