Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony

September 18th, 2014

So you love opera, and you think you know the heights and depths of “Là ci darem la mano” and of the finale — “the Commendatore scene” — in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”?

Ha. Watch the live webcast of the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, which includes (among many things) the premiere of the mini-opera “What’s Eating You”. “What’s Eating You” tells an entirely different story — a story that focuses far more than the original on food, and on hands. And on bacteria. It all comes together or (depending on which character you identify with) falls apart, in the thrilling final scene, which uses the music from the Commendatore scene.

The ceremony, with the webcast, begins at 6:00 pm (US eastern time), Thursday, September 18.

This video shows a performance of Mozart’s opera before we got hold of it:

Artists and their difficulties with gaits

September 17th, 2014

Even the most accomplished artists sometimes have difficulty in accurately portraying human anatomy. Paul Cezzane, for instance, had trouble with hands (examples [1] [2] [3] ). Another persistently tricky area is highlighted (or, if you prefer, highlit) by Professor Julian Meltzoff of La Jolla, California,in a recent article for Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. see: ‘Errors in the Making and Perception of Art Images of Human Gait: Psychological Explanations.’ He points out that:

“Paintings, drawings, and sculptures from ancient art to the present reveal a curious error in the portrayal of human gait. In natural human gait the arm and leg on 1 side of the body swing in opposite directions to each other—contralaterally. The error is to depict the arm and leg on the same side of the body as if swinging in the same direction— homolaterally.“

Gait-ErrorThe professor draws particular attention to (presumably unintentional) portrayals of gait errors in ‘how to draw’ publications, which he says, “ […] has been largely unnoticed by art historians and nonexpert viewers”

For example (pictured) Des Circkels und Richtscheyts auch der Perspectiva und Proportion der Menschen und Rosse kurze doch gründtliche underweisung des rechten gebrauchs: (by Heinrich Lautensack, 1618)


The Ig Nobel Cookbook (volume 1), in the flesh

September 17th, 2014

TheIgNobelCookbook_Cover_250wOur newest new book — The Ig Nobel Cookbook (volume 1) — is now available in the flesh, so to speak and so to read, in one of the world’s great bookstores.

Harvard Bookstore has a print-on-demand machine. If you walk into the store, smile, and demand a copy of the book, they will print it for you, tout de suite. You can also order from Harvard Bookstore online, and by telephone.

Peggy Hernandez reviewed the book today in The Boston Globe, under the headline ”

CanBeSmart Curry and other unusual recipes from ‘Ig Nobel Cookbook’

The Ig Nobel Cookbook (volume 1) is also available from, and soon in other good places.

The Ig® Nobel Cookbook

Volume 1

Corky White, Gus Rancatore, and Marc Abrahams
illustrations by Marian Parry

Delicious and other recipes invented, inherited, devised, and/or improvised by
winners of the Ig Nobel Prize
• Nobel laureates
• and organizers of the Ig Nobel Ceremony

BONUS: Our almost-newest new book, This Is Improbable Too, is on sale at those places, too, as is the predecessor book, This Is Improbable.

BONUS: PRI’s “The World” radio reports about the book.

Press at the Ig: Glimpses of the Russian TV coverage

September 16th, 2014

Every year, at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, Sanders Theatre is jammed not only with Ig Nobel winners, Nobel winners, opera singers, and 1100 audience members, but also with journalists who come from afar to document the doings.

Channel One Russia is among the many international TV networks sending crews to this year’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony on Thursday, September 18. Here are three of Channel One Russia’s reports about previous Ig Nobel ceremonies:




Further past investigations of spaghetti

September 16th, 2014

Investigating how and why a strand of uncooked spaghetti breaks after bending — well that’s a complicated undertaking, with a rich history. One man’s take appears in this writeup:

The dynamics of linear spaghetti structures — how one thing just leads to another,” RWD Nickalls, 14 June, 2006. The author is at the Department of Anaesthesia, Nottingham University Hospitals, City Hospital Campus, Nottingham, UK.

The 2006 Ig Nobel Prize in physics centered on this very topic. The prize was awarded to Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, in Paris, for their insights into why, when you bend dry spaghetti, it often breaks into more than two pieces. [REFERENCE: "Fragmentation of Rods by Cascading Cracks: Why Spaghetti Does Not Break in Half," Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch, Physical Review Letters, vol. 95, no. 9, August 26, 2005, pp. 95505-1 to 95505-1.]