How Aesthetically Pleasing Is Your Country’s Diffraction Pattern?

September 19th, 2018

You may be wondering how aesthetically pleasing is your country’s diffraction pattern. This new physics study proves that Albert F. Rigosi shares your mental hobby:

Analysis of Fraunhofer Diffraction Patterns’ Entropy Based on Apertures Shaped as National Borders,” Albert F. Rigosi, Optik, vol. 172, November 2018, pp. 1019-1025. (Thanks to John Ng for bringing this to our attention.) The author, at Columbia University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, reports:

“How aesthetically pleasing is your country’s diffraction pattern? This work summarizes the calculated and experimental Fraunhofer diffraction patterns obtained from using apertures lithographically formed into shapes of national borders. Calculations are made based on the fast Fourier transform of the aperture images. The entropy of a diffraction pattern image, based on its two-dimensional gradient, for each of 113 nations has also been computed. Results suggest that most nations’ diffraction patterns fall under one of two prominent trends forming as a function of geographical area, with one trend being less entropic than the other.”

The top images here shows shows a diagram of the experimental setup. The bottom collection of images show: “Three example nations. (a) The aperture for the continental USA is depicted. (b) is the FFT calculation of the aperture above, and the corresponding experimental data is shown below in (c). (d) The aperture for Egypt is depicted, along with its FFT and experimental data in (e) and(f), respectively. (g) The aperture for Papua New Guinea is shown with its (h) calculated FFT and (i) experimental diffraction data.”

Additional everything can be found in an appendix.

The Ig Nobel Japan Tour — September 20-28

September 17th, 2018

Please join us for any or all of the Ig Nobel events in Japan:

Ig Nobel Japan Tour

  • September 20, ThursdayNerd Nite TokyoNagatacho GRID, Tokyo, Japan.— A very jet-lagged Marc Abrahams will discuss the Ig Nobel Prizes.
  • September 21, Friday— Special Pre-Show Press Opening of the Ig Nobel ExhibitionAaMo Gallery at the Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan. —Marc Abrahams and several Ig Nobel Prize winners (Horiuchi, Watanabe, Suzuki, Hirose, Nakamats, Nakagaki, Kurihara, Uchiyama, Mabuchi, Yoshizawa) will take part.
  • September 22, SaturdayIg Nobel ExhibitionAaMo Gallery at the Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan. —Marc Abrahams will take part in the opening, on September 22. The exhibition will run from September 22-November 4, 2018. [The image you see here is from the 2-part manga (1, 2) about Marc and the Ig Nobel Prizes, published ten years ago. The illustrious writer of that manga will take part in the exhibition opening.]
  • September 23, SundayMiraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation). Part of this event will be webcast.
  • September 26, WednesdayHokkaido University —Marc Abrahams and Ig Nobel Prize winners Prof. Nakagaki, and Prof. Yoshizawa  will discuss the Igs, and answer (and ask) questions. Details TBA.
  • September 28, FridayKanazawa University —Marc Abrahams and Ig Nobel Prize winners Prof. Hirose, and Prof. Kumagai will discuss the Igs, and answer (and ask) questions. Details TBA.

For additional detail and links (we will be adding them, bit by bit), check our Upcoming Events page.

SATURDAY: The 2017 Ig Informal Lectures, at MIT

September 14th, 2018

The Ig Informal Lectures
Saturday, Sept 15, 2018, 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:

The new Ig Nobel Prize winners  have each done something that makes people LAUGH, then THINK. That’s why they were awarded Ig Nobel Prizes. In these lectures, the winners will attempt to explain what they did, and why they did it. Everyone will be available for you to talk with, both before and after the lectures.

We will webcast the event:

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

Here’s video of last year’s (2017) Ig Informal Lectures:

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

A whinny, pooh-poohing the Ig Nobel Prizes

September 14th, 2018

Annmarie Throckmorton sent us this note today, expressing her level of delight at the Ig Nobel Prizes:

And Science wonders why more little girls don’t go into STEM education. The answer for Improbable is that no one wants to be publicly called “poo” which is a synonym for SHIT. How mean and stupid are you? There is a lot of sneaky passive-aggressiveness, and toward a child no less, in what the Ig Nobels do each year.

“Established in 1991, the Ig Nobels are a good-natured parody of the Nobel Prizes…Acceptance speeches are limited to 60 seconds, strictly enforced by an eight-year-old girl nicknamed “Miss Sweetie-Poo,”*

Again, there is nothing “good natured” about publicly addressing an eight-year old girl as “Miss Sweetie-Poo.” The fact that the Ig Nobels were founded by Marc Abrahams, who is editor and co-founder of the Annals of Improbable Research explains the scatological humor, the cruelty of it belongs to everyone associated with it. Each and everyone associated with this mean nonsense should grow up and speak up to stop the “poo” denegation when you see/hear it. For almost twenty years a little girl has been called “poo” at your “festivities”. That is disgusting.

You do NOT need to reply to me, I do not care about you, I do not want to hear from you, just stop calling the little girl shit.

Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.
Bloomington, Illinois

(Could this same reasoning explain why the major news media in the Boston area, where the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony happens, almost never cover or even mention the Ig Nobel Prizes?)

If you are not familiar with the STEMinal accomplishments of Miss Sweetie Poo, offend yourself by watching this video highlight reel, which we made for the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, three years ago:


Announcing the 2018 Ig Nobel Prizes winners

September 13th, 2018

The 2018 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded at the 28th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, on Thursday, September 13, 2018, at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. The ceremony was webcast. Here’s video of the entire ceremony, and a list of the winners:

For links to the prize-winning studies, see the list of all past (and new!) Ig Nobel Prize winners. The new winners are:

MEDICINE PRIZE [USA] — Marc Mitchell and David Wartinger, for using roller coaster rides to try to hasten the passage of kidney stones.

REFERENCE: “Validation of a Functional Pyelocalyceal Renal Model for the Evaluation of Renal Calculi Passage While Riding a Roller Coaster,” Marc A. Mitchell, David D. Wartinger, The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, vol. 116, October 2016, pp. 647-652.



ANTHROPOLOGY PRIZE [SWEDEN, ROMANIA, DENMARK, THE NETHERLANDS, GERMANY, UK, INDONESIA, ITALY] — Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, for collecting evidence, in a zoo, that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees.

REFERENCE: “Spontaneous Cross-Species Imitation in Interaction Between Chimpanzees and Zoo Visitors,” Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, Primates, vol. 59, no. 1, January 2018, pp 19–29.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc


BIOLOGY PRIZE [SWEDEN, COLOMBIA, GERMANY, FRANCE, SWITZERLAND] — Paul Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, for demonstrating that wine experts can reliably identify, by smell, the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine.

REFERENCE: “The Scent of the Fly,” Paul G. Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika A. Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, bioRxiv, no. 20637, 2017.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Paul Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Peter Witzgall


CHEMISTRY PRIZE [PORTUGAL] — Paula Romão, Adília Alarcão and the late César Viana, for measuring the degree to which human saliva is a good cleaning agent for dirty surfaces.

REFERENCE: “Human Saliva as a Cleaning Agent for Dirty Surfaces,” by Paula M. S. Romão, Adília M. Alarcão and César A.N. Viana, Studies in Conservation, vol. 35, 1990, pp. 153-155.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: The winners delivered their acceptance speech via recorded video.


MEDICAL EDUCATION PRIZE [JAPAN] — Akira Horiuchi, for the medical report “Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy.”

REFERENCE: “Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy by Using a Small-Caliber, Variable-Stiffness Colonoscope,” Akira Horiuchi and Yoshiko Nakayama, Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, vol. 63, No. 1, 2006, pp. 119-20.



LITERATURE PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, EL SALVADOR, UK] — Thea Blackler, Rafael Gomez, Vesna Popovic and M. Helen Thompson, for documenting that most people who use complicated products do not read the instruction manual.

REFERENCE: “Life Is Too Short to RTFM: How Users Relate to Documentation and Excess Features in Consumer Products,” Alethea L. Blackler, Rafael Gomez, Vesna Popovic and M. Helen Thompson, Interacting With Computers, vol. 28, no. 1, 2014, pp. 27-46.



NUTRITION PRIZE [ZIMBABWE, TANZANIA, UK] — James Cole, for calculating that the caloric intake from a human-cannibalism diet is significantly lower than the caloric intake from most other traditional meat diets.

REFERENCE: “Assessing the Calorific Significance of Episodes of Human Cannibalism in the Paleolithic,” James Cole, Scientific Reports, vol. 7, no. 44707, April 7, 2017.



PEACE PRIZE [SPAIN, COLOMBIA] — Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Andrea Serge, Maria-Luisa Ballestar, Jaime Sanmartín, Constanza Calatayud, and Beatriz Alamar, for measuring the frequency, motivation, and effects of shouting and cursing while driving an automobile.

REFERENCE: “Shouting and Cursing While Driving: Frequency, Reasons, Perceived Risk and Punishment,” Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Andrea Serge and Maria-Luisa Ballestar, Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, vol. 1, no. 12017, pp. 1-7.

REFERENCE: “La Justicia en el Tráfico: Conocimiento y Valoración de la Población Española” [“Justice in Traffic: Knowledge and Valuation of the Spanish Population”)], F. Alonso, J. Sanmartín, C. Calatayud, C. Esteban, B. Alamar, and M. L. Ballestar, Cuadernos de Reflexión Attitudes, 2005.



REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, JAPAN, SAUDI ARABIA, EGYPT, INDIA, BANGLADESH] — John Barry, Bruce Blank, and Michel Boileau, for using postage stamps to test whether the male sexual organ is functioning properly—as described in their study “Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Monitoring With Stamps.”

REFERENCE: “Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Monitoring With Stamps,” John M. Barry, Bruce Blank, Michael Boileau, Urology, vol. 15, 1980, pp. 171-172.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: John M. Barry, Bruce Blank, Michel Boileau


ECONOMICS PRIZE [CANADA, CHINA, SINGAPORE, USA] — Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa Keeping, for investigating whether it is effective for employees to use Voodoo dolls to retaliate against abusive bosses.

REFERENCE: “Righting a Wrong: Retaliation on a Voodoo Doll Symbolizing an Abusive Supervisor Restores Justice,” Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas J. Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa M. Keeping, The Leadership Quarterly, February 2018.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Hanyu Liang, Douglas J. Brown, Huiwen Lian, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa M. Keeping

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