Donate to the Igs

An Extraordinary Scientist Who Delights in the Mundane

October 28th, 2020

Ig Nobel Prize winner L. Mahadevan is profiled, by Steve Nadis, in Quanta magazine:

A Scientist Who Delights in the Mundane

Mahadevan uses mathematics and physics to explore commonplace phenomena, showing that many of the objects and behaviors we take for granted, and consequently give little thought to, are quite extraordinary upon closer examination… He even took on a process often dismissed as the dullest thing imaginable in his essay “Watching Paint Dry,” …

I’m not the kind of person who thinks some problems are bigger than others. In my mind, there is no hierarchy. What is frivolous and what is important seems like an irrelevant question. After all, nature does not care! …

I work on things that everyone can see and experience, but few care to think about deeply. As for the second question, does an artist, musician or writer think about applications? Why does science have to do so? It is human to be curious. That is enough, isn’t it? 

But I should add that I’m not at all snooty about working on useful or practical things. I have patents on a few devices and algorithms, and just this year we developed potential protocols for mitigating the extreme costs of pandemics.

On the other hand, I also like doing things for the sheer fun of it, like, for instance, designing a fair three-sided coin in order to decide a three-way bet….

The 2007 Ig Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to L. Mahadevan of Harvard University, USA, and Enrique Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, for studying how sheets become wrinkled.

That research is documented in these studies:

Health announcements in the year 2020

October 27th, 2020

People are trying new ways to try to educate the public, in the vexed year 2020, about health care and safety. This video is, perhaps, a bold experiment:

(Thanks to @Beccanalia for bringing this to our attention.)

Patent simplicity : ‘Beach Blanket’ [patent]

October 26th, 2020

When it comes to simple, yet patentable ideas, it’s not easy to find a better example than US Patent 7096526B1 granted in 2006 to inventor Laura E Ogan – entitled ‘Beach Blanket’.

“People go to the beach for relaxation. One of the usual objects that is brought to the beach for comfort is a towel. It can be a big towel that is spread on the sand and where people sit or lie on. The ordinary towel comes in many sizes and shapes. It is square, rectangular or round. The beach umbrella is almost always round. When the heat becomes uncomfortable, a beach umbrella is brought out to provide shade.

Ordinarily, comfort given by the towel and the umbrella is limited to one side and is not maximized. With a round, rectangular or square towel that has one hole in the middle and one hole in any of the edges or perimeter where the handle of the umbrella is planted in any of the two holes, shade is maximized and comfort enjoyed by whoever is seated, lying down or standing on the towel.

This kind of beach towel may be used not only in beaches but also in front and back yards, parks, playgrounds, camps, picnic areas or any place where relaxation and comfort benefit users who prefer lying down or sitting on towels rather than sitting on chairs.”

See US Patent 7096526B1, Beach Blanket

Note that, as the patent document points out :

● The hole does not have to be in the centre

● There can be more than one hole

● The blanket does not have to be rectangular

Research research by Martin Gardiner

Pocket-Sized #1039: “The A-through-L of Social Dilemmas”

October 25th, 2020

In this Pocket-Sized episode #1039, Marc Abrahams shows an unfamiliar research study to Robin Abrahams. Dramatic readings and reactions ensue.

Remember, our Patreon donors, on most levels, get access to each podcast episode before it is made public.

1. Robin Abrahams encounters:

Etiquette, by Emily Post, 1942.

Seth Gliksman, Production Assistant

Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Google Podcasts, AntennaPod, BeyondPod and elsewhere!

Jost Migenda joins the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS)

October 25th, 2020

Jost Migenda has joined the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS). They say:

While black holes are widely suspected to have no hair[*], many astrophysicists do. During my research on the explosion mechanism of supernovae (magnificent astrophysical events that produce black holes or neutron stars), I have made an even more exciting discovery: Untangling the mysteries of the universe is twice as fun if you can untangle your hair at the same time!


Jost Migenda, Ph.D., MInstP, LFHCfS
Postdoctoral Research Associate
King’s College London
London, United Kingdom

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!