mini-Annals of Improbable Research ("mini-AIR")

September 2018, issue number 2018-09. ISSN 1076-500X.

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  Research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK.

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01 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

02 Imminent Events

03 IN THE MAGAZINE ITSELF: Numbers

04 The Genetic Signature of a Shrunken Head

05 The 2018 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

06 Roll on Shrunken Heads Contest

07 Semi-Obnoxious Facility Winner

08 MORE IMPROBABLE: Baby-Washing Machine, Pooh-Poohing

09 Morphometric Investigation Into Shrunken Heads

10 IMPROBABLE EVENTS

11 — Subscribe to the Actual Magazine! (*)

11 — How to start or stop receiving this newsletter (*)

12 — Contact Info (*)

14 — Standard Gobbledegook (*)

 

      Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

 

 

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02 Imminent Events

 

      Ig Nobel Exhibition Opening in TOKYO,

      and related events in JAPAN         — Sep 20-28

 

      FASTech, ORLANDO, FL                — Oct 3

 

      Harvard Medical School, BOSTON, MA  — Oct 4

 

      HARTFORD, CT                        — Oct 10

 

DETAILS and full schedule: <http://www.improbable.com/improbable-research-shows/complete-schedule/>

 

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03 IN THE MAGAZINE ITSELF: Numbers

 

            WHAT YOU ARE READING AT THIS MOMENT

            is just our tiny, little

            monthly newsletter, called "mini-AIR."

 

            Our best stuff goes in the actual magazine,

            "Annals of Improbable Research" (AIR).

            Please subscribe to the magazine!

 

The special NUMBERS issue of the magazine (vol. 24, no. 4) is  available: <https://is.gd/PXISjn>.

(The next issue, a special issue on MEDICAL SURPRISES,

is in prep.)

 

Many back issues are available, too.

Feast on improbable Research magazines:

 

      MAGAZINE SINGLE ISSUES & SUBSCRIPTIONS:

      <https://gumroad.com/improbable>

 

      Tables of Contents:     <http://www.improbable.com/magazine/>

 

 

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04 The Genetic Signature of a Shrunken Head

 

This month's research spotlight shines on heads:

 

"The Genetic Signature of a Shrunken Head," Dalia Hermon, Ron Gafny, Ashira Zamir, Lia Hadas, Marina Faerman and Gila Kahila Bar-Gal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, vol.3, no. 2, 2011, pp. 223-228. <https://is.gd/aMdD6Z> (Thanks to Donna Ortiz for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, report:

 

"The making of ritual shrunken heads, or tsantsas, was a common practice among the Jivaro-Shuar tribes of Ecuador and Peru during the post-Columbian period. The raising interest in the tsantsas in the late nineteenth through the twentieth century caused an increase in manufacturing of forged shrunken heads for profit. In the current study, we examined the authenticity and possible cultural provenance of the shrunken head displayed at the “Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv” using macro- and microscopic criteria together with DNA analyses."

 

 

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05 The 2018 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

 

Here are the new Ig Nobel Prize winners. Links to their work, and videos of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony and the Ig Informal lectures, are at <https://www.improbable.com/ig/2018/>

 

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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.

 

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Dave Wartinger

       * * *

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 Romčo, Adília Alarcčo 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. Romčo, Adília M. Alarcčo 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.

 

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Akira Horiuchi

       * * *

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.

 

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Thea Blackler

       * * *

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.

 

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: James Cole

       * * *

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 EspaĖola” [“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.

 

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Francisco Alonso

       * * *

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

      * * *

 

A full report, with lavish photos, will appear in the November/December issue of the magazine <https://www.improbable.com/magazine/>.

 

 

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06 Roll on Shrunken Heads Contest

 

This month's RESEARCH LIMERICK challenge — Devise a pleasing limerick that encapsulates this study:

 

"The Mystery of Shrinking Heads," B. Reichenpfader, W. Buzina, and P. Roll, Forensic Science International Supplement Series, vol. 1, no. 1, December 2009, pp. 22-23. <https://is.gd/DkPNAr>

The authors, at Medical University Graz, Austria, report:

 

"A well preserved shrunken head of unknown origin was examined by our group. Besides anatomy histological and DNA analysis of the mummified material was performed. Furthermore larvae connected to the hair were examined microscopically."

 

Submit your perfectly formed, delightfully enlightening limerick to:

 

      ROLL-ON-SHRUNKEN-HEADS LIMERICK COMPETITION

      c/o <MARC aaattt IMPROBABLE dddooottt COM>

 

 

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07 Semi-Obnoxious Facility Winner

 

The judges have chosen a winner in last month's Competition, which asked for a limerick to explain this study:

 

"Efficient Location for a Semi-Obnoxious Facility,"

Y. Ohsawa and K. Tamura, Annals of Operations Research, vol. 123, no. 1, 2003, pp. 173–188. <https://is.gd/1vHwuP>

The winner is INVESTIGATOR CHRIS HANSEN, who writes:

 

A semi-obnoxious new factory?

The site must be satisfactory.

  Location is key--

  We must not hear or see

Or get whiffs in our organs olfactory.

 

This month's take from our LIMERICK LAUREATE, MARTIN EIGER:

 

There are some points we want to be near.

From others, we need to steer clear.

  Where to build?  Nothing to it!

  On a plane, we can do it,

But obnoxiously, not on a sphere.

 

 

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08 MORE IMPROBABLE: Baby-Washing Machine, Pooh-Poohing

 

Recent improbable research bits you may have missed...

 

The blog <http://www.improbable.com/>:

 

<> Dr Farahbakhsh’s infant washer-dryer invention (patent)

<> The semiotics of lamppost stickers in Birmingham

<> A whinny, pooh-poohing the Ig Nobel Prizes

 

Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS) and its sibling clubs:

<https://www.improbable.com/category/lfhcfs-hair-club/>

 

  FACEBOOK: <http://www.facebook.com/improbableresearch>

  TWITTER: @ImprobResearch, @MarcAbrahams, #IgNobel

 

 

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09 Morphometric Investigation Into Shrunken Heads

 

"Morphometric Investigation Into Shrunken Heads," Tobias Mackenzie and Ross Houlton, Journal of Cultural Heritage, <https://is.gd/WUFpY6> epub 2018. The authors, at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, assure readers:

 

"Box and whisker charts plot the range indimensions identified for each shrunken head category."

 

 

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10 IMPROBABLE EVENTS

 

For details and additional events, see

<http://www.improbable.com/improbable-research-shows/complete-schedule/>

 

Ig Nobel Exhibition Opening, Tokyo, — Sep 22, 2018

      Other events in Japan are in — Sep 20-28, 2018

      Tokyo, Sapporo, Kanazawa).

FSTech, Orlando, FL                 — Oct 3, 2018

Nobel Seminar, Harvard Med School   — Oct 4, 2018

Hartford County Medical Assn, CT    — Oct 10, 2018

"Science Friday" Ig Nobel Broadcast — Nov 22, 2018

 

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11 — Subscribe to the Actual Magazine! (*)

 

The Annals of Improbable Research is a 6-issues-per-year magazine, published in PDF form. It's packed with research that makes people laugh, then think. (mini-AIR, the thing you are reading at this moment, is but a tiny, free-floating appendix to the actual magazine.)

 

      <www.improbable.com/magazine/>

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12 — How to start or stop receiving this newsletter (*)

 

This newsletter, Mini-AIR, is just a (free!) tiny monthly *supplement* to the big, bold six-times-a-year magazine Annals of Improbable Research.

 

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13 — CONTACT INFO (*)

 

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

<www.improbable.com>

EDITORIAL: <MARC aaattt IMPROBABLE dddooottt COM>

SUBSCRIPTION QUESTIONS: <subscriptions AT improbable.com>

Cambridge, MA 02138 USA

Twitter: @ImprobResearch

 

 

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14 — Standard Gobbledegook (*)

 

EDITOR: Marc Abrahams

CO-CONSPIRATORS: Kees Moeliker, Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Gary Dryfoos, Nan Swift, Stephen Drew

PROOFREADER: Ambient Happenstance

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Nobel Laureates Dudley Herschbach, Sheldon Glashow, Richard Roberts

 

Key words: improbable research, science humor, Ig Nobel, AIR, the

(c) copyright 2018, Annals of Improbable Research

 

 

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