Archive for 'Arts and Science'

Crime and Sniffles

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

Crime may be affected by the sniffling of potential criminals which may be affected by the amounts of pollen in the air, which might explain all sorts of things, suggests this new study:

More sneezing, less crime? Health shocks and the market for offenses,” Aaron Chalfin, Shooshan Danagoulian, and Monica Deza, Journal of Health Economics, vol. 68, December 2019, 102230. the authors, at the University of Pennsylvania, Wayne State University, and CUNY – Hunter College, explain:

“We consider the responsiveness of crime to a pervasive and common health shock which we argue shifts costs and benefits for offenders and victims: seasonal allergies. Leveraging daily variation in city-specific pollen counts, we present evidence that violent crime declines in U.S. cities on days in which the local pollen count is unusually high and that these effects are driven by residential violence. While past literature suggests that property crimes have more instrumental motives, require planning, and hence are particularly sensitive to permanent changes in the cost and benefits of crime, we find that violence may be especially sensitive to health shocks.”

Nations use the Ig Nobel Prize as a propaganda cudgel

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Every nation is keen to find new propaganda weapons to use against its rival nations. Some nations now gleefully use the Ig Nobel Prize.

Here’s a recent (September 18, 2019) example, in an editorial in the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun:

Ig Nobel Prizes encourage people to enjoy science with a smile

Winners of the Ig Nobel Prize — an award that praises humorous achievements in scientific research — have been announced. Although the prize parodies the renowned Nobel Prize, there is much to be learned from it, such as a positive attitude toward enjoying science….

Japanese scientists have been awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for 13 consecutive years. Although the Japanese are occasionally said to lack originality, this may not be true regarding their capabilities in science. Their achievements seem to show the depth of generosity so firmly inherent in Japanese science that it accepts somewhat eccentric studies.

In contrast, China has received only a few Ig Nobel prizes, despite having produced a large number of theses in recent years. This seems to indicate that seemingly useless research cannot easily develop into anything good in an environment where practical studies are promoted as a state policy.

But in fact, many Chinese scientists have won Ig Nobel Prizes.

And China is home to a relatively new prize —the Pineapple Prize—that was created in homage to the Ig Nobel Prizes. Here’s a news report about that, in 2012:

Pineapple Science Prize launched to promote science

A ceremony was held in Hangzhou Saturday evening to give away China’s first “Pineapple Science Prize”, which is designed to honor researches with great imagination and to arouse the public enthusiasm for science.

Jointly launched by China’s most popular science and technology social network and Zhejiang Provincial Science and Technology Museum, the first Pineapple Science Prize is expected to promote the country’s science popularization….

Pineapple Science Prize, with the slogan of “Laugh and Think,” was designed differently from ‘Ig Nobel Prize.’

“I was inspired by the ‘Ig Nobel Prize,’ but decided to make the prize more acclimatized to China. By launching the prize, we hope more people will get to know science and science will become more popular among the public,” Ji said.

“Some research topics seem to be weird but actually have deep meaning, which inspires us in a different way.”

The insect sex research adventures of Yoshitaka Kamimura

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

This insect-sex-reversal-centric profile of 2017 Ig Nobel Biology Prize co-winner Yoshitaka Kamimura appeared a year ago in the Keio Times:

Sex-Role Reversal Research in Insects Wins Ig Nobel Prize for Keio Professor Yoshitaka Kamimura

…In 2012, Prof. Kamimura was first invited to join a research team led by Kazunori Yoshizawa, an associate professor at Hokkaido University, whose award-winning research focuses on cave-dwelling species of insect from Brazil that belongs to the genus Neotrogla. In most insects, the male penetrates the female reproductive organ to transfer seminal fluid, but for Neotrogla, it is the female that has a penis, which it uses to penetrate the male in order to receive seminal fluid and nutritional substances.

“Neotrogla are small, 3mm-long insects that inhabit caves in Brazil. Our first face-to-face encounter with these fascinating creatures was in 2016, when we donned headlamps and explored the caves in search of them. The caves they inhabit are quite dry and food is scarce, which forces them to rely on bat guano and mouse droppings to survive….”



The entomologist who seduced malaria mosquitoes with cheese

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

“Bart Knols, the entomologist who seduced the mosquito mosquito with cheese” says the headline of this Telemetro [Panama] profile of Ig Nobel Prize winner Bart Knols and his innovations against malaria.

The 2006 Ig Nobel Prize for biology was awarded to Bart Knols (of Wageningen Agricultural University, in Wageningen, the Netherlands; and of the National Institute for Medical Research, in Ifakara Centre, Tanzania, and of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna Austria) and Ruurd de Jong (of Wageningen Agricultural University and of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Italy) for showing that the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is attracted equally to the smell of limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet.

Their Ig-winning research is documented in several publications:

REFERENCE: “On Human Odour, Malaria Mosquitoes, and Limburger Cheese,” Bart. G.J. Knols, The Lancet, vol. 348 , November 9, 1996, p. 1322.

REFERENCE: “Behavioural and electrophysiological responses of the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae (Diptera: Culicidae) to Limburger cheese volatiles,” Bulletin of Entomological Research, B.G.J. Knols, J.J.A. van Loon, A. Cork, R.D. Robinson, et al., vol. 87, 1997, pp. 151-159.

REFERENCE: “Limburger Cheese as an Attractant for the Malaria Mosquito Anopheles gambiae s.s.,” B.G,J. Knols and R. De Jong, Parasitology Today, yd. 12, no. 4, 1996, pp. 159-61.

REFERENCE: “Selection of Biting Sites on Man by Two Malaria Mosquito Species,” R. De Jong and B.G.J. Knols, Experientia, vol. 51, 1995, pp. 80–84.

Laboratory News looks at almost 30 years of Ig Nobel stuff

Monday, November 11th, 2019

There’s lots of quasi-juicy Ig Nobel history in this profile, in the British publication Laboratory News, by Jonathan Chadwick:


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