Archive for 'Arts and Science'

Recalling the US Fifth Circuit’s first ‘Haircut’ case

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

If you have been wondering along the lines of – ‘When was the first haircut case heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ?’ The answer could well be : Ferrell v. Dallas Independent School District, 261 F. Supp. 545 (N.D. Tex. 1966)

The Ferrell plaintiffs were members of a musical group called ‘Sounds Unlimited’. According to the band, their recording contract required them to maintain ‘Beatle – style’ haircuts, The principal of the school which they attended objected to their mop-top hair, and banned them from entry to the school. The court documents reveal that :

“It was also developed by the defendants that immediately after being refused admittance the ‘Sounds Unlimited’ proceeded to a local recording studio and recorded a song entitled, ‘Keep Your Hands Off of It.’ Copies of the record were produced and distributed by the agent to the various radio stations in the area, and was subsequently played on the air by these stations. This record was played in open court, and to say the least, it was an excursion into cacaphony. The words went something like this:

“Went to school, got kicked out,

Said it was too long, now we’re going to shout.


“Keep your hands off of it,

Keep your hands off of it,

It don’t belong to you.

“Bopped upon the steps, Principal I met,

You’re not getting in, now what do you want to bet.


“Went this morning, tried to get in, The kids were for us, but we still couldn’t win.


“HAIR, THAT IS.” (Defendants’ Ex. #1)

See/hear the exhibit above. To sum up the proceedings then :

“[The] Appellants contend that the action of the school authorities was unlawful under the constitution and laws of the State of Texas.”

The court’s decision, however, was :

“We do not agree.”

Further reading : A lengthy description of the band and its exploits can be found here at the On The Road South blog.

[ Research research by Martin Gardiner ]

How Aesthetically Pleasing Is Your Country’s Diffraction Pattern?

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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

Friday, 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

Friday, 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:


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