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Archive for 'Arts and Science'

New Look at Some Old Bearded Mathematicians

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Maxime Bôcher [pictured here], with his square beard and squarer shoes, was presiding. In the back of the room, with a different beard but equal dignity, William Fogg Osgood was counseling a student.”

—from George David Birkhoff and His Mathematical Work, by Marston Morse, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, May 1946, page 357.

Here is a photograph of William Fogg Osgood’s beard, with William Fogg Osgood:

We have not managed to find a photograph of Maxime Bôcher’s shoes.

The consequences of inconsequentialities [study]

Monday, April 5th, 2021

People occasionally misplace seemingly inconsequential things – gloves, trainers, scarfs etc etc. But perhaps the sociological implications of misplaced objects may not have received as much scholarly attention as they deserve? Bearing in mind that :

“Especially for the purposes of grant applications, researchers must demonstrate how these objects have impacts that go beyond their immediate spatialities to affect a significant proportion of the population “

Despite the difficulties, there are, nevertheless, academic papers examining just such inconsequentialities. One author was inspired to write one for the journal Space and Culture after finding a lost mitten in Salford, UK.. The paper :

“ . . . explores the ephemeral, delicate, and often superficial materiality of these objects of rupture relative to a flow-optimized urban landscape. “

With the observation that :

“ The consequences of inconsequentialities may be more profound than we might think.“

See: Inconsequential Materialities: The Movements of Lost Effects Space and Culture ,Volume: 12 issue: 1, page(s): 95-115

Protecting Large Hollow Chocolate Bunnies

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Protecting Large Hollow Chocolate Bunnies” is a featured article in the special Chocolate issue (volume 27, number 1) of the Annals of Improbable Research. This article is free to download:

The article begins: “There are few peer-reviewed papers on the subject of designing and testing an improved packaging for large hollow chocolate bunnies. Of these, the most bouncily thorough is one called “Designing and Testing an Improved Packaging for Large Hollow Chocolate Bunnies.” Though just seven pages long, it contains everything a research report ought to have….”

A Scottian History of Science Spoofs

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Douglas Scott has written a history of “Science Spoofs, Physics Pranks and Astronomical Antics“:

Vibrating an Earthworm [Ig Informal Lecture]

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Here is the Ig Informal Lecture by the winners of the 2020 Ig Nobel Physics Prize.

The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that make people LAUGH, then THINK. In the Ig Informal Lectures, some days after the ceremony, the new Ig Nobel Prize winners attempt to explain what they did, and why they did it. [In non-pandemic years, the lectures happen at MIT, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, two days after the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. But in the pandemic year 2020, it’s all happening online.]

The 2020 Ig Nobel Prize for Acoustics was awarded to Ivan Maksymov and Andrey Pototsky, for determining, experimentally, what happens to the shape of a living earthworm when one vibrates the earthworm at high frequency. They documented that research, in this study:

Unleashing the Lectures

We are releasing The Ig Informal Lectures, one at a time, here on, and on YouTube.

Improbable Research