Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

Proper credit for penguins: credit cards and poo

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Here are two drawing of penguins.

One drawing is part of an ad for a credit card offered by CIBC, with the slogan “Unleash your sense of adventure. Aventura. The Traveller’s Travel Card.™”

The other drawing is from the Ig Nobel Prize-winning biology research study “Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh — Calculations on Avian Defaecation,” published in the journal Polar Biology, vol. 27, 2003, pp. 56-8.

Can you tell which drawing is which?

(Thanks to Jillian Buriak for bringing this to our attention.)

Reports: U.S. President Likely to Pardon Milken, First Winner of the Ig Nobel Economics Prize

Friday, June 15th, 2018

News reports suggest that U.S. President Donald Trump is likely to pardon convicted felon Michael Milken, who in 1991 became the very first person to be awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for Economics.

That 1991 Ig Nobel Prize was awarded to Michael Milken, titan of Wall Street and father of the junk bond, to whom the world is indebted. (Milken was not physically present at that year’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, having a previous engagement to appear in a federal prison.)

Today, June 15, 2018, Bloomberg News reports:

Trump Insiders Seek Pardon for ‘Junk Bond King’ Michael Milken

Some of President Donald Trump’s closest confidants have urged him to pardon Michael Milken, the 1980s “junk bond king” who has unsuccessfully sought for decades to reverse his securities fraud conviction, according to people familiar with the matter….

Ripping up Milken’s conviction — the result of arguably the highest-profile inside trading case ever — would be a blow to federal prosecutors, particularly those overseeing Wall Street. It would also be a rebuke to the judge who oversaw the matter three decades ago and excoriated Milken at his sentencing….

That judgment [in that trial] was delivered by U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan. Wood remains in that seat, and is now in charge of reviewing evidence seized by federal agents from Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time personal attorney.

BONUS FACT: Both Donald Trump and Michael Milken attended the Wharton School of Business.

TICKETS for the 28th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony go on sale Tuesday, July 10, exclusively from the Harvard Box Office.

Envenomations by Rattlesnakes Thought to Be Dead, Then and Now

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Old rattlesnake research gains new bite, with the news reports of a man who decapitated a rattlesnake, and then was bitten by the detorsoed snake head [“Texas Man’s Near-Fatal Lesson: A Decapitated Snake Can Still Bite” — New York Times].

The most pertinently focussed study was published almost 20 years ago:

Envenomations by Rattlesnakes Thought to Be Dead,” Jeffrey R. Suchard and Frank LoVecchio, New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 340, no. 24, 1999, p. 1930. The authors, at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center Phoenix, Arizona, report:

Laurence M. Klauber, who experimented with dead rattlesnakes.

Klauber [Rattlesnakes: Their Habits, Life Histories, and Influence on Mankind, Lawrence M. Klauber, 2nd ed., Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972, pp. 341-349.] performed experiments showing that rattlesnake heads are dangerous for 20 to 60 minutes after decapitation. We prospectively collected data on patients admitted to our toxicology referral center for rattlesnake bites. Thirty-four patients were admitted for rattlesnake bites from June 1997 to April 1998; of these, five patients (14.7 percent) — all men between 20 and 48 years old — were bitten by snakes that had been fatally injured and were presumed to be dead….

Patient 3 shot and then decapitated a rattlesnake. His right index finder was envenomated when he picked up the head. He developed a self-limited coagulopathy but ultimately required finger amputation because of local tissue destruction. Patient 4 was envenomated on his left ring finger and right index finger by a decapitated rattlesnake head that had been motionless for five minutes.

BONUS (related): The 1994 Ig Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded in two parts. First, to Patient X, formerly of the US Marine Corps, valiant victim of a venomous bite from his pet rattlesnake, for his determined use of electroshock therapy — at his own insistence, automobile sparkplug wires were attached to his lip, and the car engine revved to 3000 rpm for five minutes. Second, to Dr. Richard C. Dart of the Rocky Mountain Poison Center and Dr. Richard A. Gustafson of The University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, for their well-grounded medical report: “Failure of Electric Shock Treatment for Rattlesnake Envenomation.” [Published in Annals of Emergency Medicine, vol. 20, no. 6, June 1991, pp. 659-61.] Here is a snippet from the paper, showing Patient X after his life was saved:

Ig Nobel TICKETS will go on sale one month from today

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

TICKETS for the 28th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony will go on sale exactly one month from today: on TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2018.

Tickets will be available exclusively from the Harvard Box Office.

Did You Smell the Coffee? [In the Footsteps of the Invisible Gorilla]

Saturday, June 9th, 2018


Charles Spence (Ig Nobel Prize winner for the electronically-modified-sound-of-a-potato-chip experiment) and a colleague have a new study that explores an unexplored aspect—smell—of what’s known as “inattentional blindness.’ Inattentional blindness became widely noticed because of the invisible gorilla experiment” that won an Ig Nobel Prize for Chris Chabris and Dan Simons.

The new study asks, in essence, “Did you smell the coffee?” The study is:

‘What smell?’ Temporarily loading visual attention induces a prolonged loss of olfactory awareness,” Sophie Forster and Charles Spence, Psychological Science, epub 2018. The authors report:

To test whether visual load also modulates olfactory awareness, participants [did a visual search task], while exposed to the ambient aroma of coffee. Immediately upon completion of the task, participants were taken to a different room and given a series of probes designed to elicit report of the olfactory stimulus, before being asked directly if they had noticed it. We predicted that the visual load of the task performed by the participants would predict awareness of the coffee aroma, with those in the high load condition having increased susceptibility to inattentional anosmia….

Only a minority (30%) of the participants… mentioned the coffee aroma in their room description, even though they were describing the room while still exposed to this smell and (as in previous experiments) were asked to use all of their senses in the description. When asked more specifically whether they noticed any smells or odors in the room, only one further participant reported the coffee smell….

Critically, the likelihood that a participant would notice the smell of coffee was significantly, and substantially, influenced by the visual demands of the search task that they performed.

BONUS: Further info about this, from the University of Sussex, notice-the-coffee-smell researcher Sophie Forster’s home base.

BONUS: Here’s historic video of Chabris and Simons’s gorilla experiment: