Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

A Dramatic Non-Reading of William McGonagall’s Bad Poetry

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

A special dramatic non-reading of the poetry of William McGonagall was a last-minute addition to the Ig Nobel Show at Imperial College on Friday night, March 9, 2018.

McGonagall is famed as the worst poet ever to write in the English language. Ig Nobel shows have, time and again, included dramatic readings of his work. (The literal high point was the group reading, on a train crossing the Tay Bridge, of McGonagall’s “Tay Bridge Disaster“—a poem lamenting the tragic collapse of that bridge.

Many of the Ig Nobel shows we have done at Imperial College have included a dramatic reading of McGonagall poems, performed by Andrew J.T. George, whose persistence on many occasions induced the successful booing and halting of the reading. Professor George was unable to attend this year’s show at Imperial College. Therefore, we sought and found an able substitute performer—a performer capable of delivering a specially restrained performance: noted author and raconteur Stevyn Colgan.

Colgan performed a dramatic non-reading of several poems by William McGonagall, in the midsts of spending the entire evening on stage at Imperial College, gagged, and bound to a chair.

The entire Ig Nobel show began, proceeded, and finished during Colgan’s evening-long on-stage tenure. Here are photos of that performance by Stevyn Colgan. Many audience members clambered onto the stage to have their photographs taken with Colgan.

The Ig Nobel Show at Imperial College was the first event in the Ig Nobel EuroTour. The tour will also include shows in the UK, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and other countries.

UPDATE: Here is the photo taken by Tom Williamson, whom you can see (in photo number 2, above) taking this photograph:

The Ig Nobel EuroTour begins in London

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

The 2018 Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour begins this week—meandering to England, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, and Denmark.

The first show is in London:

TICKETS: The Imperial College show is fully booked. But don’t despair! Likely some tickets will become available at the last minute, if a few ticket-holders don’t turn up. If you’ve an ounce of optimism, come to the Great Hall fifteen minutes before show time, and maybe, maybe, maybe you’ll get lucky!

The full Ig Nobel EuroTour schedule is on our events page.

Washing machines for dogs, and the power of the Ig Nobel Prize

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

The sometimes unexpected power of winning an Ig Nobel Prize, as reported in El Pais [here is an auto-translation from the Spanish]:

“I’m not surprised that we have more Nobel laughter than really”
Spain triumphs in the Ig Nobel in recent years with peculiar studies and inventions

… But it is important not to underestimate the power of Ig Nobel, as explained by Eduard Segura, who won it in 2002 in the Hygiene category for his invention: a pet washing machine. “We were surprised by the global impact, but all of that free publicity was fundamental for us, it could be a joke prize, but it has fixed our way of life,” he says. This engineer affirms that he has sold since then some 400 machines -whose two models cost 17,000 and 7,000 euros- in a business for which six people work. And that everything is due to the prize….

“We did not know the awards and when we saw the videos we thought we were too serious for that”, explains Margarita Garriga, head of the award-winning team made up of five researchers from IRTA (Agrifood Research and Technology Institute). “We felt uncomfortable and we did not go,” says Garriga, who nevertheless acknowledges that the experience would have been spectacular: “Now I regret not having gone to Harvard.” The study for which they were awarded in Nutrition, the thesis of Raquel Rubio, proposed the use of bacteria present in the feces of babies to ferment sausages.

Predicting a Scientist’s Future Achievement Is Unpredictable?

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

The drive to measure—in advance!—success gets a whack in the computational knee, in this study about an Ig Nobel Prize (and also Nobel Prize) winner’s career:

Web of Science: Showing a Bug Today That Can Mislead Scientific Research Output’s Prediction,” Pablo Diniz Batista, Igor Marques-Carneiro, Leduc Hermeto de Almeida Fauth, and Marcia de Oliveira Reis Brandão, SAGE Open, January-March 2018, pp. 1-7. The authors, at the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics, explain:

[We] observe that the bibliometric data collected from the Web of Science are not reliable instruments for comparing scientists’ performance because we detected a disregarded subtlety in the database…. To investigate how it can affect scientometric analysis, we have chosen to follow the career of the 2010 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Andre Geim. This is not an arbitrary choice, because his example is an interesting one for [the] major objectives of this work….

In 2000, physicist Andre Geim was awarded the Ig Nobel for his experiments with frog’s levitation (Berry & Geim, 1997). It is important to consider that the Ig Nobel seems to be a kind of joke about scientific activity; however, it is able to provoke profound reflection on many aspects of science. In fact, its motto is “first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Moreover, 10 years later, Geim receives the Nobel Prize in Physics for the isolation of graphene (Novoselov et al., 2004)….

[Jorge] Hirsch proposes an index to predict the future of scientists’ merging quality and quantity into a single number. As far as we are concerned, this proposal of using mathematics probability or statistics, aiming to predict future research achievement, is not possible because the phase transition in a scientist’s career seems not to be predictable by an index or methodology as shown in this work through the example of the Nobel—and Ig Nobel—winner Andre Geim.

Here’s historic video of Andre Geim in his lab levitating a frog (and other things, too):

Observations of Improbable Research at the AAAS Meeting

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Nathan Mattise reports for Ars Technica about the Improbable Research session, which happened last week at the AAAS Annual Meeting. The report begins:

Science after hours: Barney’s aquatic traits and how pregnant women stay upright

At this annual science conference, even humor has thorough research methods behind it.

AUSTIN, Texas—The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Conference is an inherently serious event, filled with cutting-edge research from some of the world’s brightest scientific minds. But after hours, like any good conference, people in attendance can loosen their figurative ties… and have a good chuckle considering whether cats are liquids or solids.

That kind of Saturday-night-ready research is the trademark of the Annals of Improbable Research, the journal and organization behind the yearly First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. That event has long been an Ars favorite as it honors research “that makes you laugh, then think” about topics like why dog fleas jump better than cat ones and why humans stink at carrying coffee. And at the latest AAAS conference in Texas earlier this month, the Improbable Research team brought together both visiting and Texas-local Ig recipients to elaborate on their award-winning research….

Mattise’s report in Ars Technica. included detailed analysis of three of the session’s presentations: using a didgeridoo to treat sleep apnea and snoring; why pregnant women don’t tip over; and whether the much-televised animal called “Barneyis or is not a dinosaur.