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Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

The 2020 Ig Nobel Prizes (NY Times for Kids, China)

Friday, November 13th, 2020

The New York Times for Kids, China produced this animated introduction to the 2020 Ig Nobel Prizes. It’s in Chinese, with English subtitles. Part of it is a takeoff on the 2020 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony webcast. We enjoyed collaborating on this, and hope you enjoy watching it.

The Pee Tape: How Mammals Pee So Expeditiously

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

David Hu, head of the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize-winning urination-duration-research team, has a new animated video explaining that research:

The 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to Patricia Yang, David Hu, Jonathan Pham, and Jerome Choo, for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).

They explain that research in detail, in the study “Duration of Urination Does Not Change With Body Size,” Patricia J. Yang, Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo, and David L. Hu, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111 no. 33, August 19, 2014, pp. 11932–11937.

Patricia Yang and David Hu, together with additional colleagues, were awarded a second Ig Nobel Prize four years later. The 2019 Ig Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to Patricia Yang, Alexander Lee, Miles Chan, Alynn Martin, Ashley Edwards, Scott Carver, and David Hu, for studying how, and why, wombats make cube-shaped poo.

They explain that research in detail, in the study “How Do Wombats Make Cubed Poo?” Patricia J. Yang, Miles Chan, Scott Carver, and David L. Hu, paper presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics, Abstract: E19.0000, November 18–20, 2018.

Yoga & the Bullshit Prevention Protocol

Monday, November 2nd, 2020

If you savor the savoring of bullshit, here are two useful essays. Each was published in The Last Word on Nothing:

Yoga & the Bullshit Prevention Protocol” by Ann Finkbeiner.


The Pocket Guide to Bullshit Prevention” by Michelle Nijhuis. The ‘Pocket Guide’ includes this graphic:

An older guide, harmonious with the Nujhuis “Pocket Guide”, is the “Improbable Research Teachers’ Guide“, which appears in every issue of the magazine Annals of Improbable Research.

Related: Some Ig Nobel Prizes for the savoring of bullshit

Several Ig Nobel Prizes involve the appreciation, analysis, and savoring of bullshit. Ig Nobel Prizes, please remember, are for things that make people laugh, then think. Here are three of those prizes:

The 2016 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit”.

REFERENCE: “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit,” Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek J. Koehler, and Jonathan A. Fugelsang, Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563.

The 2016 Ig Nobel Psychology Prize was awarded to Evelyne Debey, Maarten De Schryver, Gordon Logan, Kristina Suchotzki, and Bruno Verschuere, for asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers.

REFERENCE: “From Junior to Senior Pinocchio: A Cross-Sectional Lifespan Investigation of Deception,” Evelyne Debey, Maarten De Schryver, Gordon D. Logan, Kristina Suchotzki, and Bruno Verschuere, Acta Psychologica, vol. 160, 2015, pp. 58-68.

The 2008 Ig Nobel Medicine Prize was awarded to Dan Ariely, Rebecca L. Waber, Baba Shiv, and Ziv Carmon, for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine..

REFERENCE: “Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy,” Rebecca L. Waber, Baba Shiv, Ziv Carmon, and Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.

The 2020 Ig Nobel Prize for Medical Education, also, is about the savoring of bullshit, many people say. That prize was awarded to Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Narendra Modi of India, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Donald Trump of the USA, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan, for using the Covid-19 viral pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can.


Silent Sleep Training Medical Didgeridoo

Friday, October 30th, 2020

It has been announced: “The Silent Sleep Training Medical Didgeridoo has been proven in two medical studies at the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland. The results of the first study were published in the renowned British Medical Journal and in 2017 the research team was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize.”

Further info is available on the inventors’ web site, which includes this video:

An Extraordinary Scientist Who Delights in the Mundane

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

Ig Nobel Prize winner L. Mahadevan is profiled, by Steve Nadis, in Quanta magazine:

A Scientist Who Delights in the Mundane

Mahadevan uses mathematics and physics to explore commonplace phenomena, showing that many of the objects and behaviors we take for granted, and consequently give little thought to, are quite extraordinary upon closer examination… He even took on a process often dismissed as the dullest thing imaginable in his essay “Watching Paint Dry,” …

I’m not the kind of person who thinks some problems are bigger than others. In my mind, there is no hierarchy. What is frivolous and what is important seems like an irrelevant question. After all, nature does not care! …

I work on things that everyone can see and experience, but few care to think about deeply. As for the second question, does an artist, musician or writer think about applications? Why does science have to do so? It is human to be curious. That is enough, isn’t it? 

But I should add that I’m not at all snooty about working on useful or practical things. I have patents on a few devices and algorithms, and just this year we developed potential protocols for mitigating the extreme costs of pandemics.

On the other hand, I also like doing things for the sheer fun of it, like, for instance, designing a fair three-sided coin in order to decide a three-way bet….

The 2007 Ig Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to L. Mahadevan of Harvard University, USA, and Enrique Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, for studying how sheets become wrinkled.

That research is documented in these studies:

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