Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

Improbable Research events: Vienna, Copenhagen, Gothenburg

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

Improbable Research events are on tap this week and next week in Austria, Denmark, and Sweden.

Please join us, if you are in the neighborhood(s).

November 7, 2019, Thursday, 5:00 pm Vienna BioCenter PhD Symposium, Vienna, AUSTRIA— Marc Abrahams will talk about the Ig Nobel Prizes and Improbable Research.
November 13, 2019, Wednesday, 7:00 pm Science Salon, Copenhagen, DENMARK—Theater Museum in the Hofteatret, Christiansborg Ridebane 18— Marc Abrahams and Line Friis Frederiksen will discuss the Ig Nobel Prizes and Improbable Research. TICKETS.
November 14, 2019, Thursday, 3:00 pm Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre, Gothenburg, SWEDEN— Marc Abrahams and Ig Nobel Prize winner Susanne Åkesson will explore biodiversity and the Ig Nobel Prizes and Improbable Research. TICKETS.





Now and Then, Again

For a full list of upcoming events—including the Spring 2020 Ig Nobel EuroTour—see our upcoming events list.

If you prefer to dwell in the past, see our past events list.

The once-criticized excellent research adventures of David Hu

Friday, November 1st, 2019

Two-time [2015 and 2019] Ig Nobel Physics Prize winner David Hu has already had more pubic adventures because of his research—including being attacked in print by a U.S. senator—than most scientists get in a lifetime. Good things, for him and for the world, have come from that. Some of those good things initially looked, to some people, like bad things.

David Hu wrote an essay, published in The Xylom, about those adventures. The essay begins:


Wombat poo, here encased in lucite for display purposes. David Hu’s second Ig Nobel Prize honored the research as to how and why wombat poo typically has a cuboid shape. Photo: Alex Ip.

David Hu: “Wasteful Research”? Nah.

“I think I’ve learned my lesson.”

[The Xylom Editor’s note: This is adapted from a speech, Cube-shaped Poo and Georgia Tech’s Second Ig Nobel Prize, by David L. Hu, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biology and Adjunct Professor of Physics of Georgia Institute of Technology on October 8, 2019.]

About two years after I published this study, I came upon a surprise.

My university told me to watch this show, Fox and Friends, and I’ll show a brief segment here:

So this is a TV show called Fox and Friends, and [then-Senator] Jeff Flake had highlighted twenty of the US’ most “wasteful studies”. It turns out that I was responsible for one-eighth of the list, three of those twenty studies.

[ Crowd laughter ]

My Three Most Wasteful Studies for 2016 were

Should Cat Owners Avoid Healthy Cats?

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

Is it safe to own a cat? A new paper suggests the answer may be Yes.

Maybe Yes

The new, possibly-pro-cat paper is: “Healthy cats provide more health benefits than risks to owners,” Michael Lappin, Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, vol. 21, no. 11, November 2019, pp. 1007-1007. The author explains:

“In these 2019 AAFP Feline Zoonoses Guidelines, we discuss the most common zoonotic infections of cats and the classic clinical signs of disease, incorporating findings from the research published since the original 2005 version…. If the recommendations provided are followed, the odds of acquiring an infection from your own cats are quite unlikely, and the Guidelines also emphasize the fact that cat ownership can have health benefits.”

The paper suggests that one obtain an “easy-to-print” document called “What Can I Catch from my Cat?“:

Maybe No

The risks of owning a cat have been copiously documented by others, notably with the awarding of the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize for public health to two groups of researchers—to Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried— for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat. The prize honored several publications written by the co-winners:

  • REFERENCE: ” Changes in personality profile of young women with latent toxoplasmosis,” Jaroslav Flegr and Jan Havlicek, Folia Parasitologica, vol. 46, 1999, pp. 22-28.
  • REFERENCE: “Decreased level of psychobiological factor novelty seeking and lower intelligence in men latently infected with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii Dopamine, a missing link between schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis?” Jaroslav Flegr, Marek Preiss, Jiřı́ Klose, Jan Havlı́ček, Martina Vitáková, and Petr Kodym, Biological Psychology, vol. 63, 2003, pp. 253–268.
  • REFERENCE: “Describing the Relationship between Cat Bites and Human Depression Using Data from an Electronic Health Record,” David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 2013, e70585.

Luck, not just talent, in supposed meritocracy: A new documentary

Friday, October 25th, 2019

“A Shadow on Meritocracy” is a documentary film about the ongoing research springing from the Ig Nobel Prize-winning work of Alessandro Pluchino and Andrea Rapisarda, physicists at the University of Catania. The film is in Italian; this version has English subtitles:

Background: The 2010 Ig Nobel Prize for management was awarded to Alessandro PluchinoAndrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy, for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.

That research is documented in the study “The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study,”” Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo, Physica A, vol. 389, no. 3, February 2010, pp. 467-72.

Another fan video about the Ig Nobel Prizes

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

More people are making videos about the Ig Nobel Prizes. Here’s another:


Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!