Archive for 'Improbable Investigators'

Announcing the 2019 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

The 2019 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded at the 29th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, on Thursday, September 12, 2019, at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. The ceremony was webcast.

The 2019 Ig Nobel Prize winners

MEDICINE PRIZE [ITALY, THE NETHERLANDS]
Silvano Gallus, for collecting evidence that pizza might protect against illness and death, if the pizza is made and eaten in Italy.
REFERENCE: “Does Pizza Protect Against Cancer?“, Silvano Gallus, Cristina Bosetti, Eva Negri, Renato Talamini, Maurizio Montella, Ettore Conti, Silvia Franceschi, and Carlo La Vecchia, International Journal of Cancer, vol. 107, no. 2, November 1, 2003, pp. 283-284.
REFERENCE: “Pizza and Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction,” Silvano Gallus, A. Tavani, and C. La Vecchia, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 58, no. 11, November 2004, pp. 1543-1546.
REFERENCE: “Pizza Consumption and the Risk of Breast, Ovarian and Prostate Cancer,” Silvano Gallus, Renato Talamini, Cristina Bosetti, Eva Negri, Maurizio Montella, Silvia Franceschi, Attilio Giacosa, and Carlo La Vecchia, European Journal of Cancer Prevention, vol. 15, no. 1, February 2006, pp. 74-76.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Silvano Gallus.

MEDICAL EDUCATION PRIZE [USA]
Karen Pryor and Theresa McKeon, for using a simple animal-training technique— called “clicker training” —to train surgeons to perform orthopedic surgery.
REFERENCE: “Is Teaching Simple Surgical Skills Using an Operant Learning Program More Effective Than Teaching by Demonstration,” I. Martin Levy, Karen W. Pryor, and Theresa R. McKeon, Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, vol. 474, no. 4, April 2016, pp. 945–955.

BIOLOGY PRIZE [SINGAPORE, CHINA, GERMANY, AUSTRALIA, POLAND, USA, BULGARIA]
Ling-Jun Kong, Herbert Crepaz, Agnieszka Górecka, Aleksandra Urbanek, Rainer Dumke, and Tomasz Paterek, for discovering that dead magnetized cockroaches behave differently than living magnetized cockroaches.
REFERENCE: “In-Vivo Biomagnetic Characterisation of the American Cockroach,” Ling-Jun Kong, Herbert Crepaz, Agnieszka Górecka, Aleksandra Urbanek, Rainer Dumke, Tomasz Paterek, Scientific Reports, vol. 8, no. 1, 2018: 5140.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Tomasz Paterek, Herbert Crepaz, Rainer Dumke.

ANATOMY PRIZE [FRANCE]
Roger Mieusset and Bourras Bengoudifa, for measuring scrotal temperature asymmetry in naked and clothed postmen in France.
REFERENCE: “Thermal Asymmetry of the Human Scrotum,” Bourras Bengoudifa and Roger Mieusset, Human Reproduction, vol. 22, no. 8, 2007, pp. 2178-2182.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE [JAPAN]
Shigeru Watanabe, Mineko Ohnishi, Kaori Imai, Eiji Kawano, and Seiji Igarashi, for estimating the total saliva volume produced per day by a typical five-year-old child
REFERENCE: “Estimation of the Total Saliva Volume Produced Per Day in Five-Year-Old Children,” Shigeru Watanabe, M. Ohnishi, K. Imai, E. Kawano, and S. Igarashi, Archives of Oral Biology, vol. 40, no. 8, August 1995, pp. 781-782.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Shiguru Watanabe [and his adult sons, who were some of the subjects of the study when they were children 35 years ago]

ENGINEERING PRIZE [IRAN]
Iman Farahbakhsh, for inventing a diaper-changing machine for use on human infants.
REFERENCE: “Infant Washer and Diaper-Changer Apparatus and Method,” US patent 10034582, granted to Iman Farahbakhsh, July 31, 2018.

ECONOMICS PRIZE [TURKEY, THE NETHERLANDS, GERMANY]
Habip Gedik, Timothy A. Voss, and Andreas Voss, for testing which country’s paper money is best at transmitting dangerous bacteria.
REFERENCE: “Money and Transmission of Bacteria,” Habip Gedik, Timothy A. Voss, and Andreas Voss, Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control, vol. 2, no. 2, 2013.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Andreas Voss and Timothy Voss (who are father and son)

PEACE PRIZE [UK, SAUDI ARABIA, SINGAPORE, USA]
Ghada A. bin Saif, Alexandru Papoiu, Liliana Banari, Francis McGlone, Shawn G. Kwatra, Yiong-Huak Chan, and Gil Yosipovitch, for trying to measure the pleasurability of scratching an itch.
REFERENCE: “The Pleasurability of Scratching an Itch: A Psychophysical and Topographical Assessment,” G.A. bin Saif, A.D.P. Papoiu, L. Banari, F. McGlone, S.G. Kwatra, Y.-H. Chan and G. Yosipovitch, British Journal of Dermatology, vol. 166, no. 5, 2012, pp. 981-985.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Francis McGlone delivered an acceptance speech via recorded video.

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE [GERMANY]
Fritz Strack, for discovering that holding a pen in one’s mouth makes one smile, which makes one happier — and for then discovering that it does not.
REFERENCE: “Inhibiting and facilitating conditions of the human smile: a nonobtrusive test of the facial feedback hypothesis,” Fritz Strack, Leonard L. Martin, and Sabine Stepper, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 54, no. 5, 1988, pp. 768-777.
REFERENCE: “From Data to Truth in Psychological Science. A Personal Perspective,” Fritz Strack, Frontiers in Psychology, May 16, 2017.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Fritz Strack.

PHYSICS PRIZE [USA, TAIWAN, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND, SWEDEN, UK]
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.
REFERENCE: “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.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Patricia Yang, David Hu, Miles Chan, Alexander Lee, Scott Carver, Ashley Edwards
NOTE: This the SECOND Ig Nobel Prize awarded to Patricia Yang and David Hu. They and two other colleagues shared the 2015 Ig Nobel Physics Prize, for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).

Coming event (Saturday, September 14): The Ig Informal Lectures, at MIT

Most of the new winners will give free public talks on Saturday afternoon, September 14, at MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The lectures will be webcast.

The Most Improbable Pope

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

A headline in the Paris newspaper Le Monde declares that I am the Pope. The Pope of Improbable Science.

You can see this pope on display on September 12, 2019, in the 29th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. If you are in Paris (or anywhere else), you can watch the webcast. If you are in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and if you have a ticket, you can see it in person, in Sanders Theatre.

Innovative Scientists Talk About Their Childhood (14): Nicole Sharp hating math class

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Here’s Nicole Sharp talking about what happened when she hated math class when she was a child. What happened excited Nicole in a way that led to her eventual unusual career. Nicole created and runs FYFD, the most popular fluid dynamics web site in this part of the universe.

ABOUT THIS LITTLE VIDEO SERIES—This is part of a series of sessions we (David Hu and I, and a film crew) recorded at Georgia Tech. We assembled a little group of scientists (including David) who are renowned for looking at questions others might overlook, and doing research in inventive, clever ways.

The question we asked them: “What happened when you were a kid that somehow led—much later—to your doing unusual science?

The scientists: David Hu, Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Frans de Waal, Nicole Sharp, Diego Golombek, and Olga Shishkov. Follow the links on their names to begin exploring some of their work!

Innovative Scientists Talk About Their Childhood (13): David Hu and his mom and squishy food

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

Here’s David Hu talking about watching his mom make squishy food—an experience that, when he was a child, excited David in a way that led to his eventual unusual career. David uses math and physics—and experiments—to try to understand some of the seemingly simply, scientifically mystifying things that happen in nature every day.

ABOUT THIS LITTLE VIDEO SERIES—This is part of a series of sessions we (David Hu and I, and a film crew) recorded at Georgia Tech. We assembled a little group of scientists (including David) who are renowned for looking at questions others might overlook, and doing research in inventive, clever ways.

The question we asked them: “What happened when you were a kid that somehow led—much later—to your doing unusual science?

The scientists: David Hu, Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Frans de Waal, Nicole Sharp, Diego Golombek, and Olga Shishkov. Follow the links on their names to begin exploring some of their work!

Innovative Scientists Talk About Their Childhood (12): Olga Shishkov and the flopping fish

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

Here’s Olga Shishkov talking about some flopping fish who, when she was a child, excited Olga in a way that led to her eventual unusual career. Olga studies how maggots manage to do some of the surprising, impressive things they do.

ABOUT THIS LITTLE VIDEO SERIES—This is part of a series of sessions we (David Hu and I, and a film crew) recorded at Georgia Tech. We assembled a little group of scientists (including David) who are renowned for looking at questions others might overlook, and doing research in inventive, clever ways.

The question we asked them: “What happened when you were a kid that somehow led—much later—to your doing unusual science?

The scientists: David Hu, Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Frans de Waal, Nicole Sharp, Diego Golombek, and Olga Shishkov. Follow the links on their names to begin exploring some of their work!

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