Archive for 'Improbable Investigators'

The Ig Nobel Japan Tour — September 20-28

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Please join us for any or all of the Ig Nobel events in Japan:

Ig Nobel Japan Tour

  • September 20, ThursdayNerd Nite TokyoNagatacho GRID, Tokyo, Japan.— A very jet-lagged Marc Abrahams will discuss the Ig Nobel Prizes.
  • September 21, Friday— Special Pre-Show Press Opening of the Ig Nobel ExhibitionAaMo Gallery at the Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan. —Marc Abrahams and several Ig Nobel Prize winners (Horiuchi, Watanabe, Suzuki, Hirose, Nakamats, Nakagaki, Kurihara, Uchiyama, Mabuchi, Yoshizawa) will take part.
  • September 22, SaturdayIg Nobel ExhibitionAaMo Gallery at the Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan. —Marc Abrahams will take part in the opening, on September 22. The exhibition will run from September 22-November 4, 2018. [The image you see here is from the 2-part manga (1, 2) about Marc and the Ig Nobel Prizes, published ten years ago. The illustrious writer of that manga will take part in the exhibition opening.]
  • September 23, SundayMiraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation). Part of this event will be webcast.
  • September 26, WednesdayHokkaido University —Marc Abrahams and Ig Nobel Prize winners Prof. Nakagaki, and Prof. Yoshizawa  will discuss the Igs, and answer (and ask) questions. Details TBA.
  • September 28, FridayKanazawa University —Marc Abrahams and Ig Nobel Prize winners Prof. Hirose, and Prof. Kumagai will discuss the Igs, and answer (and ask) questions. Details TBA.

For additional detail and links (we will be adding them, bit by bit), check our Upcoming Events page.

SATURDAY: The 2017 Ig Informal Lectures, at MIT

Friday, September 14th, 2018

The Ig Informal Lectures
Saturday, Sept 15, 2018, 1:00 pm.
MIT, building 10, room 250 — 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Planet Earth.
You are invited. It’s free, no tickets needed. Come early to assure a seat.

A half-afternoon of improbably funny, informative, informal, brief public lectures and demonstrations:

The new Ig Nobel Prize winners  have each done something that makes people LAUGH, then THINK. That’s why they were awarded Ig Nobel Prizes. In these lectures, the winners will attempt to explain what they did, and why they did it. Everyone will be available for you to talk with, both before and after the lectures.

We will webcast the event:

The Ig informal Lectures are a free event, organized in cooperation with the MIT Press Bookstore.

Here’s video of last year’s (2017) Ig Informal Lectures:

The Ig informal Lectures are a free event, organized in cooperation with the MIT Press Bookstore.

Announcing the 2018 Ig Nobel Prizes winners

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

The 2018 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded at the 28th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, on Thursday, September 13, 2018, at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. The ceremony was webcast. Here’s video of the entire ceremony, and a list of the winners:

For links to the prize-winning studies, see the list of all past (and new!) Ig Nobel Prize winners. The new winners are:

MEDICINE PRIZE [USA] — Marc Mitchell and David Wartinger, for using roller coaster rides to try to hasten the passage of kidney stones.

REFERENCE: “Validation of a Functional Pyelocalyceal Renal Model for the Evaluation of Renal Calculi Passage While Riding a Roller Coaster,” Marc A. Mitchell, David D. Wartinger, The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, vol. 116, October 2016, pp. 647-652.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Dave Wartinger

 

ANTHROPOLOGY PRIZE [SWEDEN, ROMANIA, DENMARK, THE NETHERLANDS, GERMANY, UK, INDONESIA, ITALY] — Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, for collecting evidence, in a zoo, that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees.

REFERENCE: “Spontaneous Cross-Species Imitation in Interaction Between Chimpanzees and Zoo Visitors,” Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, Primates, vol. 59, no. 1, January 2018, pp 19–29.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc

 

BIOLOGY PRIZE [SWEDEN, COLOMBIA, GERMANY, FRANCE, SWITZERLAND] — Paul Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, for demonstrating that wine experts can reliably identify, by smell, the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine.

REFERENCE: “The Scent of the Fly,” Paul G. Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika A. Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, bioRxiv, no. 20637, 2017.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Paul Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Peter Witzgall

 

CHEMISTRY PRIZE [PORTUGAL] — Paula Romão, Adília Alarcão and the late César Viana, for measuring the degree to which human saliva is a good cleaning agent for dirty surfaces.

REFERENCE: “Human Saliva as a Cleaning Agent for Dirty Surfaces,” by Paula M. S. Romão, Adília M. Alarcão and César A.N. Viana, Studies in Conservation, vol. 35, 1990, pp. 153-155.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: The winners delivered their acceptance speech via recorded video.

 

MEDICAL EDUCATION PRIZE [JAPAN] — Akira Horiuchi, for the medical report “Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy.”

REFERENCE: “Colonoscopy in the Sitting Position: Lessons Learned From Self-Colonoscopy by Using a Small-Caliber, Variable-Stiffness Colonoscope,” Akira Horiuchi and Yoshiko Nakayama, Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, vol. 63, No. 1, 2006, pp. 119-20.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Akira Horiuchi

 

LITERATURE PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, EL SALVADOR, UK] — Thea Blackler, Rafael Gomez, Vesna Popovic and M. Helen Thompson, for documenting that most people who use complicated products do not read the instruction manual.

REFERENCE: “Life Is Too Short to RTFM: How Users Relate to Documentation and Excess Features in Consumer Products,” Alethea L. Blackler, Rafael Gomez, Vesna Popovic and M. Helen Thompson, Interacting With Computers, vol. 28, no. 1, 2014, pp. 27-46.

WHO PLANS TO ATTEND THE CEREMONY: Thea Blackler

 

NUTRITION PRIZE [ZIMBABWE, TANZANIA, UK] — James Cole, for calculating that the caloric intake from a human-cannibalism diet is significantly lower than the caloric intake from most other traditional meat diets.

REFERENCE: “Assessing the Calorific Significance of Episodes of Human Cannibalism in the Paleolithic,” James Cole, Scientific Reports, vol. 7, no. 44707, April 7, 2017.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: James Cole

 

PEACE PRIZE [SPAIN, COLOMBIA] — Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Andrea Serge, Maria-Luisa Ballestar, Jaime Sanmartín, Constanza Calatayud, and Beatriz Alamar, for measuring the frequency, motivation, and effects of shouting and cursing while driving an automobile.

REFERENCE: “Shouting and Cursing While Driving: Frequency, Reasons, Perceived Risk and Punishment,” Francisco Alonso, Cristina Esteban, Andrea Serge and Maria-Luisa Ballestar, Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, vol. 1, no. 12017, pp. 1-7.

REFERENCE: “La Justicia en el Tráfico: Conocimiento y Valoración de la Población Española” [“Justice in Traffic: Knowledge and Valuation of the Spanish Population”)], F. Alonso, J. Sanmartín, C. Calatayud, C. Esteban, B. Alamar, and M. L. Ballestar, Cuadernos de Reflexión Attitudes, 2005.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Francisco Alonso

 

REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, JAPAN, SAUDI ARABIA, EGYPT, INDIA, BANGLADESH] — John Barry, Bruce Blank, and Michel Boileau, for using postage stamps to test whether the male sexual organ is functioning properly—as described in their study “Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Monitoring With Stamps.”

REFERENCE: “Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Monitoring With Stamps,” John M. Barry, Bruce Blank, Michael Boileau, Urology, vol. 15, 1980, pp. 171-172.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: John M. Barry, Bruce Blank, Michel Boileau

 

ECONOMICS PRIZE [CANADA, CHINA, SINGAPORE, USA] — Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa Keeping, for investigating whether it is effective for employees to use Voodoo dolls to retaliate against abusive bosses.

REFERENCE: “Righting a Wrong: Retaliation on a Voodoo Doll Symbolizing an Abusive Supervisor Restores Justice,” Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas J. Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa M. Keeping, The Leadership Quarterly, February 2018.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Hanyu Liang, Douglas J. Brown, Huiwen Lian, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa M. Keeping

Is He on the Level? The Master of Complexity.

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

“Is he on the level?” and “What level?” are two questions you might ask after learning about Dr. Michael Lamport Commons and the 16 levels he invented. The 16 levels are parts and parcels in Dr. Michael Lamport Commons’s “Model of Hierarchical Complexity.” The model rates how complex a person (or a bacterium) is, compared to all other persons (or bacteria).

Who is Dr. Michael Lamport Commons [pictured here]? He is a “Corresponding Member of the Faculty of Psychiatry Institution, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,” according to the Harvard web site. He is an “Assistant Clinical Professor,” according to Dr. Michael Lamport Commons’s web site.

He is many things. He is director of the Dare Association, a place of complexity that subspecializes in undue influence.

He is a fixture in many scholarly journals that you may not have heard of. According to Dr. Michael Lamport Commons’s Wikipedia page, which boasts a warning about veracity:

He is on the governing board of the Journal of Behavior Analysis Online. He is co-editor of the journal Behavioral Development Bulletin and past co-editor of the Journal of Behavior Analysis Online. He was a senior editor of Quantitative Analyses of Behavior, Volumes 1–11 and of four volumes on Adult Development including Beyond Formal Operations: Late Adolescent and Adult Cognitive Development and Clinical Approaches to Adult Development, as well as associate editor for a special issue of Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior on the nature of reinforcement. He is the consulting editor of Moral Development Series.

What is the Model of Hierarchical Complexity? Dr. Michael Lamport Commons explains:

Model of Hierarchical Complexity (MHC)… is a measurement theory that analyzes the developmental difficulty of tasks represented by the Orders of Hierarchical Complexity. It represents the behavioral developmental stages at which an individual is performing while completing a task.

The MHC has 16 levels, Dr. Michael Lamport Commons explains:

It organizes behaviors into orders of complexity ranging from 0-16. The lowest order, order 1, corresponds to automatic responses to a single stimulus, such as taxes in bacteria. Each order above this is composed of two or more lower order behaviors organized into a new structure.

In this exciting action video, Dr. Michael Lamport Commons explains—in a way someone can understand, in theory—his Model of Hierarchical Complexity:

What about Dr. Michael Lamport Commons himself? What level is he on? Could there be a 17th level? These are all questions.

Tapas Bar is not a tapas bar, in Kolkata

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

The existence of a new physics research study is a reminder that Tapas Bar, the physics researcher who is listed as first author of the study, is not a tapas bar—though both Tapas Bar and at least one tapas bar are both in the city of Kolkata.

(Thanks to Mason Porter for bringing this to our attention.)

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