Archive for 'Improbable Investigators'

Third-generation Ig Nobel Prize winner David Hu, profiled in the New York Times

Monday, November 5th, 2018

David Hu’s Ig Nobel Prize-winning research, and David Hu, and David Hu’s Ig Nobel  Prize-winning former advisor, and that advisor’s double-Ig Nobel Prize-winning former adviser, and lots more, are profiled in the New York Times:

…As male infants will do, his son urinated all over the front of Dr. Hu’s shirt, for a full 21 seconds. Yes, he counted off the time, because for him curiosity trumps irritation.

That was a long time for a small baby, he thought. How long did it take an adult to empty his bladder? He timed himself. Twenty-three seconds. “Wow, I thought, my son urinates like a real man already.”

He recounts all of this without a trace of embarrassment, in person and in “How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls: Animal Movements and the Robotics of the Future,” just published, in which he describes both the silliness and profundity of his brand of research….

Dr. Hu is a mathematician in the Georgia Tech engineering department who studies animals. His seemingly oddball work has drawn both the ire of grandstanding senators and the full-throated support of at least one person in charge of awarding grants from that bastion of frivolity, the United States Army….  [He] is completely serious when he describes Dr. Hu as a scientist of “profound courage and integrity” who “goes where his curiosity leads him.”

Dr. Hu has “an uncanny ability to identify and follow through on scientific questions that are hidden in plain sight,” Dr. Stanton said.

When it comes to physics, the Army and Dr. Hu have a deep affinity. They both operate at human scale in the world outside the lab, where conditions are often wet, muddy or otherwise difficult.

In understanding how physics operates in such conditions, Dr. Stanton explained, “the vagaries of the real world really come to play in an interesting way.” …

UPDATE [November 8, 2018]: The New York Times produced an educational guide follow-up to the profile: “ARTICLE OF THE DAY—Learning With: ‘The Mysteries of Animal Movement’


Tom and Joan Steitz, and a clarinet player

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Tom Steitz has died; his obituary is in New York Times. He was half of a marriage of two great and celebrated chemists, who met while they were grad students of the great and celebrated Professor Lipscomb, whom many of you saw and met at two decades of Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies.  (We met at a memorial for Bill Lipscomb, in 2011.)

Tom and Joan are the glamorous mystery couple featured on the back cover of the special Professor Lipscomb issue (vol. 17, no. 4, 2011) of the Annals of Improbable Research., along with a clarinet player named William Lipscomb.

The Times obituary says:

Thomas A. Steitz, a towering figure of late-20th-century science who shared a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for figuring out the structure of a huge molecule central to translating the genetic code into the proteins that make up living matter, died on Tuesday at his home in Branford, Conn. He was 78….

…he went to Harvard for graduate school. Dr. Steitz decided then and there to become an X-ray crystallographer. He joined a group led by William N. Lipscomb, the only scientist at Harvard using that technique. Dr. Lipscomb was awarded the chemistry Nobel Prize in 1976….

After Cambridge Dr. Steitz began a long career at Yale, which also hired his wife, Joan Argetsinger Steitz, an eminent molecular biologist and recipient this year of a prestigious Lasker special achievement award in medical science….

Celebrating Professor Arnold’s Further and Future Adventures

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

I have to say I feel pretty tickled (and yes, honored) by the final minute of this Science Friday interview with new Nobel Chemistry Prize winner Frances Arnold.

After hearing the interview, I of course got in touch with Professor Arnold, inviting her to take part in next year’s (2019) Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. She replied: “marc, wonderful!  Can’t promise to come, since my life is a tornado and I am a leaf, but it is high on my list!”

The Nobel committee honored Professor Arnold specifically for her research on “the directed evolution of enzymes.” Many thanks to Ira Flatow and Charles Bergquist at Science Friday, for helping engineer the new bit of directed social/ceremonial evolution.

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, Sunday, 15:30Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation). Part of this event will be webcast 17:30-19:00 (Tokyo time).
  • September 26, WednesdayHokkaido University, Furihito Building —Marc Abrahams and Ig Nobel Prize winners Toshiyuki Nakagaki, and Kazunori Yoshizawa  will discuss the Igs, and answer (and ask) questions. This event will also include the premiere of a new kind of Improbable Research public activity: the Two/Too Lectures.
  • September 28, Friday, 17:30Ishikawa Prefectural University, Hokkoku Shimbun Interchange Hall (2-1 Minami-cho, Kanazawa City) —Marc Abrahams and Ig Nobel Prize winners Yukio Hirose, and Hidehiko Kumagai (who is also president of the university) & Shinsuke Imai will discuss the Igs, and answer (and ask) questions.

The exhibition has its own twitter feed.

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.

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