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Archive for 'Improbable Investigators'

The special Ig Nobel issue of the magazine

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

The magazine’s special Ig Nobel issue (vol. 25, no. 6) shows and tells all about the 2019 Ig Nobel Prize winners and the 29th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, and also the opera (“Creatures of Habit”) that premiered as part of the ceremony). Read some of the articles online.

You can buy the entire issue, or subscribe to the magazine, or treat yourself to some back issues.

Annals of Improbable Research—six new issues per year, all in handy PDF format.

The dead are rising up against their national leaders

Monday, December 30th, 2019

Led by Ig Nobel Prize winner Lal Bihari, the dead are rising up against their national leaders. Here’s a look back at notable happenings in 2019. The Times of India reported, on January 19, 2019:

In Varanasi, ‘living dead’ to contest against PM Modi

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi decides to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections again from his parliamentary constituency Varanasi, apart from the opposition he will also have to face challenge from a ‘living dead’. And PM Modi is not alone, a similar test awaits Congress president Rahul Gandhi, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati.

Mritak Sangh, an association of living people declared dead in revenue records either fraudulently or by mistake, has decided to field candidates against Modi and other top political leaders like Rahul, Akhilesh and Mayawati.

“We will field our members against these leaders to highlight the plight of the ‘living dead’ people,” Mritak Sangh president Lal Bihari ‘Mritak’ told reporters at the Rajghat cremation ground in Azamgarh on Friday….

Background: Lal Bihari’s Ig Nobel Prize

The 2003 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Lal Bihari, of Uttar Pradesh, India, for a triple accomplishment: First, for leading an active life even though he has been declared legally dead; Second, for waging a lively posthumous campaign against bureaucratic inertia and greedy relatives; and Third, for creating the Association of Dead People.

Lal Bihari overcame the handicap of being dead, and managed to obtain a passport from the Indian government so that he could travel to Harvard to accept his Prize. However, the U.S. government refused to allow him into the country. His friend Madhu Kapoor therefore came to the Ig Nobel Ceremony and accepted the Prize on behalf of Lal Bihari. Several weeks later, the Prize was presented to Lal Bihari himself in a special ceremony in India.

“How Did Bulgaria Get to the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony?”

Saturday, December 28th, 2019

The Bulgarian bTV network asks and answers the question “How Did Bulgaria Get to the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony?” Their November 28, 2019 report profiles Ig Nobel Prize winner Herbert Crepaz.

The report begins with the statement “The winner of the Ig Nobel Prize in Biology is an Austrian who lives in our country.”

Magnetic Cockroaches, Dead Versus Alive

The 2019 Ig Nobel Prize for biology was awarded to 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.

Their prize-winning research is documented in the study “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.

Magnetic Cockroaches on the Ig Nobel EuroTour 2020

You can see—and talk with—Herbert Crepaz when he, along with many other Ig Nobel Prize winners, takes part in the next Ig Nobel EuroTour, in March and April 2020.

BONUS (from Slovakia): “The Parodic Ig Nobel Prizes Did Not Disappoint Again This Year

“The most viewed medical video in the world” [sex in an MRI]

Friday, December 20th, 2019

French medical journalist Marc Gozlan reminds us that the most viewed article in the history of the British Medical Journal led to the creation of what became “The most viewed medical video in the world“.

Here is that video:

Where did that come from?

Here’s the story of how that video came to be, and how it came to be seen. We are not unhappy at having played a part in that story: “Sex and videotape“.

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

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