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Archive for 'Improbable Investigators'

A reminder: How to stimulate the appetite of a medical leech

Monday, May 4th, 2020

The 1996 Ig Nobel Prize for biology was awarded to Anders Barheim and Hogne Sandvik of the University of Bergen, Norway, for their tasty and tasteful report, “Effect of Ale, Garlic, and Soured Cream on the Appetite of Leeches.”

Recently, Bradley Allff, writing in Atlas Obscura, looked at the role medical leeches sometimes play in medicine in the USA. The report does not, however, look at American methods of stimulating the appetite of medical leeches that happen not to be hungry at the moment they are called to action. (Thanks to Scott Langill for bringing this to our attention.)



Troy and the Grizzly Bear

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

Anyone seeking distraction can find it in this documentary video, “Project Grizzly.” See Troy Hurtubise in his self-mythic quest to personally build and test a suit of armor that he hopes will let him spend time with grizzly bears. Troy was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for safety engineering, in 1998, for the work documented here.

Mathematics and the end of the world, predictably

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

A prize-winning profession confidently confronts a new challenge.

Some professionals—professionals who professionally calculate a date on which the world will end—have calculated that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a goodbye-everyone harbinger. The Washington Post reports, on March 17, 2020:

This is not the end of the world, according to Christians who study the end of the world

The worldwide upheaval caused by the fast-spreading novel coronavirus pandemic has many people reaching for their Bibles, and some starting to wonder: Could this be a sign of the apocalypse?

It sure might feel apocalyptic. But not if you ask Christian writers and pastors who have spent years focusing their message on the Book of Revelation — the New Testament’s final book…. Most of these Revelation-focused prophesiers don’t see coronavirus as heralding the Second Coming and the end of life on Earth as we know it….

A Prize-Winning History for the Profession

The profession as a whole—the profession of calculating when the world will cease—has a celebrated history.

The 2011 Ig Nobel Prize for mathematics was awarded to Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim of KOREA (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde of UGANDA (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on October 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.

Michael Milken, First Winner (in 1991) of the Ig Nobel Economics Prize, Pardoned

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Michael Milken, the very first winner of the Ig Nobel Economics Prize, was pardoned today by the current President of the United States, Donald Trump.

The 1991 Ig Nobel Prize for economics was awarded to “Michael Milken, titan of Wall Street and father of the junk bond, to whom the world is indebted”.

Fox Business reported, today:

Milken, ‘Junk Bond King,’ could return to Wall St. after Trump pardon

Now that Michael Milken has secured a pardon from President Trump for financial crimes he was convicted of three decades ago, can the man, once known as the “junk bond king,” rejoin the securities industry?

The answer is yes, but the outcome won’t be so simple. Milken, at least for now, is telling reporters he has no plans to get back into the business of Wall Street. It was there, during the finance boom of the 1980s, that he made tons of money on junk bonds and leveraged finance deals at the now-defunct Drexel Burnham Lambert. His plea and conviction in 1990 for securities fraud, landed him a 10-year prison sentence (commuted to two years), $1.1 billion in fines and restitution, and a permanent ban from the securities business. The king had been turned into a pariah.

Forensic professor news: Piano-sentence and Poker/Rock/Scissors

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

El Espagnol reports “The rocambolesque story of the psychiatrist who ‘scammed’ the US and was sentenced to play the piano“.

The news article begins [here machine-translated from Spanish to English]:

An American psychiatrist has recently been reprimanded by the US Government Office of Integrity in Research, after having already been convicted. His crime: steal several thousand dollars from the authorities and do it through fakes in clinical trials in his field, one as delicate as mental health….

Condemned to play the piano

It would be for his tears or for the benevolence of the judges, but the case is that the Austrian psychiatrist did not have to enter prison. On the contrary, the judge issued a curious sentence: Neumeister was sentenced to play the piano for one hour twice a week for needy groups from four locations near New York. The magistrate revealed that she had seen in the documentation that the psychiatrist also had the piano career….

(Thanks to Ivan Oransky for bringing this to our attention.)

Another academic in the news: Poker/Rock/Scissors

The Boston Globe reports about another rocamboleque criminal case involving an academic, who is accused of engaging in the practice of poker/rock/scissors:

A Mount Holyoke College art professor was arraigned Friday on charges of attempted murder after she allegedly attacked a colleague with a rock, fire poker, and garden shears while the college was on winter break, according to authorities….

BONUS: Further details.

BONUS (unrelated): a very different, form of poker/rock/scissors, and separately, an analysis of poker as paper/rock/scissors



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