Archive for 'Research News'

Ig Nobel event—with Two/Too Lectures!—at Hokkaido U

Monday, September 24th, 2018

The Ig Nobel Japan Tour continues, with an event at Hokkaido University on Wednesday, September 26.

Marc Abrahams and Ig Nobel Prize winners — Prof. Toshiyuki Nakagaki (winner of two Ig Nobel Prizes, for discovering that slime mold can solve puzzles and that slime mold is more efficient than human engineers at designing railway routes), and Prof. Kazunori Yoshizawa (winner for discovering a female penis and a male vagina, in a cave insect) — will discuss the Ig Nobel Prizes. They will also answer (and ask) questions. Paper airplanes will fly.

A new experiment: The Two/Too Lectures

Professor Nakagaki and Professor Yoshizawa will also become the first people to try a new kind of Improbable Research public activity. Each will present a Two/Too Lecture.

In a Two-Too Lecture, the lecturer explains their research in just two (2) minutes — and then explains the same thing again, in two (2) minutes, but using a completely different metaphor.

The/Too This Lectures are a new descendant of the 24/7 Lectures that have long been a featured part of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. You can think of each of these — the 24/7 Lectures and the Two/Too Lectures — as new kinds of science communication. Indeed, they are new forms of public communication. Each is designed to make people LAUGH, then THINK.

The Ig Nobel Japan Tour

The Ig Nobel Japan Tour celebrates the opening (which happened a few days ago) of the Ig Nobel Prizes Exhibition, in the Tokyo Dome Complex. The exhibition is open to the public September 22-November 4, 2018.

The final event of the Ig Nobel Japan Tour will happen at the University of Kanazawa, on Friday.

UPDATE (written several days after the event):

Ig Nobel Prize founder visits Hokkaido University for special discussion event

Associations : Ultra Violet Radiation and the number of days it takes to get a misaddressed letter back (new study)

Monday, September 24th, 2018

Can the level of Ultra Violet Radiation (UV-R) in your environment affect the number of days it takes to get a misaddressed letter returned to the sender*? Or the degree to which a country’s laws protect private property rights? A new study in the journal KYKLOS examines the effects of sunlight on such indicators of ‘institutional quality’, and on UV-R-induced diseases.

“[…] we contribute to the literature by establishing a reduced-form association between UV-R exposure and institutional quality across countries.”

See: Sunlight, Disease, and Institutions by James B. Ang, Per G. Fredriksson, Aqil Luqman bin Nurhakim and Emerlyn Huiwen Tay, Vol. 71 – August 2018 – No. 3, 374–401.

Also see: Associations : LED street-lighting and breast cancer (new study)

*     “This indicator measures the number of days a letter would take to return to the sender, when sent to nonexistent business addresses across 159 countries. Chong et al. (2014) find that, holding per capita income constant, postal services in countries with more democratic, accountable and less corrupt governments return lost letters faster than others. Indicators of “mail efficiency” are found to be positively correlated with measures of government performance such as teacher attendance and regulatory quality.”

[ Research research by Martin Gardiner ]

How Aesthetically Pleasing Is Your Country’s Diffraction Pattern?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

You may be wondering how aesthetically pleasing is your country’s diffraction pattern. This new physics study proves that Albert F. Rigosi shares your mental hobby:

Analysis of Fraunhofer Diffraction Patterns’ Entropy Based on Apertures Shaped as National Borders,” Albert F. Rigosi, Optik, vol. 172, November 2018, pp. 1019-1025. (Thanks to John Ng for bringing this to our attention.) The author, at Columbia University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, reports:

“How aesthetically pleasing is your country’s diffraction pattern? This work summarizes the calculated and experimental Fraunhofer diffraction patterns obtained from using apertures lithographically formed into shapes of national borders. Calculations are made based on the fast Fourier transform of the aperture images. The entropy of a diffraction pattern image, based on its two-dimensional gradient, for each of 113 nations has also been computed. Results suggest that most nations’ diffraction patterns fall under one of two prominent trends forming as a function of geographical area, with one trend being less entropic than the other.”

The top images here shows shows a diagram of the experimental setup. The bottom collection of images show: “Three example nations. (a) The aperture for the continental USA is depicted. (b) is the FFT calculation of the aperture above, and the corresponding experimental data is shown below in (c). (d) The aperture for Egypt is depicted, along with its FFT and experimental data in (e) and(f), respectively. (g) The aperture for Papua New Guinea is shown with its (h) calculated FFT and (i) experimental diffraction data.”

Additional everything can be found in an appendix.

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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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

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