Another fan video about the Ig Nobel Prizes

October 8th, 2019

More people are making videos about the Ig Nobel Prizes. Here’s another:


Cyborg botany [study]

October 7th, 2019

Over several million years, Venus Flytraps have been triggered to snap shut by flies. A new research project has shown they can also be triggered by a mouse – viz. a computer mouse [As shown in the video above].

The many and varied possibilities of creating ‘Cyborg Plants’ has been investigated by Harpreet Sareen of the Parsons School of Design, New York, and Pattie Maes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have, between them, created –

“… a series of [plant] hybrids with a complex intertwining of technological capabilities placed in association with the plant functions.”

See: Cyborg Botany: Exploring In-Planta Cybernetic Systems for Interaction in CHI EA ’19 Extended Abstracts of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Paper No. LBW0237.

BONUS: A full copy of the Ig Nobel Peace Prize-winning study ‘The dignity of living beings with regard to plants. Moral consideration of plants for their own sake’ (2008) from the Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH), Switzerland.

Research research: by Martin Gardiner

Double-Ig Nobel Prize Winner David Hu Awarded Science Communication Prize

October 3rd, 2019

David Hu, whose research on urination duration led to the 2015 Ig Nobel Physics Prize and whose research on why wombat poo is cube shaped led—three weeks ago—to the 2019 Ig Nobel Physics Prize, has this week been given a new honor:

The American Institute of Physics Announces 2019 Science Communication Award Winners

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 3, 2019 — Since 1968, the American Institute of Physics has recognized journalists, authors, reporters and other diverse writers for their efforts in science communication. The winners of the 2019 Science Communication Awards are announced….

The BOOK PRIZE [has]co-winners: David L. Hu for “How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls” (Princeton University Press) and Marcia Bartusiak for “Dispatches from Planet 3” (Yale University Press)…

BOOK CO-WINNER: “How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls” by David Hu

David Hu’s “How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls,” published by Princeton University Press, is one of two winners for this year’s book award. Hu’s book explores the astounding diversity and versatility of animal locomotion and how engineers are inspired by it as they design robotics. His team discovered how dogs shake dry, how insects walk on water and how eyelashes protect the eyes from drying.

Judges praised Hu’s book for featuring an interdisciplinary group of scientists working the front lines of their fields.

“A lot of people ask me where I get my ideas. I like to study things that relate to everyday life,” Hu said. “I get inspiration from raising my children. From a diaper change with my son, I was inspired to study urination. From watching my daughter being born, I was inspired by her long eyelashes.”

Hu earned a doctorate in mathematics and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently a professor of mechanical engineering and biology as well as an adjunct professor of physics at Georgia Tech. He is a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER award for young scientists, the Ig Nobel Prize in physics, and the Pineapple Science Prize.

Hu’s previous work has been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, Saturday Night Live and Highlights for Children. He is originally from Rockville, Maryland.

Grow Hair with Electricity on Rats and Nude Mice

October 3rd, 2019

Hair growth was electrically prodded into happening in/on rats and in/on nude mice, using a clever gizmo, says a new study. The news potentially raises excitement about growing hair akin to the excitement about disease treatment raised by numerous reports of cancer being cured in mice.

The new study is: “Self-Activated Electrical Stimulation for Effective Hair Regeneration via a Wearable Omnidirectional Pulse Generator,” Guang Yao, Dawei Jiang, Jun Li, Lei Kang, Sihong Chen, Yin Long, Yizhan Wang et al., ACS nano, epub 2019.

The authors, at the University of Wisconsin, USA, at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, and at Shenzhen University, China, report:

“a universal motion-activated and wearable electric stimulation device that can effectively promote hair regeneration via random body motions was designed. Significantly facilitated hair regeneration results were obtained from Sprague–Dawley rats and nude mice. Higher hair follicle density and longer hair shaft length were observed on Sprague–Dawley rats when the device was employed compared to conventional pharmacological treatments…. This work provides an effective hair regeneration strategy in the context of a nonpharmacological self-powered wearable electronic device.”

(Thanks to Mark Benecke for bringing this to our attention.)

Wealth Inequality Among Snails

October 2nd, 2019

The economics of snails—specifically, what one might call “the economics of the shell game”—gets some data and hard thought in a new study.

A Comparison of Wealth Inequality in Humans and Non-Humans,” Ivan D. Chase, Raphael Douady, and Dianna K. Padilla, Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 2019, 122962. The authors, at Stony Brook University, explain:

“Inequality in the distribution of material resources (wealth) occurs widely across human groups…. Here we present the first description of inequality in material resources in an animal population: the distribution of gastropod (snail) shells inhabited by the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus. We find that the shell distribution for the crabs strongly resembles the characteristic form of wealth distribution in human groups. The amount of inequality in the crabs is more than that in some small-scale human groups but less than that in nations.”

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