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The special Ig Nobel issue of the magazine

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.

Two innovative ways to fill a theater

January 4th, 2020

In most theaters, people wander to their seat locations, a sometimes awkward way to fill the room. Technology, some brand new, some old, can change that.

Segway-Ninebot has just announced a device—a self-balancing, two-wheeled chair—intended as a vehicle to transport people through the streets. This new chair could also be used (we here, now propose) to take already-seated patrons to their proper spots in the theater, and indeed to take them to the theater. Sit down at home, and be whisked out into the streets, then whisked through those streets, then whisked into the theatre, and then rolled to row F, seat-spot number 12. Or wherever. Without ever having to stand up. This is a photo of the Segway machine:

The company describes the device:

The Segway S-Pod is a first-class smart transporting pod for enclosed campuses such as airports, theme parks and malls. It is a safe, self-balancing vehicle that is operated by an intuitive assistive navigation panel. With an adaptive center-of-gravity automatic control system, passengers can easily adjust the speed – up to 24 mph – by handling the knob to change the center of gravity in the pod. The S-Pod spins and rotates by the center smoothly for directional changes. The rider does not need to physically lean forward and back to accelerate or slow down. Also, since the “brake” is placed by the shift of the center of gravity, it eliminates the possibility of the S-Pod tipping over in any situation. The seating of the S-Pod offers wide angle views.

If one needs to be whisked to the restroom and back, there would still be no need to stand and awkwardly walk there and back.

Some logistics might still have to be worked through, but you get the idea.

There are alternatives. Older, yet even more innovative, alternatives.

An Overlooked Way to Get Seated Theatre Patrons to their Proper Spots

As we wrote several years ago, an invention patented in 1924 by Louis J. Duprey of Boston, Massachusetts, would let theatre patrons leisurely sit down, in a basement chamber, and then be hydraulically lifted up—by their seats, into their proper place in the theater proper. The invention was, so far as we have been able to learn, never used in a public theater. Or anywhere else.

This pair of drawings, from Duprey’s patent, is almost self-explanatory about how the system operates:


Duprey’s invention, unlike the new Segway device, has the advantage of allowing late-coming theater patrons to arrive at their proper places without awkwardly passing in front of other, already-placed patrons.

With both the old, Duprey, and the new, Segway, methods, there are perhaps some safety questions still to be answered.

Science/Music Pairing: Dark Eyes

January 3rd, 2020

Here’s another in our series that combines published research papers with musical performances that suitably accompany them.

Dark eyes in female sand gobies indicate readiness to spawn,” Karin H. Olsson, Sandra Johansson, Eva-Lotta Blom, Kai Lindström, Ola Svensson, Helen Nilsson Sköld, and Charlotta Kvarnemo, PloS ONE , vol.12, no. 6 (2017): e0177714.

“Dark Eyes,” performed by Burning Caravan:


Professor Jean Berko Gleason has some things to say

January 2nd, 2020

You may have heard heard Professor Jean Berko Gleason say “Welcome, welcome” and “Goodbye, goodbye” in the Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies. Oh, she has ever so much more to say. Tonight on the PBS News Hour, she said some of it.

And you can hear Professor Berko Gleason talk about seemingly everything in the world, including, her famous disgust for people eating soft-boiled eggs, in episodes of the Improbable Research blog.


The theme of the next Ig Nobel ceremony…

January 1st, 2020

The theme of the 30th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony will be: BUGS

The opera, which will premiere as part of the Ig Nobel ceremony, will be on that very theme: BUGS.

The ceremony will happen on Thursday evening, September 17, 2020, at Sanders Theatre, Harvard University. TICKETS go on sale in July.

The ceremony will be webcast, as it has been every year beginning in 1995.


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