The Ig Nobel EuroTour begins in London

March 6th, 2018

The 2018 Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour begins this week—meandering to England, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, and Denmark.

The first show is in London:

TICKETS: The Imperial College show is fully booked. But don’t despair! Likely some tickets will become available at the last minute, if a few ticket-holders don’t turn up. If you’ve an ounce of optimism, come to the Great Hall fifteen minutes before show time, and maybe, maybe, maybe you’ll get lucky!

The full Ig Nobel EuroTour schedule is on our events page.

The analgesic effects of dancing in synch (study)

March 5th, 2018

Can dancing to PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ in sync with other dancers act as a kind of ‘analgesic ’ – by raising your threshold to pain? A 2016 research project from the Department of Experimental Psychology, at the University of Oxford, UK, suggested that the answer might be ‘Yes’.

A suite of somewhat painful [*see notes] experiments with 94 participants from Oxford showed that :

“ […] synchronising full-body dance movements increased strangers’ self-reported feelings of social closeness to one another and elevated pain thresholds. These effects arose when participants synchronised with each other and the music, rather than merely with the music.”

See: Silent disco: dancing in synchrony leads to elevated pain thresholds and social closeness in Evolution & Human Behavior, September 2016, Volume 37, Issue 5, Pages 343–349. A full copy of which may be found here.

Notes ;

[1] The study didn’t examine any possible differences in analgesic properties of the various music tracks used in the experiments – which were :

“ ‘I feel so close to you right now’ by Calvin Harris; ‘Lady Marmalade’ by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink; ‘Memories’ by David Guetta feat Kid Cudi; ‘Merengue’ unknown artist; ‘Wake me up before you Go – Go’ by Wham!; ‘Gangnam style’ by Psy; ‘Sexy and I know it’ by LMFAO; ‘Little Bad Girl’ by David Guetta.”

[2] “Pain threshold was measured by inducing ischemic pain through the inflation of a blood pressure cuff on the participant’s upper arm and noting the pressure sustained”

How to give a lecture: Burton Klein Lectures About Potpourri

March 4th, 2018

Of the many ways to lecture, the Burton Klein way is especially filled with facts and spellings and efficient delivery thereof. Ingest, if you will, this video of Burton Klein lecturing on the topic “Potpourri.” Count the facts. Count the spellings of words. Count yourself lucky for being exposed to Burton Klein lecturing on the topic “Potpourri.” It is a mere 29 minutes and 23 seconds in duration.

And here’s a one-minute tour of the mind of Burton Klein:

Is it possible to see Burton Klein speak in person? Reportedly yes, that is a possibility.

(Thanks to Leigh Buchanan for bringing Burton Klein to our attention.)

Scientific Salami Slicing: 33 Papers from 1 Study

March 3rd, 2018

The Neuroskeptic blog looks at how how a super-masterful sausage slicer makes sausage slices:

Scientific Salami Slicing: 33 Papers from 1 Study

Salami slicing” refers to the practice of breaking scientific studies down into small chunks and publishing each part as a separate paper.

Given that scientists are judged in large part by the number of peer-reviewed papers they produce, it’s easy to understand the temptation to engage in salami publication. It’s officially discouraged, but it’s still very common to see researchers writing perhaps 3 or 4 papers based on a single project that could, realistically, have been one big paper.

But I’ve just come across a salami that’s been sliced up so thinly that it’s just absurd. The journal Archives of Iranian Medicine just published a set of 33 papers about one study. Here they are – this is a rather silly image, but it’s a silly situation….

People Who Have Voluntary Control of Goosebumps

March 2nd, 2018

Of a sudden, there’s goosebump-raising research about people who can manage, using only mental means, to bring about their own goosebumps.

It’s described in the study “The Voluntary Control of Piloerection,” James A.J. Heathers [pictured here], Kirill Fayn, Paul J. Silvi, Niko Tiliopoulos, and Matthew S. Goodwin, PeerJ, March 1, 2018.

The authors, at Northeastern University, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the University of Sydney, report:

Autonomic systems in the human body are named for their operation outside of conscious control. One rare exception is voluntarily generated piloerection (VGP) – the conscious ability to cause goosebumps – whose physiological study in scientific history is confined to three single-individual case studies. Almost nothing is known about the physiological nature and emotional correlates of this ability. The current manuscript investigates the physiological, personality, and emotional phenomenology of a sample of thirty two individuals capable of VGP…. These preliminary findings suggest that this rare and unusual physiological ability has strong emotional and personality correlates….

The links between piloerection, the experience of chills, and existing personality correlates tentatively imply that individuals with voluntary control over these symptoms tend to experience states of being moved, touched, and/or awed more frequently…

BONUS: Lead author Heathers has done extensive research into the reliability and reality of research studies published by 2007 Ig Nobel Nutrition Prize winner Brian Wansink.