Donate to the Igs

Webcast: Discussion About Writing About Weird Science

October 18th, 2021

Join us — Tuesday night, October 19, 2021, Tuesday, 6:30-8:00 pm. (US Eastern time) — for a livestreamed discussion by Marc AbrahamsCara Giaimo, and Jessica Boddy about “Reporting Weird Science—from fluorescent wombats to the Ig Nobel Prizes”.

The event, for students in the Science, Health & Environmental Reporting program (SHERP) at New York University (NYU), is part of a series called the Kavli Conversations on Science Communication (KCOSC) at NYU.

The talkers, together with SHERP students, will be gathered in pandemically fairly safe conditions at Caveat NYC, a spacious cabaret-style speakeasy theater thought to be 75% resistant to acronyms.



Stretched faces remarkably easy to recognize [study]

October 18th, 2021

It can be difficult to recognize someone from a photo of their face if it’s turned upside-down, or presented as a negative. But what if the photos are distorted – fairground-mirror style? Or deliberately blurred?

To find out, Dr Graham Hole and colleagues at the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences, University of Sussex, UK, performed a set of experiments.

Finding (amongst other things) that :

Global linear transformations seem to affect recognition remarkably little, considering the extent to which they distort the spatial relationships within a face, which are presumed to be critical for recognition. Recognition was impaired, however, when vertical stretching was applied nonglobally (ie to only half of the face).

See: Effects of Geometric Distortions on Face-Recognition Performance, Volume: 31, issue: 10, pages 1221-1240. (A full copy of which may be found here)

Podcast Episode #1083: “Faces and Smoked Ham”

October 17th, 2021

In Podcast Episode #1083, Marc Abrahams shows an unfamiliar research study to biomedical researcher Chris Cotsapas. Dramatic readings and reactions ensue.

Remember, our Patreon donors, on most levels, get access to each podcast episode before it is made public.

Chris Cotsapas encounters:

Consumer Facial Expression in Relation to Smoked Ham With the Use of Face Reading Technology. The Methodological Aspects and Informative Value of Research Results,” Eliza Kostyra, Bożena Waszkiewicz-Robak, Wacław Laskowski, Tadeusz Blicharski, and Ewa Poławska, Meat Science, vol. 119, September 2016, pp. 22–31.

Seth GliksmanProduction Assistant

Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Google Podcasts, AntennaPod, BeyondPod and elsewhere!

Another TV Show ‘Inspired’ by the Ig Nobel Prizes

October 14th, 2021

Zaobao reports, on October 11, 2021:

In recent years, many Chinese variety shows have been draft talents. Zhejiang Satellite TV has taken a different approach. In mid-August, it launched a real-life show “Hi Release”. Wang Jiaer, Ren Jialun and Chen Feiyu served as “Hi Release Explorers”. Li Ronghao ( Participated in the fifth period of recording), Wei Daxun (joined in the fifth period) is the “Hi Broadcast Specialist”. Artist guests include Li Chen, Zheng Kai and Jike Junyi. “Hi” is inspired by the “Ig Nobel Prize“, which is dedicated to exploring scientific research that “makes people laugh at first glance, but is thought-provoking after thinking about it”. The program uses life as the soil and science as the entry point, revealing unexpected scientific conclusions through some seemingly nonsensical experiments.

UPDATE (October 15, 2021): And today, there’s a report by Giaoduc about a law school competition in Vietnam: “Happy Law Competition (abbreviated as ‘Ig Law’) is inspired by the Ig Nobel Prize

Data poetry: Ode to The General Index

October 13th, 2021

In this six-minute-long impassioned video, Carl Malamud draws on his considerable poetical and performance skills to introduce The General Index:

What is The General Index, and how can it benefit you? The answer, some of it in the form of questions, is in the video.

Here, to whet your appetite for viewing the video, are some passionate phrases from it, and from the documentation about it:

Topics—Access to Knowledge, Text and Data Mining, Temples of Knowledge, General Index
Language—Science is our universal language.

Public Resource, a registered nonprofit organization based in California, has created a General Index to scientific journals. The General Index consists of a listing of n-grams, from unigrams to five-grams, extracted from 107 million journal articles.

The General Index is non-consumptive, in that the underlying articles are not released, and it is transformative in that the release consists of the extraction of facts that are derived from that underlying corpus. The General Index is available for free download with no restrictions on use. This is an initial release, and the hope is to improve the quality of text extraction, broaden the scope of the underlying corpus, provide more sophisticated metrics associated with terms, and other enhancements.

Access to the full corpus of scholarly journals is an essential facility to the practice of science in our modern world. The General Index is an invaluable utility for researchers who wish to search for articles about plants, chemicals, genes, proteins, materials, geographical locations, and other entities of interest. The General Index allows scholars and students all over the world to perform specialized and customized searches within the scope of their disciplines and research over the full corpus.

Access to knowledge is a human right and the increase and diffusion of knowledge depends on our ability to stand on the shoulders of giants.



Improbable Research