Ig Nobel day-after-Thanksgiving broadcast on Science Friday

November 25th, 2014

Spread the word, please! On Friday, November 28, the Science Friday radio program will broadcast its specially edited recording of the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. It’s SciFri’s 23rd annual broadcast (SciFri began this day-after-Thanksgiving tradition in 1992, the Ig Nobel ceremony’s second year).

Listen to it on a public radio station, if you’re near one, or on the Internet. (Science Friday is broadcast as two separate, hour-long programs. The Ig Nobel broadcast comprises the entire first hour.)

The photos below, by Mike Benveniste, show the paper airplane deluge, a tiny, traditional part of the epic ceremony:



BONUS: Science Friday again asked journalist Carmen Nobel (yes, that is her name) to visit the Ig Nobel after-party. Nobel’s writeup, on the Science Friday site, is called “Who’s Got the Biscotti? Mingling at the Ig Nobel Awards After-Party“.

BONUS: Download your own copies of IgBill, the printed program for the 2014 ceremony, and the 2014 ceremony poster.

BONUS: From SciFri archives, here’s last year (2013)’s Ig Nobel broadcast.

BONUS: The special Ig Nobel 2013 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research

Dog lapping in the matrix

November 25th, 2014

A fluid dynamics approach to gaining understanding (adding to what’s known) of the way liquids are reliably transferred into the mouths of dogs and cats:

Dog lapping in the matrix,” presented at the 67th Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics (November 23, 2014 — November 25, 2014), by Sean Gart (Virginia Tech) Jake Socha (Virginia Tech) Pavlos Vlachos (Purdue University), and Sunghwan Jung (Virginia Tech):

“Animals with incomplete cheeks (i.e. dogs and cats) need to move fluid against gravity into the body by means other than suction. They do this by lapping fluid with their tongue. When a dog drinks, it curls its tongue posteriorly while plunging it into the fluid and then quickly withdraws its tongue back into the mouth. During this fast retraction fluid sticks to the ventral part of the curled tongue and is drawn into the mouth due to inertia. We show examples of this drinking behavior and try to understand the relationship between tongue dynamics and geometry, lapping frequency, and dog weight. We also compare the results with a physical experiment of a rounded rod impact and withdrawal from a liquid bath.”

The researchers created a demonstrative video:


Rhodi Lee gives some additional details, in Tech Times.

(Thanks to Kerri Wachter for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: The 2014 Ig Nobel Prize for biology honored an ongoing attempt to determine the alignment of liquids as they transfer out the other end of dogs’ digestive systems.

“Facts are stupid things,” he would say, “until…”

November 25th, 2014

Richard Conniff writes, in the Strange Behaviors blog:

Look, Look, Look! A Lesson in the Art of Seeing

I’ve never been particularly fond of the nineteenth century naturalist Louis Agassiz, probably due to a time I was sitting in a library at Harvard and holding in my hands a letter he had written to his mother about his feelings on first seeing an African-American.  It was so appallingly racist, so naive, so entitled to an unwarranted sense of superiority that I actually gasped out loud.

But just now, I was looking over a book called Louis Agassiz as a Teacher, and I read this brilliant and almost endearing account of his methods.  Entirely beyond natural history, it is a very fine lesson in the art of seeing, and belongs in a category I should probably call “Valuable Lessons from Loathesome Men.”  It was written in 1874 by Samuel H. Scudder, a young entomologist who found himself being instructed, not altogether happily, by Agassiz, a very learned student of fish:


haemulonIt was more than fifteen years ago that I entered the laboratory of Professor Agassiz, and told him I had enrolled my name in the Scientific School as a student of natural history. He asked me a few questions about my object in coming, my antecedents generally, the mode in which I afterwards proposed to use the knowledge I might acquire, and, finally, whether I wished to study any special branch. To the latter I replied that, while I wished to be well grounded in all departments of zoology, I purposed to devote myself specially to insects.

‘When do you wish to begin?’ he asked.

‘Now,’ I replied.

This seemed to please him, and with an energetic ‘Very well!’ he reached from a shelf a huge jar of specimens in yellow alcohol.

‘Take this fish,’ said he, ‘and look at it; we call it a haemulon; by and by I will ask what you have seen…” [read the rest on the Strange Behaviors site.

Hot dogs (canines) with hops

November 24th, 2014

Whippet_ImageDogs (Canis lupus familiaris) should if possible avoid hops (Humulus lupulus). For dogs ingesting hops can, and often do, overheat to an alarming, sometimes life-threatening degree. *see note. The physiological pathways involved are as yet  poorly understood  unknown. See: Toxicology Brief: Hops Make Dogs Hot, Veterinary Technician, August 2013 (Vol 34, No 8).

* Note:
Improbable has tried to find research regarding spontaneous combustion amongst canines, with very little, if any, success.

Photo credit: The picture, via Wikipedia, shows a healthy Whippet, a breed of Sighthound, which it seems are particularly susceptible.


mini-AIR November issue: Morphospace (and D’Arcy Thompson)

November 23rd, 2014

The November issue of mini-AIR (our monthly e-mail newsletter just went out. (mini-AIR is a wee little supplement to the magazine). Topics include:

  • D’Arcy Thompson in Empirical Morphospace
  • The Phytophagous Scarab Chafers Morphospace Limerick Competition
  • Pie’s Null Morphospace
  • and more
It also has info about upcoming events.

Mel [pictured here] says, “It’s swell.”

mini-AIR is the simplest way to keep informed about Improbable and Ig Nobel news and events.

Want to have mini-AIR e-mailed to you every month? Just add yourself to the mini-AIR list.

BONUS: Video of the D’Arcy Thompson Animal Parade, which began the 2011 Ig Nobel show (for National Science Week) at the University of Dundee. D’Arcy Thompson was based, for much of his spectacular scientific/literary career, at Dundee. These taxidermied critters, carried into the theatre by three Ig Nobel Prize winners, and by two of Dundee’s most illustrious modern scientists, and by one of Scotland’s most dynamic historians, are in the museum collection Thompson built at the university:

BONUS: Medusan morphospace