Archive for 'Ig Nobel'

Improbable Research tonight in Washington, DC

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Join us tonight at the Improbable Research show at the AAAS Annual Meeting, Omni Shoreham Hotel (in the Diplomat Ballroom), Washington DC—The annual Improbable Research session will include:

This session is open free to the public. Bring friends (seating is limited—arrive early if you want a seat) #AAASmtg

Hows and Whys of There’s a Fly in My Wine

Friday, February 15th, 2019

Alex Dainis explains videographically the inner workings of the Ig Nobel Prize-winning experiment that demonstrates some people’s ability to tell—by smelling!—whether there was a fly in a glass of wine:

The people-can-sniff-out-a-fly study

The published study is: “The Scent of the Fly,” Paul G. Becher, Sebastien Lebreton, Erika A. Wallin, Erik Hedenstrom, Felipe Borrero-Echeverry, Marie Bengtsson, Volker Jorger, and Peter Witzgall, bioRxiv, no. 20637, 2017.

A fly-by-day public demonstration, in April

The study authors, who shared the 2018 Ig Nobel Prize in biology, will themselves publicly demonstrate their work twice—at the Karolinska Institute on Tuesday, April 9, and at Stockholm University on Wednesday, April 10—as part of this year’s Ig Nobel EuroTour.

Come see them, and talk with them, and smell the fly!


John Senders has driven off into eternity

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Sad news. John Senders has taken his last gleeful spin through the universe. He died this week, just a few days shy of his 99th birthday. John, a clever, funny, kind scientist who was also an ace showman with an astoundingly resonant voice, won the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize for public safety, for conducting a series of safety experiments in which he drove an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flapped down over his face, blinding him. John is on display doing that in this old TV news report:

The photo here shows John delivering his acceptance speech at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. The historic helmet is by his side.

There’s considerably more detail about that driving-the-highways-while-something-repeatedly-flaps-over-your-eyes research, published in the study “The Attentional Demand of Automobile Driving,” John W. Senders, et al., Highway Research Record, vol. 195, 1967, pp. 15-33.

And there was considerably more to John Senders than that one experiment. Dip into the compendium at the John Senders web site. And if you like, read the small essay about John I wrote five years ago, for Beta Boston.

John’s death will in not the slightest impair his clever plan to infect the peoples of the earth with curiosity and a really deep sense of humor.

In-depth examination of the Ig Nobel Prizes, for German doctors

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Ärtze Zeitung, the German newspaper for doctors, has a loving, long appreciation of the Ig Nobel Prizes. It begins [here translated into English]:

Winking and improving the world

The research results, for which the Ig Nobel Prize is awarded annually, often tease the laughing muscles – and then make you think. Many results are now available in the collective memory. An overview of what has been awarded so far….

The essay finishes with this:

… The sophistication of the decisions of the Ig Nobel Prize Committee illustrates hardly any work better than the study “From junior to senior Pinocchio” by the Belgian psychologist Evelyne Debey and colleagues, who did not receive the award alone, 1000 liars according to their frequency To have questioned lying, but above all their willingness to “believe their answers”.

Some of Cambridge’s acknowledged findings are now anchored in the collective consciousness. These include insights into Murphy’s Law (1996 and 2003), the exposition of the Dunning Kruger Effect, which states that the difficulty of perceiving one’s own incompetence leads to exaggerated self-assessment (2000), and the related phenomenon that people who believe to be drunk, also believe that they are particularly attractive (2013).

On April 12, 2019, German doctors—and anyone else who is in Berlin that night—will be able to explore firsthand the world of the Ig Nobel Prizes, at the Ig Nobel Night in Berlin event at Tempodrom Berlin. Tickets are available online.



Learn how a swarm of maggots eats a pizza, in Washington

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

Olga Shishkov will discuss (and maybe demonstrate?) how a swarm of maggots eats a pizza, next Saturday night, February 16, at the Improbable Research session at the AAAS Annual Meeting, in Washington, DC.

Science magazine introduces the research: “If you’ve got the stomach for it, you can watch 10,000 maggots demolish the above pizza in 2 hours. Now, scientists have a better sense of how these fly larvae gobble food so quickly, a possible boon for sustainable food production.”

Details are in the newly published study:

Black soldier fly larvae feed by forming a fountain around food,” Olga Shishkov, Michael Hu, Christopher Johnson, and David L. Hu, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, vol. 16, no. 20180735, 2019. Here’s a snippet from that study:

A single larva is shown in figure 1a. Figure 1b and electronic supplementary material, video S1, show a swarm of larvae consuming a 16-inch pizza in 2 h.

Prior research

David Hu, co-author of the new study (and leader of the lab), shared the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for physics, for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).

That urination research is documented in the study “Duration of Urination Does Not Change With Body Size,” Patricia J. Yang, Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo, and David L. Hu, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111 no. 33, August 19, 2014, pp. 11932–11937.

Next Saturday night in Washington: Details

Here’s the lineup of speakers at next week’s Improbable Research show, in Washington:

  • Marc Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony
  • Ig Nobel Prize winner David Wartinger (Using roller coaster rides to try to hasten the passage of kidney stones)
  • Ig Nobel Prize winner Abigail Baird (fMRI discovery of brain activity in a dead salmon)
  • Ig Nobel Prize winner Nathaniel Barr (“On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit“)
  • Ig Nobel Prize winner Jiwon (“Jesse”) Han (The physics of walking backwards with a cup of hot coffee)
  • Marguerite E. Matherne (How effective is tail-swishing in large animals?)
  • Eric Schulman (A history of the universe in 100 words, in Czech)
  • Olga Shishkov (The biomechanics of maggots)

It’s at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, in the Diplomat Ballroom, Saturday, February 16, 2019, beginning at 8 pm. This session (unlike most of the AAAS Annual Meeting) is open free to the public. Please join us there!

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