Friday, November 12, 2010

Ig Nobel Awards -- 2010

There is a scientific theory that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage. It's probably not true, but in a universe where we drive on parkways and park on driveways, anything is possible.

Scientists love to conduct experiments. Research is what they do when they're pondering quandaries, but they never seem to solve a problem without creating ten more hypothetical problems to be solved. Unfortunately, we don't devote enough research into finding a cure for pondering quandaries.

The Ig Nobel Prize is an award given for "science achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think." The twentieth annual Ig Nobel Prize event at Harvard University was organized by ANNALS OF IMPROBABLE RESEARCH, a science humor magazine, in cooperation with several Harvard student groups.

The 2010 award ceremony took place on September 30, 2010 at Harvard's Sanders Theatre and was also webcast live on YouTube. One of the annual pre-award features is the "24/7 Lectures," whereby several of the world's top thinkers each explains their subjects twice -- first in 24 seconds and again in 7 words.

The prize winners, along with their published research paper and my astute observations (BB), include:

MANAGEMENT: Allessandro Pluchino, Andrea Raspisarda and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy -- "The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study" (mathematical demonstration that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random)
BB -- Obviously, the same principle of random selection would be beneficial in choosing political leaders

PHYSICS: Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams and Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Lealand -- "Preventing Winter Falls: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Novel Intervention" (demonstrated that people slip and fall less often on icy footpaths in wintertime if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes)
BB -- People slip and fall less often on icy footpaths in the wintertime if they avoid icy footpaths

CHEMISTRY: Reic Adams of M.I.T., Scott Socolofsky of Texas A & M University, Stephen Masutani of the University of Hawaii and British Petroleum -- "Review of Deep Oil Spill Modeling Activity Supported by the Deep Spill JIP and Offshore Operator's Committee Final report" (disproving the old belief that oil and water don't mix)
BB -- Unfortunately, the Gulf of Mexico is not the ideal place to conduct such an experiment

MEDICINE: Simon Rietveld of the University of Amsterdam and Ilja van Beest of Tilburg University, the Netherlands -- "Rollercoaster Asthma: When Positive Emotional Stress Interferes with Dyspnea Perception" (discovery that symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller-coaster ride)
BB -- The symptoms of jock itch can be treated with a ride on a wild stallion

PUBLIC HEALTH: Manuel Barneito, Charles Mathews and Larry Taylor of the International Health and Safety Office at Fort Detrick, Maryland -- "Microbiological Laboratory Hazard of Bearded Men" (determined through experimentation that microbes cling to bearded scientists)
BB -- Microbes also cling to bearded Scientologists

TRANSPORTATION: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi of Japan, and Dan Bebber and Mark Fricker of the UK -- Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design" (usage of slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks)
BB -- The usage of slime mold can also be used to determine the optimal number of bearded scientists it takes to screw in a light bulb

ECONOMICS: The executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch and Magnetar -- (creating and promoting new ways to invest money that maximize financial gain and minimize risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof)
BB -- The investors reap the profits and the taxpayers cover the losses -- the investors get the mine and the taxpayers get the shaft

BIOLOGY: Gareth Jones of the University of Bristol, UK -- "Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time" (scientific documentation of fellatio in fruit bats)
BB -- Fruit bats also sleep upside down in caves, just like Bruce Wayne and Donald Trump

PEACE PRIZE: Richard Stephens, John Atkins and Andrew Kingston of Keele University, UK -- "Swearing as a Response to Pain" (confirming the belief that swearing relieves pain)
BB -- No sheeit

ENGINEERING: Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico in Baja California Sur, Mexico -- "A Novel Non-Invasive Tool for Disease Surveillance of Free-Ranging Whales and Its Relevance to Conservation Programs" (perfected a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter)
BB -- When collecting gorilla snot, bring lots of bananas and be very, very polite

The winners who attended the ceremony where they each gave a brief speech. To ensure brevity, a little girl would dutifully scream, "Please stop talking – you're boring me." when recipients ran over their allotted time.

People often yell "Please stop talking – you're boring me." at me too, sometimes when I'm not even talking.

Quote for the Day – "If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?" Albert Einstein

Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where most of the local research deals with the covert distillation of liquid spirits (moonshine). His blogs appear on several websites, including

No comments: