Scientia Pro Publica 41: the IgNobel Edition

41? I always fall short when getting to the answer.

Anyway, last week the 20th First Annual IgNobel Awards ceremony was held at Harvard. This seems like a good excuse to showcase a few Ig winners – the complete list can be perused at your leisure, after you’ve read the posts featured here of course.
2010 ECONOMICS PRIZE: The executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar for creating and promoting new ways to invest money — ways that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof.
One effect of this was to minimise the financial risk that scientists in the UK might get some funding if they’re not doing research that makes money. Austin Elliot found that this is an old problem
2008 PHYSICS PRIZE. Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.
Stephen Curry spends his time dismantling people to see how they work. He’s found that we’re made of long stringy things. At least explaining why we’re all knotty has been done for him. (incidentally, Stephen does some of his work at the Diamond Snychrotron. I only mention this because of the connection to the winners of the 2009 Chemistry prize, who made diamonds from tequila)
2008 LITERATURE PRIZE. David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK, for his lovingly written study “You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations.”
Austin Elliot, has been thinking about science management, and how genteel we often are to each other in comparison to industry.
2007 PEACE: The Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, USA, for instigating research & development on a chemical weapon — the so-called “gay bomb” — that will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other.
Kamila Wita asks Is out-of-control sexual behaviour an addiction? (this wasn’t the blog post that was sent in, but the post that starts “Four philosophers walk into a pub” didn’t have a good punchline. And anyway, I think this was an interesting post).
2005 FLUID DYNAMICS: Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow of International University Bremen, Germany and the University of Oulu, Finland; and Jozsef Gal of Loránd Eötvös University, Hungary, for using basic principles of physics to calculate the pressure that builds up inside a penguin, as detailed in their report “Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh — Calculations on Avian Defaecation.”
GrrlScientist describes research on fossil penguins which shows that they weren’t always dressed in formal evening wear. I say no s**t.
2003 BIOLOGY C.W. Moeliker, of Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for documenting the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck.
GrrlScientist describes how some viruses have been hiding out in bird genomes for millions of years. If the viruses get too bad, then the bird’s state might well be like that of a dead mallard receiving the attention of a homosexual necrophiliac duck.
2003 PEACE: Lal Bihari, of Uttar Pradesh, India, for a triple accomplishment: First, for leading an active life even though he has been declared legally dead; Second, for waging a lively posthumous campaign against bureaucratic inertia and greedy relatives; and Third, for creating the Association of Dead People.
Lal Bihari is not the only person to live on after death. So to did Henrietta Lacks, as Stephen Curry recently found out. He is now aware of her spirit lingering on in research even today.
2001 PSYCHOLOGY: David Dunning of Cornell University and Justin Kruger of the University of Illinois, for their modest report, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.”
Last week I was wondering if I’ve been wasting my time, after reading a paper that suggests we can’t predict population dynamics very well from weather measurements.
2001 ASTROPHYSICS: Dr. Jack and Rexella Van Impe of Jack Van Impe Ministries, Rochester Hills, Michigan, for their discovery that black holes fulfill all the technical requirements to be the location of Hell.
Vanessa tells us about one of last week’s big announcements, that the planet Gliese 581g might be the right temperature to sustain life. Still sounds a bit chilly, though.
1998 BIOLOGY: Peter Fong of Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for contributing to the happiness of clams by giving them Prozac.
Walter Jessen may not be giving Prozac to clams, but he is interested in animal welfare, and summarises the difference between animal welfare and animal rights.
1998 PHYSICS. Deepak Chopra of The Chopra Center for Well Being, La Jolla, California, for his unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness.
The 360 Degree Sceptic wonders whether quantum randomness is truly random, or whether we just don’t know enough.
1997 MEDICINE: Carl J. Charnetski and Francis X. Brennan, Jr. of Wilkes
University, and James F. Harrison of Muzak Ltd. in Seattle, Washington, for their discovery that listening to elevator Muzak stimulates immunoblobulin A (IgA) production, and thus may help prevent the common cold.

Walter Jessen makes has started a web site to follow biomarker research (biomarkers are chemicals that can be assayed instead of looking at medical results: IgA is a biomarker, which may be related to the common cold).
1993 MEDICINE: James F. Nolan, Thomas J. Stillwell, and John P. Sands, Jr., medical men of mercy, for their painstaking research report, “Acute Management of the Zipper-Entrapped Penis.”
It is, apparently, the Prerogative of Harlots to go O.M.G. when confronted with a spider who’s toxins will give a male an erection before he dies.
1991 CHEMISTRY: Jacques Benveniste, prolific proseletizer and dedicated
correspondent of “Nature,” for his persistent discovery that water, H2O, is an intelligent liquid, and for demonstrating to his satisfaction that water is able to remember events long after all trace of those events has vanished.

1998 CHEMISTRY: Jacques Benveniste of France, for his homeopathic discovery that not only does water have memory, but that the information can be transmitted over telephone lines and the Internet.
Dirk Hanson describes a study that may be worthy of its own Ig. Researchers asked does stronger marijuana make you more forgetful? The answer is not as simple as you might hope. (I wonder if Jacques Benveniste will now investigate whether marijuana reduces the ability of water to remember)
And finally, some other prizes are being given out this week. But for me, even these are able to make us laugh, and then think.
Next week’s Scientia Pro Publica will be published next Monday at Vanessa, cosmodynamics. So submit – I guess there will be lots more to write about this week’s Nobel Prizes. You can submit to Scientia Pro Publica, with this automated submission form or email it directly to ScientiaBlogCarnival at gmail dot com. Be sure to include the URL or “permalink”, the essay title and, to make life easier, include a 2-3 sentence summary. If you wish to read the archived issues to see those contributions that were included previously, visit the Scientia website for links to archived carnivals.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
This entry was posted in Science Blogging. Bookmark the permalink.