Weekend Edition: Ig Nobel Answers to Unquestioned Issues

There are certain ways by which we recognize greatness.

Every year since 1901 the Nobel Prize has been awarded for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace. The Nobel Prize is an international award administered by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden.

And then, there too are ways by which we recognize the not so greatness of scientific research.

The first Ig Nobels were awarded in 1991, at that time for discoveries “that cannot, or should not, be reproduced.” The prizes are presented by real Nobel laureates in Sanders Theater at Harvard University. There are a number of running jokes, including a little girl who yells, “Please stop: I’m bored,” in a high-pitched voice if speakers go on too long and paper airplanes being tossed at the audience by the presenters.  The ceremony always closes with the phrase: “If you didn’t win a prize — and especially if you did — better luck next year!”

Given the fact that Al Gore was given an actual Nobel prize for science quackery and Obama was handed one for what…We do not know…One is left to question why the Nobel prizes are considered prestigious and the Ig Nobels are considered a joke.

Here are this year’s Ig Nobel winners and my comments on them.

Anita Eerland and Rolf Zwaan from The Netherlands and Tulio Guadalupe from Peru won for their study “Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller.”

While I’m certain that Eerland, Guadalupe and Zwaan poured countless hours into their research and conducted many tireless experiments in the process of discovering that leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller, and while I don’t want to diminish their diminishing discovery…I would also hazard a guess that…standing farther away FROM the Eiffel Tower would have garnered the exact same result.

The Russian SKN Company was awarded the Peace Prize for converting old Russian ammunition into new diamonds.

The question left unanswered by this process is simple…Do we measure the weight of these diamonds in carats or…Caliber???

Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada of Japan won for creating the SpeechJammer — a machine that disrupts a person’s speech, by making them hear their own spoken words at a very slight delay.

Congratulations to these two geniuses for inventing the stadium speaker system.

U.S. scientists Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford were awarded the Neuroscience award for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.

Wow. This is really quite astounding. Neuroscience is something that I believe only a brain surgeon can fully understand. It’s SO complicated that not even rocket scientists can grasp it. That said…I believe the most …”Well…DUH” moment of this deep thinking group’s efforts came when they realized they could find more meaningful brain activity in a dead salmon than could be registered in the United States Congress.

Smoked Salmon for Senate 2012.

Johan Pettersson [SWEDEN and RWANDA]. for solving the puzzle of why, in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden, people’s hair turned green.

Okay…I admit to looking this one up. It was improperly coated copper pipes in new houses that did it. Bald people everywhere can now finally get a good night’s sleep.

The U.S. Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.

Please refer to my response regarding the Neuroscience Prize on this one.

U.S. researchers Joseph Keller and Raymond Goldstein and the UK’s Patrick Warren and Robin Ball earned the prize for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail.

When I was in high school, Cheryl Priess often wore her hair in a ponytail. While I did not realize, until this very moment, that I was studying physics…I came to realize, by walking down the hall behind her, that the forces involved were located about a foot…maybe a foot and a half below her ponytail. GOD…How I LOVED doing research….

U.S. scientists Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer earned an award for studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing; they uncovered what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee.

Divorce. Here’s how it works…You walk from the kitchen into the living room with a cup of HOT coffee…It sloshes onto your hand making you yell…SON OF A…at which time you drop the cup thus staining the carpet. You get the Resolve and clean the stain. THAT stuff REALLY works…So much so that the rest of your carpet looks like crap. You move all the furniture out of the room and rent one of those carpet cleaners and when you’re done, your wife decides that since the room is empty…you should repaint the walls. NATURALLY she wants an ACCENT wall because she saw it on some DYI show and when your finished painting, she wants new furniture to match the ACCENT wall. AFTER the new furniture is delivered…SHE isn’t happy because…THE NEW FURNITURE DOESN’T MATCH THE DAMNED CARPET!!!

Now you have to replace the OLD carpet with HARD WOOD FLOORS all over the house which means, of course…NEW CABINETS in the DAMNED KITCHEN…..

Frans de Waal  from The Netherlands and U.S. researcher Jennifer Pokorny won for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.

That SOUNDS impressive but…While in High school…I could have done the exact same thing with a photograph of Cheryl Priess.

Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti from France earned the medicine prize for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode.

Finally…A worthwhile endeavor.

I suppose that if you can’t solve the world’s most pressing problems, solve those that don’t need solving, write a paper about it and collect your just rewards.

Craig Andresen

The National Patriot

Weekend Edition 9/22/12

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